Releasing your inner dragon

Does Your Inciting Incident Work? How to Write a Phenomenal Call to Adventure!

March 07, 2024 Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake Season 4 Episode 8
Does Your Inciting Incident Work? How to Write a Phenomenal Call to Adventure!
Releasing your inner dragon
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Releasing your inner dragon
Does Your Inciting Incident Work? How to Write a Phenomenal Call to Adventure!
Mar 07, 2024 Season 4 Episode 8
Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie to discuss the inciting incident of your story!

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

the inciting incident, I think is the most difficult thing to come up with.

It's really easy to look at movies and go, this was the inciting incident. But remember the inciting incident has to happen because your character's on the wrong side of the theme.

Releasing your inner dragon.

So Drake, what is an inciting incident to you?

Actually, I'm going to. I'm going to give two definitions or two things that we need to define, I think, before we really get into this and it’s inciting incident and also point of no return. Because I think if you don't understand both of those, because a lot of people just think the inciting incident is the point of no return. But we're definitely going to talk about how they're very different.

But the inciting incident is the thing that comes along that shatters the character's world. You know, they have a world that they're happy with. They would go on forever in that world. And then something happens that now that world is no longer as good as it was

like like we talked about before the show. That could be both the inciting incident and the point of no return.

So like in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker comes home. Well, I mean, technically, the inciting incident, you could argue, is Obi-Wan Kenobi telling him about the force and giving him a magic sword. You could. And there's an argument for that. I still think the inciting incident is aunt and uncle dead on the porch because that shatters his world, getting the magic sword and being told his father was a warrior and and being told there's this big mythical war that's way over there that we've never really seen that have never impacted him.

I don't really see is as an actual inciting incident.

But again, there's an argument for it. So to me, in Star Wars, the inciting incident and the point of no return happened right then, because it comes from an uncle are dad and Obi-Wan's like, yeah, no, now the Empire's is going to kill you. You you should run.

Sort of the same thing with

Lord of the Rings, but


you know, something like The Matrix, the inciting incident when his world is shattered because he's already looking, he's already not happy. But then he gets the message really close to being in the movie. Follow the White Rabbit and he goes and he goes to the bar and he talks to Trinity.

And Trinity's like, This world is not what you think it is. And so that's his inciting incident. But then he can turn around at any time. You know, he, he he goes to work the next day and he gets bitched out for being late. He could literally go, You know what? You're right. I really need to knuckle down.

I need to stay. I mean, this is my income. I need to not ruin this. But then he's told to go climb on a ledge. He doesn't. He turns back, he gets arrested, he gets a bug put in him. Technically, that bug could make Morpheus his crew go. You know, he's. He's ruined. We're not. We're not going to deal with him anymore.

We can't. But then they come and they get him, and they take the bug out. He freaks out. He, like, literally just, like, runs away at that point because he's like, I'm no, whatever you guys are. No. And then, you know, we have the time where he gets to see Morpheus and the point of no return is where, you know, we're given the pills.

Would you like to take the red pill or the blue pill? And if he took the blue pill, he would just go back to his life. He can he can absolutely choose that at that moment. But once he chooses the red pill, that's it. There is no going back on this story. And so I think that's important to understand is the difference between what an inciting incident is and what the point of no return is.

So, like, I'd like for you to talk about because we kind of have both of those in Magicfall, which is really interesting. So we have two character arcs and we literally have both of those character arcs be one, you know, one is both and one is separate. So that's what I'd like to talk about.

So in Magicfall, not only do we have both, but we also have what I call an internal vs an external.


Inciting incident. So just to explain what how I see that an internal inciting incident is one where an event happens. The protagonist internalizes whatever has happened and they drive the adventure.

Right? They make the decision.

X, they make the decision to get involved. Yeah, they decide to get involved. An external is where the something happens and the protagonist has very little to no choice. They must go on the adventure. They are dragged onto the adventure. So in Magic fall we have two point of view characters. We've got Buri, the female point of view, character and Lyron the male, and Buri gets the inciting incident in chapter one.

And it is also her point of no return. She receives a mandate from the government that she she has been

called up by Locke for this Noddy Fall event and she has to participate in it. It's like Katniss’ tribute or something. Like she is literally forced to participate in this or die.

That's her options. just just to show the difference though, really quickly. So Buri is called and Buri must go or she's going to be killed. The difference between that and Katniss is her sister's called. Right I forgot. Katniss.

Yeah, Katniss actually chooses yeah. Right. But so, so Buri is called Buri has to go. She literally is you know it's that or die. Or die. Pick one. Okay. So so that is her inciting incident and it happens in chapter one. It is also her point of no return Lyron in no way is forced to go. He sees something, he sees the villain and he sees the villain doing something that he thinks might be villainous.

So he starts to investigate with a view to taking this towards his father. Right to do. His father is a powerful politician, and the more he investigates, the more he uncovers. And then, like he’s like, okay, he's going to take this to his father. And this is basically the inciting incident because his father is not available and his father's secretary just blows himself.

She's like, I'm not going to break into his meeting. He's just not available. Honey, whatever you want is not that important.

And it's important to for the audience to know there is a ticking time clock. So there is a timer on this now that we've put. Yeah.

