Inciting Incidents versus First Plot Points

I have seen a lot of confusion over the difference between the inciting incident and the first plot point. To me, it is simple:

The inciting incident is the event that changes status quo for the main character. For example, Anne finds her dog dead.

The first plot point is the point at which the main character decides to pursue his/her goal. For example, Anne decides she must find the asshole who ran over her dog with a milk truck.

These two things cannot happen at the same time. The main character needs some time to adjust to the event, question its meaning and convince herself/himself to take the journey. Without this struggle, the goal will not be perceived as difficult for the character, both outwardly and inwardly, and if it’s not difficult, the reader will have no reason to want to hop on to the journey.


Category: On Writing