The red pill. Falling down the bunny hole. Crossing a line in the sand. Words spoken you can’t take back.
When I first starting learning about the craft of writing, my mentors told me about this little thing called the inciting incident. Basically, it’s the point of no return. Where a do-over no longer becomes an option. Like when Neo takes the red pill in the Matrix. Or when Alice slips down the rabbit hole. Their lives beyond the event are never the same.
No, I’m not doing a post about writing, I promise. It’s just that a recent technique I’ve learned in my craft has made me realize just how often inciting incidents happen in our lives. Whether you’re a writer, a reader, a TV/Movie watcher, gamer, or just driving down the street, you’re not immune from them.
Some are softer than others. Take for instance the first time I was alone with my oldest baby girl. Yes, the inciting incident was when I actually gave birth (or got pregnant, depending on how you want to slice it), but it didn’t hit me until that moment when she wriggled in my arms. Holy shit. I’m a mom. Soft, but huge. Never again will I crawl in bed without thinking about/wondering if my girls are safe.
Some events impact only you. Learning is a big one. Take the writing thing I old you about. My editor showed me a particular bad habit I’d used throughout my manuscript and worked with me until I could spot and (fingers-crossed) fix them. Now that she’s shown me what I was doing wrong? I see it everywhere. The learning can’t be undone and it’s impacted what I can/can’t enjoyably read.
Then there are the big bang events. Some of them grounded in excitement, others in remorse or sadness. Marriage, divorce, birth, death. Those are all pretty obvious. But there’s another one we sometimes fail to pay attention to.
They hold enormous power. They can build someone up, or cut them deep, but they can never be unspoken. They put a stake in the mental landscape of our minds. “This is when X happened and forever more I shall be changed.”
A positive example – I was in junior high, either seventh or eighth grade. I came home with all As and Bs, except for one C. It was the first I’d ever had.
My dad sat down beside me, the report card in his hand. He was quiet for a long time, then said, “C is average. You’re more than an average child.”
You’re more than an average child.
Six powerful words that instantly shaped the woman I’ve become. To this day, I loathe receiving a “meets expectations” review at work. I don’t want to just meet expectations. I want to blow them out of the water. While such a need to excel confounds my husband, I like that part of me. And my dad gave it to me with six words.
What are your game changers? Which red pills forever changed your life. For good or bad? If you had the chance to do it over again, would you take the red pill or the blue one?