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  1. stingrae

    stingrae Member

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    When to include the catalyst

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by stingrae, May 8, 2017.

    Something I've noticed in stories I've read is that the catalyst (the action that gets the story rolling, pardon if "catalyst" is the wrong word) can be predictable at times, or I tend to roll my eyes at how it's included, or it comes in so early to the story that I care little about the characters affected (or not affected) by it.

    I feel I should emphasize what I mean by "predictable". When there's an event (a fair, party, something like that) and you just know that's when the antagonist will attack, or the dad will have his heart attack, or what have you. Perhaps I've read too many books, perhaps it's my pessimistic nature, but I'm growing tired of the catalyst happening at these events -- or directly after, when we're given a moment to breathe and think, "Oh, it's fine, everything is--" and then it's not. I believe the only time I was wrong in thinking something bad was going to happen, only to have it not happen, was in the Lord of the Rings at Bilbo's going away party, and that was a pleasant surprise.

    I'm considering writing my first book, and I would like to do it right. I have a general idea of what I want to do, the bare bones, but I'm worried about where to include the first "incident" (let's call it that, without giving too much of my plot away). I want each incident to have an impact. Is there a rule of thumb on when to include the catalyst without rushing things?
     
  2. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I'm concerned about the very same thing. I suggest writing a very rough draft, letting the characters take you from scene to scene. Let the character and story take that 'left turn' and sees where it takes you.
    Godspeed!
     
  3. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I would say, just write away, let it happen as it happens. Remember, your first draft is for you, and you will tweak the details on the later edits. And there will be later edits. Two years and 7 revision for my E&D before it hit the street.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    It has no defined time, it will be there when it is needed.
    You will know when and where to have it.
     
  5. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    I think any rule of thumb would most likely come across as predictable to you, so it's probably best to just feel it out on your own in this case. There are tropey, well-trodden ways to do things, and to be clear, they aren't bad - but you want to figure out what works best for your story.

    Also, the term you're looking for is 'inciting incident' :)
     
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  6. stingrae

    stingrae Member

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    "Inciting incident," that was it! Thank you.
     
  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Fairly early is the general rule for an inciting incident. There's that famous quote about have you don't have a story until something goes wrong. Can't remember who said it but that's a good way to look at it.
     
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  8. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

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    I think it's important for it to occur early on. You can present your characters, make us care and, when we do, you can then deliver the inciting incident. You can try to do it in an unexpected way but, even if it's predictable, if you have a nice building up we will feel satisfied. It's my opinion, of course =)
     
  9. Minty Talons

    Minty Talons Member

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    Well the event is presumably going to change a great many things. End relationships, introduce new characters or
    prompt a change in setting.

    So i think it needs to be done early on, ideally as early as you can without compromising it's impact. Otherwise you're just wasting the readers time and your's introducing story elements which the advancing plot then forces you discard or downplay.
     
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  10. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    No later than 10% of your story (200 page book = no later than page 20.)
     
  11. Bronson

    Bronson Member

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    I've read plenty of stories that begin with the catalyst. Plenty that don't even have one. I think as long as it makes sense for the story you don't have to adhere to convention. Then again, straying may throw off a typical reader. I don't really know I guess, haha.

    And the winner for the No Help at All Award goes to me.
     
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  12. Bronson

    Bronson Member

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    Is will say that if I worried about that--among the too many other things that I worry about when writing--and managed to come to a set rule, then any time I tried to write organically, I'd be determining the rough length of my story by the introduction of a catalyst. For me, personally, that would just bog me down.
     
  13. Ulquiorra9000

    Ulquiorra9000 Member

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    What if you start the story right after the catalyst, and we're dealing with the aftermath and rubble? Then the catalyst's events could be pieced together in flashbacks. I've seen stories and movies do that, and it's neat to see the catalyst event in dramatic, short bursts and your imagination fills the rest. Kind of like a movie starting with a guy being rushed to the hospital and on the way, he sees bits of the car accident or shooting or animal attack or whatever. This also opens up opportunities for mystery and suspense! This is just an idea, though, and might not be what you were going for. But I wanted to bring it up.
     
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