Yesterday’s email looked at the archetypal quest plot. Jonathan replied with the following:
“All entrepreneurship is a quest. Gurus, mentors, coaches and Mastermind members saving your bacon can provide the real world role of the “helpers” quite handily.
What can’t generally be overcome except in rare authentic rags-to-riches cases is that entrepreneurial life makes for boring reading, no matter how it’s posed, compared to long journeys with fire breathing dragons, or climbing Mt. Everest, or wars and famines or other very human personal stories 🙂 but fellow entrepreneurs do love to hear “what happened to YOU”!!”
I have a few comments on this.
The quest plot is generally best told as a physical journey, with real physical obstacles. It’s tempting to talk about your business endeavours as a quest, but the risk is you end up being abstract and clichéd.
On the other hand it’s easy to over-think or over-complicate the archetypal plot. The basic structure is this:
1. Some kind of call happens.
Dark riders arrive in The Shire. Aladdin is caught stealing bread. In your world, perhaps you were bored in a job. Perhaps an old boss was driving you insane. The point of the call is to set the scene and paint some kind of imbalance or injustice.
2. For a while, things go well.
Macbeth murders Duncan and becomes king of Scotland. Aladdin shows up as King Ali Baba. Success was achieved in some capacity, but through dark or underhanded means. No real character development has happened yet.
In your world this could be some kind of success you achieved operating a business you disliked. Or some success at the expense of someone else. In a quest plot it’s the ‘calm before the storm’.
3. Things suddenly go very, very badly.
Aladdin winds up at the bottom of the ocean. The dark powers in the story come fully out of the shadows. The scale of the challenge becomes fully apparent. Relationships with other characters become strained.
4. The final conflict!
The final conflict is mostly depicted in films as real conflict, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be a crunch meeting. In a comedy plot, the web of confusion is finally untangled. In Pride and Predudice, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet finally fall in love be acting unashamedly as their real selves.
The key thing about the final conflict is it has to be tense or dramatic. The outcome has to be in serious doubt. And a resolution is only achieved though real underlying character change.
Luke Skywalker simply wasn’t ready to defeat Darth Vader at the outset of Star Wars. He had to go away and spend time with Yoda, learn about the force, and do some other self-realisation stuff first. I dislike Star Wars, but it follows the plot archetype pretty closely.
5. The resolution
The situation returns back to normal, or better. Even in a tragedy plot like Macbeth, peace returns to the Kingdom of Scotland. In your world you finally achieved some success by learning more about yourself. What was the reward?
Most business stories jump too quickly to the resolution, when actually it should be more of a footnote. People are far more interested in the drama in the middle, especially if it closely resembles their current situation.
If you want to tell a quest story that isn’t a physical journey, that’s fine. But can you keep it within those five parameters?