I'm at the very front end of a new novel, thinking about where the story starts. I think I figured out something and thought I'd share. A tip o' the hat goes to Malik for making me think backwards. The story is about Frederick who sets out on an adventure to become emperor. The inciting incident is surely the moment when he is told by an emissary that the German princes have just voted to depose Otto of Brunswick and elected Frederick instead. Otto isn't going to go out willingly, so it means going north (Fritz is in Sicily) to fight. Fritz has few resources and a number of powerful enemies, so he has a big decision to make. OK. Thinking backwards. If I open with that scene, we aren't going to care much because we've barely met the kid, which means I have to back up. And here's where I had my minor insight. The scenes that come prior to the Inciting Incident are sometimes called backstory, sometimes setup, sometimes simply Act One. For some reason, the phrase "lead-in" came to me, and that clarified. Because, you see, once I decide I need to set up the Inciting Incident, I'm again at sea as to where to start. If I'm not careful, I wind up with a Prelude starring Fritz's grandfather! But I have a guiding light here. What I need in those opening scenes is not merely setup, not just back story, but scenes that specifically lead up to that Inciting Incident. The key moment isn't the delivery of the news, it's the decision Fritz makes. So, the lead-up (in ... choose your own preposition) consists of involving the reader in that decision. What's at stake? Who stands to gain or lose? What are Fritz's own hopes and fears? What and who will he bring with and leave behind? I don't have the details of this, but thinking in those terms, focusing particularly on how I bring the reader to that moment, lets me sketch the opening scenes. From here on, it's all ice cream and roller skates.