I'm working on a story, it has a character that just finished High School and isn't sure what to do now and then ends up in on an adventurous journey.

I'm struggling with good ways to show that the character lacks in motivation early in the novel, and later in the story I would like to establish a transformational decision, but I'm not really sure what this decision should be.

Do you know any good examples on how this kind of motivation is applied and how this character arc turns out?

(I'm not native English, the wording in my writing is better ;) )

  • 3
    It sounds like your character's motivation is to find themself a motivation that's meaningful to them. Maybe this goal is achieved over the course of the adventure. Maybe finding the adventure resolves it, and their motivation changes to something else. Character motivation can be anything, as long as it drives them to do something. I'd say you're on the right track. Jun 11, 2017 at 13:26

3 Answers 3


The first example that springs to mind is Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. Finishing high school represents that awkward, uncertain and downright terrifying period of transition from childhood to adulthood. At that age it can feel like the future is laid out already like a trap. Go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, then it's clean sailing 'til death. Many millennials would prefer to stay indoors playing video games, or go travelling, or do a degree in some unemployable field - all of which could be perceived as lack of motivation by their parents.

Holden's basic character arc is avoidance and eventually acceptance. If your character doesn't know what they want to do next they will either flail about trying to find out, or stick with some old routine and try not to think about it. Procrastination can lead a character up all sorts of avenues, as can a sudden moment of flight when the pressure gets to much. A distraction in the form of a call to adventure would be more then welcome, in that scenario. Or perhaps they pursue an adventure all by themselves just to spice their life up a little, before it's too late. It depends on the story.

As for the breakthrough, I think TheTermiteSociety's comment is key: your character needs to find something that's meaningful to them. Maybe it's the people they meet on the adventure and the relationships they form. Maybe they witnessed some sort of injustice, and found meaning in the fight to stop it. Maybe they simply had that moment of realisation that they already were an adult, and that it wasn't such a bad thing after all. It depends on the character and on the story you're telling. But once they've found that meaning, it can be brought back full circle. Your character could go off and fight a dragon, then come back home and see that college application form still sitting on their desk. It had seemed like a monster before, but not so much anymore.

  • 1
    I found my way here from stackoverflow, but the answers here are so much more eloquent and pleasurable to read, I can't imagine why ;)
    – Himmators
    Jun 12, 2017 at 22:17

Maybe the character has a special take on all the things that he/she could do. Those unique takes result in his/her general demotivation.

Different things he/she could do present themselves e.g what friends and cohorts are doing: An internship in one of those trendy establishments (boring, corporate slavery), volunteering (instagram fodder), getting married (woah, please). Also, the character might actually be in the middle of particular activities, but may show no sincere interest in doing those well, or may not be particularly invested in the final outcome.

These attitudes towards potential pursuits can display the lack of motivation. Then, when the right adventure comes across, the contrast in his/her feelings towards it and the shift in emotions from dull cynicism to genuine wonder, restlessness and drive can display the newfound purpose with great impact.


This is a well trodden path. If your character's just finished high-school he could be a stoner wanting to do nothing but sit around and smoke weed all day. Or there's the rich kid with the trust fund. He is given everything so has no need to pursue everything. Or perhaps the character is disabled or has lost a limb and won't get out of bed because he feels his life is over.

There are hundred's of scenarios.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.