In Medias Res: Where to start your story

Linda Apple, writer and fellow Hartline client, first pointed me to Kristen Lamb's blog. Now I'm pointing you in her direction. Amid all the hype about starting your work with a bang, Kristen has some excellent advice.

                   Kristen Lamb's Blog

All literary roads lead back to “Star Wars”…. On Friday we talked about using setting as a literary device. Setting is one of those tools that helps writers to do more showing than telling. Today, we are going to tackle a highly confusing subject for many writers—In medias res. In medias res quite literally means in the middle of things. This is a literary tactic that has been used since the days of Odysseus. It is a tactic that forces the writer forward, to begin the story near the heart of the problem. The Trouble with In Medias Res Ah, but this is where we writers can get in trouble. I see writers beginning their novels with high-action gun battles, blowing up buildings, a heart-wrenching, gut-twisting scene in a hospital or at a funeral, all in an effort to “hook the reader” by “starting in the middle of the action.” Then when they get dinged/rejected by an agent or editor, they are confused. But I started right in the action! What is more “in the action” than a high-speed chase through Monte Carlo as a bomb ticks down to the final seconds? Bear with me a few moments, and I will explain why this is melodrama and not in medias res. Commercial Fiction Ain’t A Tale of Two Cities (to continue reading, hop on over to Kristen's Blog. ) I haven't yet found my way to her books, but how are these for titles?  We Are Not Alone: The Writers Guide to Social Media  and Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer.      

4 Thoughts on “In Medias Res: Where to start your story

  1. As helpful as always. xx

  2. I did not know there was a name for it, but In Medias Res is my favorite way to write a scene! Thank you for this enlightening post, it’s given me something to chew on for today. 🙂

    • Normandie on 28 August, 2012 at 4:11 PM said:

      I so appreciate the way she handles the idea of when to start–not too far in, not too far before, but in the action and of the action. Oh, and then there’s that bit about not dropping the ball . . . hmmm. Sustaining the tension. Good thoughts all.

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