A pacing problem that occurs when the beginning of a story is so front-loaded with exposition
and details about the world contained within, taking forever to get to the good parts and putting all of that exposition to good use. In other words, this is a specific type of Infodump
that occurs at the beginning of a story.
This can understandably take a while to get through, and you may well have lost heart before
you manage it. It might be worth sticking around though...quite a few classic stories suffer from this, only to reveal a real classic when the writer finally gets into gear. Or not. Either way, the writer probably doesn't do themselves any favours by boring their reader at the start. As many writers will tell you, the first line of a book will often decide whether it gets published or not.
Sometimes, though, this pacing problem can be used deliberately
. Maybe the writer wants
to establish the hero's former life as slow, tedious and mundane before they discover their Secret Legacy
. Or, in the case of historical fiction, the writer wants to ensure that the reader doesn't need the Encyclopedia Britannica close to hand to understand what's going on. However, deliberately making the beginning of your story boring is a very
risky game; it can take quite a tenacious audience to deal with this and reach the interesting part.
of webcomics demonstrate this, a natural consequence of learning to cartoon, plot, and write by the seat of one's pants.
Compare to Padding
, Early Game Hell
, Growing the Beard
, Prolonged Prologue
, Developing Doomed Characters
, and Arc Fatigue
. Often goes hand-in-hand with Checkpoint Starvation
. Contrast Lost in Medias Res
, where a show starts with too little
exposition and Ending Fatigue
, when it takes forever to end
, not start.
Contrast Action Prologue
. In Video Games
the endgame version is Disappointing Last Level
(although a game can suffer from both).
No relation to From Bad to Worse
, which is about the events in the story and not the quality thereof. Also not related to the It Gets Better Project
, although it is an example. And not to be confused with It Gets Easier
, which is about becoming more jaded and accepting of bad things that happen.
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Anime & Manga
- The first four episodes of Attack on Titan are somewhat slow, focusing on character interactions and world-building. Once the Titans show up in Episode 5 and all hell breaks loose, though, the show picks up and becomes a much more enjoyable watch. Though this only occurs in the anime; in the manga the author chose to put the training mini-arc after the Trost battle was over, probably because he precisely wanted to avoid this trope. The drawback being that we are introduced to a lot of characters we don't know anything about right off the bat.
- Digimon Tamers starts like a Slice of Life show with mons, battling the Monster of the Week and exploring the character's lives and personalities. Then they go to the Digital World with lots of hopes and dream. THEN, Episode 34 happens and everything gets weird. The difference is quite shocking, to say the least. Word of God says this was intentional.
- Eureka Seven. In its earliest episodes, it seems like an average Shōnen series with a whiny Emo Teen protagonist; however, it improves as we learn more about the characters and their world, and it's the love story between Renton and Eureka that really sells it.
- One problem several people have with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is that its first thirteen episodes cram about thirty chapters worth of material into them compared to the 2003 anime series, which takes around thirty episodes to cover and expand the same amount of material with some light filler, resulting in the first fifth or so of Brotherhood coming across at a rushed pace. This can be particularly troublesome for those who are more familiar with the 2003 anime than the manga and aren't aware of the second one being more faithful. Once Brotherhood fully diverges from what was shown in the 2003 anime, however, while some material is still cut down, it gradually slows down to a much more manageable pace without seeming too drastic.
- There is the possibility that they didn't want to go over material that was already discussed in length in the 2003 anime unless it was absolutely necessary, such as Nina Tucker and Maes Hughes' respective deaths. And in some cases, when Brotherhood did feature material that was seen in the 2003 anime, it was more faithful to the source material, such as the introduction of Izumi and Sig Curtis, which happened much earlier in Brotherhood than it did in the 2003 anime.
- Heat Guy J appears to have attempted this, and suffered a Cosmic Deadline. It starts out very slowly, and ends on quite an action-packed note, but many fans dropped off before even making it halfway through.
- The first couple episodes of Hunter × Hunter are rather slow-paced and generic. It isn't until later, when the series gets darker, that the story becomes more of an interesting deconstruction of the Shōnen genre
- The second Hunter × Hunter anime has been criticized for repeating the same event from the first anime series while ignoring likable parts and even cutting parts from the first manga chapter. However, after 60 episodes the series will cover for the first time the material the first anime never adapted.
- The first 50 or so chapters of the manga Katekyo Hitman Reborn! are just there to introduce the characters and the world. It would be easy to think it was a comedy manga instead of the actual high-paced action manga it evolved into.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha starts off like it's going to be a standard Magical Girl show with a Gotta Catch 'Em All plot, but a few episodes in, it changes, as Nanoha runs into Fate Testarossa who is out to stop Nanoha, and is more powerful, better trained, and a lot more desperate to complete the task.
- Monster suffers from a first book/few episodes filled with mustache twirling villains and a protagonist who is a little bit too pure to be interesting. Fortunately the villains become more complex and the series pulls back the focus a bit from the overly pure character for some more interesting ones.
- Pacing issues like this are one of the biggest obstacles for new readers of the Mahou Sensei Negima! manga; the first few volumes of the series are a fairly generic Love Hina-ish Unwanted Harem comedy series, and the actual plot doesn't show up until around at least chapter 15, and even then it isn't until around half a dozen volumes in that the series hits its stride.
- The official translation makes it worse, as the adapter of the first few volumes didn't realize that the early chapters do contain some important characterization and foreshadowing, so a lot of it ended up getting cut, bordering on a Macekre and making the opening material even weaker.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: To transcribe the average reaction:
Episodes Four through Twelve: ...meep
- Rave Master has a slow start and poor artwork at the beginning of the manga. It isn't really until Sieg shows up that the series really kicks into gear, even if he leaves shortly afterward. This leads to the infamous Tower of Din arc, and the story escalates from there.
