Writing

Dialogue and Prose Style

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 7:41 min

Dialogue is the primary tool Bob uses to reveal character and story. Learn how he writes timeless, realistic dialogue and how to discover your own writing style.

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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.
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For me, the function of dialogue in the story is actually to tell the story. My books, I would say, are maybe 2/3 dialogue. Because that's the fun part-- kids talking to kids, kids talking to creatures. Kids shouting and screaming and talking, and kids fighting with their parents and fighting, talking. And to me-- actually, as a writer, I'm not great at description and I find it difficult. I don't know all the names of trees, and I don't know all the names of flowers. A lot of authors, that's very-- that's an important thing. But I'm not good at that part. But I think I'm really good at writing very believable dialogue of kids talking. And I try to tell my stories. And I just think this works. And it's more fun for kids to read. Instead of reading paragraphs, paragraphs, they have all this short dialogue, and the whole story is told through the dialogue. And you get their character, you get their personalities, you get their fear from what they're saying. And-- instead of describing it. But the conversation also has to tell you something. It has to reveal something about the characters or it has to reveal something about what's going to happen-- a little foreshadowing, maybe, in a conversation. It can't just be-- I mean the way we talk, we'll just chat or be talking or something. But that's the kind of stuff, you're reading a book, you skip it. You say, oh, they're just talking, not anything. And you just go past it to find out what's really going to happen. And you don't want your reader to skip parts. You want to take out all the parts they're going to skip. And you want to make sure they're not going to skip. So I think every dialogue, every conversation that they have has to either reveal something about them, reveal something the reader didn't know before. [MUSIC PLAYING] Here are my rules for writing dialogue. One, use as little current slang as you can. I find I made a lot of mistakes early on. And if you, you know, if you try to sound like teenagers now, or if you really sat-- you know, and put what they're saying, in two months it's all going to be out of date. It's all changed. And so you have to be very careful that your characters sound like real kids, and real people. But you've got to try to stay away from all those words and things that will be gone in two months. The same is true for technology. You know, you have to be very careful about-- you can't-- I would write a book about 10 years ago where the kids are all walking around with Walkmen. Now, you know, what's a Walkman? They don't know what it is. The technology changes every two weeks. So you have to be very careful and try to avoid all that. Try to keep it out because you don't want your book to become dated so quickly. The other thing is you've got to be really careful with your references. Now, my readers were born in 2010 and so they don't know anything. They have no references. If you're writing for 10-year-olds, they don't know anything ...


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.



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I subscribed to MasterClass mostly because of R.L. Stine, and now I see I made an excellent decision. Truly amazing!

Very informative. Loved R.L Stine's teaching style.

His thinking process for writing for kids and teens was enlightening. Also his approach to writing is similar to my own process and what I try to accomplish

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


Comments

Meg N.

I really liked this. I work as a teacher and as a translator, and the timeless, realistic dialog tips he gives can work with non-native speakers of English as well as with 10-yr olds. (Honestly, I read The Economist which is published in England for a global audience, and really appreciate that they carefully help readers who may miss references to people and companies that American publishers take for granted, because they cover so many different countries!) This gives me hope and ideas for what I can do in the future, that I'm not doing now...

Jacob R.

As a young writer, I had a hard time with dialogue, because I thought that talk was cheap. I wanted more action than dialogue. And then I struggled with telling more of the story and creating more substance, and wound up with a bunch of two-page chapters. Looking back, I like the idea of including more dialogue. You fill up a lot more pages that way, and it's so much easier to read and stay engaged. In my next projects, I intend to use more dialogue, and not dawdle too much on background details. Thanks for enlightening me on this.

Kent B.

My YA novel was turned down by one publisher who indicated the dialogue did not sound like kids today because I was not using their slang. I would tend to agree with Bob, it gets outdated. Maybe the same publisher turned him down, I mean what does he know, he's only sold 300 million books.

Alícia E.

Amaaazing class! Writing dialogue is often seen as a really hard part of writing - to make it real and not "forced". But analyzing other authors dialogues and understanding what they are actually saying through that lines makes it a lot more fun :) I'm gonna try doing that now!

Rachel M.

That's true about emulating other writers to find your style. I once was given the assignment to write a bonus chapter for "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. In retrospect, the ending I wrote wasn't the best, but I remember my teacher say I captured Lowry's writing style well. I'd say mine is a combo of Lowry and F. Scott Fitzgerald (don't like his stories but I like his use of symbolism and imagery).

Rachel M.

In my writing workshops I've often been complimented on my dialogue being engaging. I definitely enjoy writing this over pages of prose, and when I do write prose the details mentioned must be important. It's more fun to show information through dialogue than just telling it all in prose.

Tamia B.

Great Lesson. The funny thing about today is I just got home, I took my 15 year old son to see Goosebumps 2 The movie was brilliant and the dialogue was simple, just the way I like it. I honestly have several favorite writers and of Course Mr. Stine you are one of them. I'm working on a kid horror novel as we speak, So I will be taking your style in some ways.. lol

Mira E.

Thank u! Creating my style while imitating my favourite authors is great natural writing advice. I’m going to work on this with dialogues

Tina K.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is an old saying and still holds true today, for sure! When my oldest daughter was young she would call everything a store, i.e. the grocery store, the doctor store, the coffee store, the hair store, and the plane store (meaning airport). We had recently moved and obviously did a great deal of shopping, and this made an impact on her, she was only two at the time. I'm approaching my first draft from this two year's perspective, I think my store is the adventure store, Mr. Stine has for certain made me re-call ALL kinds of scary events from childhood, but I've been reframing them. His style of action, action, action, is appealing. So yes, there, I'm going to the adventure store!

Clara S.

Love listening to Bob. His approach to writing is natural, simple and unpretentious. His advice to find your style by copying a writer you like . . . well, that’s a tall order for me since I like the writing style of many, from my favorite old fogey Edgar Allan Poe to fabulous middle-grade fiction, fantasy and ghosts writers like Neil Gaiman, Dan Poblocki, Mary Downing Hahn, J.K. Rowling and will stop here before my list become endless. I’m certain I know my own voice and writing style and it’s pretty much in line imitating all those mentioned above lol.