In media res is a common phrase used to describe how to start a story or scene. It means to get into the action quickly, to what really matters right away. This one thing can make or break a book. If a narrative starts too slowly, or is otherwise lacking some kind of interesting hook at the beginning, readers are not likely to keep going. Many readers use the first page or two as a gauge for whether or not they’ll enjoy the rest of the book. If it goes nowhere, the reader goes nowhere.
Beyond just the beginning, authors need to keep up the pace of the book as a whole. If too many things happen which are unconnected with the plot as a whole, readers will feel misled, like their time is being wasted. Of course, what is slow depends on genre. It won’t be the same for everyone. As an author, this means you need to know your audience. Know the genre and what readers find acceptable in regards to pacing. Fantasy readers are a lot more forgiving than action and thriller readers.
Ley and Leigh talk about the problems with slow beginnings and meandering plot progress in this episode.
First aired September 22, 2022.