- There are often complaints that roughly the first third of Trigun (the anime) is silly, stupid and episodic, with only vague allusions to the fact that Vash's story is remotely deep or complicated. With the arrival of Nicholas D. Wolfwood (episode 9), Legato Bluesummers and the Gung-Ho Guns (episode 12), the story arc of the series actually begins.
- You can read the first couple chapters of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and then skip around 90 chapters (a little over a third of the manga's run). Story arcs before then have very little to do with the overall larger story, save for a handful of minor events, and can be summed up as "Syaoran and Co. travelled to X world to solve X problem and get a feather".
- The first half of the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was so full of pointless filler duels, it hurts. By the second half of the season, it gets a bit better, and it gets a lot better once season three comes around.
- Wedding Peach got a very bad reputation when it first made its way to the West due to this. Animerica magazine slammed the show in its review, although it was clear to anyone acquainted with the series that the reviewer had only seen the first six or seven dubbed episodes. After Jama-P stops being the Monster of the Week every episode due to a Heel-Face Turn and weddings become simply a motif and not the central focus of each episode, the series improves greatly.
- Neil Gaiman himself has this opinion on The Sandman. For most of the first volume, he was struggling to get a sense of the characters and the kinds of stories he wanted to do, and also had to deal with an editorial mandate to include characters from the DC Universe which he found very awkward. But when he got to the final issue of that volume, which introduces Death, suddenly everything clicked for him. He still advises people that the first volume isn't really worth it, though many fans disagree.
- Scott Pilgrim doesn't play on much of its video game elements until the ending of the first book and from then on through the rest of the series.
- About 90% of the first chapter of Friendship Is Optimal Caelum Est Conterrens consists of an overly detailed and completely irrelevant description of the heroine connecting and turning on her new gadget.
- Some aspects of Hivefled's early chapters put people off, such as the slow pace, the grimdark tone, and Gamzee's disproportionate actions towards his own friends. The latter is especially the case if they haven't read the prequel "Reprise" and don't know what happened to Gamzee to make him act like that. Once Character Development sets in and the plot kicks off, these issues are usually rectified.
- The first three chapters or so of Child Of The Storm suffer from this, with a touch of Early Installment Weirdness. Indeed, it could be argued that it doesn't really kick on until chapter 9, when darker themes are introduced and it becomes abundantly clear that the forces of good aren't going to have it all their way. Chapters 16 and 21 only underline this, while it equally becomes clear that Harry's apparently smooth adjustment to his new circumstances isn't as smooth as it appears.
- Death Proof could be the ultimate example of the trope. 45 minutes more or less of how The Bechdel Test actually works, for a time, talking about pot, dancing, jobs and everything. Halfway through it, people can walk out... except that after all that, there's a car crash in which everybody dies except Stuntman Mike.
- Definitely present in the Best Picture Winner The Deer Hunter, a war film where it takes 45 whole minutes before the heroes even get to the war. Yes, it's kind of the point of the movie to show that war destroys the lives of normal, hard-working Rust Belters, but holy crap, does that wedding scene go on forever.
- Dr. Strangelove is fairly pedestrian and slow-paced for the first fifteen-to-twenty minutes, with a couple of good lines, until we get to The War Room and suddenly it becomes hilarious, and stays that way for the rest of the film.
- The Good The Bad And The Ugly is nearly three hours long. The first 45 minutes are just Blondie and Tuco's shenanigans, with a minor sub-plot involving Angel Eyes searching for a guy who ultimately becomes a plot point. It's only about the 45-minute mark that Blondie and Tuco finally find out about the buried gold and begin searching for it. Strangely, this is a case where this was not only done deliberately, but it works, and even if you get bored by the first part, the main plot just gets better, to the point where the greatest scene in the whole film is saved for the very end.
- The film version of The Lord of the Rings takes thirty minutes to just get the hobbits out of the Shire. The extended edition takes almost fifty.
- MirrorMask begins with a grand tour of the boredom of circus life, with the only effect on the second and third acts being the audience knows of the main character's mother's condition. There's also all the visual callbacks, extra significance for the I Know You're In There Somewhere Juggling, actual established relationships with the parents... a sense of real-world consequences and the instability of such a life, rendering it all the more precious when threatened and regained...
- Dingo's ranting in the deleted scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the scene is sometimes shown on TV and on the DVD) is interrupted by: The three-headed knight, Dennis, some characters from later in the film (the old man from Scene 24, Tim the Enchanter, and the English army), and God, the latter four entries all just shouting "Get on with it!"
- Sergio Leone has said Once Upon a Time in the West is supposed to reflect the process of death, slow-paced with breaths of amazing (usually duels). Well, some people can get bored.
- The Pink Panther (1963) begins very slow and moves along like a drama until it somewhat abruptly breaks into the slapstick and chase scenes the series is known for.
- The Producers begins with an unnecessarily long sequence where Bloom engages in a lengthy conversation with Bialystock in order to illustrate how slimy Bialystock is followed by an equally lengthy exposition about how the Broadway scam is supposed to work. On the other hand, it has some of the best lines of the movie ("My blanket! MY BABY BLUE BLANKET!").
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World starts off slowly. The first Evil Ex doesn't appear until about 40 minutes in, making it seem like nothing more than some hipster comedy about a dweeb's love life. The idea is to establish how uneventful Scott's life is before his Manic Pixie Dream Girl Ramona shows up and turns everything into chaos. YMMV on its efficacy.
