Action: when you hear that word, I bet the first thing you think is Kung-fu fighting, blazing guns firing off far more than their magazines can hold, and cars that blow up in total disregard to the laws of physics. While the Action genre is rife with such things, even Romance requires that characters move around and do things—usually things that you wish you had the courage and/or physical health to do with your significant other… oh wait, that would be the Erotica genre, my bad.
But whether doing something cool or just picking up a coffee cup, characters have to do things. While not every action must be done with dramatic flair, sometimes a scene just requires something a little bit more than just “he walked down the hall.” Action can be used to describe character far better than just telling, and it can also enhance dialogue. Indeed, without action, you have no story. Nobody would be going anywhere or doing anything—kinda like The Great Gatsby.
Action is such an important part of a story that it’s almost impossible to move a story along without it. Don’t believe me? Try writing an all-dialogue story once and see for yourself how hard it is to avoid action. Now write a story with no dialogue and only action. Much easier to do, now isn’t it? The importance of action can especially be seen in film. Watch an anime short (like an Aeon Flux episode) that’s all action and no dialogue or read the famous Superman issue where Superman got killed. It can be done. It works. Now just try to find a film where there’s no action at all, and only dialogue. Good luck finding that, and if you do then try not to fall asleep through it.
Action can also be used as a means to hook the reader into the story. Opening a story with “he dove off the cliff, head first toward the onrushing river, with a smile on his face” can leave a reader asking, “Why did he do that?” And thus the reader will read further in order to find out.
And who can ever forget the old Western cliché of walking off into the sunset?
So make sure you put some action into that story, especially if it’s a long story. Otherwise, Cthulu will come and eat you.