Your book’s inciting event: What is it?

So you’re writing a book.  Maybe it’s about a horse that can also do math.  Maybe it’s about an alien invasion that can only be defeated by ice cream

From your upcoming smash hit “Aliens and Ice Cream”

Maybe it’s about a vampire.

It’s… probably about a vampire, isn’t it?

Regardless, at some point you’re going to need to write your inciting event.  No, not “exciting”, IN-citing.

What the heck is an inciting event?

A couple things, but primarily it’s the moment at which your main character makes a choice.  Specifically, it’s your main character answering the call to adventure.   It’s usually presented as a turning point, the time in the narrative when your character can reject the call to action and go back to their existing lives, or they can say “yes” and step into the main narrative of the story.

What are some examples?

There’s bunches!

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The discussion of the ark with the army

This is as straightforward as it gets.  It is a literal call to action.  “Indy, will you go after the Ark or will you hang out in the university?”

2. Star Wars: Stormtroopers burn down Luke’s house

Everything Luke loves and knows is destroyed.  He has a choice.  Stay behind and rebuild his life, or go fight the empire.

3. The Matrix: Neo accepts the pill

Okay, so like Raiders, this is pretty “on the nose”, but you get the idea.  It’s the moment in your book where your character steps out of there life and into adventure.

4. Hunger Games: Volunteering as Tribute

I like this one the best.  It’s the moment the story kicks into high gear.

Okay, I get it.  


When should the inciting event happen?

Opinions vary.  I like it within the first 20% of the novel, but you have to write the book that’s right for you.  Not every book has it this early.  Life of Pi is a great example where the book kind of doesn’t get going until about 35% of the way in.

Are there any other resources?

Tons.  Below are my favorite articles on the topic.

Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is

Inciting incident: Definition, tips and examples

Can you pick out your book’s inciting event?  Does it happen within the first 4 or 5 chapters?  If so, you’re on the right track!

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