In Medias . . . Camels

It’s really difficult to kiss while riding a camel.

That wasn’t just a random observation. It actually does relate (vaguely) to my subject today, and it’s a pretty darn good hook. Plus, it’s true (I made that discovery this weekend), which makes it infinitely more interesting.

I have blogged about exposition and backstory before. The more young adult literature I read, the more I realize the importance of pacing. In general, I think adults have more patience for stories that adopt a leisurely pace. Stories for younger audiences need to take off running. I have noticed that many books for young adults and middle readers begin in medias res (in the middle of the action). Most of the time, I approve of this technique.

So, how does all of this relate to kissing on a camel? I find that beginning a piece of writing in media res, without explanation or preamble, forces me to introduce the conflict immediately. It gets my fighters fighting, and it establishes the stakes. I think that readers, especially young readers, want something worth fighting over. Without an immediate and obvious problem, they don’t see a reason to stick with the characters and see how things turn out.

What is your rule of thumb for introducing the main conflict in your writing? Do you want it to be in black and white on page one, or within the first twenty pages? Do you like to hint at the conflict early, but reserve it until later? I would love to hear your thoughts.




  1. The first line needs some of your signature style artwork.

    Oh, and yes, I think even books for adults need conflict immediately. If not the main conflict, a strong bridging conflict to bring us to to the main conflict.


    • Why thank you! An illustration would be especially fun!

      And thanks for your feedback! I like books that start with trouble. It gets me involved so much faster.


  2. I always start in media res, regardless of the audience I’m writing for. It just works better for me, and it keeps me from rambling. Of course, when I’m reading, I’ll read anything if I like the voice.


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