10 Tips and 6 Elements of a Good Adventure Story
The adventure genre is always popular. The key is to get all the components in just the right mix to produce a story that is as riveting as the classics.
From J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel trilogy Lord of the Rings, many of the most popular books in the adventure genre follow a similar formula: the hero’s journey, which was first identified by author and literary professor, Joseph Campbell, is the probably the most popular structure for an adventure novel.
The Main Components of the Hero's Journey Narrative
The main components of the hero’s journey narrative include:
This is usually main character of an adventure story. The hero will most often start out as a very normal person before embarking on their adventure.
In this part of the narrative, the protagonist is given a problem they need to solve. The quest ignites the plot by including a series of events that help to create the storyline.
An Unfamiliar or Dangerous Environment
The hero’s journey will force them to move from their physical comfort zone (their everyday surroundings) into a new, unfamiliar, and sometimes dangerous, environment. This uncharted terrain will create conflict, such as character versus the supernatural or character versus nature. Being in this unfamiliar terrain will result in bigger risks for the hero and increase the tension in the story line.
In adventure stories, the protagonist is almost always pursued by a bad guy on their journey. These villains or antagonists increase the stakes for our hero and heighten the tension.
Throughout an adventure story, a character must face peril. Their quest must force them to do things that put their own lives, or the lives of others, at risk.
As their journey progresses, the main character undergoes a metamorphosis from ordinary person to hero.
10 Tips for Writing an Adventure Story
If you are going to write your own adventure story, follow these tips for building suspense, creating your hero, and taking readers on an amazing adventure:
1. Read popular adventure novels. If you are a first-time adventure writer, we highly recommend you start by selecting a classic adventure book so that you can see how successful authors apply the genre in their stories.
You could try Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer which is a creative nonfiction novel about a climbing season on Mt. Everest. By reading other adventure authors you will improve your own writing.
2. Structure the story within the basic framework of the adventure story. The hero’s journey framework includes all of the elements you need to tell an exciting tale of adventure. Follow the step-by-step framework to create your story but include your own twist on the basic structure with your own unique characters, settings, and plot.
3. Create a gripping character. What made Indiana Jones such an engaging hero? He was brave but he had weaknesses. His paralyzing fear of snakes, for instance, was a serious obstacle when he was in the middle of the jungle.
It is vital to create a protagonist your readers can like, but one that still has flaws to create internal conflict and parallel the external conflicts they are facing on their journey. Make them relatable and likeable, so they can be someone your readers root for. This also helps to reveal why they (above everyone else) have been chosen for the mission.
4. Insert a catalyst. Whether it’s a mystery that needs to be solved or a hunt for an artifact, come up with a strong catalyst that ignites the hero’s adventure. The catalyst should drive the plot, be strong enough to start the protagonist’s transformation, and create risk.
5. Don’t forget your supporting character. The hero is not alone in many adventure stories. A trusty sidekick supporting them on their quest is a great way to add interest to the story and the characters. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter books are a good example. They are Harry’s sounding board during the most pivotal and dangerous of moments.
6. Make sure the setting elevates the risk level. In an adventure story the character is taken from a familiar setting to a new environment. If your character lives in a city, for instance, make the new setting as juxtaposed to that as possible–a desolate wilderness perhaps, and just for fun, make sure they don’t have a map.
If you are going to keep them on their home turf, then some supernatural power or force of nature or must turn the environment into a perilous landscape.
7. Pace it. A successful adventure novel keep’s the reader on the edge of their seat with constant suspense. Be sure to keep a story moving, even between dramatic plot points. When you have completed your first draft, go back and read it through to identify any pacing issues and eliminate anything that is too descriptive that may slow the story down.
8. Amplify the risk levels. Your protagonist must feel unsettled throughout your story. Something must always be putting their safety at risk. This might be the antagonist closing in or it might be an environmental element creating danger.
Your hero must weather many obstacles and setbacks and obstacles. Be sure to have fun stacking the odds against your hero. This will ensure a much bigger payoff at the climax and make the journey worth their risk.
9. Implement a limited time scale. Racing against the clocks puts pressure on a protagonist. Increase the stakes by giving your hero a deadline to reach their goal. If they don’t achieve the deadline, something horrible is going to happen. One way of approaching this is to create an antagonist who is on the same quest as your hero, so they are racing one another.
10. Protagonist transformation is key. From the moment you introduce your readers to your hero right up until the climax, your hero will undergo a transformation and come out on the other side a changed person. The obstacles and risks they endured will give them a new perspective on the world.
It's A Wrap
The adventure genre is a fun and exciting area to write in, but you definitely want to make sure you follow the tried and trusted framework.
Despite the framework being key, there is still a huge amount of space left for imagination, creativity, and exciting characters. What adventure will you be embarking on?
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