Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#1
I keep seeing this as a complaint from many people whenever they read a story that doesn't have much happening in the way of action. I can't help but feel this is rather low IQ. Yes I get it that things "have to open" for the story to be interesting, but I feel people have become intellectually dulled and can't appreciate "things happening" that don't involve something exploding or dying. I also feel some people don't have the patience to let events accumulate over the book before something "big" happens. Everything seems to be about instant gratification now.

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#2
Some people only want the next Michael Bay flick. It doesn't need to make much sense, just have stuff blow up a lot and they are satisfied. Likewise, some readers are looking for a similar type of fix. They don't want to think too much, just have a murder hobo go on a level grinding rampage and they are satisfied.

There's nothing wrong with that. The world is big enough for all kinds of stories. I see those types of reviews and just shrug because the practical translation of what they said is: "I am not the audience for this.".

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#5
I mean, the majority of readers on here read litRPG and Gamelit. They're most likely gamers, and they're used to constant dopamine releases and sensory triggers. And they tend to enjoy action-packed stories more because that's many of them are here for. I'm sure many people appreciate slower paced books too, but you gotta hit the right audience. 

One of my stories got a 2 star for too many dialogues and not enough action. I consulted beta readers, other reviewers who have given me 5 stars, and more, and most agreed that I had the right balance and cutting more dialogues might ruin that balance. Though I'm thinking of trimming some anyway. It doesn't hurt having my book more interesting to the action-hungries a little.

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#6
Maybe it is a more targeted grouse than that. Although you did not specify the kind of story, lets assume the readers are critiquing an action or an adventure story to which the comment might apply.  Yes there are lots of novels that target social issues, mental health , cerebral philosophies, politics, on and on. These are not action oriented  works,  and have an audience.  However if an action / adventure is written,  and presented, it may well be judged according to how well it delivered, eh, action and/or adventure.  A lot of fantasy and SF are indeed pursued on this site  for action / adventure content. I suppose then it is not unlikely that they might be judged not for the depth of philosophical content primarily, but on how good an action epic or adventure they present.  If there is a take away from this, I guess its not unreasonable to note you don't bring a cat to a dog judging contest. 
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/action-adventure

Its hard to judge this, as we only get exposed to a small portion of the reactions that flood a fairly large site like RR.  But in theory I can see the above as being a possible answer.

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#8
Some people want tension and stakes, not action specifically, and fights to the death are probably the easiest/common way to add those. Some prefer a power fantasy and defeating enemies is once again the shortest path to show a dominant character. Also, action scenes usually offer a standalone combo of promise - process - pay off.

With that said, action scenes still rely on what the characters want and what they can lose/willing to sacrifice. Just throwing them in can turn even better ones into forgettable filler. And some readers might just miss the stakes or tension, or any of the promise - pay off steps. Either because they didn't notice them, or expected something else.

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#9

Half Wrote: There is a definite and strong difference between an action story and an adventure story. Conflating the two only muddies the water.

That said, if your story is tagged action then you'd better deliver the goods.

My story isn't even really either action or adventure. There are some moments of violence/action, but not very much. Tbh I'm not really sure how to even classify my story since I don't feel it falls into the convention spectrum of action, adventure, drama etc.

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#10
Oftentimes readers are misdiagnosing the issue they have with the story; most people aren't critics, after all. "Little action" in their mind means there aren't enough fight scenes and punching. But what it ACTUALLY means is that the story hasn't done a good enough job at making the characters and their story arcs interesting. If you haven't gripped readers with the stakes that don't involve action, then they might not stick around to the actual action, as cool as it may be. Movies can have paper-thin characters with incredible action sequences that blow people's minds, but that is a visual medium. Here, either you have a fight every other chapter, or you make sure even the most hardened readers come to care about your characters, and the latter is the much better option.

Similarly, this complaint may also be a misdiagnosis of poor pacing. If it takes 20 chapters to go from point A to point B, and nothing significant happens in that meantime, readers are going to be annoyed, even though they may think that a lack of action is the problem. I would say with pretty high confidence that the issue with most stories is either characters or pacing, NOT simply a lack of explosions. If people aren't engaged between the explosions, then it's no better than watching a mediocre streamer play through an open-world video game.

Re: Why is "little action" considered bad by many readers? What even is "little action"?

#11
I think it's a complaint often found in stories that have a certain set-up. You won't see people complaining about too little action in a clearly slice-of-life story. 

If you promise action to the reader, through things like the summary and the premise, then the reader comes in expecting some action. 

Imagine sitting down for a Michael Bay movie, only there's hardly any action at all. If you're expecting it, and it's not delivered, then you'll naturally want to complain about the absence. 

This can be alleviated, but I think this:

Thedude3445 Wrote: Oftentimes readers are misdiagnosing the issue they have with the story; most people aren't critics, after all. "Little action" in their mind means there aren't enough fight scenes and punching. But what it ACTUALLY means is that the story hasn't done a good enough job at making the characters and their story arcs interesting. If you haven't gripped readers with the stakes that don't involve action, then they might not stick around to the actual action, as cool as it may be. Movies can have paper-thin characters with incredible action sequences that blow people's minds, but that is a visual medium. Here, either you have a fight every other chapter, or you make sure even the most hardened readers come to care about your characters, and the latter is the much better option.

Similarly, this complaint may also be a misdiagnosis of poor pacing. If it takes 20 chapters to go from point A to point B, and nothing significant happens in that meantime, readers are going to be annoyed, even though they may think that a lack of action is the problem. I would say with pretty high confidence that the issue with most stories is either characters or pacing, NOT simply a lack of explosions. If people aren't engaged between the explosions, then it's no better than watching a mediocre streamer play through an open-world video game.



Covers it better than I could.

Generally speaking, it's best to look for fault in your own work, before looking for it in the perception of those reading that work.