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where's the inciting incident?

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ChristiLB View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChristiLB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: where's the inciting incident?
    Posted: 10 Jul 2019 at 1:06pm
Hi all - 

I have another question that's been plaguing me for a while so I figured I'd seek answers from this knowledgable group of fellow screenwriters Smile

I know that every story has an inciting incident, and I know that an inciting incident is something that propels the characters into action, sets their world off kilter requiring them to work to set things right again, etc. My problem is that I have trouble pinpointing what the inciting incident is, in movies I've watched, and I want to have some clear cut examples to look back at when I'm writing my scripts and formulating my inciting incidents.

I've read the book "Story" by Robert McKee from cover to cover and found it incredibly helpful, but still found myself lost with the inciting incident. Has anyone seen the movie "Big" with Tom Hanks? McKee references that movie a lot in his book and I watched it recently and I felt as though the inciting incident could be two different scenes.

1) When Josh tries to go on the ride with the girl he likes but he's not tall enough. I feel like that could be the inciting incident because, from that incident he's feeling humiliated and frustrated that he's so small, which leads him to make the wish to be big. I feel like he never would have made the wish if that moment on the ride hadn't happened. HOWEVER, I do also think there could be another inciting incident which is...

2) When Josh comes across the fortune teller machine and makes the wish. If he hadn't come across the machine, he never would've made the wish even if the ride incident had still happened.

So you see, this is the kind of thing that happens to me when I'm watching movies...I always feel like there are two moments that could be considered the inciting incident and I can never figure out which one actually is the correct one.

Does anyone know which is the inciting incident for the movie Big? Also, if you have any suggestions of books or websites I could check out that would be helpful in understanding the inciting incident more and/or provide examples for real movies that'd be great.

Thanks in advance to everyone willing to help! I really appreciate it and look forward to your thoughts and suggestions. Heart

Christine
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote MissKeister Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2019 at 4:35pm
Rushing to get back to work from lunch so I'm sorry this is short, but I found this:


(I'm awful with links so hopefully that works)

And it might help answer... to be honest, this is something I struggle with, too!  Go Into the Story has a plethora of articles on these questions -- on my next break I'll be looking into it more.  

I think possibly the inciting incident in Big might be him finding the fortune teller machine -- we can probably assume him being too short for a ride is a common occurrence/frustration for him and sets up what his 'normal' is. 

I hope someone else can help shed some light!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Paula Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2019 at 5:32pm
I have found this link, which is interesting because it explains the difference between inciting incident and plot point one.

https://narrativefirst.com/articles/plot-points-and-the-inciting-incident

After reading it, I get the impression that the inciting incident is Josh not being able to go on the ride with the girl he likes because he's too short. If he had not felt that frustration, he would not have put that coin into the fortune teller machine. IMO, that particular event would appear to be what prompts him to try and become "Big".

Very curious to hear what others think :-)




Edited by Paula - 10 Jul 2019 at 5:33pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChristiLB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2019 at 8:19pm
Originally posted by MissKeister MissKeister wrote:

Rushing to get back to work from lunch so I'm sorry this is short, but I found this:


(I'm awful with links so hopefully that works)

And it might help answer... to be honest, this is something I struggle with, too!  Go Into the Story has a plethora of articles on these questions -- on my next break I'll be looking into it more.  

I think possibly the inciting incident in Big might be him finding the fortune teller machine -- we can probably assume him being too short for a ride is a common occurrence/frustration for him and sets up what his 'normal' is. 

I hope someone else can help shed some light!

Thanks so much for this link - I'm excited to check it out more in-depth a little later. Your thought on the inciting incident for Big is interesting - I hadn't thought about the fact that being short and having those kinds of disappointments is probably status quo for him and thus showing us a glimpse of his normal life before the inciting incident happens...It's really such a tricky element for me to grasp. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChristiLB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2019 at 8:26pm
Originally posted by Paula Paula wrote:

I have found this link, which is interesting because it explains the difference between inciting incident and plot point one.

https://narrativefirst.com/articles/plot-points-and-the-inciting-incident

After reading it, I get the impression that the inciting incident is Josh not being able to go on the ride with the girl he likes because he's too short. If he had not felt that frustration, he would not have put that coin into the fortune teller machine. IMO, that particular event would appear to be what prompts him to try and become "Big".

