Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I is for Inciting Incident

Since I began writing, I've started and stopped several manuscripts. One thing these manuscripts have in common (besides not being very good) is that none of them have an inciting event or catalyst. I didn't know such a thing existed or was necessary when in the early stages of my writing.

I didn't notice this inciting event happening, when I read. Of course now I understand the significance of setting up the everyday world of my main character before changing everything. And when I read now, I am conscious of that exact moment when things change.

Some people believe the inciting event shouldn't happen any later than the end of the first chapter. Others give until the end of the third chapter. When I'm reading I don't mind as long as the story is engaging and the prose moves quickly. When I'm writing, I struggle to find the right spot to cross from normal life to different.

What is the furthest into a story you've ever written an inciting event?


  1. I'm a bit bad at this. I tend to start quiet and build slow. My first books are like that. My new book is different though. I have conflict from page one. I suppose you learn as you go along, really

  2. I like to think of it as when everything changes for the MC. When I hear "inciting incident" it just gets me confused. It needs to be within the first 3 chapters AT LEAST if not sooner, to keep the reader interested. Altho I've read books where the characters are so intriguing and the writing so excellent that I keep reading regardless.

  3. I recently read a book (Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier) where the inciting incident doesn't happen until about 100 pages into the book. It worked and I think it was a fantastic book. But long before there was an inciting incident there were many clues that all was not as it appeared and the inciting incident was on its way. I think the most important thing is just getting your readers asking questions that make them want to keep reading.