Every single person comes of age in their own unique way. From childhood to adulthood, we all experience transitions that change who we are. Today, we share some coming of age story ideas to help you write your own story of growing up.
What is a coming of age story?
Growing up is a universal experience with a myriad of variations. Some cultures and families have rituals that young people follow or rebel against to find their way to adulthood or self-actualization. Others are left to stumble through their entire life trying to figure out how to experience happiness.
We often think of coming of age or initiation stories as a journey from adolescence to adulthood, but some adults reach legal age without becoming a mature person. They can undergo a coming of age story much later.
Or, an adult can find themselves at a crossroads in life, needing to mature in a new way to face an unusual set of obstacles.
Any coming of age character, young or old, will be one who embarks on a journey of self-discovery—sometimes on purpose, other times forced by the circumstances life throws at them.
As we explored the ten story types here based on the core value in each story, the coming-of-age story is one where the character development centers around how a character moves from immaturity to maturity, however that is defined by the society where they live.
What does a coming of age story include?
Let's review the inciting incidents and main event usually present in a coming of age story.
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):
- Here There Be Dragons (Confronting the Unknown). Coming of age plots often begin with an inciting incident involving something unknown, something that is outside of the protagonist’s current worldview. This throws the protagonist into confusion and shows them how much they must learn about the world.
- The Principal's Office. Alternatively, the character may get into trouble early on, often in a school setting. This forces the character to begin the process of reflecting on his or her life and making changes.
- The Choice. This archetype involves the protagonist making a difficult decision that leads them on their journey of growth and change. It could be deciding to take a job, or move in with a new family, or make an important commitment.
Main Event: The Revelation. In a moment of crisis, the protagonist has a major worldview revelation, leading them to see the world in a new, more sophisticated way.
Examples: How to Train Your Dragon, Catcher in the Rye, Good Will Hunting, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Ugly Duckling
Remember that as you write a story using story values, it means that the core conflict and story question revolves around how the character will mature (or fail to step into maturity). Now, let's get to the prompts!
40 Coming of Age Story Ideas
1. In the wake of a devastating family tragedy, a young teenager finds solace and purpose in an entire school dedicated to helping students overcome personal hardships. How will they grow up?
2. Two childhood friends embark on a road trip, discovering the world and themselves along the way.
3. After struggling academically and socially, a high school student makes the difficult decision to dropout, until they meet a stranger who challenges them to grow in a unique way.
4. A young child undergoes a rite of passage in their community, facing a series of trials to prove their readiness for adulthood.
5. When a rebellious child's behavior reaches a breaking point, their exasperated parents enroll them in a strict military school. Will they find redemption?
6. In a remote rural area, a young person must venture into the wilderness and survive alone for a set period to prove their resilience and independence.
7. In a small town where education is highly valued, a group of exceptional school students decides to challenge the conventional education system.
8. A young orphan, yearning for a sense of belonging, is taken in by an adoptive family who happen to run a campground/ farm/ space station.
9. In a world where everyone is assigned a specific path in life from birth, a curious teenager starts questioning the system when they stumble upon a traveling group of misfits.
10. When a mysterious epidemic spreads throughout the town, causing all the adults to fall into a deep sleep, it's up to a group of school students to run the entire school and ensure its survival.
11. A gifted but socially isolated teenager discovers a hidden talent for teaching and decides to start an entire organization for outcast peers.
12. In a post-apocalyptic world, where traditional schools no longer exist, a resourceful teenager gathers a group of fellow survivors and establishes a vigilante group preserving knowledge and skills.
13. A mischievous teenager, notorious for their pranks, accidentally causes chaos in a community. As punishment, they are tasked with organizing a series of redemptive acts to regain trust.
14. A shy teenager discovers their hidden talent, challenging their self-doubt and finding the courage to pursue their dreams.
15. A teenager navigates first love, heartbreak, and the bittersweet lessons of growing up.
16. A young child undergoes a rite of passage in their community, facing a series of trials to prove their readiness for adulthood.
17. A high school athlete grapples with success, loss, and the true meaning of teamwork after a promising but ultimately heartbreaking season.
18. A young artist finds their voice through an unlikely friendship with an elderly neighbor.
19. A teenager faces the pressures of societal expectations and learns to embrace their true identity.
20. An introverted bookworm steps out of their comfort zone and discovers the power of human connection when their favorite author calls for applicants to be his protege to continue his stories.
21. A rebellious teenager learns about responsibility and self-discovery through an unexpected summer job.
22. A small-town teenager dreams of escaping to the big city, but realizes that home holds the key to their happiness.
23. A teenager confronts their fears and insecurities while embarking on a life-changing adventure far from home.
24. In a magical world, a child discovers their unique powers and must undergo a mystical initiation to join the ranks of sorcerers.
25. A group of childhood friends forms a secret club and creates a series of challenges to test their loyalty and friendship.
26. In a futuristic society, children receive an implant that unlocks their full potential. Write a story about a child's initiation into this technology-driven world and how they learn who they truly are.
27. A child from a humble background is selected for an elite academy, where they face rigorous training and unexpected challenges.
28. In a futuristic dystopia, children are chosen to participate in a government experiment that tests their physical and mental abilities.
29. A young child joins a martial arts school, undergoing rigorous training and facing formidable opponents to achieve the rank of master.
30. A young person who had been selected at birth for a specialize occupation in society, unexpectedly fails their final challenge and flees to find who they might have been.
Do adults ever need to grow up?
Here are a few prompts about characters who might be adults coming of age (again). As long as they have lost their way or questioned their identity, you can use the coming of age frame to help them launch into a newfound maturity.
31. A middle-aged woman rediscovers her passion for music and embarks on a journey to fulfill her unrealized dreams.
32. A workaholic executive takes a sabbatical to reconnect with nature and find a new perspective on life.
33. A recently divorced man travels the world, seeking self-discovery and healing from past wounds.
34. A retiree decides to pursue a lifelong dream of starting a small business, finding purpose and fulfillment in the process.
35. An empty-nester couple navigates the challenges of rediscovering their identity and rekindling their relationship.
36. A widowed man embarks on a cross-country road trip, scattering his late spouse's ashes and finding closure along the way.
37. A disillusioned lawyer quits their high-paying job to pursue a career in social work, striving to make a meaningful impact.
38. A woman in her 40s joins a community theater group, stepping out of her comfort zone and discovering her passion for acting.
39. A middle-aged person embarks on a physical and spiritual journey, hiking the Camino de Santiago to find inner peace.
40. A corporate executive, burned out by the demands of the corporate world, trades it all for a simpler life off the grid.
Write your own coming of age story
Remember that coming of age stories might be any genre, but they all share the value of moving from immaturity to maturity. Do you love a good coming of age story? Share your favorites in the comments below.
Set your timer for fifteen minutes. Choose a prompt above and begin writing that character's coming of age story. When finished, share in the Pro Practice Workshop here, and leave feedback for a few other writers. Not a member? Join us here.
Can't wait to see the character journeys you create!
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveler with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.