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?