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Arts & Entertainment

Case Study: Comparing Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 06:11 min

Bob breaks down the differences between YA and middle grade books using two examples from his own work.

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.


Here's an example of writing for teenagers, as opposed to writing middle grade. And you'll see that the characters are different. They're older. They're more sophisticated. This is from a book I wrote called, "A Midsummer Night's Scream." And you can see the difference in the writing level between a middle-grade story. And we have these kids, these teenagers in a car, and it takes place in the 1950s. And this is the very beginning of the book, this is chapter 1. "One hand on the wheel, one hand around Darlene's shoulders, Tony pounded the gas pedal, and the van roared over the bumps and pits of the narrow dirt road." So we have a picture right away, we have a teenage picture right away, of a guy driving one-handed, with his arm around a girl. "Leaning against the window on Darlene's right, Sue gritted her teeth, and absorbed every jolt and jerk in silence. Tony was driving too fast, trying to impress Darlene, and Sue had to fight down her fear. The van was roaring through thick woods, and the overhanging trees blocked the evening light, making Sue feel as if the world had gone black and white. In the back seat, Randy, Brian, and Cindy were singing a children's song. Singing and laughing at the same time. Darlene shook her head. Sue covered her ears. Sue was the shy one in the group of friends. She appeared on edge with them, as if she'd love to be somewhere else. The van hit a big stone, and the six kids flew up from their seats, their heads thumping the ceiling. The wheels spun wildly in Tony's hand. Sue and Cindy screamed as they veered toward the trees." So it gives an idea of its fast-pacing, but the vocabulary is higher than a middle-grade book. And you have six characters, right away. And you pretty much start to get an idea of what they're like. The danger is very believable. They're roaring down this road. He's showing off. They're in a big van. They hit a rock. It's nighttime, they're in the middle of a forest. It's a very real kind of beginning. [MUSIC PLAYING] Now here's a little section from a "Goosebumps" I wrote called, "Here Comes the Shaggedy." And the Shaggedy is this horrible swamp monster. And I thought I would read this to you because it's an example of how you could write a monster for middle grade, how middle-grade kids will react to it. And it gives you a sort of idea, in contrast, to the teenage thing. Of the different style that I would use for middle grade, and the different vocabulary level. And I'm describing this monster who comes popping up out of the river. This horrible, hideous thing comes up and staring at this brother and sister. But you can see it's a different fright level altogether, I think. "It's face was blue and puffy. Its eyes were an eerie yellow. Water rolled off its head, its bare shoulders. The creature appeared to grow taller as it rose in the water and began to stomp toward the shore. It pulled a tangle of weeds from its long, sea-green hair. Hair down past i...

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.

I am enjoying the class and cant wait for the next lesson.

I enjoyed listening to RL Stine. I think his method is very similar to mine, which is comforting.

Awesome simple and profound advice. Thank you!

Bob is a great teacher. My biggest takeaway is to just write, and fail fast and often. He really boosted my confidence in the intimidation of writing. Looking forward to working through the class again.


Liz L.

I found the YA book had choppy sentences and the middle grades the sentences flowed and were very descriptive. I don't agree with the YA book being a good example.

Meg N.

I was in a picture-book club at my children's preschool, I ended up being 5 years with the group, where we were writing, illustrating, and binding our personal work, and if it passed muster, having it included in the annual "Tokyo Ten" exhibition in Ueno each fall. ... A few years later I showed a couple of the books to a friend whose mother was visiting, and it turns out that her mother is still wanting me to try to get the books to a publisher. Something seemed "off" at the time I wrote the books, and I'm now at a point where I can evaluate more accurately what I did back then. I'm wondering if I have the courage to give it a try. This lesson and the previous lesson in R.L.Stine's course is showing me exactly what was "off"... I plan to finish this course, and then decide where to put the books "in the queue" of projects for me to work on.

Sarah N.

I like his books as I take his lessons because i’m Writing a book called amaginashon seres 3:end of the wind.

Colleen P.

I was interested in the fact that his YA novel was set in the 50's. That is where so many of my stores are set and yet I haven't been sure how to target an audience with them.

