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Thread: Week 62: Fantasy--The Quest

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Week 62: Fantasy--The Quest

    Welcome back to yet another Tuesday! Wonderful, isnít it? Here in sunny Arizona, itís finally starting to cool off. Weíre out of the one hundred degree days [generally], and the nights will soon get to the point where you can see your breath. October in Arizona! Gotta love it!

    Weíve been talking about fantasy the past several weeks, doing the overview and the characters [which some of you are still up in arms about], and this week, our focus shifts to the setting of quests, and the things your characters will need to get the job done.

    Iíll tell you something. Iím both a fan and not of quests. I mean, weíre all on a quest for something, right? Isnít that why you come back here, week after week? We all have goals that we want to accomplish. My personal quest is to make my ďnameĒ in comics. My paternal grandmother told my father when I was young that she saw my name in lights. [No, Iím serious.] How young? I think I was ten or so. Iím doing things, making moves, to make it happen. My personal quest.

    In superhero universes, the quests arenít all that deep. Stop the bad guy, and if they need help, to go get it. Quests arenít generally done in superhero comics, although, thatís changing somewhat with the universal crossovers/events that have been happening the past few years. (Storyarcs?) Story arcs are telling a single story, not necessarily having a character go on a quest in order to accomplish the mission.

    In swords and sorcery, quests are a necessity. Short adventures are fine and fun, but the real goal is the quest, and the adventures are strung together to form one. These quests usually start off in one of two ways: very innocuously, where something is uncovered that leads to something else that gets built upon something else, and pretty soon, youíve dug up the Great Pyramid; or they start off with a bang, where a prophecy starts coming true.

    For some reason, swords and sorcery is really big on prophecies.

    So, letís take a look at them, and how we can apply them to comics, shall we?

    When you start off innocuously, the big thing youíll want to do first is to make sure you have all of your adventures already mapped out. Find out whoís supposed to be doing what, and then have them go do it. This is a lot easier said than done.

    Remember that youíre generally going to be working within a twenty-two page format. How much room does that give you to introduce characters [all of them: the world where everything takes place, the good guys and the bad], set up your inciting incident, and wrap it all up while being interesting and not clichť? Not a lot, at all. (Simply fixed, Steven. Iíll just up the page count! See? Problem solvťd.) [Solvťd?] (Sorry. Just got finished watching Return of the Pink Panther.)

    Upping the page count doesnít solve your problems. It actually runs the risk of increasing them. The more pages you add, the greater the risk you run of boring your audience. Remember, you have three pages or less to grab them. Once you grab them, itís easier to keep them. Grabbing them is the hard part.
    So, donít think that increasing the page count is the way to go. Itís an option, but Iíd rather see you have a tight script than one that was padded because youíre trying to do twenty things within a short amount of time. Quality over quantity, folks.

    What I would rather have you do is to do a damned good job at foreshadowing. And Iím going to tell you right now, the best foreshadowing is done with your bad guys.

    Why is Spider-Man winning fights with the Scorpion and Sandman significant? Why is the Fantastic Fourís ability to turn away Galactus time and again important? There are tons of other cases, but lets use these examples. Itís significant and important because you have the heroes winning over villains that are significantly more powerful than they. We all know that Earth should have been devoured a long time ago by Galactus. Itís sheer luck (and big-headed intervention!) that this hasnít happened yet.

    Your villains need to hold most of the cards, and should be looking for the one that will give them an unbeatable hand. [I was going to make a poker reference here, but decided against it.] Your villain needs to know whatís going on, and has to win lots of little battles against your heroes in order to create a sense of drama, and to make it seem like almost insurmountable odds against your heroes prevailing.

    So you foreshadow with the villains. The begin to lay out their plans in a place where readers can see it, because once they finish putting together all the scattered pieces of the Idol of MuMu, world domination and untold amounts of pizza and loose women will be theirs!

    But you donít say that at first. At first, you have Derk, your low-born hero, find a part of the Idol, or it was passed down to him, father to son, for generations, which he wears around his neck as a good luck charm or in remembrance of his now deceased father, or both. He wants to go into the city, the big city of Ragamuffin, which is a monthís travel by the trade routes, and his leaving the little town of Pip starts a slow chain reaction that builds.
    He has adventures along the way, and gathers friends to himófriends who will be tried and found true, and once they figure out that theyíre all connected and things are now moving at a breakneck pace, youíre twenty issues in and are heading toward a showdown with Spektor the Unmade, who now realizes that Derk has the last piece of the Idol, and needs to go through the circle of friends that Derk has gathered to him in order to get it.

    All because you started small and built up.

    Now, letís say Derk was prophesied to be born and have these adventures. Youíve got to do a few things with that.

