What is the event that starts it all for your story? Is it a bomb that devastates an area or is it a woman’s proclamation to her boyfriend or the world? Do you have an inciting event?
While you think about it, let’s start with a definition.
Incite: To provoke an action; to stir up. (The American Heritage Dictionary).
That makes sense, doesn’t it? If a story is a series of stimuli and reactions, you have to have something to start it all, right?
The inciting event sets up how the chain reaction of events and emotions evolve through your characters.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
An obvious one from a great writer is the event in The Survivors Club by Lisa Gardner: A sniper waits to shoot his prey. He succeeds. Then, he, too, is murdered.
The Pact by Jodi Picoult: One short paragraph that describes the shooting during a teenage suicide pact.
It’s not hard to have characters respond to these type of incidents. The inciting event doesn’t have to be as dramatic as the above examples.
If you’re writing romance, the Harlequin website discusses the inciting event in their “Learn to Write” area. Click here and read "Acting Up: The Three Act Structure."