Fading Emotions: Advantages

So, relegating events to the past fades their emotions. The amount of fading is unknown and depends on several factors, but it's there and I think usually substantial.

That's a consequence, not a disadvantage. Yes, we usually want scenes to maximize emotional impact. So it's usually a disadvantage.

But it can also be an advantage.

Focus/Not Telling

In one of my stories, the Holy Grail appears in the main character's attic. That's a very obvious event for the start of the book; or I might do normal life and then that event.

But I didn't want to tell the scene of her discovering it, at least not in the way I think a scene should normally be told. I didn't want to put the reader inside her surprise and other emotions. I'm not sure why; maybe it seemed uninteresting to me; maybe it was too far away from the theme of the book – I wanted the focus to be on the problems created for her when visitors come to see the Holy Grail.

So I started my story after that, with the first person to come to her house to see the cup. That didn't avoid my obligation to describe her discovery of the cup, but now I could handle it as a flashback. She tells the first visitor:

"I felt the peace and happiness too. Also, when I touched the cup, I saw myself touching the cup. Except it was like I was outside my body and watching myself from 5 feet away. It was spooky and weird."

It's not difficult to find good authors writing important books and relegating very important events to the past. In The Fault in Our Stars the story begins with Hazel having cancer, being somewhat in remission, and trying to live her life as a human being. That was the focus of the book. Important events before that, like her almost dying, are left to narration.

Similarly, Speak superficially is about a girl who was raped. But really it's a book about her trying to escape from the consequences of that, and the story begins at least a month after the rape. The start:

It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.

Emotions in the Present

While there is a loss of emotions from putting a scene in the past, there is also a gain: The author can present the emotions from the present:

And . . . "My turn."
He nods. "Your turn."
Yeah. I look down at the table. "My mother left me when I was seven months old."
I look up. Like everyone else I've told this to, he just sits there momentarily stunned. Then he tries to think of some lame but appropriate thing to say. I rush on, "It's not a big deal. I never knew her, so I never missed her. My father raised me. He's wonderful and everything's great."
I shrug. No, not really.
Alex: "Why did your mother leave?"
"I can't explain it very well. I'll show you her note sometime if you're ever at my house." I've read it a hundred times. But it doesn't tell me what she was really thinking.

That doesn't look anything like an info dump. Or, actually, like typical jump to the past, though it certainly conveys information about the past. It's really just a natural scene, with two people talking.

And note the skip in time, from her leaving to her reading the note.

Putting this together, a piece from the past can be put where it is most relevant to the story and it's impact on the story can be told.