Okay folks, trying to be more forthright here.
what do you guys think of the use of flashbacks in a crime novel? in my novel a high priced model/prostitute is murdered. her murder is investigated. creeps crawling out of the woodwork. her sister wants to set everybody straight including the P. I. she's given up on the cops and the newspaper reporters. someone's feeding the P. I. with fantastic leads; (not the sister) she's never seen the stuff! letters, photos--and he's finding things aren't as black and white they seem. in a series of scaled down only pertinent flashbacks I want to bring out the dead woman's true self maybe before she started to fall--this then starts to turn the investigation on its head but eventually leads to a confrontation with the murderer--and so on!

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I think a murder in the first chapter is usually a bummer, because it's hard to drum up true sympathy for the victim if you're only seeing them in post-mortem flashbacks. It's such a commonly cited "rule" that you need a body right up front, but I think it actually detracts from the impact and import of the person's death, which makes us tread dangerously close to the waters of Violence Porn. Plus it reads gimmicky to me, in almost all cases. Police procedurals can sometimes be an exception, but even then I want to "know" the person who died. Sometimes that only takes a chapter on their actual life, but it still matters to me to see it.
yeah! look, if gimmicks sell and a mercenary agent or publisher takes my novel, hey! who cares? it's a start. thanks alot jon. like the cannon analogy!
thank you for that. forthright! i see what you mean, but the slow discovery of the woman's true character reveals things about the other characters too. so much truth comes out about main and supporting characters. it's my first book and i guess i am afraid to be too different.
Flashbacks are tricky, because one of our objectives is to always keep the story flowing forward. I would say, in general, to use them very sparingly, only one or two sentences max.

Also, I'm a bit confused as to whose point of view these flashbacks are seen from.
they're seen from letters that the P.I.. gets a hold of. so he uses his imagination to imagine what was going on in the lives of those involved. also Jude, here's a question for you. I like the idea of the narration as a camera as dashell hammett did it. can't the narrative be omnipotent or is that not done now a days?
Omniscient? That is, godlike? Books were written that way. It's not quite the camera view (Hemingway used that), because that only records what a camera can record (and a tape recorder). Omniscient is a narrator who knows all and can get into the heads of all characters.
I think flashbacks are tricky. I'd stick with deductions based on actual letters plus other info the detective has gathered.
thank you! yeah. deductions based on actual letters. i think i won't have to worry about the open can of worms now! by the way, i totally confused myself about narrative voice. been writing for 10 hours. just like yesterday. oh my God! i think your reply just got me on the right track. muchas.
jude! i think i fell into (forget about opening) a can of worms here. i like the idea of a camera like narrative. okay, i'm not hammett and it's not 1930. but i did like maltese falcon. in a way, doing it that way without getting into the pov's--of everyone was still effective.
yet, in a way, he did get into character's feelings because he does it with dialogue. my favorite thing to write as a matter of fact. at the moment i'm getting the story down. i want a first draft. and at the same time i'm reading whatever i can about narratives--etc. i also want to feedback from all you published writers, especially! open to advice!
I recently read Kevin Wignall's WHO IS CONRAD HIRST? which has flashbacks which are done wonderfully well. But they're not of the "I'd better get the dead body in the first chapter" type. I've just started Andrew Holmes' RAIN DOGS AND LOVE CATS which has a death in the first chapter that happened 20 odd years before. I'm not sure how it fits into the rest of the book yet, but I'm bearing it in mind. There is also a death in the second chapter and so far there are little bits and pieces and memories which are filling in the victim's character and doing it in a way which makes you care about the victim. So it can be done really well. But I also agree with Cornelia that sometimes it can seem gimmicky and forced.
thank you. i'll take that on board. believe me!
There are many greats in the genre who consistently tell very linear stories from a single POV. For a first novel, especially, I think it's the best way to go. Keep it simple.
Jude, thanks! i hope i can. believe me, the last thing (I ought to do) or want to do is to get fancy and complex. i'll take your advice.


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