In media res

storytelling Jun 28, 2021
image of boxer getting hit to support blog post about starting stories in the middle

In media res, Latin for “in the middle of things” is a literary device employed by storytellers across time and genres. An early example is Homer’s The Iliad, which begins in the thick of the Trojan War. A more recent example is Martin Scorsese’s film, Raging Bull, which opens with the protagonist, a once-famous boxer, now a bloated nightclub owner prepping to go on stage.

Employing in media res in telling my story about why I run at the cemetery has proven very effective in connecting with readers and listeners.

I felt a slight tug as the passenger-side mirror of the blue Subaru brushed against the fabric of my running shirt.

It didn’t register right away. I remember looking up and seeing a “Love Your Mother” sticker with an illustration of the earth on the car’s bumper and the driver’s outstretched hand waving. I waved back. That’s what you do in a small town here in rural southwestern Virginia.

A loud honk startled me. Another car was trying to turn right onto the road where I stood midway through the crosswalk. Jolted out of my mystified state, I waved at that car and finished jogging across the intersection.

That’s when it hit me. I’d just come within a few inches of being hit by a car on my daily run... (Read the full story here).

What does in media res have to do with difference-making? Plenty.

Transformation stories connect not through a chronology but through emotion. While our rational brain wants to tell a linear tale that appeals to our younger thinking brain (the prefrontal cortex), starting in the middle creates a visceral association that speaks to our older, quicker, reacting brain (the amygdala).

How often do you begin the story of the difference only you can make at the beginning with a list of features and benefits or your brand’s origin story? Does that approach capture your ideal audience’s attention and interest? If not, why not begin in the middle of the action with the tension that encourages prospects to lean in and learn more?

Scott Perry, Difference-Maker Coach at Creative on Purpose.

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