Yeah. So Lyron's discovered there's, like, a window. There's like, a time window during which this has to be handled. So he then decides to go on the adventure and to stop the bad guys. This is a decision that he makes, and that is his inciting incident. And but he is not committed to this point of action until the end of Act one, where he runs onto the elevators, the space elevators, taking him from the flying city to the surface of the planet, because until that point, he is not committed.

He could just like morph or just like Neo. He could not go on the adventure. Exactly. Once he steps on that elevator, he's taken the red pill. He can't he can't change. Now. He can't get to the bottom of the elevator. You know what? I change my mind. I’m not gonna do this because now he's already disguised himself as just a grunt.

And that would now cause him to be killed because he would be treasonous in his thing unless he convinced them of who he actually was and admitted his lie and convinced them that it was there. And they didn't go, right, yeah. You're a nobleman's son, sure. Shut up and get moving.

But it's it's not dangerous enough for him to make that decision.

It's not until later that you would think why does he try to explain to them that he should not be here. Sort of like the old clerks thing. I'm not even supposed to be here today.

Of course, by then it's way too late. Like by then The Adventures got him.

Yeah 100%. So yeah. So I think that's I don't think a lot of people think about that. They don't think about the point of no return. A lot of people just think, the point of no return. And the inciting incident are the same thing and they're not. And it kind of depends on, on what you're trying to do.

V for Vendetta is a more brutal

look on this. So in that the thematic element that they're playing with is should you give up safety for freedom or should give up freedom for safety? And so we start as always, we start on the wrong side of the theme. The theme that we're going to prove is wrong. And again, that's in the story doesn't mean that in real life, Golding Lord of Lies proves that all humans are born evil.

I disagree with him,


we start off in a world that's already given up freedom for safety, and when we meet VI, she's cool with that. She's like, Yeah, I'm going to society. It's very safe. And then she's going down this dark alley.

There's a bad person there, and the cops show up and she's like, See, this is why we do it.

And then the cops are like, yeah, no, we're going to treat you even worse than that bad guy was going to. We're going to do awful things to you, little girl. And she's like, Well, wait a minute now. Why did I give up freedom for safety if I don't have safety? And then V shows up and kills the cops.

So that's definitely the inciting and that's the part that breaks her world. She is she 100% thought that she was in this safe world. And now she realizes that everything that she thought was true is is false. But she doesn't get pulled in by V until later.

And so that's another one where we have this split between the inciting incident and the point of no return.

So, yeah, just I think that's important to just to just realize. And the reason that's important is because of how much you can play with that as a storyteller. Sometimes you want like in the Buri story, there's literally that is the best way to tell her story. We give her a task because what does that do for us with the Buri and Lyron.

We're also showing class differences. Buri is a lower class person who lives in the bottom of the caste of a caste society and Lyron lives in the upper echelon. So that's another kind of subliminal way to kind of hit with the audience with one character has no choice that the character is choosing to do this because they have the privilege and the prestige that they actually live in a world where they could choose to or not to go.

And so, you know, we don't that's a way for us to show the class differences between the two without ever you know, no one ever goes. There's never the line in in Magic Fall where they're like, well, you're just privileged and you could just not you know, you could choose not to go or whatever. It's we don't need that.

We can show that just by their actions.

Exactly. We don't we don't need to tell the reader what kind of society this is and how class differentiate that it is. We show it by the fact that Buri has no choice but he has to scrounge her equipment. Her her whole first act. Her act in the city is her. She's already got the call to adventure. So she's on the adventure path right.

But her whole act one is scrounging the equipment that she's going to need for when she hits the elevator. Survive. Lyron has zero problems with equipment. His whole arc is him twaddling around the city, reaching the point where he gets the call to adventure.

Yeah. Hit his whole struggle with the equipment is is he's like, you're a mercenary and you've got really high end equipment. I will buy it from you for ten times what it was worth out of my allowance. Yeah. And, and of course the merc is like, sure, I'll make a crap ton of profit off you. Yeah.

So yeah, that's a little bit different.

And that’s why like the difference there is this difference between the two characters and that the, the inciting incident allows us to show that the timing between the inciting incident and the point of no return as well, because buri's arc is one of her being forced and reaching a point of agency. That is actually her whole thematic arc as well, because her growth arc is life force has her on two roads and then she just tries to cope.

She's always in panic mode, she's always in coping mode. And the her growth arc throughout the story is learning to actually take control of her own life like as far as she can. and the inciting incident being an act that she has no control over helps us play into that theme. Lyron's growth arc is one of shedding that automatic kind of element of classism that he's born with, right?

Yeah. And that's why.

Like I said,

that. I think it's important to understand because no one talks about the point of no return. They just talk about the inciting incident. And so when when we were now that we have a producer and she's tasking us with topics that wasn't on her list, because again, it's something that nobody talks about, they don't differentiate between these two and they allow you so much flexibility If you really understand the two and what they're there for, they give you the ability to really play with things and, you know, I think The Matrix is a really great example of that of

Neo is is choosing to go down this path because he

just he needs to know. And so by the point by the time we get there, because remember, Neo's not real, the only thing that's real is the audience. I say it all the time. It's the audience that needs to desire to take that step across the threshold of the point of no return. And so everything that Neo goes through up to that point is literally the building of the mystery for the audience.

So the audience now is like, you better take that red pill because I have to know what this is. And so it's the same thing with Lyron’s you know, decision. We get to that point. We're like, You better go on this. Like, I need to know what's going to happen to you now that you're going down this path.

