Podcast

173 – Quest Narratives

The Mythcreant Podcast

This week, we’re talking about quests, and not the kind where you go out and kill ten boars. These quests are the stuff of legends, of great heroes venturing out to seek a relic of power. Or of a young child taking a gift basket to a neighbor. Quests come in all shapes and sizes, and not everyone can even agrees on what a quest is. In this episode, we try to straighten that out and then talk about how you can use quests to best effect in your own stories.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Beowulf

The Odyssey

Star Wars

Jane Eyre

Gulliver’s Travels

Alice in Wonderland

Lord of the Rings

Stardust

Araby

The Garden Party

Firefly

Luke Crane Games

The Writer’s Journey

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Transcript

Generously transcribed by Perspiring Writer. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

Chris: You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast, with your hosts: Oren Ashkenazi, Wes Matlock, and Chris Winkle. [opening song]

Oren: This episode was produced thanks to our patron: Kathy Ferguson, professor of Political Theory in Star Trek.


Wes: Hello, you’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast. I’m your host Wes, and with me today is…

Oren: Oren.

Wes: And…

Chris: Chris.

Wes: And today, we’re going to be talking about quest narratives, and while- this will include, certainly, heroic journeys and adventures and epic errands. But I wanted to start by telling you two how I was taught to look at a quest structure; like, if we had to write a paper on this or something like that. What-

Oren: Ooh, are we going to get collegiate in here, maybe?

Wes: I don’t know; I just think it’s kind of a fun way to look at it, because if, for example, I asked Oren to go to Safeway and buy ice cream for us, and Oren goes and does it and comes back with ice cream, that was not a quest. That was an errand, right? [Chris laughs] If I told Oren to go to Safeway to buy us ice cream, and along the way, he gets- I don’t know. Something bad happens, and-

Chris: A troll?

Wes: A troll, sure. Or maybe he forgets to buy the ice cream, or maybe he does buy the ice cream, but as a result of that, he has a new realization about himself or his desires, or anything like that. He comes to some kind of new understanding of his self. That is a quest.

Oren: I think we were way more closer to the truth with when I just forgot it, man. [Wes and Chris laugh] I think that is probably the most likely thing to happen there.

Wes: No, the lesson there is, ‘I really gotta get my act together.’ [laughs]

Chris: Yeah.

Oren: The lesson is, ‘I really should have written a grocery list.’ That was what I learned on this quest.

Wes: So, basically, that example, I think illustrates the five main components of a quest narrative: there’s a quester; someone who’s going on the quest. That’s important. There’s a place to go, and a stated reason to go there. And then there’s some kind of obstacles or trials or challenges, and then there’s the real reason for the quest, the real reason why the quester’s going there.

And that cannot be part of the stated reason to go there. It has to be something that the character, the quester learns on their own. And so, this is why, Beowulf? Not a quest. Odyssey? Not a quest, because those characters choose to go do their things of their own volition, and they don’t really learn anything about themselves.

Chris: So- wait, it can’t be a quest if the character is self-motivated?

Wes: There ideally needs to be- and this is why I like so many quest narratives with this particular structure; the questers are young, inexperienced, naïve; they need to demonstrate an opportunity for personal growth. And that’s why a Beowulf-type character doesn’t demonstrate growth. Odysseus doesn’t demonstrate growth. Luke Skywalker? Does demonstrate growth; and he’s constantly told to go places and do things. I mean, Obi-wan constantly shows up and tells him what to do.

Chris: So, do you think that a quest story is inherently a coming-of-age story?

Wes: I- see, that’s difficult for me, because I was thinking, then- if my two examples are Beowulf and Odyssey, then I guess I’ll bring in Jane Eyre, cause that was kind of the first big coming-of-age novel. And I’m unclear as to whether or not that is a quest, because like, Jane gets placed with Rochester, and she learns a lot and kind of comes to a different understanding, but I don’t- I’m kind of toying with the idea of like, yes-and-no’s…

Coming-of-age probably is definitely a big component of it, but I feel like you can have a coming-of-age story that’s not a quest, also.

