The Flashback Structure

In terms of basic book shape, I’ve used the same approach in all three of mine: I start with a flash forward that shows what’s at stake emotionally for me over the course of a book, then tell the story in straightforward, linear time.

I wouldn’t suggest that shape for everybody, but I would say you have to start out setting emotional stakes – why the enterprise is a passionate one for you, what’s at risk – early on. That’s why the flashback structure, which I borrowed from Conroy and Crews (among thousands of other story tellers), is a time-honored one. It’s sitting on the coffin, telling the tale of a death – or rebirth, in my case.

– Mary Karr “The Art of Memoir”