Christie at has issued another writing prompt, this time focusing on the proper use of flashbacks. There are several in my WIP, but after reading her suggestions, I’m not sure I’ve used the plot device correctly. (You can read her fantastic explanation here.)

Below is an excerpt containing a flashback (maybe it’s more of an aside?) but it’s used to 1) pass time and 2) reveal a different side of the MC and 3) update the reader on a character who has been in the background.

I would LOVE suggestions on how to make this flow a little better!

Thirty minutes later, I’ve showered, dressed, choked down some cardboard cereal and now it’s time to run through the songs one last time before school. And even though I’m pumped with adrenalin, my nerves try to get the best of me.

I don’t let them. The exchange with Daddy makes me more determined than ever to give the kind of performance no panel can ignore.

School is school: homework, lectures, gossip, lunch. Followed by more homework, lectures, gossip and a dash of note-passing.

Afterward, I make a beeline for the studio, where I find all the equipment in place and Isaac sitting on the love seat with his arms crossed and head back.

“Let’s do this.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He jumps up, fiddles with his laptop, and says, “Whenever you’re ready.”

I’ve never been so ready in my life. I want this. I need this. The New England Conservatory will beg me to come to their school.

Besides my killer recording, my grades are decent and I’ve got a long list of accomplishments and extracurriculars. Out of all of them, I’m most proud of my work with Keys for Kids, an after-school program for children who would never get to learn an instrument otherwise. I give group piano lessons once a week downtown at the public performing arts magnate school. It’s just two blocks from Felix’s in a rundown part of the city.

This semester, there are two boys and two girls in my class. Any more would be impossible to handle. All of them show aptitude and a desire to learn. None could afford lessons, materials or a piano of their own. I teach them the basics: how to read music, some elementary terms, and fingerings. By the end of the semester, they’re supposed to be able to play scales in C Major and G Major, along with a few simple tunes.

I usually have a helper with these classes, but he’s been incapacitated lately. Which is why I’m shocked when he walks in.

“Mr. Cline! Mr. Cline!” The kids shout and abandon their pianos, running to him and clinging to his legs. The tallest hugs his waist. Mr. Cline sways, putting a burden on his new cane.

“I’m happy to see you, as well! One couldn’t … ask for a better w-welcome.” As usual, he has candy in his coat pockets and begins distributing it. “Children, I would love it … if you would show me what you’ve learned. Please go practice while I talk to … Miss Juli.”

Guilt blossoms when I notice how much better Mr. Cline seems. I would know he’s doing better if I’d visited more since his stroke. He opens his arms and in two strides, I’m surrounded by his candy-coated eucalyptus scent. He’s thinner now, but feels solid. Whole. I know he’s well, and that nearly triggers happy tears, but I swallow them back. I hang on a second longer than he does.

“I’ve missed you. So much has happened.” I sniffle.

“So I hear. Isaac has kept me in the … loop.”

“He has? Then maybe you can tell me!”


“You forgot to tell me he hardly talks, at least about anything other than music. It took weeks before I could even get him to smile. You told me not to tease him, but I had to so he’d loosen up.”

He laughs and happiness zings through my veins. “I can see … this has been good for him. He needed to come home. Thank you for helping him.”

“Me? How on earth have I helped him?”

“I think … you gave him a challenge.”

Before he can explain more, the children’s “practicing” disintegrates into pounding their fists on the keys.

“Mr. Cline! Listen to what I can do!”

“No! Me!”

“I wanna go first!”

Mr. Cline smiles. “Children, I have missed your energy. Now, show me what Miss Juli has been teaching you.”


 Back in the studio, I’ve just finished the last of my pieces for the submission. Isaac presses the stop button and turns off the microphone.