Chris: Right. I mean, I would just say, if we talk about something like, the quest for the Holy Grail would be something traditional. And obviously that’s not in typical story form, but nonetheless, it’s very classic, that idea of the quest for the Holy Grail. That’s generally something that is not- we don’t usually have a young hero coming-of-age being told to go for this Holy Grail.

Although- and I don’t- a lot of times- I don’t know how many Holy Grail stories have the knight actually finding the Holy Grail. [Chris and Wes laugh] Certainly, there is introspection to think about those types of stories, but the difference is- there could be differences between how we use the word ‘quest’ and then what we consider this particular type of quest narrative, which seems to be very closely adhered to the Hero’s Journey.

Wes: Yeah, I think the word ‘quest’ is so common and popular that- I think it’s so synonymous with just, adventure, you know, the way I’ve described it. Maybe there’s a better way to talk about it instead of ‘quest narrative,’ because of like, how popular the word ‘quest’ just generally is.

Chris: Well, I do think that the word ‘quest’ inherently has something about it with having a goal. And ‘journey,’ for that goal. And if you don’t have a goal, you end up with basically a travelogue, like Gulliver’s Travels.

Wes: Yep.

Chris: Cause you’re just kind of wandering around, as opposed to having a destination. And it definitely implies that there will be obstacles, so, I think a lot of the things that you’re saying are also inherent to just, the word ‘quest.’ I think- for some things, I would wonder, if you’re doing a quest journey, and you don’t learn anything about yourself, I kind of wonder if that’s still a quest narrative, if it’s just not a very good one. [laughs]

Wes: I mean, probably. Like, if you were- if we were giving developmental- content editing feedback, that would be a great point. It’s like, ‘why did your person go on this adventure?’ And I think that if you’re writing a story, you should be able to answer that. And it’s perfectly fine if they don’t learn anything.

Alice in Wonderland is a great example of an adventure- or a travelogue, as you called it. Alice doesn’t really learn anything. Alice just kind of stumbles into an adventure and has a decent time and some not-so-decent times, and it’s over. It’s meant to entertain. That’s it.

Oren: Right. I mean, Alice in Wonderland is a little different than most stories, though, because it’s intentionally surreal. Like, the point of Alice in Wonderland, to the extent that there is a point, is that like, there’s lots of weird stuff in Wonderland that is both fantastic and yet also very grounded in the time period of England in which it was written.

There’s a lot of stuff in there that is hard for us to get. There are a lot of jokes and a lot of caricatures that modern-day readers looking at Alice in Wonderland are like, ‘what does that mean?’ There’s a bunch of stuff- there are references in there that you just don’t get, and some of those scenes don’t have their same impact they would have in the original context.

And that’s before you even get into the math. [Wes and Chris laugh] Apparently, there’s a lot of math in Alice in Wonderland that very smart people have told me about, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I‘ll take your word for it, cause you said math.’ [Chris and Wes laugh]

Chris: I have to take your word for it cause otherwise I would have to do math, and that’s just unacceptable.

Oren: Right. I’m just not gonna. Yeah, but-

Chris: You know-

Oren: Go ahead.

Chris: [simultaneously] Go ahead.

Oren: Okay. So, I was going to say that- the whole question of like, learning something about yourself, or changing, that does definitely seem to be common in quest narratives. I’m not prepared to call it a requirement, or that it be the real reason, because if I was going to use Lord of the Rings, which is probably the most well-known spec-fic quest narrative, the hobbits do change, and they do become different people. They become huge badasses instead of- in two of their cases, they actually get bigger, because they drank the Ent-juice.

Wes: I think it’s called Ent-wash. Which I think is gross. [Wes and Chris laugh]

Oren: No, the Ent- excuse me, sir, the Entwash is a river, I will have you know. [Wes laughs] You will be receiving a stern letter from the guild of Middle-earth cartographers. I don’t remember what it was that Treebeard gave them; it was some kind of drink. But I think that, if I recall correctly, Merry and Pippin are actually larger than normal hobbits now because of that drink.

