A friend of mine who had a desk cluttered with Star Wars memorabilia, raved about each movie. Yet, she admitted sheepishly that she never finished Lord of the Rings because she just couldn’t get into it. When I read the trilogy, it was so popular that I couldn’t get the first book from the library. I started with the second, and then finished the third book. Because I was enamored with this tale, I went back and read the first, and found it still thrilled me, even though I knew how it would end.
Obviously, you can’t write the perfect quest for all people, because their expectations differ. But most quests, even those not in fantasy or science fiction, share similarities. First is that the trip is not aimless, but has a goal, whether it is reached or not. Sometimes the treasure that the adventurers seek, is not the one they bring back to their home. Some things are more valuable than wealth.
The goal may be one of the following:
- Find a fabled treasure or another rare thing, such as a substance to stop a plague or prevent another kind of disaster (very common).
- Locate a new place to live; often the initial part of the story describes the conflict that led to the need to find a new home (somewhat common).
- Find a special person, or kind of people; the most frequent source of this quest is discovering that they have something, often knowledge, that the main character needs (also somewhat common). Less frequently found is the protagonists who seeks people to give them an item, or information, that they desire.
- The idea of taking an item to its destruction, as in Lord of the Rings, or finding an item that must be destroyed is not used often but worked well for Tolkien. You may also be able to invent a quest around a more unique storyline.
No matter which you choose, the writer must indicate the value of the quest before the characters start trekking for weeks on end. Which brings us to the next problem. What kind of trials and obstacles will your characters face? This requires a variety of trials over a period of time, and not just repeated fights and skirmishes. The danger can come from surviving dangerous terrain, severe weather, wild animals, or the deceit of friends, as well as armed enemies.
How do you find inspiration for all of these ideas? Borrow events, from the present, from past history and from mythology. Myths are not always restricted to ancient civilizations. People continue to produce and be enthralled by them. (Why do you think the superhero movies are so popular?) Many secretly have a grand desire to be strong enough to be in charge of their destiny. You don’t just see this train of thought in the old myths. It’s quite popular in predictions of scientific advancements for the future.
However, you’ll need to make sure your characters are not that strong. Otherwise their ability to defeat any obstacle unassisted will quickly become boring.
Are you ready to start your search for the perfect quest?