Inciting Incident


Let’s start at the very beginning

A very good place to start

I start my blog week with Julie Andrews’ voice in my head. A very nice voice to hear. I’m also going to begin my blog week with beginnings.

Recently, I heard an aspiring screenwriter use the term inciting incident so reverently that I thought she had found the holy grail. Then I realized that she was just trying to sound writerly.

An inciting incident in a play or movie is the moment when the whole thing gets moving. The conflict is introduced. The goals of the protagonist are laid out. The inciting incident is all very precise and mathematical.

Aspiring writers are usually very good at having the inciting incident happen quickly then giving us a lot of pages of gobbelygook.

Gobbelygook is my term for time-filling writing.

When I went to writing school, we didn’t talk about the inciting incident. We just talked about the beginning. We also called it the start.

In sports, the start is very obvious. It’s the first pitch or the starting bell or buzzer or flag. The contest is happening. Action movies usually have a definite starting bell; then it’s on, and we’re in for two hours of some excellent sound editing.

However, not all plays are contests. To begin a play, you just gotta get some characters out on a stage. However, sometimes they don’t want to leave the backstage. Characters can be so difficult sometimes.

Wouldn’t it be great to start the play before the audience showed up? Just start in an empty theatre, then the audience shows up and has to figure things out.

However, in LA, the audiences would want to know when the start before the start is, so they can have access to the play. In LA, it’s all about the access.

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