Beginning of a Story (Inciting Incident)

In the Beginning
Before I went to University I went to the Robert McKee Story Seminar. Because of that I use phrases I learned there more than what I learned at university.  Things like story climax, ironic ending, what an act is, exposition as ammunition, story is change, and giving the audience what they want but not in the way they expected.

But I’m not talking about those today. I want to talk about the inciting incident of Ronos Part 1: Catalyst. Inciting incidents come at the beginning of the story. It is the event that throws off the balance of the protagonists life.

Inciting Incident in The Hunger Games
150 pxI’ll use an example from The Hunger Games.

Katniss’ normal balance of her life is one of poverty and being under the thumb of the capital.  Her putting her name in for the hunger games so many times is not the inciting incident.  She does that every year.  That is normal for her.

If you think that the inciting incident is when her sister gets chosen for the hunger games then you are only half right.  Nothing happens for the protagonist until she makes a choice.  Her sister being chosen is only half of the inciting incident. Katniss still has to react to it. Her reaction is the other half of the inciting incident because it throws off the balance of her life. Suddenly she is choosing to volunteer to fight in the hunger games instead of her sister and that choice dramatically upsets the balance of her life and she spends the rest of the trilogy trying to regain that balance.

Do you get it now?

Inciting Incidents in Sequels
Even sequels in serialized stories like The Hunger Games and The Ronos Trilogy still need inciting incidents. In the first Hunger Games Katniss did not get balance back in her life. There is a lull between books, there is always a lull after a climax, but it is not true balance. That doesn’t mean the story can just keep going in book two.  There needs to be another Inciting Incident.

You can skip this part if you want because I’m about to drop my opinions.

The Kite Runner (film)

The way Catching Fire is written the inciting incident is when Katniss is talking to President Snow at the beginning of the book. But that’s actually the climax of book 1 so it can’t be the inciting incident of book 2.  So what is?

There is a delayed inciting incident in Catching Fire.  It’s when she finds out she has to go back into the arena and decides Pita Pit must survive over her.  That doesn’t happen until well into the book but the location of the inciting incident is more flexible in novels than other methods of story telling. The Kite Runner had a very delayed inciting incident. It worked for the book but it was terrible for the movie. If you know what it is write it in the comments.

I would love to talk about book three but I would love more to pretend it doesn’t exist.

In the Beginning of Ronos Part 1: Catalyst
So what is the inciting incident of Catalyst?

It’s this.

The major Earth city of Northgate is destroyed. While the protagonist is not in the city at the time the destruction occurs, his entire family and everyone he loves is. He makes the choice to do whatever he can to either rescue his family or recover their bodies.

That’s the thing that throws his life off balance. Of course there are other complications. While searching for his family he learns that it might not have been an alien attack that destroyed Northgate (humans are at war with an invading alien race) but an elaborate and misguided attempt by the military to build more support for the war by rallying the planet to avenge the deaths of millions in Northgate.

The protagonist’s journey evolves as he tries to find his family and find who is responsible for the destruction of the city.

His life is thrown way out of balance.  I promise that regaining the balance in his life will be the most difficult thing he has ever done and it will be extremely entertaining for us to read.

I pinky promise.

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6 Responses to Beginning of a Story (Inciting Incident)

  1. Jessica says:

    It is interesting to find the inciting incidents in published books and essential to find it in our own books. This is a great simple post about it. Thanks for posting.

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