Action, adventure and ripping yarns

Carina2_tilt_portraitBoldly going? Adrenaline rush? Stepping in harm’s way?  When events or series of events explode into a character’s ordinary life and are accompanied by a hefty dash of danger, often by physical action and a chunk of emotional stress, then you’re in an adventure story. And they’re not just for children, as we have seen in the Roma Nova stories. 😉

Strong pace is a crucial element of adventure stories. Sometimes, regrettably, the action is at the expense of characterisation and setting. Even a few words and a carefully placed sentence here and there can add immeasurably to the enjoyment of a story. Yes, we want to keep up with the heart-thudding action, but as readers, knowing when and where we are and what the character is thinking deepens the experience.

Adventure has been a common theme since the earliest days of written fiction; Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and the stories of King Arthur are classic examples of adventures. Often a hero would undergo a set of adventures, sometimes to fulfil a challenge, discover lost treasure or win a ‘fair lady’. A separation would follow, with a second set of adventures leading to a final reunion. These days it’s just as likely to be a heroine undertaking high adventure for additional reasons, including proving herself, fulfilling a promise  or redeeming a lover’s or father’s reputation.

Adventure fiction often overlaps with other genres, notably crime novels, historical fiction, high sea yarns, spy stories, science fiction, fantasy, caper stories, romantic suspense and coming of age stories.

With a few notable exceptions (such as Baroness Orczy, Leigh Brackett and Marion Zimmer Bradley) classic adventure fiction has been dominated by male writers, though female writers are now becoming much more usual. Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox, J F Penn’s Morgan Sierra, Susanne Collins’ Katniss Everdene (Hunger Games) and, of course, my own Carina Mitela and before her Aurelia Mitela are all kick-ass heroines written by women. Today, ‘women’s adventure’ is a category at Amazon.

So what do adventure stories do for us?
– they allow us to be yanked out of our routine lives
safe – we can experience excitement, danger, nerve-wracking life and death situations from the safety of our armchair or tucked up in bed
liberating – we can experience things and places we would never otherwise know about
reassuring – we know we’ll never have to face these kinds of danger.

Or are we so sure…?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

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2 comments to Action, adventure and ripping yarns

  • Your article has made me feel I want to write an adventure story! But I won’t. Wouldn’t know where to start. But I know you have heaps of fun writing them. Can’t wait for No 5 in the Roma Nova series.