In medias res, is Latin for “in the middle of things”.
So now that you know what this phrase means, here comes the next question.
How do I know where the middle of things is?
The Long And The Short Of It
This is a great question.
The long answer is that it will take some more questions which will lead to a number of answers.
It will also involve some writing and rewriting as you get a feel for the way the story wants to be told.
Yes, that’s right, over time you will find that each story has a certain way it wants to be told. It is like a child developing in your mind and it will let you know if you are going down the right path or the wrong one.
The short answer is to just start in the muddle of things.
The Muddle Of Things?
Imagine starting a story as someone is frantically getting ready to leave for vacation.
We need to make sure all the bags are packed. But, where’s the baby’s favorite doll? And, oh! The kids need to be walked and the dog needs to be fed…strike that…other way around…and where’s little Tommy? If we don’t leave within the next half hour we’ll miss our flight!
And, then the telephone rings…
Grandma Is Dead
Now comes the conundrum.
Do they waste the $10,000 they have already spent on the vacation of their lifetime or go to the funeral of a woman they haven’t seen in 20 years?
Do you see how starting in the muddle of things captures the reader’s interest?
The story didn’t start with them talking about how it would be nice to go on vacation. It didn’t start with them buying the tickets. It started right before they were ready to seal the deal.
In medias res is right before the deadline.
Just as everything is about to happen the plan changes.
A Pool Of Sharks
Think of it as drawing a picture of someone standing on the limb of a tree over a pool of sharks.
If he’s standing closer to the trunk the limb is more sturdy. There is less suspense and drama and the reader is bored.
If he is standing in the middle of the limb and it is bending there is more suspense and drama. But still not quite enough.
If he is standing at the end and you show the branch starting to snap, perfecto! This is where you want to start your story, as far along in the drama as possible.
That’s starting in the muddle of things. In medias res.
Don’t worry if you can’t find the muddle of things right away. It may take some time. But, don’t worry, you’ll find it.