As writers, we all look for ways to become compelling storytellers. We strive to create relatable characters, use descriptive language and employ a climactic structure that will leave readers feeling dialed in and exhilarated.
However, the most important storytelling component is the quest. A protagonist’s journey towards knowledge, vindication, achievement, the holy grail is not only what drives the plot, but it’s what drives eager readers back to your story, night after night.
As a fan of The Walking Dead, a show that once held me breathlessly captive during every episode, I could not imagine what would happen next and diligently followed the characters as they sought answers as to why and how the world had gone mad. Each week, they were met with life-threatening challenges at every turn as they journeyed toward a place of hope and maybe even a fix. Still, they kept on. And viewers kept on with them, waiting for the pay-off.
Having seemingly lost the narrative of the quest in favor of survival, plain and simple, the series has many fans wondering if they should keep tuning in. What’s left but aimless walkers stalking a devastated wasteland. And, yes, that is likely be the point of it all, but is that enough for viewers?
Think on your favorite novel. What was the protagonist’s journey? For what did he search or yearn? What did the heroine ultimately strive for? Revenge? A lost child? Peace of mind?
Now, give consideration to your own novel. How would you describe your main character’s quest? What does he hope to achieve? What does he seek? How do you plan to get him there? If you have trouble articulating that journey, then it may be time to re-tool your narrative.
Kerri S. Mabee