Friday, November 9, 2012
Inciting Incidents: You can take the girl out of the suburbs...
We're moving farther into the city tomorrow. It was set before the election in response to what has become the economic reality for many people.
Inciting incident: Rising costs across the board. Gas prices in CA are crazy right now. That makes food costs more expensive, as well, which we can definitely feel in the tightening of our belts. And the renewal letter we got from our apartment manager proposed raising our rent by $200/month. At that moment, it was clinched. We had to move.
The adventure or quest novel always begins this way. Something happens. It can be a gradual build-up, but often it happens all at once--something that changes everything. For your hero, it should color everything gray. It should make the need to change inevitable.
And, as Donald Maass says in Writing the Breakout Novel, it should be gut-wrenching. He calls it "gut emotional appeal," but whatever you call it, it should be like a punch in the chest to your character, something so tangible your reader is reeling from the sympathy pains.
I don't think I've ever written an inciting incident so powerful, but I can tell you that I'm living one right now. And it's something I'll take with me into my writing going forward. Because my family of five is now on a quest, to make the city our new home.
A suburban girl who really prefers the open skies of Arizona and the open breezes of the southern Utah red rocks is going to be living in a tri-level attached to a hundred other tri-levels. I'm a character in my own story, and I know this is going to change me because... how could it not?
I have a lot of worries. Thanks to the economy, theft is on the rise. Youth unemployment has led to a rise in teen gangs just walking the streets looking for trouble. I'm reading every day in the news about random acts of violence that seem to have no real motive other than boredom combined with evil. As a mom, I keep these stories in my worry-chamber, storing them up so I'll be prepared for anything. But you can never prepare for everything.
My oldest is only five, but those of you who write YA could easily write me in as the mother who worries too much and tends toward the dramatic. Or I could be Bella, leaving her home with nothing but a tiny cactus to take Arizona with her to the rainiest place in the country.
Change is powerful. A change of location, the introduction of a stranger, or a group of strangers, the loss of someone beloved -- it's transforming.
What's the catalyst in your adventure? Does it break your character's heart? Break it. Because the path toward wholeness is the whole story.