Whereas it's a different mentality when you have them both. Because now you know, and we did it for that reason, you are way more sympathetic to Buri's cause because of the fact that we all know what it's like to be thrust into something that you have no agency over, that you're just you will do this because that's the way it is and there is no options for you.

And so both of those played differently on the audience. And again, the audience is the only thing that's real. And so

I think the next thing we should talk about is when do you think it should happen? Like when are we going to do inciting incidents?

So I think that this depends a little bit on the arc, the storytelling and to a certain extent the genre you're in. So if we think now it's just like Magic Fall, we had the immediate one with buri instantaneous, right there on the first page. Then with Lyron’s that came way later, it came like in the middle-ish of Act One somewhere, I think it was chapter three or Chapter four.

And actually, I want to break in there real quick. There's something we didn't talk about because that's a this is not what this topic is about. There's a little rabbit chase that is the power also of multiple p.o.v. stories, because it gives you the ability because, you know, I talk about all the time you have to buy the readers loyalty to want to continue.

So buri buys right out the gate, the readers desire to continue. So that gives us this privilege to tie into Lyron's privilege to take it a little slower with his story and to do something different. Whereas if it was just Lyron’s story that we were telling, you're not going to hook. We didn't hook the audience into Lyron for several chapters.

And and it's just that's just by design, not necessarily that we're like, look, we're going to not hook the reader. It's just that the story that we were telling lends itself to not being as in-your-face and have the reader hook to the character as quickly as it does to Buri. So anyway, just a little side note that multiple characters allow you to do certain things.

Exactly. So Lyron had multiple conflicts, but he did have his conflicts early on. And those conflicts do hook the reader. They do keep the reader interested in Lyron, but he has no way. Those conflicts are not the main plot. Buri is on the main plot, right? She is hooked, and that because we have that so early in her chapter, we can have it so much later in Lyron’s chapter.

But it.

Was also.


There's also that cool mystery for the reader because remember they are only reading one story. Even though we're writing two stories, they're only reading one. So a part of that one story that they're reading is how do these two connect? They seem so different. And so in different worlds they have to connect because that's a story. So that's a that's another mystery that's going to drive the reader to want to continue reading because they're like, Where do they get together and how is that going to be like?

So, yeah.

And the the other thing that you need to think about, as I say to some extent is genre. So let's take an example of like cozy fantasy and so cozy fantasy is a very slice of life. It's a the point of reading cozy fantasy is that your characters are not going to face dire events, right? That is why you read Cozy Fantasy.

It's like a comfortable pair of slippers and a and a fire.

Same thing with cozy mystery. And, you know, any of the cozy any.

Of the cozy stuff. Okay, So but with cozy fantasy, because it is so character driven, you can probably spend like a chapter, perhaps even to just introducing the character. With you know, obviously they must be little conflicts, they must be some tension and so on. But as long as your character is engaging, that's enough. Like your readers are wanting to read a character that they fall in love with, they want to read that character's adventures without feeling a horrifying fear that the character is going to die on them.

That is what they want right now. You contrast that with thriller readers. A thriller reader wants their inciting incident. Chapter one, if not page one, because they are there for the excitement, for the thrill, for it. Like that is what they signed with a mystery reader. They want. They want it quick. They want it fast. They want that upfront.

So I want to talk about these two a little separately because I do think that there's separate murder and Thriller and I'm gonna throw horror into. So Thriller is a little different from horror even so maybe we even talk about all three of these different Yeah so with horror we're going to take a little bit extra time because of the fact now we're going to introduce that there's something creepy going on.

But you have to most of these characters are going to die and so to make the audience care about those characters dying. We have to make them care about the characters. So, you know, if you think about Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite horror movies, it's literally breathtaking. If you haven't seen it, it it's the best horror movie ever made.

And not just because Joss Whedon, you know, was a part of it, But I mean, it starts off with some college kids and they're getting together and they're talking about, you know, going to this cabin in the woods and having sex and drinking and, you know, all this other stuff. So it's very much a slice of life. It it definitely has a five man band element to it.

You have the hunk, you have the brains, you have the you know, you have the five man band trope, you know, as far as the cast of characters. But you actually do individually like each one of them. And so that way when we get up there and bad things start happening to them, you actually care. So there's a little bit more in that.

You're right, Thriller, you don't it. We're here for a thrill. And so the thrill is what we're here for, not necessarily the characters. So you can be a little less. The thing that we disagreed with before this started was mystery. I actually think and yes, mystery starts pretty much right at the beginning, because, I mean, there's usually a prequel where we get to watch the murder happen and we're not even in the you know, we're usually either in the serial killers, the killers perspective or the victims perspective.

So we get to be the victim and die. That, I think, is more of an advantage of the genre than the fans. The genre has just trained the audience that we're going to open with the murder, and then you're going to get to meet the character who's going, So you've already got this really amazing kind of action, you know, death scene, whatever.

And then you're going to meet the character who's going to actually then stumble upon it and get involved in it. You know, they're a detective, so they're going to call or or you know, it happened at a resort way up in the mountains, and you're going to now be traveling to the place where the murder was happened. And now you're going to have time to get to know the point of view, character after the fact.

So I don't think that's necessarily like with Thriller, you're 100% like they're there for the thrill. You have to give them that thrill and then figure out how to make them care about the characters as we go along. But murder, I think, is more of a just an advantageous setup of how murder mysteries. And of course, there are murder mysteries that happened different than that.

