Inciting event

I’ve been struggling with the second half of the first act of Carrion; specifically the inciting incident. According to Robert McKee “the inciting incident radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life.” Brian McDonald in his book Invisible Ink describes the inciting incident as a curtain moment. A theatrical term denoting the point at which the curtain is dropped between acts. In theatre you have to get the audience back after the intermission “so acts end on the highest point, when the stakes are at their most desperate.” While both descriptions tell us that something needs to happen at this point in the story. Neither give you any real insight into what needs to happen. Personally I lean towards John Truby‘s interpretation. He calls the inciting incident the inciting event and describes it as a small step that “connects need and desire.” At the beginning of the story “when weakness and need are being established, the hero is paralysed in some way. You need some kind of event to jump-start the hero out of his paralysis and force him to act.” And since starting the redraft of Carrion I’ve been struggling to pin down the event that metaphorically takes Adam out of the frying pan and drops him in the fire. I had a whole slew of things going on in the fifteen minutes that lead up to this event. Adam discovering that Reiner murdered his daughter prompting Adam to take action against Reiner. Reiner making a direct attack on Christine forcing Adam to step in to protect her. I explored an infinite number of permutations based on this scenario. All ending with Christine attacked in some way forcing Adam to step in and save her. In the end it all seemed too complicated; demanding of too much exposition. None of the story-lines I envisaged ever really set up Adam’s desire correctly. It wasn’t until I started to think about this section and where it fits into the story that I started to get a handle on what the inciting event should be. At this point in the story Adam needs to see the kind of attack society is making on drug users. He needs to see first hand what is going to happen to Christine if he does nothing and goes along with prohibition. Once I’d realised this is what needs to happen in this section of the story things started to fall into place. Adam and Reiner are part of the squad that is tasked with picking up drug users. When Reiner is particularly vicious in his treatment of the users Adam gets his first glimpse of the coming storm. But the actual inciting event still alluded me until one morning. I woke up with the phrase “Adam has to choose Christine” in my head. I wrote it down and mulled it over for a while. The more I thought about it the more I realise it is the thing that connects Adam’s need and desire. The thing that takes him out of the frying pan and into the fire. He is given a choice; prohibition or Christine. If he chooses prohibition he is allowing her to die. From that point on Adam’s desire to save Christine really kicks in and the story is under way.


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