Writing, Arts & Entertainment

Creating Middle Grade Characters

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 06:27 min

Learn how Bob develops relatable middle-grade characters that help middle-grade readers enter the world of the story and make his books even scarier.

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Topics include: Create Protagonists Readers See Themselves In • Get Your Protagonist in Lots of Trouble • Make the Parents Useless • Choose Relatable Character Names


When I write a Goosebumps book, and I figure out the characters, I don't do very much. In fact, I'm criticized a lot for not having much characterization in my book. But the idea in a Goosebumps book is that you want the reader to identify with the main character. You want the reader to become part of the book. The reader is seeing what the protagonist is seeing, is experiencing all of these horrible things. So you want the reader to be able to closely identify with your main character. So I do very-- I don't characterize the main character much. I give them a little description, but I leave it open so that the reader can become the protagonist. My longtime Goosebumps editor, Susan Laurie-- we've done over 100 Goosebumps books together-- she says that I am fabulous at creating full-blown cardboard characters, and that's really what I do. And I do get criticized a lot for this. They say, oh, he doesn't do any characterization. He doesn't-- but it's deliberate. It's totally deliberate because it brings the reader closer. It brings the reader into the book by not having a really strong-- not really developing the character. We have these ordinary kids in extraordinary circumstances solving this problem, trying to get out of danger, saving their own lives on their own with their own smarts, and their own imagination. The kids in Goosebumps are always-- well, they're always 12 because the readers are a little bit younger, and they like to read about kids who are older. They're always normal kids. They're not especially smart, they're not talented, almost always they have no talent. Sometimes maybe they play an instrument, or something. They're not special in any way, and that's because-- this is all so more readers can identify with them, and when you have some average kids, they're more vulnerable, I think, and they can get into more trouble because they're just regular kids, and it makes it more scary. [MUSIC PLAYING] When you start to write, you want to create a likable character. You want to create a character people are going to want to root for, or read about through a whole book, but you have to be careful as an author. You have to remember that you are not the protagonist's friend, and I'm mainly talking about writing horror, writing thrillers, writing mysteries. You have to remember that you are actually the enemy of the protagonist, and this is a very important thing, I think, because you have to take your protagonist, and put them in trouble, and then you have to cause more trouble. You have to cause more difficulty for them. You have to cause all kinds of problems all through the book for them. You're not their-- you're not their hero. You're not their friend. The idea is to get the protagonist in as much trouble as possible, and then finally get them out at the end. Because remember, the more trouble you get your protagonist in, the tighter the net you wrap around them, the more fun the book will be, and the mo...

About the Instructor

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.

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R.L. Stine

The Goosebumps author teaches you how to generate ideas, outline a plot, and hook young readers from the first page.

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