Inciting Event and Plot Believability In Book Series

by Avionne Parris
(Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies)

Question: I'm writing a book series (the first of four books) and the inciting event is a minor character's death that the main character uses as an opportunity to change century old traditions at her new prep school. The problem is that in Book One the minor character isn't a personal friend or even acquaintance of the main character hence the subsequent death should normally not make a difference. However, the death DOES play an INTEGRAL part of Book Three because it reveals secrets held by the prep school's faculty members. This also would aid the main character who has to use this clue to help prevent a tragedy that would occur to her love interest in Book Three. How do I convincingly use this plot in Book One and convince the readers that the main character could go through all this trouble for someone she barely even knows WITHOUT giving away the plot from Book Three?

Answer: This is not a lot of information to go on, and I will have to make some assumptions. For instance, I assume the main character is a student at the school - not a teacher or Head Master. So the death of this student inspires her to challenge the traditions?

So the question I believe you're asking is, "What might give the main character motivation to challenge these traditions, given that she barely knows the student who dies in Book 1?"

Honestly, Avionne, you have so many options here. You are limited only by your imagination.

But let me suggest a few possible approaches to get you started.

First, consider creating a main character who has plenty of reason to want the traditions changed before the death occurs. In other words, can you show her suffering because of the traditions, so that the death is merely the catalyst - the straw that breaks the camel's back and sends her in pursuit of the story goal?

Second, keep in mind that a person can have an unintended influence on many others, including strangers. John Lennon's death, for example, affected millions of people who never met him.

You could consider having the minor character who dies exert such an influence on the main character, even though they never spoke to each other. For instance, the minor character could be someone who was idolized from afar by half the school or the main character herself. This would be easily believable if the minor character was a few years older and popular or distinguished in some way - a legend in the school. You could even have the main character get a crush on the minor character, just from watching him from a distance.

Another possibility is to have the main character come into possession of something that belonged to the minor character - a diary, locker, cellphone, or other object that would contain information that influences the main character - clues to those secrets you mention. It should be information that also has significance to the main character, in light of her goals. Or perhaps reading the information gives her a connection to the dead boy that she finds valuable.

A third option: maybe the main character is close to someone who was deeply affected by the boy's death. Consequently, the main character gets drawn into the situation by the person she knows.

For example, could the minor character be the older brother of the main character's love interest? Or the crush of the main character's best friend? Etc.

Fourth: what if the forces that caused the minor character's death are targeting others like him, including the main character? In this case, you need to figure out what they might have in common that would give someone a motivation to attack them both. In that case, the death would be a forewarning of the consequence if the main character fails to achieve the story goal.

Fifth: what if the main character just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and so gets dragged into the situation concerning the death? Perhaps the main character could be falsely accused of some wrongdoing and have to clear her name.

Those are just a few possibilities to get you thinking. I'm sure you'll find your own solution if you let your imagination play with the story for a while.

Comments for Inciting Event and Plot Believability In Book Series

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Mar 12, 2012
Excellent Ideas
by: Avionne

Thank you so much, Glen! You gave me so many wonderful ideas to choose from. Your assumptions were correct: the main character is a student and the minor character who dies is a celebrated school legend (Senior Football Captain to be precise). Her love interest is appointed the new Senior Football Captain in Book Three (one of his ultimate dreams is to emulate his football father's success so this is step one) but the main character has to prevent her love interest from experiencing the same fate the minor character did in Book One. The prep school's success and excellence is due in most part to a secret underground cult who has blood sacrifices in order to achieve lifelong success and international acclaim. The main character exposes these secrets which could threaten the school's elite position in the state. I will try out the different suggestions you gave me and use what works best. Thanks again so very much!!! I LOVE THIS WEBSITE!!!

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