How to Write an Adventure Story

Adventure stories are a lot of fun to read, and just as much fun to write. Like other genres, adventure stories have certain characteristics that readers love. Only when you know what these are and how to utilize them to ultimate effect can you write a story that will be at once uniquely yours and satisfying for adventure story readers. So join me on this journey as I share how to write an adventure story. 

In this article, you will learn:
  1. Common adventure story tropes.
  2. What to do before you start writing.
  3. Tips for writing your adventure story.

What is an Adventure Story?

In the broadest terms possible, an adventure story is a plot-driven narrative in which the protagonist goes on an epic journey to exotic locales, completing a series of dangerous challenges along the way. 

You don't have to think hard to come up with some highly popular adventure stories that have influenced our culture. From video games and comics to movies and novels, adventure stories are part of the zeitgeist. The most obvious examples that come to mind are the Indiana Jones films and video game series including Uncharted, Far Cry, and Tomb Raider. 

But in order to write a good adventure story, we must dive a little deeper. Let's take a look at some commonalities in most adventure stories. 

Adventure Story Tropes

The following tropes show up again and again in all great adventure stories. However, not all of them show up in every story. And many times, the writer knows how to subvert these tropes to great effect.

  • The Journey – Most adventure stories feature a journey to faraway lands. A quest into the unknown is very common in this genre. 
  • The Challenges – Along the way, the main character must face a series of challenges. Sometimes, these are simply external or physical challenges, but you can pack more of a punch by combining external and internal challenges. 
  • Heroes and Villains – Some protagonists are professional adventurers, while others are normal people pulled into the journey reluctantly. Meanwhile, a person or people as antagonists is common, although the villain may also be something like the elements or a natural disaster. 
  • The Action – Adventure stories are often called action & adventure for a reason. Action is a must in these plot-driven stories. Too little action and the reader will put the book down. 
  • The Theme – Many action-adventure stories have themes that run throughout. Common themes include bravery, resilience, family, justice, and good vs. evil. 

Keep these factors in mind as we go through the rest of this article. 

Read Plenty of Adventure Fiction

The best way to help you develop your adventure story idea is to read plenty of adventure fiction. While you obviously don't want to take any ideas straight out of other adventure novels, you can let the books inspire you. Plus, it's the best way to understand what readers are looking for in the adventure genre. 

Adventure Novels to Read:

  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Into the Wild by John Krakauer
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • Congo by Michael Crichton
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian

Research Your Genre

It's important to remember that adventure stories come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, stories like The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and the Star Wars movies could all be considered adventure stories in their own right. And the categories on Amazon reflect this. There are a lot of adventure categories in genres ranging from romance to science fiction.

This is why it's so important to research your genre before you start writing your novel. Once you have your three categories in mind, you can then be sure to position your story for readers of those categories. 

Unfortunately, researching these categories by manually combing Amazon can take hours and isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. Which is why I created a tool called Publisher Rocket.

With Publisher Rocket, you can see a list of all the adventure categories on Amazon. You can also use it to see which categories are competitive and which ones are underserved. 

Publisher Rocket Amazon book Category Search featured on Kindlepreneur

Plus, you can use Rocket to search keywords to use in your novel's metadata when you publish, as well as gather keywords for Amazon Advertising. 

Check out Publisher Rocket here.  

How to Write an Adventure Story

The following tips are designed to help you craft your adventure story, no matter what kind of writing process you have. Many of them will also be helpful whether you're writing a short story, a novella, or a full-length novel. 

Choose a Setting

The setting or settings of an adventure story are characters in themselves. The people who inhabit these faraway lands (if there are any people) can also make for excellent characters, given the differences in culture, language, and everyday life. 

Maybe your character hires a local guide to seek out the mythological treasure. Maybe your main character has been contacted by some local people to help them fight against deforestation or pollution. 

But even if your setting is barren and uninhabitable, it should still play a big part in the story. Many of Jack London's stories feature the harsh Alaskan wilderness. In Treasure Island, the isolated island adds a dimension that enhances the story. 

Remember that this doesn't have to take place anywhere on Earth. It could be a fictional location that's supposed to be on Earth, or it could be on an entirely different planet. The choice is yours—just make sure whatever you choose is in line with your chosen adventure subgenre. 

Craft Your Adventurer

While adventure stories aren't usually character-driven (they're plot-driven), it's still important to have a compelling and three-dimensional protagonist. If the main character falls flat or is unlikable, then readers won't want to follow them on their journey. But how do you craft a compelling character? Keep these factors in mind:

  • Give the reader a reason to like them – They may be headstrong and gruff, but the reader needs a reason to root for them. The most basic (and effective) way to do this is to have them “save the cat,” which just means to have them do something kind. Learn more about the Save the Cat technique here
  • Make them complex – To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes. Humans are complex and often contradictory, so your main character needs to be, too. Give him or her strengths and weaknesses, wants and needs. Avoid making them a boy scout or a know-it-all. 
  • Give them a voice – Set your protagonist apart by giving them a voice that is uniquely theirs. They should be unique in one or two subtle ways to set them slightly apart from their peers. 

