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Johne

How To Plot Your Novel's Inciting Incident and Lock In

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I knew about the II but hadn't heard the companion piece called a Lock In before.
https://medium.com/the-1000-day-mfa/how-to-plot-your-books-inciting-incident-and-lock-in-6d820ab776aa

 

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There are two plot points in the first Act of a book that are absolutely essential. They have lots of names, but I learned my favorite terms from a site called The Script Lab. I call them the Inciting Incident and the Lock In.

When ever I work with someone who is really struggling to get their novel started or is floundering around in the first act, it’s almost always because these plot points aren’t jiving.

They’re that important. Your whole book hinges on them.

Let’s start with some vocabulary.


The Inciting Incident

This plot point is also sometimes called the Call to Action. It’s the first really unusual thing that happens in your story for your main character. Usually it has something to do with the overall theme of your book.

I think of the Inciting Incident as a question: Do you want to come into the world of this story? Sometimes, even often, it’s an actual question from another character. An invitation of some kind is common.

The Inciting Incident usually offers the main character a choice.


The Lock In

Christopher Vogler calls this plot point ‘crossing the threshold’ in his book The Writer’s Journey. It’s the scene where your main character takes a definitive step into the special world of the story.

If the Inciting Incident is a question, then the Lock In is the answer. The answer is always ‘yes.’ Somehow, someway. Even if the character is dragged kicking and screaming into the story, or a tornado picks them up and plops them in the special world of your novel, the answer is yes.


Why These Two Plot Points Matter So Much

Have you ever taken a really long road trip? At the beginning, you have to really pay attention to your GPS. There are a lot of turns that are really important. If you miss one, you might wind up in Albuquerque instead of Newark.

But once you’re past that beginning, Siri says something like stay on Route 66 for 285 miles. Then you get to just crank up your tunes, set your cruise control, and drive.

These two plot points are the early part of the map of your story. If you don’t nail them down, you risk everything you write after them taking you in the wrong direction.

The truth is, you probably have the plot points in there somewhere. But if you don’t know what they are, the pacing of your book might be thrown off. You also risk putting too much emphasis on a part of the story that’s less important.

And if you find yourself 50,000 words in and you still haven’t found your actual story? Chances are very good that you’ve missed these plot points all together.


It’s Really Easy to Miss the Inciting Incident

It’s very, very common to mistake the Lock In for the Inciting Incident.

Most novels start with a scene or two in the main character’s ordinary world. This is where we see Harry Potter living under the stairs at his Muggle aunt and uncle’s house. Or Luke Skywalker showing his ennui with his aunt and uncle at the breakfast table before going to work on his new-to-him robots. Or Dorothy Gale dealing with the mean old neighbor who’s got it in for Toto.

The Inciting Incident is not part of the ordinary world. That is, it’s not part of your character’s ordinary world.

So Harry Potter’s Inciting Incident isn’t the first Hogwart’s invitation that arrives in the mail. People get letters all the time, and even if it’s not usual for Harry, it’s still part of his ordinary world.

It’s not when the owls show up or the letters come flying down the chimney or when the Dursley’s take off to a weird little island to escape the onslaught. Because we’ve established that magic is part of this ordinary world and that Harry’s aunt and uncle are strongly against the idea of it touching their family.

The Inciting Incident happens when Haggrid actually invites Harry to Hogwarts. Now Harry has a choice to make. And, like I said, a question has been asked.

It would be easy to say that the Inciting Incident is when the first letter arrives and the Lock In is when Haggrid shows up. But that’s not quite right.

The Lock In doesn’t happen until much later, when Harry has the sorting hat on his head and he thinks hard to himself that he wants to be part of Gryffindor, not Slytherin. He’s making a choice and answering the question about whether he wants to be part of Hogwarts (and what kind of part he wants to play there.)

Now the story’s first act transitions to Act II and the structure of the rest of the book is set. The story arc over seven books is basically a struggle between good and evil. This story in particular is about Harry becoming a Gryffindor. The sorting hat makes it clear that he could go either way — good (Gryffindor) or bad (Slytherin.)

Other things happen, of course. But Harry ends the book solidly a Gryffindor.


Start By Finding Your Inciting Incident

I workshop these plot points with other writers all the time and I’m pretty good at picking up on the real Inciting Incident, or helping to figure out what it should be, but it’s way, way harder with my own stories.

