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Slow-Paced Beginning

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"The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts."
Andrei Tarkovsky, explaining the beginning of his film, Stalker

A pacing problem that occurs when the beginning of a story is so front-loaded with bland exposition and details about the world contained within, that it takes forever to finally reach the interesting part of the story that puts all of that background information to good use. In other words, this is a specific type of Infodump that occurs at the beginning of a story.

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This can understandably take a while to get through, especially if the creator is using a magical/fantasy or speculative fiction setting, so you may well have lost heart before you get to the interesting part. It might be worth sticking around though: there are more than a few works that are seen as being one of the best in their genre/medium that suffer from this trope, only revealing their true greatness once you manage to slog through all the setup. But that tends to be the exception, not the rule; and either way, the writer probably doesn't do themselves any favours by boring their audience 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 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 set in a little-known culture, the writer wants to ensure that the reader doesn't need the Encyclopedia Britannica close to hand to understand what's going on. But, once again, deliberately making the beginning of your story boring is a very risky game; it can take quite a tenacious audience to deal with this in the blind hope that your story will eventually have things happen in it. And if their patience is wearing thin by that point, their reaction may be less happiness that such tenacity was rewarded and more annoyance that you made them wait for so long.

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A lot of Internet works such as webcomics or fanfiction can demonstrate this as a natural consequence of the creator learning to cartoon, plot, and write dialogue by the seat of their pants.

Compare to Padding, Early Game Hell, Filler, Growing the Beard, Prolonged Prologue, Developing Doomed Characters, Cosmic Deadline, and Arc Fatigue. Often goes hand-in-hand with Checkpoint Starvation. It's also a common effect of Easing into the Adventure.

Contrast Lost in Medias Res, where a show starts with too little exposition, bursting right into the thick of things, or Ending Fatigue, when it takes forever to end, not start. Also contrast Action Prologue, which throws you into the action from the get-go. In Video Games, the endgame version is Disappointing Last Level (although a game can suffer from both). Not to be confused with the It Gets Better Project, which is aimed at curbing teen suicides.

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • 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 is a mediocre Slice of Life series in the first two volumes, before it lets its video game elements play a bigger impact on the plot and characters from volume 3 onward.
  • The Invisibles seems like it's going to start with a bang, as young Street Urchin Dane McGowan is recruited by the title group, a band of interdimensional anarchists. However, by the second issue, Dane has been rejected by the Invisibles and spends the next three issues wandering around London in the company of an old homeless man who lectures him the entire time on magic and mysticism. Many fans didn't make it past this arc to the later issues, which in fairness pick things up quite a bit.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Angry Birds Movie starts as a Slice of Life about Red's anger issues and the Bad Piggies arrival to Bird Island. It's not until Red, Chuck, and Bomb discover the pigs' plans to steal the birds' eggs that the movie begins to increase its pace.
  • Strange Magic: General consensus from those who like the film is that it massively improves once Marianne and the Bog King meet, fight and team up.

    Music 
  • Many songs have an Epic Instrumental Opener that feels so much as filler it leads to 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.
    • "Finale Toccata" from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. One of the best songs in the game that starts with a 15-second orchestral sting, and almost two minutes of build-up.
  • Delta Goodrem- Believe Again is this, 40 seconds introduction definitely makes it harder for casual listeners to enjoy.
  • Dream Theater:
    • "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.
    • "Octavarium", is even worse, as it begins with an overlong Continuum Fingerboard solo... and it's not much better from there on, as it takes 12 minutes for anything even remotely metal to happen.
  • fun.'s second album, Some Nights opens with "Some Nights (Intro)", which is theatrical and slow (even more on the music video, where Talky Bookends made the 15-second intro last more than a minute) and takes a while to build up. By contrast, the Title Track that follows has a unique sounding Lyrical Cold Open that does better to catch listeners right away.
  • Iron Maiden's "Empire of the Clouds" is 18 minutes long and has an intro consisting of piano and string... that goes on for four minutes.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" has the album version from Dangerous starting with two choral preludes, the first of which is nicked from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (which initially went uncredited). Understandably, it's cut just about everywhere else.
  • Pink Floyd was known for doing this with their longer songs (of which they had a lot). Probably the most tedious is the beginning of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", a 20-minute-plus suite that takes several minutes of atmospheric instrumental music before the drums even enter, let alone the vocals. "Echoes" is another notable offender, being almost as long and having another slow beginning section.
  • The Black Keys were known for straightforward rock. So when New Sound Album Turn Blue opened with two minutes of psychedelic instrumentals before any vocals (comprising a whole third of said track, "Weight of Love"!), many were surprised if not bored.
  • "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.
  • "Ghost of Stephen Foster" by Squirrel Nut Zippers has a minute of slow, somber violin music before the catchy klezmer finally begins.
  • Yes:
    • The album Talk is this for fans of their '70s work since only the last 2 tracks really try to get the "classic sound".
    • A common complaint aimed at Tales From Topographic Oceans is that all four of its 20-minute epics(!!!) sport this, which has resulted in one of the single hardest albums to get into, even according to its fanbase.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Several of Donna Summer's disco hits start off with a slow ballad section before kicking up the tempo, notably "Last Dance" and "On The Radio". Her collaboration with Barbra Streisand, "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)", has a slow-paced opening section lasting (even on 7") nearly two minutes.
  • The 12" mix of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" has a 3-minute ballad intro before the main hi-NRG dance portion of the song.
  • Hubert Kah's "Machine Gun", the Album Intro Track of Sound of My Heart, begins as a wistful ballad before breaking into energetic synth/dance-pop. Ditto "So Many People" from the flipside of the album.
  • Kristine W.'s "Land of The Living" is a slow lounge number for the first verse and chorus, then picks up the pace to dance tempo. The radio edit cuts the verse portion of the opener.

