What is Flash-Forward in Literature? Definition, Examples in Literature

Flash forward definition: Flash-forward is a type of non-linear plot in which the author includes scenes that preview events that happen in the future.

What is a Flash-Forward in Literature?

A flash-forward can be defined as a non-linear plot device in which the author inserts scenes in the action which preview events that happen in the future.

Example of Flash-Forward

In the hit television series The Simpsons, writers often include flash forward scenes that show the child characters, Bart and Lisa, as adults.

What is the Difference Between Flash-forwards and Foreshadowing?

Flash-forward vs. foreshadow: Flash-forwards and foreshadowing both deal with future events; however, these are two different devices. Flash forwards show and actual event in the future whereas foreshadowing involves the subtle hints towards events that are to occur later in the story.

Foreshadowing Example:

  • In the exposition of James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis, the author foreshadows the death of a character through his heavy use of diction with connotations associated with death such as rotting flowers and empty birds’ nests. By subtly using images of death, he is foreshadowing rather than flash forwarding.

The Function of Flash-forward

A flash-forward can serve different purposes in literature. In some instances, it can give explanations of how a character’s actions may affect the future.

This adds suspense for the reader to see how the action may play out depending on a character’s decisions made in the story.

How Flash-forwards Are Used in Literature

In Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, flash-forward is used to demonstrate the affects of Scrooge’s actions if he does not change his stingy ways. The negative outcomes his choices will have on himself and others lead him to change his perspective on life and embrace charity.

In Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, he includes a flash-forward during his narrating of time he spent in the Nazi concentration camp. He flashes forward to a moment when people are throwing money at children in poverty for amusement. It reminds him time he spent in the concentration camp when starvation deeply affected him. This flash-forward allows the reader to see how time in the camps deeply affected him into adulthood.

Summary: What Are Flash-forwards?

Define flash-forward in literature: Flash-forwards are breaks in linear plot to show events that happen in the future.

Final Example:

In the hit television series Breaking Bad, flash-forwards are repeatedly used to add suspense to the episodes.

Oftentimes, an episode begins with an event that happens in the futures while the remainder of the episodes shows the events leading up to the flash-forward. This adds suspense to the show because the viewer is left trying to put the pieces together to make sense of the flash-forward.