Here are some things that might help:

  • Think about the ordinary world first. Make sure you really understand what’s going on for your main character before the story starts.
  • Think about how you want your book to end. It can help sometimes to work backward and look for an antecedent.
  • Look for a question. Your Inciting Incident should offer your main character a choice — will you come into the world of the story or will you keep doing your ordinary world thing?
  • Think about what you think your Lock In is. There’s a good chance it’s actually your Inciting Incident.
  • Look for the first truly unusual thing that happens to your main character. It’s almost never something like someone close to them dying (that happens every day, sad as it is) or some other kind of tragedy that’s just part of life (losing a job, having an argument, etc.)

One of my favorite examples of an Inciting Incident is in the 2015 movie Secret in Their Eyes. It stars Julia Roberts as an investigator for the district attorney. She’s called to a crime scene. There’s a dead body in a dumpster. All of that is her ordinary world.

There’s a powerful scene, though, where her friend, an FBI agent at the crime scheen with her tries to hold her back from looking into the dumpster. Okay, now we’re getting to something that’s not ordinary. When she finally looks, she finds her own dead daughter.

That’s the inciting incident. No one is asking a specific question, but the whole movie hinges on Roberts’ characters response to being thrust into the world of story. She has choices. Will she lean into her profession and investigate who killed her daughter or will she just be a grieving mom and let other professionals take over?


Now Find Your Lock In

It always helps me to remember that the Inciting Incident is a question (actual or implied.) So to find the Lock In, you need to look for the answer.

The Lock In is the scene that transitions your story to Act II. In a movie, it’s called a set piece. It’s almost always going to be something pretty splashy and profound. It’s also usually somewhere around a quarter of the way through your book, so it might happen later than you think.

  • Look for the first thing your character does that takes them an irrevocable step into the story.
  • The main character will probably have choices at this point. Look for a decision they make. (Them, not the people around them.)
  • It’s often a scene that first establishes your main character as heroic in some way.
  • It’s usually something that would make it more difficult for the main character to go back to their original ordinary world.

In the Wizard of Oz, once Dorothy’s house lands, she has a choice. She can hide. She can fall apart. Or she can open the door and walk into Oz. She opens the door and that scene is her Lock In.

In the movie, it’s the original flashy set piece, right? Oz is in full color (something even more spectacular at the time the movie was made) and opening the door is breathtaking. It’s also a heroic choice — Dorothy is meeting her problem head on. She’s brave.


Consider Your Story’s Theme

If you’re struggling with figuring out what your Inciting Incident and Lock In are, it can help to nail down the theme of your book.

The theme is a sentence. It’s an idea. It’s kind of cliche.

The theme of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is Good wins out over Evil.

The theme of Star Wars is Hope and freedom are worth fighting for.

The theme of The Wizard of Oz is There’s no place like home.

The theme of Secret in their Eyes is Revenge hurts more than it helps.

Think about the theme of your book. Your Inciting Incident and Lock In will have something to do with that. They’ll push that narrative forward.

Check out The Script Lab. They break down key plot points for hundreds of movies and it’s a great resource.

 

 

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Okay, I'm struggling with a book (not a short story) that I have started. The first scene is the MC packing up her stuff and leaving (with her horse and cat). That seems to me to be the lockin. To put her in her "ordinary world" would be to go before that and show her with her husband.

 

Am I reading this correctly?

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2 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

The first scene is the MC packing up her stuff and leaving (with her horse and cat). That seems to me to be the lockin.

 

It might be the Inciting Incident, the part where your character has a choice to make. 

5 hours ago, Johne said:

The Lock In is the scene that transitions your story to Act II.

 

 

In my WIP, the Inciting Incident occurs in the first chapter and the Lock In occurs at the end of the Beginning Hook going into the Middle Build, my Act II. Specifically, if the II is the first thing your character does that takes them an irrevocable step into the story, the II is in the first scene where Clay makes the decision not to give the Great Wand lying at his feet to the Archmage's henchman.

