Inciting Incidents

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Barbara

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Nov 10, 2017
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The inciting incident. My current headache. I wonder what you all think.

Currently, my MC's trigger which kicks the story into action happens in her past, pre-novel, off page. The trigger and the decision to kill her father occurs back in time, at the same time when her wound occurs (14 years prior to the novel). The wound is caused by such a traumatic event, it would be normal for her to have the impulse for blood there and then in that time. (She wants to kill her father for what he did to her and to her mother.) In a sense, it'd be a bit like we join the story later because we just flicked to the channel.

But, inciting incidents are/should be part of the actual structure of the novel, right? So I've been pondering about moving her impulse to act into the present; meaning, she just about functions at the beginning of the novel, and then something sparks to give her the idea to kill her father to make him pay for what he did 14 years ago. But I currently can't think of a trigger which would feel real in the present (other than she hears the voice of her dead mother - MC could easily hear voices - which sends her over the edge and go on a killing mission). My problem is that killing someone, and actually meaning it to the point one sets out to actually do it, is a big thing. Not having it ingrained in her character, she could easily change her mind at any time. Can my MC take such a big decision after having lived a fragile, destructive status quo for 14 years?

Thoughts anyone?

Can inciting incidents work pre-novel, off screen, if they're handled right? Or will they be too weak? - I would show it as a flash back at that stage in the plot where 'normal' inciting incidents normally happen. I'd also give her a trigger which would confirm to her it's the right thing; something which makes her say, 'Yep, that's exactly why I want to kill the b*st*rd.'

Have you ever set the 'i' incident in the past? How did it work out?
 
Gosh, that's a tricky problem and not sure how to resolve it without the dreaded "P" device.

But, inciting incidents are/should be part of the actual structure of the novel, right? So I've been pondering about moving her impulse to act into the present; meaning, she just about functions at the beginning of the novel, and then something sparks to give her the idea to kill her father to make him pay for what he did 14 years ago. But I currently can't think of a trigger which would feel real in the present (other than she hears the voice of her dead mother - MC could easily hear voices - which sends her over the edge and go on a killing mission). My problem is that killing someone, and actually meaning it to the point one sets out to actually do it, is a big thing. Not having it ingrained in her character, she could easily change her mind at any time. Can my MC take such a big decision after having lived a fragile, destructive status quo for 14 years?

On that question I think she can. A straw that breaks the camel's back in the here and now might spur her into doing it over a short but premeditated time.

On the wider question - I think if an author pulls off an effective way to portray events (ahead of the main narrative) and it reads with integrity and keeps the reader onside then anything is allowable.

Rules made to be broken sometimes, and all that jazz?
 
I think Inciting incidents are too important to take place 'off stage'. They're the thing that anchors you to the character and helps you become invested with their story. That's only my opinion, though. I don't think I've ever seen it done well.

But I currently can't think of a trigger which would feel real in the present

Maybe her 'trigger' is that she meets someone who treats her the same way as her father once did and it sends her down some sort of PTSD murder road?
I don't know enough about the story to be much help here, sorry. That's the best I can come up with :)

J
 
There's the other way of viewing the traumatic incident - backstory.
The inciting incident could be that she's finally found where he is, or that he's come back to the country, or she hears his voice and the whole emotional pit opens up and gives her one option for a hope at a normal life without the nightmares - get rid of him before she ends up drugged up (legally or otherwise -- ask what killed the mother? Could that be her personal fear that she becomes the same?) or completely insane. Killing him sounds the sane option, and she knows the world he walks in because she's been waiting, it seems, for just this opportunity. Here it is, but is she ready? Can she become the monster in order to kill the monster?

Just because a moment is traumatic doesn't make it an inciting incident. The inciting incident is what kicks the current need to move forward, to take action, to make a decision to do this one thing to make her life worthwhile.

Good luck!
 
It's not that you couldn't have something in her past, like @Jonny says, break the rules. BUT, and this is a big but; you need to signal to the reader what kicks off the story proper, and therein lies the tricky business.

I'm presuming with such a bad relationship, her dad isn't around? So what if the motivation sparked with the wound, but her inciting incident could be seeing him again?

I think as long as you stoke the fire of her hatred, I'd follow the journey. That's just me :)
 
Not sure I understand the question. Your MC wished to kill her father during a past traumatic event but elected not to, and then part way into the novel decides to take that action? If that's the case, then a circumstance must change. She becomes empowered in some way - emotionally, physically, acquires some knowledge - perhaps her father is doing something in the present that spurs her into action? Perhaps she finally realises that killing him is the only way to achieve something else. Perhaps he threatens something/ someone she values. She will be a differnet person 14 years on from the initial event, so she may react differently when faced with the choice as an adult. Feel free to dump me in the slush pile if I have completely misunderstood your question - it's character building :D
 
I think this...
I think Inciting incidents are too important to take place 'off stage'.
And this...
...if an author pulls off an effective way to portray events and it reads with integrity and keeps the reader onside then anything is allowable.
Which taken together probably means my opinion won't help very much here.

