by Autumn Birt
Stress and tension tend to bring out either the worst or best in people. Add fear to that and some people will freeze. Others will leap into action.
Which got me thinking about epic fantasy quests.
A post on small group dynamics I wrote for my blog really got me wondering why there is so much group cohesion during quests in fantasy literature. I was in a leadership class and, well… there were days it wasn’t pretty (it ended well, though!). A group of strong personalities sitting around a table is bound to spawn a diversity of opinions. And that is without life or death choices!
But it was the picture below and a desire to see a guy be the Crier (for once!) that got me categorizing the personalities found on quests and which ones I used in my epic fantasy trilogy, the Rise of the Fifth Order.
So for your fun and enjoyment: Fantasy Quester Personalities!
This is NOT necessarily the same person as the Hero. Rather, the Leader has a clear goal and her/his unshakable faith gets the questers through dark times. If they don’t have the answer, the Leader knows who in the group can find it. A bit of a strategist, a bit of a zealot, without the Leader the quest would end at the first dragon.
Ty takes the primary role of leader in my epic fantasy series. He’s an unlikely leader, one who sees himself as a failure but also as the only thing keeping everyone from making insanely stupid mistakes. Temperamental, self-centered… he’s also not the best leader. In book 2, an emotional shock sets him spinning and he winds up not as the Leader, but as the Doubter. It isn’t pretty.
2. The Hero – The fool who thinks a tiny sword will scare a dragon.
Every quest needs a hero to rush into battle when much saner people would prefer negotiations and a time-out. They are the brave heart of the quest. The women and men whose glorious victories (and untimely death) will be sung about for centuries.
There are a few people who take on the role of hero in my series (and not just because heroes don’t last long!). Niri is the first. Several times she takes on challenges to save the quest group before actually thinking things through. When faced with the enemy, she sends away those who could help her in order to protect them. Somehow she scrapes through… and graduates to a Leader role in book 2 (at the same time Ty falls to Doubter). Heroes are not often good Leaders, which is probably why she leads them straight into the home of the people looking to kill her…
3. The Crier – the one who is emotionally breaking down CONSTANTLY. Otherwise known as the damsel in distress or the frightened boy – The spoiled Prince or Princess. Often a bit of a drama queen. This character doesn’t run in fear… they fall to the ground and wail about the injustice of having to face such a horrible foe.
There is usually a crier lurking somewhere in the groundwork of a quest. Someone needs to be saved. The reluctant hero must be shown to be… reluctant. Often annoying (well, to me), this poor bloke or girl has the most opportunity for growth on the quest. If the group doesn’t tie them up and simply hand deliver them to the villain…
Ria. Hands down, Ria. She whines enough in book 1 that I was ready to chuck her into the Sea of Sarketh. She is positively terrified until the final scene of book 1, even though occasionally she tries to put on a brave face. But then, in book 2… ooooh. As I said, this is the character with the most potential for growth and when Ria’s greatest fear and greatest obstacle is removed, well, she grows. She rocks. Becomes one of my favorite characters, smoothly taking on roles as Hero and Leader and doing it with pizazz. Kinda glad I didn’t feed her to the Curse after all!
4. The Partier – the one along for the food, to discover new local brews, and meet dashing men or exotic women (or both!).
Selfish, self-centered, and often completely unaware that they may need to do something other than drink (such as hold a sword and USE IT). But when finally cajoled into action (i.e. sobered up), can usually accomplish something fantastic (in the nick of time, of course).
Oddly, this is Zhao. Or maybe, it is what Zhao is becoming (if for some odd reason I write another story or book with these characters). He leaves home because it is oppressive, especially for those with Elemental abilities. He already lost the girl he loved, so his heart is… maybe not hardened, but dense? Early in book 2, he nearly gets himself and Ria killed in Rah Hahsessah just because he wants to check out the town (and is quite conniving about convincing Ria to sneak into town with him!). Even in the end of book 3, he is planning visits to cities along the Archipelago. Though integral to saving many people, he’s become a bit more of a loose cannon by the end of book 3. I could see him breaking hearts and causing quite a bit of chaos in the future!
5. The Planner – this is the voice of reason without whom the questers would walk into the icky, dark cave without a torch (or a supply of water, some food, maybe bedding…). They are the person keeping the Hero alive One. More. Day.
The Planner could be a leader, and may fill that role at times, but also might not want to have that much responsibility. Which is probably a good thing. If she/he were in charge, the quest might take a very, very long time. After all, you have to wait for the weather, harvest, star alignment… But, of course, without their strategizing the best way to succeed, the quest would be very, very short (and end very unpleasantly)!
Darag fills this role nicely, though he might not see it for himself (despite being the youngest member on the Council of ‘Elders’ for his people!). The oldest of those on the quest, it is his worry for his new wife that leads to the discovery of who the true foe really is. It is his perceptive nature that smooths problems in book 1 and it is the LACK of his planning that adds to the chaos in books 2 and 3. Which is just a whole other issue (and potential plot technique!)…
6. The Doubter and the Know-it-All – the one who questions every decision, points out every previous mistake, who never has anything useful to say. Other than ‘I told you so.’
They are not the Planner, seeing weak points in the plan of attack. The Know-it-All is superior, a hard shell of righteous intelligence over emptiness. But the other side of the coin is the Doubter, who is motivated by fear. And when afraid, problem solving abilities aren’t the sharpest. It isn’t that they want to give up, they just don’t want to die. Which might happen if they move forward. This is a character on the verge of coming unhinged.
And this is the depth Ty spirals into. Believing his decisions have killed a good friend, Ty stops making decisions. But he hates everyone else’s. Even knowing his arguments stem from deep suffering, it is difficult to not smack some sense into him. The need to take control shakes him out of it, but he never returns to being the same person that began the journey in book 1.
If they were, they’d be a Hero. But no, their universe narrows to a small focus when danger nears. A fierce fighter for what they’ve claimed by friendship, the Protector may let someone else die rather than risk what they love. A good friend and a danger to others, the Protector is both an asset and a threat.
Lavinia. She isn’t as heartless as a fierce Protector, but it is her goal to save Ria. And she takes Niri under her wing as well. And if you dare touch her husband… well, best not to. By the end of book 3, her sphere of protection has grown quite large. She may be working her way to heroic levels, maybe…
There are others too! Which are your favorites that I missed? And what personality types are found in your favorite fantasy quest?
– Autumn has just released the final book in her epic fantasy trilogy and has moved on to a new WIP, which has claimed her so completely she has written the year as 2058… on official documents. Oops! Find out more about her and her writing at her website www.AutumnWriting.com or find her online on Twitter at @weifarer or on her Facebook page.