Wes: Yeah, that’s accurate.

Oren: So, anyway, they do have their growth, and they go from being soft, carefree farmers- or, in the case of Frodo, just… I don’t know, the idle rich. To being hardened badasses who vanquish evil. And like, Tolkien uses the Scouring of the Shire to demonstrate that at the end, where they get back, and like, the b-villains from a book ago have taken over the Shire, and now the hobbits are like, ‘yeah, we’re going to clean you right up.’

And I get why they didn’t put that in the movie, that would have maybe felt a little weird. But regardless, that character’s growth I would say is important, but I would say it is secondary to the destruction of the One Ring.

Wes: But I mean, I think the main point here is that you can have my stipulated quest narrative within a larger narrative, because- I think this is actually a really good point to distinguish, that The Lord of the Rings is simultaneously a quest narrative for the hobbits, and an epic for the rest. An epic in the sense of Iliad, Odyssey, Beowulf vein, right, where there’s a massive objective, there’s a big enemy, the scale is huge, and they do it.

And that’s just a different thing, and you can have the quest narrative inside the larger epic. I think that there’s no reason one needs to preclude the other.

Chris: So, I think this might be a good time to mention Ready Player One, cause I saw that on your list, Wes, of things that were not quest narratives.

Wes: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a quest. I don’t think he learns anything. [laughs]

Chris: Right, exactly, that’s what’s missing, is that learning process, from Ready Player One. He has a quest, and he travels around to complete the quest, but there’s no self-reflection in the story.

Wes: No.

Chris: He just gets what he wants. And the question being, does that make it not a quest narrative, or does that make it just not as good of a quest narrative? For me, it’s like, when you have a character arc of some kind- and a character arc can come in many forms, it can come with just the character growing, it can come with a flaw that they then rectify, it can come with them having a longing that they satisfy.

Generally, it adds another layer to the work that gives it more emotional depth and more meaning, as opposed to just having an external plotline where, you know, the monster comes and they fight the monster off and it’s over. And so, to me it feels like the quest narrative without the lesson is the external conflict without the internal conflict. It’s still technically narratively complete, it could still be an enjoyable story, but that internal arc kind of gives it an extra something that it’s just missing.

Wes: The other- yeah, it’s- there’s a satisfaction that comes, because if you’re with that character for so long, and you’re like, you’re also engaging with them and that self-reflection. Like, you get to have- you get to experience that big moment of epiphany, or like, self-realization with them, and I always find that to be very satisfying in film and in books.

Chris: And that’s usually where, if you have any commentary in a work, that’s usually where it fits in; that’s usually where it becomes relevant to the reader, is in that arc. And a lot of us aren’t fighting monsters- [Wes chuckles] -but we can all kind of identify with the hero that learns something about themself.

Wes: A very good example of a quest narrative that isn’t like, Lord of the Rings or Hobbit or Star Wars, I was thinking, is Stardust. You know, the Neil Gaiman book that they turned into a movie. He is infatuated with that woman in his hometown, and she tells him to go get the fallen- the star that fell to the earth, and she’s the quest-giver.

His initial love interest is his quest-giver, and he goes out and he encounters all of the trials and tribulations, and at the end, he realizes that his affection for her was shallow vanity, and he discovered real purpose and real love along the way. I think that’s a solid example.

And like, you definitely need to- you kind of know it at the beginning, that like, ‘why is he doing this? Why? It’s stupid; she’s terrible!’ But like, you get to experience that growth. And he’s already kind of an older guy, so it’s not- I guess you could define ‘coming-of-age’ as being a little relative if that also involves immaturity to maturity, but… You get the idea.

Chris: Yeah. Although, I will say that the Neil Gaiman Stardust book- the characters are so flat. They’re so- [laughs]

Wes: It’s… yeah.

Oren: A little bit.

Chris: Just so flat. [Wes laughs] I feel like the movie’s- the movie definitely has its flaws, but I still think the movie is a better example.

