Writing, Arts & Entertainment

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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Topics include: Use Dialogue to Reveal Story and Character • Make Your Dialogue Timeless and Realistic • Try Emulating Other Writers to Find Your Style


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 ...

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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