Writing, 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.

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Topics include: Develop Your Idea First • Understand the Value of Outlining • Make Your Story a Page-Turner • Maximize the Adventure


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...

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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