How to Write a Quest Story | Julia Gousseva | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Three-Act Plot Structure

    • 3. True Quest vs MacGuffin

    • 4. Goals of a Quest Story

    • 5. Quest Plot: Act One

    • 6. Quest Plot: Act Two

    • 7. Quest Plot: Act Three

    • 8. Conclusion

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About This Class

Do you want to write a story that engages the readers and keeps them turning pages of your book late into the night? Do you have a story inside you but not sure how to express it on paper? 

Focus on Plot class series will help you understand the most successful plot patterns, analyze their structure, and apply these plots to your own stories. As a result, your fiction will be more compelling and engaging.

Write a Quest Story is the first class in the Focus on Plot series. More classes coming this summer!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher


Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher

How to Write an Original Short Story

Have you always wanted to write fiction but don’t know where to start? Have you started writing but got stuck and don’t know how to finish? Do you have ideas but find it hard to develop them into a complete story that makes sense? Or do you experience writer's block, get stuck, and lose motivation?

If you have experienced any of these problems or if you simply want a clear and specific way to develop your idea into a story, you’re in the right place.
This course will present an approach to writing stories that I have developed over a number of years and refined with my students in face-to-face classes.

This approach is a step... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hello. Welcome for the introductory video. My name is Dr Junior Cassava. Creative writing is my hobby, my passion and my full time job. I write the variety of stories, Children's books, mysteries and thrillers set in Russia and Russian historical fiction. My shorter pieces have been published in the Highlights for Children magazine, the Sun magazine In the few other publications. I've been teaching college level writing courses since 1993 and I'm excited to share my knowledge with you. In the next two minutes, I will tell you what the scores contains and how it will make you a better rider. When you're done with this class, you will be able to use the three act structure to construct the Quest blood, and you will be able to write an exciting quest story of your own and to help you with this class. We're going to use three very famous stories that are written. This quests. They are the epic of Gilgamesh, Don Quixote and the Wizard of Oz. Thank you for watching introductory video click the button to take the course and start learning. By the way, 2. Three-Act Plot Structure: I know you're excited to start, and you would like to start writing your story. But before we do that, let's talk about the basic structure of applaud that applies to any story, and that's called the three act blood structure. So what is the three act blood structure? Act one? It's also called a set up. It has two purposes. One is exposition, which means you're going to be introduced in your characters in your locations and think about it as a status quo. This is how life is or has been before something happened, and that something will be the inciting incident. Something happens to change that status quo, and it poses the main dramatic question. And if it doesn't quite make sense right now, just hang in there. We'll get to all the details in the next few slides. Act two. It's also called the confrontation. It's your character attempts to solve the problem or to answer the dramatic question, and you don't want that part to be too easy. You don't want the character to solve everything on the first attempt. That's not interesting to your readers. We want to see some struggle, some resistance so your character should fail and then try again to solve the problem and the last part, this extra your resolution. And it's the answer to that main dramatic question. And usually it involves the change in the character. Or it could be the refusal to change, which is also an interesting outcome. All right, so now that you understand the three act plot structure in general, let's get into the specifics off today's plot. 3. True Quest vs MacGuffin: all right. So a quest plot. What is a quest plot, and how is it different from all the other plots it out there? Let's talk about the main goal of a quest plot. A character is supposed to be searching for something and hoping that this something will change his or her life. And that second part, the change, his or her life is an important one. So what can that something be? It could be the Holy Grail. It could be the Emerald City, like in the Wizard of Us that will talk about Could the immortality like in Gilgamesh? It could be Atlantis could be the Middle Kingdom could be anything you want. But the change in off the character's life aspect is important. And that brings us to the point off to Quest versus McGuffin. And you might be thinking, What the heck is a McGuffin? Alfred Hitchcock, actually, if not coin but made this, but they're unpopular, for sure. He defined it as the thing that the characters on the screen worry about, but the audience don't care in The two Quest involves a multi dimensional character who changes in the course of the story. some McGuffin people. It could be an adventure story. People could be chasing after that object, but it's not significant to their life. It doesn't make a dramatic impact on their life, right, versus a true quest. And I'm not saying one is better than the other. I tend to be a purist, and I define the search for McGuffin is more like an adventure story in the two. Quest has to have that meaning that change in the character. But it's up to you. It's your story, so you can ride it any way you want. But let's look at some examples of a McGuffin. And again, I'm using Alfred Hitchcock here because that was his idea and he used McGuffin is a lot in his work in Psycho. For example, if you watch that movie the even remember that somebody was looking for stolen money, you probably do not, because that wasn't that important to the story. It was more just a plot device to keep action going north by Northwest statue of hidden microfilm. Does anybody remember that? Maybe you dio? If so, then you're more attentive than problem. 