By Eleanor Shelton
There was a French female rugby player who was a shoo-in for the French national rugby team. The Olympics were on the horizon. She even got the five rings tattooed on her forearm. One day she was jogging through the woods, a place she regularly ran, when a tree randomly fell on her. No storm, no wind, no lumberjacks, nothing.
It just fell. As if the hand of God or Mother Nature pushed it on her. Had she started her run a few minutes earlier, or a few seconds later, the tree would have fallen harmlessly across the path.
Both fiction and real-life involve inciting incidents.
After eight experimental surgeries to save her leg that involved coral to replace bone, the French rugby team cut her. No hope to compete at the Olympics. But with superhuman strength, she relearned to walk, then run, then play rugby once more. A little-known team from Glendale, Colorado, asked her to join them.
She did, with gratitude, and studied English. She used her new language to speak with a beautiful firefighter she met at a bar. But the firefighter, who had significant hearing loss from time in the military, couldn’t fully understand her thick French accent.
That didn’t stop her from buying this French angel more beer. The Frenchwoman, not a beer aficionado, kept passing them on to her teammates. Her family owned a vineyard in the Loire Valley, and she preferred wine and cognac.
The American firefighter, entranced by the musical tones of the aspiring Olympian, didn’t notice. She only had eyes and ears tuned to the voice that reminded her of the violin she used to play before losing it in a house fire.
COVID hit, and the pandemic shut everything down.
The French woman couldn’t go home. Her family lost the vineyard because of the pandemic lockdown. They began to date, one the mermaid with coral for bones, the other a classically trained violinist who put out fires. They married. They hope to move to France when they can and buy land for a new vineyard and save money for a new violin. A new beginning.
Without the tree falling . . .
Inciting incident. Real-life has many inciting incidents that take our lives in varying directions. But in fiction, there is usually a moment, an action, a decision that propels the story forward. Without it, our work would never take off. The inciting incident crosses between commercial and literary fiction. The general rule is that it happens in the first thirty pages, but it can occur on page one.
Sometimes an inciting incident is of our own making, but other times it’s a tree randomly falling on us. Take a look at your writing. Where is the inciting incident? If you struggle to find it, take a hard look at your story. Think about your own life. Maybe you weren’t hit by a tree. Still, the trajectory of your life is probably made up of mini or major inciting incidents.