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Quests - still acceptable?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Amanita, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Sorry for bothering you so often lately, but there's something I'd like to get a few opinions on again.

    The story I've recently written is about the main female character learning about her magic and trying to get others to believe the information she's got.
    After that, I had planned for it to continue as some sort of quest-based story. It's probably the first thing I decided to do when I've started working with this story in 2007. The rough outline isn't really original at all, as I've discovered by now. A group of people from very different backgrounds has to find a few things before the villains do. (Alchemist elixiers which don't have to potential to destroy the entire world but make considerable parts of it inhabitable.)
    I still like it despite of that or I would have changed it long ago. I've actually written the quest-part once before in 2008 but it wasn't really any good. I kept restarting the first part in the time in between, but I think that's roughly acceptable by now.
    The fact that they're living in a modern setting with cars and trains and the chemistry-based magic might make it a bit different.

    Still, I'm asking myself if it's worth the considerable effort to write it all down (it won't be exactly short) or if I should better turn the finished story into more of a stand-alone.
  2. The quest is the basic structure of The Hero's Journey, so not only is it acceptable, it has been around since ancient Mesopotamia and probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's kinda fundamental.

    What you can do is try not to advertise that it's a quest - rather than being summoned to council by Elrond and sent on a mission with the weight of the world on their shoulders, perhaps they simply stumble into it and only realize the stakes while they are on their way? Perhaps they start off questing for something different, or are trying to accomplish something else entirely.

    Also, the part about wanting to stop the villains from blowing up half the world feels a bit reactive - not that it isn't a noble goal, but it isn't very personal. Do the heroes have a goal or initiative of their own? Is there some constructive benefit they might gain from finding the elixirs?
    Devora likes this.
  3. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

    Agreed with Anders (which is a little rare :p).

    I wouldn't worry about the quest, but rather your reluctance and the brewing time you've been taking. I admit that my "real" first novel took many years to develop from idea to rough to finished work, but I had written other books along the way (that have never seen the light of day...although I may dust them off someday). If your own story does not appeal to you enough to have much more than rough ideas after years of development, you may want to find something that does call to you with passion.

    I believe that you can be a technical writer and, although I believe you do need to love what you do, you can treat writing as a job (in fact, you basically HAVE to do this, even if you are passionate), but passion for your subjects (characters, settings, plotlines, etc) if not writing itself as well is something that cannot be underscored enough and without which the job of being a writer becomes something nearly insurmountable.

    Maybe I am reading too much into your quick blurb, but if you are passionate about your story and the story that you have to tell, then the fact that there is a quest in it is not the coffin nail that you think it may be. On the other hand, it sounds like the story may already be halfway in the ground--hence why you are seeing coffin nails at all.
  4. Yeah, sorry about that. You know, I used to be very agreeable, but alas time and hardship has rendered me a bitter and contentious man. -_-
    Zero Angel likes this.
  5. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Just like Zero Angel I think that Anders put it fairly well. Quests can be done, but you will probably want to be a bit subtle about the fact that these are quests.
  6. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Thank you.
    The characters' motivation is a bit of a problem. (I've mentioned that on my fanfic-thread. ;)) It's not really personal but more of a sense of duty to their respective countries. The fact that it's not quite clear that a victory by the villains wouldn't actually improve the situation in some of them doesn't help either.
    The beginning of the search is another such subject. In my first draft, I had them being sent by powerful spirits of nature who were up against the villains. I'm not really happy with that anymore though and have been considering something council-like but as you, Anders, have written, that's quite cliched and not really that plausible in a continent with parliamentary democracies and an totalitarian society.

