The unexpected protagonist

The Inciting Incident radically upsets the balance of forces in your protagonist’s life.*
(Robert McKee)

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.**
(Rūmī)

There’s a biblical story of a farmer called Gideon who’s thrashing wheat at the bottom of a winepress when he has an encounter with God.

He’s doing this work in a winepress so that Midian raiders can’t snatch his family’ crops. It has all the makings of a spaghetti western but there’s no Clint Eastwood as the stranger with no name to save the day.

Instead, Gideon, who has a few ideas about why God shouldn’t have allowed this to happen, finds himself commissioned to get rid of the bandits. It’s the inciting incident in his story, otherwise he was just getting on with his life the best he could:

As a story begins, the protagonist is living a life that’s more or less in balance. She has successes and failures, ups and downs. Who doesn’t?*

It’s as if he were being told that with a discontent like that he needs to get out of the hole and do something about it.

It’s just a reminder that the things we’re most concerned about may be the very things we need to do something about, but not from where we are. It’s not an accident or a mistake that makes you concerned about this.

To borrow a phrase from David Ulin, I need to

notice my distraction.^

(*From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Where Should Your Story Begin?)
(**Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, quoted in Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must.)
(^From David Ulin’s The Last Art of Reading.)

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