The Inciting Incident Plunges Your Character Into His Journey

image by kboyd
image by kboyd


Inciting Incident. Incite: “to urged to action; instigate; stir up.” (Webster Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary)

The inciting incident is an event in which something happens to the protagonist that changes his everyday life. It creates an opportunity for him to begin a journey that drives the story and exposes his true underlying problem.

Purpose of the Inciting Incident

The solution to the protagonist’s underlying problem starts with the inciting incident. This event hints at what the story is about. The heroine may have only an inkling of her underlying problem, but the event begins her transformation. The incident impels the heroine to make choices and drives her future actions. If this particular event hadn’t occurred, the story would relate a different journey.

image by werner22brigitte
image by werner22brigitte

The inciting incident:

• bumps the protagonist out of her everyday life and introduces imbalance.
• urges the protagonist to take action and eventually change.
• triggers the story’s plot, setting off the story’s main conflict that drives the novel.

Note: The character doesn’t suddenly decide to set out on this physical, emotional, or psychological journey. The decision needs an inciting incident.

And, the incident has more impact on the reader if it’s not summarized as backstory. It works best if the reader goes through the event with the character.

Where the Inciting Incident Belongs

The inciting incident can occur before the story starts (rare), in the opening scene after showing what the protagonist’s normal life looks like (most common), or later during act one.

The Protagonist’s Reaction to the Inciting Incident

Often the protagonist is reluctant to answer the call of the inciting incident and resists it. But, he must eventually accept the call or no story exists. His acceptance may be his own choice or the result of outside forces.



image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

In the movie The Cutting Edge, Doug is a star hockey player. Opposing-team players crush him against the ice rink wall, and he no longer has peripheral vision in one eye. This causes professional teams to reject Doug. The macho guy’s dream of playing professional hockey is over.

The injury is the inciting incident that sets Doug on a new journey.

A figure-skating coach offers Doug a tryout with figure skater, Kate, who’s hard to get along with and forces all her partners to quit.

The hockey jock resists the sissy sport, until the figure-skating coach says he’s Doug’s last chance to stay on the ice. So, Doug goes to the tryout and, after Kate tries to get rid of him, convinces Kate’s father he’s the “go-to” guy to get Kate and him to the Olympics.

Doug fears losing the esteem of his brother and his fans back home, so he tells them he’s joined the merchant marines. We watch Doug go from feeling humiliated to being proud of his figure-skating abilities. Besides falling for Kate, he realizes what he does isn’t as important as striving for excellence in whatever he does. This is the underlying problem.

Understand what the inciting incident does for your story. Click to tweet.

What’s the inciting incident in your manuscript or the novel you’re reading?


Author Marion Ueckermann is my guest today. Enjoy Marion’s blog tour and tips to keep readers engaged. And note the drawing below for a chance to receive an eBook of Marion’s novel.

Passport to Romance Blog Tour Logo2Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour follows on from yesterday’s stop in Central Alberta, Canada with Marcia Lee Laylock where I posted a book review with a difference.

Today I share with you the magic formula I discovered to keep up the conflict, and thereby keep the reader turning the page.

Helsinki Sunrise was the first manuscript I applied the method to, and I wish I’d known about it earlier. I’ll have to do a lot of rewriting on my previous manuscripts, but I know it will be worth it.

Applying this method from Dwight Swain, I turned critiquers’ comments from “…this is where I’d stop reading,” to “…as a reader I loved the conflict which works because often I was tired and needed to go to bed but I had to see the next sub to know what happened.”




Dwight Swain, in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer, identifies two distinct types of scenes. I think of them as major and minor—major is a scene that is made up of a Goal, Conflict, and a Disaster; and the minor scene, called a sequel, is made up of Reaction, Dilemma, and a Decision.

This method forced me to be more of a plotter, because I’m a pantser at heart. I now think about the chapter, plot it out using the Scene/Sequel method, and then write it. I create an Excel worksheet for each chapter. I use a different colored font for each POV character.

Scene Sequel Chart

SCENES are action-packed and have three parts:

  • Goal. What the POV character wants to achieve (and it must be achievable within the Scene).
  • Conflict. The middle part (bulk) of the Scene is filled with conflict. Without conflict the reader becomes bored. Make the hero/heroine struggle.
  • Disaster. A Scene must end with a disaster. Your POV character doesn’t reach his Goal. If characters do reach their goals, there’s no reason for the reader to stay up and turn the page. A disaster is the hook.

But readers cannot be on an adrenaline highs all the time, and Sequels give them time to catch their breath before the next action-packed, conflict-laden Scene.

SEQUELS also have three parts:

  • Reaction. When disaster strikes, your POV character will have a reaction to that disaster. Allow your reader to experience the emotions along with your POV character.
  • Dilemma. This reaction must lead to a dilemma that leaves the POV character with no good options.
  • Decision. Your POV character will then make the best possible decision under the circumstances, and this in turn becomes the goal for the next Scene.

You will eventually end the Scene/Sequel cycle and bring the story to an end, and before your readers know what’s happened, they’ve reached the end of the story, too.

 This Scene/Sequel method of writing has really revolutionized my writing. Click to tweet.




HelsinkiSunrise_w11668_680 (2)He needed the island to himself. So did she.

Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter’s plan. But sometimes plans go awry.

On an impromptu trip to her family’s secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.

Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.

Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.

Will he be able to resist her temptations?

Can she withstand his prayers?




Be sure to follow this blog tour tomorrow. There be a double stopover, both at locations in Australia. We’ll take a look at Finland with Narelle Atkins, and at a Finnish wedding with Inspirational Romance hosted by Rita Galieh.

There will be an eBook of Helsinki Sunrise up for grabs today. To be entered into the drawing, please leave a comment with your email address before September 19th.*

Numerous eBooks of Helsinki Sunrise will be given away on the blog tour, so take a journey to each of the stops and leave a comment. Don’t forget to include your email address.

Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.

Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.

Marion Ueckermann1 - SMALLERMarion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series).

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann: Website / Amazon / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

Blogs: A Pebble in my Pocket / Foreign Affaire

* Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Permission to use images obtained.