Every story is a Quest Story, regardless of genre or type, and that includes literary and main-stream fiction.
My, that’s a sweeping statement, but I repeat, my speech rising:
EVERY STORY WRITTEN IS A QUEST STORY
Understanding this fact makes writing your story easier.
Embarking on a quest implies a problem, something or someone to find, something to be solved, a mystery filled with obstacles the character must conquer to reach their goal.
A Quest Story satisfies all the main points of what constitutes a story:
A character has a problem to solve, and after repeated conflicts (internal and external) that push the character to the brink, he or she either succeeds or fails to reach the goal (conclusion), and because of said outcome, is changed.
A mystery falls neatly into this definition: the quest to find the bad guy, either to serve justice or to stop him before he kills again.
A love story is the protagonist’s quest to find the one person who “makes her whole.”
The “coming of age” story is about a young person on the quest to find answers to life’s questions and their place in the world.
James Scott Bell lists 9 types of plot patterns in his book, Plot and Structure: Quest, Revenge, Love, Adventure, the Chase, One against, One apart, Power, and Allegory.
Although Quest Stories are normally attributed to fantasies—The Epic of Gilgamesh (written before the Bible, about 4,000 years ago), Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, the Arthurian Legend, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, perhaps the greatest quest story of all—every story must, at its core, include a quest.
The Quest Story is about a character shaken from a comfortable existence in search of something vital for his life, the lives of others he cares about, or to save the whole world, as in the case of Frodo Baggins.
Doesn’t every story strive to answer and satisfy this ultimate need? Can you name a story, novel, play, or movie that does not?
Go ahead, we’ll wait.
If a story does not have a quest, there is no story. The quest is what the character must do despite obstacles, no matter what.
While you write, keep in mind the quest your character is trying to complete; this forces you to focus on the character’s purpose, the problems involved, and by doing so, you will avoid the dreaded “middle story lag” and create stories readers will not be able to put down.
What is the quest journey your character must travel?
See you on the next page,
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