- Evident in Stargate and Atlantis The Lost Empire, where not only does it take the expedition ages to discover civilization, but scenes of the team linguist overcoming the language barrier immediately follow, seeming like additional Padding.
- Both the ending and the beginning of the horror movie The Strangers: at the beginning we get a text explaining how many American citizens are estimated to be involved in violent crimes a year, a voiceover, in wannabe The Texas Chainsaw Massacre style, explaining what had happened, and shots from the freaking end. And at the end they make it pretty obvious that Kristen is going to let out a huge scream and turn out to be Not Quite Dead.
- Them is a movie about mutated giant ants. Except for the first half hour, where it's a leisurely-paced police procedural set in the New Mexico desert instead.
- From the Twilight series: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is, for the most part, a fairly banal and boring affair... until you reach the action climax where the movies suddenly decides to kick all kinds of ass. It's a sight to behold, really.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey. Half an hour of deserts and apes before we get to outer space exploration.
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is an inversion. The film starts out as decent post-apocalyptic film, then the children appear and the movie is now a painfully silly kid-adventure flick.
- An Acceptable Time spent most of its time loafing around the Murrays' home. It isn't until you're most of the way through the book that the events described on the back of the cover actually get around to happening.
- George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire can induce this by way of a bit of a bait-and-switch...the opening to the first book has the local equivalent of the Legions of Hell being introduced and then promptly being so relegated to the background for five Doorstoppers and counting in favor of political intrigue and gritty civil war action that despite the subtly rising tide of magical and mystical events and the persistent threat that winter is coming, people think it's the actual focus of the series.
- A Tale of Two Cities has some difficulty with this trope: The first 6 chapters are actually very good. Interesting, full of intrigue, likeable characters. Then, after finishing Part 1, (the first 6 chapters), there is Part 2 (the next 24 chapters), which is a long sluggish read setting up for part 3 (the last 15 chapters), which is very good.
- Atonement by Ian McEwan, for half the novel, with the other half spent on the fallout of events from the last couple pages of the first half. And he calls himself out on it!
- The HP Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness starts with an unusual take on this - fifty pages of description of how their scientific expedition was meant to go. How it actually went starts around page sixty. He's careful to set this description up so that it works for the book instead of against it, though.
- Brave New World: Most of the novel goes into a great deal of detail about cloning and how society works in the future. It takes a while before the main characters even get introduced, then the action begins. Of course, since setting up the dystopia is vital in order to tell a dystopian story, this is an example of Tropes Are Not Bad.
- The Casual Vacancy: most of the story is spent establishing characters and seemingly unimportant plot points. It doesn't really pick up until the last 100 pages, with plot points slowly coming together and the last 75 pages throwing everything you had read and thought unimportant in your face.
- With regards to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Tasha Robinson's comment about the 1971 film adaptation at the A.V. Club could be applied to the novel and any other adaptation: "Picture a Wizard Of Oz where the Kansas scenes take up half the film." The opening third of the novel is not only busy with Developing Doomed Characters and the Pinball Protagonist but also with establishing the legend of Willy Wonka and the resultant Serious Business of the Golden Ticket contest. Adaptations follow suit, generally not getting to the factory and Willy Wonka himself until the halfway point — luckily, most of this buildup is Played for Laughs, which eases potential tedium, and once the characters are in the factory, the story becomes a briskly-paced lark.
- In-universe with The City of Dreaming Books. The protagonist was told repeatedly by his uncle to read the great novel "Ritter Hempel" (Hempel the knight), but gave up after the first fifty or so pages were all about how to clean lances. Only later he learns that everyone else had the same problem, and later in the book there are great and funny scenes, like when the knight loses his glasses in his armor.
- Cloud Atlas: The opening of the novel's six stories seems to be a lot of people's least favourite in the book. It may be that the 17th-cenury English makes the section a little less accessible than others, and it may be that it's just a function of being the first section: the reader doesn't understand all the significances within on the first read. It might also suffer from being right next to the Robert Frobisher section, which is a fan favourite.
- The Count of Monte Cristo includes long diversions into the backstories of many characters in the first half, eventually integral to the plot but difficult to chew on. Most adaptations break them up over the course of the story.
- Similarly, some fans of The Dark Tower find the first book, The Gunslinger, too slow and think that the series doesn't get good until the second book, The Drawing of the Three. On the other hand, an almost equal number love The Gunslinger because it's so contemplative.
- Making Money is possibly the only Discworld book to suffer from this. We know he's going to take the position at the bank, it's on the dust-jacket, hell it was foreshadowed at the end of the last book. It is funny at first to see him resisting Vetinari, but eventually you want to shout "Get on with it!" Terry Pratchett himself has said this about Discworld as a whole, claiming that the earlier books were "written by a less talented author". He recommends that new readers bypass some of the Early Installment Weirdness and start with Mort.
- The beginning of Frank Herbert's first Dune book is heavily weighted down with this kind of exposition in the first hundred pages.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh has a tendency of repeating entire passages verbatim over and over (for example, one person would speak to the messenger, and the messenger would then deliver the exact same speech again to his master; there's also the very long winded title of Gilgamesh, which would be repeated every time someone uses his name). However, this is more due to a quirk of Mesopotamian oral storytelling style, than bad writing.
- The Iliad: The Catalogue of the Ships in the second book is so tedious that it puts some readers off altogether. For the record, it's entirely skippable as it has almost no relevance to the rest of the poem.
- Final Cut by Steven Bach has a brief prologue about why he needs to find a new movie for United Artists Studios, then spends over a hundred pages going through the entire history of United Artists before getting back to the studio's slow downfall.
