The Roman poet Horace declared an epic poem should not begin ab ovo — ‘from the egg’ — but should hasten the reader in medias res, or ‘into the middle of things.’ It worked for Homer in the Iliad, goes Horace’s argument, it can work for you, too: and so “in medias res” has been written on creative writing chalkboards ever since, well, the beginning. But there’s an argument to be made for not starting in the middle of things, but for starting at the start, or, failing that, at least opening patiently, quietly, slowly, letting both page and process unfold well shy of battles such as the one that opens the Iliad. We’ll look at examples from Min Jin Lee, Akhil Sharma, Zadie Smith, Tove Jansson, and others, mostly fiction, but some poetry, too. We’ll take it slow.
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