One of my favorite childhood memories is getting up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons. Bugs Bunny. Road Runner. Daffy Duck. Superfriends. They were cool, but I would sit through them all to catch up with a scrawny kid in a black turtleneck.
If you’re too young to remember Johnny Quest, you really missed out. Johnny was the son of scientist Dr. Benton Quest. They flew around the world in a suped up jet with rugged Race Bannon (I think he and Dr. Quest were off-screen lovers), Johnny’s Indian (dot, not feather) pal Hadji, and of course, Johnny’s dog, Bandit. While Dr. Quest was off solving some bizarre scientific conundrum, Johnny and Hadji would go off in search of trouble. And that’s the second key to telling a good news story — the Quest.
We’ve already talked about character. Quest, is nothing more than your character’s goal. What is it that made that him call you in the first place? It’s always the second question I ask someone when the newsroom phone rings. “What do you want me to do about it?”
You see, the story isn’t about the problem. Sure, the problem plays a big part, but what drives the story is the goal. It is the real reason you are out there. You’re not there to let someone bitch to your lens about the Department of Public Works. You are there, in theory, to get to the bottom of the problem whether it’s a decrepit sewer or, political corruption, or a bigfoot sighting. You are there to shine your SunGun of truth on the situation in hopes that the right people take notice and fix the sewer, vote the bastard out, or finally give the smelly dude in the fur coat his due.
A story without a quest is a life with no purpose. There is no reason for the audience to watch it, nothing to drive the story, no reason to care. There is no excitement, no twist, no adventure.
It just kinda lays there — like that board of aldermen meeting you sleep through every Thursday afternoon.
So before you head out the door, spend some time thinking about my animated pal Johnny Quest. Where would he find adventure in your next assignment?