90% of the audience in Notorious there was uranium and wine bottles is this object that the characters were looking for. Another example. Off McGuffin in movies is the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade to the Holy Grail. So why are these objects not exactly objects of a request? If you think of Indiana Jones exciting movies, right? I'm not not criticizing them at all. Love those movies. Very adventures, very exciting bridges and all kinds of, ah, scary, dangerous things. But Indiana Jones doesn't seem to be fazed by these adventures, right? He goes from one exciting and dangerous thing to the next, and he doesn't really change at the end. So while it looks like a quest story, it might not be a to question. It's more like a McGuffin story. This is making a difference. I don't know, you decide, but it's nice to know what those differences are right and examples of a quest cloth, the to pure quest love. We're going to use three or three of these stories. One is the epic of Gilgamesh in that supposedly the first quest story, and Gilgamesh is searching for immortality. Don Quixote. He's trying to change the world, redress the wrongs when his lady and in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy's trying to find home. We'll talk more about these in the next two slides and why these are examples of true quests versus, and, McGuffin this object that doesn't change the character. 4. Goals of a Quest Story: When you start planning your quest story, think about what they want your characters to find or what do they find at the end? And one answer is, they're going to find wisdom, right? They're going to learn something about themselves, about humanity, about the world around them. And that's important in the quest story. And it's also important for your readers. It's It makes the story more interesting, right? If your characters learn something, require some wisdom and the like, we said. So they learned something in the change right? They don't have to achieve their goal to have a successful quest story. So this is interesting, and I think you can related yourself. Sometimes in real life you're trying to accomplish something, and maybe you don't accomplish that goal. But you grow as a person. Like we say, we'll learn from our mistakes. So the same applies the quest story in Gilgamesh. He's looking for immortality and sorry about the plot spoiler. He does not find it and Don Quixote again. He does not succeed. He at the end. He kind of gives up on the world, and Dorothy and Total. It's a kid's story, so they do get back home. There's a happy ending, so their quest is successful. But no matter what the outcome is, all of them still learn something changed in the choir wisdom. 5. Quest Plot: Act One: Now let's look at the three acts off each of these three stories that were analyzing in more detail. And I hope that analysing the different parts of these stories of different acts gives you a good idea how to structure your own quest story. So we're going to start at the beginning, of course, with Act one off Quest plot, and we're gonna look at Gilgamesh. So what happens in Act one, Gilgamesh is building the Great Wall of Babylon. Well, actually, he's not building it. He's forcing other people to build it, and he's exhausted them to the point that they complained to the gods and the gods, sent the clay warrior to fight Gilgamesh in Don Quixote a little bit less dramatic beginning. He's reading books about nights, and he's so enamored with the idea of nights he wants to become one. So he dresses up in all kinds of weird things that he thinks make him look like a night. And he sets out on an adventure. And Dorothy, she's not very happy of where she lives, and she's also of worried about her dog because one of the neighbors, her Doc Toto, one of the neighbors doesn't like her dog and she wants to run away, right? So there's still all all three of them are still at home right in that beginning location. And something needs to happen for them to to transition to the next phase, to the phase of action. And that's where it come to this. What's called a transitional phase and you can think it's maybe it's part of Act one more than anything else and maybe doesn't matter so much. Just think about this. Inciting incident starts in Act one and then moves us from act. Want to act, too? So what happens in Gilgamesh? So general, a transitional phase means that the character decides to do something, and that leads to the first major event away from home, away from the first location. Son Gilgamesh. As you remember, the Clearwater was sent to fight with him, right, because Gilgamesh was so mean to the inhabitants of the city and the the the fight and they become friends. And then they go to fight a giant so that they go to fight a giant that's that first major event away from home, right? And then, from that point on we're gonna go to act, too. But before we do that, let's look at the two other stories in Don Quixote again. What is the decision? How does what happens to him that makes him leave home? Well, in his case would happen that he left by himself, right? He tries to become a knight. He fails. He comes back home. Meanwhile, his friends think that he was insane and they burn all his books. I think that those books are a bad influence on him. So Don Quixote is looking for these books. You can find them and decided some evil being took his books, and he goes to find them, right? So that's his first act away from home and then the Wizard of Oz. What happens here? Dorothy runs away from home. She runs the carnival, and then she talks to show won at the carnival, and he convinces her that it's not a good idea to be running away so she decides to return home. And then I think everybody knows what happens then, right at