My Lock In scene at the end of the Beginning Hook has Clay going to see Pyrynne Thann at her office to tell her he's going to leave the city and travel the world. He's very excited by this but when he gets there he instead finds Kharl Rhone, the city's Chief Prefect. Kharl gives Clay a cryptic message and leaves. Clay stays there and waits. As he waits, he thinks, and as he thinks, a picture begins to clarify. This is the scene where Clay crosses the threshold and serves to end the Beginning Hook and begin the Middle Build. This is the scene where Clay stops being a lowly rickshaw driver, gives up his pipedream of traveling the world, and buckles down to become a Private Investigator.
 

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She wasn’t there at 4 pm. I began to pace.

She wasn’t there by 8 pm. I lit a lamp even though I didn’t need it for myself.

She wasn’t there by midnight. The other boot had already dropped and I’d been so busy thinking that I missed it. I realized Kharl had tried to tell me something important in his own labyrinthine way. “Well,” I repeated, and the dreaded thought I’d been trying to avoid finally crystallized as truth in my mind.

She wasn’t coming back. 

I stood. I pinched the flame out with my cold clay fingers and my Grand Dream was snuffed out along with the light. I’m not sure if it died or if I killed it, but I never thought of it again after that.
She was gone, but I was here, and Kharl Rhone knew he didn’t need to ask me to find her. It’s what any good mule would have done.
 

#
 

I returned my rickshaw to the darkened barn, closed the heavy door, and turned my back forever on that way of life. I carefully walked to my room in the library out-building. One of the benefits of having a clay memory was having an indelible record of every event, every word, every glance. I couldn’t turn it off if I wanted to. Usually this was more of a curse than a gift but in this case, it was a useful feature of my clay construction. 

I spent the rest of the night in the dark going over every memory of Pyrynne, every word she’d ever uttered, every theory I could think of, every path I could follow, looking for some clue to follow to find her as fast as possible. I checked and rechecked every conversation until a couple of possibly paths revealed themselves.

At first light I latched the door to the library at Baker House and began my investigation.

 

 

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14 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

Okay, I'm struggling with a book (not a short story) that I have started. The first scene is the MC packing up her stuff and leaving (with her horse and cat). That seems to me to be the lockin. To put her in her "ordinary world" would be to go before that and show her with her husband.

 

Am I reading this correctly?

The first scene is your inciting incident, assuming she doesn't pack the car, the horse, and the cat often.

 

Easy way I pick out the inciting incident is when does normal-life end? You don't need to start with normal-life. (Even if she normally packs the car, horse, and cat, it's not normal, given her life is about to change forever.)

 

It sounds like, (and I've never heard Lock-in before, so this is my first understanding; therefore I can easily be wrong), Lock-in is when the protag makes the first decision of what to do after normal-life evaporates.

 

My inciting Incident happened hours before the protag woke up. He, (Spaulding the teddy bear), woke up in the trash, and had no idea why.

 

The lock-in happened a few chapters later. He met a couple other teddy bears in the same pickle, so stuck with them, because who wants to be all alone? But when one of them was snatched up by a dog as a chew toy, Spaulding made his first informed decision -- run away.

 

The little bear started chasing the dog to get the other bear back, and the other choice clicked in Spaulding. He wasn't going to lose both of them. Up to that point, he was blowing in the wind. At that point, he anchored/locked-in.

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I've seen the inciting incident occurring before the story begins, especially in the thriller genre where the reader is hooked by an action scene.

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OK, I think I have both in my current story already, though I wasn't really aware of them--at least i didn't know what to call them. But now I'll be able to deliberately plan this way in future. 

I'm still in the process of writing my first proper full-length story, and I find I'm enjoying it so much I think I'll eventually try another.

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9 hours ago, EClayRowe said:

I've seen the inciting incident occurring before the story begins, especially in the thriller genre where the reader is hooked by an action scene.

 

I was in a room where Shawn Coyne said the Inciting Incident MUST occur on the page - it cannot occur before the book begins. It was a fun discussion. 

His thoughts on the II are written down and you can see most of them here.
https://storygrid.com/commandment-number-one/

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21 hours ago, Johne said:

 

I was in a room where Shawn Coyne said the Inciting Incident MUST occur on the page - it cannot occur before the book begins. It was a fun discussion. 

His thoughts on the II are written down and you can see most of them here.
https://storygrid.com/commandment-number-one/

Which side are you on -- the Must or Nah?

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4 hours ago, Spaulding said:

Which side are you on -- the Must or Nah?


