Young Adults Want This in a Story

Young adults in love in Titanic.

Although young adults may share some of the themes associated with the teen years, such as the search for love and intimacy and discovering one’s identity, this thematic category digs deeper than the former – explored in last week’s post. It tends to focus more on achievement and efficacy in the world. It not only establishes the theme as a protagonist’s goal, it scratches for the truth that lies below the surface.

Stories, such as Titanic and Elizabeth, for example, respectively explore the consequences of choosing someone to love that our parents would disapprove of, or choosing duty over love.

Young Adulthood and Story Themes – Linda Seger

Because many popular stories and films tend to cater for readers and audiences in their twenties and thirties their themes center more on success and achievement – strong driving forces in that age group.

Themes about success focus on achieving success in the world’s eyes – about public achievement. If the protagonist fails to have her dream acknowledged in the public arena it may be that the dream is unimportant or insignificant. Important achievements, by contrast, carry the stamp of public approval: John Nash wins the Nobel Prize in A Beautiful Mind, the first Star Wars ends with a ceremony, and Clarice receives an award at the end of Silence of the Lambs.

“Young adults cross the space that separates childhood from adulthood with all the complexities that this movement manifests.”

Stories in the category, can, however, be more inwardly-looking, exploring the conflict between career and family (Melvin’s Room, One True Thing), or the tension between fame, materialism and integrity – Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, Quiz Show. Here the storyline tends to explore the outer goal while the inner story, driven by a more intimate exploration of the theme, examines the inner world through subplot.

Regardless of the level of intimacy, however, stories that fall in the young adulthood category focus more on the consequences of pursuing success or fame through career, its rewards and costs, rather than discovering the themes as goals in the first instance – the first order search in teenage stories.

The young adulthood category, then, represents a maturing of the teenage dream into an ostensible set of goals that have public and personal effects.


Stories involving young adults tend to explore the consequences, good or bad, of pursuing career, success, fame and love.

Catch my latest YouTube video on writing here!

2 thoughts on “Young Adults Want This in a Story

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Interesting post.

    When I think of the theme of acceptance I think of the Academy nominated film The Imitation game. The Main protagonist is loved by a woman however he does not feel the same why because of his homosexuality. However in War time Briton his sexuality can never be made public because of the countries anti gay laws. Despite the protagonist’s contribution to defeating the Nazi’s , he is looked down pone. The consequences of his homosexuality result in him not being acknowledged a war hero until after his death.
    This is a very relevant post for writers who want to highlight character trades such as race/sexuality/religious view/social class as being mistaken as flaws .


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *