3 Tips for Writing An Attention Grabbing Inciting Incident

3 Tips for Writing An Attention Grabbing Inciting Incident

And 3 examples of novels that do that rather well

FictionaryThe Writing Cooperative

Inciting Incident
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Writing a guide is tough. There are so many transferring elements to maintain observe of. Before you even get to writing your inciting incident, reply these questions:

  • Have you hooked your reader in with a catchy opening line that makes them wish to learn on?
  • Have you arrange your protagonist’s story world, their flaws, and their present relationships?
  • And have you ever made certain the reader connects along with your protagonist by exhibiting their redeeming qualities?

In my expertise, although, getting your inciting incident proper is likely one of the most troublesome elements of penning a gripping novel. Before we discover the mechanics of a very good inciting incident in depth, how a few definition?

Your novel’s inciting incident is:

  • A life-changing occasion that disrupts your protagonist’s on a regular basis world; and
  • Introduces the central battle of the story.

The key factor about writing a gripping inciting incident is it must be sufficiently big to throw the protagonist’s established order thus far off kilter they will’t return to the way in which issues was of their on a regular basis world.

It must be large!

This means various things relying on the style you might be writing in.

In a thriller, the inciting incident is likely to be the invention of a useless physique, or the blowing up of a constructing.

What is an Inciting Incident
Photo by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

In a fantasy, it is likely to be the theft of some historic legendary artefact or the homicide of a King.

In romance, it’s usually the meet-cute, however not all the time. Maybe your protagonist is shocked to study that she has inherited a dilapidated mansion from a distant aunt (and can later meet the good-looking cabinet-maker who lives subsequent door).

The excellent news is, your inciting incident solely has to really feel large to your protagonist. And, the place style is worried, large is a relative time period.

At the top of this text, I’ve included three examples of inciting incidents that pack a punch — certainly one of which is from the romance/romantic comedy style — to indicate learn how to write an ideal inciting incident in a “quieter” style.

Now you understand what an inciting incident is, we’ll have a look at my three high suggestions for writing one.

Tip 1: Establish your protagonist’s on a regular basis world in a means that makes readers care

I discussed establishing the protagonist’s on a regular basis world within the intro, however I wish to emphasise how vital this step is for writing a gripping inciting incident.

In your first chapter or two, that you must present the reader sufficient of your protagonist’s on a regular basis world and join them to your protagonist, in order that they care about what occurs to them on the inciting incident.

So, how do you go about establishing a protagonist’s on a regular basis world?

Here are some tricks to get you began with the set-up:

  • Hook the reader into your novel with an fascinating opening sentence: Go to your bookshelf, pull out your favorite books, and look at their first strains. What does this writer do this makes you wish to learn on, and how are you going to emulate that?
  • Show the reader how flawed your protagonist is: What’s your protagonist’s main character flaw on this novel? How are you able to present the protagonist behaving in such a means that exhibits this flaw?
  • Introduce the vital folks in your protagonist’s life: Who does your protagonist love? Who are they mates with? Who are their members of the family? And, crucially, how is their character flaw negatively affecting these relationships? How are you able to present that?
  • Introduce different points of your protagonist’s life: Do they go to highschool or school? Do they’ve a job? A pastime? If this stuff apply to the plot, present them to the reader.
  • Introduce the world via your protagonist’s lens: Depending in your protagonist’s persona, they are going to view the world in another way to another person. The protagonist in a feel-good seaside learn would possibly love the solar and its heat. The protagonist of a younger grownup, dystopian novel would possibly bemoan the warmth and the way a lot the solar makes them sweat.
Protagonist’s Lens
Photo by Nappy from Pexels

Once you’ve arrange your protagonist’s on a regular basis world, you might be prepared for the inciting incident, which can cement the connection between your primary character and the reader.

Tip 2: Make your protagonist relatable

You’ve in all probability heard the oft-touted writing recommendation that you need to make your characters likeable. I disagree with this. Characters — and protagonists, particularly — don’t must be likeable so as for readers to be of their nook.

It’s much more vital to make your protagonist relatable and effectively rounded. And if you happen to give your protagonist these 5 issues, you’ll be effectively in your solution to making a primary character readers care about.

Give your protagonist a:

  • Wound: An occasion of their previous that has harmed them emotionally, bodily and/or psychologically
  • Flaw: We’ve mentioned this briefly, however your protagonist’s flaw is a misbelief about themselves all of the world round them that outcomes from the wound
  • Goal: Your protagonist ought to need one thing all through the course of the novel, and this could drive the exterior battle (e.g., in a heist thriller, the protagonist’s primary story objective might be to steal a portray)
  • Need: For your protagonist to have a satisfying character arc, they should go some solution to conquering their flaw in the middle of your novel — ‌they should change (e.g., in case your protagonist is afraid of battle at first of the novel, they need to lean into battle by the top)
  • Uniqueness: A talent, image, or trait that distinguishes them from each different character within the novel (e.g., a tattoo, flip of phrase, or magical potential that solely they possess)

An instance of a protagonist who’s relatable, however not essentially likeable, is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Katniss’s wound occurred when her father died in a mine explosion when she was 12 and, due to her mom’s deep melancholy, she was compelled to fend for her household all by herself.

Her flaw is her perception that, with the intention to survive, she will be able to’t rely on different folks. As a outcome, she finds it laborious to let others assist her, and to let folks in.

