|The inciting incident is to literature what the Butterfly Effect is to meteoreology.|
What if an ancient, vicious vampire set up shop in an isolated Maine village?
What if an abusive alcoholic with delusions about his own talent became caretaker at a haunted hotel through the winter?
What if a tortured bullied high school girl also has the power to destroy?
The question King poses for his own inspiration and fiction is the equivalent of The Butterfly Effect in meteorology. The Butterfly Effect considers whether the almost imperceptible wind created by the flutter of a butterfly’s wings could set in motion weather forces that would result in a catastrophic storm somewhere on the earth. The Butterfly Effect may also describe the human experience, especially as revealed in literature.
Would a family dynamic be forever altered if one stern man decided to take discipline into his own hands by striking an out-of-control child? According to the The Slap, an NBC series recently concluded, the answer is yes. That one disturbance in the illusory equilibrium enjoyed by the extended family tears away the veils. That slap exposes wounds and flaws in need of care.
Would a cowardly act of fratricide leave no heirs to the throne in Denmark as brother follows brother, mother follows husband, and son follows father into death? A failure to uphold moral and familial duty results in chaos. One man’s hideous choice costs so many their life in Hamlet.
In a different play, Othello, Shakespeare asks if the color of a man’s skin and an elopement that defies convention could lead to betrayal, murder, and suicide. When jealousy is a factor, the answer is “definitely.”
Classic and contemporary writers deploy The Butterfly Effect in developing stories. It is more commonly known as an inciting incident that triggers actions, reactions, complications, and a climactic conclusion.
“Read” The Slap in light of its inciting incident. What disasters occur as a consequence?
Pose a “what if” question for your own story.