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Commencement and Catalyst: Initiating a Captivating Story

Commencement and Catalyst: Initiating a Captivating Story

Out of all the narrative segments, the beginning demands the utmost attention of the audience or reader.

In this opening phase, prior to emotional investment in the characters' fates, the risk of losing the audience's interest is at its peak.

Introducing a Story

The introduction surpasses mere kickoff events. While it does serve as an attention-grabber, the entire initial section of a story also undertakes the following crucial tasks:

Identifying the Characters

Who are the principal characters—protagonist(s) and other main individuals? While some significant characters might emerge later, an effective story commences by introducing the characters the audience is meant to care about.

Establishing the Narrative's Focus

What is the central narrative about? This question should be answerable in a sentence or two by the end of the first section. For example, "This is a tale of aliens invading Earth" or "A story of an elderly man marrying an unpleasant woman to be close to her daughter."

Presenting the Setting

The term "where" pertains not only to the geographical location but also to the narrative's world or setting. The nature of the setting—be it a gritty noir reality, a fantastical realm with unique physics, a courtroom drama in a specific city, or a rural romantic comedy—shapes genre expectations and provides a foundation that the story must adhere to consistently.

The 'where' sets the stage for the ordinary world inhabited by the main characters. The disturbance of this ordinary world marks the trigger event that propels the story forward.

The First Essential Event: The Inciting Incident

The inciting incident, often referred to as the trigger event, sparks the narrative's progression. This pivotal event propels the story's action into motion. It could be Luke discovering Princess Leia's message or the fox encountering the mouse in "The Gruffalo". This incident frequently emerges as a coincidence or random event, creating an external problem that the protagonist must address.

The inciting incident does not necessarily coincide with the kickoff event, as exemplified by Leon's shooting of Holden in "Blade Runner". This crime initiates an investigation led by Deckard, setting the story's course.

An Emotional Hook: Securing Early Engagement

To retain the audience's attention, an early emotional hook is crucial. This scene doesn't need to be action-packed but should evoke an emotional response from the audience.

William Goldman's portrayal of Paul Newman in "The Verdict" showcases a seemingly mundane action that effectively conveys the protagonist's personality and triggers an emotional reaction from viewers.


The Second Key Event: Commitment to the Story

The story's movement intensifies as the protagonist makes a commitment to embark on the narrative journey.

This event often involves overcoming reluctance or encountering a gatekeeper before setting forth.

Regardless of the scene's intensity, it signifies the story's shift from setup to action.

Neo's selection of the red pill, Indiana Jones' embarkation on the adventure, and Luke's decision to undertake his quest are illustrative instances.

This event, referred to as the first major plot point, locks the protagonist—and the audience—into the story.

Incorporating these three essential events in the first section of a story guarantees a solid foundation for the narrative:

  1. An emotional hook
  2. The inciting incident or external problem
  3. Commitment to the story journey

Commencing and Catalyzing Your Story

While these events may sometimes coincide, ensuring their distinct presence maximizes engagement and lays the groundwork for an enticing narrative.

This early section typically encompasses around a quarter of the entire story and aims to captivate the audience swiftly while propelling them into the unfolding journey.

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