Wes: It’s more engaging, for sure.

Chris: But yeah. So… yeah, it’s good thinking about, you know, what they are but also what makes them better. What makes- when we talked about the internal character arc, what also makes a quest narrative a better quest narrative? I do think that, because they are traveling, having some novelty in the environment and the scenery is a really good thing for a quest narrative to have.

Just like- obviously, travelogues- travelogues basically rely on it in order to be entertaining, and I think that’s their main weakness, is that they could use more actual plot intention, usually. [Chris and Wes laugh] But traveling can offer a lot of novelty in the environment, and I think that quest is better offered if there’s- not just have obstacles but have interesting obstacles that the reader would not have expected.

Wes: I mean, there’s definitely that core aspect of ‘you need to go somewhere for a quest,’ and so, please make it interesting along the way. [laughs]

Chris: What else? Is there anything else, you think, that makes quest narratives better?

Oren: So, I would say, something that is important to quests, and I suspect that this often gets lost with newer writers, because their, often, first experience- or at least, their most dominant experience with quest stories is in video games, where this isn’t as important, is that there be some kind of twist in the quest. Like, something- okay, so, you have a quest, and you’re like, ‘you must journey to Mount Doom, and there will be a lot of orcs and Black Riders in the way,’ and it’ll be like, ‘alright, we got past all of them. That was alright. Very nice.’

So, then, if that’s all that happens, it’s not super satisfying, cause then it’s like, ‘hey, we said we were going to do a thing, and we did it. So, having some kind of twist on the quest- in Lord of the Rings, the twist is that Frodo actually falls to the Ring, and then the Ring is destroyed by Gollum’s own desire for it. At least in the movies, I haven’t gotten to that part in the books yet, so I’m not positive how it plays out. But in the movie, that’s how it goes.

And then, the quest can- sometimes, the twist can be something else. Like, the twist can be that ‘actually, the original reason I went on this quest wasn’t a good one, and my original goal was a bad goal, and I don’t want it anymore.’ Which is the Stardust-equivalent, right? And you know, this twist often ties into the turning point. Not always, but very often it does. The turning point being like when the thing happens that provides satisfaction for the heroes winning, right?

Because the heroes have to look like they’re going to lose, and then something happens to change that. That’s your basic turning point in the Death Star run; that’s when Luke is like, ‘use the Force.’ Cause it looked like they were going to lose before that, but then he used the Force and they won, and it was like, ‘yeah, that’s satisfying.’

Whereas, it would have been really unsatisfying if he had just run down the trench and made the shot normally, right? [Chris and Wes laugh] Just like, imagine how Star Wars would have felt if that’s how it ended, if Luke was just like, ‘yeah, I made my run, and… oh, good! I hit the target.’ [laughter] ‘Nice!’ That would have been really unsatisfying.

So, the twist is often tied in with the turning point, but not always. And I think- at least, based on my experience with newer writers, a lot of them don’t quite get that, because in video games, when you get quests, there very often isn’t a twist, because in a video game, you have to defeat the enemies yourself. Like, you have to fight them, and you have to overcome them with your skill at button-mashing, and that creates the feeling of satisfaction.

Whereas, in any other work, in a non-interactive work, that doesn’t happen, right? Like, Luke makes the shot because the writers decided he did, not because of any skill on the audience’s part, or even any skill on Luke’s part. And- so, in video games, you don’t necessarily need that, but you do in any other kind of story.

And I meet authors who don’t understand that, because to them it’s like, ‘yeah, I just had a boss fight, and my character beat the boss! That creates satisfaction.’ [Wes laughs] And it’s like, it would, if you were playing this on a computer. But you’re not. [Chris and Wes laugh] And I’ve had that problem, right? I do that sometimes in my stories. I write into that problem. So, I just think that’s worth thinking about when you’re looking at quests.

Chris: Yeah, and it’s- because the quest narrative is so old, we’re talking about Hero’s Journey stuff, I think that makes the whole, something unexpected, especially important, because otherwise, they can just feel a little bit overdone, and they don’t have enough novelty inherent in the plot structure without some sort of twist happening.