There's always I was here when people when we're talking about things in a general way and they go but exception, of course, there's exceptions. There's exceptions, everything. We're not talking about that. We're just talking about the general way things are done.

So yeah, I think like at a stage, I mean, even so, Dresden Files is a good example. Like you get the introduction to a mystery now Dresden normally has multiple mysteries in the same book, right? And I normally that do tie up and so on because you can't have like completely divergent plot boards, but there's, there's normally multiples, but you do get at least one of them early in the first chapter because because you need to the urban fantasy mystery genre you need to get it you need to get the world in there.

Like I'm a wizard, I'm a Druid, whatever you are, and you need to get that hook in there. Like.

You know, it's a and chapter one of the first Dresden files can get to the call. You know, after we meet in, we do The postman thing and we kind of get the little quirkiness of him, and we learn that technology doesn't work around him. And, you know, we learn a couple of things about him that are interesting.

We get a few and then we get gets to call, Hey, I'm going to this hotel room and I need you to come by. Yeah, come to the hotel. And so and then two, yeah, in chapter two, we're at the hotel room and we're looking at dead bodies. Yeah. So. Yeah. All right.

I do this. I do the same in my urban fantasy. Like, you know, of course, I've got a different. I've got a different first murder mystery that's handled in call one. And then I move immediately into, like, the the cops calling the consultant Anita Blake, that I read extensively until the author decided that she needs to write softcore porn.

I it was a man I loved that series but then it just fell off a cliff anyway and so granted it fell off a cliff around.

Well can we take that read the second.

I want to chase that rabbit just for a second. I wanna spend a lot of time on this. But for the audience, I think it's important to understand this. You actually write hardcore erotica, so it's not that you're offended by the softcore erotica, it's that it didn't. You had this expectation that you were given.

This is what you fell in love with and people hate change. And so when the audience when the authors like, I'm going to change what I'm feeding these people, the meal that they are really here to eat. And it doesn't matter that you will also eat that meal elsewhere. That's not why you're here. You know, you go to this, you go to an Italian restaurant to eat Italian.

If they then bring out, you know, strudel, you know, you're going to be like, I don't want German. I came here for Italian. Like, what are you doing? It could be the best strudel in the world. Does it matter? That's not what we're here for. And so, like I said, I won't spend any time on. Interesting that. I mean, we know that Marie has no problem with sex and writing sex.

No problem with sex on the page. I've read Jacqueline Carey, who does it, you know, extensively. I write an erotica series under a pen name. But the problem with what Laurel Hamilton did was I fell in love with Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, and it was an urban fantasy. It was a great urban fantasy. It's an open world, which is novel, like an urban fantasy.

There's no secrets. Vampires are citizens of the United States, and there is a how it happened two years ago. And there's this legal complexity of like, what happens now that Grandpa is suddenly alive again. What happens to the inheritance? Like, these are legal questions that get to be addressed in the series, stuff like that right. Right. And and then she falls in love with a vampire and that's still fine.

They shack up. That's still fine. Their relationship is fine. That amount of sex was fine. But then around book 12, the books are this thick. This much of them are sex. And that much is a very, very tiny plot development. Yeah. And I was just like, I am not on board for this.

It's just a warning, you know, not a lot of people. And even though it's a major cartoon show, but not a lot of people for some reason, Watch Archer That's my thing with the adult cartoons. But Archer for the first three seasons could not get happier fans because we promised a James Bond spoof. We were promised a James Bond booth.

They spoof. They gave us a James Bond spoof and we loved it. And then it became a CIA spoof and then a drug cartel spoof. And then after season five, we went back in time to the 1920s because he was in a coma and he was just now having weird dreams, the same characters, but now playing different roles in the twenties.

And then we went to the fifties and then we went the future into space and and they bled fans like, you know, nothing. Because even though it was the same humor, same humor, same characters just play in different parts now because we're jumping around in time. It wasn't what you promised us. It wasn't. And I never finished even in the last couple of seasons because it's just like, sure, it's funny.

It still is. It's still the exact same show, but it's not. I came here because you promised me a James Bond spoof, and you did it really well for three seasons. So didn’t want to spend this much time on it. But it's just, no, this is something to think about as a creator. And then you look at South Park, South Park's 26th season, they they've done one change.

They've gone from the third grade to the fourth grade. That's it. And 24 years they've and I don't even know why they did that. I don't even know if there's a like I think they were thinking about, maybe we should do something because it was like in season ten or 11 when that happened. And I think they were like, if we don't do something.

And then they realized, no, no, no, no, we don't. We don't change. And so it was it didn't hurt anything. Third grade, fourth grade, it's the same thing. The kids are basically the same age in elementary school. And so I think they realized, yeah, no, we're never doing that again. There's no reason for it.

So it's also the reason, by the way, that I write the erotica under a pen. That is because my epic fantasy and magic fall and so on. I don't write sex in those books because there's no reason to right. right and so I didn't want fans of the one to go to the other and be like, I'm going to get this.

And it's like, no, no, no. See, these two things have got nothing in common.

So me and my team, when I wrote that award winning children's movie script, me and my team talked about that a lot. Should we do this under Maxwell Alexander Drake I actually came up with the name DM Alexander, which is still the same, you know, Drake Maxwell, Alexander, just DM Alexander. And so we really leaned on that for a long time until right before it started going out.

