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Arts & Entertainment

Creating YA Characters

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 07:06 min

To demonstrate how to avoid clichés and construct realistic characters, Bob walks you through his character cheat sheet using examples from Give Me a K-I-L-L.

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.


To me, a lot of teen fiction is too grim. No one ever cracks a joke. No one's ever laughing about anything. And I put a lot of that in these books. I think it's more true to life. If you observe a bunch of teenagers, they're laughing all the time. They're laughing, and they're fun. And then, when you read a lot of teen literature, no one's laughing. I don't know why. I think you need that in the book. I think it helps to make it seem like real teenagers, which is what you want to create. And you want to do characters that aren't cliches, but they're still-- they do fall into groups, and some of it is unavoidable. And so, you have your different types, and it helps the plot along. If you know that there's a guy who's very angry, and his household is a mess, and he wants to drop out-- this creates a lot of tension immediately. You have the cheerleaders. I do cheerleaders books, which actually, may be a little dated now. I don't know. But everyone likes to read about the cheerleaders and how evil they are. And how terrible they are to each other. And how they're murdering each other. Your characters really determine your plot. What you choose-- the characters you choose, they're set. That's what sets off your plot. And you have to know, when you're writing these characters, what they want. What they want. You can't just describe them. You have to tell what's their aim? What is their goal? Their goal is, not to be so shy. Their goal is to meet some guy or get somebody's attention. But you constantly have to know-- and usually, you do it through dialogue, of course, and what they say to each other, but it's very important to get across exactly what they're about and what they want. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I'm planning any book-- "Goosebumps" or "Fear Street" or any novel-- I figure out-- I populate it. That's the first thing I do. Basically, I know the story. I have the idea in my mind. And then, I populate it, and I come up with characters. And I make a cheat sheet of the characters. And with their traits. Sort of what they look like so that I know who's in the book. I don't do it for every single character-- not for everyone. Some, I improvise as I'm writing the book. But for the most of the main characters, I like to have, at least, a chart of what they're like. And this is one I wrote, when I was planning out the "Fear Street" book called, "Give Me a K-I-L-L." It's the evil Fear Street cheerleaders are back. I'll just read a little of it. This is what I wrote. And I've scribbled, scribbled-- this is what I came up with for character planing. Gretchen Page. Straight blond hair. Olive-colored eyes. Not happy with her looks. Nose too short. Hates the cleft in her chin. Tense. Has nightmares. Small town girl. Shadyside High is big to her. Uncomfortable in new school. Ambitious. Determined to win. So I had a pretty good idea of Gretchen. She's the main character in the book, and I had a pretty good idea....

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 was plain awesome, having all these famous writer teaching us the tricks and what works for them. Hopefully I could implement what I have learned into practical usage. Thank you Masterclass for granting this access of knowledge to those in needs.

This is the absolute best course I have ever taken! Thank you so much Mr Stine. Melvin Gibby

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

I loved this course and especially stine's wierd sense of humour :) The course was interesting and inspiring.



I've had a volcano of need to write in my mind for many years (I'm 33). Thank you Mr Stine. Now I am prepared to unleash the next Pompeii of fun and horror upon the young readers of today!

Amber E.

Looove the statement that the author and protagonist are not friends. For my mystery series, I modeled the protagonist after my daughter and I now see why I didn’t want to put her in harms way. Fantastic revelation!

Rachel M.

"Teens are laughing all the time." Oh boy. I think I was pretty much the old lady in my high school class then. My peers would laugh at everything, even ordinary stuff. My teachers thought I was depressed.

Joy D.

My characters are mostly dinosaurs... so the character sheets tend to include species, color, and brain size. And instead of arranging it as a list, it's more of a food chain. Other than that, the process is practically similar!

Kym S.

So far, Mr. Stine, even though I'm basically a film writer & film maker, I have enjoyed your class the most. I do make horror films/TV series & don't plan on writing novels. I love your sense of humor & I have watched your TV series based on the books. I've taken most of the courses on Masterclass, but I really like your teaching style. It's never boring like some of the teachers on here. Well done & good luck with your future projects!

Angela A.

Where are the character sheets he speaks of, also the outline discussed in earlier lessons? I download the PDF for each lesson but did not see this. Thank you.

Gail L

Really appreciate that Mr. Stine is sharing his process. The cited resources also give a clue into the level of detail he explores for characters in his stories and has backed that up in previous chapters by noting that these characters need to leave space for readers to step into (not his words). I have also seen fully blown character building templates from other sources, that can bury a person in developing the details. The resources he has shared are relevant and, to me, his perspective is enlightening.

Steven W.

I have been using Character outlines, cheat sheets, for some time. This lesson gave me affirmation that it wasn't a waste of time.

Elizabeth C.

BIG DISAPPOINTMENT. Although Stine states that he is including some sample outlines and his character "cheat sheet," he does not.

Colette B.

Really enjoying this class from Bob. His style of down to earth realist has helped me to recognise that writing is about hard work and fun! His books have a knack of engaging reluctant readers and keeping them. A great talent!