All adventure stories follow a basic plan with a similar unifying theme that runs through all adventure stories. Movies as diverse as Home Alone, Star Wars, Transformers and Lord of the Rings and books such as The Odyssey, Dracula, Frankenstein or the Famous Five would all necessarily follow the same structure and have the same themes.
The Set-up shows us the characters in their normal lives. This is the familiar. This lets us know the characters and their personalities and their position in the hierarchy of the group. The Set-up gives us an idea of the setting, time period, characters, genre and a slight foreshadowing of the rest of the plot.
Plot Point One – The Unfamiliar
This is when the familiar becomes the unfamiliar. The main characters embark on a quest, or find a mystery, or have to stop some bad guys. The good guys are taken away from the comfort of their normal lives and have to try and regain it.
The QuestThis is when the characters explore the unfamiliar. They try to follow the mystery, they experience things on the quest. They are out of their zones of comfort and are in situations that they would never have been in in their normal lives. The characters learn things about themselves that they would never have found out in their normal lives. Their strengths and weaknesses are shown to themselves and the readers.
Plot Point Two – the Reveal
This is when the good guys find the key to ending the quest or solving the mystery and when the bad guys are revealed, their plans are known, the mystery is almost solved or the quest is almost finished. The way to ending the story is revealed to the audience and the characters. The good guys find out what they have to do or where they have to go to end the quest.
This is a small scene or exchange between the characters that calms everything down a little bit before the final climax. It is frequently funny or ridiculous and makes the audience laugh or allows them a break in which to calm down.
This is when the actions happens. The good guys are fighting against or racing against the bad guys. There is a race against time where the good guys want to stop the plans while the bad guys want their plans to go ahead. The quest is almost finished and the mystery is solved.
Anagnorisis – this is then the character make a discovery that helps them to win the day. This leads directly into or is a part of Chekhov’s Gun – This is the other part of the foreshadowing that occurres at the beginning. Someones skills or knowledge helps the good guys to stop the bad guys or to solve the mystery. The Gun leads to Peripeteia, or a reversal of fortune. This is when the good guys start to win, and the bad guys start to lose. The strengths of the good guys and the weaknesses of the bad guys becomes known to the audience and the characters.
The return to the familiar. The bad guys are arrested or the smugglers stopped. The characters return home. All the strands of the plot are explained and become known.
Adventure stories are about people being tested and put out of their normal lives and having to use all their skills that they didn’t know that they had in order to return to what is familiar. They are normally about young people who have to deal with a quest or a mystery without their parents or guardians. Everyone who would be able to instruct or guide them or solve the mystery for them are taken away and they have to stop being children or students and begin using the skills that they have or perfecting new skills so they can save the day and return home.
Adventure stories are all about the main characters learning things. They can either learn truths external to themselves, such as Indiana Jones or the Famous Five, or they can learn things internal to themselves, such as the personal lessons about themselves. Luke Skywalker Goes on an internal as well as an external journey in the course of his adventure.
An external truth would be the outcome of a quest. The Famous Five search for clues to a mystery that is external to themselves. They will attempt to find clues or meanings behind mysteries that would have existed even if they weren’t there to find them.
Internal truths reveal to the reader and the characters something about themselves that we didn’t know at the start of the adventure. This type of story would be used in an adventure where the characters have to use their intellect to return home, or to stop some bad guys. They will learn lots of new skills and ideas and things about themselves throughout the adventure. The audience will go through the process of education with the characters.
The process of education is important to the characters because it signifies that they are not just helpless children/students any more. They are able to look after themselves and do not need their parents or a guardian to help them through whatever it is that they have to face. The original Star Wars trilogy follows Luke on his quest to become a Jedi Knight and the audience is with him all the way. In the new Star Wars trilogy the audience does not follow Anakin along his journey to become a Knight. We are only told about it after it happens. This is why the new trilogy is not as good as the original and we are unable to become attached to Anakin as a character.