Plotless adventure novels
Question: I'm writing a few fantasy novels, and some of them have this storyline: basically, the hero has to travel from Point A to Point B. During his journey, he fights monsters, meets many strange characters, and visits many weird places. There's not much plot: the dramatic question could be summed as "how will the hero survive all this?" Also, there's plenty of worldbuilding and mysteries: again, most of this doesn't have anything to do with the plot. No character development, too; the hero doesn't need it.
The truth is that I'm not interested in plots; I've read them a million times, and they're always the same, predictable and dull. For me, the only interesting plot is "the hero becomes bored and decides to go adventuring".
But I always hear that there "should" be a strong plot in a story, and that all the story's events "should" be tied to this plot. This bothers me greatly, because I honestly don't care about plots. I read books just to see some great action, characters and worldbuilding, and that's it. Every time I try to write a plot-driven story, it bores me to death, because I have to cut tons of interesting stuff AND insert lots of dull content just to drive the plot forward.
I prefer plotless, character-driven adventures: they flow better and are more entertaining. But is it possible to find readers (and publishers) for this kind of fiction? Will they be annoyed by the lack of plot? As I said, there IS a dramatic question that should keep the reader's interest, but I feel that's enough, while everybody says it's not.Answer:
There has always been a market for episodic stories about pure adventure and exploration of novel terrain. Most of these, I must say, are aimed at younger males. Testosterone and a yearning for adventure seem to go hand in hand.
The problem is that, for many readers, the kind of story you describe comes across as dull, predictable, and pointless. I'm not judging here. It's just that there are different types of readers who like different types of stories.
It takes a
story goal and development of the main character's inner conflict and relationships -- the process of self-examination and growth -- to create meaning. The quest for meaning is a powerful emotional drive within people, and a well-structured plot feeds that drive, encouraging readers' enjoyment of a story.
Just having a story goal means there is a point to all the events in the story. It gives the reader a way of evaluating your character's choices along the way. There's an emotional roller coaster created as events show the characters moving closer to or further away from accomplishing the goal, a build in tension to a climax, and relief afterwards when we see the results.
When you make your stories too episodic, the risk is that many readers will put the book down at the end of an episode and never return to it. There's no penalty for doing so. On the other hand, a structured plot gives the reader a reason to pick the book up again later -- to discover the resolution of the plot. Will the main character ultimately make the right decision? Is the impact character giving him good advice or not? Can the relationship survive? Will all this lead to happiness or disaster?
It is true that not all stories emphasize the overall plot. In literary fiction, for example, the character's inner conflict or the authenticity of the voice may be more important. In romance, the relationship throughline may be more in the foreground, and the overall plot becomes backdrop. But the mere presence of all these elements adds considerably to the emotional impact.
You have to know what readership you are writing for and what they want from a story. But even lovers of adventure stories will feel the emotional tug that comes from developing the character's inner conflict.
For instance, what would Star Wars
be without Luke's struggle to find faith in himself? What would The Hunger Games
be if Katniss simply gave in to the Capitol's demands on every issue and never rebelled? What would Harry Potter be if Harry simply behaved like Draco Malfoy? Far less impactful, I'd say.