Wes: Because it’s so old, and we have it associated with heroes and things like that, I think one of the other things to consider is that, when we talk about- when I say like, ‘oh yeah, this is a- this story is a quest,’ it conjures up ideas of like, fantastic lands and travel and all kinds of adventure and battle and things like that. But I think some of- actually, like, two of the best quest narratives I’ve ever read are very short stories.

And I’ve talked about James Joyce’s Araby before on here, and I’ll just briefly mention why that’s a quest story: it’s a young boy infatuated with a girl, and he offers- she expresses a little regret that she can’t go to the Araby bazaar in town, and he says, ‘if I go, I’ll bring you something.’ So, there’s a location, and there’s a stated goal.

And in this case, like what Oren was talking about with the twist, is that, the next few paragraphs, the narrator’s building up his fantasy of like, going and getting this ultimate trinket, which is kind of like a Holy Grail, if we’re going to do that lens, and then delivering it to this girl and completing the quest.

But when he gets to the bazaar, the location is the turning point, because he arrives almost- he arrives as it’s closing, and it’s not at all what he thought it was going to be. And that moment of like, disillusion with the environment leads to his realization of like, ‘this is all just based on a vain crush. What am I doing?’ And I think that hits very hard; I definitely recommend it.

Another short story by the absolutely brilliant Katherine Mansfield is called The Garden Party, and that’s a brilliant story of a young girl whose family is having a party in their backyard, and a man down the road in kind of a slummier part of town dies, and she goes down there to deliver a gift basket.

And what she learns from that experience is also a very good example of just- like, normal life, but like, the fact that quests can happen in normal life can make those lessons more accessible. I mean, fantasy is super fun, but I just think it’s important that it doesn’t have to be epic to be a quest.

Chris: Right. It doesn’t have to be battling things, conflicts come in all shapes and sizes. [laughs]

Wes: Yeah.

Oren: And like, I should point out that like- so, some of the twists we’ve been talking about are subversive, right? Or at least were subversive, now they’re even somewhat expected, like the ‘I’m going to go on a quest and then I’m going to find out that my original reason for going on the quest was not a good reason, and then I’m going to come back. It’s like, at that point, we almost expect that, but- there are other ways to subvert the quest narrative.

The twist doesn’t necessarily have to be subversive; it can also be something like, ‘yeah, well, we were told that the problems we were going to meet along the way would be orcs and Ringwraiths,’ and great. But then we get there, and the actual problem was that Frodo can’t resist the power of the Ring. Like, that’s sort of the twist. It can be stuff like that; it can be- like, a twist can be, ‘and then the plot- the quest was harder to achieve then we thought it would be.’

Chris: What about in roleplaying? Would it be easy to create a quest narrative? If we think about the lesson as an essential part of it, I have to say, getting roleplayers to learn a lesson… [laughs]

Wes: I think-

Chris: That sounds very difficult, right?

Wes: Yep. This is like, maybe jumping the gun on our next podcast, but I don’t roleplay to have my friends teach me lessons. [Wes and Chris laugh] It’s probably just better to think of that roleplaying game quest as probably just what Oren was talking about with video games.

Chris: No, definitely roleplaying is- as an interactive medium, the climax is very similar to a video game climax, where the mechanics are involved in making you feel like you got a satisfying end that you kind of earned with a battle. But the thing is that, in D&D, quests are the classic kind of campaign or just session material, right, is you send your players out on a quest.

I think the weakness that happens there is that it’s not always easy to tie in the players and their characters personally with the goal of the quest. I think that’s easier to arrange in a story, and I think- there’s a lot of memes out there about players just goofing off and not actually going on the quest they’re supposed to go on. [Wes laughs]

I suspect a lot of that happens because the weak point there is that it’s not enough to just give the character a quest and point them in a direction, they have to care about that quest. They have to have a reason to care, which is a lot of work if you’re a GM and you’ve got all of these players and you have to hook every single one of them. [Chris and Wes laugh]

Wes: There’s a good episode of tv I think might be a decent example of how you could try to do this type of quest we’ve been talking about in a roleplaying game. Do you guys remember the Firefly episode with the train heist?

