Flashforwards are the flashbacks of our era of TV writing. From the flashforwards in Lost that showed our merry ensemble cast finally off the island at last (and wanting to go back) to shows like Damages and Bloodline that structure entire seasons on the content of their jumps in time, this tool has become ubiquitous in our modern age of storytelling as a linear narrative faces more challenges in capturing an audience.
However, it’s easy to misuse this device. Here are 5 things you need to consider before deciding to use flashforwards in your show:
1. Does a flashforward storyline make your story more interesting?
Remember that ABC show, Flashforward? The show centered on the entire world blacking out and witnessing a few seconds of their future. The whole show was structured with the characters being aware of this narrative device, instead of it just being just for the sake of the audience. The show ultimately become too convoluted for its own good and it didn’t help that its characters were spouting most of the themes of the show, but the initial concept and first few episodes did a good job with the device.
That brings us to our first point: do flashforwards make the telling of your story MORE INTERESTING?
With Flashforward, the answer is yes — without the device, the story would be pretty dull (and would also make no sense.) But if you can get rid of the flashforward and the story still stands, then you should cut them.
2. Are your flashforwards shocking enough?
I just started watching Shonda Rhimes’ How to Get Away With Murder (and by “just started” I mean I’m on episode 11) and while I love the character development (Viola Davis deserves all the awards, including the Emmy she just won), one of the aspects of this show that I find unnecessary are the flashforwards which almost seem to exist to make use of that expensive bonfire they shot.
The problem with the flashforwards in HTGAWM is that there’s no shock value. There is murder in the title of the show, so when we see these law students in the flashforward panicking after committing a murder, there’s no surprise there. We expect someone in this show to try and get away with murder, so the power of the flashforwards are lost on us, especially when we’re pretty sure they did this on accident. [Read more…]