Hook Your Audience with an “Inciting Incident”

Most agents, producers, and studio executives will only read the first ten pages of your script before deciding to “pass”—so getting the plot jumpstarted as soon as possible is strongly advised. Page 10 is the common benchmark. In The Shawshank Redemption, page 10 is when Andy arrives at Shawshank Penitentiary. This event is known as the inciting incident.

Can this incident happen a bit later than that? Absolutely. In 127 Hours, the boulder doesn't trap Aron Ralston's (James Franco) arm until page 24. Can it happen way sooner? Sure. It can be argued that the inciting incident in The Descendants happens on page 1 when Matt's (George Clooney) wife, Elizabeth, gets in her near-fatal ...

Get The Screenwriter’s Roadmap now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.