Back to the Future… and St. Louis – a little note on travel and flashbacks (originally posted 11/2/10)

Well, I’m off to the suburbs of St. Louis for what should be some very entertaining writing workshops. We’re riffing on photos students took with a pro photographer a couple of weeks ago. I love visual springboards for story ideas. It’s amazing where a good picture can lead you.
Speaking of good pictures, it’s the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future. Kids, if you haven’t seen this movie, see it now. I envy you your first viewing!
As a storyteller, I’ve been thinking about this movie a lot lately and the literary technique of the flashback, or moving into the past of your narrative in order to deliver important information needed for the current day. BTTF is all about the flashback… literally. And it works. But is it always the best method to fill in the blanks in a story? What other ways can you impart information without: a) starting the story at birth so nothing is missed, or b) breaking the flow of the narrative by inserting a “last year this time” scene? Thoughts? Opinions? I’ll share mine when I return!