I think the Inciting Incident must occur on the page. It is the place on the page which separates backstory from the problem to be solved, the rest of the novel.
 

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The Inciting Incident (or “exciting incident” as someone once referred to it) is the event or decision that begins a story’s problem. Everything up and until that moment is Backstory; everything after is “the story.” Before this moment there is an equilibrium, a relative peace that the characters in a story have grown accustomed to. This incisive moment, or plot point occurs and upsets the balance of things. Suddenly there is a problem to be solved.

 

In Story Grid terms...

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...an inciting incident plus progressive complications turn into a crisis which leads to a climax and the net effect is a resolution.

The Inciting Incident kicks off each scene. At its most basic concept, an inciting incident must upset the life balance of a lead protagonist(s). Whether it’s for good or ill, the inciting incident makes your protagonist feel uncomfortably out of sync. It asks them to look at reality in a new way, to readjust to new information, or to settle in to uncomfortable circumstances.

There are two ways to frame an inciting incident: Causal or Coincidental. In either case, the inciting incident gets the story or scene going and makes a promise to the reader of what’s to come. Causal inciting incidents are the result of active choices a character makes. A wife leaves her husband, a boy chooses to trust a girl, a character faces their antagonist head on. Coincidental inciting incidents occur when something happens by chance, or randomly. A train arrives a half hour late, a boy comes home to the parent he didn’t want to meet first, a woman grabs the wrong suitcase at the airport.

To excite a reader, write inciting incidents that hook them and make big promises. Just remember to pay them off…that is resolve them clearly in a way that has changed the character by the end of the scene or if it’s a huge inciting incident (the one that will begin the entire story) by the end of the story. Also, fulfill the expectation in an unexpected way. When the reader expects one thing, give them something else so that they don’t see what’s coming. Mix up causal and coincidental inciting incidents throughout a story. So long as every scene contains an inciting incident, something meaningful has potential to happen. And when that potential is in every scene…the reader will keep reading.

 

 

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Here's more about the Inciting Incident.
 

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The inciting incident is the big event scene that kicks off your story.

It is also an equal or somewhat lesser event scene that opens your Middle Build or Ending Payoff.

It is an even smaller event scene that kicks off a sequence.

It is also a minor event that destabilizes a supporting scene within a sequence.

And lastly, the smallest inciting incident is an action in a beat that unsettles the relationship between two characters.

No matter the unit of story (beat, scene, sequence, act, or global Story) what the inciting incident must do is upset the life balance of your lead protagonist/s. It must make them uncomfortably out of sync…for good or for ill.

An inciting incident can occur in one of two ways:

  • Cause
  • Coincidence

A causal inciting incident is the result of an active choice—a wife leaves her husband, a man enlists in the Marines, a dentist molests a patient he’s put under anesthesia.

A coincidental inciting incident is when something unexpected or random or accidental happens—a simple man wins the lottery, a woman takes the wrong suitcase at an airport, a piano falls out of a window and kills a man’s dog.

What your choice of inciting incidents in every unit of story (beat, scene, sequence, act, and global story) must do is arouse a reaction by your Protagonist. For the examples above: perhaps, the man resolves to get his wife back, the recruit decides to fight against his Paris Island instructor, the patient hires a detective to investigate the dentist, the lottery winner decides to give away all the money, the woman with the wrong suitcase decides to keep it, the man who barely escapes the piano quits his job.

Obviously, the most crucial inciting incident you must choose is the event for the beginning hook. If you have a weak hook, no matter the genre (even the most mini of miniplots requires a compelling hook), there is little that can be done editorially to make your story work.  Unless you start over.

Remember also that how your character acts—and refusing to do anything is an action too, especially in miniplot stories…it’s actively hiding—must be in tune with your choice of external and internal genres.

That is, the inciting incident of a global story must make a promise to the reader…the ending. The ending must be a perfectly reasonable and inevitable result of the inciting incident. But it must also be surprising. If it is not surprising, it will not drive anyone to recommend it to his friend to read. Don’t promise something and then not deliver it. That is the telltale mark of writer writing a book that will not work, no matter how great bits and pieces are within.

