Inciting Incident #2

Q&A Notes Webinar: “SETTING UP CHARACTER AND STORY, PART II”

From the Webinar Archives of Syd Field The Art of Visual Storytelling.

Q: William asks: “Could you give an example of a movie without an inciting incident?”

A: I would say yes. I mean, look at “The Help.”

That came out a couple of years ago about a young girl returning home and she just returns home. That’s not really an inciting incident. You know, if you’re writing a story about a character or you’re writing a story about an action, the inciting incident does not have to be put in directly even though you could say or call the opening of a film an inciting incident. The thing is what’s important about the inciting incident, is to know that it sets the story in motion.
Now, sometimes if you’re writing a character story and you want to introduce that character in the beginning, you don’t need an inciting incident to set that story up. You need some behavior of the character, that will set up the story.
In terms of an inciting incident, you want to set up a situation that attracts your main character into the storyline, as we saw with “Crimson Tide.”
And there are many films that do not have an inciting incident. So “The Help” is one. You could say “500 Days of Summer” is another.
But when you watch a movie on television or in the theater or on the computer when you’re downloading it, streaming it, just ask yourself “Could this be an inciting incident?” and pretty soon you’ll begin to be able to make differentiations and distinctions about what is a real inciting incident and what is just an opening scene of the screenplay.

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