    The first thing is to put that prophecy as near to the beginning of the book as possible. The closer to the beginning, the better off youíll be. Second, you have to have someone in the story who knows the prophecy, and is watching it come true, bit by bit. They can be part of the party Derk gathers, or someone that Derk goes to for wisdom. And Iíll tell you now, it doesnít matter if Derk knows of the prophecy or not. Itís going to come true, one way or the other. Whether or not you want the character to know will tell you some things about their character when you write them.

    The third thing you have to do with the prophecy is to make sure it comes true, but not in the manner readers will expect. If Derk has to destroy the world in order to save it, then have him do soÖbut the world is really the Idol of MuMu, which really has to be destroyed instead of just broken and scattered in order for the world to be safe.

    This means you have to do a lot of thinking before you put pen to paper. When you deal with prophecies, you have to put a lot of thought into them beforehand, in order for them to come to pass in unusual ways that arenít immediately seen by the readers. And it helps if the clues are there in front of their face, if only they thought about it a little differently or a little harder for them to get.

    Now, no matter what, each character will have a purpose to fulfill when it comes to the quest. The more characters you add, the more steps to the quest youíll have to add. This includes the characters that are places. Each character has to play a significant role in the resolution of the quest. If not, why are they there? Thereís nothing worse than a character thatís just standing around, wasting screen time. Not when you could be using that space for something else. So, again, make sure you have enough for everyone to do, otherwise, start trimming.

    Most quests are going to be going after some sort of object, because itís that object that has the power to remake the world and give untold amounts of pizza and loose women. These objects are either going to be magical in nature, or have some sort of powerful magical affinity. They are often smallish, even though their legends are huge. Think of the Holy Grail. See what I did? I instantly brought images to mind of a golden chalice studded with jewels. Something that belongs under glass and guarded well, right? But Yeshiva was a carpenter and was poor, if the common thoughts of him are to be believed. Where would a poor carpenter get a golden, jewel encrusted chalice? He wouldnít. Heíd have a regular cup. To update it for today, heíd have a disposable plastic cup.

    That cup would be the plainest, most common thing in the world. Totally unobtrusive. And it would be the most valuable thing on the planet.
    Thatís what your object should be: plain, unassuming, and either be all-powerful, or give access to a fount of power or knowledge that is. And the legend that you carve around it should make you think of one thing when it is really something close. A chalice and a cup are the same thing, but their imagery is totally different.

    Generally, the object is either going to be broken, lost, or broken and hidden. What you decide to do with it will be your choice, but Iíve always been a fan of hiding in plain sight.

    I also suggest that your villain have a very good headstart on the heroes when it comes to either finding or putting the object back together. Remember, youíre trying to create drama. The Scorpion is stronger and faster than Spider-Man. How will Spidey win? Same thing here. Your readers will have to wonder how your heroes are going to overcome the odds to win.
    No, no tips or tricks for that. Youíre going to be on your own there.

    At the end of the quest, the end of the world should be averted, and the heroes should have only a little bit of pizza and about two loose women apiece. The world should be changed, at least for your heroes. Remember that itís also a journey of self-discovery, even if they donít realize it at the time.

    Thatís all I have for this week. Homework is to think how you want your quest to start, and making sure all of your characters have enough to do to fulfill it. If youíve got a prophecy, how are you going to make it come true in an unusual way? Think it through to make sure it works.

    See you in seven.



  2. CalvinCamp Guest

    In swords and sorcery, quests are a necessity.
    The A-B-C quest is a common, likely the most common, plot structure in high fantasy (not so much in sword & sorcery - still not the same thing), but it's not the only one, so calling it a necessity might be pushing it a little. Does make sense as the default structure to focus on though.

    Overall a pretty solid column this week. Good advice on writing quests and prophecies. It's nice to have the real Steven Forbes back.



  3. Sliverbane Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Homework is to think how you want your quest to start, and making sure all of your characters have enough to do to fulfill it. If youíve got a prophecy, how are you going to make it come true in an unusual way? Think it through to make sure it works.
    Homework! CHECK!

    Antagonist stirs the pot. A catalyst alerts the young Protagonist. Protagonist sets out on a quest to stop Antagonist in his tracks. Much character fattening development, world exploration, drama and adventure along the way. Showdown finale with out the usual 'I won't kill you' BS from the Protagonist.

    I want a hero to finish the deed! (Think Conan the Barbarian).

    I love 'the quest'. It's my favorite part of fantasy. I love it because i know what it means - exploring the world and personalities of the characters! I never get bored with that format. I do look for new twists on the quest concept - but if the world/characters are compelling enough I'll stick around until the end.



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