We made the decision that, you know what, it is still fantasy. Yes, it's there's no hardcore violence like there is in some other stuff, but I don't write sex and cussing anyway. And yeah, and it was just the decision was made that let's go ahead and keep this, you know, in the Drake brand. But my romance, which I haven't written in years now, but still I write that under a pen name, because that is very, very different.

Exactly. Anyway, so with, with Laurel Hamilton again, like with Anita Blake, you get the mystery. You you get introduced to this world, you get introduced that she is a necromancer, which was the other great thing. Not many necromancer heroes out there. It was awesome. So the protagonist is a necromancer who's a consultant with the cops. You get introduced to all that and then you get to call like dead body vampire victim, you know, Investigation required.

So but I think all this is. Depending on your genre.

You have more or less flexibility around where you're inciting incident

sits. yeah,

pretty much it's always going to be toward the beginning. I can't think of any anywhere where the inciting incident happens. Not in Act one.

I think your inciting incident should be in Act One. Like I genuinely cannot think of your inciting incident being not in Act One, like.

So there is.

It doesn't have to be in chapter one like that. Right, right, right.

Right, right.

Right. It doesn't have to be chapter. But it does. It needs to be early.

Well there. So I do want to talk about one thing because it can actually you're right at the latest it can happen is act one. The funny thing is it could happen before Act one, because I do want to talk about the state of perfection. There's only two ways to start a story the state of perfection or the state of imperfection.

And don't get hung up on the word perfection as good as it gets starts off in a state of perfection. We meet Melville and he is a racist, bigoted, lonely, desperate man. And yet it starts off in this state of perfection because he could live that life for the rest of his life. He's fine with that. So perfection doesn't mean perfect.

It means that the character could live this life for the rest of their life unless something changes.

And so just happy in there.

I don't know if Melville's.


But he's definitely not going to change anything.

He So they're content, they're on their path and their content.

So when we start up in the state of perfection, it means that the inciting incident hasn't happened yet. In other words, whatever their world is, that they're fine. Living hasn't been broken yet. Same thing with Matrix. Matrix starts off going to say to perfection. Neo doesn't like his life, but he would just live this life for the rest of eternity if this is all he got, because there is nothing that he's not going to go out of his way to to to change things on purpose.

You know, he is kind of poking looking for Morpheus, or at least this idea of Morpheus. But that's really all he's going to do until he's told follow the white Rabbit.

When we start off in a state of imperfection, it means that the inciting incident has already happened. So if we look at like,

The Shawshank Redemption now, it cheats a little bit.

It is video. So we have some different things that we can do in video that we can't do in pros. But it starts off with, you know, Andy Dufresne is sitting there in his car. He's drunk because he's holding a mostly empty liquor bottle and he's thumbing a pistol. And and again, this is video. So we have some cheating.

We do a voiceover of the court

case where he gets convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. Obviously, that's going to happen in the future. So we're we're double dipping because it's the video and we can do that in prose. We'd have to do it different if we're going to do that. But it's still a great example of we started off book.

Shawshank Redemption is based on a book. I don't know if you've ever read it, though. I don't haven't think so.

I think Stephen King wrote that as a screenplay. I could be wrong on that.

I'm just going to check.

Aight, well, there's another example also that I used for starting off in a state of imperfection, and that's 12 Monkeys, the Bruce Willis movie. We meet Bruce Willis. He's already the world is already destroyed. He's already in a cage being used for scientific experiments. He doesn't want to be here yet. He does. He doesn't want to be a prisoner being used for scientific experiments.

So his inciting incident, however he got there, is already happened. So we can start the inciting incident beforehand. Now, the problem with starting in a state of imperfection, you should not do this until you are really, really, really skilled as a writer. This is it's a very hard way to do because now, much to Marie's chagrin, you still have to do the inciting incident you just now have to do.

It is as backstory and flashbacks and you know, you have to get that in because the audience has to understand what happened to shatter the character's life. Now, in 12 Monkeys, they do a brilliant job, but you actually don't even get the full inciting incident until the final scene of Act three, where you have this memory of him as a boy standing there where the guy with the virus goes running past him and bumps into him and you're like, okay.

And then you kind of fill in everything from all from the postcard cards and the different things that you've gotten. So they do a really great job of giving you flashbacks without you ever realizing that because it is a time travel show. So the flashbacks are hidden in the fact that we're also going back in time. Yeah, but you're still if you start off in a state of imperfection, you still have to get the inciting incident in there.

You have to the audience has to know.

So 100%. But I did that in both of my main character introductions in Central right. Louis you can you can argue that Louie receiving the order to go kill the Baron's family is the inciting incident But it's not because Louie is in a state of being an assassin. He gets orders to go kill people and he goes and kills them.

That's the state. Is it his character growth or is it an internal one based on what he discovers during the mission? He's Ah, but the inciting incident was way back when he became an assassin.

For the internal arc. But for the story itself.

Yes, the story itself is. But is that is that right?

Because we because in, you know, in Hidden Blade, we start off basically in a state of perfection. He is good. His job, he's fine with it. He's shopping for his daughter. He's also delivering eyeballs from somebody he just chopped out of their head. And he's fine with all that. And he'll live this life forever. So the the the actual story of of the hidden blade starts in a state of imperfection.

But then yeah as we go, we learn his past and kind of what's put him on this path and then also why he realizes that maybe you know maybe.