    Podcasts 
  • The first five episodes of The White Vault is mostly set-up, introducing us to the team and how they became situated at Outpost Fristed. Despite it being a Foregone Conclusion that no one on the team ever made it home, these first episodes are relatively light on the spookiness. Things are certainly strange — they find a mysterious village in the caves beneath the Outpost, and spend a couple episodes trying to open a box they found there — but nothing particularly scary... until the sixth episode, when they get the box open, and things suddenly get much more interesting.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Introducing new competitive divisions or revitalizing old ones can fall into this. When the whole promotion is fresh entire shows can consist of almost nothing but establishing whose who and what's what. When champions and angles are already running though, that leaves less time to explain rules new the audience(Most television titles, the small amounts of variation in UWF's early shoot fights, Ring of Honor's Pure division), what makes this weight class special(All Japan's attempts to duplicate what New Japan did with Tiger Mask in the Super Juniors), the different stakes in teams and singles(tag teams were the first to catch on in Zenjo following The Beauty Pair, tercias like Los Tres Fantásticos built UWA/LLI), just how these minis most fans have never seen compare to one another(every mini estrella division except maybe AAA's and NWA Mexico since they had what CMLL already established), that these valets who have been nothing but distractions till now are willing to bleed(WWC having to build from the ground up after Tigresa's heyday), leading to early days-months being repetitive, contrived or awkward as audiences don't know what to make of it(each of these things wound up being successful in the long run).
  • Wrestlers are generally taught to avoid this, which is why the chain wrestling portions of a match (headlocks, wristlocks, hammerlocks, etc.) tend not to last too long. Unless the workers are exceptionally good at mat grappling - wherein they'll be able to make a slow pace still very fun to watch.
  • In live events, this is why the opening match is considered one of the most important ones on the card. Cruiserweights and other flashy wrestlers are usually given the job of opening the show - as high intensity and fast-paced matches function to get the crowd really excited. If a slow-paced or boring match opens the show, it almost always results in a disinterested crowd for the rest of the night.
  • In filmed or broadcasted shows, on the other hand, the first match filmed is considered the opener, and will often be uneventful, mainly to give extra time to any fans running late, because empty seats don't look good on camera. This also gives fans already there more time at the merchandise tables, as they know they won't be missing anything they paid to see.
  • Lucha Underground showcased an interesting concept and some damn good wrestling right from the first episode, but it's generally agreed that the first season didn't really take off until Aztec Warfare when Prince Puma was crowned the first Lucha Underground champion.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Many players are resistant to beginning a campaign at level 1 because starting characters have very few abilities and can't do very much. The low power can also make even well-conceived adventures seem unexceptional, with character facing wimpy monsters for low stakes. It's very common to start adventures at higher levels to skip past some of the slow beginning. The Dark Sun setting was notable when first released for writing this into the game, starting off every character at 3rd level and using a more advantageous stat-rolling method to allow entry-level characters to kick in teeth right away.
  • In Call of Cthulhu, the Beyond the Mountains of Madness campaign is infamous for having a long, slow buildup. Just to reach Antarctica, let alone the City of the Elder Things, can easily take a dozen sessions if not more. And that's assuming the Keeper doesn't add in any side adventures in Kingsport or Arkham as the source book suggests. Find any CoC community, and you'll definitely hear stories about groups giving up on this campaign due to players becoming bored.