- The first chapters of Frankenstein deal with the backstory of the sea captain who met the titular Doctor on his expedition to find the North Pole. If you didn't know that the novel was a Story Within a Story (Within a Story) you would read the opening wondering "What does this have to do with the Monster?"
- Readers may react in this way to several Frederick Forsyth stories. The author researches his subjects so thoroughly that the reader usually earns the equivalent of a Ph.D. in history, investigative journalism, corporate espionage or prospective mining just by reading the first three chapters.
- The Dogs of War is an excellent example, since it's a novel about a coup in Africa that has several chapters devoted to one character's attempt to buy out a "shell corporation". It's so detailed, it was actually used as the blueprint for at least one real coup attempt.
- This methodical approach works really well for The Day of the Jackal, being a novel about an elite assassin.
- Gone with the Wind is like the Civil War in real time, or it would be had Margaret Mitchell not mucked up the timeline so badly. The book drags at multiple points, but the beginning is especially slow. It takes an awful lot of description about high society life on a rural plantation before we get to any actual fighting. The book is explicitly a view of life in the South before and after the civil war from the civilian point of view. While the war starts a few chapters into the book, the hardships and realities of war start escalating as the book goes on. Life doesn't get much better after the war ends about halfway through the novel either.
- The Grapes of Wrath seems to take forever to just get to the Joads, wasting a whole chapter on a freaking turtle crossing a road. Then due to pacing problems of the Joad plot, the chapters about turtles and angry car salesmen with no names end up being the best parts of the book for a lot of people.
- Great Expectations takes forEVER to really get moving, despite a pretty action-packed first chapter. As a result of its serial nature, the first two parts rely heavily on building suspense that pays off in the third part (where nearly every chapter has a plot twist or revelation).
- All Harry Potter books are like this, but some more than others. The first book takes almost half of its (short) length for Harry to actually get to Hogwarts, the rest being spent on exposition. The fourth also contains several long-winded scenes about the Quidditch World Cup before that happens as well (admittedly they are crucial to the plot, but readers won't know this at first). Halfblood Prince is mostly uneventful with most of it just exposition. Think of it as the prologue to the next book Deathly Hallows as it sets up a lot of key plot points.
- Many Harry Turtledove series have over a dozen viewpoint characters, and each book or major section typically starts out with a little vignette for each of them, just to remind you of the position they were in at the end of the previous book. If you're lucky, the end of these sections will feature a big change for the character, or even kill them off if you're even luckier; sometimes it just does not get better.
- The Honor Harrington series can be like this, depending on how much you like politics. Each is at least several hundred pages long, and in one instance, a book for which the title and back cover talk all about Honor being captured, said capture doesn't happen until the last 100 or so pages of the book. In War Of Honor, so much time is spent on the politics leading up to the resumption of hostilities that even if you're hoping they somehow avert the war, you may eventually change the tune to "Someone shoot at somebody so something actually happens." It's 450 pages in before a shot is fired, and it isn't even the main conflict.
- Much of the first book is spent explaining in excruciating detail just how space travel, artificial gravity, and ship-to-ship combat work in this universe, in addition to explaining the workings of a Royal Manticoran Navy starship, the political complications brought on by the Baselisk System, and of course, setting up the background behind the impending war between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Peoples Republic of Haven... which wouldn't start until the third book of the series (the second book had more para bellum posturing, but was much more action-packed).
- Several reviewers have commented that beginning of The Host is weaker than the rest of the novel.
- Proof that great literature isn't immune to this: Robert Graves' novel I, Claudius begins with a massive history lesson that barely mentions the title character. Still, the history lesson provides enough murder, bloodlust and political conspiracy to tide the viewer over until Claudius introduces himself properly...and then things really get interesting. It might also raise a smile at the end of the book when Claudius (a historian) says that one of the perks of becoming Emperor is that he can make everyone read his history books, and is out and out Lampshaded when Claudius mentions a few dozen pages into the book that he has written several chapters of his autobiography and hasn't quite got up to the point where he is born.
- Done again in the sequel Claudius the God where, after having one page describing him being carried off by the army to be declared Emperor, he sees an old friend of his, Herod Agrippa. The next five chapters are devoted to relating Herod's life story up to that point. Though again, the story is entertaining enough to be worth it and the character will be of great importance later on. Notably, the Television Adaptation just starts with Herod.
- Jane Eyre is notorious for this, especially among those that read it for a school assignment.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has this effect on a lot of people - the action doesn't pick up until a good four hundred pages in. That the character of Strange doesn't show up until a quarter of the way through the 1000 page novel is another factor.
- A good deal of the beginning of Journey to the Center of the Earth is the heroes' journey from their home in Germany to the Icelandic volcano they want to explore. Except for the acquisition of their third adventurer, nothing of importance happens in all this time and the whole first section can be skipped over without missing anything.
- Very common in the Kara no Kyoukai novels; each part in a chapter (and there are many parts in any given chapter) usually has paragraphs interspersed through it focusing on nothing but philosophy and concepts, which even pop up in the middle of a very heated life-and-death battle.
- This is actually prevalent throughout Nasu's writing, not just Kara No Kyoukai.
- The anime version cuts nearly all of this out, in the process removing any hope of understanding what's going on. Oops.
- The Anachronic Order hurts the anime more than the manga, as the first episode's lack of character establishment leaves the otherwise smoothly-animated action sequence without significance or personal investment, then the second's continued lack of explanation as to who the hell these people are make it just as much of a chore. Watching it chronologically presents a much better foundation for the series, though that episode's slow pacing still requires an amount of commitment to reach the climax of it, It Gets Better sooner and stays better longer.