Many genres have conventional inciting incidents that set up obligatory climaxes. If you’re writing a murder mystery, the inciting incident must be the discovery of a dead body. The climax of the mystery will be the solving of the crime. If you’re writing a love story, the inciting incident will be when the lovers meet. The climax of the love story will be the answer to whether or not the couple stays together. If you’re writing a horror novel, the inciting incident will be an attack by the monster, which sets up the obligatory climax, which is the ultimate confrontation between your lead character victim and the seemingly indestructible monster from your inciting incident.

Without inciting incidents, a writer has nothing…just a collection of riffs that don’t add up in any coherent way…character sketches or meticulous Proustian descriptions of inanimate objects that have zero emotional payoff. That kind of writing is what most people think of when they think of what a writer with a capital “W” is and does. But being able to put words together in unique and poetic ways without anything happening that requires an action or reaction on the part of your cast of characters is not storytelling. It is showing off your way with words, gold plating inertia. As Truman Capote said so well “that’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Without an inciting incident nothing meaningful can happen. And when nothing meaningful happens, it’s not a story.

To put it in Hollywood terms, the inciting incident is the High Concept for every unit of your story, the golden “What if?” It’s the intriguing lure to get people to care not only about what you are going to tell them right now, but also what you are going to tell them later. If you are writing a novel and your inciting incidents are ho-hum, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of pain. You’ll twist and turn inside trying to use language as a crutch to inflate the importance of trivial events.

Instead why not take the time before you write anything be it a beat, a scene, a sequence, an act, a subplot or the global story, and make sure that your inciting incident is compelling and appropriate for the unit of story you are about to tell. Remember that every unit of story has an inciting incident. So every scene you put in your Story has to have one, no matter its position on the work’s progressively complicated hierarchy.

Years ago I had the surreal experience of working with Bill Murray on a book project. One day we were having a cup of coffee. I’d just returned from doing a lot of talking at a sales conference and my voice was shot. Bill laughed and told me I sounded like Mike Ovitz back when he worked with him.

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“He spoke very softly so you’d really have to concentrate to make out what he was saying.”

I asked what happened to that relationship. Bill no longer works with an agent, he just sort of lets people find him and offer him stuff to work on. If he likes the idea of it, the What if? he’ll do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t.

Bill explained to me that Ovitz called him one day and told him that he’d met with a studio and pitched an idea to them that they loved. They were willing to write Bill a big check if he signed on to the project. Bill asked Ovitz what the idea was and he simply said “Bill Murray and an Elephant.”

While not even close to half-baked, that five-word phrase inspired an inciting incident that Bill found attractive. All they needed now was for someone to bang on a word processor for a few months and they’d be ready to go. Roy Blount Jr., a wonderful writer and author of my favorite sports nonfiction About Three Bricks Shy of a Load was given that impossible task.

Blount took that single phrase and spinned it into the far more fleshed out conceit “a down on his luck motivational speaker finds out that his father has left him a huge inheritance…the twist is that his father was a circus promoter and the son’s inheritance is an elephant…”

They did make that movie. It was called Larger than Life and unfortunately, it bombed.

Soon after that experience, Bill decided he could make those kinds of mistakes himself. He didn’t need an agent to do it for him. From that point forward Bill decided to only talk to the creators of material directly. If he gets a good feeling about the writer/director and their commitment to the story (and of course what they’ve put down on actual paper) not just the inciting incident but the whole story, he’ll do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t.

But getting Bill to talk to you is a whole other story. I left a message for him about five years ago and I’m still waiting for him to return the call. So Bill, if you’re reading this, could you mail me back that laptop I lent you before you left for Tokyo?

Again, global inciting incidents are most often determined by the genre the writer chooses. But what about the great American novels? What were their inciting incidents?

The Great Gatsby—The cousin of a man’s long lost love moves next door to him.

Moby Dick—a young man gets a job on a monomaniac’s whale ship

Catch-22—fighter pilot can’t get grounded for being crazy because he says he’s crazy and crazy people don’t know they’re crazy.

These are examples of global inciting incidents. Like the peanut butter that lures a mouse into a mousetrap, the global inciting incident must be irresistible to the writer’s intended audience. And yes, even the big literary writers have an intended audience.

But alas, a fantastic global inciting incident does not make for a slam-dunk commercial success. You must load every beat, scene, sequence, and act with tantalizing inciting incidents to keep the reader turning pages or to keep the viewer in their seat. Creating these kinds of inciting incidents are all about zigging when the reader expects a zag. They require singular imagination. Ideally, the writer fulfills the conventions of a particular genre’s obligatory inciting incidents in a completely unique way. A way that the reader never sees coming.

