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Finding the Right Inciting Incident

At the moment I have a main character, some supporting characters, and a theme. What I don’t have is a plot. I have character arcs, and I know how I want certain subplots to play out. The best I have is an inciting incident, so that I can explore what the main character’s life is like before that happens, and how she’s forced to live afterward. Finding the right inciting incident, then, seems to be more important than finding a solid three-act structure plot. At least it is for me, in the context of this story.

Finding the Right Inciting Incident

The truth is the the actual inciting incident happened to her before the novel begins. It’s what causes her to leave where she was and move to a new place. She needs to escape, and to start over. When the story begins it seems as if she might have a chance at doing that. The inciting incident within the novel shows her that what happened is likely to follow her around for a long time.

It screws around with structure a bit, but I stated before that I’m trying to break away from formulaic writing. My intent is to write something that leans more toward literary fiction as well. I’m a firm believer that structure can help carry the reader along, and also make things a bit easier for the writer. Hopefully I have enough of a grasp on the rules that I can competently break them.

Progress Report: Day 11

  • Today is day 11 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Yesterday I wrote 213 words, bringing the total to 8,285. It’s not a lot, but I’m ahead and I needed to focus on other things for one day.
  • That puts me 2,285 words ahead of my target goal.
  • I’m currently working on the early scenes of the second act.

Notes

  • I’m having flow state issues. The way I have things set up right now, I touch every project every day. That’s fine in terms of checking in, building habits, and having visibility to what I’m doing. In practical terms it becomes interruptive. Instead of spending an hour on this and an hour on another project, it might behoove me to spend two hours on this today and two hours on something else tomorrow. We live, we learn we tweak. Life is an editing process.
  • At the same time, I’m having an existential crisis about my day job. This writing is supposed to give me a break from that writing, but when I’m down in the dumps about that writing, it still affects this writing.
  • My arthritis is also flaring up. Both hands feel like catcher’s mitts and my right hand hurts so badly that I wondered if I somehow broke bones in my sleep. This, of course, affects my ability to type.

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Setting Up Your Antagonist

As I mentioned in the previous post, I believe that the seeds for all supporting characters should be planted in the first act. Call it foreshadowing, call it whatever you like, but when that character appears it has to feel both organic and inevitable. The same applies to setting up your antagonist.

For Cold Sunset — I may as well start using the working title, with the caveat that I’m not married to it — my antagonist isn’t a person but an abstract concept. For my main character, it’s an oppressive culture that she can’t escape from. I have two characters that embody the concept, that act as sort of proxy antagonists. The first is her father, and the second is her ex-boyfriend.

Because I’m also using the form of Gothic fiction, I’ve made both of them figurative ghosts. They don’t appear in the story as active antagonists. They’re in her head. She’s conditioned to respond to what they’d say, what they’d think, if they were there. She’s haunted by them, and they affect her decisions.

Setting Up Your Antagonist

My inciting incident, which we’ll get to shortly, happens because the main character is seeking to start her life over in a new place. The reason she’s doing that is to get away from these men who have severely messed her up. Without having either of them appear, or explaining, my opening act implies that things happened in the past. This implies the existence of the antagonist, and teases who and what they might be.

Progress Report: Day 9

  • Today is day 9 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Over the weekend I wrote 2,201 words, bringing the total to 7,457.
  • That puts me 2,657 words ahead of my target goal, based on writing 600 words per day.
  • I’m currently working on the “inciting incident” scene of the first act, and getting ready to move into some theme reinforcement scenes.

Notes

  • I have now used up 10% of the days allotted to the first draft. Yikes!
  • Seth Godin argues that the difference between short-form and long-form is one of an endorphin rush versus the communication of complex ideas. This has haunted me since I read his blog post last week. It’s not just the concept that “people don’t read” (books or blogs), is the placement of emotions over facts and ideas.

Thanks for Visiting

Comments? I want to hear them! Questions? I want to answer them! Leave a message below and let’s chat about writing!

Come along on this journey with me, as I fumble around and figure out what I’m doing. Go to the bottom of the page and subscribe to the site, if you haven’t already! Never miss a new post!