In Media Res: Journey of Strangers

Elizabeth Zelvin

In medias res, ( Latin: “in the midst of things”) in narrative technique, the recommended practice of beginning an epic or other fictional form by plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events; the situation is an extension of previous events and will be developed in later action. – Encyclopedia Britannica, available at http://britannica.com

I must have heard the term in media res as a college English major a hundred years ago, but it made an impression on me as a fiction writer when I was working on Voyage of Strangers, my first historical novel. Its protagonist was Diego Mendoza, a young Jewish sailor who accompanied Columbus on his first two voyages to the Indies. Diego’s sister Rachel became a second point-of-view character.

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6 thoughts on “In Media Res: Journey of Strangers

  1. Elizabeth Zelvin

    Thanks for having me on the blog, Bonnie. I don’t know if I made it clear that as a result of having to put Joanna first for Chapter 1, I flipped the order of all the chapters for the published book, and it worked fine. For readers of VOYAGE OF STRANGERS, Rachel gets her turn a little later in the book–I wouldn’t dare leave her out. 🙂

  2. Bonnie

    I’m delighted that you contributed a post, Liz–come back any time. I found your post fascinating partly because it demonstrates that there’s almost always more than one way to tell a story. We can make fundamental changes in organization, cut or add significant scenes and characters–and still, if it’s a good story, it somehow works.

  3. Elizabeth Zelvin

    Besides having to grab the reader from page one, which is true whenever we submit to an editor or agent as well as a situation like the Kindle Scout process, I’ve had another experience that demonstrates just that, Bonnie: cutting a scene to the bone for a five-minute reading. Our Sisters in Crime New York chapter has an open mic night every year–the latest earlier this week–and as always I was amazed at how even in Chapter 1 of a published book or the opening of a story EQMM or AHMM had published, there were words and even sentences that I didn’t need when it was more important not to get the hook before I finished. 🙂

  4. Elizabeth Zelvin

    I agree, Bonnie. Besides having to grab the reader from page one, which is true whenever we submit to an editor or agent as well as a situation like the Kindle Scout process, I’ve had another experience that demonstrates just that, Bonnie: cutting a scene to the bone for a five-minute reading. Our Sisters in Crime New York chapter has an open mic night every year–the latest earlier this week–and as always I was amazed at how even in Chapter 1 of a published book or the opening of a story EQMM or AHMM had published, there were words and even sentences that I didn’t need when it was more important not to get the hook before I finished. 🙂

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