The Inciting Incident: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

An inciting incident is often used to launch your story. It is the event that sends the main character on a journey which is your story. Robert McKee, author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting says ‘the inciting incident radically upsets the balance of forces in your protagonist’s life.’ Before the inciting incident, your main character lives a normal life, but after it, everything changes. The inciting incident drives the action of the story forward. How you write your inciting incident can be the difference between gripping your reader and them putting the book down. I have put together some articles and podcasts that I hope you will find useful in writing your inciting incident.

  1. Writing 101: What Is An Inciting Incident? Learn How to Use Inciting Incident in Writing With Tips and Examples – 2023 – MasterClass

Masterclass shares some techniques to help you are an effective beginning that launches your story into action. Using examples from Literature, this article explains the purpose of an inciting incident and the 3 types of inciting incidents – causal, coincidental, and ambiguous- It offers 3 tips to consider when using inciting incidents in your writing including, keeping to your timeline, let your inciting action stimulate something sustainable, and make your inciting action cause a noticeable shift in your character.

  1. The Inciting Incident: How to Write One Correctly to Hook Readers (self-publishingschool.com)

To keep your readers hooked you need a powerful and enticing inciting incident that can carry your three-act story structure. A good inciting incident contains the following four qualities: 1. Creates a story question that the climax must answer. 2. Is sufficient and kickass: the stakes matter. 3. Sets a tone. 4. Truly motivates a character. This article from self-publishing school talks the writer through what an inciting incident needs to do, including, altering a hero’s life in an irreversible way, drawing a line between mundane life and the quest, and kicking off the story’s main plotline. Examples from movies and literature are shared to demonstrate the inciting incident.

  1. Inciting Incident: Definition, Examples, Types, and How to Start a Story Right (thewritepractice.com)

The inciting incident is one of the six structural elements of plot used to tell an effective story. This article from The Write Practice shares the definition and different types of inciting incidents, shows how the plot point works, and shares some ways to use them in your stories. It tells us that inciting incidents must have five criteria: They must occur early in the story. They are an interruption in the main character’s normal life. The inciting incident is out of the protagonist’s control and must be life-changing, and lastly, they must necessitate an urgent response. Inciting incidents are tied to the core value in your story. The article also shares ten types of inciting incidents with examples.

  1. The Inciting Incident: Definition, Examples & Writing Tips (reedsy.com)

The inciting incident is the event that ignites the story’s plot and starts the protagonist’s transformative journey. Typically, it serves as a catalyst in the protagonist’s ordinary life and introduces conflict they must confront. First of all, this article from Reedsy does some myth-busting around inciting incidents and then goes on to provide examples of inciting incidents in literature. Reedsy shares 4 tips on how to write a strong inciting incident including, making the scene exciting or dramatic, involving some external force, placing it early to engage readers, and connecting it to your story’s themes.

  1. How to Write an Inciting Incident for Your Novel (prowritingaid.com)

The inciting incident is one of the most important plot points in any story. A great inciting incident should pave the way for everything else to follow. Like other articles, this one from ProWriting Aid defines the inciting incident and shares characteristics and examples of inciting incidents. It discusses 5 types of inciting incidents but then moves on to discuss how to decide when in the story the inciting incident occurs. It explains three options open to the writer. Leading with the inciting incident, building up to the inciting incident, and leaving the inciting incident a mystery. With each point, it offers pros and cons, examples from literature, and questions to ask yourself to help you figure out where to put the inciting incident in your story.

PODCASTS

  1. TAP015, How to Write the Inciting Incident – The Authorpreneur Podcast | Writing Tips and Self Publishing Advice

In this episode, they discuss how the inciting incident must appear in the first act of the story. It’s between 10 to 15% of the way through the novel. This isn’t set in stone but, it must appear around this time because you need to establish the ordinary world and then set it up for disruption. So, everything between the ordinary world and the inciting incident is story setup. An inciting incident is a metaphorical bridge between the ordinary world and the core conflict of the novel. Without this bridge, the story wouldn’t make sense. This plot point changes the status quo of your protagonist’s ordinary world and forces the unwilling character to take steps toward the core conflict of your story.

  1. The Inciting Incident: How to Get Your Story Into Motion (savannahgilbo.com)

In this episode, Savannah talks about crafting a great inciting incident for your story. She also shows you how the global inciting incident looks different across the content genres.

  1. Inciting Incident (The Write Good Books Podcast, episode 76) | Write Good Books

In this episode of The Write Good Books Podcast, Jason and Scott take a look at the inciting incident of a story, what it is, and why it is important.

The inciting incident can take a lot of thinking and planning before putting into place. It must carry your character through their transformative journey in your story. I hope you have found this week’s column useful. As always, if there are any topics you would like me to cover then please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel, The Lies Beneath – to be published by Poolbeg in 2023.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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