Disguising Setting as Action
The tropical rain fell in drenching sheets, hammering the corrugated roof of the clinic building, roaring down the metal gutters, splashing on the ground in a torrent. (Jurassic Park, Crichton)
Technically, that's action -- the rain fell. But only a slight grammatical change would make it sound like setting:
The tropical rain was falling in drenching sheets, hammering the corrugated roof...
Functionally, Crichton is presenting setting. But he's disguising it as action. I appreciated his effort.
We then get 139 words of true setting/backstory before the true action of the scene, starting with:
Across the examining room, Manuel cocked his head. "Listen," he said.
The Winter of our Discontent (Steinbeck) begins with a conversation between the main character and his wife. So in theory the scene clock is on and the book is starting with action. But the conversation reads like a disguise for setting. Parts of their dialogue:
"Do you remember it's Good Friday?"
"Will Marullo let you close the store at eleven?"
"They [his ancestors] were not pirates. You said yourself, whalers, and you said they had letters of what-you-call-it from the Continental Congress."
"Would my great ancestors be proud to know they produced a goddam grocery clerk in a goddam wop store in a town they used to own?"
They then have a conversation over breakfast which seems mostly like a continuation of setting. When the main character leaves his house, he has a one-sided conversation with a dog, again for setting.
Let me draw a fine distinction. Action can imply setting, and Steinbeck in a way just took that idea to the logical extreme. But Steinbeck's action has almost nothing to do with the plot; he's using the dialogue to tell the reader setting.
Dialogue counts as scene-clock on, so a character speaking aloud to just himself/herself would be scene-clock on. Which means thoughts would be scene-clock on. Which means perceptions and memories are scene-clock on.
But perception can contain a lot of setting, as in this start:
I look up the church aisle, past my small collection of friends and family on the right, who are trying their best not to look poor; past Roger's large collection of friends and family on the left, who feel comfortable with their expensive clothes and the pomp of a large marriage ceremony; and towards the front of the church. Roger is waiting, standing, unsmiling; he is no doubt considering some philosophical thought. (The Scarlet Letter, Sohan)
That starts with action and the scene clock on: "I look." The rest is thoughts/perceptions, so the scene clock is technically on. But nothing is really happening, and functionally it's describing setting.
However, it's her thoughts, and implications about her personality can be made from knowing how she sees the scene. The intent there was not just to present setting.
The following looks like it starts with action (dialogue).
"Look at you in your fur! You were so smart to wear it!"
"It was my mother's. I never wear it. I really never do. But today I just thought Why not?"
In the cold, the mothers gathered outside the school...
But that dialogue has nothing to do with the story (and we don't even find out who said it). Instead, it's an instance of a conversation that's supposed to give the reader a feel for what the mothers' conversation is like. (And the last sentence is also an active verb disguising setting as action.)