How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#1
     I'm curious to know what other think about this topic. In my fiction, Voracity, It isn't until chapter 6 (and especially 7) that the heavy stuff starts to hit. I take time in building up the characters and events so that when the shit hits the fan, the reader cares more about what happens to who. Honestly I see 100 pages of building to be appropriate. Dune, for example, doesn't get intense until about 200 pages in.
     But what do you all think? how many pages/chapters do you think should be spent on buildup before something big happens? Let me know.

Roland Aldridge

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#2
I always think about the inciting incident/catalyst beat in terms of percentages rather than pages since a 500k word novel can take its time more than a 20k word novella. And most plot structure guides recommend putting this beat somewhere in the first 10%.

In my case, my books end up being somewhere between 100k to 150k words, so I try to disrupt the status quo within the first 10k words. :)

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#3
I think it's risky in the RR climate, where there is an abundance of ongoing fictions, to leave it so long. First chapters are so critical in hooking readers onto the next and retaining them. 

I get what you're saying about Dune, and that may be right, but this is a different time and a different way to consume fiction. It's more disposable on here and easier to dismiss if it's not something someone is getting into. 

Keep doing what you're doing if you're enjoying it and can see it through, as there will be people who will pick up what you're putting down. On the flip side, this way may also ostracise a lot too. Good luck!

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#4
So far, I am on chapter 9 (currently writing it) and my chapter sit around 4000 to 5000 words each. The heavy events that alter the course of the narrative happen in chapter 6 and 7. As it stands, I have about 40 chapters outlined, but that will most likely change, especially if I continue with the current word count per chapter. In this case, do you see chapters 6 and 7 as being appropriate for introducing the events that change the course of the story and send the characters on their journey? Judging by the reply so far, it seems more or less on the mark, if not a little late into the fiction.

Roland Aldridge

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#5
It depends on how elaborate and important the action is.

If the book has fairly short action sequences, without that much tactical stuff, then you could hold it up for a while in order to make it more meaningful. 'MC hits bad man with large stick, bad man dies,' could be more significant with a sense of context.

If the book has long or intricate action sequences, or plenty of tactics, then you can just lead with that because it already shows a bit about the story.

You can also use a prologue with action scenes, possibly from earlier or later than the main story, in order to give readers some indication of what the action might look like.

Different subgenres or types of story might have different conventions here.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#9
I had a longer comment typed out before my phone wiped it. :(

Anyway, I’ll sum it up. You need to identify when a reader will start to care about your character. Once they do that, you switch things up or take them out of their element so that it shows another side to them outside of their status quo.

One could throw action at the start and I personally would not care because I have no investment to anything happening. But, if I’ve come to know Frodo(example) over the course of some time then I’m sure as hell going to hope the black riders don’t catch him.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#10
"The Action" defined as important and impactful story beats which will inform the status quo until the next major beat should happen whenever the story demands that it should. General action, combat, excitement should probably happen relatively early on, especially if you're writing a story that is going to be defined by action set pieces. Even if it's a minor scuffle in the long run with few ramifications. This is why oftentimes teenage superhero stories actually have the "first fight" not as Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin, but Peter Parker vs. Flash Thompson. And you'll likely have a couple of Peter vs. Flash battles before Peter ever puts the suit on. This is because the story exists on the promise of some kind of action, so it consistently delivers, even if that action has lesser meaning and stakes than the real "meat" of the story. The stories which are remembered decades later, such as Spider-Man, use these low-stakes action scenes to define the world and the characters, even though they don't necessarily drive the main plot forward.

Consider some popular examples:

Naruto's opening chapters involve an intense battle with Mizuki which serve primarily to tell us who Naruto is, what his world thinks of him, and how that has affected his personal philosophy. The actual story of Naruto does not begin for another arc (debatably).

Dragon Ball's first battle is, surprisingly, Goku vs. Bulma, which serves to introduce our two protagonists, their unique strengths and character attributes, their desires, and how they differ.

