Writing, 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.

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Topics include: Make Your YA Characters Feel Like Real Teenagers • YA Character Cheat Sheet: Give Me a K-I-L-L


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....

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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