But...
Just because a moment is traumatic doesn't make it an inciting incident. The inciting incident is what kicks the current need to move forward, to take action, to make a decision to do this one thing to make her life worthwhile.
This is absolutely true. The decision you've sketched out, Barbara, in your opening post – I'm gonna kill him! Could easily be, I'm gonna kill him (if I ever see him again). So what you're really looking for here, what the inciting incident really is, as Cage says, is the thing that happens now to turn that thought/desire/impulse/need into action.

Yesterday I stubbed my toe on the bed.​
I've been angry at the bed since then.​
I receive an email telling me I'm due a tax rebate [inciting incident].​
That's it! I'm gonna buy a new bed, and then take this one up the dump and burn it!​
 
I agree with @CageSage, and you have, in effect answered your own puzzle.

She decides to kill him during (or more probably just after) the traumatic effect, but can't because of fear?/struggle with conscience?/ won't get away with it?/ no good opportunity? The reader doesn't need to know that until she has the trigger flashback.

It's fine that the trauma happens before your story because someone so traumatised will have flashbacks. The inciting incident could be whatever trigger causes the particular flashback that makes her decide to take action. The trigger might be seeing her father or some other event that makes her decide to go and find him . . . and kill him.
 
Thank you all for your input.

The inciting incident could be that she's finally found where he is,
This is it I think.
Killing him sounds the sane option, and she knows the world he walks in because she's been waiting,
she'd do the world a service if she bumphs him off (at least that what she could mistakenly believe) and
just because a moment is traumatic doesn't make it an inciting incident. The inciting incident is what kicks the current need to move forward, to take action, to make a decision to do this one thing to make her life worthwhile.
is really helpful. I think I saw the wrong thing as the 'i' incident. The 'i' incident isn't the reason for her hatred.
I'm presuming with such a bad relationship, her dad isn't around?
She hasn't seen him since it happened. He sold her to a trafficker and she was enslaved for a few years so couldn't do anything about anyone.
Your MC wished to kill her father during a past traumatic event but elected not to, and then part way into the novel decides to take that action?
She couldn't kill him because she didn't know where he is. He sold her. Since then she wants revenge and she she's been trying to find him, meaning you're right when you say:
If that's the case, then a circumstance must change. She becomes empowered in some way - emotionally, physically, acquires some knowledge
The acquired knowledge could be it.
I'm gonna kill him (if I ever see him again). So what you're really looking for here, what the inciting incident really is, as Cage says, is the thing that happens now to turn that thought/desire/impulse/need into action.

Yesterday I stubbed my toe on the bed.I've been angry at the bed since then.I receive an email telling me I'm due a tax rebate [inciting incident].That's it! I'm gonna buy a new bed, and then take this one up the dump and burn it!
This is really useful.

The trigger might be seeing ... some other event that makes her decide to go and find him . . . and kill him.
Aha. She finds the man who middleman-ed her sale (the trafficker). Finding him means she's got the ingredients she needs to find her dad and kill him.

Then again...
I have some pondering to do this afternoon. :nerd-face: I've got myself into a bit of a muddle with this one, but it's beginning to de-fog.

Thank you all.

:heart::clinking-beer-mugs::heart:
 
BTW thought you might be interested in BBC's "Diagnosis Detectives" episode 4 where they discuss the cause of functional epilepsy (as in the subconscious mind, e.g. blocked memories, fights with the conscious mind). Profound! o_O
 
BTW thought you might be interested in BBC's "Diagnosis Detectives" episode 4 where they discuss the cause of functional epilepsy (as in the subconscious mind, e.g. blocked memories, fights with the conscious mind). Profound! o_O
Excellent. Thanks for this. I'll check it out. Is it on 'normal' TV or on the catch up thingy?
 
Maybe she's been subconsciously training all this time. Like, she thought she ought to kill her father, but she was afraid. Make that fear a monster, as difficult to overcome as her next opponent. What I mean is, I want to know about her weakness becoming strength. An inciting incident which would make sense to me would be to find another victim, which her father harmed later. Someone she must protect, or avenge in the right now.
 
I want to know about her weakness becoming strength
I like this. Note to self: Must ponder.
An inciting incident which would make sense to me would be to find another victim, which her father harmed later.
I'm glad you mentioned this. (A little confirmation I'm on the right track.) That's one of the things she's doing / going to do.
:shortcake:
 
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