My son has a love of modern cartoons, specifically things like Johnny Test and Pokémon. They’re frenetic shows, blasts of color with all the characters yelling because they’re so excited about what’s going on in the show at the time. Pokémon is really the worst of the two because, frankly, I find the whole thing pretty baffling.
OH NO! A CHARGARGOTHIKON E-X FIRE TYPE IS ATTACKING MY RAEDAWNCHONG TYPE R EVOLVED! IT’S ALL VERY EXCITING AND WE SHOULD ALL BE VERY EXCITED! ALSO, I NEED A SANDWICH!
Johnny Test is slightly less difficult to watch. If Pokémon is seeing the world through they eyes of someone hopped up on a mountain of crystal meth, Johnny Test is seeing the world through the eyes of someone hopped up on a slightly smaller mountain of crystal meth. To be fair, I’m hardly the target audience for either show.
Both shows are exhausting to watch because everything is amped up to eleven one hundred percent of the time. When everything is full-speed, full-power, all the time the story essentially flat-lines and you move from an action-packed adventure to action porn.
There aren’t a whole lot of literary equivalents to Pokémon or Johnny Test. It’s hard to use words to amp things up to that level, but it does happen from time to time. I think it was Matthew Reilly’s Ice Station that had a seventy page long action scene. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy Reilly’s books, but at the end of the seventy pages I was getting pretty tired of bullets flying through air. And I really like bullets flying through the air. And Reilly set the whole scene and wrote it extremely well.
It was just so long.
On the other hand, Ice Station also had killer walruses. How many time do you get to see the bad guys killed by walruses?
Action scenes in books are – as far as I’m concerned – one of the things I love about reading. But the problem is action scenes oftentimes don’t move the plot along or move the story forward. The constant running and battling and frenetic energy is cool, but it needs to be balanced with quieter times where we learn the characters can do more than shoot at each other. Even Predator (the greatest movie ever made) – a movie about a group of Special Ops getting hunted by a creature from space – had quiet, almost contemplative moments.
Those moments give the reader an opportunity to take a breath, learn and empathize with the characters, and get a larger view of the plot. It’s in the quieter moments of Predator that we learn some important things:
- This isn’t the first time the Predator has hunted in these jungles
- The natives have a name for it: The demon who makes trophies of men
- Billy can somehow sense the Predator
All action, all the time gets tedious and boring. Take a minute to ramp down the action from time to time, let everyone catch their breath, and do a bit of exploration. Then, after everyone’s had a chance to relax a bit, unleash the man-eating walruses.