Sunday, January 27, 2013

Plotting It Out...

The Plot Thickens

While teaching my students about plot last week, I had the pleasure of helping them figure out what will happen to their character in their stories. 

Some students got it right away, while others struggled.

But it sure was fun when I could see that "light bulb" go off above their heads when they figured it out!

What's the big deal with plot?

Well, without it, a story lacks structure. If that's your intent, go for it!  But I believe most writers long to have a structure to their story that makes sense. 


Because that's how our Creator wrote His stories!

Joseph and His Dream Coat

I have been reading through Joseph's story in the Bible as inspiration for my second book in The Dragon Forest trilogy. 

In this story, we are given some exposition on Joseph...a "day in the life" of this young man. In this section, we discover that he isn't liked by his brothers very much. They hate and envy him! Uh oh. 

That sets up the "inciting incident" where a big event will happen to him that will forever change his life. From that one moment, his life will NEVER be the same again. 

Not all inciting incidents are negative. In the first Harry Potter book, Harry's "incident" was receiving an invitation to Hogwart's. That was a good thing!

In the film, Tootsie, the main character gets the acting job of a lifetime. That's also a good thing!

But, usually, the inciting incident in a story is an event of such huge proportions that the main character is forever changed. 

Forever Changed

For Joseph, the inciting incident that comes his way is that he is sold into slavery by his brothers because he tells them of a dream he had where they are bowing down to him. 

After that, bad things and good things happen to Joseph, but we see him as a changed man in the end. And that's what makes the story so wonderful!

My students struggled with what their inciting incident would be in their stories. Most writers do.

Here's some examples:

In Lord of the Rings, Frodo is given the Ring. 

In Cast-away, Tom Hanks survives a horrible plane crash. 

In The Dragon Forest, Peter enters into the forest and meets the Dragon.

In Wall-E, the little robot's life is rudely interrupted by the landing of a strange spaceship.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss takes the place of her sister as Tribute in the games. 

As you can see, these incidents are life changing. When the character comes out, he or she will not be the same person as when they went in. 

Plotting It Out

So, as you ponder what to do with your character in your story, think about that one incident that will happen to them. How will it change them? For the better or for the worse? 

That's the fun part of writing! It's your world and you can be as creative as you want with your character. 

At the end of Joseph's story, he is reunited with the brothers who sold him into slavery. They see that Joseph is now a powerful leader in Egypt. And when they see him, they bow down to him just as he had dreamed.

The beginning meets the end. Joseph's dream came true, only he wasn't there to rule over them as they once thought. No, he was there to help them survive the famine. 

An excellent story that has good plot structure!

Have fun plotting out your story! Look to other works of fiction for their inciting incidents if you need inspiration. 

Your turn: how do you come up with your "inciting incident?"  Are you inspired by an existing story or real life experience?



  1. For my inciting incidents, I just ask myself one question: What's the one thing that is going to prompt my characters into their "noble quests," to use My Book Therapy lingo. What's going to pull them from their everyday life and set them on a new journey? I love thinking about that!

    1. Very good! I asked my students that question today and used "noble quest". Lol!! Love MBT! You gals rock. So happy for you, Melissa. Your book cover looks great!

  2. For my debut novel, my Inciting Incident was the result of an Christian Writers Guild assignment -- and then it grew up into an entire story.
    Sometimes II are based on real life events -- but tweaked a bit to fit the imaginary characters' lives.

    1. That's great, Beth. I asked my students some questions to get the brainstorm rolling along. It's fun to see them thinking about their characters! I am blessed with some excellent writers! Thanks for your feedback.