Not the best path maybe he should think about.

other path life differently.

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean with with Naira what it started them on the journey was a dream that they then discuss in dialog. The dream isn't important, right? What's important is where it leads them to.

Right. But it shattered the world that because they were happy in their land, they had no interest in going to this foreign land.

No, I had no interest in going there. They had no interest in going into the desert. None of that would have happened. But tahil had a dream right.

So that one, we're starting off more in a state of imperfection, even though it's not like 12 monkeys, where we're a prisoner for scientific experiment, like there's still just their world isn't shattered. Shattered. But it is if you know where they came from and all of that.

Yeah, exactly.

And again, this just shows you the. The massive abilities that you have to play with on whether you start in imperfection, perfection, whatever. But the big thing to understand is whether you start in a state of perfect, if you start on a state of perfection, it means the inciting incident will happen. And the reason why that's so much easier to write is it gives you the chance to allow the reader to understand what this world is and what this character's life is like now.

And then we're going to shatter that. We're going to take the time to allow the reader to fall in love with the character and to care about what the character cares about, so that when we shatter that, when we take that away from the character, then the reader is more impacted by that. If we start off in a state of imperfection, it means that the event has already happened.

You know, whatever the inciting incident, the shattered that person's world like Andy Dufresne he's already killed his wife and her lover. 12 Monkeys. The world has already fallen and he's already a prisoner in this weird science experiment. We'll have to get that information to them later. In the in the thing. This isn't anyone inciting instances, but since we're on the since I brought up the Shawshank Redemption, I think the most amazing thing about The Shawshank Redemption is the fact that the everyman moment, which normally happens at the very beginning of Act One, to make you care about the character, that doesn't happen until Act three in The Shawshank Redemption.

Matter of fact, he plays against the everyman because like we see him with the gun at the opening of the movie, we hear him in the trial. yeah, he murdered his wife and her lover. Now we might find that justified, but you're still a murderer. And then he's like, I didn't do it. And he goes to prison.

He's like, I didn't do it. Everyone else there was like, Yeah, we didn't do it either. We're all innocent, every one of us.

None of us did it.

And so you you truly believe it's like, No, you did murder your wife and and and her lover Now, is justified because she cheated on you to murderer. I don't think so. But. But at least it's a it's an argument for justification. But you're still a murderer. And then we find out in act 3, oh you didn't murder her, which is very, very different from the fugitive where we go in with Harrison Ford, we actually get attacked by the one armed man after he's murdered my wife and he goes running out, and I'm like, I'm innocent.

It was a one armed man. And they're like, yeah, right. But the audience the whole time is like, No, no, no, no. We saw him as one man. We know he's innocent. And so they're the same story. But in one we know that he's innocent, and the other we actually think he's guilty. And so that was one of the most brilliant things to me about The Shawshank Redemption, because that moment in Act three, when you realize that Andrew Frame is actually innocent, when he then makes his escape, it just means so much more than when Harrison Ford gets his escape at the end.

When he gets redeemed, it just means so much more in The Shawshank Redemption. Because you really thought he was guilty. Yeah. And so anyway, just just because we were on the The Shawshank Redemption, I just that's one of the most I mean, I'm not a huge Stephen King fan. That is definitely. was it a novel first?

It was. I just looked it up. It was a novella actually called Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, and it's written in the first person. I'm looking at the sample from Reds perspective, and it starts exactly the way the movie starts. There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess because The Shawshank Redemption is the peripheral narrator of a Red telling Andys story.



Yeah, I did not. I wasn't sure of that. So I'm gonna have to read that.

All right, I'm also not huge because I don't like horror, so I don't generally read horror or watch horror. So I'm not a huge Stephen King fan because that is obviously his own right. He is.

You know, I’m not a huge Stephen King fan because I don't think he's that good of a writer. I just don't think he is. The stories are, in my opinion, very obvious. The Shawshank Redemption is the only one that blew me away. Everything else by the third of the book, and Cojo and all of them, even the stand, I was like, I feel like the book is going to end this way.

And then and then.

I'll tell you what, I don't read him. I read one of his short stories where the dude ended up was was on a on an island, trapped on an island, and he had a bag of cocaine with him. And he started he was a doctor and he started amputating his own limbs to eat them. And in the end, he amputated his hands.

Right. And it was just and I was just like, yes, I could could I predict it. Yes. Did it freak me out? Yes, it absolutely did. I had nightmares. I don't like horror. I don't read horror. So, yeah.

Yeah. So anyway, getting back to it. So that's that's the big thing to think about is yes, it needs to happen more than likely because I don't know, I can't think of a single example. And if somebody knows, drop in the comments where if you're like, oh no, here's a book where the inciting incident happened in act three because I don't know why you read that book.

That's really weird to me. But it can happen. But you more.

Yeah, you can have an inciting incident that happens before like, like my current favorite TV show or my latest favorite TV show, because I also just started rewatching Lucifer, which is such a great show. But Blue Eyes Samurai on on Netflix. Highly recommend. Everybody should watch it. It's awesome. Don't watch it with your kids. That's my it's it's it's full of all the things your kids shouldn't see and but but it's inciting incident also starts way before the the show kicks off and then is given to you in layers I think it's an episode five that you really get the the full scene of what has created the protagonist to be as she is.

So yeah, but I can't imagine that you have an inciting incident like after Act one, right?

