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Linking the Inciting Incident and Climax

Linking the inciting incident to the climax scene is one more step to ensure readers love your story.

We’ve covered the major plot points in detail, so let’s go one step deeper and see how two of the plot points must be linked together to ensure the reader is satisfied by the climax.

The five main plot points are the inciting incident, plot point 1, midpoint, plot point 2, and the climax.

To recap:

The inciting incident is the moment the protagonist’s world changes in a dramatic way.

The climax scene (or scenes) have the highest level of conflict, the greatest tension, or the most devastating emotional upheaval.

Whatever happens in the inciting incident must be linked to the climax.

Some ways to link the two scenes are:

  1. Linking the protagonist’s inner goal or external goal
  2. Kicking off a conflict and then resolving it
  3. Showing character growth and change
  4. Showing opposing forces battle

Famous Examples

Let’s look at the four novels we used as examples in Fictionary’s Story Arc series.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl Inciting Incident: Nick comes home to find his wife missing. (External goal — find wife. Internal goal — get wife out of his life.)

Gone Girl Climax : Nick plans to reveal Amy to the world in a novel that reveals the true story of what she did. He thinks he has the upper hand until she tells him she’s pregnant. In order to protect his unborn child, he’ll never be able to leave Amy.

By the Climax, Nick has achieved his external goal of finding Amy but in the climax he fails at getting her out of his life.

The Martian

The Martian Inciting Incident: Mark Watney goes missing during a storm on Mars. His teammates can’t find him, think he’s dead, and evacuate the planet.

The Martian Climax: Mark is finally at the moment where he launches his space ship, so he can intercept with the crew on the Hermes. The tension is built when his ship doesn’t have the range to reach the Hermes and he has to pierce his space suit to propel himself to the Hermes.

In the climax, Mark reunites with the crew that left him for dead in the inciting incident.

The Philosopher’s Stone

The Philosopher’s Stone Inciting Incident: Harry Potter receives a letter from Hogwarts, and his uncle won’t let him have it.

The Philosopher’s Stone Climax : Harry, Ron, and Hermione must protect the Philosopher’s Stone from (they think) Snape. They want to stop Snape from giving the stone to Voldemort. Ron sacrifices himself during the climax, and Harry faces the final confrontation alone.

In the climax, Harry understands his full power that the letters initiated in the inciting incident.

Twilight

Twilight Inciting Incident: Edward saves Bella from being killed in a parking lot.

Twilight Climax: Bella is lured into a trap. She faces down the evil vampire and gets injured.

In the inciting incident, a vampire saves Bella from being killed and in the climax a vampire tries to kill Bella.

The Link Between the Inciting Incident and the Climax

Gone Girl: The inciting incident and the climax are linked by the character’s internal goal.

Martian: The inciting incident and climax are linked by the external conflict being kicked off and resolved.

The Philosopher’s Stone: The inciting incident and climax are linked by Harry’s first hint there is something unusual about himself and knowing his full power against Voldemort.  The scenes are linked by showing Harry’s growth.

Twilight: The inciting incident and climax are linked by the opposing forces of the good vampire and the bad vampire.

Check Your Story

When you edit your story, make sure the inciting incident and climax scene are linked in some way.

For some fun, this is my favorite video on why stories captivate.

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