Ebony-Jane C.

Gee I was addicted to R.L .Stine’s Goosebumps books as a kid. I am loving peering behind the curtain at the mechanics with my adult lens. The Haunted Mask was my all time fav.

Clara S.

Dystopian books seem like a perfect world for YA readers.: Hunger Games, The Divergent . . . too depressing for my reading taste. David, I like your story outline. I'd like to know if you writing for a younger reader or a YA reader. Is your story of the sorceress in the present time in this world or in a faraway and ancient land. Your characters have unusual names, I take it Egan is of Celtic ancestry right? also, you mentioned a few words that put me in the present time, taxi-cabs, grocery stores, buildings, office. I would take Bob 's advice and give it a few kids to read to get their input. Your book sounds fun and full of surprises. Good luck.

Krloz R.

I've been playing with a project in my head for a while and my fear was how to speak to an YA audience; but at the same time keep it scary at a Stephen King level. If the language or the graphics would classify it as regular literature and not YA. @krlozruben

David S.

Love this lesson, it really helped me. Below is an outline I did for a story. Let me know what you think. The Magic Watch By: David Serra Genre: Fantasy/Adventure Plot: A good-natured young man discovers a magical watch in the woods that belongs to a sorceress who he must save from an evil dictator. Main Characters: Egan Bell – He’s a laidback and good-natured teenage boy who discovers the watch while walking in the woods and is the main protagonist. Delisha Piers – She’s a sophisticated and resourceful dragon who is the head of the mythical business building that Sybil worked at. She’s the one who sends Egan and Janine on the quest. Sybil Hannings – She’s a charismatic and caring middle-aged sorceress who is captured by Grady’s henchmen at the beginning but manages to hide her watch. Lionel Grady – He’s a malicious and sly dictator who wants nothing more than to use Sybil’s watch in order to use it to defeat his competition and seize power. He’s the main antagonist. Janine Bell – She’s Egan’s strict but eccentric and loving mother. Chapter Outlines: Chapter 1: Discovery in the Woods Egan, bummed out that his dad is on a business trip, is hiking in the woods with his mom Janine when something catches his eye by the river. They go over to it and Egan discovers that it’s a peculiar watch. “I wonder who owns this.” Janine asks herself. “Let’s fix it when we get home.” says Egan and tucks the watch away in his pocket. Out of the corner of his eye he thinks he spots a dark figure run into the woods while they head home. Chapter 2: Goblin Ninjas and a Cyclops Taxi-driver Egan cleans and does his best to fix the watch when Janine tells him that she’s going grocery shopping and will be back in a couple of hours. Shortly after leaving Egan hears a strange noise downstairs and goes to check it out. He is surrounded by three goblin ninjas who attack him. Knowing a little bit of martial arts from Janine teaching him he is able to keep them at bay and defeat two of them. The third, most athletic one, scuffles with him for a minute before gaining the upper hand and beats Egan down. The creature is about to finish him off but Egan is saved by a taxi-driver with an eye-patch. The taxi-driver, named Cale, shoots the assailant dead and takes Egan away in the cab. As Egan recovers in the backseat he sees Cale remove his eye-patch, revealing that he is a Cyclops. Chapter 3: Arriving at the Building Egan, bewildered and worried, arrives at an office building where Cale takes him inside. “What about Mom?” He demands. “Relax lad,” Cale replies, “She’s still at the grocery store, and I’ll go get her after this. Just take the elevator please.” Egan tentatively does so and meets the elderly elevator operator Doris. She takes him to the top floor as the two exchanges a conversation. Chapter 4: Meeting with a Dragon Egan gets off at the floor and begins to head forward, “Ms. Piers will be with you in a moment.” Doris informs him before leaving. Egan tentatively enters the bizarre waiting room where he is immediately called into the huge office where Ms. Piers awaits him. While in the meeting Egan progressively notices that Ms. Piers looks somewhat like a mannequin and her voice sounds like she’s talking through a microphone. Then the woman turns out to be an animatronics-human puppet, which Egan figures out due to a glitch. “Is this some kind of a joke?” He asks, irritated. The puppet