Serenity. Chapter 3. Inciting incident.

Serenity made sure to keep her leisurely pace as she hiked up one of the larger hills of the day. She was still trying to break the habit of speeding up whenever they went uphill.
Twenty carts followed behind her, each pulled by a single horse. Dozens of kids ran alongside the carts, some of them playing with toys, others chasing each other with screams of delight.
Altogether, there were only about a hundred of them. Still, they were more than ready to take down the city.
As she reached the top of the hill, Serenity shielded her eyes from the sun, searching the landscape for a decent place to stop. They were still hours from nightfall, but they weren’t in a hurry. Serenity had all the time in the world.
In the distance, she noted a large building with farmland surrounding it. At the pace they’d been traveling, it was maybe an hour away. A perfect place to stop.
A single bead of sweat suddenly fell from her brow, drawing attention to the heat of the day.
Serenity grimaced in frustration before waving to the caravan to stop. Cursing the sun, she watched as the carts unfurled their tents, shading everyone from the heat.
“Henry!” She called, unsure where her assistant had stored himself.
Suddenly, Henry’s head popped out of the second cart, followed by the rest of him. He was a portly man and nearly a full head taller than her. And that was with her being taller than most.
Obviously flustered, Henry ran to her holding a sheet of parchment.
“Stop,” Serenity commanded, holding out her hand. “What did I say about running?”
Henry immediately froze, composing himself before answering. “That it’s never worth the effort. Forgive me, my lady.”
Serenity nodded in appreciation as he proceeded to approach her with exaggerated care. It was exactly the same way he approached her dragons when they were in heat.
“I’ve found our host for the evening,” Serenity said, pointing to the farm. “How much longer to the city?”
Henry checked his parchment before answering. “My best estimate would be two days.”
“Good,” she said, fondly petting one of the horses, “I’m beginning to grow tired of traveling and we’re running low on food.”
“We have plent—,” Henry began.
“Only because you’ve been rationing the supplies,” Serenity interjected.
“My lady…” he stammered.
“No more,” Serenity ordered, her eyes hard. “They will eat their fill.”
“Yes, my lady.”
“Make sure they do,” she said. “In the meantime, I’ll introduce myself to our hosts.”
Henry nodded, hunching his shoulders in compliance as she turned to make her way down the hill.
A sudden breeze filled the air, cooler her off just enough that allowed herself to pick up the pace. Distant memories journeys long passed pressed themselves against her mind. Paths of suffering and torment.
Serenity frowned, shaking her head as she focused on her present surroundings. Long-stemmed grass rolling toward the farm, the smell of manure drifting along with the wind.
Frowning, she pulled a scented cloth from her trousers and placed it over her nose.
As she got closer, she was able to pick out a handful of workers digging holes in the field around the farmhouse. Eventually, one of them noticed Serenity and ran inside the house.
Serenity didn’t wait for the owners to come out. Instead, she walked right up to the remaining workers. The four of them stopped working as she approached, each staring at her warily.
Three of the four were middle-aged men. The fourth, however, was a young girl in her teens. All four of them bowed to Serenity when she finally stopped in front of them.
Serenity frowned, noting the tension in their postures. These people were suffering.
“Good evening,” Serenity said, removing her cloth to smile.
The workers looked at each other, unsure of themselves. All except the girl, who looked at Serenity with curious eyes.
“What are your names?”
Again, they were hesitant to respond, glancing back at the farmhouse expectantly.
“Allie,” the girl eventually said. “Pleased to meet you.”
Just then, an older man rushed out of the house, followed by a middle-aged woman and a little boy. The woman looked to be the worker from before.
“What’s going on here?” The man shouted, pointing a finger at Serenity.
“Good evening—” Serenity began.
“Get back to work!” the man suddenly yelled, turning his finger on the workers.
In an instant they were back to shoveling dirt, eyes focused on the ground.
“Now what do you want?” The man growled at her.
That was when the boy caught her attention, hovering at his father’s side. The boy was watching Allie as she shoveled the dirt.
“What do you grow here?” Serenity asked, surveying the field.
“None of your business what I grow,” the man said. “Who are you to be roaming around my land?”
“I have money,” she said, watching the workers’ labor.
The man eyed her thoughtfully, his frown receding ever so slightly. “Do ya?”
“What do you have to sell?” She asked, taking note of the stable across the field.
“We have grains,” the man said, forcing a smile onto his face. “How much do you want?”
Serenity ignored the question. “What’s in the stable?” Sheasked, beginning to walk toward it.
“The pigs aren’t for sale,” the boy said suddenly, moving between her and the stable.
Serenity stopped, analyzing the boy. There was a certain harshness to him that made her shudder. She’d seen eyes like those before.
Making a decision, she turned back to the man. “Do you live alone?”
The man cocked his head. “Do you want grain or not?”
Suddenly, Serenity whistled loudly, causing both the man and his boy to jump. The workers looked up as well, startled by the sudden noise.
“What was that about?” The man said, instinctively searching the area for some sort of threat.
“You don’t deserve this farm,” Serenity said matter of factly, frowning at the man.
“Now just who do you think you are?” the man said, visibly shaken. “Get off my property.”
“This farm is no longer yours,” she replied.
Suddenly, the ground erupted in an explosion of dirt and dust. Prepared, Serenity managed to keep her feet as everyone else fell to the ground.
And through the dust cloud emerged a dragon, its crimson jaws glistening in the sunlight.
The man’s jaw fell to the ground, his face stricken pale. His boy was frozen in shock as he wet himself. Several of the workers were already running away. The only remaining worker was the girl who was huddled in a ball against the dirt ground, unmoving.
Then the ground began to shake once more. Eager to keep from losing her balance, Serenity sat cross-legged on the dirt as the ground erupted again. This time from multiple directions, as three more dragons emerged from the ground.
Tears ran down the man’s face as all four dragons perched themselves on the edges of their holes and let out simultaneous roars.
Serenity smiled at the sound of their voices, each in harmony with the others. She waited a moment for the rubble to settle before getting to her feet.
As she stood, the dragons crawled out of their holes, gathering at her side. She whistled again as she wiped the dust off of her blouse, issuing a set of commands.
Suddenly, the dragons grew smaller as they approached her side, shrinking from the size of houses to their natural size of horses.
Neither the man nor the boy moved from their spots on the ground as the dragons sat one by one at her side. They were each different colors today; red, gold, yellow, and black. They often changed the color of their scales according to their moods.
“As I said,” Serenity finally stated. “You don’t deserve this farm.” And with that, she clicked her tongue twice.
Suddenly, the dragons crept forward, using their sense of smell to guide them to their prey.
With a cry, the boy finally screamed and leaped to his feet, trying to run away. But as soon as he let out a sound, two of the dragons leaped on the boy.
The father, however, remained on the ground, helpless as the other two dragons leaped on top of him.
Instead of watching, Serenity walked over to the girl still huddled on the ground.
“Allie,” Serenity said, tapping her shoulder. “Allie it’s okay now, you’re safe.”
Allie slowly turned her head, her entire body trembling.
“You don’t have to worry,” Serenity said, “I’ve set you free.”


