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Arts & Entertainment

Getting From Idea to Plot Outline

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 08:52 min

Once you have an idea you love, Bob believes you should map out your plot using his preferred method: the outline.

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.


Let's talk a little bit about how you get to the point of developing your outline, how you go from idea to outline. I did a "Goosebumps" book that people don't mention that much, but it's actually one of my favorites. It's called "Attack of the Mutant". And it's about a boy who is a comic book fan, and there's a superhero that he really likes named "The Masked Mutant". And one day he's reading the comic book and he finds that he's in it, he's a character in the comic book. And he can't believe what's going on here. Why is he a character in the comic book? And he goes-- the comic book is printed, is made in his hometown. And so he works up his courage, and he takes the bus to the comic book company. And when he walks in, he walks through this light beam that's red, blue, and yellow, and it zaps him. And he's in the comic book, he's in a comic book world, and he's suddenly the sidekick to this hero that he's read about. And now here he is, trapped in another world, which is really exciting to him, but horrifying, and he's in horrible danger. How could this happen to him? And this story just started-- I love comic books, especially when I was a kid-- and I was just thinking about comic books. I hadn't done a "Goosebumps" about comic books. And I had the title, "Attack of the Mutant". And I just-- the very first thing I thought was, what if you're reading something and you find that you're in it? That was the start, so I write that down. And then I had some scenes of what the superhero would be like, what his powers would be, or what he would look like. And so I wrote that down. That was next. And then I had to figure out a villain. Who was the arch enemy? Who was the villain here? And I wrote that down, and I'm just thinking, thinking. No story yet, no story at all. Just trying to get these basic ideas, figuring out what's the conflict here? And then I had to figure, before I even started to outline, how do I get the boy out of the jam? What's the ending here? And so I had like a couple of pages written, just a couple of pages of ideas. And then I go to the outline, and then I start to write. I have basic scenes. I have a basic idea of the story. And I have what the characters are basically. And then I can really start to plot it. The outline is usually 15 to 20 pages long, and it's very complete because I know the more complete I make the outline, the easier it will be when I start to write the book. And so I spend at least a week on the outline making sure the story makes sense, making sure that I track the characters all the way through, making sure I have good chapter endings, making sure the surprises are there, that there's a good middle, the middle of the book doesn't sag. I go over and over the outline. The hardest thing, when you sit down to write a book, is the plot, is making it hang together, is make it interesting all the way through. And an outline allows you to see what you have and to know where you're...

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.

I thought that R.L. Stine was enchanting and funny! Initially, I wasn't sure how much information would be given during this class, but I actually learned a lot. The content was easy to follow and stimulated a lot of ideas for me. I loved Stine's anecdotes that peppered the 28 lessons and it was refreshing to connect with one of my beloved childhood authors in a new way.

This is an amazing class. R. L. Stine has a great style with a good sense of humor that comes across well in this course.

I enjoyed this master class. R.L. Stine is funny and engaging. He gives clear instruction and specific examples. Highly Recommended. Shakira Shakira

I am enjoying the class and cant wait for the next lesson.


A fellow student

I don't like how he puts down people who don't outline. I get that he is talking about his method, but he could have been more inclusive.

Liz L.

I always write a complete story in my head. My problem is getting the whole story on paper and connecting everything together. I like the idea of the outline. It makes sense.


This lesson has been particularly helpful for me. I have my idea and I had no clue how to get it from idea to page. I started an outline but the notion of this being 15-20 pages long intrigues me and I am going to give it a go. I think it just boils down to confidence and R.L. Stine has plenty of that doesn't he?

A fellow student

I am Matt Smith's daughter and this lesson was PERFECT!! I am 9 years old and this is just like me!! I lock myself in my room and type for HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS!!!!!!!

Nadia A.

I think when you know what type of book you want to write is the first step of outlining.

Jung H.

It's strange to see a writer with over 300 books published saying that another writer's method is phony or "interview stuff". No, Mr Stine, it's just another method that other authors are using to write their stories. What a limited view of the whole writing process. He is like, there is only one way and that is my way. The first author I listen to that has so little humility and respect for the writing process. No wonder he said that none of his books comes from his heart. That's his method, he writes from his mind. others write from their heart, and that is not fake, phony or BST.

