by Renea Guenther @ReneaGuenther
The inciting event is a critical part of the story. It is the defining moment where your protagonist is drawn into the core conflict.
Its placement will vary depending on what genre you write and how much setup is needed beforehand, but one thing holds consistent, it always happens somewhere in the beginning.
COMMON PROBLEMS OF A MISPLACED INCITING EVENT
Not providing enough information to set up the story
Your readers need to know why the event is happening and its consequences to care enough to read on.
This includes revealing pieces of the protagonist’s backstory and how they connect to the plot.
We want to provide enough for our readers to understand the story but not to the point of becoming overwhelming.
Dumping everything into the beginning
We want our readers to understand the story and connect with the protagonist, but we don’t want to hand them all the answers in one blow.
This can slow the story down and cause the reader to lose interest.
The goal should be to find a happy medium between not providing enough and providing too much.
We want to keep them interested, not bored.
Rushing to get to the good parts
It can leave the story feeling as if something is missing or in extreme cases as if the story started in the wrong spot.
If you can’t flesh out the beginning, you might want to reconsider where the story needs to start.
Or perhaps you need a new beginning.
Taking too long to get to anything interesting
The whole point of a story is to hook your readers and continuously turning the pages.
If there’s nothing to keep them interested, they’ll stop reading.
Too much backstory, infodumps, and everyday life can quickly become boring without any conflict, problems to solve, or questions to answer.
Your beginning should be interesting, connected to the core conflict, and introduce everything needed to make the story come to life without dragging or leaving anything out.
DECIDING WHERE TO PLACE YOUR INCITING EVENT
What genre does your story belong to?
Determine the common conventions of your genre.
Crime novels usually start with a body in the opening scene while in fantasy the inciting event is often right before the First Plot Point.
Is your beginning interesting enough your readers will reach your inciting event?
There’s no point to the inciting event if your readers never make it that far.
Keep the beginning interesting and don’t bog the reader down with unnecessary or boring details.
How much room is needed to introduce all necessary information?
Stories set in the contemporary world need much less setup than a fantasy or science fiction novel.
Novels set in unfamiliar settings often need quite a bit of description to familiarize the readers with the world, and often the problems characters face are unique to the setting and require additional explanation.
Take whatever room is needed to fully establish your story, even if you push the boundaries of your genre.
And remember the larger the novel, the more room you should take to open your story.
How do you decide where to place your inciting event?