Thursday, November 1, 2018

November 2018 - — The Inciting Incident (where the story really begins)

For 2018, all the monthly topics have been submitted to me by writers and readers of this blog.

This month's question is— What exactly is "The Inciting Incident?" 

The Inciting Incident is the specific point in the beginning of the story where the protagonist is drawn into solving a problem, dilemma, disaster, trouble, etc. 

For example, in Alice In Wonderland, the spot where Alice sees the White Rabbit is the Inciting Incident. When she saw that rabbit, her curiosity was sparked enough so that she followed the rabbit. 

Now someone might think that Alice falling down the rabbit hole is the Inciting Incident. But it is not. Again, it was her seeing the rabbit and making the decision to go after him that then culminated in her falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. In other words, if she had not seen that rabbit, there would be no story.

Another way to look at the Inciting Incident is to liken it to the domino that falls and which creates a cascade of events that leads to the climax and resolution of the story.

When an idea, premise, what-if, or character, etc. emerges from the imagination, it intrigues a writer. Thus intrigued, the writer writes, penning volumes of words to understand the story world (the setting) and the Protagonist's and Antagonist's personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Please realize that back story, back history, character sketches, scenes to get to know the various character's personalities, figuring out setting details, and other pre-writing will be jumbled into the opening pages of a first draft. 

Only after the draft is completed is it time to look for the tipping point, the Inciting Incident for where the real story begins.

How do you determine where that Inciting Incident really is? 

You ask yourself:

● Where is the point that things truly changed for the Protagonist and which plunged him or her into the new story world of having to deal with some problem, some trouble, some danger, etc. that leads to the climax?


● Where did the Protagonist encounter or confront a White Rabbit, which might be a person, incident, problem, dilemma, danger, etc. — and which is The Trouble that begins that domino effect of events leading to the climax of the story?

Sometimes it's not easy to find the correct Inciting Incident. The hardest time I ever had with finding the Inciting Incident was with my novel Jewels of the Sky. You see, I assumed early on that the death of the Protagonist's (Darq's) grandmother triggered the domino effect.  After a dozen trial-and-error openings that didn't work, I read farther into the story, beyond the pages dealing with the funeral. Then I  realized the real turning point, the real Inciting Incident, was when God picked Darq to test and have her choices determine the fate of her people    a matter of survival or extinction.

I will also confess that most of my story openings are spot on when I draft a work because I'm a Foundation Writer, number three on  the "10 Types of Writers" list. By the way,  if you're curious about what type of writer you tend to be, that list is still available as a free download at

Keep in mind, a writer has only eight seconds to catch a reader's attention with a story's opening. That opening must make the reader curious or intrigued in some way, which captures the reader's attention and compels a reader to read on and turn pages. Make no mistake   The Inciting Incident is the most compelling spot for a story's beginning. Find that spot and then revise for the drama that will hook and pull a reader into your story. 

*****NEXT MONTH'S TOPIC: December 2018 — Short Story or Vignette (what's the difference and who cares)


Feb 1-28, 2019  From Story Spark to Story Done — Let's write a Short story."  This in-depth, hands-on course is hosted by Pennwriters. - Registration details will be forthcoming. 

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Janet said...

Thanks, Catherine. Your blue letters pulled me into the next paragraph to see what you had to add.

Catherine said...

Hi, Janet,

Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for letting me know the blue lettering hooked you into reading more! Have a great day.