Incidentally, I is for Inciting Force | #AtoZChallenge

The inciting force, often called the inciting incident, is “the event or character that triggers the conflict” (Elements of Literature, nps.gov). In essence, this is what kicks off the story.

Narrative First discusses plot points and the inciting incident here, using examples from a number of popular movies (and play):

  • Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Casablanca
  • Inception
  • Hamlet
  • Amadeus
  • Se7en
  • Unforgiven
  • Sixth Sense
  • The Lives of Others
  • The Incredibles

The following seven-and-a-half-minute clip from the original Star Wars (Lucasfilm, 1977), which is Episode IV: A New Hope, is not only a stroll down memory lane for those of us who saw it when it was first released (a huge deal then, for good reason), it also contains an example of exposition (at 0:38) as well as the inciting incident: the attack on Princess Leia’s ship (beginning at 2:10).

STAR WARS — Opening Scene (1977)

A little trivia: My brother taught himself to play the Star Wars theme in his junior high years on an old style Hammond organ, incorporating complex sequences of rhythm, counter melody, harmony, and bass patterns (an octave’s worth of bass foot pedals). He has exceptional musical talent and has been one of the inspirations for the protag in Beyond the Precipice.

Several years ago, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra played the Star Wars Opening Theme at a concert my brother and I had planned months in advance to attend. My brother waited three-quarters of his lifetime to hear this music played live!

We are planning to go see another Sci-Fi Spectucular by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) on June 17.

More on inciting force (inciting incident): Inciting Moment: What It Is and Why You Should Care by Andrea Lundgren on A Writer’s Path.

All the posts: Components of Literature A to Z

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About Eva Blaskovic

I am a multi-genre author of literary fiction and fantasy, and writer of non-fiction articles on parenting, writing, education, health, and travel. My background encompasses both the sciences and the arts. I teach at a specialized clinic for learning difficulties and mentor young authors. In addition to writing and teaching, my passions are weather, Indian food, gardening, and music. I have played eight musical instruments and spent many years immersed in taekwondo and karate. In my youth, I was an avid canoeist. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in Ontario, Canada, and moved to Alberta in 1988, where I raised four children.
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17 Responses to Incidentally, I is for Inciting Force | #AtoZChallenge

  1. ah! So that is what they call it – inciting incident. Like at-least one per chapter to keep the read curious. Good to know.. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, the inciting incident incites (stirs up) the conflict. It sets off the conflict at the beginning of the story. It begins the story. It’s the thing that has to happen for the main conflict to begin. Check out Freytag’s Pyramid here http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/fiction/freytag.html. Here’s an even better layout https://wellreadrabbit.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/2010-05-22.gif.

      In the Star Wars example above, if Vader’s ship had not attacked Princess Leia’s ship and taken her hostage, there would have been no story, or certainly not the one that is Episode IV: A New Hope. Other scenes have their own subconflicts, such as Luke fighting with his uncle to leave Tatooine, or finding his aunt and uncle dead later (thus, nothing holding him on the planet anymore), or C-3PO and R2D2 getting captured by the Jawas, or Han and Luke stuck in the garbage crusher–these are problems that are interesting and keep the viewer watching or the reader reading, but they’re all tied back to the original incident of Leia being captured. These actions and problems happen as a result of Luke, Han, and the others trying to rescue her.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I see. That star wars example made it more clear. πŸ™‚

        I get that now. Its like an initiator or root thread of all of it. ahh! Thank you so much for the clear explanation along with supporting links.

        This felt good reading and understanding. Thank you so much.. πŸ™‚ smiles.. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad it helped. Thank you for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Iain Kelly says:

    Can’t beat a bit of Star Wars πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Theme Reveal: Blogging from A to Z Challenge (April 2017) | Beyond the Precipice

  4. That was a great example! Good movie too πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lily says:

    Hi Eva, I hope you don’t mind but I put a shoutout on my facebook page for your book and to your blog! Have a great day! https://www.facebook.com/truenorthnomad/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JJAzar says:

    This is an interesting one. There was a time when I would argue that a story’s inciting incident had to be thorough and understandable in its relation to how it affects the protagonist, but my views have changed. Why? John Wick. This guy goes on a rampage because a couple of baddies killed his dog. Not once did I pause to acknowledge the absurdity of it all. It was only after the movie ended when I realized that all of the carnage that took place was because somebody killed John Wick’s dog. Sometimes an inciting incident doesn’t have to be so drastic as an attack on one’s home village or an alien invasion. Sometimes it can be something a bit more blurry and personal. Great post, Eva.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True. An inciting incident is something that sets off the story, gives reason for the story. Because of it, all the other events happen. It doesn’t have to be huge, but without it, there would be no story.

      Liked by 1 person

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