Tag Archive - In Medias Res

Getting Right into the Middle of Things

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #2: Nothin’ Happenin’. Editor Robin Patchen encourages writers to think about a scene’s purpose in order to determine what information is important to share and where to place that in an active scene playing out in real time. (If you’ve missed the other three posts on this fatal flaw, read them here, here, and here.)

We have to be clear. It’s very important that our readers understand exactly what’s going on at every moment in our story. So we must tell the reader everything that ever happened that led to this scene, whatever it is. That’s the only way the reader will get it, right?

Not exactly.

It’s not that your reader doesn’t care about that stuff. Oh, wait. Yes, that’s exactly what it is. Unless it affects the story, your reader doesn’t care. Not one bit.

Your scenes should begin when the action begins. That’s a tough thing to determine, though. I’m acting right now by typing these words on the page, and I promise you, there isn’t a soul alive who wants a play-by-play of my typos. So how do you know when the scene should begin? Continue Reading…

In Medias Res—Cutting to the Chase

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #2: Nothin’ Happenin’.  Editor Christy Distler explains in detail what in medias res is, and how to start scenes right in the middle of action. (If you’ve missed the first two posts on the topic, check them out here and here.)

In medias res. If you’ve been writing for some time now, chances are you’ve heard at least one seasoned writer or editor tout its importance. Or maybe not. The first time I heard the phrase was when I joined a critique group and one of the members commended my novel’s first scene with, “Nice use of in medias res.” Wait. In medias what? I thought. Off I headed to Google for an explanation.

Just what is in medias res? Latin for “in the midst of things,” in medias res refers to the literary technique of starting a story in the middle of the action instead of using descriptive narrative to provide background and build up to the action. Continue Reading…

How to Get Readers into Your Story—and How to Keep Them There

We’re continuing our look this month at Fatal Flaw # 2—Nothin’ Happenin’. Last week editor Rachel Starr Thomson explained the pitfalls of front-loading scenes with too much narrative, and this week editor Linda Clare continues with the discussion, helping writers see what can be done to get readers quickly into your story, and how to keep them there.

In the opening of many novels, we see a character alone on stage, riding a train, plane, car, or donkey. Many times this character is gazing out a window (unless, of course, she’s riding the donkey), thinking. Some call this “driving to the story.”

Many times this type of “sittin’ and thinkin” scene is so loaded with backstory that readers don’t know when the real story begins—or worse, they don’t care. Let’s look at some ways to fix this kind of Writing that comes across as “nothin’ happenin’.”

The Wilson Principle

To hook your readers and get the story going quickly, your POV character needs someone to interact with. If you write only her thoughts, she has no one who will disagree with her. There is no variety or stimulating action. Just the character sitting, thinking. While an occasional scene opening this way can have a place in a novel, writers risk losing readers’ interest by taking this approach. Continue Reading…

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