shuts off and the real Ms. Piers, who turns out to be a huge bluish-green scaled dragon, enters the room and apologizes. Alarmed at first, Janine comes into the room and assures Egan that Ms. Piers means no harm and that she just wants their help. “Wait, you know her?” He asks, shocked. “I used to work for this industry,” Janine replies, “I left after a few years and got a new job after you were born. I didn’t want you to have to put up with this.” Both calming down yet curious, Egan turns back to Ms. Piers and asks what is happening. Ms. Piers explains, “An evil leader known as Lionel Grady is planning to win the election and overthrow this country. He has kidnapped one of our employees, a sorceress named Sybil Hannings, and her magic watch, which you have in your pocket, is what he needs to conquer his opponent.” Egan sits down in trying to take in what he has heard while Janine comforts him. Chapter 5: The Quest Begins After fully recovering, Egan asks Ms. Piers what should be done. Ms. Piers says that Sybil needs to be rescued and her watch returned to her, he and Janine are just the people to do it. Somewhat reluctant at first, Egan decides to agree to be the decoy for Grady’s henchmen during a visit at a carnival tomorrow. Janine will be the one who tries to get to Grady, disguised as a reporter, in order to gain information from him about Sybil’s whereabouts. At the carnival, Egan wears the watch and scopes out the area when Janine spots Grady amongst his bodyguards making his way to the carnival. Both are nervous but willing to go through with the plot as they approach them. Egan notices the burly bodyguards eye him and Janine intently as Janine says, “Excuse me Senator? My name is Gloria Richards and I’m doing a report on you. Would you mind helping me out?” “Well, Ms. Richards if you insist. Please forgive me but my boys here have to frisk you first.” “That’s fine” she replies. She then signals to Egan to walk away into the carnival and he obeys, casting a worried look. “Who’s you’re boy?” Grady asks her. “He’s just a friend.” She replies, unaware that Grady signals to two of his bodyguards to follow Egan. Chapter 6: Clowns to the Rescue Egan, fully aware of the two bodyguards following him, proceeds with the plan. He weaves his way through the attractions and comes to a halt outside a popcorn stand with a bunch of clowns. The two bodyguards wait a few yards away from him as he approaches the stand and orders a bag of popcorn when he notices the cashier push a button underneath the counter which brings down a curtain and causes him to fall through a trap door into an underground cell. One of the bodyguards radios in the others and says, “The package has been delivered.” Just then the clowns, who are undercover agents, rescue Egan before he is taken away by Grady’s men and a battle ensues between him, the clowns, and the two bodyguards who turn out to be trolls. They defeat them and Egan rushes back to save Janine. Chapter 7: Spying on Grady Janine continues to interview Grady who gladly shares with her his plans for the country if elected president. “Trust me Ms. Richards,” He goes on, “This country will be in for a real treat if I’m elected.” “So, what are your plans exactly?” asks Janine. “Oh they’re special, Ms. Richards. My assistant Sybil will take care of it.” “Who’s that?” Janine asks. “Sybil is one of my prime choices for Vice President; she’s at my building if you want to meet her sometime.” Janine agrees and decides to leave when she is cornered by his bodyguards. “What’s the matter Janine, don’t you want to meet Sybil?” Realizing that Grady is onto her she uses her martial art skills to defeat the goblin bodyguards as Grady escapes. Chapter 8: The Watch is Lost... Almost Egan catches up with Janine when they are surrounded by Grady’s henchmen who consist of goblins and trolls. A fight breaks out and they defeat the henchmen with the help of the clowns but one of the goblins steals the watch and escapes. Egan is distraught until Janine reveals that it was just a decoy. Chapter 9: A Tight Squeeze Back at the office building, Janine shares her findings with Ms. Piers who deducts that Grady plans to brainwash Sybil into his side for election. She tells Janine to wait in the waiting room while she has a word with Egan. She does so and Egan asks, “Why didn’t you tell me that the watch I had was a copy?” “Because I didn’t want you accidentally giving it away.” she replies and quietly locks the door. “Besides if it wasn’t for the clowns you would’ve been