Going Against the Grain

Nupur Tustin

As a writer, I take very seriously Horace’s advice to begin a story in media res. If this is important advice for a novelist, it’s even more important for a short story writer. So the first version of my young Haydn story, “The Baker’s Boy,” naturally began with the inciting event. Haydn, a young man, is getting dressed at dawn in his attic in Vienna when a commotion draws him to the window:

Heedless of his own safety, the young man leaned far out the small window. What calamity could have befallen the world today? The solar eclipse, plunging Vienna into a brief period of darkness, had come and gone without event.

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11 thoughts on “Going Against the Grain

  1. B.K. Stevens

    Thanks for contributing this post, Nupur! I think you made the right decision about the best place to begin your story. And I love the opening sentences of the revised version!

  2. KB Inglee

    I enjoyed this story. I read Major Description just a bit ago and really like your presentation of Haydn. Love stories that have real historical people in them.

  3. Jacqueline Seewald

    I agree that the story needs to begin in medias res.–never more so than today when readers have such a short attention span. A strong beginning means some intriguing action or dialogue must suck the reader into the story immediately.

  4. Gayle Bartos-Pool

    Ray Bradbury had much the same thought in his story “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Set up the dread and then proceed with the story. It looks like it worked for you, too.

  5. Nupur Tustin

    Yes, I agree Jacqueline. I think starting in Media Res has always been true. Of course, it’s important to identify the exact point at which the story starts–especially in an amateur sleuth mystery where the sleuth’s motivation for getting involved needs to be established. Some mysteries are best begun with the dead body dropping. Others are better begun with the discovery of a body. And still others need to be begun before any corpse shows up. I love the way the writers of the Father Brown show always know when to start, and always figure out a sound reason for Father Brown to get involved even when the people involved are Anglican–or Agnostic!

  6. Nupur Tustin

    Yes, sometimes one just has to take the road less traveled by. And it’s wonderful when that happens because you learn something about story technique and writing itself.

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