In any case, I noticed an important plot element that was established in the very first minutes of the story. There's a problem. A big problem. At least for Ralph.
But that problem wasn't the inciting incident (though to be fair, it is what caused it). In any case, my point is that there's something wrong with Ralph's state. The inciting incident didn't create the problem - the problem already exists.
Why did I bother to bring this up? Maybe because you, like me, have at least once made a mistake concerning this. On my current novel, I realized I didn't have a problem - a deep problem. Not one that comes from the inciting incident, but one that has a difficult and sometimes ugly origin. It could either be a problem for my hero, someone or something he cares about, or for the whole setting. But there has to be something to motivates the inciting incident. For Ralph, he needed to find something in life besides being the bad guy. Something to show him that, even though he's a bad guy, he's not a bad guy.
And that problem spurred the inciting incident, which in turn made its own (and more severe) problems.
In my own story, the inciting incident is the problem of the story (or at least what gets it started). Sure, I could write a story like that, but this is one large plot tool that so many stories have it's hard to take another path. And that's not bad - the elements of plot continue to recur in stories because that's what makes good stories.
I was never aware of this plot tool in the past, but now that I am I plan to make good use of this knowledge. Because if there is no inherent problem that has to be fixed, right from the beginning, what kind of a story would that make it?
Robert McKee says in his book Story, a story should go to polar opposite by the end. If it has a bad beginning, it should have a good ending. Or if it has a happy beginning, it should have a sad ending.
I agree with this completely. Stories are about change - as significant change. No matter what happens by the time that last word is put down, something changes. Even in dark stories there is total and complete change. Change for good, whether that ending is one of joy or not. All good stories are about transformation, all good stories are about that moment when the problem - even in a world that seems to get along well - is finally solved.