    Theater 
  • The Girl of the Golden West rather suffers from this in the operatic version, with most of the first act before Minnie's entrance consisting of clunky exposition, random outbursts from minor characters and unstylish recompositions of Stephen Foster songs.
  • The first part of the prologue of Götterdämmerung, with the Norns, is 15 minutes of pure exposition. The entire opera cycle, however, is 20 hours long.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • A good amount of visual novels have slow-paced beginnings, or a lot of filler before something interesting really happens. Doesn't help that there are common routes and specific character paths. There are visual novels with extremely long common routes that take about 10 hours (or even more) to complete - after you finish that, you will be able to proceed to a character's route.
    • Yume Miru Kusuri has gotten some complaints because the slice of life elements in the beginning can be kind of boring. It's basically the guy just going to school, talking to some people, then going to work, etc. Rinse and repeat for a good hour or so. YMK is a character-driven game so you might want to skip right to the parts where you talk to the girl you like.
    • Subarashiki Hibi has a rough start can be tedious to people who are expecting crazy stuff (this visual novel has a certain reputation...). Then you have to read the whole chapter again to proceed to the next. Thank God there's the skip button.
  • Most Danganronpa games have this. These games have many characters (15-16 main characters depending on the game) and each one of them has to introduce themselves in the early game. Once you get through everyone's introductions, the story can actually begin, with things really getting interesting once the first murder occurs.
  • The Fruit of Grisaia's common route is about 15 hours or more. This can be disheartening to readers who dislike slice of life and comedy.
  • In Heart of the Woods, the first chapter out of six is relatively slow-paced, since it mainly involves Madison and Tara investigating the town of Eysenfeld for supernatural phenomena and getting to know their host, Morgan. Abigail, who's Madison's Love Interest, doesn't even appear until early in Chapter 2. Things really start picking up at the end of Chapter 2, when Madison dies and Abigail brings her back as a ghost, enabling Madison to actually hear what Abigail is saying.
  • The Muv-Luv Visual Novel series combines this with Genre Shift. While most of its fans know the series as a post-apocalyptic drama set in a world where humanity is on the brink of annihilation, the series actually starts out with Muv-Luv Extra, a light-hearted romantic comedy with no apocalyptic elements whatsoever that essentially serves as an origin story for the main cast. It's only when you start the follow-up installment - which is still a light-hearted, comedic dating sim that mostly ignores the darker aspects of its setting - Muv-Luv Unlimited, that the apocalyptic setting even materializes, with the most acclaimed chapter of the story actually being the final story arc in the series.
  • With My Harem Heaven is Yandere Hell, who actually choses to play this visual novel are almost certainly interested in the yandere love interests rather than the actual romance. Unfortunately, each route establishes the harem heaven part a little longer than anticipated. While the fanservice is acknowledged and appreciated, the story before the actual yandere section takes serval hours.
  • Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, being like Danganronpa above and having some horror elements, starts off this way. The prologue and first chapter introduce the cast (which, with ten guests at the party and two characters' parents, is smaller than Danganronpa) and provide some Foreshadowing. The first murder occurs at the end of the second chapter.
  • When They Cry:
    • The Question Arcs of Higurashi: When They Cry start off as Slice of Life comedies with only a scant few bits of foreshadowing. It takes several hours of reading before the festival happens and the story makes its Genre Shift into Psychological Horror. Then the chapter ends and the next starts with more wacky adventures starring the characters you just watched get tortured and killed messily. The Slice of Life parts do contain a good number of truly hilarious scenes and are important for establishing the relationships between the characters and making the horror parts more tragic and impactful, but many people will probably be turned away when they don't find the horror story they were expecting (or at least wonder if they got the wrong game by accident).
    • Similarly, the first episode of Umineko: When They Cry is nigh-unplayable due to this. You literally spend 2 hours reading people discussing the weather and politics and being introduced to the 18 members and servants of the Ushiromiya family. Then people start dying horribly. And lots of Mind Screw courtesy of the magical beings.
  • Zero Escape: While the first two installments (999 and Virtue's Last Reward) throw you into a puzzle section right away, Zero Time Dilemma begins with a lengthy intro, followed by three similar scenes (one for each team), each of which is almost completely non-interactive (save for making a single choice) and serves to slowly introduce the characters. It takes over an hour before the first puzzle section is unlocked.

    Web Animation 
  • 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 Most Popular Girls in School: The majority of the entire first season is spent introducing all of the main characters. It's justified; the show was originally going to be conceived as an anthology series until the fans convinced the creators to tie the world together. Around Season 2, the show gradually evolved from a simple Gag Series to a Continuity Lock-Out Dramedy.

