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Start your story in the middle of action

This entry is part 37 of 43 in the series Friday Sprints

Begin writing in medias res

Readers today have little patience for the long, unfolding story setups of the past. They want action, demand movement. Today’s writers often take their cue from an old literary phrase that is all about beginning a story, a chapter, a scene at its midpoint or even near the end.

We can thank the great Roman poet Horace for the term. For more than two thousand years, storytellers have relied upon this technique to capture the attention of their audiences. This week, your challenge is to begin writing at the midpoint or near the conclusion of action and write forward.

Find a few simple writing tools

Visual Tape Timer

A minimum of at least 5 minutes makes for a good writing sprint. I like to use timers. The tape timer is a fun visual timer that marks the minutes with the descending tape. (Click on the image to learn more.) Whatever writing tools are at hand — pen and paper, journal or composition book, even a computer file — will do. When you’re ready, set your timer. The oven timer, or even a desktop or smart phone application will do.

When you’re ready, begin!

Allow your senses to help you slip into the scene in the photograph below. Who is the character? What does your main character hear, see, taste, smell, and even feel. What is happening? More importantly, what happens next? Begin in the middle of action and write.,

Don’t stop to reread, edit, or question. Head for the end of the action. (Scroll down for the after-writing process.)

Once you’re finished, read what you’ve written but don’t make any changes. Think about the following questions, then write about the results of your writing exercise.

Read and reflect

  1. Did you begin with action?
  2. Did you start in the middle of a scene?
  3. Were you able to write to the end without a bunch of explanation?
  4. Did you sense a story?
  5. Do you have a beginning, middle, and an end to this unit of action?
  6. Did you have any problems? In what way?

That’s it. You can stop now or expand what you’re written. Share your thoughts below, and if you’re still in the writing mode check out the other visual prompts in the series..


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  • Katja

    Great tip, the classics always provided so much background information, but these days everyone wants to jump straight into the story and have any necessary background info drip-fed into the story.