 

In every plot, there’s a moment where the main characters are drawn out of ordinary life and thrust on the adventure of the story. This can look like the villain causing trouble or the mentor instigating change. Whatever sets the story in motion. This is called the inciting incident.

In this case, the inciting incident is Serenity.

The main characters need a reason to break out of their old lives. Maybe they’re physically incapable of change, maybe they’re letting fear rule them. Whatever the reason, they need a powerful counter-reason. In this case, Allie was left no choice. There is no master to go back to. So now what? This is the question that surges us forward in the story. So in order to write a good inciting incident, I have to know at least the basics of my story.

Before this chapter, I had no idea where this book was going. My only focus was on writing compelling chapters and introducing my characters. But in order to write the inciting incident, I had to know the direction of my story so I could write an inciting incident that not only left Allie no choice, but also set up multiple other plot lines throughout the story.

This is because good storytelling is about multiplicity. You should always be doing more than one thing at a time. This applies to all levels of story. You should never just be describing the landscape. You should never just be delivering the necessary dialogue. You should never write an inciting incident just to get the story rolling. If you do it right, everything serves more than one purpose.

So my challenge to you is to look at this chapter and see if you can determine how I am constantly giving multiple layers of information at a time.

(Note) Usually, you would want to spend more time ingraining the character in their lives before the inciting incident, but this is a unique format in which you have to wait a week for each chapter. This means your sense of time as the reader becomes distorted and stretched vs. a reader who reads all of the chapters at once. This also means that I need to deliver enough momentum in the story in each and every chapter to make waiting another week worth it. Regardless, it’s good to take your time ingraining the characters and the readers in the environment, but that’s not how this book is going to go.

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