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Should a flashback be in past tense or past perfect?

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Assuming the story itself is in past tense, normally when I go further into the past I'd use past perfect:

He had first met her at the grocery store, six months prior.

However, which is more correct when writing an extended flashback (several pages):

He fondly remembered the day they met.

He had met her at the grocery store, where they had shared a long glance at the checkout line. She had bought sixteen oranges and one single banana, something that had caught his eye at once. He had only been purchasing a pack of gum. He had been about to leave when he had noticed her self-check ding...

versus

He fondly remembered the day they met.

He met her at the grocery store, where they shared a long glance at the checkout line. She was buying sixteen oranges and one single banana, something that caught his eye at once. He was only purchasing a pack of gum. He was about to leave when he noticed her self-check ding...

My instinct is to leave the first sentence as "had met her", then switch to simple past tense. Is that strange?

Why should this post be closed?

This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/4344. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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2 answers

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I'd go with past, actually. If you use past perfect, there's no need to italicise, is there? It's effectively not a flashback, but just narration. Flashbacks are meant to take on an element of immediacy, of being dragged into a moment re-lived. (In fact I've actually switched to present tense for flashbacks with no reader confusion. Indicate that you're about to "remember" something, use italics...you'll be fine. Flashback is over when italics end).

This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/4346. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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It's not strange at all. That's exactly how I would do it. A flashback of two paragraphs can take past perfect. A flashback of several pages can be in the simple past as long as you establish the time shift clearly at the beginning, and use the past perfect in one or two sentences at the beginning.

You should also clearly indicate when the flashback ends: "Now that it was summer, the watermelons took on an entirely new meaning."

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