Shane B.

fear exercises When I went to a party I remember being truly scared for my life. I smelled cigarette smoke, heard screaming from my offender, and saw nothing as I was having a severe panic attack, which was my very first one. The second time I remember being truly scared was when I rode cannibal for the first time at my local theme park. I heard the cheers of people riding rides, including this one, and the buzzers for the car in front of me. My heart raced and I breathed quick, feeling the onset of another panic attack, and volunteered for someone to replace me, and I got off the ride. I smelled funnel cakes, and tasted the smoke I had before, to ready myself. The third time, was a terrifying nightmare. My husband and I were leaving a mall in my town, stopped, waiting for the traffic to let us in. We noticed two people on bikes, and the female rode her bike into my car. I watched as the guy absolutely lost his mind on us, and started to assault my husband. I heard cussing and screaming from the assaulter, and smelled nothing, but I did taste the vapor off of my newly hit vape mod. We eventually ended up escaping, my husband slamming the door after he had pretended to concede and give the guy money. looking back, he grabbed the first opening, and punched it to full turbo. I fell in and out, and when I woke up fully, I was almost having a seizure. we got to the police station and learned that we had been scammed. Had it not been for my husband’s quick thinking, I would probably be dead. The last time is less scarier, but to me was worse. I was later on waiting in line for cannibal, having conquered my fear of heights, and falling into a deep obsession for the ride. a tall man, who I had immediately recognized from a past offense not mentionable for personal reasons, had been drinking very heavily, and I smelled his breath, reeking and dripping alcohol. At first, the new offense was gentle in comparison, and I politely told the man to leave me alone, and to stop hassling me for beer. He then got more and more angry, and I ran out of line, ducking as he tried to punch me. He was eventually arrested, and banned from the park.

Tania K.

Homework. We were sitting with my friend in my kitchen. Post-soviet time. Black tea in the big cups - the blue one with a gold rim, and the white one. With a red circles on it. Felling ourselves adult, 14 year old, almost 15. No parents at home. We remembered the moments when we were both scared… The dangerous times, 90-s. We laughed, echoing ourselves. “Being brave doesn’t mean you are not scared.” my friend Anna said. In a few years her boyfriend will die. Heroine overdose. One of us, can’t remember who, proposed a game - “imagine to be scared, imagine that there is “something” in the room.“ That “something” was on the floor. We took our legs up on the chairs. Reality started to transform. Anna hunched her shoulders like she was braced against a hard wind. I could feel eyes on us, eyes and things that were not eyes. “Something” was growing bigger… I couldn’t speak any-more. The fear, the horror swallowed us, chewed, and spat back into the kitchen. Hands, glued to the table, legs far from the linoleum on the floor, covered with a poison. If you touch it, you’ll never come back We knew that the light can help, but how to switch it on without touching the floor? We started to panic. Now it was its game, and its room. I tried to remember the magic word, that one, that opens the door to our normality. I whispered “Fear is the rejection of uncertainty. If we accept this uncertainty, it may become an adventure”. Anna, if you can hear me now. From my kitchen in Noho. With a green tea In a small white cup. With a golden rim… Anna, I don't know the other way, still “Being brave doesn’t mean you are not scared” You scared, but you do the right things”

Stephanie W.

I have always found plotting to be difficult. Thinking that there is so much more to it than there is. Just to have it broken down into simple ways of thinking about it helps a lot. I just have to remember to not get caught up in what questions to ask and work on answering them.

Vanessa M.

I use to be a hard core panster, however, now I'm more of a plantser. I try to start with kind of a general outline of the story, but I've never been able to do a super fleshed out, detailed outline like he describes here. I've tried to before, but it just doesn't work for me, and I think that's because I don't really know who my characters are or how they would react in situations until I start writing them. I have to start writing the story for me to really figure out who my characters are. There are times when I've written an outline of a certain scene/chapter, and then I go to write it, but what I thought the characters would do is completely different from what they actually do in the story. I get that we're the ones that create and write the characters, so I kind of understand why he doesn't buy it when writers say "I like to let my characters surprise me," but as a discovery writer, I find this statement true. I don't know what my characters are going to do (even when I think I do) until I write it, and if I try to force myself to stick to an outline of what my characters are supposed to do, I don't think it would come out feeling authentic or any good.