Yesterday was an ordinary day. Went to church, did some chores. When the wind died down in the evening, my husband suggested a walk up on the mesa, our usual spot.
We started along the path, enjoying the sunshine. I looked around, marveling as usual, over the incredible clarity of light here at the high altitudes of Arizona. And as usual, I got caught up in the scenery and almost tripped over a rock, so I resolved to watch the trail instead.
And then we heard it: pounding footsteps. We looked up to see an Australian shepherd emerge from behind a tree. A few seconds later, his people followed, running up the trail toward us. And they were leading DONKEYS.
That’s what we story people call an inciting incident. It’s when your characters are suddenly jolted out of the ordinary by some extraordinary event. Sometimes it’s huge: an earthquake, an inheritance. Sometimes it’s so small it hardly gets noticed, like a for sale sign going up on the house across the street. But the story starts when something odd happens.
Now, if I were to make this into a novel, I'd start asking myself what happened next. The donkey sighting would lead to something else that upsets the main character's routine, and that that would lead to something bigger, creating more conflict, and eventually those conflicts would change the main character’s life in a meaningful way.
Of course for me, it was just an interesting image to be stored away in my memory and maybe used in a story someday. But at the very least, seeing the donkeys jolted me out of my rut and made me smile.
What’s the most surprising thing you happened upon this week? Could it be the start of a story?