their neighbor hits and takes her in total to the magical land of Oz. When you write, Act one for your story here. A few tips for you one is you do need to include a motivating incident. So there needs to be some kind of a reason for your character to start acting, and you need to show that reason very clearly. If there's no reason, then it's just a bunch of things happening or a bunch of random actions. We need to have that reason. And if you're either see that reason. If your readers understand that that reason is important to your character, then your readers will care about the character and about the story. And if they care and guess what, they're going to read your book. 6. Quest Plot: Act Two: So let's remember that stories Air supposed to answer those dramatic questions right? And the that dramatic question is supposed in Act one. So what are these questions for Gilgamesh? The question is, will he find the secret of life? And that's the question that's opposed in Act one. And it's answered in Act three, and in this case, the answer is yes. But it's not what he expected for Don Quixote. The question is, Will he become a night we will hear when his lady and the answer is both No and yes, he will not become a night, really. And he'll want his lady. But she's a farm girl. And then there's some other things that are going to happen. And Dorothy, will she find your way home? The answer is simple. Yes, you will. All right, So now what do we do between Act one and Act three? Between the answer and the question or rather, question and the answer, we're going to have, um, act to and act to. In all of these stories, it's a journey from question that's posed in Act one to the answer. That's Ah, in at three. So in Gilgamesh, what happened in that happens in Act two is first, his friend and companion dies. Gilgamesh is heartbroken. He wants to find the wise man who holds the secret to life. Why this? You want to do that? Because he wants to bring his friend back. All right in Don Quixote. What happens in Act two and Don Quixote? It's, Ah, loosely structured story, a lot of this satire, so it's not driven as much by cause and effect as the other two stories. But still, there are things that happen. First, he goes tune in, and he thinks that this in is a castle, and he makes the innkeeper of humans the ninth, which the innkeeper does. Then he goes to find one Mills. He encounters all kinds of different characters, and he fights with some of them. He learned from others. And all of these encounters teach us something about humanity, about idealism, about the life in Spain at the time and his goal again to remind you so. What I would try and accomplish here is to become a knight to save the world. And when his lady and all of these different actions are supposed to get him closer to the goal. Right? So all of this happening in Act two now in The Wizard of Oz again the structures, the same actor is this journey from Act One from the question to act tree to the answer and what happens here. And actually what happens here is a little bit different. Dorothy First the meets, the Three Creatures, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion in each of these characters have a quest off their own right. The Scarecrow wants to have brains. The Woodman wants to have heart. And the coward the lion wants to have courage. So that's kind of interesting. We're getting more questions here. And what happens. So after Dorothy meets each of these characters, each one off whom has a quest of his own, they all fight the evils of the wicked witch, the older together, all the different things that the which throws their way the flying monkeys, the talking trees, sleep induced, the flowers in some other problems. And, of course, you remember the yellow brick road. So it's literally a journey and figuratively it's a journey, right? So they're traveling down to this land of Oz And when you write your own story, what should you do in Act two? Your plots should move around a lot. It makes the story more interesting, meaning your your protagonist is going to meet different people in different places and interact with them. Keep the challenge is interesting. You don't want your protagonist, Teoh. I don't know, fight the lion in chapter to it and fight a tiger. And Chapter three, it's about the same, right? So maybe one challenge will be physical, one of intellectual, so different things. So your leaders are not bored. Sure, that's important. Show how the character reacts to each challenge and what the character learns from each challenge. And this is again where this is different from a McGuffin story, where your character just solves is different puzzles and keeps moving forward without any change to his or her character. This movement that all the events and EC two should be guided by cause and effect in our three examples. It's less so on Don Quixote because it relies more on satire and the portrayal of the country at the time. But generally special modern stories should have a tighter structure, cause and effect should be clear, and the it would be interesting to bring the character back to the same geographical occasion at the end, in a lot of stories end in the same place where they started their coming back home. 7. Quest Plot: Act Three: all right, so we have talked about Act one in next three. We have asked the question in Act one, and we saw the different attempts of the character to solve that problem or to answer that question in Act two. So now we're ready to look at the final act of each of these stories and see what that what it accomplishes and what Act three is supposed to do in a quest story. So at the end, you have to have a resolution. Remember the object of the search? It will be either obtained or denied, or they search will somehow be changed. That's also a possibility. Additional complications may happen as a result of obtaining a certain goal. So that could be an interesting twist of at the end of the story. And there's there's some kind of realization, So it's important we talked about the character change, right? So it's important we a character