Of Accountability and Inciting Incidents
In storytelling, an inciting incident is a big deal. It's that major thing that happens, from out of the blue, which gets the reader's heart pumping and forces the protagonist to act, to move, to get going, to DO something. Without it, there would be no story.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, one inciting incident is when Atticus Finch decides to act as defense attorney for Tom Robinson, a black man accused of the rape of Mayella Ewell, a white girl whose family is even poorer than most of her rural Alabama, depression-era neighbors. Finch's choice to take on this case is a big deal. It's a major thing. And it forces lots of action in the story. It causes characters to talk to each other, to form opinions, to change and grow and see things differently. And once it's in motion, there's no going back.
In my short story, "Bradbury," the inciting incident happens when Ray Bradbury, a nervous young fantasy writer, finishes his first collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles, and shares them with English novelist and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley. Sitting across from the literary giant, Bradbury realizes he ordered tea when he should have ordered coffee. He hates tea. He begins second-guessing himself. And there's no going back.
And now, for me, this Kickstarter. I'm sure you can see where I'm going here.
I've created my own inciting incident.
And now that I've put this thing in gear, I have no choice but to move forward. A week ago, I was plodding happily (well, mostly) along, writing feature articles and, as a reference librarian, searching hundreds of feet of microfilm in search of ancient deeds and divorce records and obituaries to help library patrons solve their genealogical mysteries and find out why their their great-great-great-great grandmothers walked out on their great-great-great-great grandfathers. I had a collection of pretty-much-done and mostly-finished short stories, a whole pile of half-started dreams, and a distant image of "someday."
But today--today, I have a deadline. I have a goal. I have a public announcement and accountability. I have supporters and backers and encouragers and collaborators.
And I have stress.
I'm worrying, hoping, checking, second-guessing, comparing, and, in general, feeling like my mind and body and spirit are revolting against me and my stupid, self-inflicted inciting incident.
What was I thinking?
But last week's me knew what I needed. And what I needed was an inciting incident. A kick in the pants. A boost. A deadline. A well-defined goal. And, yes, support and accountability.
So that's what I'm looking for in this Kickstarter. Your financial support, yes, because I want to make this the best project it can be and a bunch of freelancing and part-time jobs are just barely enough to pay the bills, let alone fund a project like this one.
But I also want your encouragement. Your support. Your honest, thoughtful, compassionate feedback.
And your accountability.
So, as I enter into this venture that I've put off for far too long, I hope you'll bear with me as I tell you what a nervous wreck I am (which my friend Susan says is normal. "Doing these things is what life is all about," she says. "If you aren't a basket case for most of it, it's not worth doing"), or as I stare off into space trying to connect the dots on that story-in-progress, or as I rush suddenly away to send a note of thanks when I hear that sweet, sweet sound--a notification that I have a new backer--maybe from one of my very best friends--Chris, or Susan, or Sharon or Mandy or Deborah or Greg. Or maybe from some guy I've never met--a guy named Ronnie or maybe "Pablo" who lives in Spain.
I know it sounds nuts, but this whole thing is pretty doggone scary--asking people for their hard-earned money and their vote of confidence. But moving forward is necessary, and that's just what I'm doing. And I'm bringing you along with me. So let's go, huh? Grab your camera, your sunglasses, your box of Sharpies and your favorite adventurer's hat, and let's you and me hit the road and create a few inciting incidents of our own.
There's no going back now.