on Fiction University:
The act one problem is where many first drafts fizzle out. Here’s why.
We tend to think of the beginning of a novel as the first chapter or opening scene, but it’s really the first twenty-five percent of the novel. The “beginning” is everything that happens before the first major plot point the protagonist can’t walk away from.
The inciting event might officially start the novel, but it’s a call to action the protagonist can refuse (and often does). And once they do, things spiral out of control and get worse until getting involved in the plot is no longer an option.
The protagonist must act, because the problem is now too big to ignore. It demands attention, and it’s made it very clear it’s not going away unless somebody does something.