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Arts & Entertainment

Borrow From Your Influences

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 10:49 min

From Shakespeare and Dickens to Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King, Bob breaks down what he's learned about storytelling from some of his favorite writers.

R.L. Stine
Teaches Writing for Young Audiences
The Goosebumps author teaches you how to generate ideas, outline a plot, and hook young readers from the first page.


Somehow, it goes hand in hand. If you want to be a writer, you probably are a good reader. But I find that the more I read-- I read a lot of thrillers and a lot of mysteries-- and it really helps my writing. Not by stealing things or by taking ideas, you see, but just sort of by osmosis. When you see how people say things and how they write and just the different writing styles-- you kind of absorb it. I think most writers love to read. I do. I read all the time. I read every day. I try to read all the new fiction. And I read-- I read some horror novels, but mostly, mysteries and thrillers. I was an English major in college and read all the great stuff, and it has to affect you. And a lot of it stays with you. So I think, when you start to write, it's perfectly fine to remember those things you loved, those things you read, and to use them. To go on and develop them in a different way. It's sort of to borrow, what they did. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'm a big borrower. One thing, I write so many books, that I need so many ideas so I rely on the things I've seen and the things I've read. I've never written a Christmas book, and an editor at MacMillan asked me, let's do a Christmas book. And I was thinking immediately, I thought, well, I hadn't done it because Christmas isn't scary. Doesn't seem appropriate time for horror. But then, I realized that the most popular Christmas book of all, is a ghost story-- the Dickens story, "Christmas Carol." And that's a ghost story. And I thought, OK. I will do that. Why not? Why not steal from the best? I'll take from Dickens. And I wrote a book called, "Young Scrooge." And it's about Scrooge. I took the character as a 12-year-old, and he's the biggest bully in school. He's just a horrible bully. And I have the ghosts. I have the whole story. And he's 12-year-old Scrooge, but that was something of borrowing from a classic. I wrote a teen horror novel called, "A Midsummer Night's Scream" So Shakespeare's useful, too. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'll tell you a story about a librarian who actually changed my life. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio-- in this little community in Columbus, Ohio. One day, my mom dropped me off at the library-- we had a little library on Main Street. And I walked in and the librarian knew me and she said, Bobby, I know you like comic books. And that's actually all I read as a kid. I only read comic books and these horror and funny comics. She said, I know you like comic books. I have something I think you'll like. And she took me over to a shelf of Ray Bradbury stories. And I couldn't believe these stories. They were so creative and so beautifully written, that I was like blown away by them. They all had great, funny endings. They were just what I liked. Ray Bradbury really-- and that librarian-- really turned me into a reader. Kids always asked me to recommend a scary book and I always recommend Ray Bradbury's book, "Something Wicked This ...

Take the fear out of writing

Award-winning novelist R.L. Stine wrote jokes and funny stories for 20 years before he switched gears and became a horror-writing legend. Since then, the author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series has sold more than 400 million copies. In his first-ever online writing class, Bob takes the fear out of crafting fiction. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll learn new ways to conquer writer’s block, develop plots, and build nail-biting suspense that will thrill young readers.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

It's hard to give a better review than the one I'm about to send. This was, spot on, what I was looking for. Congratulations to Masterclass for getting this amazing person and author to share his knowledge with the rest of the world.

The only thing i didn't like about this class was that it ended.

It was great to hear about another way of doing things. R.L. Stine offered practical suggestions that made sense. I will be implementing these.

R.L. Stine is a very likeable, knowledgeable, encouraging instructor. I enjoyed his class content and length. Good choice in asking R.L. Stine to teach a Masterclass.


A fellow student

R.L. Stine I have a question. Have you ever written an Eastar horror book? Because that would make a good Goosebumps book!

margot L.

I was amazed. The lessons were fascinating accounts of where R. L Stine's inspirations were drawn from. R. L. Stine is generous with his experiences. He shares from his heart. I have never read any of R. L. Stine's books. They sound scary. I will have to go out and buy them


I cried at the Ray Bradbury part and I laughed at the training bra. I love this masterclass so much!

Margaret M.

Here's a great lecture by Ray Bradbury. He lays out a writing program for new writers (a story a week for a year--"you can't write 50 bad short stories in a row!" plus a reading program to go with it):

Fülöp B.

The writer that probably had the most influence on me as a child was Paul van Loon. Also J. K. Rowling, but I am currently angry at her. The writer that turned my life around in my teens was Steven Moffat. (I know that he's tv, but still. He got me into watching tv series in the first place.) But R. L. Stine, I honestly cannot imagine my life without. I haven't read all that many of his books, and ok, they are not the best quality writing I know, but they were fun, captivated my imagination, and (still are) just THERE. You know those annoying Facebook posts that go "remember when... If you don't, you didn't have a good childhood"? Well, I honestly believe that every child has got to read at least a couple of Fear Street books while growing up. It just happens, you know? I seriously cannot imagine those years of my life without Fear Street in it. So, Mr. Stine, on the offhand chance that you are reading this, it really IS true. The world wouldn't be the same without your books in it. Thank you so much for that. Also, this class is really fun and I'm pretty sure that I learned some useful things while binging the videos.

Lisa L.

That was so funny how R.L. Stine said he'd been called a "literary training bra" for reading Stephen King later. I love this guy's dry humor, too.

Katherine B.

I hear a lot of writers say you have to write as much as possible and you have to read as much as possible, but which one should you make more of a priority? Should it be a 50/50 of how much you write and how much you read, or should it be some other ratio? Because when you’re writing, you could be reading, and when you’re reading, you could be writing.

Val C.

RL Stein is not only a fantastic writer, he's a great teacher. I first discovered Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles," and then read everything I could find by him. I even use one of his stories as a metaphor in my counseling (I'm a therapist) sessions. The idea of borrowing other people's ideas is interesting . I think it works for Mr Stein because the stories are both funny and scary. Working off the premise of the original story, (i.e. "Midsummer Night's Scream" ) may influence kids, later in life, to read the original.

Noah P.

It is true. RL. Stine is a hero to many. He was my hero. I only ever learned to read because of him. When Goosebumps first came out, I became enamored with the idea of them, with the cover art. I already loved old scary movies, and these were just like that but for me as a kid! I wanted to have one, but I didn't believe I could read it because my parents, my older sibling, and even my school teachers told me I wasn't smart enough to read those books. And I believed them! Then, one birthday, I got The Headless Ghost. I was thrilled. For over a week I went to every member of my family and asked them to read it to me. None of them would. So, finally, I decided to just try it on my own because I was tired of waiting. I realized I WAS smart and could read it. And I've been reading and writing ever since. After finishing that book for the first time, I immediately stapled paper together and wrote my own "chapter book" in it.

Lauren M.

I wish R.L. Stine would one day read my book. If I ever get published. I'm considering self-publishing since it's been rejected but I'm proud of it. He was the first author I consistently read and the reason I love to read today. Love the lessons!