The earliest battle in Harry Potter is Harry vs. the Dursleys, setting up Harry's traumas and the Dursley's immense shame and disownership of the situation. This battle happens primarily in words and actions, as the Dursleys attempt to forget that Harry is in their care and hide him from the Hogwarts staff.

In general: do something exciting every couple of chapters. Excitement and action are one in the same.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#11
I don't think a story needs to start off super action-heavy like Matrix: Reloaded and Casino Royale, but you probably want to have at least a smaller scale action scene early on that serves as a taste for what's to come. You can back-load the bulk of it, most likely, but you probably want your characters to do something other than stand around and talk at some point early on. It's easy for readers to get bored and wander away from a novel if it's a free web serial for the exact reasons (they didn't pay for it and have no pressing urge to continue it to the end no matter what, they are staring right at an infinite void of distractions, and they're going to have to wait weeks for more of the novel rather than having it right then and there. You need to give them a reason to stay.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#12

SonictheEvil Wrote: "The Action" defined as important and impactful story beats which will inform the status quo until the next major beat should happen whenever the story demands that it should. General action, combat, excitement should probably happen relatively early on, especially if you're writing a story that is going to be defined by action set pieces. Even if it's a minor scuffle in the long run with few ramifications. This is why oftentimes teenage superhero stories actually have the "first fight" not as Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin, but Peter Parker vs. Flash Thompson. And you'll likely have a couple of Peter vs. Flash battles before Peter ever puts the suit on. This is because the story exists on the promise of some kind of action, so it consistently delivers, even if that action has lesser meaning and stakes than the real "meat" of the story. The stories which are remembered decades later, such as Spider-Man, use these low-stakes action scenes to define the world and the characters, even though they don't necessarily drive the main plot forward.

Consider some popular examples:

Naruto's opening chapters involve an intense battle with Mizuki which serve primarily to tell us who Naruto is, what his world thinks of him, and how that has affected his personal philosophy. The actual story of Naruto does not begin for another arc (debatably).

Dragon Ball's first battle is, surprisingly, Goku vs. Bulma, which serves to introduce our two protagonists, their unique strengths and character attributes, their desires, and how they differ.

The earliest battle in Harry Potter is Harry vs. the Dursleys, setting up Harry's traumas and the Dursley's immense shame and disownership of the situation. This battle happens primarily in words and actions, as the Dursleys attempt to forget that Harry is in their care and hide him from the Hogwarts staff.

In general: do something exciting every couple of chapters. Excitement and action are one in the same.
     My story is not really action focused. It's a romance with heavy traumatic events and the story focuses mainly on pain, misery, and the internal battle raging in the main characters head which will eventually drive him insane.


     There is action in my story, but it is hardly the main attraction. I've been told I write action scenes well, but I generally don't like writing them. I prefer to base an entire chapter around the torment swirling around inside a characters head. This is, I think, well portrayed in chapter 8 during Thomas's point of view (my chapters change perspective several times per chapter. Thats one of the reasons they are 5000 words long).

Roland Aldridge

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#14
Personally, I like to be eased into a story and typically I do not like stories opening with action. I notice that nowadays this is the norm. I don't read many webnovels because I'm usually either writing (actually editing the hell out of shit cus I'm obsessed and I do more harm than good lol), and I notice that this seems to be a thing. I really prefer to read printed books as I hate reading off of a screen. I've been told that readers are impatient and just want to rush through a story, but I don't understand that. I like to take my time and really get engrossed into the story and the world of the fiction. Honestly, I like a build to action, so like after some chapters.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#15

L Wrote: Personally, I like to be eased into a story and typically I do not like stories opening with action. I notice that nowadays this is the norm. I don't read many webnovels because I'm usually either writing (actually editing the hell out of shit cus I'm obsessed and I do more harm than good lol), and I notice that this seems to be a thing. I really prefer to read printed books as I hate reading off of a screen. I've been told that readers are impatient and just want to rush through a story, but I don't understand that. I like to take my time and really get engrossed into the story and the world of the fiction. Honestly, I like a build to action, so like after some chapters.
Then you should give my story a go. Its a gradual buildup, just as you described :) 

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#16
Depends on the story. Because stories have different tones, pacing, and length. I won't expect the same start with something that is written to be heavy on the slice-of-life or something that's heavy on the action adventure. 