- The slice-of-life look at hobbit society in the original novels of The Lord of the Rings has this problem. It takes the Hobbits four chapters just to get from the Shire to Bree. In comparison, the Mines of Moria take up only two chapters, and Frodo and Sam only spend three and a half chapters in Mordor. The improved pacing is one of the places where the film trilogy manages to improve upon the book. Part of that may be because the early parts of the book were still locked in a more episodic format (akin to The Hobbit), and only shifted to a more plot-driven focus later on.
- The Silmarillion is even more front-loaded with exposition. Much of this is aimed at literally building the world of Middle-Earth, but several chapters are devoted to the origins of minor figures. In this "History of the Silmarils," it's not until midway through the fifth chapter that the eventual creator of the Silmarils is even introduced.
- The central character of Les Misérables doesn't appear until after seventy pages spent introducing a minor character who shortly thereafter disappears from the book. This keeps happening, as when the Battle of Waterloo is described in meticulous detail before returning to the plot, which is why the book is 1200 pages long.
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman could be seen as this when the title character narrator digresses so much that his birth is not even covered until volume 3 of this 9 volume book, but the entire story is a humorous series of anecdotes and digressions.
- A common phrase said by fans to new readers of Malazan Book of the Fallen. The first book throws the reader in the deep end without so much as a "can you swim?", with a whole host of characters and events and expects you to run with it. After the first few hundred pages, after the reader has acclimatised themselves, the experience quickly becomes less "Huh-wha?" and more "Ooohh! That's clever."
- It's not that the first novel is bad, but it's not anywhere near as well written or complex as the rest of the series. Part of the reason is the author attempting to sell it as a script first, then making a book of it.
- Parodied in the novel The Princess Bride; the fictional novel that it "abridges" supposedly has a second chapter involving sixty-six pages of Florinese history. This chapter is left out completely. There's also the referred scene where the abridging author (William Goldman) describes how a visiting princess arrives, unpacks in meticulous detail, is insulted at dinner, and then repacks everything in just as much detail as she unpacked, before leaving and never being seen again. Indeed, the whole premise of the book is that Goldman published the "good parts version" because the original was so very long and tedious.
- And in one of the curious fictional autobiographical accounts Goldman has written to go with the various editions, this one tied with the nonexistent sequel, he has Stephen King chastise him for leaving some of this stuff out. Knowing King's style, that's actually remarkably funny.
- The Princess of Cleves, a 17th-century French novel, begins with about 40 pages describing King Henri II's court and family in confusing and mind-numbing detail. But most of this is irrelevant to the real story, a simple Love Triangle involving three of the aristocrats.
- The Robert W. Chambers story The Repairer of Reputations starts with 2-3 pages of alternate history. If you completely skip it, you won't even notice.
- The Return of the Native spends all of the first chapter describing the heath where the story takes place. The whole goddamn chapter.
- Ringworld spends quite a while showing the reader why Louis Wu wants to go traveling. Unfortunately the reason he wants to travel is that his life is boring and hollow, something that Niven gets across a bit too effectively.
- The opening chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, called "The Custom House," is composed of between 31 and 55 pages of exposition based on which version you're reading. What does this lengthy opening have to do with the book? Nothing. It tells of how a fictional Hawthorne found the fictional documents to write The Scarlet Letter. It's a thematic device that most people just skip over, as it's extremely dry.
- It's basically a long list of digs at Hawthorne's former co-workers, along with his complaints about being fired when his party lost the election. Some parts, in particular the description of the General, may have had some satirical value for contemporary readers. For modern readers? Not so much.
- The first third of The Skylark of Space is rather low-key. All the action occurs on Earth and is mostly the subterfuge of DuQuesne trying to steal Seaton's technology. Then they finally do get in space, and after a few jaunts to various planets, the Lensman Arms Race eventually comes in full force.
- If King's The Stand were really about a battle between good and evil, it would consist 90% of exposition and set-up. Of course, it just ends up being about a pandemic and the rebuilding After the End with a bonus dash of that good vs. evil thing. Typically of King's style, the ending features an epilogue longer than the final confrontation itself about someone making his way home by various mundane means while nothing much happens. (The book was heavily influenced by The Lord of the Rings, which has a similarly long denouement.)
- In The Sum of All Fears, a 700 page book, the first 500 pages are devoted to the miserable personal life of the main character. Then the action starts.
- In Clear and Present Danger Tom devotes nearly a chapter to the history and exploits of USCGC Panache captain Red Wegener, along with a backstory about a journalist on his ship... and Wegener goes on to play a relatively minor role in the remainder of the book. He gets about five seconds of screen time in the movie (and is played by a woman about 20 years younger than he would have been).
- Captain Tupolev's introduction in The Hunt for Red October comes to mind as well.
- Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series is full of this (except We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea) to the point where, in a hypothetical 100-chapter book, chapters 1-98 would be very... slowly... building up suspense, chapter 99 would be the action, and chapter 100 would be tying up loose ends. (It is especially bad in the one where they are accused of untying boats but didn't, and it's really obvious who did it.) The books are very interesting, however.
- That Hideous Strength is a drastic departure from the previous two books. Firstly, it takes place on Earth, and while there are some vaguely supernatural elements introduced early on, the first 100 pages or so are, by and large, devoted to University politics and polite people politely arguing about various intellectual pursuits that seem to be nothing but fluff if you're not paying close attention (much like the CSPAN parodies on The Onion). You'd be forgiven for thinking you got the wrong book, until the second third of the book begins and things start picking up. Of course, you get a sense for where things will be going if you can manage to pay attention.
