Craft Lesson: Jacqueline Kharouf on Flashback as Backstory

By Last Updated: September 2, 2023Views: 2711

Jacqueline Kharouf kindly gave me permission to post an excerpt from a craft lesson I had the privilege of attending. You should really check out the whole thing at the link below, well worth it. Thanks, JK.

“The following is a lecture/craft lesson that I gave for my Denver writing group in October 2011. This unique opportunity gave me a chance to practice for the kind of lecture I will give as part of the requirements for my MFA degree. It is formatted more like a lecture, with examples directly referenced from Lauren Groff’s short story “Delicate Edible Birds,” but it also includes some useful information about flashbacks as a tool for story exposition. Thanks to my writing group for allowing me to give this lecture! Flashback as Backstory

A Craft Lesson Analysis of Lauren Groff’s Short Story “Delicate Edible Birds” Introduction

In our discussion tonight of Lauren Groff’s short story, “Delicate Edible Birds,” I’d like to focus on point of view, flashback, and backstory. I’ll discuss how each of these components are at work in Groff’s story, and why it works, and I’ll conclude with three methods of how you can employ flashback as backstory in your own work.

Despite the very deliberate historical setting of “Delicate Edible Birds,” the plot is relatively straightforward. The story’s five main characters, Viktor, Parnell, Frank, Lucci, and Bern are reporters fleeing Paris as the Germans invade. Instead of going to Tours, which they learn is also shutting down, they decide to head to Bordeaux. But as they travel across the country roads, meeting other fleeing French people (many of whom were injured from plane attacks), their car runs out of gas. They push the car to a small cottage where they hope to find food, shelter, and supplies to restock their car and continue on their way. Although Nicolas, the man of the cottage, seems friendly (at first), he turns out to be very pro-German and a Nazi, who demands that in exchange for his hospitality they “give” him Bern. They immediately refuse and Nicolas locks them in his barn. Eventually, as we learn more about Bern, and as the characters slowly fatigue from hunger, Bern gives in—for one night—and in the morning they all leave together.”


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