The Adventures of *Blank*

Some fictional works are a compilation. Whether it’s the new Wind in the Willows or the Adventures of Robin Hood or even your childhood animated Transformers TV show, these stories deal with the same cast of characters throughout a (sometimes) eternal struggle against the antagonist.

Usually, the book begins with starting a sort of over-arching plot that encompasses the whole novel, and a simple backstory for a few of the characters. Since every chapter is a new problem for our hero(es) to solve, most of their development will start and end over the chapter, so not a lot of backstory is necessary.

There are two rules in particular that are almost universally acknowledged by writers who make these kinds of books: one, have a large, evolving cast, and two, treat every chapter like a book of its own.

You may back me up and say, “Wait a minute. If I was writing a book that wasn’t titled ‘The Adventures of Jimmy’ wouldn’t I still want to observe these rules anyway?” Well, not really. The reason why you want a bigger cast of characters in a “The Adventures of Jimmy”-type story is that the same few characters going on different adventures can be incredibly monotonous. When the adventures change, make sure that there’s a slight influx of heroes to go on them.

And as for treating your chapters like books of their own, please don’t let this bleed over into a story you wouldn’t want to name “The Adventures of Jimmy”. If every chapter is like a book, your readers will get the feeling that it is a compilation of adventures rather than just one big adventure. Keep these rules specifically within “The Adventures of Jimmy” stories.

(We need a better handle for the kind of story in question, so “The Adventures of Jimmy” Stories are hereby reduced to TAOJS.)

Where were we?

Ah, yes. We were talking about TAOJS. As I was saying, you want to have these elements: your short, beginning bit where you introduce the heroes and the villain(s) and explain their conflict and basis for the adventures that happen in the world, make every chapter like its own little novel (with setting, plot, climax, cast, and resolution), and you want a big cast. Is that all?

Of course not. In fact, there are rules underlying the rules. There are two more important ones that come to mind, the first of which is the Big Plot. Even though you have a bunch of little subplots, you need a fully-fledged story (hence the name). You can’t just have the merry little exploits of a fellow named Robin Hood in which he never has a goal and never does anything of substance to a certain goal or whatever.

There has to be a main goal for the heroes, and every little subplot and exploit is another step in working towards that goal. He-Man doesn’t just fight Skeletor for the fun of it. He has a goal in mind: protecting the Castle Grayskull (and possibly vanquishing Skeletor??). This should be part of the introduction, and it needs to at least exist.

I remember when I first got to the end of Arabian Nights (if you’re not aware, it’s a story about a woman who tells a story every night for the Sultan to keep him from killing her, and the Sultan never does because the woman purposefully tells stories within stories and leaves them unfinished so as to keep him interested, so the entire book ends up being a collection of various Arabic stories). I was seriously bummed when I found out that the original story (of the Sultan and the storytelling woman) was never resolved: instead, another unconnected (but entertaining) story was told, and that was it. We never saw if she was beheaded by the sultan because she ran out of stories to tell, or if the sultan repents of his wickedness and sets her free, or if something else happened.

Don’t keep your readers in this limbo. Finish the arc of the story: show how Jimmy’s adventures came to an end. And don’t employ this cheesy “and after this apparently unconnected adventure, the heroes and villains slugged out their differences until the end of time. THE END.” End it like you would a novel: with a proper distribution of justice and resolution.

All in all, keep the main storyline like a standard plot of a novel, but treat ever chapter as its own little story. TAOJS should employ characters that are entertaining and original, keeping the reader hooked on whatever new adventures they might go on.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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