I was drawn to this article because it is the only non-fiction piece in the current issue of Calliope (available online at calliopewriters.org). After having read it, it seems that this would be more accurately labeled if it was under the heading of Advice Columns focusing on How to Get Published. In a sentence this piece says, “Make the start of your story interesting or don’t bother,” and while I don’t disagree with the fact that the beginning of a story should be interesting, it sounded in my head like Benedetto was asking his readers to sell out. He made it clear that if a story doesn’t start in medias res it will never be read by publishers.
One example Benedetto used was a story starting with five pages “detailing the ecosystem of uninhabited Planet Zervim III” which he would rather have start with “just five sentences explaining that our protagonist is a used-robot salesman taking passage on a commercial starship and that he’s just been marooned by aliens on an uninhabited plant for reasons he does not understand.” I could not help but think of Hollywood, car chases and explosions. I wondered why the ecosystem of Zervim III couldn’t be the most interesting start to a story. It could be that the differences between that ecosystem and our own make it interesting to read about. Maybe I’m a bit too much of a science nerd, but I’d love to read that.
This being said, it might be that five pages is too long, or that the story stands a better chance of being immediately engaging the way Benedetto wrote it , but I just don’t believe that the only way a story can be worth reading is if it starts in medias res.