“The Inciting Incident” in Fiction and Nonfiction


“The purpose of writing is to make the stomach (not the head) believe.” –Tim O’Brien

Most stories start with what we might call an “inciting incident.” Something catches on fire, someone speaks, a plane takes off down the runway….and so stories begin. This workshop will look at inciting incidents in our own lives that might give rise to good stories, both fiction and nonfiction.

On Day One, we will begin by looking a fine examples of storytelling in both genres, taking note of the ways writers create a feeling of immediacy, suspense, and mystery. We will then spend ample time writing brief and intense pieces of nonfiction. Later, we will take a side trip in the writing of long sentences: how do they work, and why are they sometimes a good thing?

On Day Two, we will delve into the writing of fiction, again using “inciting incidents” as a means of launching a story. By the end of the workshop, you will have written a short memoir, some fine long sentences, and the beginning of a work of short fiction that you might continue on your own.


The two day summit is free for all veterans, service members, and military family members. It will be held at The College of William & Mary on Saturday, December 3rd (1PM-5PM) and Sunday, December 4th (1PM-4PM)

Meet The Instructors

Emily Pease

Emily Pease writes fiction and nonfiction. She has published stories in The Missouri Review, The Georgia Review, Witness, Shenandoah, and Crazyhorse, and she has a story forthcoming in The Alaska Quarterly Review. A former adjunct professor of writing at William and Mary, she now teaches writing at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women.

Earl McKenzie

Chief Warrant Officer Earl McKenzie served a total of 25 years in the military, the first eight years in the Air Force as a comm/nav/ecm technician on F16 aircraft, and the remaining seventeen years as an Army UH-1 & UH-60 pilot. He holds a BA in English Literature from William and Mary and an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently writing a novel that takes place during WWII.

Apply Here!

Name *
Phone *
We don't need your full address - city/county and state will suffice.
For what branch did you serve? *
If so, please list the condition below and let us know if you would like any specific accommodations.
Please respond to this question in no more than 250 words.
Preference will be given to those who can make both the Saturday and Sunday session.