Example 1

Example 1

Adventure Superplot Number 1: Search

 “From the depths of hell, I will haunt you. With my last breath I will spew my hate towards you.” 

Captain Ahab – in: Moby Dick (1956)


Short info: Search
  Something significant is sought.

What is the superplot “Search” about?

Whoever goes on a search has something that he wants to find or find again. You are looking for objects, places, people or challenges. A search should be charged with the strongest possible emotions, such as a great reward. Only those who burn for something will take on a difficult journey. In Greek mythology, for example, Jason searched for the Golden Fleece and had to pass many tests to finally get it. This story is still told similarly thousands of years later: Archetypically, the search is about robbery, love, trials, battles, a treasure, a reward or a great expectation.

What are the figure targets?

The object or person being sought, often because they have been lost, must be of great importance. Usually the searched for increases the power of its owner. Ideally there is a bad guy who is also interested in the object or person. The seekers are almost always the good guys. The schematization in good and evil is a basic element of adventure stories. Apart from the search and the obstacles the author has to invent, there is also a riddle to solve about the object or person sought.

The narrative history of the plot…

A search is only exciting when there is a difficult terrain to master. Historically, the search for an object or a person goes back to the “Underworld Visit”[i]. It is about entering a dark realm and “learning about the region to which [the traveller], according to many beliefs, he [the traveller] reaches after death, but which is closed to the living and from which no one has ever returned”[ii].

One of the first sources reporting about an underworld journey is “The Egyptian Book of the Dead” (16th century B.C.). Similar stories about a heroic journey to the underworld can be found in Greek and Roman antiquity, for example in the Orpheus myth. It is always about a hero proving his courage in several trials and rising above himself.

The theme of “search” is the central element around which every adventure story revolves. It is therefore of great importance. Some travelers are looking for a way to point X, others are looking for an animal, and still others are trying to free a person.

The search for a lost object is not quite as exciting and emotionally appealing as the search for a kidnapped or lost person, for example. On the other hand, a lost object can hold more magic and mystery than a person.

A lost object (a relic, a treasure etc.) should always appear mysterious and never be fully explained at the beginning. So you reserve the right to add another tension component to the story by finding the item.

The search-plot forms the framework for your story, so to speak. In the middle (in the second act) you can tell other plots (“overcoming obstacles”, “race” or “developing friendship”).

Film samples are …

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) with Clint Eastwood

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) with Vin Diesel

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) with Robert Downey Jr.

The Searchers (1956) with John Wayne

Sahara (2005) with Matthew McConaughey

Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) with Johnny Depp

Moby Dick (1956) with Gregory Peck

Finding Nemo (2003)

Jack and the Giant Slayer (2013) with Nicholas Hoult

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) with Jake Gyllenhaal

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) with Daniel Craig

Twister (1996) with Helen Hunt

Master and Commander (2003) with Russell Crowe

Jaws (1975) with Roy Scheider


Frenzel, Elisabeth Motifs from world literature. Stuttgart 1992.
p. 713ff.

Frenzel, Elisabeth Motifs from world literature. Stuttgart 1992.
p. 713


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