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How Many Fantasy Plots are There Really?

What is a quest?

Is it just a more epic word for a "goal"? Probably. Although, we tend to assume things like it are not just heroically difficult but taking enough time for other elements to show up ("epic" means, among other qualifications, a long heroic poem; "kill the dragon at the gate within an hour" doesn't quite seem right) and probably taking it in the form of travel (that "hero's journey" image that seems like more than a metaphor). So Jabrowsky has a point, a classic quest is a chance to explore the world.

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Nebuchadnezzar

Troubadour
"Quest" in this sense is usually, "quest giver, journey, do this specific task." In the strictest sense, Gandalf shows up on Bilbo's doorstep with a quest to slay the dragon Smaug, and Brienne sets out with a quest to find Sansa.

I think the great thing about The Hobbit (compared to most other quest stories including the Tolkien imitators) is that the book doesn't end with the completion of the quest. Tolkien's genius is that the latter part of the book explores the consequences of the quest's success, which turn out to be a lot more negative than Bilbo and the dwarves might have hoped. Most of the quest stories that followed The Hobbit (including to a great extent LotR) make the end of the quest the climax and quickly wrap up the story afterward.

The Hobbit has a lot of the typical quest's arbitrary elements in the first part (the trolls, Beorn, etc) but the latter part of the book IMO necessarily follows from what has come before.

I'd love to see more quest stories that imitate Tolkien in this respect, but I can't think of too many off the top of my head. I think you're right that a lot of the quests being written seem to be a more-or-less arbitrary series of challenges placed in front of the MC while the author takes the reader on a world-building tour.

Not that there's anything wrong with that -- I've read and enjoyed plenty of books like that. I'm just always hoping there might be something more...
 
What is a quest?

According to Mirriam-Webster:
1
a : a jury of inquest
b : investigation

2 : an act or instance of seeking:
a : pursuit, search
b : a chivalrous enterprise in medieval romance usually involving an adventurous journey

3
obsolete : a person or group of persons who search or make inquiry

So, basically, a quest is a pursuit or enterprise towards a certain goal that usually but not always involve a journey.
 

Ireth

Myth Weaver
I think the great thing about The Hobbit (compared to most other quest stories including the Tolkien imitators) is that the book doesn't end with the completion of the quest. Tolkien's genius is that the latter part of the book explores the consequences of the quest's success, which turn out to be a lot more negative than Bilbo and the dwarves might have hoped. Most of the quest stories that followed The Hobbit (including to a great extent LotR) make the end of the quest the climax and quickly wrap up the story afterward.

I wouldn't say that about LOTR. The Ring is destroyed only a few chapters into Book 6 (i.e. the second half of ROTK), and there's actually quite a lot of stuff that happens afterward. The hobbits make it back to the Shire, and they have a LOT of work to do cleaning up after the Shadow before things can even begin to go back to normal. And for the main four hobbits, they never really will. Merry and Pippin have their duties to Rohan and Gondor, respectively, and Frodo has the lingering pain of his wounds to trouble him.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Troubadour
I wouldn't say that about LOTR. The Ring is destroyed only a few chapters into Book 6 (i.e. the second half of ROTK), and there's actually quite a lot of stuff that happens afterward. The hobbits make it back to the Shire, and they have a LOT of work to do cleaning up after the Shadow before things can even begin to go back to normal. And for the main four hobbits, they never really will. Merry and Pippin have their duties to Rohan and Gondor, respectively, and Frodo has the lingering pain of his wounds to trouble him.

True -- there is the Scouring of the Shire, the battle with Saruman/Sharky etc. In this Tolkien is more thoughtful than his imitators even in LotR as he plays out the consequences of the quest. Perhaps I should rephrase it that the success of the quest is the dramatic climax of LotR (IMO) while that is not the case in Hobbit (where I'd argue the dramatic climax is the Battle of Five Armies).
 
All stories can be told as fantasy, arguably, all fiction is one subgrenre of fantasy or another, heh heh. Some genre fiction has limitations... Romance, Cozy Mystery... but the broad category of fantasy really doesn’t have any.
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
I wouldn't say that about LOTR. The Ring is destroyed only a few chapters into Book 6 (i.e. the second half of ROTK), and there's actually quite a lot of stuff that happens afterward. The hobbits make it back to the Shire, and they have a LOT of work to do cleaning up after the Shadow before things can even begin to go back to normal. And for the main four hobbits, they never really will. Merry and Pippin have their duties to Rohan and Gondor, respectively, and Frodo has the lingering pain of his wounds to trouble him.
And Sam uses the Lady Galadriel's gift of Lothlorien earth to renew the whole Shire and not just his bit of it... Always loved him for that... A very Sam Gamgee thing to do.
 

Helen

Inkling
This is something I'd like to posit. How many possible plots can actually be done in fantasy fiction? I'm going to list the ones that I've seen in good abundance:

1. Quest to get something/defeat someone/destroy something/save someone
2. Struggle between political factions or ideals/war between countries/struggle between good vs. evil
3. Self-discovery/realization of powers/realization of true nature
4. Attaining a birthright/destiny
5. Preventing something from destroying the world/city/country/village
6. A person of no virtues becomes a person of strong virtues/Vice versa
7. Someone is called to do something against their will
8. Finding true love

These are all pretty broad, so I think most stories may fit in to some of these categories. You're free to add any that you think may also exist.

Do you find that these plots speak to fiction in general, or do they seem more tailored to fantasy fiction? Why do you think these kind of plots arise so often? Are there are other plots that you think work well in other genres that could be applied to fantasy?

Do you find a plot that you've seen many times before acceptable as long as the characters speak to you in some way? I would probably say yes, in my case. But I think oftentimes as readers, or writers even, we may not like the sound of a book because it sounds "too familiar" not allowing yourself to find out if the characters can carry the plot or not.

Thoughts?

Disclaimer: I'm not saying these plots are bad. I use these plots myself.

I think there are even fewer than above. "Quest to get something" is not so different from "Finding true love" with "Self-discovery" and "Struggle between political factions or ideals" along the way.
 
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