Notes from writing class -In Medias Res


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, while sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

In Medias Res - "Directly translated, this means “In the middle of things.” is a Latin phrase denoting the literary and artistic narrative technique wherein the relation of a story begins either at the mid-point or at the conclusion, rather than at the beginning , establishing setting, character, and conflict via flashback and expository conversations relating the pertinent past."

In writing it refers to starting your work where the interesting thing happens.

Many new writers (myself included) initially feel that we need readers to know our characters before we get into the story. This results in a first chapter info dump. This is a bad thing. Don’t do it.

The method of starting things “in the middle” as it were, means to find the moment where the story really starts and start it there.

Think of it this way. I you wouldn’t want me to introduce a character to you this way…

Hi I’m Alyssa, I’m 25 years old. I have long, straight red hair. I have no immediate family. I live in Las Vegas Nevada. I don’t drive a car because I can’t afford one. I’m still in college. I have a part time job. I love to hang out at CafĂ© Copioh. Oh and today I became a vampire.


You would probably want to know the most interesting part first, right?

So that’s what you do. Start with that interesting part. How did she become a vampire. Then, work in those other details as your story unfolds.

That’s the basic principle of In Medias Res. It’s finding the point of interest and starting there instead of bogging down the front end of your story with info dumping.

But don’t think that Info dumping is ok either. It’s still a no-no. Those little details of your characters life should be weaved in organically into the story.

Comments

Alan Ryker said…
Good information. One of the most important things a writer needs to do is hook the reader quickly. Unless the book has a ton of hype, a reader will only give it a page or two in the book store or in the sample. Beginning in medias res is one of the best ways to start with the goods.
KiaZiShiru said…
In the end I realize that a lot of information I had wanted to give up front is not needed at all, or only until much much later.
Ryan Sullivan said…
And it's really amazing how, if you don't put that stuff in the start, it actually gives you stuff to write about when things are slow to keep things somewhat interesting!
Katie Salidas said…
All great points! You should have seen the first draft of my original book, Immortalis. I cut out 4k words of backstory between draft 1 and the final. It just wasn't necessary. And as Ryan said, you find a way to insert some of that info during other parts of the story.
Debbie said…
Actually the example you gave works for me. By having a couple of lines of info-dumping, the vampire line is way more hard-hitting in contrast. Without the contrast, it's less effective.