Monday, January 27, 2014

Confused About the Term Inciting Incident?

By Julie Daines

As I've been doing various research for presentations on how to write a first chapter, I'm finding a lot of confusion about the term Inciting Incident.

So, because I want to, let's discuss terminology. I'm not saying that I'm the final source of truth in this--we've all heard it different ways--I'm just going to say what I've found in my research to be the most common use of the term.

Inciting Incident: This is the event that makes this day (where your story begins) different than any other day. The event that changes your MC's life, even though they may not know it yet.

Quick movie reference: Tangled, inciting incident is when Flynn Ryder shows up in Rapunzel's tower.

Key Event: This is when the MC begins to actively participate by making a choice that thrusts him/her into the action. When the MC becomes engaged in the story, usually because of the inciting incident.

The key event is often called the inciting incident, along with various other names. This is why there is so much confusion.

Quick movie reference: Tangled, key event is when Rapunzel decides to leave the tower and forces Flynn to help her.

Can the inciting incident and key event be the same? Yes, occasionally they can.

Does it really matter what term I use for them? No, but it's important to understand that both are an important part of story telling.


Yamile said...

I agree with your definitions. When I first started writing, I just went along with the story without paying attention to these two plot points. No wonder revision used to be the most dreaded part of writing for me. Now, if I have a good grasp of what the inciting incident and the key even, then I have an easier time finding what my story really is about.

Scott said...

Applause! This was a good post. I'm sure there's much more you can say about this. We might have to [cue obvious plug!] attend your seminar on March 20 in PG to find out more.

Bruce Luck said...

Inciting incident is where the story begins - does this mean the first chapter? The push these days is to jump right in with knock 'em, sock 'em action. Can the inciting incident happen a few chapters out?