Very curious to hear what others think :-)



Thanks Paula for this link. I just skimmed it at the moment but will go back and read more in-depth later. Definitely looks like some useful info. It's interesting that the only two responses I've gotten so far have each picked a different moment as the inciting incident for the movie, Big. I feel like both points of view are valid and accurate arguments for the two different scenes being the inciting incident (So, I'm still as confused as ever haha). Maybe a third commenter can be the tie breaker? LOL Anyway, thanks for your input and website link - I look forward to delving a bit deeper into it later.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote beckyrcollins Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2019 at 5:34am
Personally I think the inciting incident in Big is him waking up... well, big. Everything before that is set up. If a girl shoots him down, he'd still wake up the next day and his life wouldn't have changed (much). If he made a wish on the fortune teller machine and nothing happened, no inciting incident. It's the thing that must change his course of action that we're looking for. 

Same with Freaky Friday. The mum and daughter can shout at each other and 'wish' for things all they want, but that doesn't propel them into the story. That's all set up. It's the waking up in a new body that changes things.

Hope this helps / hope I'm somewhat correct haha x
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote alexdsut Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2019 at 7:35am
I wouldn't get too hung up on "instructions" when it comes to story design -- that ideology is becoming more and more outdated. Think of these major beats -- like the "inciting incident" -- as guidelines, rather than blueprints. It isn't an exact science, and many different practitioners/professionals would finger different points of stories (such as Big) as different beats. The handful of comments above, of course, are a good example of this*. Hell, some films have beat duplications (take the first part of Endgame, as a recent example, which has 2 set-ups). As long as your inciting incident works for your story, all the guides that are out there take a backseat. 

*For example, I'd personally say when he wakes up as an adult, we have just entered the new "uncharted territory" of Act 2, so the inciting incident would have to come before that.

 

Edited by alexdsut - 11 Jul 2019 at 7:40am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Paula Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2019 at 9:57am
Originally posted by alexdsut alexdsut wrote:

I wouldn't get too hung up on "instructions" when it comes to story design -- that ideology is becoming more and more outdated. Think of these major beats -- like the "inciting incident" -- as guidelines, rather than blueprints. It isn't an exact science, and many different practitioners/professionals would finger different points of stories (such as Big) as different beats. The handful of comments above, of course, are a good example of this*. Hell, some films have beat duplications (take the first part of Endgame, as a recent example, which has 2 set-ups). As long as your inciting incident works for your story, all the guides that are out there take a backseat. 

*For example, I'd personally say when he wakes up as an adult, we have just entered the new "uncharted territory" of Act 2, so the inciting incident would have to come before that.

 


Funny how all of us came up with different answers.
Having said that, I like your approach. Our day to day is already pretty filled with rules, conventions and commitments that we have to observe. If we can’t be free when we write stories, then when? And it is also fun to play with frames. Make the edges round or tweak them and stretch them like a chewing gum. I’m in...


Edited by Paula - 11 Jul 2019 at 10:02am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChristiLB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jul 2019 at 12:34pm
Originally posted by beckyrcollins beckyrcollins wrote:

Personally I think the inciting incident in Big is him waking up... well, big. Everything before that is set up. If a girl shoots him down, he'd still wake up the next day and his life wouldn't have changed (much). If he made a wish on the fortune teller machine and nothing happened, no inciting incident. It's the thing that must change his course of action that we're looking for. 

Same with Freaky Friday. The mum and daughter can shout at each other and 'wish' for things all they want, but that doesn't propel them into the story. That's all set up. It's the waking up in a new body that changes things.

Hope this helps / hope I'm somewhat correct haha x

Yes, see there are so many different perspectives on where the inciting incident is. You make a good point about him waking up Big and that being the inciting incident although I do think the incident that incited him becoming big would come before that. I got into a similar discussion yesterday about the inciting incident of The Hunger Games...Whether the inciting incident was Prim being chosen as tribute or Katniss volunteering herself to save her sister. Prim being chosen is the incident that incites Katniss to volunteer BUT Katniss volunteering is the incident that incites the whole rest of the story lol. So confusing and it sounds like maybe there are more than just one option for the inciting incident.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChristiLB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jul 2019 at 12:37pm
Originally posted by alexdsut alexdsut wrote:

I wouldn't get too hung up on "instructions" when it comes to story design -- that ideology is becoming more and more outdated. Think of these major beats -- like the "inciting incident" -- as guidelines, rather than blueprints. It isn't an exact science, and many different practitioners/professionals would finger different points of stories (such as Big) as different beats. The handful of comments above, of course, are a good example of this*. Hell, some films have beat duplications (take the first part of Endgame, as a recent example, which has 2 set-ups). As long as your inciting incident works for your story, all the guides that are out there take a backseat. 

*For example, I'd personally say when he wakes up as an adult, we have just entered the new "uncharted territory" of Act 2, so the inciting incident would have to come before that.

 

Thanks for the input. It's hard for me to not look at screenwriting in such a structured way as I'm just starting out in my journey. You're probably right though, that things are becoming less structured and formulaic nowadays.
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