There are many types of quests out there, which have been used throughout mythology, history, and fiction. You have hunting down a villain, finding a mentor to save the world, and the long journey. Another that doesn’t turn up as often as I originally thought is the ‘Collecting Quest’. Not the official name, but I couldn’t think of any other way to name this specific plot line. So, what does it entail?
It’s rather straightforward and you probably know by the name. A set of ‘things’ or parts of a single ‘thing’ have been spread out across a landscape. They are needed to stop whatever the antagonist is about to do. A great example is the Triforce from ‘Legend of Zelda’, which you need to gather the pieces of to defeat Ganon. On a less world-saving level, you have Pokemon where you have to catch them all. So, the set is not always of things that can be physically connected. You can have other people hunting for these with their intentions either to replace the hero, solve a personal problem, or help the villain. The core point of these stories is that the protagonist is searching for these items, which fall into the MacGuffin category. There, I used the word, so nobody has to say I was avoiding it any more.
The funny thing is that I started this topic thinking I’d have a ton of references. Yet, I found that I was sticking almost exclusively to video games (Legend of Zelda), cartoons (Pirates of Dark Water), and comics (Inuyasha). You have it kind of turning up throughout the Marvel movies since Thanos is gathering the Infinity Gems or the final book of Harry Potter with the Horcruxes. Still, I’m finding that I’m hard pressed to think of more literary examples. ‘Lord of the Rings’ would have been this if they were gathering all of the magic rings instead of trying to destroy the One Ring. Anyway, I’m really saying that novels don’t use this plot line nearly as much as other media.
A reason could be that it is fairly simplistic and can get routine. In Legends of Windemere, the champions need to cleanse all of the temples and regain their power. I realized early on that this could get rather boring if it was nothing more than a series of dungeon crawls. That’s why the series has a solitary story for each book alongside the overarching one. For example, Charms of the Feykin involves the temple that Delvin Cunningham has to clear, but not until the end. The rest of the story involves the mysterious happenings that caused Delvin and Sari to suddenly claim themselves to be the Feykin’s Generals. This story line gives them another reason to enter the temple and fix what has gone wrong instead of simply powering Delvin up. These ‘dungeon crawls’ also lead to something important for the characters. Delvin and Nyx became closer on this story, Timoran’s allowed him to regain his confidence, Luke had a difficult decision, and the list keeps going.
The point is that you need to do more than the collecting of items, which become nearly background. I think many authors who attempt this try to make it the only highlight instead of having it be the vehicle. Character development and personality will be a big driving force for the audience to care about the story. I’m currently reading ‘Rave Master’, which is a manga where the hero has to gather the 4 pieces of an artifact that can defeat an evil one. I’m more interested in the characters and how they evolve than the actual quest because they stand out. They have flaws and personalities, which overshadows the fact that this is nothing more than an elaborate ‘Collecting Quest’. This difficulty might be why you don’t see it in novels that often, especially since it works best in a more episodic style instead of it getting drawn out.
So, what do you think of this kind of story? Can you think of any examples? Is it more a piece of the foundation than the whole show?