What does term ‘in medias res’ mean?

Q: While reading one of the self-published books about plotting a novel, I came across the term “in medias res” in the section on the book’s opening lines. What does this term mean?

The term is Latin for “in the middle,” and many editors and book critics would say that novels should dispense with the story’s background and start with the action already underway (or “in the middle” of the story). An excellent example of this is Homer’s “The Iliad,” which starts in the waning days of the Greek war with the Trojans rather than covering the 10-year siege before the final battle. This helps focus the story’s plot on a character resolving one significant central problem.

Related articles:
• Create a riveting opener for your story
• Start story with event that upsets status quo


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.