Here’s some advice…

Mix up your inciting incidents. Don’t make them all causal or all coincidental. When the reader is expecting a causal event, swap in a coincidence and vice versa.

 

 

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BTW, you are most certainly welcome to be on either side. If I knew there was a THE Answer, I'd love to write THE book that all writers must buy. (If I could.)

 

But here's where I see the second writer, disagreeing with himself/herself. 

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Other times, as with stories like Hamlet, Amadeus or Se7en, they aren’t. Regardless of outcome, this Inciting Incident gets the ball rolling by introducing an inequity into the lives of the characters that inhabit the story. The Protagonist seeks the solution, the Antagonist seeks to prevent it.

Every story works this way.

 

Star Wars. I could even possibly agree with him if 1-3 didn't come out after 4-6. The Emperor and Apprentice were causing mayhem and destruction before Phantom Menace started, affecting Obi Wan's life immediately. By the time Revenge of the Sith was over, the only life not affected yet was Solo. (And he wouldn't have had the bounty on him, if the Emperor hadn't affected his life before New Hope started.) If any incident is pointed to that shows the Emperor's "true colors," I'd go with murder of the younglings.

 

Also, I think POV for 4-6 is Luke. The inciting incident for him was either meeting up with Ben, or his family slaughtered. (I think those two incidents are Campbell's two thresholds in the Hero's Journey. Meeting Ben nudged him into a different life. His aunt and uncle's death gave him no choice.)

 

This also could be something that Writer Two sees differently than I do. I do think the inciting incident has to happen to the protagonist specifically. So, this might just be a case that we're climbing the same mountain, but picked different sides to start it. Ultimately the top is inciting incident though. (Only to find out it's just a foothill, and there is a bigger mountain to climb -- the rest of the story.)

 

But this line doesn't work for me -- "The Protagonist seeks the solution, the Antagonist seeks to prevent it."

 

In my story, the antagonists don't even know the protagonists exist. And the protagonists don't even think of the antagonists. They know a law was created that messes up their lives, but the thought of taking their problem to the lawmakers doesn't enter their minds until Book 2. And the antagonists naturally assumes anyone telling them that stuffed animals are alive needs psychiatric help, not their help. (Wouldn't you? xD)

 

Also, I've heard of the Three Act pattern. I don't want to learn it, because it's tough enough to combine story arc for one book with seven-book story arc and using the Hero's Journey as a skeleton without adding yet another guideline. I'm also not very good playing chess for the same reason. My brain can't process above two moves. If I'm still alive and still writing when this whole story is out, I'll probably play with it then.

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7 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

His aunt and uncle's death gave him no choice.)


I've heard before that Owen and Beru's deaths were Luke's Inciting Incident, but I think an argument could be made that finding them dead is his Lock In moment, his Crossing the Threshold moment.

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I think adding and inventing terms for writers should be avoided entirely. Every profession has its own jargon but writers would be better off by not hearing more. Simple and clear is best.

The story has a beginning, middle and an end.

It's the writer's job to create a compelling story filled with interesting characters and good dialogue.

The first six pages are key. I've seen this hundreds of times. An author sends in a manuscript. If I'm not hooked by page 10, I won't be reading page 20 or page 100. Oh I have. Just to see what the author does, but those days are over. And of the manuscripts my company gets that are acceptable, a lot of rewriting has to be done and I'm not referring to spelling and grammar. Our head writer still struggles with spelling.

 

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On 10/12/2019 at 12:25 AM, Johne said:


I've heard before that Owen and Beru's deaths were Luke's Inciting Incident, but I think an argument could be made that finding them dead is his Lock In moment, his Crossing the Threshold moment.

Agreed.

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Rob, I learned beginning middle and end back in grade school, and thought that worked until I was writing the last book.

 

To me, middle = climax.

 

Well, shoot. That causes a gap between beginning and middle, (now called "rising action"), and a gap between climax and ending, (now called "falling action.") Until I learned those words, I felt rushed between what starts it off and what cause the climax. And then rushed between climax and "The End."

 

If you don't need lingo, then don't worry about it. But I need to know "what is that thingy I'm doing?" Or even, "why isn't this working?"