to gain some insight about the meaning of the quest about him or herself about life in general, right? So that's ah, overall, what should happen in Act three of the Quest plot? And now let's get back to our three stories and see what happens in them. We're going to start with Gilgamesh. So what happens there? Remember, he's looking for his friend, who died, or he's looking to bring his friend back. He goes to the underworld, and there's an old man who tells him that nothing lasts forever. The death is a part of life, and the Gilgamesh doesn't want to accept that. The answer. So then the man tells, Well, there's the roles that you can find. It holds the secret to life, and Gilgamesh goes to look for that rose, and he almost gets it. But in the serpent eats it. Gilgamesh goes from the solution alone, defeated there, said. But he pleads to God's and gets to meet his dead friend one last time. But guess what? Nothing good comes out of it for Gilgamesh, the friend, the Chelsea, what death is like. And I don't want to depress you, but he does not have a good picture of what it is. So at the end. And if the summarize what happened at three, Gilgamesh accepts his faith and feels mortal for the first time. So remember his quest for was for immortality, and he doesn't didn't find it, but he does have his answer. Continue with the pressing stories. Act three of Don Quixote. He fails to accomplish his goal. He again returns home disillusioned, But he probably learned less than Gilgamesh, right? And he gives up on change in the world and gives into it right. So that's Don Quixote, the Wizard of Woz, a much more positive ending that the Children's story. So the Wizard of Woz does have a resolution, a positive one for everybody involved. So what happened there? Dorothy and her friends get to the Emerald City. They confront a great wizard. And, by the way, the great wizard. Remember that showman at the carnival that Dorothy met at the very beginning? While the Great wizard suspiciously sounds very much like the Chill man and the at first, the easier problem is result. With the three friends, the wizard tells her friends that they already half of what they wanted. That scarecrow is smart, has the brain. The tin Woodman has the heart, and the cowardly lion is not cowardly, But it's pretty courageous, so there problem is solved. But what about Dorothy? The Wizard tries to get her home and that he tries this balloon ride. But that fails, of course. So then, since it's a magical land, a good which has to interfere and take her home. And when Dorothy gets home, well, that's you say, there's no place like home, right, very famous quote from that story. So she learns that through happiness can be followed at home with your family, right? So all the quests are resolved. All the questions are answered in this one. When you write your own story, these are some of the tips you should keep in mind. One is including a character's revelation in Act three. Tried some kind of insight. Remember, the character is supposed to change and learn something, so show that the search does not have to be successful. We can still learn the character skins to learn, even if they fail at what they try to accomplish. Think about Gilgamesh. He didn't accomplish his search, but he learned about mortality. Don't you hold? They probably learned something, too, and, of course, eso the Dorothy. But hers was successful. What the character discovers is usually different from what was sought again. Going with the example of Dorothy, she wanted to get away from her home, But then she held up coming back and enjoying it right. Gilgamesh wanted to find a more talent, see, but she realized for his friend, but he realized that he himself is mortal, so there's a difference. But in all these cases, the character finds wisdom. That's the difference between the MacGuffin plot and the quest plot. They will change. They will find some insights and wisdom and some final thoughts on the quest plot. It's a good idea to include a traveling companion. Oh, that way your character will have somebody to discuss ideas with, and your story will not be happening in the character's head and get kind of boring, right? So that's important. You may also want to considering to include the helpful character, and this is different from a travelling companion. Do you remember the story over Ellison Wonderland? She was by herself, right? Most of the time. She did not have a traveling companion, however, There was the Cheshire cat who appeared once in a while on her on through path, and he helped her. Well, we can argue with that, right? Some. Sometimes he made things more confusing, but he was a positive character in that story. And if you do have a helpful character, introduced that character early on in Act one. Don't wait for a convenient moment. Oh, my protagonist needs help here, somebody to help but include that character earlier. Then your readers will find the story more believable were the character appears later and helps your protagonist and the include some foreshadowing of resolution and neck to, for example, in Don Quixote. We kind of know early in the story, right? Let in the inactive at least that probably his quest is not going to be successful. And then the ending is more satisfying. And to leave you, I'm gonna leave you with this quote from Marcel Proust. You don't receive wisdom. We must discover it for ourselves after a quest that no one can take for us or spare us. So when you write your quest story, think about that quote and think about how you can apply it to your characters. 8. Conclusion: Thank you for watching this class. I really hope you enjoyed it. And get some new ideas for your writing project. If you have any comments, please leave them down below. And I will definitely read them and respond to you and trying to help you in any way. I hope you like the class. And I look forward to seeing you in some of my other writing classes here on skill share. If you have a few minutes, please leave a thumbs up for you. And maybe if you weren't so other people can find this glass. Thanks for watching.