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"How can you tell when you've got a good Inciting Incident? When the movie's climax is embedded within it.
Apollo Creed picks Rocky Balboa out of a book of fighters and says, 'I'm gonna give this chump a shot at the title.' That's the Inciting Incident of Rocky 1. As soon as we hear it, we know that the climax will be Apollo and Rocky slugging it out for the heavyweight championship of the world."
-Steven Pressfield "Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t
Okay, this is the last time I will write on themes inspired by applying Steven Pressfield's book "Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t" (a book about writing) to the idea of authoring your own "LIFE's STORY."
Today's final theme is this: "Embedded in the inciting incident is the climax." -SP
Why is this significant? Well, when someone is consciously writing a storyline into their life, they are looking for significance and meaning. If you write the story from what you would LIKE your story to be about, your climax will likely have you overcome adversity and come out triumphant.
I am going to reverse engineer this part so that we can create what we WANT to have happen in our lives by identifying a theme and climax and then use them to look into our past and locate our inciting incident."
When you choose what your climax will be about, it will clarify the theme to your story; what you learn through in the climax is the theme. To put it another way, when you place yourself in the role of the hero, the theme will be embodied in the deeper lessons of your entire story, but specifically, the climax. Also, when you choose the climax you're choosing the nature of the villain because the villain embodies the 'counter-theme' (a belief opposite to the one expressed in the theme).
The "inciting incident" is likely to be somewhere in the past; it's the thing that put you on this path in the first place.
Once you have chosen your theme you may have an idea of what specifically will be the climax. Just to ground this in an example, let's say your theme is that "it's never to late to start your life over." You might decide that the villain is fear of failure and at the culmination of the climax you will be celebrating your 6th year of sobriety and obtaining your PhD at 47. The climax might be your PhD confirmation and the events leading up to it.
If you know your theme and climax you can begin to scan your history for the incident that put you on the path, the moment you realized you could never go back to the "way it was."
Let's take the example of getting sober and getting your Phd and look at it more deeply.
Scanning through your memories it might be hard at first to know what your point of no return actually was.
Maybe there was a night out drinking where you woke up with a head injury and no memory of what occurred the night before. You lay in a hospital terrified with no idea how you got there. As your friends and family began to fill in the blanks, you started to realize that your mind wasn't bouncing back like it always had, you also had a surprising new stutter and some of your memories were missing.
That might be how the story begins, but the inciting incident is what followed...
Once you had basically recovered, you returned to your dirty studio apartment and saw the beer bottles and pizza boxes strewn around the place, you experienced a flood of memories of sitting around and drinking but not really having any fun, just wasting time and energy avoiding what you now can see was your potential, being held hostage by your fear of failure.
At that moment you realized that if that head injury had killed you you would have regretted not seeing what was possible, not tapping your potential, and not using your mind to explore the meaning of life. (You can't go back to the "way it was.")
After a few weeks you did some research and discovered that it wasn't impossible for you to go back to school, so you began to take the necessary steps to make that happen.
In real life it usually isn't such an obvious series of events. You have to filter out things that are not on the theme and you have to choose the moment when you knew you weren't going back. This step is actually a bit like being a good editor on top of being the author of your life's story. You need to know what changed you and synthesize it down to a specific incident.
The cool thing is that once you do that your journey makes sense; you can see the climax, and ultimately your triumph, and your commitment and momentum make your success nearly inevitable.
NOW ABOUT YOUR STORY...
If you have been following these posts, you may have a lot of ideas about the story you are writing. Hit reply or come over to the blog to share your "Inciting Incident" and the "Climax" to your life's story. And remember when one story or journey ends, another begins.