There are no clearly defined standards that regulate what an adventure story might be. Often, an adventure story involves a hero and his journey, usually in a world whose scenarios are more fantastic than everyday life. The most influential adventure stories have become ingrained in the cultures from which they originated, and new adventure stories are constantly evolving.
One place to start when crafting an adventure story may be with the setting. Creating a world that excites audiences and pulls the reader into the story might be the difference between an unremarkable adventure story and a successful one. Typically, the setting is different from the contemporary world yet recognizable enough so that readers empathize with those who live there. The setting may be Earth during a different time period, such as a dystopian future in which machines threaten to take over or the setting could be an historical setting on a battlefield. Setting could also be an historically imagined past, such as a world filled with pirates, Elizabethan dresses and ghosts or a fantasy world that’s separate from the contemporary world such as Greek mythology. The setting could even be the contemporary world but altered with fantastical elements such as a mirror that transports the protagonist to another world. The setting is one of the first elements of the story that will pull the reader in, so creating a memorable time and place is key.
Once you have decided on the setting for your story, the next step is to create a protagonist with whom audiences can connect and one whose character is enhanced by the setting you have chosen to create. Popular adventure protagonists are heroes tasked with saving the world. This kind of hero has been popularized by stories such as “The Lord of the Rings” and the Harry Potter books, which use the kind of hero that mythology expert Joseph Campbell has typified. Creating an unlikely hero who makes it his mission to save the world is not the only way to approach an adventure story, however. Having a protagonist who is self-assured and ready to defeat his problems is another approach such as in a spy-thriller where the protagonist dodges enemy bullets while round-house kicking his way to victory. Having a group of protagonists who compensate for each other’s weaknesses is another examples such as a group of animals who are trying to make it to safety, by using the strong points of each. For example, one animal is brave, one is intelligent and one is a leader. The protagonist usually attracts more empathy if he is likable, has depth and weaknesses and if he works toward something good, even if he does so reluctantly.
In addition to the protagonist, a writer needs to create memorable characters that enhance the hero’s journey. Audiences connect with characters that are real and that they can empathize with. Certain supplemental character types often reoccur in adventure stories, such as the evil arch-nemesis, the sassy-but-pure love interest or the lovable-but-hapless sidekick. Still, audiences may be becoming jaded with these predictable characters, so perhaps the key to writing memorable characters in a contemporary adventure story is to subvert some of these stereotypes, to play with audience expectations or to add flaws that give characters more dimensionality. A tool some authors use for creating believable characters is to include personalities and traits from actual people.
The Story and Theme
The story and theme of many adventure stories often reinforce established beliefs about morality. The good guy triumphs over the bad guy. This kind of story has proven very successful and tends to encourage audiences to continue reading. However, perhaps the most value in yet-to-be-created adventure stories could come from stories that are more in line with reality such as characters that do not neatly fit into good or bad guy categories or a story that has a realistic ending instead of a predictably happy ending. These stories could potentially have greater impact on audiences. Still, the typical adventure story is about adventure and excitement, enabling the reader to become swept up in adventure. Telling a great story with characters and protagonists that readers want to get to know is the key to crafting successful adventure stories.