Universal Plots: the unlikely hero on a quest

It’s hard to write a completely new story. Most stories are new versions of old stories. The characters might be a little different, the setting might change but the plot is similar to ones that have been written before.

There’s nothing wrong with that! So long as you make the story your own with a fresh approach, a believable voice and your own original details there’s no reason you can’t borrow a plot that has been used before.

Here is an idea for a storyline that I am calling a universal plot because it has been used in many places, times and mediums.

An unlikely hero from an out of the way place embarks on a quest to save his world from a powerful evil.

For example:

In Lord of the Rings the hobbit Frodo must travel to Mount Doom to save Middle-earth from the evil Sauron. 

In Star Wars (episodes 4,5 & 6), Luke Skywalker must find a way to destroy the Death Star and save the galaxy from Darth Vader and the evil Empire.

In the Harry Potter series, Harry’s quest to save the world from Lord Voldemort and his creatures eventually leads him to a final confrontation with Voldemort.

Each of these heroes grew up living a quiet, insignificant life in an ordinary place. Events outside of their control (often something to do with a relative such as Bilbo Baggins, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Harry’s parents) set them on a new path. Often they don’t go willingly! They will have friends who are part of their quest and help them along the way. There will be many adventures and obstacles but in the end they will have to fight that final battle alone.

Perhaps you can think of other stories with an unlikely hero on a quest to save his or her world from a powerful evil as the main plot. Next time you are looking for a story idea, why not borrow this universal plot as a starting point for your story?

Stay tuned here for more ideas on universal plots in the coming weeks! You might even like to add a comment below with your own examples of stories with this plot or add suggestions for other universal plot ideas.

All comments are welcome.

About Carol Jones

Carol Jones is the author of 'The Concubine's Child', set in 1930s Malaya and The Boy With Blue Trousers set in 1850s China and Australia. Born in Brisbane, Australia, she taught English and Drama at secondary schools before working as an editor of children's magazines. She is also the author of several young adult novels as well as children's non-fiction.
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