    This is a general problem of mine. I have a nice and well-developed world or so I like to think but the plots still aren't as strong as I want them to be and the characters are somehow medium-range. Therefore two things lacking in this threesome.
    I did write a few other things during the time that has passed, among them a novel-length horse story and a few fragments that never saw the light of day.
  7. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I like quests. They give you an opportunity to show off your exotic and fantastical worlds in full. I wouldn't care too much about whether others consider them "cliche" or not, as long as you execute it competently.
  8. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Quests are fun. I use one myself in my WIP Summer's Pawn -- the twist is that the heroes are ordered to go on the quest by the villains, and they have no choice but to do so. Trying to somehow not accomplish what they're sent out to do will have consequences for everyone involved.
  9. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    Don't worry about the quest idea. My first two Revenaunt books are a quest and people still like it/them.

    I'd say several characters, several motivations. Sense of duty, monetary gain, scientific curiosity, boredom, etc.

    If your world is orderly and democratic, the quest givers could be international, some great worldwide institution lie UNESCO, International Court of Justice, World Trade or Health Org., etc. Or a multinational ofc. or something like Greenpeace.
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    One way quests often get a bit old-fashioned is by being more linear than they have to. Go to X, then Y, then Z. So consider things like:

    Is there real disagreement within your team-- maybe a quarrelsome "Gollum" they've had to take with them, or real doubts as to which way to go next rather than "they get to Y and there learn they need Z instead"?

    Are there more than one piece to the puzzle and those pieces' balance changes? I remember one cheap cartoon of "both sides race for the fragments" that mixed things up by a component or two being stolen back by one side after the other had gotten it, while the race was still going on.

    Are there ways to stop the devastation besides getting all the pieces-- eg get some, then trade one for a spirit's help in preventing this or that?

    If these are rare elixirs, each dose can only be used once. Do people have to choose which land to protect if the villains do get hold of some, or try to negotiate a war's end under the shadow of "If I don't get my capital back I'll kill them all!" knowing that it could really happen and there'd still be the rest of the world left to save?

    --EDIT: then again, the more alchemy resembles science instead of There's-Only-One-Ring Magic, the more it can be replicated with knowledge. If somebody ever proves the formula works, no nation will ever feel safe until they've gotten their own set of Doomsday Components, so even using it once might be the end of world peace as they know it.

    The classic quest tries to give people only one choice at a time, when there's any at all. A more modern story tries to have more.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
    Jabrosky likes this.
  11. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Thanks for the last posts offering specific ideas. ;)
    I’ve thought in through on the train this morning and I decided that I will do it. In other works, I like quests for the same reasons Jabrosky mentioned and maybe it will work for mine too.

    Thank you Graylorne for the tip with international institutions. I was thinking of something similar to the UN but couldn’t really see it ever getting something like that into motion. A non-governmental organization could work pretty well though and might offer the potential for additional conflict with local governments.

    Your post’s been really helpful too, worldwalker. There’s plenty of potential for conflict among the group members and quite a few of them aren’t exactly good and selfless despite of the fact that they’re not allied with the villains.

    The elixirs can really be used one time only, at the moment, I have four which are destructive and four which can counter their effects but this isn’t set in stone.
    In theory, it’d be possible to make more of them but it’s not really likely in reality, because the knowledge has been almost lost. Most people gave up on the alchemical processes and the creation of the elixirs required a large number of practitioners working together to make them. This can’t be easily achieved in modern times. That’s why the villains aren’t trying it but want to collect them.
    There’s plenty of destruction they can cause with the stuff they do have though.

    I definitely like your idea about the choices. I’ve thought about something like that but it wasn’t really flashed out so far, I really should do that.
  12. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    Quests are of every genre.
    Just because they don't call them a quest doesn't make them not a quest.

    If they are going places after anything, its a quest. Indiana JOnes-all quests, Shanghi knights(quest for princess peepee.), Twilight saga-(quest to become a vampire or Werewolf's bit..:) wife, possibly a vampire.)
    Most karate movies have a quest, alot of teen movies have quests.
    Many teen movies have meaningless sex with hot girl quest, while ignoring hot female friend that has always been there for the mc.

    Quests are a major plot device.
  13. Mari

    Mari Scribe

    I think a quest is just a maguffin is fine. After all, it's not what they go after as those who on quest and what happens along the way.
    Jabrosky likes this.

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