More Inciting Incident… and Stuff

Three words: thanks for sharing.

The response to the prior two Storyfix posts on the nature and placement – and the definition – of the fabled Inciting Incident in a story has been very illuminating.

Definitely a victory of quality over quantity. 

The crux of those posts was that the Inciting Incident, commonly referred to (including by me) as being synonymous with the First Plot Point, is, in fact, not quite that simply defined.

I encourage you to read the Comments, including a generic example story idea that shows how an Inciting Incident can legitimately occur at three different places in Part 1 of a story – and only one of them is the First Plot Point – each with a different context.

And how – thank you Patrick Sullivan – you can really only have one of them.  Because once a fuse has been lit, it’s lit.  It then becomes the job of the First Plot Point to explain it to us.

None of those II placement options negate the fact that there still needs to be a proper First Plot Point.  Proper, as in: it meets the stated criteria; if the Inciting Incident happens earlier than the FPP, which it certainly can, it probably won’t.

Confusion continues to ensue.  Let there be clarity.

A Movie to Please the Senses and Insult the Intelligence

I love Tom Cruise movies.  I use clips from them – lots of clips – in my story structure workshops.  So much so that I get wry grins and is-there-something-you’re-not-telling-us stares.

One word: nope.  I just like his script choices (read below, nobody bats a thousand in this game), which happen to offer great structural learning opportunities.

So I couldn’t resist this summer’s popcorn blockbuster starring Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day.  It was all it was cracked up to be by the critics – pretty much worthless as a credible story, but, somehow and nonetheless, fun. 

One of the things that makes it fun is that the actors, and perhaps the script, don’t take this story any more seriously than anyone with an I.Q. over 80 should.

That said, it’s fun to count the number of times the director screws up.

Notice in the airport scene (supposed to be Wichita) that an old 727 cargo plane without windows is waiting outside a passenger gate, as if it’s a scheduled airliner.  As if they’d rented this junker from Props R-Us on Melrose.

Then notice how, when another airplane with Cruise and Diaz are supposedly on it takes off, it’s an Airbus 320, with one engine on each wing.

Then  it magically turns into a Boeing 727 – one with windows — once they cut to the interior of the plane, including a cockpit shot showing the three throttles, one for each engine. 

Our stars boarded the airliner during the day.  Then, only a few minutes before the shootout we all saw in the trailer, during which Cruise and Diaz have the world’s most unlikely conversation, we see daylight outside the windows.

And then, about two minutes later when the plane is crashing, it’s the dead of night.

Sure enough, when the plane crashes (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer) it’s a 727, not the Airbus 320 we saw them taking off in.

Cruise radios air traffic control, using the supposed lingo of pilot-tower banter, including the word “heavy” as part of the call-sign, which identifies the aircraft as a jumbo jet.  Which, apparently Cruise didn’t know, doesn’t include an old 727 (which, by the way, are pretty rare these days).

Has this director never been outside of L.A. County?

Following the crash Diaz is rendered unconscious by Cruise (in context it makes sense) in a corn field next to the about-to-explode wreckage.  He has to flee the scene, but tells her someone will find her.

Then she wakes up in her bed – the next morning – in Boston.  As if someone found her unconscious in the corn field near Wichita, put her on the next Red Eye to Boston, located her purse to get her address, took her home, put her into a nightie and tucked her into bed before dawn.

Yep, that’s what they’re asking you to swallow.

Just sayin’.  We need to be better than the people who are writing this crap.  Or, in defense of the scriptwriter… wait a minute, the director was the scriptwriter.  He should sue himself.

Then again, it was star power and action all over the place, and I have to admit, my wife and I had a lot of laughs.  Both at it and with it.

What can I say, I’m a sucker for popcorn movies.  Now if I could only sell a script for one.

Thank God they’re setting such a low bar.


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3 Responses to More Inciting Incident… and Stuff

  1. Kelly

    Mmm, Larry.
    Don’t the movie people have “people” that are supposed to keep the reality factor on track? The movie sounds totally derailed by visual bloopers.
    Maybe I’ll see it on “Recession Tuesday” at the theater, when tickets are two for one and popcorn is a dollar…
    Thanks– Kelly

  2. Larry, this is exactly why I cannot stand to watch such movies. And, as good an actor as Cruise is, this isn’t the only one he’s done that’s so…messy, (which you noted).

    Thanks so much for these posts. They’ve been very helpful for me while writing my first novel.

  3. Susan Gregory

    Question: Can the FPP set into motion an event yet unknown to the protagonist? The protagonist would be unaware that the FPP has occurred and the changes/challenges are barrelling towards him.