What is the term when a novel begins with a scene that belongs closer to the ending?  Not a prologue, not foreboding, kind of a hook.

Expert Answers
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you are referencing "in media res" which means "in the middle of the action."  When writers begin their story in the middle (or at the end) of the plot line, the reader is immediately drawn into some significant point of the story from which the author will likely use flashback to either go back to the beginning of the story in order to then tell it in chronological order, or may perhaps jump back and forth from the "present" to the past.  This technique makes the reader wonder what happened in the past that brought the characters to this particular point in time and under these circumstances.  It is a great way for authors to create mystery and suspense in the reader.  As your question mentions, the scene could cause foreboding in the reader, and it could certainly hook his or her attention.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several ways to describe this usage. It is not precisely a flashforward, which usually occurs within the story, giving information or prior knowledge of an event that has happened before, outside the order of the proper time frame. A flashforward works in exactly the opposite manner of its companion, the flashback. Your example is probably closer to that of a prolepsis, similar to a flashforward but not restricted to its placement within a later part of the story. A prolepsis, like the flashforward, anticipates a future event of some kind, providing an answer outside of its normal time frame.

ajacks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When a narrative starts with a scene that takes place not at the beginning of the action but somewhere else in the story, that’s called “in media res.” The Latin phrase literally means “in the middle,” but it can happen anywhere in the story.

It’s a literary device used by writers to get the immediate attention of the reader. Who can resist reading a story that starts off: “When he came to, he saw the body on the floor. The cop standing next to it turned to him and asked, ‘Why did you do it?’ He had no idea…”