My one visit to Hawaii might best be defined by an afternoon quest.
I was there to say goodbye to my cousin, who was coming to the end of her battle with cancer. I discovered she had developed a singular ambition: to find a pair of size 11 ruby slippers. She took great pleasure in the thought of giving them as a gag gift to a male colleague originally from Kansas. But she was too ill to shop herself, and I sensed
she might never have the chance to deliver the punch line to her grand joke.
But—hadn’t I journeyed thousands of miles for just such a purpose? It became my personal mission: if necessary, I would walk across lava fields to get my hands on the Rainbow State’s last pair of appropriately hued, and enormously sized, footwear.
I was fortunate in Hawaii’s geographic realities. I drove along, making sure to keep the ocean to my left, rationalizing that eventually I would either stumble across enough shoe stores, or I’d circle the island back to where I began. Many hours and much adventure later, I returned triumphant to my cousin’s home, ruby red trophies in hand.
If young writers are struggling to develop their story’s plot, the model of a character on a quest can be a great help. Ask them this: What is their character seeking to find? Is it a treasure or a person? An undiscovered land or the answer to a mystery? Their own destiny? Or are they searching for something they have lost, or something they have yet to find?
A quest offers writers the opportunity to explore mission and misdirection, trepidation and triumph. And when well told, it allows readers the chance to go along for the ride as well: even, perhaps, to a place that is somewhere over the rainbow.