Simple Epic Fantasy Plots, Part 2: Scope Creep

The characters have to do the thing.  Just one tiny little thing.  Uh-oh.  Remember the last time we had to do just a tiny little thing? It didn’t go well.

  • The characters have to do the thing, which is usually identified as being super-easy.  (Usually, there’s more than one character, although one of them is definitely in charge.  Someone has to listen to all the smartass remarks the main character is going to be making.)
  • FFFFFFFFF.  In order to the thing, we have to do this other thing.  And this other thing.
  • The tasks necessary in order to do the thing become all out of proportion in effort, risk, or stakes.
  • The characters beat the holy hell out of all the things by the skin of their teeth.
  • Either they emerge victorious, having done the thing, or they have been so vehement in their duty that they have made doing the thing impossible, mostly because they broke it.

This is Star Wars: A New Hope.  The Conan stories.  Roger Zelazny’s Amber (and a good bit of his other work).  Stephen Brust’s Dragaera stories.  Sword & Sorcery loves this:  the format is basically a heist story in fantasy clothes, or some other type of crime story in fantasy clothes, although I do love the Conan story where he and his ladyfriend are basically just looking for water in this deserted desert town they run across and all hell breaks loose.

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