The Page a Day Writers Group

Inciting Incident

Posted on: February 1, 2010

Start with the inciting incident.   This piece of advice, like so many,  is so simple and obvious.  Well, so simple and obvious to everyone but who is receiving the advice.  In this case it was me.

I told my read and critique group,”One of the readers commented after reading the first 30 pages of my memoir that the only reason she knew what my story was about was because she knew me.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  You’re not supposed to know what the story is about after 30 pages.  Why read the rest then?”

“I get that,” Trish chimed in.

I stopped shaking my head and giggling.  “What?”

“Yeah, I read the first ten pages and I wondered where are we going with this?”  Trish said.  “Why is this mom carrying on about trying to find her calendar when her daughter is so sick?”


Claire said, “Yeah, I really started to get interested in the story when you were in the hospital and you found out Molly had a ruptured appendix.”

“Start there,” Trish said. “Start where the action is.”

I admit once I stopped being hurt over this critique (Do you ever 100% embrace a critique of your writing off the bat?  If you do, you are a better person than me.), I realized they were absolutely right.

The inciting incident is the event that causes the protagonist to take action.

In my case it wasn’t the phone call from the school nurse telling me Molly came back from a field trip sick.  It wasn’t taking care of Molly for four days, worrying about her throwing up and not eating.  It wasn’t ten pages of story following me as I chased my own tail before taking Molly to the hospital and hearing these words,  “Molly has a ruptured appendix and she needs surgery.”  You want to see a mom (a protagonist) spring to action then tell her her daughter is deathly ill.

Start where the action is.  Start where it hurts the most.


2 Responses to "Inciting Incident"

The problem with that advice is that if you don’t care about the characters already, you are unlikely to care whether the girl dies or not. You don’t know her and you have no connection to her. You can’t see how this scene changes the characters because you have no previous knowledge of what they were like. Some stories work well when they throw you into the action, others rely on a build up to it.

So true! I guess the only way to know is to try different starts, show it around, and in the end go with your gut feeling on it. I recently re-started my novel with an event that occurred years before my original beginning. Sigh!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!


%d bloggers like this: