Inciting Event Redux


wonkaIn the middle of the month, Faith talked about inciting events. She’s dead on and if you’ve forgotten what she said, go read it again. I’ll wait.

At the time of reading that article, I was in the middle of redrafting the second half of my current book.  I’d had to rip out about 15K words from the draft and shift gears because I’d taken the wrong road. A common problem of pantsing. I’d reached the point where I needed to plot, not only this novel, but a great deal of the rest of the story.

I ripped back to just around the halfway point and started to work through all the players, the connections, the elements that needed to be dealt with, and generally braiding the story together. You might be asking, what does that have to do with the inciting event at the beginning of a book?

I’d reached a point where I’d effectively tied together the initial elements of the novel. I needed to jump forward to the next developing part of the story. It was like the closing of the first act of a play. It wraps up to some extent, but you know there’s more to the story–an escalation of events. I would argue that each act of a story needs an inciting event. I would also argue that every character needs an inciting event–even if they share the same one.

Going back to the definition that faith used from  Lucy Gold at She defines an Inciting Event as “The conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to act. Without this event, there would be no story.”

I would change that to begins the action of an act and causes the protagonist to act. It’s also called a triggering event oWhisper-of-Shadows-768x1152r trigger point. Why does this story start now rather than earlier or later? Something happened to kick things off at this moment. And not just for one protagonist. I would argue it happens for all of them, and potentially for the antagonist as well. (The the inciting event for the antagonist could be the protagonist acting.)

So as I was rewriting this bit, I was thinking about how this act was ending and starting a new act. I have two POV characters and I knew what the second’s inciting event was, but not the other. This was a problem. I’m telling sort of parallel stories in terms of time and they weave in and out of each other’s lives. I didn’t want the second POV to be merely a reaction to the first POV’s conflict. That would be weak writing and it would make the story weak. I needed the second character to have her own conflict/inciting event.

It ended up being an invitation to the spider’s web (come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly). It’s  seemingly innocuous. And then it’s a pivot point in her life and she has to make choices she never wanted to make. Now when the two characters’ stories interweave and overlap, the story will be more powerful because they are both driven by their own conflict.



Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books author pic francisinclude The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.


3 comments to Inciting Event Redux

  • Razziecat

    I never thought of the inciting event as applying to more than one character. Don’t know why, as it now seems obvious! 😉 But it does give me hope that a story of mine that stalled did not actually get off on the wrong foot. My inciting event not only affects the two main characters directly, as well as the other major characters to a large extent; it also is the defining event of the whole plot. I took some time away from it and I see certain things much more clearly now.

  • It’s one of those things that I just have done in the past without thinking about it. But this time I wasn’t and it became conscious (after I dragged it out into the open). Plus the fact that when one act ends, another inciting event will/may be required.

  • Diana, I am behind (pesky deadlines) and just got to this, You are SO right. EVERY character has to a motivation based in conflict. LOVE this.