easily captured.” Egan becomes defensive and states, “Hey! I was caught off guard. Next time I’ll be alert and ready.” Just then, without warning, Ms. Piers sneaks her tail around and coils him up from his neck to his ankles. Swaying him in the air and constricting him she enthusiastically says, “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t devour you my weak and helpless prey.” Egan tries to call for help and reason with her but he is helpless and pathetic in her grasp. As she continues to sway and constrict him in the air all he manages to say before going limp is, “Oh I’m totally your prey Ms. Piers. I am dragon food.” She chuckles and says “That’s what I thought.” She brings him towards her jaws when her desk’s phone rings from an important call. Chapter 10: A Second and Final Chance Ms. Piers answers the phone, still with Egan coiled in her tail, it’s Cale who says he’s found a way into Grady’s headquarters. He goes on to say thanks to Egan who had in fact told him to look up the license plate on Grady’s limo. Surprised by this she tells him, “All right, Egan and Janine will be right down.” She hangs up and gently sets Egan back on the ground and apologizes to him. She also states before he leaves, “Prove to me that you are not as useless as I had imagined and let’s see what you’re really made of.” Chapter 11: The Vital Clue In the cab Janine, not knowing what had happened as Egan kept out the part of Ms. Piers nearly eating him, acts as Cale’s navigator as they search for Grady’s hideout. After driving for almost an hour around town, Egan sees a pattern in the map that Janine is using. They connect the dots and make their way undetected to Grady’s building. Chapter 12: Invading Grady’s Headquarters With the help of invisibility crystals, Egan and Janine sneak into the headquarters while Cale hides out for them. They make their way up when they spot Sybil in a hidden room, bound and gagged to a chair and being interrogated by Grady. Chapter 13: Releasing Sybil Janine creates a diversion as Egan goes and rescues Sybil. While untying here he straps the watch back to her wrist and she thanks him before the two are cornered by Grady’s henchmen. Chapter 14: Intruders! Regaining her powers, Sybil uses her abilities to defeat the attackers and her and Egan make a run for it when Egan realizes about Janine. Sybil wastes no time and the two fights their way to the top to find her. Chapter 15: The Fight of a Lifetime Janine is caught up in a battle with the bodyguards when Egan and Sybil join in. After defeating the bodyguards the three confront Grady in his office, only to be attacked by huge cockroaches. Chapter 16: Filthy Cockroaches Grady makes a run for the roof while Janine and Sybil battle the enormous cockroaches and Egan takes off after him. Egan battles his way through more huge cockroaches when he makes it to the roof where Grady awaits him. Just then Grady unleashes a giant scorpion that attacks Egan. Chapter 17: Battling the Scorpion Egan frantically dodges the scorpion’s assaults and grabs a pry bar to fight it. After an intense battle Egan manages to kill the creature and confront Grady, who draws a sword from his cane and the two duel. Egan knocks him down before Janine and Sybil come to restrain Grady. But Grady manages to kick Egan off the roof, only for him to be immediately saved by Ms. Piers. Chapter 18: Flying Home Grady is arrested by the authorities; Janine and Sybil take a ride back to the building with Cale while Egan rides on Ms. Piers back as she flies him to the building. She takes the long way back as Egan thanks her for saving him and she responds, “Anything for a brave young man and his Mom.” Chapter 19: The Business Card Janine and Egan arrive back home to find a mess from the previous attack that they have to clean up. Before heading inside, Ms. Piers arrives and hands Janine her business card just in case she wants to come back to work for them. “I’ll think about it.” Janine says and heads inside. Egan and Ms. Piers exchange a wink with one other before they part ways and settle for the night.

Sharon P.

I really enjoyed the differences in writing style between the age groups. Thanks for making those distinctions to us.


Bob's masterclasses are so helpful. Each one has a clear point that he very clearly illustrates and conveys. I am also really grateful for his course materials. he is the only one who provides samples of his work - the outline of 'Slappy's evil twin' is awesome. Super generous and the most helpful teacher I have found.