Storytelling | “LOVE OF ADVENTURE: A Kind of Love for All Kinds of Stories” by Pamela Jaye Smith & Monty Hayes McMillan

There’s a type of love that scales mountains, moves rivers, and changes worlds. This sort of love often breaks up families, ruins careers, and ends in destitution and death.

Yet it keeps luring people into its web, offering the chance of rewards beyond compare in emotional satisfaction, lifelong relationships, and worldly riches. This love is the Love of Adventure.

Since the first hominids dropped down from the trees to explore the savannahs, we humans have distinguished ourselves by a desire to know what’s around the corner, “over the hills and far away”, and even beyond the stars.

The Defining Myth

The Odyssey – one of the most popular adventure stories ever. The saga tells of the Greek warrior Odysseus’ ten year journey back home to Ithaca from the fall of Troy. Read Homer’s entire Iliad and Odyssey to get lots of ideas for stories you can write dealing with these same issues but with your own unique twist.

Exemplar Movie

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Mythic Meaning

Given that every human begins as a single fertilized cell and then expands and grows and becomes more complex, there is a deep evolutionary drive to expand and grow. It is how we are created in the first place. Anthropologically, we human primates managed to get our knuckles off the ground some aeons ago and now we are trying to grab the stars.

The search for new resources often compels primitive tribes to explore new lands looking for fresh water, flora, and fauna. Thank goodness for the survival of the species that almost every group has a few members driven to explore the wilds. Once the new frontiers are conquered, civilizing forces start moving in. Lots of American Westerns are about this very process: the drive to find new resources for the “tribe” and the tribe moving in and settling down, changing the system where loose but often quite honourable ‘cowboy law’ had once ruled.

There is a sense of aloneness and sometimes alienation in the soul of an adventurer because others cannot truly understand them if they are not adventurers themselves.


The Gear – pickax and pitons, the pith helmet, the wetsuit, the parachute, etc.

The Leap – launching one’s self out into the void is a huge act of faith and adventure. When Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid leap off the cliff and into that South American river it takes them away from their old lives and into their new ones.

The Map or a Globe – shows us the contested territory and how difficult your character’s quest will be. The map is a bigger representation of what you see of your environment and often those who are not on the adventure live it vicariously through the map. And in pirate movies “X” marks the spot.

Key Element – The Shining Moment

Include scenes where your adventurous character acquires the right gear and using it signals the start of the adventure. In Avatar, Jake Sully mounts the dragon and begins his adventure with the Na’vi. In many stories the dragon, the horse, the aircraft, the automobile are vehicles to carry the protagonist into other territories or alternate universes.

Show them going through gateways into a new world – be it leaping off a cliff, going through a doorway, jumping out of an airplane, crossing a border, entering a different environment.

Cinematic Techniques

The wide environmental shot. Thelma and Louise driving across the US. The airplane in the sky. The man riding the dragon. The ship tossed on the vast sea. Give us the human in the midst of that which embodies the adventure.

The close tight shot of putting on the uniform, picking up the tools. Taking on the mission.

Exploring the Environment. The extreme wide shot in Lawrence of Arabia  where Lawrence is riding through the desert, stopping at the oasis, and then Sharif rides in from the distance up to him. The wide shots intercut with close on individuals (guitar man, Mad Max, the child-bearers) in the mad rush to freedom and the mad pursuit to stop them in Mad Max: Fury Road.

The Leap. Stepping into the unknown. Jumping out of the airplane. Diving into the ocean. Kirk falling down from the starship to planet Vulcan.

Start close in on the heroine, zoom out to the whole area affected by her actions. Reverse that.

Jerky camera moves and quick cuts do not necessarily say ‘love of adventure’. First you must capture our attention and align us with the heroine’s desires. In his exhilarating sports photography, Warren Miller shows us the majesty of the environment and how humans relate to it. He gives us close-ups of the individuals and their personal perspective on what they do. He engages us with their emotions. Do check him out.

Sustained coverage of the huge monstrous processes of nature unfolding before our eyes sucks us into the experience much more effectively than jerky cuts can ever do. The rising tsunami, the encroaching forest fire, the erupting volcano – all deserve long holding shots that make you want to break away and run. It isn’t about the character’s action so much as it is about the overwhelming environment where the love of adventure takes place.

The love of adventure might well be described as gravity desiring to collect us in its embrace.


Love of adventure takes us to other places, opens our minds, moves our hearts.

A story about the Love of Adventure should inspire us to dust off our passports, pack up our pith helmets, and set out for the vast unknown.

Seeing new things, or seeing old things in new ways, is essential for story-tellers.

As most of the surface of the earth becomes accessible via on-the-ground travel or Google Earth, the sense of adventure that started humans out on our great migrations tens of thousands of years ago will always draw us to the extremes, the new ones being off-planet, underground, and beneath the surface of the seas.

“Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Star Trek


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