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Is Your Inciting Incident Strong Enough? UK Book Editor Reveals How to Hook Your Readers

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

Professional book editor in the UK reveals how to hook your readers from the beginning with your inciting incident!

No matter which genre of fiction you're writing, you need an inciting incident that keeps your readers hooked and makes them care enough to continue reading. If the inciting incident is too weak, readers may put the book down and find something more exciting, so you need to ensure that yours intrigues your audience enough for them to stick around.

Before I get into it, some of you may wonder what the heck an inciting incident is and why you need it.

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The inciting incident is the event near the beginning of the story that completely changes your protagonist's world and forces them on a journey they didn't expect.

For example, when Hagrid barges into the shack and tells Harry he's a wizard in the Philosopher's Stone, that's the inciting incident. Harry had experienced an ordinary but abusive upbringing until that point, but when Hagrid comes along, he completely shakes up his world and therefore forces his life into a different direction.

In The Fault in Our Stars, the inciting incident occurs when Hazel meets Augustus for the first time at the support group. Until they met, Hazel had been battling with cancer alone with her family, but Augustus pretty much forcing himself into her life triggered the start of their relationship.

A third example could be the TV show, Killing Eve. The narrative follows Eve as an ordinary detective, but the inciting incident happens when she learns about Villanelle. Before then, she had been solving crimes like normal, but when Villanelle's case came along, her life took a different turn.

I hope those examples make the inciting incident a little clearer, but to put it simply, the inciting incident is the event that changes your protagonist's life, either for better or worse.

So, how do you create an amazing inciting incident?

Well, you want to leave your readers thinking: "Whoa, what the hell happens next?!"

How to Write a Bestselling Novel eBook

Whether the inciting incident occurs to make your protagonist's life better or not, it needs to be gripping either way.

Consider these 4questions:

  • What could happen that would completely change my protagonist's life?

  • In what way would that event happen?

  • How will that event make my protagonist feel?

  • How will they react as a result?

The answers to these 4 questions are all an inciting incident is, so keep them in mind when you're planning the direction of your novel.

If I were to create an example around those questions, it may look a little like this...

Let's pretend that a group of teens in a fantasy novel find out they're the only ones to save an endangered race of elves:

What could happen that would completely change your protagonist's life? In what way could it happen?

  • Perhaps while the group of teens are chilling at a beauty spot, they're suddenly whisked through a portal that takes them to an elven kingdom that is in the middle of a battle. The teens have to fight the best they can to survive, but once the fight is over, the portal locks, forcing them to stay.

How would this event make them feel?

  • They would likely feel a mixture of fear, anger, confusion and bewilderment.

How will they react as a result?

  • As they have no way home, they aim to discover what's going on and why they were taken. An elf could tell them that they're in some prophecy, and they can only return home once they've helped the elven race survive the war.

My elven kingdom example is only a rough one, but it shows you how easy it can be to answer those 4 questions. As the group of teens won't have any idea why they've been dragged through a random portal, and how, it'll leave them AND the reader with millions of questions, which will keep them reading.

This is how you know whether your inciting incident is strong enough - if you can raise questions in your readers' mind as well as the characters, they will likely remain hooked!

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It's the same for any genre as well, not just fantasy. Maybe you could leave your readers wondering whether your protagonist will end up falling for the love interest. Perhaps your team of astronauts could discover that a supposed alien planet is actually empty, therefore confusing them and your reader.

There are millions of ways for you to hook your readers at the beginning of your novel, but it all comes back to the 4 questions mentioned previously:

  • What could happen that would completely change my protagonist's life?

  • In what way would that event happen?

  • How will that event make my protagonist feel?

  • How will they react as a result?

If you can answer those, you'll end up with a strong inciting incident that will definitely grip your audience and keep them reading until the end!

If you're still a little hesitant about writing a strong inciting incident for your novel, click here to access my eBook - How to Write a Bestselling Novel. There's an entire section all about how to write an amazing inciting incident!


Thank you for reading to the end of this post, it really means a lot and I always try to produce helpful content for writers like you! :)

If you found it helpful, please like, comment and share so more writers can use the advice!

When you're ready to have your manuscript professionally edited, please get in touch with me here and we can have a chat about how I can best help you.

Here is a list of the editing services I offer:

  • Developmental/Content Editing

  • Line Editing

  • Copy Editing

  • Proofreading

Speak soon,

Chelsea x



Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!

With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!


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