Because it kind of the reason why the whole story begins. Yeah,

actually another great example of the inciting incident already happening where we start off in the state of imperfection is the fundamentals of caring which if you want to cry your eyes out, like because the opening scene of that, I dare you to watch the opening scene and then turn it off because the husband or wife, they're at a table.

I get an outside cafe or something like that and she's like, Sign the damn divorce papers. And he's like, Just not ready. I don't think this is right. I don't think. And she's like, I don't care what you think. Like, you know, but I'm not doing justice because I'm, you know, I'm too far removed from it because it's not You 100% know that there was no infidelity.

You hundred percent know that there was no abuse. She 100% know what? You have no idea what it was like. Just the way it's done. You know, it's not your traditional thing. You know that something is incredibly painful. And in credibly tragic and you just don't know exactly what it is. But you but it's already happened. The inciting incident already happened.

We're past that. And so really, really great movie, if you like crying your eyes out. So I know we're running long, but there's two things that I think we really do still need to talk about,

and that is

kind of using the inciting incident

to affect the character versus affecting the plot.

And I think you are going to be better at that, you know, discuss that.

And then I do want to close at least or maybe if you want me to go first, I mean, when closed with the affecting the character plant, I want to talk about theme and how it how the theme helps you create the inciting incident. Because in my opinion, the inciting it's the hardest thing to create. So whichever one you wanted, you know, what do you want to start with.

That start with theme and see with that takes us.

Okay, so I preach all the time that you don't have a theme. You don't have a story. And the beautiful thing about a theme is once you get the theme, it will actually create the story for you. So the character always starts on the wrong side of the theme because they have to transform to the other side for the audience to consume it without us telling them what the theme is.

So once you know your theme, you know what type of character you have. That's why it's always weird to me when people are like, I fell in love with this character. First. I'm like, Well, then they're going to be on the right side of theme because they're on the side that you want to prove. And that means that you're not going to actually have a great story.

So we want them to start on the wrong side of the theme. So Luke Skywalker, you know, he starts on the side of technology, not on the side of faith. You don't even know technology exists in Finding Nemo. He Marlin starts as a completely overprotective parent because we're going to prove that being overprotective parent is bad and so on and so forth.

We can just go through the whole litany of list we just mentioned VI from V for Vendetta, where she starts off thinking that she's done good. Being in a society that's given up freedom for safety.

In in our story, buri is dealing with her life and she's like this you just got to deal with your life. You just got to handle everything and you don't take a step back. You don't stop. You just deal with everything.

You just deal with it as it comes because there's no time to think.

Yeah. And Lyron's like, Well, of course we're better, We're born better. That's how it is.

Yeah. Not in a not in an evil way. It's just he doesn't know any better. He's never really been exposed to anything. I would bet that he doesn't even realize what why he even believes that stuff. Yeah, but anyway, so. Yeah. So that tells you what topic where you're going to start your characters. But

the inciting incident, I think is the most difficult thing to come up with.

It's really easy to look at movies and go, this was the inciting incident. But remember the inciting incident has to happen because your character's on the wrong side of the theme.

So my favorite example to look at is Finding Nemo. With that, so were Marlin starts as an overprotective parent. I mean, he's so overprotective. He literally tells his kid on the first day of school, you know what?

You never need to go to school. You don't need to learn to read or write or do your math. You can literally just live your entire life in your bedroom and never leave your bedroom like that is a horribly overprotective parent. There's that one horror story and it's real. This is actual news. But these parents literally taped their daughter to a toilet for years because that and, you know, when they found her, she was like 12 or something like that.

She didn't she couldn't really talk and she couldn't read. I mean, it was just awful. That's basically what Marlin is kind of saying that will do. So you can't get much more overprotective than that. So the inciting incident, obviously, is Nemo getting kidnaped. But in that moment, when so they're out on the reef, they're on the edge of the reef and they're looking at the deep sea and there's the fishing boat that's up there.

They call it the butt. And so his friends are going, Hey, Nemo, go touch the butt. They'll touch the. But Nemo doesn't go touch the but he literally tells them, no, my dad would not be happy if I did that. I will not do that. And the reason why that's important is because if Nemo had made the decision to go out and touch the butt, then that's a different character than what we want Nemo to be.

He is rebellious and you know, all of this other stuff that we don't want him to have in this coming of age story. It isn't until Marlin shows up and Marlin screams at him, Don't you dare go out there. That Nemo goes, right, you're on the wrong side of the theme. And now I have to get kidnaped to teach you a lesson.

So that's hard. It's hard to go. My character's on the wrong side of theme. What's going to happen because of that? That's going to. And the reason why this is so important is, again, the number one rule of Fight club. The number one rule of theme is we never mention theme.

And and notice there again, like in that Maul and Nemo example, we have the internal arc of Marlin who takes the decision to go after his son. No one is forcing it, but because his arc is about an internal thing. So he's inciting. Incident is an internal decision. He needs to grow. But Nemo's character Arc is about a coming of age story, so he gets forcibly ripped out of his world, thrown into another and told Cope.

Yeah, right. So his arc is that external arc and his inciting incident is that external one. Yeah.

He has no control over it where technically Marlin can go. Well I tried the best I could, but I even lost the 400th one. So well.