- Tyger Pool by Pauline Fisk uses this deliberately to establish the slowness and gloom suffered by a recently-bereaved family, featuring long monologues by the heroine about her deceased mother and the paralysing gloom that's affected her father. Just when you think the story's not going to go anywhere... it does.
- The premise of War and Democide Never Again is that the heroes travel into the past to prevent all the atrocities and wars of the twentieth century. No Time Travel is actually done until halfway through the book, however. Before that, there is more than one hundred and fifty pages of the main character talking about his life before getting involved in the Ancient Conspiracy to travel through time, and reading flashbacks of people's lives in oppressive dictatorships.
- Jack London's White Fang took about five chapters before White Fang was even born, let alone named.
- Tad Williams loves to take his time. His Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (the fourth book was so long it had to be cut into two 800 page books for the paperbacks) took 150 pages for the action to start; everything up to that was mystery, backbiting, and intrigue. The entire first book of his Shadowmarch series is intro. The central mystery of his Otherland series is introduced in he opening chapters of the first book and barely even merits mentioning until it's wrapped up at the end of the fourth doorstopper. The only book he's written that got things going in short time also wrapped up quickly, that being his stand alone novel Tailchaser's Song.
- This is a common problem with 18th and 19th Century novels. Because of the wide use of the Literary Agent Hypothesis, many novels start with long, irrelelvant introductions about the literary agent and how he acquired the novel. (The fact that many if not most authors back then were paid by word count probably had something to do with it.)
- This occurs in many (though not all) of the works of Michael Crichton. For one hundred or even two hundred pages, he introduces the characters and describes the situation in painstaking detail. On page two hundred, things go wrong and people start dying.
- In the case of Jurassic Park, it's several chapters before we even meet the main characters. Crichton states this is because he wanted to set it all up as something of a mystery in the beginning, and to uncover what's going on slowly to the reader. Which is a weird thing to do, considering the title of the book leaves little doubt as to what the reader will find inside. The huge popularity of the films makes it even worse, pushing it pretty firmly into It Was His Sled territory.
- Don De Lillo's White Noise doesn't introduce the plot device "Airborne Toxic Event" until about a hundred pages in. The first segment of the book introduces characters and sets up key themes, and it's both funny and insightful, but there isn't a ton of plot there.
- So Long And Thanks For All The Fish has a chapter in the middle which is basically Douglas Adams giving a "Reason You Suck" Speech to all the fans asking about Arthur's sex life, then tells readers who aren't interested in it to skip ahead to the last chapter, which is rather good and has Marvin in it.
- Leon Uris's Exodus is especially bad at this. Early chapters interweaves the protagonists' escape from Cyprus with detailed mini-histories of the Holocaust and World War II - at least partially justified as back story for several characters. Then the second "part" of the book stops completely for a 100 page description of modern Zionism from the 1890s through the creation of modern Israel. The novel picks up once the main story starts, but just getting there will exhaust many readers.
Live Action TV
- Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD started things off with many episodes with disconnected plot points that failed to grab audiences. Many of the plot points introduced in these episodes become relevant in later episodes and the series really starts hitting its stride when the plot focuses more on Centipede, introduced in the first episode and The Big Bad, The mysterious Clairvoyant, is introduced. Events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier had dramatic affects on the Agents Of SHIELD. It's entirely possible that there was padding added to the first season while waiting for the film's release.
- The fanbase expressed annoyance with seasons 3 and 8 because they started off on a weak note. The cluster of subplots, pacing problems, and weak Character Development killed the tension 24 is usually known for. Around the halfway point, the writers finally got a grasp with what they should do, and managed to produce much stronger episodes until the end of their respective seasons.
- Subverted in season 7. Although it's a split around whether it started to improve when Jonas Hodges was introduced as the major antagonist or the season was relatively consistent from the beginning, after Hodges was taken out of action and replaced with a much less favored villain, Jack was sidelined for the rest of it and Tony crossed the Moral Event Horizon, up to the finale just about every fan found the remaining part damn near unwatchable and easily some of the worst episodes in the show's run.
- Season 4 of Arrested Development starts off pretty slow as it spends most of the first few episodes setting up key plot points that pay off at the end and mostly puts jokes to the side. The whole season should be thought of as a movie with interweaving plots that make much more sense as the story goes on.
- Many fans of Babylon 5 lament of how hard it is to get new people into the show. This is because much of the first season is very difficult to get through, being largely episodic and universe-building in nature, to pave the way for later events. And featuring a bland and uninteresting male lead who was replaced in the second season.
- The first 12 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or its first season) had potential and could be fun/entertaining, but had no continuous plot and relied on Monster of the Week episodes, as well as having some cringy humour thrown in and clunky, predictable villains. Trust that it is totally worth sticking with it for season 2 and 3, which are both full of Awesome Moments, Funny Moments, Heartwarming Moments and the odd Tear Jerker.
- For this reason, The Daily Show once introduced a story under the title "Be Patient, This Gets Amazing."
- Applies to the show itself as well: the early Craig Kilborn years weren't nearly as popular or acclaimed as when Jon Stewart took over and the show steered in the direction of more political satire.
- Fringe had a tough time building an audience during its first season, because its earlier episodes resembled The X-Files a little too much, what with its Monster of the Week plots, and its FBI based setting to solve paranormal crimes and/or mysteries. J. J. Abrams helming the show during its early days may have hurt as well (if the reputations of Alias and LOST were anything to go by). As a result, the more Genre Savvy sci-fi fans tuned out before the halfway mark, which was the point when Fringe revealed that those episodes was mere setup for the real plot that has unfolded ever since. At that point, Fringe carved its own identity beyond the X-Files-meets-Lost that stereotyped the show earlier, and never lost its stride from that point onward.
