Books Without Their Inciting Incidents

Let’s set the facts straight—books don’t exist without an inciting incident. Everything after the inciting incident is the story. Everything before is backstory. It’s the spark that gets the plot rolling. But what would have happened to these characters if nothing had ever changed? Read on to discover the disastrous (and for some, preferable) results.


Jonathan Harker : Dracula by Bram Stoker

Quite simply, what if Jonathan Harker never made the trip to Transylvania to conclude that real estate transaction with Dracula? He would have married Mina Murray all the sooner. Dracula wouldn’t have been shipped to England with like fifty boxes of dirt plus a dead captain and missing crew. Lucy would have been healthy and free to marry one of her many suitors. No one would have had to call Van Helsing. Sure, Dracula would have still been living it up in Transylvania, but he’d be away from England, and that counts for something.


Bilbo Baggins : The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Here’s the thing about Bilbo. He was doing just fine before Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield, and the rest of the dwarves showed up at his hobbit hole in the Shire. If they had never barged in, our hero would still be drinking tea and eating crumpets—the kinds of things hobbits live for. That’s their default, isn’t it? The comforts of home are top priority. Sure, he’d never find out what he’s truly capable of, but we’re betting Bilbo (minus his inciting incident) would be just fine with the whole “ignorance is bliss” thing.



Everyone on Indian Island : And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

If everyone who had been asked to come to Indian Island on different pretenses had ignored their invitations, the title of the book might have been something else entirely. Who accepts a strange invitation and then jets off to an island where nobody knows each other anyway? That’s creepy. No thank you.


Harry Potter : Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Imagine Harry’s life with the Dursleys, pre-wizard. Now imagine him as a seventeen-year-old. Without the confidence Harry gained at Hogwarts, he never would have stood up to Dudley, which means he’d still be victim to his cousin’s awful bullying. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would wreck his life, and we’re betting Harry would let them. He’d continue to be a Cinderella kid, and when he landed a job, all his money would undoubtedly get shoved into Vernon’s oversized pockets. And can you imagine Harry as a grown adult crammed under that staircase? Thank you, Hagrid, for busting in and bellowing, “Yer a wizard, Harry.”

Alternate possibility: Technically speaking, if Hagrid never barreled through the door on that stormy night, Harry would still have his powers. He just wouldn’t understand them. He’d still be a wizard, just one that never made it to Hogwarts. Remember the time Harry accidentally set a poisonous snake free at the zoo? Without wizarding school, maybe a similar “mistake” would have occurred that proved fatal to the Dursleys, and poor Harry wouldn’t have realized why or how it happened. Then he’d become a wizard outlaw and end up in muggle jail or Azkaban.


Charlie Bucket : Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Poor Charlie. If he never found the golden ticket in his Wonka bar wrapper, his family would still be stuck in that little house. Grandpa Joe would still be bedridden. And the worst part? Wonka’s fortune would go to one of the stuck up brats who did win the golden ticket. Maybe it would go to Augustus Gloop, or Violet Beauregarde, or Mike Teavee—or, worst-case scenario, Veruca Salt. We shudder at the thought.

Thank goodness for inciting incidents. Know a character whose life would have sucked without an inciting incident? Tweet us @QuirkBooks!

Christina Schillaci

Christina Schillaci

Christina is the voice behind Quirk’s social media channels and editor-in-chief of the blog. She graduated from Rowan University with her M.A. in Writing and joined Quirk in 2016. She loves weekend cooking projects, Cape May in the winter, and her dog, Rocket. Say hi on Twitter @quirkbooks or @saychristina!