Chris: Yeah.

Oren: Yeah, aptly named ‘Train Job.’

Wes: There we go.

Oren: Where they do a job on a train. [Chris laughs]

Wes: But like, think about that. That meets the criteria, right? They’re told to go to this specific location to receive this item. They don’t realize- they don’t know what the item is; they’re just mercenaries. But then, you could see a similar type of roleplaying session, where you send people out to get something with sparse details.

And if the players so wish, they could uncover them, and then when they have the complete picture, they could decide to do something differently, like in the episode, how they don’t give this medicine to Niska, the guy that hired them, or whatever. And I mean, I don’t think your players are going to come away with massive personal growth from that, but it’s a fun way to plan in like, ‘well, what if they do the job, or what if they decide to not do the job cause they learn the whole story?’ Or something like that.

Oren: Right. Well, that kind of thing, that works a little bit better for a roleplaying game simply because what we’re seeing there is not Malcolm learning something new about himself, or at least, I don’t think it really is. The twist on this quest, the thing that makes it interesting, is the reveal that ‘oh, actually, the thing you were stealing is medicine.’

And it’s the sort of thing where like, if Mal had known that from the beginning, he probably wouldn’t have taken the job. At least, that’s the impression that I get, and that’s- regardless of what the writers think, if you were doing that as a roleplaying game, that would be the thing that would make it interesting. It wouldn’t necessarily be that the players are like, ‘yeah, I started this game with a character who would be happy to take medicine from dying colonists, but now, at the end, I don’t feel that way anymore.’

It’s more like, ‘oh no, I was tricked about this job, and now if I follow my morals, I’ll be in more trouble with Niska, and if I don’t, then I’ll feel bad. So, then, that’s what interesting.

Wes: You could also- maybe the lesson is ‘I should really find out what I’m doing before I agree to do stuff. [laughs]

Oren: Yeah, well, I mean, that’s like, a common thread in Firefly, right? [Wes laughs] Is that Malcolm is an inherently moral person who is in an immoral line of work, and so, he’s in this weird situation where he’s like, ‘no, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me what it is. I don’t want to know.’ [Wes laughs]

Chris: I mean, occasionally, depending on the player, sometimes players will play characters and develop a character with room for growth. And you can have player-led lessons; it is going to be kind of on a per-player basis. But certainly, if you have a player that has built a character that is ready for growth, it’s something you want to foster in the story. But yeah, it doesn’t- but yeah, you’re totally right, Wes, that’s something that can’t really come from the GM.

Wes: Definitely. But I mean, when we played your adventure, Chris, you provided lots of moments and lots of decisions and options for our characters. I felt like my character, by the end of that story, had to do things and was told to go do things, and went from- it felt natural for me to kind of change how I was playing that character as it went on. And I thought that that was very satisfying for me, and you created that environment that made that possible.

Chris: Well, I will say that I explicitly asked all of my players at the start of that campaign to basically come up with a character arc. I phrased it as ‘what is it that your character is missing that they want?’ And this was a high-school monster game, so for a lot of it, I phrased it as ‘maybe your character is not good at schoolwork and is trying to succeed academically, or maybe your character wants to be good at sports, or…’ you know.

And you picked a really unusual one, where your character was really into making up stuff in the school newspaper- [laughs] -and so, I did my best to sort of give your character an environment where that had consequences. And then- but in the end, it was up to you to make your character respond or mature as you wanted him to.

Wes: I think that that was just done so well that like, I’ve- since then, I kind of have been rethinking my approach to- like, when you create characters for games, and especially depending on the system with how explicit they want you to be with character creation, there’s- you’re almost like, predisposed to create a static character based on how you fill out the sheet.

And if you’re doing a longer campaign, maybe that’s not accurate. There’s- does the game build for growth, for your character’s growth? Which is why I think you did that very well.

