I don't read biographies much anymore, though I did when I was younger. Most if not all begin with the subject somewhere in his middle or later years. It usually gives the reader at least one reason why this person is worthy of a biography. Then the work goes back to his birth, early life, and ties those things to the person he became. Much like fiction...or perhaps fiction is much like non-fiction.
If you watch any documentaries on television or You-tube, you'll see the same thing. The person being profiled, or the event or discovery or invention being featured will be introduced first in such a way as to catch your interest. Why is this thing or person important or significant? After that the documentarians (just had to use that word) will provide back ground—flashbacks of the non-fiction kind.
One concern about using flashbacks is how to present them. Interrupting the action...be it a fight scene or a sex scene or an argument or a friendly competition...might be a bad idea...but you can get away with it. If there are brief lulls in the action, flashbacks, if appropriate to the action, can be inserted. And of course it is up to you, the writer, to decide if a lull in the action is called for. I did that a few times in Just Luck, Book 2. But, first, since the book is written in first person and the narrator is involved in the fight, it is more natural to interrupt his own story with brief flashbacks. Also, his narrative style has been well established so an interruption like that presents as completely normal for him.
I'm still reading King's Wizard and Glass. Since I'm only working four days a week, I get in less reading per week.
Most of the novel is one gigantic flashback. Roland tells his friends—his ka-tet—about an adventure and romance he experienced when he was fourteen. It is impressive, romantic, full of triumphs and disappointments, and especially one deep heart-rending tragedy. And here and there a bit of foreshadowing, which is also appropriate in a flashback. I did that in one of the flashbacks in Witchery.
When writing fiction (or non-fiction) it is almost always necessary to provide the reader with a character's background. But it is almost always necessary to avoid beginning the story with that background. A writer must use the first sentence or two—certainly the first paragraph—to grab the reader's attention.
"The Gunslinger was born in Gilead, the son of a gunslinger from a long line of gunslingers."
That is not the first sentence of King's Book One of The Dark Tower Series. Actually, that's not too bad.
Instead, King gifted us with one of the best opening sentences in modern fiction: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
With that one sentence we are given the antagonist, the protagonist, the setting, and the immediate action. We learn about the gunslinger's (Roland's) past through flashbacks interspersed with the action of the present.
Next time I'll continue with discussion on opening sentences and/or paragraphs.
Till then, be well and be well-read.
One other note: I've added a couple of new quotes to the Right Writes page.