too much action

Question: I've written a plot for my novel but after reading it through I realized there are no lazy scenes in every chapter someone is doing something and my question is is there such thing as too much action?


Answer: A lot depends on the audience you're writing for. Readers of literary fiction tend to be more interested in characterization and authenticity than action. They like books with more introspection and that closely reflect people's real life experiences.

On the other hand, some readers love action and adventure. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, for example, features fairly non-stop action, and even though many literary readers have criticized his writing style, the book was amazingly successful.

My personal feeling is a scene needs to be important to the story in order to justify being there. However, stories are not just about what people do, they are also about how people come to decisions or realizations. Character and relationship growth are as important as external or physical challenges.

A lot of readers will not care about action in a story unless they can experience it through the eyes of a character who they feel empathy for. Caring about the character comes from understanding their perspective, their inner conflicts, their personality, and their relationships with others. The throughlines relating to a character's emotional struggles often don't involve a lot of explosions, fisticuffs, or daring escapes.

If you know your audience and what they expect, you can often enrich a story by how you balance these elements. Action stories are more emotionally impactful when the characters and their inner struggles are well developed. Literary fiction can also become more emotionally engaging when it includes a solid plot.

In fact, many publishers look for books that hit the elusive sweet spot between literary and genre fiction because such books have greater potential to appeal to a wide audience.

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