Saturday, June 6, 2015

Inciting Incidents 101

Inciting Incidents or the Disaster is the part of your story where the plot really gets started, like in Star Wars: Episode IV when the Storm Troopers killed Luke's aunt and uncle, forcing him to go on his journey on becoming a Jedi. It is a fundamental part of a novel. While at a conference a while back, I discovered there are a few more tricks to this important part of your novel than most people have pointed out. 

So when does the inciting incident need to happen? Your inciting incident needs to happen as soon as possible in your story. Of course you need to establish your character's basic life and their goals, but you don't want to dwell on this too long before you get the story started. It is best to have your inciting incident come in within the first three chapters or the first 5,000-10,000 words. You can possibly have it come a bit sooner, but I wouldn't recommend any later than that. 

The Four Basic Types of Inciting Incidents:
I have noticed that each inciting incident has one of these or a combination of two types of these inciting incidents. 

1.) The Character Has a Choice - In the Hunger Games, the inciting incident is when Prim is picked at the Reaping and Katniss volunteers. Katniss had a choice whether or not she would speak up, but she chose to go into the Games, which is one reason I love her so much. I glass up at that part every time. Her choice is what started the story.

This part gets me teary-eyed every time.
2.) The Character Doesn't Have a Choice - On the other hand, in the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf warns Frodo of the coming of the Nazgul. Frodo had no choice but to flee or he'd be Nazgul bait. This is when the story started and Frodo had to go on the journey. 

Poor Frodo. He goes through so much.
3.) The Character Causes the Incident - Sometimes the character himself will make the inciting incident happen. In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup gets the story started when he shoots down Toothless with his machine. Because he did that, he meets Toothless, and their friendship begins, thus starting the story. 

They're so cute. ^ ^
4.) Outside Forces Cause the Incident - Then at other times, outside circumstances cause the story to start. In The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, Gandalf, someone not the main character, volunteers Bilbo for the position as burglar for the dwarves and this gets the plot going. 

Right before the dwarves invade his house.
Bonus: Combination of 2 and 4 - Now we get to a combination of two of those inciting incidents. In Attack on Titan, Titans (outside forces) murder Erin's mother, giving him no choice but to flee his home. This in turn begins his determination to eliminate the vile Titans to avenge his mother and save humanity from extinction.

Attack on Titan battles are amazing.
Every story has an inciting incident. The plot can't start without one! Try picking out the inciting incidents while watching movies and reading books to research. When plotting out your story, keep these elements in mind. I hope this helps you pick the best incident to jump start your story!

Do you have any more questions about inciting incident? What is the inciting incident in your story? If you don't write, what is an inciting incident you really enjoyed?

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  1. I'm so glad you like it! Yay someone else who cries at that part. XD
    That's awesome! Good luck with your story. Happy writing and thank you for commenting. ^ ^

  2. In terms of inciting incidents I enjoy, I think some of the most common I've read are 2's or 4's or 2/4's where they don't really have a choice but to step up to the plate, and they're fine, of course. Still, I also really admire people who choose to step up to the plate, just because it is so fascinating to think about... And it makes me admire them.

  3. I've always known what an inciting incident is, but I never thought of the different types of incidents. Thanks for the insight! I'm looking forward to dissecting some inciting incidents of my favourite stories:)

  4. In Hand of Steel, I went with a combination of 3 then 2. Krys captures a pirate, which leads to Krys's dad being killed and Krys captured by pirates.

  5. I agree. There's something really admirable with the character takes the initiative especially when it means them doing something that scares them. Thank you for commenting!

  6. I'm so glad you found the post helpful! Thank you so much for commenting! I hope you have fun dissecting mwa ha ha.

  7. Nice post, Tori! I'd say for my WIP The Keeper's Curse, the inciting incident would fall under #4, with a hint of #2. Eva and three of her fellow Councilors find a small camp of Mountain Men in their forest. Since Mountain Folk are forbidden from entering the Faeries' forest, the Council knows they need to capture the camp and bring them in to the King. The rest of the story - and Eva's individual arc - wouldn't happen if this incident didn't occur.

  8. This is great! I need to take this and look at my book through it and decide how it affects my main character!

  9. I'm so glad you like it! This post got way more popular than I thought it would lol. Thank you for commenting!

  10. Thank you. Oh cool! That sounds like a neat inciting incident! Thank you for commenting!