Travels Big and Small (Holly Schindler)

Traditionally, each main character in a story undergoes a pretty radical change—of heart, mind, or both. It’s an internal journey. The external journey that the main character goes on (solving a mystery, saving the planet—or maybe a baby brother, etc.) allows for the internal journey and change to take place. 

But one of the most enjoyable parts about writing MG is how truly small the external journeys can be—especially when writing realism. And showing what an immense internal change those tiny physical journeys can make. 

Characters of this age aren’t exactly going to put themselves on planes. Jump continents. If they travel much farther than their own neighborhood, you’ll start to hear readers grumbling about your storyline being implausible. 

Think about that: their external journey will most likely take place in just a few blocks. It will involve a handful of locations—school, home, maybe a friend’s house. 

And in that small slice of a physical location, they can take the kind of internal journey that means their lives are different. They’ve changed their entire outlook. They believe in themselves in a new way.

Really, though—adult life isn’t quite so different. We have the ability and means to move greater distances, but what really changes us—experiences far from home, or close to it? Strangers or those we’ve come to rely on in our day-to-day lives? 

As a writer of books for all ages, I’m constantly surprised how writing in one genre informs another. And this lesson from the MG world—about a character's small inner circle—consistently helps shape work I write for older readers.

What’s your own favorite story in which the plot unfolds in a tight space?


  1. This is so well explained! It would be perfect for a fiction writing class.

  2. I love writing, and reading, school stories - where all change, growth, dark nights of the soul, and epiphanies, happen within one elementary school classroom.


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