7 types of stories: The Quest

A troupe of adventurers on a fantasy quest.

The "Quest" plot is one of the classic story archetypes identified by British author Christopher Booker in his book "The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories." "The Quest" plot type is about a protagonist's journey towards a specific goal. This journey often involves overcoming obstacles, usually leading the protagonist to personal growth and self-discovery.

Quest narratives are prevalent in mythology and have been adapted in countless cultures and time periods, serving as the structure for epic poems, novels, and films. They often involve a deep level of character development and explore themes of sacrifice, persistence, and the value of the journey itself.

Common tropes and elements

  1. The Questing Hero: At the center of the story is the protagonist or a group of characters who are called to go on a quest. They are often chosen or feel compelled by a sense of duty, destiny, or moral obligation.
  2. The Call to Adventure: The hero is invited, pushed, or otherwise enticed to leave their ordinary world to embark on a quest. This call often comes from an external source, like a messenger or a dramatic event.
  3. A Precious Object or Destination: The goal of the quest is usually to find a valuable object, person, or secret place. This could be a sacred artifact, a kidnapped individual, or a hidden land.
  4. The Journey: The quest narrative is largely defined by the journey, during which the hero must overcome a series of challenges, obstacles, and temptations.
  5. Companions: The hero is often accompanied by companions who assist in the quest. These characters can provide support, wisdom, comic relief, and sometimes conflict.
  6. The Guide or Mentor: The hero may have a guide or mentor who provides training, advice, or magical assistance. This character often dies or leaves the hero before the quest is completed.
  7. Tests and Trials: Throughout the journey, the hero faces tests of strength, character, and resolve, which often come in threes.
  8. Temptations: The hero or their companions may face temptations that threaten to divert or destroy them.
  9. The Guardian of the Threshold: At a critical moment, the hero may face a "guardian" figure who tests their resolve and worthiness to complete the quest.
  10. The Dragon's Lair: The hero often must enter a dangerous place, sometimes the home of the antagonist, to seize the object of their quest.
  11. The Final Ordeal: Near the end of the journey, there is often a final confrontation with a major antagonist or the ultimate challenge of the quest.
  12. Flight: After achieving the goal of the quest, the hero must return home, often chased by the forces of the antagonist.
  13. The Return Home: The hero returns to their ordinary world, often transformed by the journey and with a boon for society.
  14. Restoration: The successful completion of the quest often results in the restoration of a rightful order, the healing of a wounded land, or the reward of the hero with a throne or marriage.

Example stories to draw inspiration from

This plot is prevalent in fantasy and adventure genres.

  1. "The Odyssey" by Homer: This epic poem tells of Odysseus's long and perilous journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, facing numerous obstacles along the way.
  2. "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien: In this high fantasy epic, Frodo Baggins embarks on a quest to destroy the One Ring, which is sought by the dark lord Sauron.
  3. "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling: Harry and his friends are often on quests, such as finding the Sorcerer’s Stone, seeking out Horcruxes to defeat Voldemort, or uncovering the Deathly Hallows.
  4. "Indiana Jones" franchise: These films typically feature the archaeologist Indiana Jones on a quest to locate and secure ancient, powerful artifacts before they fall into the wrong hands.
  5. "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho: This novel follows the journey of a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids.
  6. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll: Alice embarks on a quest for self-discovery and understanding as she travels through a fantastical and nonsensical world.
  7. "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville: Captain Ahab leads a perilous quest to seek revenge on the white whale Moby-Dick that had previously cost him his leg.
  8. "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas: After being unjustly imprisoned, Edmond Dantès embarks on a quest for revenge against those who betrayed him, which leads to a journey of self-discovery and transformation.