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Craft Tips and Techniques from Today’s Blockbusters
P.S.. I Love You and the Art of Flashbacks
Plant clues to the past to raise your reader’s curiosity…
P.S.: I really, really love you!
P.S. I Love You and the Art of Flashbacks.
Gerard Butler as Irish pub-singing Gerry. The incredibly talented Hilary Swank as uptight American tourist Holly. A few precious moments with charming Denny, er Jeffery Dean Morgan, aka Denny, my favorite heart transplant patient from Grey’s Anatomy. What’s not to love? And I did love P.S. I Love You. Love, love, loved it. Cried my eyes out. My favorite line was “Let’s just go barefoot,”—a brilliant use of resonant metaphor in dialogue.
Aside from the many wonderful themes written into this screenplay, the movie also can eloquently teach us about effective use of flashbacks. Let’s take a look at how the screenwriter weaves in the backstory through flashbacks to draw out our emotions.
First, in the long prologue scene, the screenwriter gives us the clues that form the backbone of Gerry and Holly’s past, and provides a checklist of the backstory scenes we’ll need to experience to fully understand the story. It’s embedded smoothly in their “fight” scene: 1) Gerry was an Irish singer (now out of his element), 2) Holly and Gerry got married quickly (something that made her mother angry), and 3) Holly has to have life planned out. (Ultimately, these elements also raise the driving story question: Will Holly be able to get past her grief of losing her first brilliant love to find love again?) First principle of revealing backstory: Plant clues to the past to raise your reader’s curiosity (and provide some backstory elements to search for).