marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

and what are you looking for?

J. R. R. Tolkien chose a certain quest for his novels.  The Hobbit sets out for the Lonely Mountain.  The Lord of the Rings sets out for the Crack of Doom.  And what both of these quests have in common is that the location is fixed.

You can get that with other objects -- the ruby that is the left eye of the idol in the temple hidden in the swamps, or whatever the treasure is at the dragon's lair -- but lots of objects do not have fixed locations.  Their tendency to do so is understated in many quest stories.  Even when the god is not actively intervening, you seldom find that a chunk of red glass had been substituted for the ruby when the idol was built.

Which has its advantages.  You can send the characters off for their object without having them chasing their own tails while looking for a way to find where the object is at the moment.

My characters, on quest, are off and looking for mobile objects, where they not only don't have a forwarding address, they don't know where to look for such a forwarding address.  It gives as much, if not more, potential for adventures in the course of getting there, because there is not only the final destination but all the intermediate locations where the characters think they might get somewhere.

On the other hand, it does a great deal to change the mood of a piece.  The less reason they have to believe that any given location will be able to tell them where to go, the more frustrated the characters will get, in a way you don't get just by dropping a few trolls in their path, or even by cutting off one route and so forcing them to take another.  And that's even if you stick to the conventions that allow such information to be presumed reliable.  There are sound reasons for that one, not to have your characters chasing after will-o'-wisps, which is frustrating for characters and readers alike.  But chasing around that bit of fugitive if reliable information can be dangerously like it.
Tags: discovery, motives and purposes, quest, theme, travel

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