In Media Res

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For a writer it can be a bit tricky to know where to start your story. When we write a mystery story, we have a tendency to want to tell the whole story. This often means that we begin far too early. We tell the reader in painstaking detail that our protagonist got up, had a shower, got dressed, had breakfast, went to work and that it was a day just like any other. But there’s a better way…

Let’s begin our story right there in the middle of the action. Let’s meet our protagonist at the crossroads, not on the way to the crossroads. The first time I meet the protagonist, I want to meet him crouched and panting in a dark alley, his heart in his mouth, in constant expectation of hearing a footstep.

Let’s meet her for the first time as she comes down the stairs in the dark and falls over the dead body, and let me see her raise a bloody hand in the candlelight.

Let me see your protagonist as they step on the brake at the top of the hill and discover the brakeline has been cut; let me watch as they career perilously ever closer to the wall or lumber-truck or cliff edge and their apparent certain doom.

Think of your favourite TV cop show. Remember how the maid always screams before the first ad break? That’s what we’re going for.

No more lengthy scenes a la Proust, unless you are Proust. No more stage dressing. Does the audience arrive to see the rehearsal? No, they only arrive for the main event. Don’t bother to tell your reader what your character had for breakfast unless that’s what killed them.

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