Tag Archive - inciting incident

The 5 Turning Points in Your Novel

Almost every great story has five turning points. Movie, play, novel—regardless of genre. Traditional story structure goes way back to ancient storytellers sitting by the fire and regaling listeners with their tales. While we didn’t live back then, we can assume their stories had these essential five turning points. They’re the foundation of practically ever story we’ve ever heard.

If you’re writing fiction, you need to know what these turning points are. While short stories don’t often conform to this structure, you will see it sometimes. But if you’re writing a novel, this post’s for you.

Turning Point #1:“Opportunity” Knocks

Turning Point 1: “Opportunity.” Yes, this is the inciting incident. Michael Hauge puts it so nicely: “An event occurs that creates desire in the protagonist. Reader gets a glimpse of their longing or need.”

Ah: core need. How often I harp on this. Protagonists (and all main characters) need motivation. We do things for a reason, and your protagonist needs a strong reason to chase after her goal. We bond with characters whose needs are clear. We see what they care about, what they’re passionate about, what they love to do, what they believe in. But underneath all that is the need. A basic, maybe even primal need.

Every great story has this. Scarlett O’Hara needs love. She sure hasn’t a clue what it is or how to get  it. But it’s her core need. Continue Reading…

Insights into Your Inciting Incident

I want to take a look today at your inciting incident (since it’s one of the ten key scenes you need to have in your first layer when plotting with my layering method.

Since I did a lot of posts on the ten key scenes you need to layer in first, I’m not going to go over all that. If you don’t want to wait for my book Layer Your Novel to come out to start mastering your turning points and pinch points and midpoint and twists, jump into those posts and be sure to download my ten key scene chart.

While not every novel is going to follow this basic novel structure (and I’ll be sharing some examples and how, if you are writing in certain genres, you can tweak this framework), I’d suggest you at least start by identifying, at very least, those basic key scenes.

Let’s first consider the inciting incident. Every great novel is going to have something happen at the start of the book that sets up the premise. Most novels will have that inciting incident (or opportunity, or initial disturbance) that shifts the character’s focus from their ordinary life or routine or opinion and gets them turning in a new direction.

This can be big or subtle. It may be one specific scene; it may take place over a few scenes. It all depends on your story. But it needs to be at the start of your novel.

This should answer this oft-asked question: Where should I start my story? Continue Reading…

3 Things You Must Have in Your Novel’s First Paragraph

I gave you my spiel last time on plotting and planning your novel in advance. I promise not to smack you over the head too often with that. I realize we are all creative agents and need room to be ourselves and express ourselves in our own personal manner.

Enough said. But we’re looking at elements needed in your first scene, and so I’m hoping you will try to do a little pre-work or rework as we delve more into these essential first scene elements. Continue Reading…