Every screenplay needs an inciting incident. But what exactly is an inciting incident and how can you ensure your screenplay has one? In this article, we are breaking down inciting incidents and sharing three easy tips on how you can craft one for your next screenplay.
WHAT IS AN INCITING INCIDENT?
An inciting incident is the moment that propels the protagonist into their journey. Without an inciting incident, we would just be seeing the protagonist on an ordinary day. Why are we watching your protagonist on this particular day? What happens that makes this day extraordinary? It’s important to note the inciting incident can be triggered by the protagonist themselves or it can be caused by an external factor (antagonist, the environment etc.)
Having your inciting incident occur within the first 15 pages of your screenplay is also imperative. Not only does it set up the world and the journey that the protagonist is about to embark on, but it also is the moment where a reader decides if they want to keep reading. Below are three helpful tips to keep in mind when crafting your inciting incident.
THREE TIPS FOR A CLEAR INCITING INCIDENT
THE INCITING INCIDENT: BLACK PANTHER
Now let’s look at our three tips in action. For example, in BLACK PANTHER the normal is seeing T’Challa take over ruling Wakanda as King after the death of his Father. The inciting incident occurs when Klaue and Killmonger steal the vibranium putting the safety of Wakanda at risk. The goal that this creates is T’Challa to prove himself as King by protecting both Wakanda and its vibranium. If T’Challa is unsuccessful in reaching his goal, then what’s at stake is Wakanda and its vibranium being revealed to the world.
Notice how the inciting incident creates a rich world for the protagonist, T’Challa, to maneuver through. The inciting incident should not just be a big event that our protagonist has to deal with, but instead should send the character on a journey with a clear goal and evident stakes. If you want to analyze more inciting incidents from produced screenplays, then be sure to check out our Screenplay Vault!
THE POWER OF THE FIRST 15
Ensuring that your inciting incident truly sets your story into motion can feel like a big task. It can feel even more overwhelming when you’re expected to have your inciting incident within the first 15 pages of your screenplay. But, fret not! Our First 15 service analyzes just the first 15 pages of your script to not only check that your inciting incident is clear, but also looks at other story elements like character and tone, ensuring that your story is headed in the right direction.
Written by TPP Story Expert Khadija Roane.