Posts Tagged ‘improving your writing skills’

August 21, 2017

The “Quest” Fiction Plot

A while back I read one of the most informative books on writing fiction that I ever read: TWENTY MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias. Before reading the book, I was totally unaware of how many different kinds of plots a writer could contrive in his/her fiction work. I’ve used this book as one of my primary resources when I teach fiction workshops at writers’ conferences. This work by Tobias is packed with useful information for any writer of fiction desiring to improve his skills for writing an I-can’t-put-the-book-down manuscript.

Last time I posted here, I defined “plot” and looked at the difference between a plot-driven book and a character-driven book. Today we’ll look at the first plot Ronald Tobias defined in his book:

PLOT # 1


Samples of this type of fiction:

The Wizard of Oz

Lord of the Rings

The Grapes of Wrath

Jason and the Argonauts


As you write your story, keep the following points in mind:

  1. A quest plot should be about a search for a person, place, or thing; develop a close parallel between your hero’s intent and motivation and what he’s trying to find.
  2. Your plot should move, visiting many people and places. Don’t just move your character around as the wind blows. Movement should be contingent on your plan of cause and effect. (You can make the journey seem like there’s nothing guiding it— making it seem casual—but in fact it is causal.)
  3. Consider bringing your plot full circle geographically. Your hero frequently ends up in the same place where she started.
  4. Make your character different at the end of the story as a result of his/her quest. This story is about the character, who makes the search, not about the object of the search itself. Your character is in the process of changing during the story. How does he/she change and why?
  5. The object of the journey is wisdom, which takes the form of self-realization for the hero. This is often the process of maturation. It could be about a child who learns the lessons of adulthood, but it could also be about an adult who learns the lessons of life.
  6. Your first act should include a motivating incident, which starts your hero’s search. Don’t just launch into a quest; make sure your reader understands why your character wants to go on the quest.
  7. Your hero should have at least one companion. He must have interactions with other characters to keep the story from becoming too abstract or too interior. Your hero needs someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to argue with.
  8. Consider including a helpful character.
  9. Your last act should include your character’s discovery, which occurs either after giving up the search or after achieving it.
  10. What your character discovers is usually different from what he originally sought.


Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


Next time, we’ll have a look at PLOT #2: ADVENTURE

Happy writing!


Interested in Amish/Mennonite fiction?

Eli and Louellen Friesen’s marriage is on the rocks, and at the same time, both question their ordnung’s teachings of the way of salvation.


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Carol.Connie.Tracy.other.conferee.in.D.Rm.January 26, 2015

Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference


I suppose by now if you’ve followed any of my blog posts, you know I’m an ardent proponent of writers conferences. My personal preference is Christian writers conferences, but you can glean expertise from secular conferences as well. So, what can you do to get the most out of any writers conference you attend? Let’s look at a few key reasons why you should attend writers conferences:

  1. The first and most obvious reason is to attend conferences that best meet your needs to help you IMPROVE your writing. Other than joining a local critique group, attending writers conferences is going to provide you with the most excellent training you can receive. Do an online search and find those conferences that offer workshops focusing on your genres of interest. If you’re writing children’s picture books, why would you want to attend an adult fiction and romance conference?

Marshas.Class.Wk.in.Progress.2013Well, you say, conferences are expensive. That’s true, but they’re worth every penny you spend to learn your craft better and possibly land you a book contract or a sale. If you apply what you learn at conferences, you WILL eventually be published.

I’ll never forget the first conference I attended about 20 years ago. It was a Saturday conference on the PA/MD border. My hubby drove me there, and while I went to the workshops, he read books and newspapers and took a nap in the car. (God love his little pea-picking heart.) When I arrived at this conference, I thought I understood a little about writing. Well, I did understand A LITTLE about writing. I came home vowing to get to as many writers conferences as I could from that moment on because I admitted that I knew practically nothing about writing and publishing. It was an alarming day of revelation that I’ll never forget.

  1. 2. Secondly, and this is a no-brainer, attend as many conferences as possible, whether it be for one day or a week. And when you get there, go to as many classes as you can. Conference directors spend untold hours planning a schedule that gives the conferees invaluable information in the workshops. If you’re a beginner and you’re not sure which direction your writing is taking you, then go to a variety of different genre workshops and see if any of them challenge you to start a new project in a brand new genre. Who knows? That might be just the place your writing skills will jive and you’ll create a winner!The Porch

3. At the conference, plan to meet with editors and/or agents to have them review your work. Many conferences provide the opportunity for you to do this one-on-one (sometimes for a fee or many times as a perk). It’s a golden opportunity to possibly snatch a contract from a publishing house or pick up an agent who would represent you. Four of the book contracts I’ve had over the years resulted from meeting the editors at writers conferences. The least that might happen, which is still important, is for the editors/agents to suggest revisions that might make your manuscript publishable down the road.

4. Enjoy the fellowship of other writers. This is one of the best perks you’ll receive when you attend writers conferences. You’ll get to meet other people who are as “strange” as you are. Let’s face it. Writers are odd ducks, and, if you’re like the rest of us, your family and friends probably try to encourage you, but they really don’t understand you nor your passion to sit in front of a computer screen, possibly for six months to a year, writing a manuscript that might never see itself on a book store shelf or on Amazon. Only other writers understand the burning desire deep in your soul to get that story out before you burst. The writer friends you make at writers conferences will become life-long friends who will be there for you to Plastic.Ducks.on.Papercongratulate you in your successes and cry with you in your failures. The Internet has made the world so much smaller, which places these new friends only an e-mail or Facebook message away.

So there are four main reasons why you should consider attending writers conferences. I guarantee if you do make a habit to do so, you’ll come home a different person every time, determined more than ever to become a successful, published author.

Believe me, I know.


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