The Inciting Incident

The Inciting Incident

Traci Kenworth


According to Wiki Answer the inciting incident is, “The conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to react.”

I.E. Cas moves in order to confront/exorcise ghosts, he’s killed seventeen in the past but Anna Dressed in Blood is something he’s never seen before, even more, he might not be able to take her down.

I.E. Bella meets Edward and is drawn into his vampire world. (Twilight)

I.E. Clary discovers a whole new world she didn’t know existed and it comes with someone who may be dangerous to her heart. (City of Ashes)story arc


I.E. Katniss wants to save her sister from The Hunger Games and so volunteers to go into a fighting match where death is on the line.

Each scene needs to begin with an inciting incident, not just the first chapter. I’m finding that if, before I begin a chap, I write down the incident that I need to get in, I can start to work around it, so that I stage a beginning, a middle, and an end. It wasn’t until recently that I paid attention to this necessity and now that I’m doing so, I can see a real difference in the story coming together more fluidly.

How to come up with the inciting incident? What needs to be done to force the protagonist out of their comfort zone?

I.E. Cas gets thrown into the house where Anna lives, after suffering head trauma. He is forced to confront the ghost on her terms, not his own, and what he sees terrifies him.

I.E. Bella discovers the boy she likes is a vampire and must come to terms with how she feels about that.

I.E. Clary has her mother ripped from her life and struggles to find a way to save her.

I.E. Katniss must decide whether Peeta is out to kill her or safe her.

Just taking a closer look at what we mean for our characters to face as we go through each chapter will make our stories stronger, truer to our vision. At the moment, I’m using post-it-notes to arrange my scenes and their inciting incidents. They work well for me as I’m able to move them around and see how the story arc works through them. What are some tips you use to find your incident? How do you keep all of yours arranged to see the whole? Have you noted a difference in your own writing by following this formula? Any advice?

Our book should have more than one beginning, middle, and end. Rather it should have a series of them that builds on each other to a thrilling conclusion. Try this formula and see how it makes your writing shine. Good luck with all your goals this 2012.

8 thoughts on “The Inciting Incident

  1. Brilliant post, Traci. I naturally do this, but I don’t do it as consciously as I should (to make the strongest scene possible). Thanks for the reminder.

    I use a cork board, and write each point (card) in an outline (in case something happens to my cork board). I can then elaborate on each point as necessary.


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 )

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.