Lesson 1: Inciting Incident
In the first lesson, we talk about the three most important plot elements of best-selling stories, starting with the inciting incident.
Lesson 2: Dilemma
Lesson 3: Climax
In the third and final lesson, we explore the climax, the most exciting, thrilling part of a story.
Hey there. If we haven't met my name's Joe Bunting and I'm a Wall Street Journal, best-selling ghostwriter, a novelist and the founder of the award-winning community, The Write Practice.
One of the things I get asked every week is how do I write a book that can get published and become a bestseller? How do I write something that captures someone's attention from the very first page that gets them fascinated with the characters and the world, of the story and the story itself?
And that question is what I want to answer in this three part series, because what you might not know is that people have been theorizing about exactly what makes great stories work for thousands of years, starting with Aristotle through to Gustav Freytag— you might've heard of Freytag's Pyramid—and modern theorists like Shawn Coyne, who wrote Story Grid, and Dan Harmon who created the series, Community.
And what you find after studying thousands and thousands of stories is that there are six elements, six things that great plots have. If you have them, your story will likely work, it will capture people's attention.
And if you don't have these six elements, your story likely won't work. The plot will not develop. It might even feel like just a series of events that don't really have a plot. I talk about each of these six elements of plot in my book, The Write Structure, but in this video series, we're going to be talking about what I think are the three most important elements when you're first writing a book, because when you're writing, you want to make things as simple as possible.
You don't want to get into all of the six things you want to just focus on three that are really important.
So let's start with the second plot element, which is one of the most essential things to any kind of storytelling, whether you're writing a novel or a film script, or a memoir. Or just telling your friend a story about something that happened to you.
And that thing is an inciting incident. So what is an inciting incident and how can it help you tell a great story and inciting incident is just what it sounds like. It's an event that kicks off the action of a story. To make it really, really simple you can think of an inciting incident as a problem.
The inciting incident is an event in a story that upsets the character status quo and begins the stories, movement either in a positive way or a negative. And it culminates in the climax.
In other words, A situation comes out of nowhere and throws the main character into turmoil. It creates a problem that they have to spend the rest of the story trying to solve.
For example, young Luke Skywalker sees a recording from princess Leia asking someone to save her from Darth Vader or Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered in front of him leading him to become a vigilante in search of justice or a dead body. Shows up in some small town called three Pines and inspector gammas has to find the killer or Romeo sees Juliet across the room at a party and realizes that this is his soulmate. And so on.
As you can see from those examples and citing incidents can look very different, but they always have five criteria in common.
First, they're early. A story'sinciting incident occurs early in the story sometimes in the first scene, almost always within the first three or four scenes.
They're also in interruption. Inciting incidents are an interruption in the main character's normal life.
Third, they are out of the protagonist's control. Inciting incidents are not caused by the character and they're not a result of the characters desire they are out of the protagonist's control.
Fourth they're life-changing. The event must have higher than normal stakes and the potential to change the protagonist's life.
And fifth, and finally they're urgent. Inciting incidents require an urgent response.
So how about your story? What is your stories and sighting incident? The moment that kicks off the story's action, spend some time thinking through that today, then stay tuned for our upcoming lesson on the next essential plot element. The dilemma.
See you soon.