Daily Tidbit: Breaking Down “media res”

The literal definition of the Latin term media res is “in the midst of things.” When it comes to literary works, media res refers to the common trope of starting stories after important events have already happened. A great example is the Odyssey.

The Odyssey begins after the main character, Odysseus, fights in a war and kills a wild sea monster, is kidnapped by a nymph, and witnesses his comrades turn into pigs. The first scene of the Odyssey begins with some of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus as they discuss Odysseus and his current status.

A key note to keep in mind when you’re trying to identify a story that begins in media res or if you’re trying to incorporate this technique in your own stories is that if a story begins in media res, important plot events are almost always referenced or referred to to help give the story context.

A great example of a contemporary story that begins in media res is Dave Eggers’s novel Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets Do They Live Forever?

The story begins after an astronaut has been kidnapped but the first few pages are about setting up the story and making sure the story is put into context.

 

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