Tuesday, April 3, 2012

365 Days of the Query: What is Your Inciting Event?

Kristin Nelson, head agent at Nelson Literary Agency, has a great blog series about writing a good query pitch. In it, she mentions what she calls the "plot catalyst," or, "the main event that triggers the story." Every good pitch has a plot catalyst.
Other schools of writing refer to the plot catalyst as an "inciting event" or "inciting incident." And I realized mine wasn't obvious within my pitch paragraph.

But it was staring me right in the face in my book title: TRISKELEON. The Triskeleon is the bracelet that allows my protagonist to travel to another world, and the inciting event is when she receives it.

Here is the revised query pitch with the inciting event thrown in (which I've highlighted in red):

In the land of Anderli, the trees are dying, the lake has disintegrated, and the fungus that ravaged the farmlands is showing signs of re-emerging.

The land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke, from Spring Oak, California. Marnie’s biggest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike--until she is given a Triskeleon, an ancient bracelet linked to her bloodline, that transports her to Anderli.When Marnie arrives, she finds out she is descended from the Momenta—with the ability to manipulate time and space. Rags, a local beggar, helps her hone her skills.

Before Anderli disintegrates, Marnie must locate the impostor who works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. But it isn’t until she discovers Rags’s true identity that Marnie understands the implications of Terrsarah’s corruption—that if Anderli is destroyed, the universe will start to unravel.

Let's see if you can spot the inciting events in the following summaries (courtesy of Goodreads):

The year is 1915 when sixteen-year-old Eliza Williams arrives at the Billings School for Girls in Easton, Connecticut. Her parents expect her to learn the qualites of a graceful, dutiful wife. But Eliza and her housemates have a dangerous secret: They're witches. After finding a dusty, leather bound spell book, the Billings Girls form a secret coven. Bonded in sisterhood, they cast spells--cursing their headmistress with laryngitis, brewing potions to bolster their courage before dances, and conjuring beautiful dresses out of old rags. The girls taste freedom and power for the first time, but what starts out as innocent fun turns sinister when one of the spells has an unexpected-and deadly-consequence. Magic could bring Eliza everything she's ever wanted...but it could also destroy everything she holds dear.

Did you guess that finding the spell book led to the other plot points?

Try this one:

                                         by Allie Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Did you guess the inciting event was Ky Markham's flashing face?

Now it's your turn:

1. Determine your inciting event.

2. Find your inciting event in your pitch paragraph. If it's not there, add it in.

3. See how your query pitch changes.

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