- Game of Thrones season one can be aptly described as Prolonged Prologue in TV form. Most of what goes on establish the many protagonists and significant locales that will be heavily involved later in the plot. With the exception of some key moments, most of what unfolds is exposition layered on top of more exposition, with not much plot inertia going on (similar to how The Wire started; see below). This all changes once the big Wham Episode hits in episode nine, which throws the semi-stable equilibrium of the previous episodes into outright chaos, which defines the following episodes, and never relents from that point onward.
- After LOST season 3 opened up with an awe inspiring first five minutes, many fans found the first six episodes to be very frustrating and boring, plus a hasty death that cut off a potentially awesome future to an already great character. Some viewers during the season's original airing jumped ship around this time, which is too bad, because the following episodes were mostly wonderful, and the completely unexpected season ending changed everything viewers knew about the show.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation isn't terrible per se but the first couple of seasons struggle, with awkward storylines, jerky character development and interaction, and often heavy handed morals that they don't get away with as easily as the original series did. By the third season however they've really come into their own and distinguished themselves as more than just a sequel series for a cult 60's show. Next Gen is now one of the most popular series, and is in fact Trope Namer for Growing the Beard.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had similar early growing pains. The writers were riding Next Gen's coat-tails hard early on, with a lot of first-season episodes that had a big "hey, remember this thing from The Next Generation?" hook. It eventually found its feet and had its own story to tell, and did as much to deepen the Trek universe as any other series broadened it.
- The first five episodes of The Vampire Diaries are very slow, due to hardly any characters actually being aware of the vampires' existence. Then Elena finds out at the end of episode five, and the show improves considerably.
- The Wire isn't exactly instant gratification TV, and it certainly does not exactly make it easy for new viewers to jump in and understand the show. The first few episodes get hit with this problem the hardest, which almost overwhelms to the point of discouragement, thanks to detail overload and an abundance of characters to introduce and dissect. However, as all longtime fans of The Wire know very well, for people willing to take the time to understand the show's intricate design, they will be rewarded a hundred times over. It just takes some perseverance to get there.
- Delta Goodrem- Believe Again is this, 40 seconds introduction definitely makes it harder for casual listeners to enjoy.
- Dream Theater's "Bridges In the Sky" starts with a full minute and a half of synth drones, throat singing, and Eastern instrument effects before the main song starts. It still manages to be awesome.
- fun.'s second album, Some Nights has this as the title as one of their songs. However, it is not this trope, as the album starts off with fun.'s recent three singles, all of which have been critically acclaimed.
- It is commonly said that "the Lone Ranger music is Rossini's William Tell overture". Those interested in "hearing the original" may fall victim to this trope. The William Tell overture actually has four movements and the Lone Ranger music is the last one.
- "Ghost of Stephen Foster" by Squirrel Nut Zippers has a minute of slow, somber violin music before the catchy klezmer finally begins.
- "Threnody" by Sebasti An is quite possibly the biggest build-up to a bass drop ever: out of a 13 minute song, the build-up is 11 minutes long. Sebasti An has played it live many times before in its entirety, often extending the introduction by ten or more minutes, with hilarious results.
- The Yes album Talk is this for fans of their 70's work, since only the last 2 tracks really try to get the "classic sound".
- An overwhelming amount of electronic dance music (house, trance, techno, dubstep, etc.) contains intros and/or outros of just the percussion, which are primarily there for DJs to use for mixing. These intros/outros are usually removed for an artist's album and their appearance phases in and out of use based on current trends: as of 2012, many producers are reducing or removing their beat intros altogether.
- Songs can have a filler of their own. Often they're near the beginning and can be recognized by an urge to skip forward. The most common examples are video game song remixes.
- "Singing Mountain" from Chrono Trigger. A beautiful piece of music preceded by a whole minute of listening to the wind.
- There's a lot of Russian folk themes and French martial music snippets before you get to the bit people can hum - with all the artillery and stuff - in the 1812 Overture. (The overture itself is some sixteen minutes long; that famously hummable bit is barely more than two.
- Kris Kristofferson's 1970 debut album Kristofferson features his own versions of all his early songs that revolutionized country music songwriting ("Me and Bobby McGee", "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" for starters), but for some odd reason the album opens with the goofy, sarcastic, not-very-country novelty song "Blame It on The Stones".
- Dungeons & Dragons up until 4th edition suffered from this: People routinely started campaigns at level 3 because at level 1 there are just so few options and so few player hit points that it's both boring and extremely swingy. Max HP at 1st level was a common house rule (and became an official rule with 3rd edition).
- This is one of the major things Wizards of the Coast tried to fix in 4th Edition. It didn't really work: combat at level one is no longer as swingy but, for the lack of abilities, still boring; and some of the Unpleasable Fanbase want the thrill of low-level danger back.
- The big problem is that after the first time you play, the simplicity of low level characters is boring, and the first time you play, the complexity of first level characters is confusing. Dungeons & Dragons after second edition became an extremely complicated game from the get-go, making the low level tutorial mode futile - a first level character is STILL too complicated for a first time RPer.
- The first part of the prologue of Götterdämmerung, with the Norns, is 15 minutes of pure exposition.
- Considering the entire opera cycle is about twenty (yes, twenty) hours long, it's not as though they don't have the time.
- The first two thirds of Our Town consists of a mind-numbingly detailed portrait of completely average small-town life. Of course, that's part of the point the author is trying to make.
- It's often recommended to skip straight past the first five chapters of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures .
