Screenwriting : "inciting incident" by Claude Gagne

Claude Gagne

"inciting incident"

I read in writing a screenplay, you definitely need an inciting incident. The inciting incident is an event in a story that upsets the status quo and begins the story’s movement, either in a positive way or negative, that culminates in the climax and denouement.

Now, we know why. What about the where and when do you place the incident in the story. I know it's in the first act, but where, what amount of time do you take to set it up? Is it within the first ten, fifteen, or whenever you make it happen? Would sixteen minutes in a feature be correct or stretching it a bit? What about a mini one on the second page and the big one on the sixteenth page.

It seems most of all the movies I've watched, it has been within the first ten minutes. Then we all know where the protagonist is heading. What do you think?

Barry John Terblanche

Genre depending? Romance/love could take a while to climax (excuse the pun). Action, sure, as soon as you can ~ In the likes of James Bond and Mission impossible they straight of the bat.

Rohit Kumar

I hope you have seen Parasite movie. Now you can check this video once where she talks about the 3 act structure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB882UKavdc

You will rethink about your intention of being the specificity of 3 Act structure

Anthony Moore

I once had a writer send me a 5 page synopsis of his screenplay about avoiding a third world war. The first two pages described the future "history" of how things would get so bad, the last three described the political climate and what political stance each country involved was taking. I asked him three questions. Who is the main character? What is the inciting incident? And what is his story after it? I never heard from the guy again.

Claude Gagne

It sounds like a documentary!

Julia Petrisor

Depends on how much you need to establish first (setups that will payoff later) and how the story goes. Wouldn't likely want it past page 20, is my suggestion. But i don't see why it couldn't happen right away if necessary.

Jim Boston

Claude, if I can put the inciting incident within my screenplay's first ten pages, then I'm happy.

Phil Clarke

Agree with Julia Petrisor that it is dependent on how much you need to establish (although most developing scripts could do with fewer establishing details). Would also add that your idea of a mini one on page 2 and then a bigger one on page 16 sound like you're describing an inciting incident (that initial invitation or call to adventure) and then a bigger event that truly turns the action, locks the MC into a predicament and launches the story proper. So, this could certainly work.

Dan MaxXx

We’re telling stories with a camera, not reading words on pages. So get the main story going... unless you’re George Lucas filming a opening scene spaceship battle that’s never been technically done before in cinema history, introduce the protagonist/call to adventure 15- minutes in.

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

My goal is always by page 10. My last feature it happened on page 16 in the first draft, so I kept rewriting the opening setpiece until it was on 10. The faster you get to this, the quicker you can get into the fun. A lot of horror flicks use the opening kill scene as the inciting incident, which makes for a faster pace. Too much setup beforehand gets boring and drags the pace out. To Dan MaxXx's point, I think Star Wars pulls this off a bit because we're following the McGuffin (R2) until it's in the hands of the protagonist. But it nearly wasn't pulled off. They had to cut some scenes from Luke's backstory and setup on Tatooine to pick up the pace more and really make this thing work. I know we've all said it in here before, but Marcia Lucas saved the day there.

Doug Nelson

In scene 1. That's where I show time, place and why. Works for me.

Craig D Griffiths

It depends on the story for me.

The Valley is has two stories that converge. The end of the first act is where they converge and start a new story. This is the inciting incident.

Hostage starts at the inciting incident.

Love Money Bomb - 5 pages in.

Amy - before the script. People refer to it.

For me it depends on how much world setup we need.

Claude Gagne

Thanks, everyone -- It sure sounds like I'm on the right track. Phil Clarke I checked to see if the mini one is on Page 2. Sorry, Phil, it's on Page 1 Scene 1 and covered all the bases to why, where they are on that same page! The big inciting incident is on page 16. It's not shocking, but surprising. It is something ... how do I check if it has ever been done before?

My conclusion to all of this: Get the inciting incident out as soon as you can. Maybe page one is too soon! Stay safe out there. It won't be long we'll be doing what we normally do. LIVE!

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