Friday, July 13, 2012

Four Defining Scenes

Every novel has four defining scenes.  The Inciting Incident, Embracing Destiny, The Black Moment >:), and the Showdown.  Yeah, I didn't get those terms either the first time I heard them.  Let me explain briefly and I plan on doing a series of posts on these scenes.

The Inciting Incident is the big "thing" that starts the story.  It has to be so big that the hero cannot get out of it or make it go away easily.  It usually is caused by the villain.  Some people call it "The day everything changed."

Embracing Destiny is when the hero finally decides to commit to the story goal and/or defeat the villain.  Whereas Inciting Incidents usually happen immediately in a story, the Embracing Destiny varies.  Sometimes it happens immediately after the II, other times it happens halfway through the story.

The Black Moment begins the final act of a story.  It is when everything goes terribly and horribly wrong for the hero because of the villain.  The hero is usually given a chance to quit and turn back at this point.

The Showdown is the final confrontation between the hero and the villain.  This is when the clash of ideals needs to be really evident (I'll explain more about this in a later post).  In adventure novels, showdowns are usually a mixture between a verbal fight and a violent fight.

Here are some examples....

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe-

II- Lucy discovering another world inside the wardrobe.
ED- Peter, Susan, and Lucy decide to go with the Beavers to Aslan.
BM- Aslan's death.
S- The Battle of Beruna

Star Wars: Original Trilogy-

II- Luke coming home and finding his aunt and uncle dead and the farm destroyed.
ED- Luke agreeing to go with Obi-Wan to Alderaan.
BM- Luke fights Darth Vadar, gets hand chopped off, discovers truth about father, and loses.
S- Luke confronting the Emperor and becoming a Jedi.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

II- Port Royal being attacked by pirates and Elizabeth captured.
ED- Will freeing Jack from prison and enlisting his help.
BM- Will captured by Barbossa, Jack and Elizabeth marooned on an island.
S- The Battle on Isla de Muerta

Every good adventure novel should have these four parts.  Now, I am not saying be cliche.  How you choose to do these scenes is up to you, but these type of scenes just work.  

Think about your favorite adventure stories.  Now think of the most memorable scene in the story.  Odds are, it will fit into one of these four defining scenes, most likely the Black Moment or the Showdown.  When I think of Lord of the Rings, the first two scenes I think of are (spoiler warning) the part when Frodo says "I will take the Ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way."  (Embracing Destiny) and the part when Frodo and Sam finally arrive at Mount Doom and Frodo says "The Ring is mine."  (Showdown) (end spoiler)

Even if you don't like outlining your novel, it is good to know these four scenes before you begin.  They will help give your novel definition and shape.

Part 2 coming soon!  :)


  1. Can I just say that I love how you constantly refer to Star Wars in these posts? :)

  2. Replies
    1. ...And its an epic story! I'm also trying to curb my LotR nerdiness. If I started talking about LotR instead of Star Wars...who knows how long my posts would be! XD