In our lives, we have those points. The single points in time where all hell breaks loose. Where an obstacle appears. When your life turns upside down. Where someone may even die. Where you take a wrong turn! The video above is about The Inciting Incident. Your character must find the lesson and overcome the obstacles. Before going into this deeper, it's important to mention that some writers treat The Inciting Incident semantically. It's the point where the story kicks off and gets interesting. In a short phrase: the first unexpected turn!
When Does it Happen?
It can happen in Act I. Some folks want to have it happen 8 pages in. Others seem to delay it toward page 30.
Who Does it Happen To?
The protagonist. This can help you establish other points in the story.
Some Things We Can Understand.
The Inciting Incident happens within the first act. The Inciting Incident happens to the protagonist. The protagonist can be passive, even distracted by life. Think of the inciting incident as a vital place within your outline. It can be an anchor point when you want to re-structure the flow of your story.
Rosemary's Baby's Inciting Incident.
During an evening walk, Rosemary and Guy approach a crowd on the street. They see that Rosemary's neighbor/friend has apparently committed suicide by jumping out of the apartment's window.
Halloween's Inciting Incident.
On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. Then returns home. Understand returns home? It is happening to the protagonist.
Why is this so important? I will tell you...
It can launch the entire story. Highway to Health is a script I completed a while back. I will use that as an example. Log line: Two paramedics who blaze through the streets of L.A. protecting their patient from a dirty cop hunting them down.
The Inciting Incident launched the whole story. The two paramedics witness a cop attempting to kill their patient. The paramedics, being newbies, get involved and protect their patient. This goes down the rabbit hole.
There is a lot of comedic banter and gags along the way. The Incident is the cop Sal, attempting to kill Bobby inside the ambulance. It sparks the question as to why do they want Bobby killed? The central question needing to be answered.
This movie makes me cry. Not because its emotional, because of its hilarity. The central question gets answered eventually. This will make your inciting incident a good one. If you have an Inciting Incident in life, it may turn your world upside down. Just know that you are on a journey of your own. Similar to the protagonist, find the lesson in life, and overcome the obstacles.
Last week I talked about getting "un-stuck". Check out A Secret To Abolish Writer's Block. Until then find me on Twitter @screenwriterml