Give Them a Goal

A clear goal is a big part of most fiction writing, and adventure stories are no exception. Whether it's finding the priceless amulet, locating the lost city, or helping to preserve a portion of sacred jungle, there needs to be a clear goal for the protagonist to accomplish

You'll also want to outline (for the reader) the challenges involved in reaching the goal. These challenges should seem almost insurmountable or unlikely at first. But with clever thinking and planning, the protagonist will hope to clear these hurdles to achieve the objective. 

Put Obstacles in The Way

If everything went according to plan in an adventure story, it would be pretty boring—even if the plans to clear the hurdles were fantastic. 

The obstacles that you put in the way should be in addition to the challenges already foreseen by the protagonist—and there should always be an element of danger. It's when these wrenches are thrown into your story that your adventure hero really has to stretch to overcome them. Plus, this does a lot to increase the tension in your story. 

In some adventure stories, these obstacles are created by an antagonist, putting the main character in danger throughout the story. In others, the danger comes from the elements (weather, terrain), wildlife, or a natural disaster. 

If you do decide to have a human (or human-like) antagonist, it's important to make them believable. While you won't need to spend as much time on crafting the antagonist, you can still use the tips in the protagonist section above to develop your antagonist. However, instead of making the reader like them, you'll want to do just the opposite. 

Stick to Proven Plot Structures

You probably know that you need an inciting incident—something that pulls the character into the adventure—near the beginning of the novel and a climax near the end. Most of us have internalized these major plot elements from watching movies and TV shows and reading books. 

But there's more to a good adventure plot than just the beginning and the end. This is why I recommend using one of the numerous proven plot structures available to you. 

Probably the most well-known—and the most appropriate for any adventure novel—is The Hero’s Journey as popularized by Joseph Campbell. But The Hero’s Journey isn't the only plot structure you can use. Far from it. 

Check out our Story Structure Hub here to learn about these other plot structures. 

Whether you like to outline your stories or you're more of a discovery writer, choosing a plot structure can help you craft a great adventure book. No matter which one you choose, you don't have to stick to the structure exactly. You can get creative and make it your own, letting it guide your storytelling as a general framework.

End With a Bang

Adventure stories are known for their exciting set-piece endings, and this is generally not where you want to subvert expectations. You want a big climax, where the protagonist is in the utmost danger, the stakes are highest, and the antagonist is at their worst (or its worst). 

This is also where you want to tie up any loose ends and show the character at the point where all seems lost. In an adventure book, this may involve the antagonist capturing the main character and/or their loved ones, threatening to kill them. It could involve a race against time to get to the magic amulet before the bad guys do. 

Whatever you choose to do, have the climax build on everything that came before. It should never be action just to have action. Whatever happens in the climax should affect the status quo. It's the final battle, the all-or-nothing moment. And if the hero succeeds, the world (or at least a small slice of it) will be changed for the better. 

For more on this subject, check out this article on writing a climax

Create a Writing Goal and Stick to It

Knowing how to write a great adventure is fine and good, but the actual creative writing part can be more than half the battle. All the writing advice in the world won't do you any good if you don't actually get the words down. And the best way to do that is to set a realistic writing goal and stick to it. 

This is why we’ve included a writing goal tool with Atticus, the all-in-one writing and formatting software brought to you by the team here at Kindlepreneur. You can input your goal and choose the days you want it to record, and Atticus will do the rest, telling you when you've hit your goal or when you still have words to write. 

This is just one of many tools included with Atticus to help you in your self-publishing journey. When you're done writing and editing your adventure, you can use Atticus to format your book for publication with just a few clicks of your mouse. 

Learn more about Atticus here

Formatting Has Never Been Easier

Write and format professional books with ease.  Never before has creating formatted books been easier.

Click here to see it in action

How to Write an Adventure Story: Conclusion

As an adventure writer, you can travel to distant lands and participate in epic journeys where danger lurks around every corner. And once you publish your story, you can transport your readers to these distant lands, as well! 

From the inciting incident to the climax, there's plenty of fun to be had in adventure writing. I hope these writing tips have helped you understand how to craft your epic adventure novel.

Sell more books on Amazon

Free Download

Amazon Kindle Rankings E-Book

Learn how to rank your Kindle book #1 on Amazon with our collection of time-tested tips and tricks.