I think it is an interesting observation.
I really love the Inciting Incident. There are so many different ideas about this concept that it requires you to really think about what it is, where it is, what’s going on with it, why it is happening, etc. In the end, I think that is a good thing, and it helps you understand the simplicity (and the ingenuity of) the Dramatica answer.
Here Dramatica refers to the Inciting Event/Initial Story Driver:
H.R. D’Costa (full of great ideas when it comes to writing and a very nice person) describes a Proximal and Distal Inciting Incident to deal with the apparent contradiction of multiple Inciting Incidents. I don’t think that is as clean of a solution as Dramatica, but it deals with the confusion in some ways.
The Distal Inciting Incident, as she calls it, reminds me of the Inciting Event/Initial Story Driver in the above link. Why? Because, often you will have an Inciting Event/Initial Story Driver that doesn’t affect the MC directly.
To deal with this, she says that a Proximal Inciting Incident must be:
- casually linked to the First-Act break…
- passive (it happens to the protagonist, but it isn’t caused by him)…
- personal (it affects him directly)…
- disruptive (it changes the status quo).
I recently watched Shazam. The beginning sequence is purely OST. Also, it directly involves the Antagonist and – if he had his own story – it would be his Proximal Inciting Incident (I think).
This Inciting Event/First Story Driver doesn’t affect Billy Batson until the Wizard is forced to lower his standards (because the Antagonist finds a way back to his lair and frees the 7 Deadly Sins).
Some movies start this way (independent of the MC). This creates this need for Distal and Proximal Inciting Incidents if you don’t follow the Dramatica concept of the Inciting Event/Initial Story Driver.
This also creates the apparent disconnect between the Antagonist and Protagonist from the Inciting Incident. It is interesting to note, that many times, the Antagonist or the Protagonist are going to be present during the First Story Driver. It is probably going to be personal for one of the two. I find it interesting that the antagonist can be active in their role with the Inciting Event/First Story Driver (Jaws), but the Protagonist is going to be passive.
Anyway, I think your observation is great because – as you point out – it isn’t always personal. Or, at least, it is only personal to either the Antagonist or the Protagonist. I think that is worth thinking about. At some point, it becomes personal to the Antagonist (in the same way that a Distal Inciting Incident eventually becomes personal to the Protagonist).
Are there any movies where the Inciting Event/First Story Driver are immediately personal to the Antagonist and Protagonist? I can’t think of a specific movie, but wouldn’t a love story where a girl shows up and both the Antagonist and Protagonist see her at the exact same time be an example of this?
Thanks for your observation. I don’t think that Inciting Incident is a dirty word. In fact, I think it is pretty fascinating.