- 8-Bit Theater's art takes a bit to improve, and its writing is initially bland when compared to the later Rapid-Fire Comedy.
- El Goonish Shive was an amusing, albeit narmful, comic with mediocre art and a ridiculous amount of gender bending. Eventually, it evolved into an extremely involved comic with great art and a ridiculous amount of gender bending.
- Girl Genius starts as the story of a Loser Protagonist, in black-and-white. But here, this is voluntary: the story begins with her intelligence limiter removed. So she'll get better.
- Gunnerkrigg Court's first few chapters aren't really bad, but seem a bit episodic (especially chapter 2, which is mostly irrelevant to the main plot). It takes some time for the story to come together—from the readers' perspective, anyway—plus, those first few chapters "looked a little weird." Annie's Uncanny Valley-ish squashed-football head is slowly phased out over about 20 chapters and the rest of the art, which was already good, improves greatly at the same time.
- Homestuck starts out about a kid in his house. It then proceeds to grow a very, very strange beard when the reality-altering video games come into the plot. According to the author's Formspring, this is one hundred percent intentional.
- The first season and a half of Twisted Kaiju Theater aren't bad or anything like that, but if you want actual coherent storylines as well as be properly introduced to the comic's universe and characters, than you might as well skip that whole part. And the latter half of season 2 is where the comic really grows it's beard and it's quality increases. This can be a good way to lessen the insane Archive Binge you'll probably end going on.
- The Walkyverse starts out as Roomies!, a fairly dull and simply drawn Slice of Life comic about college kids, which eventually improved considerably. It goes on to become It's Walky!, a dramatic action/scifi multiverse with great art and well developed characters, and spins off into Shortpacked!, a beacon of geek humor and satire. A Continuity Reboot, Dumbing of Age, returns to the slice-of-life-at-college roots, but keeps the superior artwork and characterization.
- Repeatedly acknowledged by the author when he celebrated the continuity's 15th anniversary by reposting the old comics a day at a time on a new site, along with commentaries. He doesn't hesitate to Lampshade the blandness of the early art, humor, and characters, as well as the occasionally naive moralizing.
- The creator of Xawu keeps on saying that It Gets Better. It seems to have just died instead.
- The animated Urban Fantasy series Broken Saints is notorious for being very slow to start, apart from being just slow-paced in general. However, as writer Brooke Burgess is quick to point out, if the series didn't take its time with the nice character moments early on, the audience wouldn't care as much about them later on when the shit hits the fan.
- The Nostalgia Critic's early videos were okay, they just weren't particularly laugh out loud funny or the Critic himself especially interesting. But then Doug tried something new by challenging The Angry Video Game Nerd and both the comedy and character started falling into place.
- The web puppet series "Robot Rampage" suffered this in its first episode. While it essentially sets up the plot for the first season (building a Robot), the episode is a bit slow and expositional.
- Tribe Twelve of The Slender Man Mythos; it starts off as a Marble Hornets clone, but after the funeral submission, it begins to improve noticeably, in just about all respects. The acting is especially noticeable.
- "Ayla and the Mad Scientist" in the Whateley Universe takes forever before we even find out who's going to be the antagonist for the book.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes begins not with the founding of The Avengers, but with about two hours' worth of shorts detailing how each of the first eight members fought crime before becoming part of the team. Regardless of whether you watch each short one by one, or watch the five episodes compiling them, they make a rather disjointed introduction to the show.note Even after the Avengers get founded, it takes six more episodes for all eight of those superheroes to join. However, a number of the episodes detailing the team's founding and early expansions became regarded nearly as highly as those that followed, if not more so.
- Season 2 takes its sweet time for the team to realize there is a mole on their team, this being the BIG cliffhanger from season 1. We're also waiting for the one person who figured this out to escape from the mole's prison. He escapes in episode 9. The arc is 13 episodes long, but the climax and payoff is well worth it as the build up finally begins to merge and pay off.
- Beast Wars for its first few episodes is a very run-of-the-mill action show with mostly one-note and at times annoying characters and basic plots. The pilot in particular is just a slow-paced setup full of exposition and a very simple story that's basically just an excuse to have a huge fight scene. It isn't until about the first season's half-point that the characters settle into their roles and a continuous storyline begins to take shape. The writers admittedly had no idea what to do with the show in the beginning, but thankfully they were able to tie the random plot-points they had laid out into a mostly coherent story by the season finale.
- Many people agree the first half of season 1 of American Dad!! is mostly non-humorous political humor that was outdated before it even aired, in addition to having Family Guy-esque cutaway gags. Thankfully, the second half of season 1 saw to it to get rid of many of the political humor, as well as completely removing the cutaways. Ever since then, it has been wildly regarded as the funniest animated series on Fox.
- The animated part of Gertie the Dinosaur comes when the film is about halfway done. Of course, the whole thing is less than fifteen minutes long. Despite this, there was still a version made that cut the non-animated first half out.
- While they probably stand out compared to G3 and 3.5, which in the opinion of some fans are pretty terrible, the first two My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episodes are heavily clichéd and predictable. While these two episodes certainly aren't bad exactly, it's the later, slice-of-life episodes that are the real gems of the series.
- Adventure Time starts off by throwing the viewer into the deep end of the show's absurdist comedy, and it can take quite a while to get a handle on the setting and characterization due to how little continuity there is. It isn't until about halfway through the second season that the interpersonal relationships between the characters get more focus, and the show starts to build continuity within the setting. Then in the S2 finale, the Lich appears, and things really come together.
- The first couple of episodes of Codename: Kids Next Door are considered decent but nothing really special. It's not until the fairly serious first season finale that it starts getting good.