Monday, October 4, 2010

Adventure Genre No-No’s

Adventure Genre No-No’s

conan I was inspired to write this post by my response to a post on the NaNoWriMo forum: What not to do in Adventure? Now these replies are a little tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes during critique I find my work evaluated with a literary eye instead of an Adventure eye, so here are some guidelines to consider when writing or reviewing adventure stories.

Things to Avoid When Writing Adventure

  • Well-thought-out arguments and reasoning. Adventurers act, sometimes without thinking about the consequences. They don’t spend much time contemplating just the right way to say something, they just blurt it out.
  • Weak Villains who throw hissy fits. Strong villains are everything in Adventure. The more wicked, evil, and outlandish, the better.
  • Mary Sue's. Let your hero fail...a lot. A hero who just blows through the obstacles is no fun. Let him flounder for a while, and earn everything he gets.
  • Deep Emotional Scenes where your characters explore their tender feelings...except how much they hate the bad guy. Adventure is not therapy…except for that satisfied feeling you get when the villain falls into the tar pit.
  • Paranormal. That's like a totally other genre. I mean beyond an Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean level of paranormal. If you have sexy werewolves or sparkly vampires then get out.
  • Deep Romance. Now of course the good guy gets the girl (change genders as needed) but only because he's the toughest SOB around, not because he "understands" her. He wins her…literally. See picture above.
  • Moral Ambiguity. Not to say the characters can't be conflicted, but the good guys need to fight for a reason that resonates with the reader. You’re either with the hero or against him.
  • Everyday Settings. The hero must explore uncharted waters (or space or desert or tombs etc). No one wants to read about an adventure to the kitchen (Unless it's Hell's Kitchen). These settings should be fairly real-world or you’ll find your story drifting into Sci Fi or Fantasy, and no one wants that.
  • Conversation. Dialog should be limited to "Look out behind you" or the equivalent. This is not the place for Chatty Cathy's. Two characters talking over coffee should be avoided unless someone dies at the end of the conversation or large sums of money are exchanged.
  • Mercy. Do not under any circumstances show your characters any mercy. You are the author, not their mother. Test them to their limits, and just when they think they've caught a break, drop the other shoe. Kill them if you have to. Nothing perks up your characters more than when one of their own kicks the bucket.
  • Don't Kill the Cat. Don't go overboard. The Wizard of Oz would have been bitter if Toto died. Dorothy would have been like "Fuck you all, I'm outta here" if Toto kicked it. Give the hero a reason to keep fighting, something to hold onto when all hope is lost.

I hope that helps.


  1. Wow...hard to imagine Dorothy raging like that, but then again...the author did abide with the rules so there's no need.

    My favorite? Your tips on conversation. I mean, who wants to be a prize for a guy that talks too much? =)

    Fun read, Andrew.

    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  2. You made me laugh there, always fun reading you.

  3. That was an awesome list. It's hard when you're critiquing out of your genre. My bro who's a big George R.R. Martin fan really wanted me to explore my male lead's back story and political intrigue. He said I spent too much time on the falling in love stuff and feelings. Different genre's have different qualifications.
    Love the Conan image. My Dad read Conan and Gor books during my childhood and would usually summarize the stories at bedtime. lol

  4. BTW, I just wrote and scheduled to post Romance Genre No-Nos. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

  5. @Raquel: 'nuff said

    @Myne: Thanks!

    @Spock: Martin is tiresome for me. I don't recommend that either.

  6. You inspired me.


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