“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
– Helen Keller
Quest stories are among my favorite novels to read. The Wizard Of Oz (L. Frank Baum) and The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) are two books I will always remember. There are many others but the plot is simple. In a quest story, the character is asked to go on a journey to find something. It could be treasure or the key to destiny, but they must find it or come up empty.
Generally, this type of plot leads the character in search of a new item, place or person. For example, in The Wizard of Oz, which was actually the start of a series of books, Dorothy and those alongside with her, were searching for the Land of Oz. They do this so that each of them can get something in return. The readers are just along for the ride, hopefully turning pages as the characters get into mischief along the way.
So I bet by now you’re wondering how this plot type works. Well, let’s take a look at it. First, you have to consider the characters. Think about the Wizard of Oz. The main characters were Dorothy, the lion, the tin man, the scarecrow and Mr. Oz. Successful quest stories have a group of characters on stage instead one protagonist. Among these characters is a friend that the character can confide in, while there is also a sidekick they can get into trouble with along the way.
Then you have had the inciting incident. This is like a cocktail party–it gets your story off to a rolling start. You want it to have fireworks but not too many fireworks that it’s overdramatized. Your reader wants to feel that are part of the setting. Don’t blow the tornado that sweeps Dorothy’s house away into something that couldn’t really happen. Most of your readers want to connect a realistic aspect to your characters so keep this in mind.
Now it’s time to get your characters on their journey. It’s not going to be an easy journey, however. If you’re an awesome writer (and I know that you are!) you’re going to throw conflict at your characters at every corner. Give them temptations and vices. Make your characters flawed because, in reality, no human is perfect. This is what your reader wants. If they are on a journey to find their birth family, have them run into roadblocks along the way. A journey is never easy and your readers know this. If it’s worth it, then your characters will battle through it.
Later on in the story, your characters will see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are so close to reaching their goal and Wham! Reality smacks them in the face once more. Don’t let your characters give up but let them be frustrated. While this may be annoying, it just means your character has more work to do. They have the minor goals to accomplish before they are to reach their overall goal in the story. You may want to spice it up and make this reality check something huge so that it surprises or shocks your readers.
Next, comes the final test for the hero. What is it? Do they fail or succeed? You have brought your characters and readers this far that you really need to think about these final steps. Think about the fire your character has walked through to get to this point. What have they suffered to get here? What have they accomplished? Use this information to write the final conflict that will keep your readers rooting for your hero.
And lastly–did they complete their quest? Did they find the buried treasure in the pyramid? Were they able to achieve the overall goal that you set out for them? Read over what you wrote so far and this will determine that. Write a knock-out ending that is going to leave your readers wanting more. Leave them wanting to buy your next book before you write it.