Yeah. I mean, you know, like, I'm not saying like, but it's not. It's not like somebody is going to kill him if he's not going to do it. Like. Right. Forced

Right. Exactly. And the funniest thing about Finding Nemo is Marlin doesn't find Nemo He doesn't rescue him because he can't because that would ruin Nemo story. Nemo story is a coming of age story. So his climax has to be him by himself without his parents, which is why at the end he just comes from going up to his dad and he's like, Hey, Dad, I rescued myself.

Let's go home. We're good. But Marlin story is not ended at that point. But anyway, so when you're looking at a blank page and you're going, how do I come up with an inciting incident that happens because of the fact that my character's on the wrong side of the theme. That is a very difficult thing in my opinion.

And one of the hardest things for plotting for me is always coming up with that, and that's why it ties into themes so tightly. The inciting incident is there because again, we can never mention our theme. So therefore, how do we get the reader consume something we never mention? We do it because everything's on purpose. We the character starts on the wrong side of the theme.

We don't say that, we just show it. The inciting that's happening is because the characters are on the wrong side of theme. We don't say it, we just show it. We then go through Act two, having the story, trying to slap him in the face, saying, Look, you're on the wrong side of theme. You're on the wrong side theme.

Look at all these bad things that are happening to you. Sometimes you do win, which that's what we want. We want them just go Haha. I am on the right side of the theme because I just overcame this. But sometimes they fail so that by the time we get to the climax, the character and the audience have both gone.

Yeah, no, you're wrong, you're wrong. And if you stay wrong, you lose. If Luke Skywalker does not choose faith over technology, then he misses the whole On the Death Star. He dies, Han Solo dies, the rebels die. Everybody dies. If he chooses technology over faith. So and we get that, you know, at that point, we're like, Dude, you need to turn that targeting computer off and you need to trust in something that is a power you cannot see, cannot feel.

You cannot touch that. It's just it's greater than yourself. You have to have faith. And we choose faith. And again, for those people, they're like, no, there's no religion in Star Wars. There is It's an allegory that literally the force is an allegory. And the first movie, they screwed it up after that. But in the first movie, it's an allegory for faith.

It's an allegory for religion, it's an allegory and belief in a higher power. So that's why we know that the the theme is between technology and faith, just like we know. So just to put a bow on that in the Marlin story, once Nemo comes back because we need Nemo to come back, for us to have Marlin make the decision, that's when the story's going to ask him.

All right, do you want to stay in overprotective parent and bad things will happen? Or do you want to take the lessons that you've learned through this entire journey and move to being a parent that understands that your job is to be there to make sure your child doesn't die, but you have to let them take risks. They grow into a productive adult.

And so the reason why he can't find Nemo is because Nemo has to save himself. Or that ruins Nemo story arc and his theme. But now that Nemo's back, we need to still ask that question to Marlin, which is why Dory gets taken by the fishing net and Nemo looks at dad says, Look, I know it seems really dangerous, but I've learned a lot on my journey and it's not dangerous for me.

I can slip right through that net. I am will not be in danger and I can save your friend. And then the story looks at Marlin. Is this your decision? Do you want to have the crazy fish die and 100% protect your son or do you understand that while it seems dangerous to you, do you have faith that your son knows what he's talking about?

He's going to, you know, grow and mature an adult fish that's going to be out on his own. And so he obviously makes the decision of I fine, I'm going to trust my son for the first time ever because of this journey. I went on and all this stuff that I learned. And so Nemo goes and saves Dory and we have that good answer.

Or he could have said, Yeah, she's crazy. I don't really even like her. I don't know why she was tagging along with me. Let's just go home and then Dory dies. But who cares? Like she's a crazy fish we wouldn't get, you know, the next movie. But. But, yeah, so we know that that's the theme because that's what we're going to ask.

If you look at your climax of any of any story, you're always be able to find out what the theme is because the character is going to or the world of it's an external, but that gets really esoteric. So we'll stay with internal. You know, Luke Skywalker asked a question and Marlin is asked a question, so on and so forth.

Everything is asked a question and then they have to make the choice of one way or the other, and that's how they overcome the story. So we can always point out what the theme is. And then if you backtrack that once you figure it out from an existing movie, you can go back and look at the inciting incident go, yeah, no, that happened because they're on and look where they start.

yeah, they're on the wrong side. So the theme is just vital of everything. But the inciting incident is that first real big one I guess is a second to the first big clue is the characters on the wrong side. But the second big clue is and look at how their world was shattered because they're on the wrong side.

And that is hard. That's the hardest thing in my opinion, to do in story creation.

I think that that is actually a good place to end this conversation.

you don't want to talk about.

I think we've talked about character and plot basically for the character. It's just got to a revealed it's got to work with their strengths. It's got to work with their flaws. It's got to show them at the point of the lower, not their lowest point of growth, but at the point where they've had the least growth and then on the because that they will take the plot on the other end, it needs to be that hook that pulls the reader into this is going to be the events of this story.

Yeah yeah. So I guess I think.

The critical, the critical part of writing your inciting incident is that it needs to set up your climax ultimately not in anything as clumsy as a mirror or whatever, but it needs to set it up subtly, tying into your thematic elements, seeding your thematic element so that when the climax comes, the reader can look back at the inciting incident and go, okay, so the inciting incident shattered your world because you hadn't learned the lessons that you have learned Now.

Maybe the inciting incident would still shatter your world now, but it would shatter it in a different way because you have learned better things. And I think that is a good point there in this episode.

That absolutely.

We will use for another one. Bye.

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