Since I just started working on a new rough draft I get to struggle with starting strong and the inciting incident. In discussing this with someone I realized that some people are confused by the thought of an inciting incident and so I’ve decided that I want to write a post on the topic so I can just make it clear what an inciting incident is and how you create one.
The inciting incident is a plot point in a novel where your main character (MC) is taken out of the life they are used to and put into a new situation. To put clearly it is when your character’s life goes from normal to not so normal.
How to create an inciting incident.
I want to start with a simple tip.
Ask yourself what does your character consider to be normal? You get different kinds of normal for example…
My normal is not having a teacher since I’m homeschooled and waking up at 8am.
A vampire’s normal on the other hand is going to bed at 5am and waking up at 6pm.
My normal is eating toast and drinking tea.
A vampire’s normal would be eating raw flesh and drinking blood.
Your MC’s normal is what you are going to be disrupting. Whether your MC’s normal waking up at 8 am or drinking blood it is still their normal.
Find your “normal” and then decide how to disrupt it.
Next thing you need to know is where in the story the inciting incident takes place.
Some people think that the inciting incident is the beginning of a story. It can be but that’s not its defining factor. The inciting incident is simply when things are set into motion.
Some people like starting their story with the inciting incident to make it immediately interesting while others like to show you a little about their character in their normal life first so you can get to know them. How you start your novel is totally dependent on the story but if you can’t decide feel free to talk to me about it in the comments.
The only general rule for the placing of the inciting incident is that it has to be in the first act (first quarter) of the story. If you put it in the second then your story’s start is probably boring and the rest of your plot will be unbalanced.
The last thing I have to say about constructing the inciting incident is that the MC is not the one who incites the inciting incident… if that make sense to you. The MC is generally just pulled into it and someone or something else is the cause for the disruption in your MC normal life.
One of the best examples of an inciting incident (and I’ve used this before) is that of The hunger games.
The inciting incident is the moment of the reaping. When Prim’s name is called and Katniss takes her place to participate in the hunger games.
It’s a good example for multiple reasons but mostly because it shows really well how the character’s normal was shifted and she was placed into a new situation.
What is your character’s normal and how will you disrupt it?
You might also what to go read one of my older posts “three main plot points” where I discuss plotting.
I hope you found this helpful so now I just want to challenge you to go out there and plan that novel of yours.