Chris: Yeah. Well, explicitly asking you guys really helps. I will say, though, Luke Crane games do have- you know, it’s not super, but they have goals on a per-session base, but they also have a belief which can be used for the campaign length character arc. I had a campaign where my character had a belief that really was at odds with the environment.

My character was like, an extreme skeptic, and- [laughs] -we were going in to like, the Lovecraftian sea. [Chris and Oren laugh]] So, you know, the idea for that was to set up a belief that could then be resolved at some point. And again, the mechanics of the Luke Crane games, like, you roleplay against your belief, and that gives you rewards.

So, it kind of encourages your character to come into conflict with their belief and struggle over that, and kind of gives you some place to go. So, there are some games that have those kinds of roleplay elements, but it certainly, I think, helps if the GM asks the players and gets them thinking about it.

Oren: I mean, there is, like, the number of obstacles that get in the way of trying to do a character growth arc in a roleplaying game include things like, that you need a lot of planning to do one. A good character growth arc requires planning, and it’s hard to get that kind of planning in an RPG. The other thing that it requires is that the player needs to have a character that they enjoy playing before they have their arc, but that they will also like after their arc.

And that can be very difficult, where it’s like, ‘you want my character to change? But I like my character the way they are.’ Or like, ‘I made a character who needs to grow, but I don’t like playing them now-’ [Wes laughs] ‘-cause, you know, they’re immature, or they’re scared, or whatever, things that I don’t enjoy.’ And so, it can be done. Chris has shown that it can be done.

It is difficult, and unless you have- in general, I think you need very cooperative players to make it work. So, that’s why I don’t do it a whole lot, cause like, I rarely have the perfect group to make that happen. But we are just about out of time. Do either of you want to make any last points about quests before we close this out for the evening?

Wes: Um… no, I think we covered it pretty well. I mean, if you’re sitting down to write a story, and you want to call it a quest, maybe just consider what the reasons are that you’re sending your quester out there into the world, and decide what message you want to send, if any, right? That’s it.

Chris: And you can always use the Hero’s Journey structure, because it is basically built just for this. Every writer uses the same book for the Hero’s Journey. [laughs] I think it’s called The Writer’s Journey. It’s a good book.

Oren: It is very popular. Alright, well, that’ll be it for today. Those of you at home, if anything we said piqued your interest, you can leave a comment at Mythcreants.com. Otherwise, we will talk to you next week. [closing song]

 

Chris: This has been the Mythcreants podcast. Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton.

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

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Comments

  1. Julia

    You know what story falls squarely in this topic? Elfquest! (It’s right there in the name.) The wolf riders get chased out of their home by humans and fire, they meet other elves, go looking for more elves (some of who are not so nice), fight a war, and in the end find out the world is not what they thought it was. The original storyline is worth a look.

  2. Paul Drury

    I enjoyed listening to this podcast.

    The initial definition of quest threw me a bit. I didn’t know that the characters had to change in one. I can see that it would be better if they did change, but I’m still not sure that they necessarily have to in order for there to be a quest.

    I did like the combination of discussion of errand and quest. So much questing in videogames seems to be just errand running.

    I wonder whether quest has a different meaning to the population at large and to the character involved in the quest? A world spanning epic like Lord of the Rings has an epic errand/quest. But to an individual any overcoming of personal traits (shyness, addiction etc) could be regarded as being a quest if it leads to significant changes within that person?

    Just a thought. Anyway, thanks for this episode.

  3. Jonathan Sharp

    From this discussion, it seems that some fairy tales would also fit into the definition of quest – even if we don’t think of them as quests in the traditional sense. Take Little Red Riding Hood for example: she is given a basket of treats to take to grandmother. She encounters a wolf, who then goes ahead to grandmother’s house, eats her, and then disguises himself, lying in wait for Red, in order to make a meal of her. Wolf eats her, she and grandmother are rescued by a woodsman, and then their lives are changed, and Red grows, learning not to talk to strangers.

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