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Think of any movie you've seen. As it approaches the end, the resolution or climax begins to build. I suppose having an important climactic event occur in the middle can be done, with the rest of the book covering the aftermath. It depends on you. You can make it work that way if that is your goal.

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4 hours ago, Spaulding said:

To me, middle = climax.

 

I can't think of a single example where the climax occurs in the middle. The reason climaxes occur toward the end is simple - that's when everything that leads you to that moment all comes together and leads to the resolution, which generally is comparatively brief. (Resolutions that go on and on feel weird - RETURN OF THE KING with your five endings, I'm lookin' at you.)
https://storygrid.com/commandment-number-four/

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1 hour ago, carolinamtne said:

Sounds like I need to start my beginning again.

 

I had to rewrite my first chapter when I realized that Thrillers start with a crime and I didn't have one. I rewrote it so there was a sudden, shocking murder. Boom, done. On to the next challenge. ;)

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16 hours ago, Johne said:

 

I can't think of a single example where the climax occurs in the middle. The reason climaxes occur toward the end is simple - that's when everything that leads you to that moment all comes together and leads to the resolution, which generally is comparatively brief. (Resolutions that go on and on feel weird - RETURN OF THE KING with your five endings, I'm lookin' at you.)
https://storygrid.com/commandment-number-four/

Well, the beginning is where trouble starts. The end is when everything calms down. So, if it's not the beginning, nor the end, it has to be middle, right?

 

And honestly, that's why I couldn't do beginning middle end anymore, because climax isn't the middle. That rising action and falling action made it feel more story-like.

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11 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

So, if it's not the beginning, nor the end, it has to be middle, right?

 

Does it? ;)

I've seen the diagram which has the Climax in the middle and Falling Action before getting to the Resolution or denouement. I like this diagram a little better.

Quote

 

When I teach plot — a concept both readers of literature and writers of fiction should be familiar with — I normally use a diagram like the one below. Rather than a witch’s hat, mine’s more like an escalator or a staircase. I include narrative hook and skip falling action. I like the idea that a story takes you someplace higher, like stairs. And I like indicating that progress from the narrative hook to the climax isn’t generally smooth and steady.
 

There’s no right or wrong way to illustrate a story’s plot, and there are plenty of examples of stories that defy this structure. Still, it’s surprising how many stories fit a model almost precisely like this. That’s a lesson for all you writers out there. Write to this plan, especially as you get started. Once you’ve mastered the basic plot structure, you will feel more comfortable playing around with it.

 


image.png.3f31466f990be7be7f81ff64e0765a8b.png 
http://blog.writeathome.com/index.php/2012/10/rethinking-the-plot-diagram/
 

Quote

The Thriller is about excitement and the need to avoid both death and damnation. While Crime stories usually end at justice or injustice, and Horror and Action stories usually end at life or death, the Thriller protagonist is pushed to their limits. Toward damnation.A Thriller need not reach actual damnation, but the potential and the vehicle for damnation must be expressed.


In my Thriller (which presents as Fantasy / Noir), the Climax occurs and then it's straight to the resolution. I'm not working on an Epic Fantasy where there's enough room for Falling Action. If the Global Life Value for the Thriller is Life - Unconsciousness - Death - Threat of Damnation, my climax occurs very close to the end when it appears my protag could lose his very soul. (This is not a Christian fiction piece - our own Nicholas Reicher suggested something from golem lore which lends itself perfectly to this convention.) 

image.png.affc7b3b8d4a45af24686dfa2d1f3c42.png

 

My protag awakens in the shell of an 8' tall clay golem and knows he's not originally from this world nor was he always in this shell but he doesn't know who he used to be nor how he came to be here. He realizes he's trapped in this shell and it freaks him out a little. Fast forward to the end and it comes full circle - to protect those his loves, Clay must voluntarily allow the evil Archmage to take control of his clay body and be allow himself to be trapped in his golem shell just as he was in the very first scene, but he now knows something the Archmage doesn't know, the secret to what animates him, the difference in one letter branded on the top of his right hand. After this scene, the story is essentially over except for the cleanup in the Resolution. There's no Falling Action to speak of but we're talking about a relatively lean 80k word Thriller not a 300k word Epic Fantasy. 

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