Remember – the mediocre are always at their best!
This is exactly what it sounds like—a scene that has flashed forward in time from the actual time period in which the crux of the story is taking place. Unlike a flashback, which only hints at something in the future, a flash-forward is usually a complete scene that describes it outright.
An example of this is a book I edited last year that was based on a woman’s true life experiences.
She starts out the book with a flash-forward. Amy (the main character) is sitting in a holding cell with her hands cuffed and feet shackled. She’s freezing cold and tired, but all she could think of is her three-year-old child and where she was now. Someone calls her name and she is moved to a large room that was originally meant as a meeting place for the inmates, but due to overcrowding it now contained rows of bunks. There were no unused bunks, so she was told to find a place on the floor to sleep. She lay on the cold, hard floor with nothing more than a set of sheets and a scratchy blanket. In the darkness of night, she tries to think of what went wrong. How did she get there?
Then the story begins back in time about seven years before that. She is single, happy, and has a great job at a time-share in Mexico. Every once in awhile there is a short flash-forward showing us a little more of her bitter life in prison. These serve as sudden reminders that this sweet person we have grown to love has done something in her past, and the reader cannot imagine what it could possibly be. This is why the reader will keep reading. They are compelled by the desire to know what happened to her.
When used correctly, a flash-forward is an excellent writing technique that will help create tension in your story. If you realize at the end of your book that the flash-forward has no literary merit, then merely remove it.