Basic Story Plots- Quest

There comes a time in every writer’s life where you’re about to start another project and you’re faced with a tough question: Which plot am I going with? Is your new project all about revenge? Is it a story about a change or metamorphosis? Is it a Romeo and Juliet story about a forbidden love?

Either way, welcome to the second installment of Pen and Muse’s Basic Story Plots project. Each week we want to introduce you to a different plot point. Hopefully we can help and be that swift kick in the inspiration booty that you need.  It doesn’t matter if this is your 20th novel, your first novel, or your very first flash fiction. If there’s no plot, there’s no story.

This week’s basic plot point is:


Details: Quest plots involve your protagonist / main characters being on the search for something. Whether The Basic Plot-Questit be person, place, thing, animal, or mineral, your protagonist will not rest until it’s found, obtained, or resolved.

Traditionally, the quest story has three facets that seem to be ever-present:

  • The Motivator or motivating situation- In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry gets his Hogwarts acceptance letter. In The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers as tribute after her sister’s name is picked. It’s always a good idea to start your story as close as possible to the starting action.
  • The Journey- This is where everything takes place. This is the part that will hopefully ensure your reader can’t put your book down. Your reader at this point should understand that the journey is about to take place, and should understand why this journey is happening / where the protagonist is going. They may have no clue about all the hardships you’ve planned for your MC or who dies (if anyone), but they need to know the journey has commenced and why it’s important. Tell the story. Make your protagonist wallow through that swamp of sadness, barely escape pirates, or be pursued by crooks in search of treasure. In Defiance, the journey begins when Rachel and Logan head into the Wasteland. In Harry Potter, the journey starts at Harry’s term at Hogwarts for the school year. In The Hobbit, this is when Bilbo Baggins decides to go along with Gandalf and the other dwarves.
  • The Goal- Normally at the end or towards the end of your book, the goal needs to be addressed. Did the protagonist meet their goals? Did they fail? Did they realize that they only accomplished half of it? Or does the protagonist have multiple goals, accomplishing one and ending the novel one step closer to the other goal? For example, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry finds the Sorcerer’s Stone. He thwarts Voldemort’s evil plan but he doesn’t destroy Voldemort. This leaves his stretch goal still unfulfilled and perfect for a sequel, but his immediate goals and journey were met.


Other reading material with a Quest plot:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (Fantasy)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (Fantasy)

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordon (Fantasy)

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Urban Fantasy)


What are your favorite quest plot novels? What tips do you have for someone writing a quest novel? Let us know in the comments below!

Jolene Haley, Jolene Haley, @JoleneHaley




  1. This is great and the examples of quest-based plots are awesome! Thanks!

  2. Love a good quest, I have been known to buy a book because I saw a map on the inside cover. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta is a favorite of mine.


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