If you’ve been writing for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of the inciting incident. This is the point in the book where everything changes. One day things are normal, and your characters are going along with the status flow, and then something happens to change that dynamic – someone dies, the zombie apocalypse breaks out, scientists discover a meteor is weeks away from crashing into the earth, etc., etc. Every story has an inciting incident, otherwise, there would be no point.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what the inciting incident in your book, think about your main character. What happened to them that thrust them into the main plot of the story? Now, of course, any good story will have a few twists and turns along the way, but the inciting incident is the big one, the main event that happens in the first part of the book that sets the tone for the rest of the novel.
There are two methods to go about writing your inciting incident. Some books are better suited to have the incident within the first few pages. This sets the stage for a fast-paced story, one where the reader is immediately immersed in the drama. A lot of science fiction, post-apocalyptic, and mystery novels start out this way.
The other way to insert the inciting incident is to do a little world building first, and then have the incident in the second chapter. This can be useful if you’re wanting to show a juxtaposition between life before and life after the incident. It can help with complex narratives that need some context before shifting the dynamic with the inciting incident. Watch the video below for tips and tricks from novel editor Erin Brock!