Inciting Incident

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

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

Q: Graham asks, “Is it better to include the inciting incident in your screenplay?”

A: Now, that’s interesting, Graham, because, you know, how you can make that particular decision is you have to know the genre that you are writing. What kind of a story are you writing? Action adventure? Romantic thriller? Romantic comedy? What kind are you writing? And only then if you want to create an inciting incident to set your story in motion, then you will do that so your character will be drawn into the action.

For example, suppose you’re writing a murder mystery thriller. And the very first scene, the inciting incident of that murder mystery, usually is the murder.
I mean, that’s usually what happens when you are seeing the inciting incident in a murder mystery. So the murder takes place in a very dramatic and tense-filled arena of action, and that result of the murder, the inciting incident, then brings the main character into the story line just the way that “Crimson Tide” did. Crimson Tide is an executive officer on a nuclear submarine. The Russian rebels have attacked the Kremlin. There’s going to be a response from the U.S. government and Denzel Washington is the character who is in charge of that particular balance.
Remember, the inciting incident sets the story in motion and usually knocks the character off balance. And we have to regain the balance of the main character, and that becomes the story line.

 

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