My TV screenplay for Doctor Who, originally entitled The Song of The Space Whale was eventually adapted for the Doctor Who audiobook series as Song of Megaptera.
Step breakdown for Assassin story.
British Assassin’s opening kills. Valid reason for his executions. His targets deserve to die and he is driven by PTSD/ghosts of dead comrades demanding vengeance.
Inciting incident – he can’t shoot his boss, even though he loathes him. His humanity revealed. He uses his unique and spectacular skills to escape.
Assassin in day job. We meet his eccentric boss again and supporting colourful characters. Some suspicion towards him, which he allays. He rejects his family, so they cannot be harmed by his crimes. His brother thinks Assassin’s changed – he thinks he’s too good for his family? One of the elite now?
Later targets established.
Boss confers with Head of Department. Head is concerned about failure to kill anonymous Assassin. Especially after his attempted hit on American target the previous year. Assassin believed this American target deserved to die. Head fears impatient American Secret Service will now go after Assassin themselves. So he’s commissioning specially trained, ex-Broadmoor Killer to find and despatch Assassin first.
Assassin already in relationship with American girlfriend. Her day job overlaps with his. She reveals to him she’s been sent by American Secret Service to find Assassin. Can he help her?
Abortive and embarrassing attempt to find Assassin by ex-Broadmoor Killer fails. It meets with mocking derision from uniformed cops, so humiliated and angry Killer decides to hunt for Assassin alone.
Assassin carries out a second hit, once again using special his skills. Valid reasons for the execution. This time he has no moral qualms. The ghosts of his dead comrades urge him on.
Situation is spiralling out of control. The Head of department discusses with Boss. Assassin’s kills have dangerous consequences for the status quo. The truth is getting out there! Assassin must be stopped.
Killer is suspicious of Assassin and follows him. Assassin outwits Killer in humorous sequence. Killer kills Assassin’s brother. Assassin cannot go to funeral for fear of involving other family members in his kills. Assassin watches from hiding place. Killer watches Assassin from his hiding place. Killer goads Assassin with special sign on his front door. Trying to crack him under pressure, so he will make a mistake and reveal himself.
Assassin ‘helps’ Boss in day job to hunt himself. And he ‘helps’ his girlfriend, too. Yet he’s drawn ever closer to her. For the first time he’s finally able to sleep at night, lying in her arms, no longer haunted by the dead. He’s fallen under her spell. He has lost the desire to kill. Still unaware of his true identity, his girlfriend notes that the Assassin seems to have stopped his deadly work. She breaks up with him, saying she doesn’t want emotional commitment at this time in her life.
So his (unseen) ghosts return with a vengeance. They want blood and they want it now. He intends to use his special talents to kill Third Target, who is the worst of all. This bastard really deserves to die. And it could change everything, but time is running out. Finale setting is special train and war. All key characters – Boss, girlfriend, Killer and his crew, Third Target and Assassin – have a valid reason for being on the train.
They interact and their relationships are resolved in suitably dramatic, action-orientated finale.
Assassin has to make difficult choice between killing the Third Target or saving the train from external threat. Once again he shows his humanity, reflecting the theme of the story. But the ghosts of his past will give him no peace until justice is finally done.
I’ve been struggling with the inciting incident in my novel. I know it’s bad form,but my protagonist doesn’t show up till 5k words in or so. The inviting incident occurs before her story, with another character.
I think it kicks the story off great, but am worried it’s too late to introduce her as the hero, or she’ll not take center stage firmly.
5k words isn’t too bad. I wouldn’t mess with it because it sounds like you’re really happy with your story and world. The rules are stricter on film and comics. In novels, Graham Green’s inciting incident comes in Chapter Two of This Gun For Hire. I haven’t done a word check but that’s got to be a couple of thousand words or more in Chapter One. And novels generally break the rules in ways that comics and films daren’t. Take the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There’s a LOT of exposition in the novel which would never be allowed in a film or comic. But it was still a best seller.I think as long as you’re writing from the heart and it’s interesting you should be okay.