7 Ways to Keep a Gathering Quest Interesting

Jackie Chan Adventures

One of the most common types of adventures is the ‘Gathering Quest’.  This is where the main characters need to collect a set of something over the course of the adventure.  You see it in cartoons, video games, and other mediums with a bigger focus on kids than adults.  This is because they can be very repetitive because it’s usually:

  • Hear about one of the items.
  • Investigate area.
  • Adventure occurs with either gaining or losing item.
  • Continue on to next object.

Doesn’t sound that interesting, but it can be livened up at times.  Someone is going to mention Pokemon, which is a ‘Gathering Quest’ at the core.  Yet, it tries very hard to do other things and that is the key.  Let’s look at some tips.

  1. While the characters are searching for all of the items, they need to have more motivation than that.  Even if it’s something they develop along the way, they need to think about what they will do when they are done.  It can involve the full set or not, but you need to give them more than the basic plot as their driving force.  It could be to help a loved one, gain power, become famous, etc.  This can also create side quests to break up the repetition.
  2. You don’t really need a rival gathering group, but it can help.  The difficulty here is that most readers assume that the ‘bad guys’ are going to lose.  Even if they get a few pieces first, they’re going to lose them near the end.  So, a rival group can draw out the story and raise the stakes, but it comes at a cost.  A way around this could be to make multiple groups and various paths to the end.  Maybe you only need 5 items from a list of 100 or there’s more than 1 of each thing.  This means that you no longer have the predictable ‘lost our pieces’ plot twist.
  3. Not every adventure has to revolve around getting a new piece of the set.  It could be that they learn about the history of the items or that one of them has a power that can solve another problem.  Keep these objects involved, but they can always step aside for a character building tale.
  4. Using multiple protagonists can help divvy up the collection as it grows, so they can use it more often.  This way, you don’t have one character trying to utilize all of these items or simply carrying them the whole time.  It’s too many toys on one hero, which can make it predictable that he/she saves the day.  If everyone has part of the set then they are equally important and the reader won’t know exactly who will step up to the plate when a problem occurs.
  5. If you’re going for a long series then you can gradually work away from the gathering quest.  It can be what sets events in motion and requires completion, but you can have it lead to something bigger.  The character may learn that the objects/beasts are desired by a warlord who they now have to defeat because he can destroy the world with them.  The collection is still important, but now it’s all about protecting the pieces and saving everyone.  Going even further, it could be that the heroes unearth a truth about their world during their adventures, which overshadows the collection entirely.  They are merely the keys to the bigger adventure.
  6. You can always make things go quicker by having some of the pieces get collected together.  It could be that they are bonded or are opposing forces, so they are connected.  Maybe another character gathered a bunch behind the scenes and the heroes find a storehouse.  This shrinks the amount of stories you have to tell to reach the end, which minimizes the chance of repetition.
  7. This might seem easy, but I figure I should say it.  DO NOT make the collection too big for what you’re planning.  Pokemon has hundreds because it’s a video game that revolves entirely around collecting and battling.  If you tried to make it a book series where each adventure was Ash gaining a new Pokemon then people will get bored fairly quickly.  Consider your medium, audience, overall goal, and how many varied stories you can come up with.  It can even help to create the finding scenarios before you get down to create the full collection.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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18 Responses to 7 Ways to Keep a Gathering Quest Interesting

  1. L. Marie says:

    You have the best topics for posts. Great tips! I read a series by Tad Williams years ago called Memory Sorrow and Thorn, which was about the search for three mythical swords. And of course Harry Potter had a gathering quest with the horcruxes and with the three objects of the Deathly Hallows. I love stories like this. One drawback is when the author spends so much time on a couple of objects then rushes through the rest in a list. I can understand if some objects aren’t that important. But if you tell me they have equal weight, yet you take two and a half books of a trilogy to discuss the finding of two out of three objects and then confine the search of the third to the last 50 pages of book 3, then we have a problem.

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    • Fantasy is filled with gathering quests. Mythology too. That last minute rush is a problem though. This is why you need to decide on a good amount first then plan accordingly. Trying to jam 10 item hunts into a 300 page book is a challenge especially when you add introductions and character development.

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  2. ospreyshire says:

    Those are certainly good tips. I usually avoid that kind of a plot since it can be riddled with cliches. Funny enough, I actually watched some episodes of Jackie Chan Adventures during my childhood.

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  3. Another subject that I have no knowledge of, Charles. I appreciate the post as a learning vehicle.

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  4. Well thought out post today. I’ve not done anything like this, but everything you wrote makes sense.

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  5. V.M.Sang says:

    I hadn’t thought of it as a gathering quest, but my Elemental Worlds books are one such. There are 4 gems to collect, one from each of 4 Elemental worlds, Terra, Aeris, Ignis and Aqua. The protagonist has to find an object containing the gem associated with that element in each world. The problem? He can’t return through the portal without it as it’s the key.
    He needs all 4 in order to rescue the Crown Prince, who has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a separate plane of existence. Each world is completely different, and on each he has to do something that will help the inhabitants. All very different quests
    Thanks for your enlightening post, Charles, and bringing our attention to the problems.

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  6. Pingback: Getting recognized here? I got the Blogger Recognition Award! | Ospreyshire's Realm

  7. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great post from Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere blog with 7 Ways to Keep a Gathering Quest Interesting

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