Some stories benefit from a little build up, others you can start right off the bat. I'm not saying I prefer either one. However, I like each of them done very well. I don't like being thrown into the thick of it and then the story pacing slows down to a crawl and never really explaining what it going on. On the flip side, I don't want to keep guessing what the story is actually about because there isn't set-up as the story is just being bogged down with world building.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#17

L Wrote: and I notice that this seems to be a thing. I really prefer to read printed books as I hate reading off of a screen. I've been told that readers are impatient and just want to rush through a story, but I don't understand that.
Indeed, if you spend enough time around major writing communities that attract the sort of writer looking to break the New York Times best seller's lists, you'll see all sorts of advice along the lines of starting your story as close to the end as possible, opening with a bang to hook the readers, and shaving away anything that doesn't directly serve the main plot. Younger writers then take this advice to heart, and begin critiquing each other (and older styles of writing) with this singular perspective in mind. It creates a sort of stylistic feedback loop, and it can be pretty difficult to break into the hobby / industry until the agents decide that they're bored with it all and shift the goalposts yet again.


For what it's worth, I (like you) think a lot of modern stories are far too thin for their own good, because the authors have chopped out the depth and character. I feel this even in other mediums, like movies and games. Half the heart of Harry Potter was imagining life at wizard school, and if you cut out the sports and the cafeteria smack talk and the classes, you're left with a fairly uneventful, unoriginal series of events that could barely be called an adventure.

I've had trouble teasing my way out of this advice, as well as other advice such as "say as much as you can with as little as possible." It's severely stilted my prose in the past few years, and actually made writing more stressful than fun--which killed my motivation for it. The road to recovery isn't easy, but I think I am making progress. Sad to say that I still think the stories I wrote in high school are better than what I'm writing at thirty, and I wrote them in a more timely fashion, too.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#18
I'm at 80k words for my first story and the most action I have written so far is basically no more than a fancy staredown. ^^

Probably explains the low number of readers, but I like the way the story has developed. Nothing wrong with building a solid, slow-paced foundation before getting into things. My favorite webnovel of all time, Lord of the Mysteries, is basically the same, so I don't really judge any story by how quickly the action/meat starts. As long as the writing is interesting, I'll give it a shot. Even if we have 100 chapters of cultivating in a cave. Though there better be some real fancy stuff inside that cave.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#19

Camelboy Wrote: But what do you all think? how many pages/chapters do you think should be spent on buildup before something big happens? Let me know.
I don't really like boiling story down to a mechanical science, especially since writing stories is in fact, an art. I don't think there's an appropriate answer as far as page/chapter count. I think if there's tension that keeps the reader turning pages, it doesn't matter how long. Take The Fifth Element for instance. Act one is literally half that movie. And it's a great movie.

Is there tension in Dune before the Harokonen attack? Absolutely. That's what keeps the reader turning pages.

Re: How many pages in to a fiction do you think the action should start?

#20

Camelboy Wrote:
L Wrote: Personally, I like to be eased into a story and typically I do not like stories opening with action. I notice that nowadays this is the norm. I don't read many webnovels because I'm usually either writing (actually editing the hell out of shit cus I'm obsessed and I do more harm than good lol), and I notice that this seems to be a thing. I really prefer to read printed books as I hate reading off of a screen. I've been told that readers are impatient and just want to rush through a story, but I don't understand that. I like to take my time and really get engrossed into the story and the world of the fiction. Honestly, I like a build to action, so like after some chapters.
Then you should give my story a go. Its a gradual buildup, just as you described :)
Cool.