How to Pass along Family Legacy with Hero’s Quest Stories

Throughout human history, people have passed along knowledge, inspired action and entertained one another with story. Imagine if you will, the tribe that conquered fire starting. Do you think that the tribal historian passed along that knowledge using instructions, step 1 get a flint rock, step 2 … and etc. Maybe, but more likely the story was told as a hero’s quest, similar to what follows:

“Once upon a time the tribe was always cold and in the dark, shivering in their saber tooth skins – afraid of the night. They fled, with the rest of the animals, when the searing wild fires fanned across the savannah, losing homes and kith and kin to the flames. In the great year of Kabuzal, Symoie was born, the hero who conquered and tamed fire” ….. and so on and so forth.

What is a hero’s quest story?

The Hero’s Quest is one of the most common and understood story telling formats. In it a hero faces a challenge and sets out to overcome the challenge. The driving force in this structure is the pursuit of the goal whether it is tangible or intangible.

Often, the sequence is thus: the hero encounters the problem; the hero tries and tries to overcome the problem – failing over and over again; finally a turning point is achieved and the hero conquers the problem.

How to pass along family history and legacy with hero’s quest stories.

The hero’s quest storytelling or story writing technique is a powerful tool to use in reinforcing stories of your family history and in embedding family culture and legacy in future generations.

In Build Your Legacy, Preserve Your Family History – Share a Story, we talked about a few simple steps to take to tell that story (keep it simple, keep it short, have a message, make it vivid, edit carefully, rinse and repeat).

Here are a few tips on how to actually write a hero’s quest type story to motivate and inspire your family to preserve their legacy and culture.

How to write or tell a hero’s quest story.

Identify the lesson.

What is it that you are trying to convey? What do you want your family member to adopt as their own belief?

Decide on the genre.

The hero’s quest is usually written as persuasive or inspirational.

In a persuasive story you may choose to under develop aspects that don’t support the concept you are touting. An inspirational story will enlist the emotions of the listener or reader.

Know what your dramatic ‘through lines’ will be.

You can have your hero succeed, fail, abandon the goal and etc. This is the basic fabric of your story, the main direction, but not necessarily the theme or plot.

According to dramatic through-lines are:

“..different sub-stories that combine to make the whole. Each one of these “dramatic through-lines” is in fact complete on it’s own and has all the elements of a story in its own right, while playing a part in the whole story being presented to the reader.”

Understand the kind of conflict your hero experienced.

Was she conflicted about a direction in life; did she have problems in relationships with others; did the situation she was in cause the conflict; did others around her cause a social conflict; or was she involved a in a good vs evil type conflict?

Sometimes your hero will experience multiple different kinds of conflict. In fact, you may generate more interest if this is the case.

A reader’s interest is maintained by creating tension within the main storyline. As you introduce the problem or incident your hero has to solve, tension is built. Conflicts in the substories and their resolution help sustain the tension and thus the reader’s interest. According to Why Understanding Conflict Will Make You A Better Writer, conflict:

“.. is a build-up of tension that can be used to engage the reader and drive the plot forward. However, simply resolving the inciting incident would produce a short and very boring book. Instead, the reader is engaged by placing the protagonist in a state that, whilst seeking to resolve the inciting incident, the main character is continually faced and forced to resolve smaller conflicts.”

Make it real.

Engage your reader or listener’s entire set of senses in making the story real. Don’t just describe your character, show your reader how he looked, where he slept, what he heard, felt, smelled and saw. Show your listener what the world around your character was like.

Telling: My Dad grew up in a farmhouse that had a wood stove for heat. It was cold in the morning.

Showing: Dad snuggled down into the hard fought warmness of the covers, knowing that he would have to shortly dance across the cold, hard linoleum floor to strike a fire in the wood Grandma laid in the stove the night prior.

Repeat your lesson.

One of the greatest motivational books of all time, Think and Grow Rich, tells the author’s story of how he repeated his lesson of ‘you will hear and speak normally’ to his son over and over again for years. His son was born without ears! His son did eventually hear and speak normally.

What is your favorite Hero’s Quest type story?

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