The inciting incident is the thing that happens somewhere in the first part of a story that changes things for the main character and puts them on the path to adventure (or romance, or tragedy, or whatever).
It’s a pretty well understood element in fiction, and even writers who aren’t aware of it will naturally work it into the story.
However, what isn’t always as obvious is that a story has more than one inciting incident. A lot more.
Things A Scene Needs
Each character in a scene needs a goal. Obviously the main character’s goal is the most important, but every character should be aiming for something, and those goals should be acted on and in doing so affect one another.
This doesn’t just refer to the protagonist/antagonist relationship, it should be true of all characters in a scene.
Content Of Your Character
There’s no point having a story by the end of which the reader will know who your main character is and what he’s about.
You may think that the purpose of the story is to reveal this and that’s it’s intriguing for the reader not to be too sure where a character’s loyalties lie. That would be wrong.
Did you have a good idea of what kind of person Harry was before he got to Hogwart’s? Did you have a reasonable idea about Katniss before she got to the games?
The initial part of a story is to tell the reader the character’s values and beliefs. Once things kick off, then it’s time to test those values and beliefs.
Synopsis Support Pt 2
A synopsis for a novel comes in two different forms.
The first is a very dry, play-by play outline of what happens without any frills or attempts to impress the reader.
The other is more of a selling document intended to get the reader to read the full manuscript.
Here’s what I want you to do: take your novel of 300 or so pages and rewrite it as a 500 word flash fiction piece, keeping all the major events and give me the same tone and the same pacing.
This is what it feels like for most of us when faced with having to do the synopsis.
Your Book In One Sentence Part 2
The recent post I did (HERE) on condensing your story into a line or two received some interesting feedback so this follow-up post will take a deeper look at the techniques involved in summing up the story into something short, easy to understand and yet interesting. And the pitfalls along the way.
Bear in mind the idea isn’t to come up with a beautifully crafted slogan that makes people want to rush out and buy the book on the strength of the logline alone. Your job isn’t to invent bubblegum that tastes like a three course meal. If people want to experience those flavours they should just eat a three course meal.
This will be more about telling somebody what the story’s about, whether they be an agent or your mother.
Zen And The Craft Of Writing
When I first started writing fiction I read a lot of books about how to write. How to write attention grabbing stories. How to engage emotionally with the reader. How to keep the story moving forward. The inciting incident. The danger of excessive adverbs. Why you should show instead of tell.
I’ve read widely enough to have a fairly well developed sense of taste. I know when something’s really good. I know when something’s bad. I know when it isn’t quite working.
The difficult part though is knowing what needs to change, and how to change it.
Your Book In One Sentence
When someone asks you what your book is about, it can be a very difficult thing to sum up in a line or two.
Even after you’ve finished it, capturing the essence in a way that does it justice can be more frustrating than writing it in the first place. I usually end up rambling like I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Not only would it be very handy in social situations, but also professionally. A clear concise way to tell people about the book in a way that lets them know what it’s about, but also hooks their interest in some way.
So how do you do that?
X-Factor That Sells Books
While it’s fairly self-evident that there’s more to creating a bestselling novel than good grammar and a well formatted manuscript, working out exactly what it is that lifts one book above the crowd is not so obvious.
It should also go without saying that I’m not going to be providing a magic bullet at the end of this post that will turn your book into a million-seller. But then the experts in this field, the publishers and agents, have no better idea of what the secret ingredient to a popular book is either.
I don’t mean to be snide (even though I do find it very easy), I’m simply referring to the numbers. Of the thousands of books carefully selected each year because they reach the high standards expected by the industry, which are then polished to a high sheen by the top editors in the business, 90% make no money.
So I decided to take a look at the really big sellers of recent years just to see if there were any common factors they all shared. The following will be highly scientific so please have your slide rules and nerd glasses at the ready.
Writer’s Waning Willpower
No matter how dedicated and determined you are to be a writer and produce the next great novel, there will be times when you don’t feel like sitting in front of your computer and tapping at the keyboard.
You know it’s the right thing to do, and once you get into it you’ll probably not want to stop, but you just can’t be bothered.
What people don’t realise though is that how you feel mentally is a biological process. You may think you’re angry because Bill at work was an ass, but the actual anger in your body is created by chemicals and hormones and various things floating about in your blood (I should point out that I am not a doctor, but I have seen nearly three episodes of Gray’s Anatomy, so I know what I’m talking about).