I is for Inciting Incident
Something to start the story. It start the protagonist on his/her journey.
It’s an event, which forces the protagonist to make a decision or take action. A decision that if he doesn’t make it, his world will not continue as it used to be.
A game changer.
In a lot of Middle grade and Young Adult it happens toward the front in the first chapter or two. In some books, after the inciting incident and before the protagonist makes the final decision or takes action, he/she experiences the debate.
What really used to mess me up was the idea that the inciting incident had to happen on page one. It can if done right. But a skilled writer can still hook their reader in the first few pages without it. And if we stick it on page one or two, will it really have the biggest emotional impact when we barely know the character? Depends on the writing.
Let’s look at some inciting incidents in both MG and YA:
SAVVY by Ingrid Law – On her 13th birthday, before Migs receives her Savvy, her father is in a car accident and goes into a coma. (first chapter)
REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS by Helene Boudreau – Jade is in the bathtub and her legs turn into a shimmering mermaid’s tail. (first chapter)
THE MAGICAL MISADVENTURES OF PRUNELLA BOGTHISTLE by Deva Fagan – Prunella is kicked out of the bog for not being a proper witch. (first chapter)
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins – Anna’s parents force her to attend an American private school in Paris, France. (first chapter)
THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting – Violet has a habit for knowing where dead things are buried. For the first time, she finds a human. (second chapter, I believe. But in the first it showed her “skill” in action.)
THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker – Kate receives on email from her dead best friend. (first chapter, first page)
And here is some timely wisdom from Gail Carson Levine and a post about starting the action that popped up on Tweetdeck while was writing this post! #socool
And another post on creating your hook on The Editor’s Blog – also popped up while writing. #nowit’sgettingweird
Just look at these inciting incidents – what can we learn from them? How does your hold up?