It makes you think of movie trailers from the CinemaScope era, the words splashed rapidly left to right across the wide theater screen: Exciting Adventure! The font is 3-D to emphasize the scope and depth of the soon to be released Exciting Adventure!
It makes you think of fairy tales, fantasy quests, Nancy Drew mysteries. You expect to journey, maybe in disguise, perhaps in a circus. There will be danger, or better still peril. You anticipate romance, glass slippers, sleeping princesses kissed awake. There will be villains and rescues. Ogres. Giants. Skeletons with swords. Young protagonists will defeat fierce beasts and cruel bad guys by dint of their wits. The words “dint”, “wits” and “peril” are not out of place.
In short, Exciting Adventure! is a bygone experience, a memory of our childhood, a thrill for a more innocent time, a pleasure no longer possible for we adults who live in a shades-of-gray, no-one-can-be-trusted world of antiheroes and unreliable narrators. We’re too mature for that now, right? We must be serious.
While it’s true that superhero movies are pitched at a teenage level of sophistication, and good-versus-evil is a simplistic theme most resonant in children’s literature, there is no law that says that any story for grownups cannot be exciting. Every novel can capture a sense of adventure. It starts with grasping the true meaning of those words, and utilizing the methods of providing readers with that experience.
In physiology, exciting means stimulating a nerve. That in turn causes a muscle to twitch, or a signal to race to the brain. In electricity, exciting means causing movement or creating a magnetic field. In physics, exciting means making an atom or molecule more active.
In fiction, exciting means stirring emotions, arousing, awakening, and impelling protagonists to go places and do things. You don’t need castles, magic mirrors, captured princesses or handsome princes for that. The key effects are: 1) stirring emotions in readers, and 2) stirring characters to action.
Adventure is most often associated with travel: going somewhere, seeing new things, being amazed and challenged by what is unfamiliar, unexpected, exotic, romantic, risky and/or nerve-tingling. Adventure is something that cannot be experienced at home, we imagine, but in truth a sense of adventure is not dependent on going anywhere.
Having an adventure means experiencing what is unusual. It means facing danger, taking a risk, seeking one’s fortune, trusting in luck. It means feeling anticipation, expectation, hope and fear. The root of the word adventure is the Latin adventūra, meaning what is about to happen to anyone. Think of it as the arrival of a venture. Adventure.
So, let’s see how these ideas might apply to your WIP: [Read more…]