Adventure stories

For this activity, you are going to write an adventure story – a heart-pounding tale of daring and heroism!

Activity 1: Thinking about genre

Before you get started, consider the conventions of action and adventure stories.

  • Hero. In an adventure story, the hero is more than just the main character. They have a clear goal and they are active about achieving it. They don’t just sit around and wait to get their own way, they do something about it. Throughout the story the hero usually develops or grows as a person, learning something about themselves or the world that they inhabit.
  • Villain. In adventure stories, there is often an antagonist who works against the protagonist.
  • Physical risk. One of the key conventions of this genre is that risk and physical danger forms the backbone of the storyline.
  • Rising tension. Adventure stories are characterised by high stakes and rising tension. As Chuck Sambuchino notes: ” if things come too easily to your protagonist, if he doesn’t have to struggle, then a reader is less likely to care about whether he succeeds. But if your character faces and overcomes some tough challenges, then a reader is more likely to connect with him and there will also be a greater emotional payoff at the end when the protagonist ultimately succeeds.”
  • A race against time. Giving your character time constraints is a great way to increase the tension in your story. As Michael Moorcock notes: “Time is the important element in any action adventure story. In fact, you get the action and adventure out of the element of time. It’s a classic formula: “We’ve only got six days to save the world!” Immediately you’ve set the reader up with a structure: there are only six days, then five, then four and finally, in the classic formula anyway, there’s only 26 seconds to save the world! Will they make it in time?”
  • Plot twists. When you are writing an adventure story, ensure you surprise yourself and your reader with the series of events in your story. Don’t get too excited, though, plot twists that are too unbelievable or inconsistent with the world of your story or your characters, will just put your reader off. “It is a cheap trick merely to surprise and shock the reader, especially at the expense of logic,” writes Patricia Highsmith in Plotting & Writing Suspense Fiction. “The ideal is an unexpected turn of vents, reasonably consistent with the characters of the protagonists.”

Step 1: Pick a scenario

Sometimes the most difficult part of writing fiction is coming up with your ideas. If you’re struggling for inspiration, here are four ideas that you might like to use as the basis for your short story.

  • Lost. As the sun begins to set, two bushwalkers become concerned that they might be lost.
  • Stranded. After being stranded on a deserted island for months, the survivor of a plane wreck strikes out with a makeshift raft to intercept a passing ship.
  • The Chase. After witnessing a mugging, a teenager must dash across a darker park to reach safety.
  • The Wasteland. In the distant future, a teenager abandons their home to set out across a dangerous, radioactive wasteland.

Step 2: Plotting your story

Now it’s time to plot out your story, making a list of the events that occur from beginning to end. The reason writers plot out stories like this before they start writing is so they don’t write themselves into corners. Here are some things to consider when plotting a short adventure story.

Beginning. Start in media res, giving your hero an exciting, intriguing or interesting situation them to overcome. Beginning the story in the middle of things makes it more immediately engaging for your reader.

Middle.  When you’re plotting the story, think of giving your hero a series of increasingly difficult obstacles to overcome.

Resolution. Make sure that your story has a satisfying conclusion. It’s usual in an adventure story for the hero to achieve their goals.

The skeleton for your story might simply consist of a series of events. When you start writing the draft, you can start putting the flesh on these bones!

Step 3: Writing your draft

Rather than just telling your audience what happens in a story, it’s much more exciting to show the action as it unfolds. When you are writing your draft, here are some descriptive writing techniques that can help you give the story greater impact. Description should always be relevant to the story, help engage the reader and move the plot forward. Use these techniques sparingly and never overwhelm your reader with unnecessary description.

The senses. Try to appeal to all of your readers’ senses – including sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. This will help to immerse your readers in the story.

Metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which something is described as an unrelated object. Metaphors are often easy to spot because they are not literal. Writer Orson Scott Card once said that metaphors “have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”

  • “It would not come to him, it lay just beyond the breakers, in the deep water, in the dark, slippery moving kelp of the mind.” – Truth by Peter Temple.
  • “The road made a bend, and beyond it the gunslinger clucked the mule to a stop and looked down at Tull. It was at the floor of a circular, bowl-shaped hollow, a shoddy jewel in a cheap setting.” –The Gunslinger by Stephen King.
  • “All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players.” – As You Like It by William Shakespeare.
  • “Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.” – George Orwell.

Simile. Similes, which are a comparison between two dissimilar things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’, can help you describe things in an interesting manner.

  • “The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once.” – A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
  • “Bina accepts a compliment as if it’s a can of soda that she suspects him of having shaken.” – The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.
  • “Look at you. You are like a house falling down.” – The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.
  • “She stood like a patient ox, aware that the joke was on her.” – Carrie by Stephen King.
  • “…the boy’s spirit was soft and cold, like ice-cream.” – The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.
  • “Fishing boats were coming in along the breakwater for the night, their diesels throbbing like blood.” – Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.
  • “…he snorted like a frightened horse through his nose.” – The Turning by Tim Winton.
  • “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.” – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.
  • “…there was a dry click, like a small icicle breaking.” – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.

Personification. Personification is when something non-human is given human characteristics.

  • “Some tinfoil was sticking in a knot-hole just above my eye level, winking at me in the afternoon sun.” – To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
  • “The old house was the same, droopy and sick…” – To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
  • “Fat chimneys retch dirt into the sky and even now in the deep night.” – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville.
  • “The rotting buildings lean against each other, exhausted.” – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville.

Adjectives and verbs. Use a thesaurus to find adjectives and verbs to make your writing more dramatic. Is it more exciting to say that someone grabbed for a knife or lunged for a knife? Pick the most effective words to make your writing more dramatic.

  • “A caiman. It swooped in alongside the speeding Pibber, opening its mouth right next to his flailing feet, and with a rattlesnake-quick snapping motion, lunged viciously at his sneakers.” – Temple, Matthew Riley.

Interior monologue. Giving your reader an insight into the thoughts of your characters can help involve them in the story.

  • “Run! Come on, run! You know you can do it!” The Angel Experiment: Maximum Ride, James Paterson.

Repetition. The repetition of words can be used to create emphasis.

  • “There was no roar of outboard motors, no thumping of choppers, no clatter of automatic gunfire.” – Temple, Matthew Riley.

Italics. You can create drama by emphasising particular words in italics.

  • “Silent. Huge. Looming over Schofield as he hovered in the water alongside the iceberg.” – Ice Station, Matthew Riley.

Sentence fragments. Creates a sense of urgency, mimicking the way we think in desperate situations.

  • “Schofield plunged underwater. Silence. Total silence. Like the womb.” – Ice Station, Matthew Riley.

Dialogue. Dialogue is a great way to make your work more exciting. Click here to read more about how to format dialogue in your fiction writing.

Activity: Thinking about descriptive techniques

Read Chapter 2 of The Angel Experiment: Maximum Ride by James Paterson. With a partner, write down a list of techniques that he uses to make it more dramatic and interesting.

Step 4: Proofread and revise

Once you have written your draft, it’s time to proofread and revise your work. You will probably ned to read over your work a couple of times. First, think about the story itself. Are there parts that are too boring or unnecessary? Are there bits that don’t move the story forward? Are there moments that could be trimmed or improved? Is there an opportunity to improve your use of the writing techniques listed above? The second read through will be your final proof. On this read through you will need to think about your spelling, grammar and punctuation. During this stage, it is often useful to have a friend or parent read over your work to help you eliminate errors.