Katniss’s objective is to win the starvation video games.

She must study to let different folks in if she’s going to outlive. Collins exhibits us this via her burgeoning relationship with Peeta and her friendship with Gale.

Finally, Katniss’s uniqueness is her talent with the bow and arrow. In the primary guide within the trilogy, she’s the one tribute within the area who can wield that weapon to devastating impact. In addition, she additionally has her mockingjay pin, which turns into a logo of the rebel in opposition to the Capitol (the corrupt ruling class who runs The Hunger Games) in later books.

Tip 3: Structure your inciting incident for most affect

If you wish to write an inciting incident that grabs readers’ consideration, there are two vital parts you need to embrace.

These are:

  • The incident itself: This is the life-changing occasion that occurs to the protagonist and disrupts their on a regular basis world so utterly they’re unable to return to the way in which issues was
  • The protagonist’s response: Part of creating your protagonist relatable is giving them time to react to the large issues that occur of their life (and the inciting incident is the largest factor that’s occurred of their life, so far as your story goes)

That final half is tremendous vital.

If you don’t present your protagonist reacting to this main occasion, they received’t be relatable or seem human. They will likely be flat and two-dimensional, which is one thing we must always keep away from in any respect prices.

Let’s put this all collectively and have a look at three inciting incidents that pack a punch.

Inciting Incident Examples

I’ll persist with The Hunger Games for the primary instance. Collins hooks readers in with an ideal opening line.

‘When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.’
– Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

This line works as a result of we immediately wish to know who must be within the mattress, how lengthy they’ve been gone, and why. We can solely get the solutions to those questions by studying on.

Collins additionally establishes Katniss’s on a regular basis world rather well.

We’re launched to her mom (and proven the way in which Katniss’s character flaw is affecting their relationship), and her little sister, Prim. We additionally meet her mates, Gale and Madge. The world of Panem, and Katniss’s quick environment (District 12) are filtered via her distinctive lens.

Readers study that the federal government created and runs The Hunger Games, the place youngsters from every district within the nation are compelled to enter an area to struggle to the loss of life whereas the remainder of the inhabitants watches.

Inciting Incident

In the set-up, Collins establishes Katniss will do something for her little sister. So, when Effie pulls Prim’s identify out of the bowl, making her District 12’s feminine Hunger Games tribute, the occasion horrifies Katniss.


After a second of shock, she realises she has to avoid wasting her sister. She can’t let her go in and die. She steps ahead and volunteers to take Prim’s place.

We can see an identical construction in Trudy Canavan’s masterful excessive fantasy novel, The Magician’s Guild.

Her opening line nonetheless gives a hook, however somewhat than specializing in character, it focuses on setting.

‘It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there.’
–Trudy Canavan, The Magician’s Guild

This works as a result of the reader has questions like:

  • Why does the wind have a soul?
  • Who says the wind has a soul?
  • If the wind has a soul, what different issues is likely to be sentient on this universe?

The setup is nice too.

Canavan introduces us to Sonea and instantly paints an image of a society divided by class (those that have magic, and those that don’t).

Sonea is somebody who doesn’t have magic, which makes her an underdog — and readers love an underdog. She additionally cares deeply for her aunt and uncle, and is very afraid of magicians and their magic.

Inciting incident

As is widespread within the fantasy style, Sonea’s inciting incident happens when she discovers she has magic. She throws a rock at an approaching magician throughout the annual Purge. Unexpectedly, it pierces the magician’s protecting barrier and knocks him out chilly. The magicians retaliate, firing into the group. They kill the particular person standing subsequent to Sonea, believing him to be the wrongdoer.


Sonea’s response is devastation and shock. She believes his loss of life was her fault and feels intensely responsible, and he or she is terrified by this new potential that she doesn’t perceive.

The hook Helen Fielding makes use of to open Bridget Jones’s Diary is barely totally different once more. She presents us with a listing of Bridget’s New Year’s resolutions, and all of the issues Bridget will and received’t do that 12 months. The query the reader asks themselves is: will Bridget be capable to stick to those New Year’s resolutions?

I feel you may guess what the reply is likely to be.

Throughout the arrange, Feilding introduces Bridget’s:

  • Parents
  • Friends
  • Two potential love pursuits
  • Her job
  • How her many character flaws have an effect on every of this stuff

Inciting incident

The inciting incident happens when her boss (Daniel Cleaver) sends her a collection of flirtatious messages over the workplace’s instantaneous messaging system. This is sufficiently big to rock Bridget’s on a regular basis world and create a dilemma she should cope with. She should resolve whether or not to stay to her New Year’s decision to keep away from relationships with unattainable males, or neglect her resolutions and go for it.


Her response to the inciting incident comes as self-doubt over the messages, as a result of she will be able to’t imagine somebody like Daniel could be drawn to her. We observe her inner debate about whether or not to have interaction with the messages or stick with certainly one of her most vital New Year’s resolutions.

The inciting incident is likely one of the most vital turning factors in your novel. If you can’t pack a punch with this plot level:

  • There is not any story, as a result of the story can’t begin with out one,
  • Your novel’s pacing will likely be too sluggish, and
  • You received’t draw the reader into the story’s central battle.

If you get your inciting incident proper by following these three suggestions, you stand a a lot larger probability of capturing your reader’s consideration, drawing them into your novel, and telling a narrative readers love.

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