On ‘In Media Res’…

In medias res or medias in res (into the middle of things) is a Latin phrase for the literary and artistic narrative technique where the relating of a story begins at the midpoint, rather than at the beginning (cf. ab ovo, ab initio), establishing setting, character, and conflict … The main advantage of in medias res is to open the story with dramatic action rather than exposition which sets up the characters and situation. –Wikipedia, In Media Res.

The first stories that come to mind when I think of the phrase ‘In Media Res’, are the Iliad and the Odyssey. This literary tactic isn’t just for epic, Greek poetry; it can be applied to any story. Many agents/publishers have sent back manuscripts saying to cut the first several chapters so the beginning of the story has all the needed action and drama. I know this can be hard, because I like writing those chapters of background. Just because that is what I like to write, doesn’t mean that is what others want to read. Besides, what is the fun of learning everything there is to know about a character at the beginning, instead of unraveling the protagonist’s mysterious back-story while the plot unfolds? So next time you start a story, think about writing it ‘in media res’, to heighten the action, drama, and intrigue.


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