15 Types of Inciting Incidents

Erik Bork has written an excellent article in which he discusses his creative process and lists 15 types of inciting incidents, including films that they occur in. The list is very much like Blake Snyder’s ten film genres and can be used similarly to help you brainstorm your next brilliant script.

Here’s the list:

  1. The thing that has defined you and/or supported you (key to your identity, mission, sense of self, well being, etc.) is suddenly taken away or threatened…   Jerry Maguire, Toy Story, Bridesmaids, About a Boy, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Legally Blonde, Elf, Enchanted, The Godfather  
  2. A new mission emerges to help someone,which seems like the necessary and right thing to do, but will clearly come with some major challenges…   Clueless, The Sound of Music, Erin Brockovich, The Sixth Sense, Schindler’s List, The Hangover, Dave
  3. You get an opportunity to possibly do the thing you’ve always wanted to do – which may seem too good to be true, and will be really difficult to succeed at…   Almost Famous, Boogie Nights, Working Girl, Tootsie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  4. You meet (or have a first real interaction with) someone who seems like they could be your perfect counterpart, and somehow change your life for the better – but it will be incredibly hard to win them over, or make a relationship work, long-term…    Wedding Crashers, There’s Something About Mary, Pretty Woman, Twilight, Brokeback Mountain
  5. When you’re facing a painful life passage, an opportunity or challenge emerges that seems to you (if not anyone else) like it will be “just what the doctor ordered”…   10, The War of the Roses, Lost in America, We Bought a Zoo, Superbad
  6. A problem, challenge or issue that you share with others (whose stories are also explored, interwoven with yours) builds to a head, with the emergence of some new fact, opportunity, or crisis…   The Big Chill, Crash, Love Actually, Traffic, The Kids are All Right
  7. You join, try to join, or are taken in by a group or “institution” which will offer potentially great rewards but also great costs…   Goodfellas, Platoon, The Devil Wears Prada 
  8. Your deepest darkest secret is made public and/or thrown in your face, wrecking your “comfortable” existence, and forcing you to face this underlying thing that haunts you…   The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Good Will Hunting, Casablanca
  9. An enemy of some kind emerges – threatening and/or challenging you and those close to you, in some basic and important way…   Ghost, The Matrix, Witness 
  10. An unexplainable magical situation makes living your normal life in its normal way impossible…   Liar Liar, Field of Dreams, Big
  11. You realize a fact about your life (or past) that changes your understanding about everything, and also threatens what you want right now (and presents fresh, life-changing challenges)…   Rain Man, The Princess Diaries 
  12. You are seemingly rescued from a pressing crisis situation, but thrust into a new one that might actually be even more challenging, in its own way…   Sunset Boulevard, Working Girl 
  13. In the middle of your most vulnerable low point over a relatable life passage, you’re thrust into a challenging situation that rubs your face in it…   Swingers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  14. Something about your normal present life situation, group, workplace, family, etc. becomes unbearable, and makes you want to take action…   American Beauty, Office Space
  15. You are forced to undergo some big challenge in order to have the life you want…   Meet the Parents, The Proposal 

Read the full article here.

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