    Webcomics 

    Web Videos 
  • BobbyBroccoli's three-part series on Jan Hendrik Schön's scientific fraud is considered well made, but some viewers found the 11-minute "Profile of a Winner" introduction (which discusses common traits of Nobel Prize winners) excessively long and not that interesting compared to the material that covers Schön and his fraud.
  • 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.
  • "The Wadsworth Principle" is this in regards to videos like those found on YouTube. It's an axiom which states that the first 30% of any video can be skipped because it contains no worthwhile or interesting information. There are even Python scripts and websites that automatically do this to videos for you.
    "For EVERY youtube video, I always open the video and then immediately punch the slider bar to about 30 percent. For example, in this video, it should have just started at 0:40. Everything before 0:40 was a waste. This holds true for nearly every video in the universe."
  • Caddicarus discusses this in-work in his video "10 SH*T BEGINNINGS IN GAMES", where he lists ten examples of games that he thinks suffer from this.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It takes about 3/4 of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender for it to really hit its stride story-wise. It’s not until Aang, Katara, and Sokka get to the Northern Water Tribe that the show ditches the world-building for the Myth Arc that carries throughout the rest of the show.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes:
    • Season 1 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 high 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 are 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.
  • Beware the Batman is fairly episodic at first, and Tatsu is just introduced as a civilian who has not yet become the vigilante Katana. The first few episodes develop her character through minor scenes and B-plots. It's not until the seventh episode, "Family", where she finds out the truth about Bruce Wayne and Batman, she fights alongside Batman against the common threat of the League of Assassins, and the first actual story arc of the season officially kicks into place. The series becomes increasingly serialized after that.
  • Bojack Horseman didn't impress too many people with its first few episodes; while not bad, they didn't look like much more than a typical adult animated sitcom, complete with Family Guy-esque Cutaway Gags and an unsympathetic protagonist. Around halfway through the first season, however, it revealed itself to be more of a thoughtful character study with surprising emotional heft. When the creator talked about this years later, he revealed that he wishes he made the build-up to the Tone Shift more obvious or just had the show as a tragicomedy from the start.
    There are clues in the beginning, and I think because of the context of it being an adult animated show, people didn't see those clues. (...) I remember reading reviews of the first season, and one said "for a show that is meant to be just wall-to-wall jokes, there sure are a lot of scenes that don't have that many jokes." And I thought, "You're so close."
  • 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.
  • While the villain scenes of The Dreamstone are consistently humorous through the entire series, the heroes spend most of the early run being thoroughly humourless and bland, with very little effort put into developing their mythos and world, or even just having them look sympathetic against the Urpneys, making the show incredibly uneven. Season Three onwards starts to give more side plots for the heroes' duties and travels, with a lot more surreal world-building present. Rufus and Amberley also gain more comedic, snarky personalities to make their scenes as enjoyable as the Urpneys'.
  • The first season of Gravity Falls started off slow, with Dipper and Mabel encountering random Monsters Of The Week with slight hints at a Myth Arc. While the show was still popular during this time, it wasn't until the exciting two-part Season Finale, which introduces the show's Big Bad and ends with major secrets starting to come to light, that the show's plot really picked up.
  • 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.
  • Kulipari: An Army of Frogs takes its time establishing its setting and characters, not even getting to introducing the titular Kulipari until episode 7, halfway into the first season and the plot becomes more of a Compressed Adaptation from there, culminating in the first book being told in 9 episodes, but books 2 and 3 only getting two episodes each which results in the plot moving so fast, things don't even really make sense unless you've read the books.
  • While they still caught some viewers' attention by being very different from G3 and 3.5, which are generally considered a Dork Age, the first couple of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episodes are heavily clichéd and predictable. While these episodes certainly aren't bad exactly, they didn't do much to establish their own identity. The show's explosion in popularity would occur at the beginning of the second season, with a villain named Discord chewing the scenery, followed by a solid string of great Slice of Life episodes; one of which is still considered one of the best in the series.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes starts off with only relatively small amounts of continuity and foreshadowing, and doesn't pick up the pace until at least halfway through the rather lengthy first season. It's especially slow compared to season 3, where nearly every episode is part of a longer storyline, due partially to the series Growing the Beard and partially to the show's cancellation looming on the horizon.
  • Steven Universe can be a disorienting experience for newcomers, as the first half of season one provides only the smallest of hints that something bigger than Monster of the Week adventures with a boy with a gem for a bellybutton and his mother figures is going on. The series formally introduces its Myth Arc in "Lion 2: The Movie", seventeen episodes in, with the midseason two-parter being the point that both fans and the show's creators believe Steven Universe begins to truly pick up speed and more frequently display the rich Character Development and Worldbuilding it has since become known for.

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