The Inciting Incident

No novel can exist without an inciting incident. It’s the fuel that flames the fiction fire. It’s the catalyst that casts the characters on their journey. It’s the whole reason you have a novel to begin with.

But what about our inciting incidents? What inspires a seemingly normal person to spend hours locked away alone with only the voices in our heads, ignoring our dirty dishes and dusty floors.

With my eyes glued to the Olympics over the past two weeks, I’ve seen story after story of athletes that sacrificed time with friends and family to become the best at their sport. It’s not unlike what writers do to master our craft. We sneak in a word here, a scene there. We wake up early to pound out 1,000 words before anyone else in the house stirs. But what pushes us?

I don’t recall the exact moment that I decided that I have to write. It was always there, much like not remembering to learn to walk or talk. But what I do remember are little incidents that kept feeding oxygen into that flame.

When I was in fourth grade, I wrote Beverly Cleary a letter. It was your typical fan letter, I loved her stories, they were may favorite. But, there was more: how do I become a writer? And you know what? She wrote me back.

I wish I still had that letter. Maybe my mom does, tucked away in some box or scrapbook. The last time I saw it, the lined paper was read so many times that it became as soft as cotton. The blue ink slanted to the right in beautiful loopy letters. Her words were lovely, she thanked me for reading, said she was excited that I enjoyed her stories as much as she did. She was happy that I wanted to be a writer, her advice to me: read as much as I can and practice writing what I love.

I’m sure Mrs. Cleary wrote many similar letters to budding authors, and I hope that each one struck a chord in their young hearts. I know it did in mine, and continues to have as an adult. As I set out on my own publishing journey, I hope that I have an opportunity to help fuel someone’s flame.

Tell me: what was your inciting incident, or who has fueled your flame?

About Kimberly Packard

Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years. When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, Oliver the cat and a 75-pound lap dog named Charlie. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Inciting Incident

  1. janiese says:

    Hello, Kimberly many things has fueled my flame. When I was in first grade, it was very hard for me to keep up with the rest of the students. Mrs. Vaughn encouraged me to read everyday, take my ttime, and enjoy myself. Well, I’ve been reading since that time and I love eevery minute of it. In college, my English professor stole a book of my poetry that I turned in for a Final grade. I remember how she handed the other students their work, and she said to me, “I’m sorry, but I seemed to have lost your work somewhere. I don’t know where and I can’t seem to find it. Oh my God my world shattered and it sent me on a tailspin. I stopped writing and sharing my work. Recently, I decided to start a blog, and I’m gaining my courage back. And it feels great!

    • Welcome back, Janiese! I think that’s a sign of being a true writer – the fact that you took a break from it but it still called you back. Just think of all that pent-up writing energy waiting to come out! So glad you returned and enjoy that feeling of putting words on paper. 🙂

  2. I would say friendship re-kindled my desire to write. Exposure to other people from different backgrounds forced me to re-evaluate my own beliefs and articulate them into writing!

    • I’d agree that friendship with other writers tends to be on a deeper level sometimes then friendships with non-writers. There’s something about that soul-bearing and the trust that comes along with it that strengthens those bonds. Not to mention it’s a relatively safe place to express thoughts and beliefs. Cheers!

  3. Sara Flower says:

    Great advice she gave you. 🙂 Gosh, I`ve been writing since 5 so, like you, it`s always been there. I think having teachers encourage and praise my writing over the years always helped. as did reading riveting stories. I`d say that reading is a key factor in igniting inspiration for a writer.

    • Definitely! I was reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl recently and said many, many times that I want to write like her when I grow up. I think reading great works makes us want to be great as well. 🙂

  4. I’d like to say money makes me write, but that would be a lie. Boredom drives me to write. I find the real world mundane, and I’ve always had an over-active imagination. I write so that I can get the characters/scenes out of my head and move on to something else that I find amusing. I also find inspiration in exploiting the minutia of the everyday. Books have always been gateways to great new adventures, too. It just seems a natural extension of reading whereby I can create and control the adventure.

Leave a Reply