For those that still aren’t sure about what the inciting incident is, answers.com gave the best summary:
* The conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to act
*Without this event, there would be no story. Also, it is better described as the State of Imperfection made explicit.
I tried to find some big name books to give you inciting incident examples; it’s a little harder than I thought. Mostly because I have been sticking my nose into romances for a while and sadly those are not always the big, big names out there. But I will try anyway.
So here are some books that I think everyone has heard and/or read:
The Hunger Games (YA) is a great example, thank you to my commenter- Jamie . To see her response click here.
Inciting Incident occurs in the first chapter where Zoey is marked by a vampire to be destined to be a vampire. Her mother’s reaction to the marking changes the course of her life and her actions.
The Summoning (YA)– by Kelley Armstrong
The inciting Incident again appears in the first chapter when the main character is encountered by a ghost in school. She reacts as any normal person would – badly – and is sent away to a special school. Her father’s lack of interest in her situation and his decision to send her away changes her life.
Twilight (YA) – Stephanie Meyer
The inciting incident is in the first chapter after the prologue. She moves because of her mother. Not exactly exciting, but the move to live with her father and changing school is what allows her to meet Edward.
Sense and Sensibility (Romance) – Jane Austen
Their father dies in the first chapters and because women in that time period don’t get to keep anything their lives are altered forever. Without the father passing and the greed of the half brother their lives would never have changed course.
Anne of Green Gables (YA) – L.M. Montgomery
Again – in the first chapter Anne is sent in mistake of a boy for adoption. Matthew is too sweet to turn her away and takes her home anyway. Because of Matthew’s actions Marella is forced to get to know Anne and allows her to stay.
Maybe This Time (Romance) – Jennifer Cruise
In the first chapter– Andy goes to try and get closure from her ex husband, but lucky for him his distant relative just died and named him guardian of two children. If it weren’t for this morbid start, North would never have had a good reason to get Andy back into his life.
Cell (Horror) – Stephen King
In the first chapter a tone is sent out over cell phones that causes anyone who was talking on their cell to become a Zombie like creature. Creepy right? The main character doesn’t even own a cell. Because the tone was sent over cell phones and he doesn’t own one he is now immersed in an apocalypse like world trying to get to his son.
It’s hard to think of any big books where the incident that gets the story going isn’t named in the first chapter or two. I had stated that you need to cover it in the first three and still stand by this, although it is best to get it done quickly. Some background may need to occur before the inciting incident is given. That isn’t to say that all the details of how the incident occurred are reveled in the first chapters, but it is very clear as to why the story is moving forward.
Do you have any great examples of inciting incidents or any examples breaking the rules that actually work? Even better – where is your inciting incident in your story?