Posts Tagged ‘quests’

Quests are widely recognized as part of the fantasy genre. In fact, they’re SO widely recognized that I find it difficult to base a story on them. It’s like flogging a dead horse.

For some genres, having your characters stay put can benefit the story. In a dark fantasy, your story gains suspense if the characters are trapped and cannot escape a horrific menace. Military SF isn’t my thing, but I could see a lot of tension if a group of soldiers were pinned down in a location where they could neither advance nor retreat.

Travel across lands and cultures involves a certain amount of work as far as world-building goes. Some of that creative energy might be better spent on deeper characterization or tighter plotting.

For me, personally, having my characters travel has become redundant. Of my 11 books and novellas, 8 of them involve a journey for at least part of the story. That includes my current WIP. I really feel that I’m repeating myself, and that doesn’t make for an exciting tale.

The irony is, my current series, The Minstrels of Skaythe, involves a group of mages who scattered for their own safety. Each one of them has to travel away from where they were. This means I’m going to have to be creative in how I show them dispersing. Which is fine — if nothing else, authors should be creative.

What do you think? Are quests still cool, or are they more meh?

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Ever since Lord of the Rings, it seems like every fantasy novel has to include a journey or quest. Why do we do this?

One advantage of having your characters go on a journey is that it takes them out of their comfort zone. They’re in unfamiliar territory, surrounded by strangers. They can’t anticipate what people will do. No more comfy house to return to, either.

They might have gear if the trip was planned, but if they left suddenly, they have to spend time on survival tasks such as searching for water and shelter. If your story is more humorous in tone, there’s lots of opportunity for fish-out-of-water episodes. For darker stories, you can emphasize heat or cold, adverse weather, thirst or hunger, wild animals, and other hazards of hitting the road unprepared.

Journeys allow the writer to vary the setting and introduce new wonders or dangers. Travel can imply a wider world around the story events. Reactions to these new vistas may deepen the characterization of people in the story. You can add more conflict if the characters get lost or argue about where to go next.

It’s also very folkloric. Many of the great epics and story cycles involve heroes who go somewhere and fight a monster or achieve some other great feat. If the characters need to learn a lesson of some sort, inspiration can come with the travel.

What about drawbacks? I’ll look at those on Saturday.

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Something I’ve noticed recently is how often the stories I write involve someone going on a journey. In Too Many Princes, the title characters went on a quest. In The Seven Exalted Orders, two of the characters were running away from the others. In the sequel, The Eighth Order, which the publisher has been sitting on forever, they also chase someone across the countryside. In The Grimhold Wolf, a character was abducted and the other ones went to rescue him. In Masters of Air & Fire, the characters’ home was destroyed and they had to search for another one. In The Weight of Their Souls, the characters were traveling home after a war. In The Tower in the Mist, soldiers are taking their prisoner to a special prison — on the other side of a haunted forest. In The Grove of Ghosts, the MC is traveling to break a curse.

Only in The Magister’s Mask, The Necromancer’s Bones, and The Gellboar did everyone basically stay at home and do stuff there. That’s three out of eleven tales involving some sort of travel.

I must confess, I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself with the journeys. My current WIP, Fang Marsh, starts with the main character on a journey. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m going to have her arrive at a destination and stay there. This will make some other parts of the plot easier. For one thing, the villain and her henchmen will be able to find her!

What do you guys think — am I worrying too much about this?

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