The Quest

ruby slippersMy 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.

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