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Arts & Entertainment

Making Monsters

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 06:05 min

Bob teaches you how to transform inanimate objects into terrifying monsters with examples from It Came from Beneath the Sink! and Say Cheese and Die!

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.


What makes a monster a monster? Yeah, I think it's anything that's not controlled. And I think kids have this fear. I mean, they have these feelings of wanting to be out of control. They have feelings of anger and anxiety, and it's mostly suppress it all the time, have to suppress it, hold it in. And a monster is something that doesn't suppress it at all. A monster is out of control. And what's scarier? I don't think anything is scarier than something that's completely out of control and something you can't do anything about. That's a monster. You have to be open and remember things that you've seen, remember all the old monsters, and try to come up with new ones. I did a "Goosebumps" called "Frankenstein's Dog," where the dog is a vicious, horrible monster. I try to picture the monsters. I can't draw. If I could draw, I would draw them. Some people can draw. I can't draw anything. But I do try, when I was doing a swamp monster, you have to try to picture what exactly it looks like. If you're doing even something like monster blood-- monster blood, they open the jar and it starts to grow and it's sticky. People stick to it. You have to kind of picture is it bubbly, is it smooth? You have to force yourself to be visual. Some writers talk to me and say, how do you do a new monster? How can you do it? And I say anything can be a monster. Take anything, anything. You know, a teddy bear. Take something. "It Came from Beneath the Sink" was about a sponge. Now who writes a horror novel about a sponge, right? But in this book, the monster was a sponge. It was just a sponge that actually had eyes, but it was a sponge. If I can turn a sponge, a little tiny sponge, into a monster, you can take anything, just take anything and give it power. Make it terrible. Have it do horrible things. Even an inanimate object like a camera. I'm thinking of "Say Cheese and Die" and "The Evil Camera". Even a camera becomes like a monster. This camera in this book shows terrible pictures of things happening to the kids who have the camera a few minutes later. They take a picture, and then a few minutes later-- they take a picture, and a kid's in a car accident. It's showing the kid in a car accident. And they say, well, that's-- and then a few minutes later, the kid is in a car accident. The photos always come true. But here's something that's not a big creature. It's not a giant King Kong. It's not a big dinosaur. It's just a camera, but it's just as horrifying. Of all of the creatures, all the the ones I've created, there's only one that's really captured everyone's imagination, and it's kind of a surprise to me. Of all these monsters, Jelly Jam and the Shaggedy, and all these things, only Slappy has become like universal. Slappy the evil dummy. This idea of a doll coming to life is very scary to people. And I don't know, I love writing it. It's a lot of fun to write. I've written 12 Slappy books. I keep doing new ones, which is hard because it's...

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.

Love his casual style and unassuming personality. He gives a great insight into writing for younger people and has a wealth of knowledge to give.

Thoroughly enjoyed this class - full of great ideas and tips!

Stine is very straight forward in his advice. I admire how he doesn't care about his critics. He writes because it's his passion!

I really enjoyed the unique approach to writing, especially the section about writing for different age groups.


Keven P.

I'd recommend the non-fiction book "Writing Monsters" by Philip Athans (Blurb on cover: How to craft believable terrifying creatures to enhance your horror, fantasy, and science fiction). It's not specific to writing monsters for kids, but still useful.

Carlene G.

I love it. Monsters are anything that is out of control! I can run with that.

Travis D.

My daughter loves these videos and the books. Thank you for this wonderful video!!

Noah P.

Took a few hours to watch a Goosebumps episode and a Haunting Hour episode back to back. The Haunting Hour is far more creepy and suspenseful. I feel it is probably aimed more at upper middle graders. I also can't help but feel, based on some of the middle-grade horror I've looked at recently, that there is more of a market for this slightly scarier story telling. Kids are looking for a transitional type of book between something like Goosebumps and Fear Street.

Noah P.

Just finished watching the first 3 Chucky films and will finish out the rest of the franchise this week. As I took notes and reflected on what Bob said in this lesson, I realized how right he is about "control." I feel like scary and evil objects--especially toys--are appealing to kids in the same way "killer kid" and "evil kid" movies appeal to adults. Adults like the idea that they have some sort of control or power over their children. The idea that a child would have more power, potentially deadly power, is ultimately scary. For kids, it is the same. They have the most control in their lives over their toys. If a toy they love and cherish turned on them, that is scary. I think it is an idea that is relatable to most everyone, which is why Slappy and Chucky are both so prolific in our culture.

Rachel M.

Oh yeah, I watched the whole "Chucky" franchise. Even when it was campy, Chucky was such a fun villain! And I don't know why but I just love everything involving Slappy. Maybe it's their personalities.

Cat S.

I think the reason that particular plot (of the little girl being slowly replaced by the doll) is so popular is that it actually strikes a nerve for older children who are on the cusp of puberty, especially little girls learning to perform femininity. I remember one of the details of that story was that people even seemed to prefer the doll because it was given the social approval that the little girl craved. Sort of like Stepford Wives for kids. I think we often forget that the fears of children aren't trivial.

David S.

This is a great lesson. The scariest thing to me is being alone somewhere and not knowing what's coming for you. In fact this lesson inspired me to share with you all a dream I had last night that was both scary and thrilling: "Two young siblings are at a ski resort when suddenly the resort is attacked by a pack of monsters." Let me know what you think of this.

Neil G.

Dolls can be a pretty subjective scare, like many things (clowns being another example). I know people who find them not creepy at all; I feel that this is why, in the Conjuring Universe, Annabelle is portrayed less as a threat on her own and more as an anchor that allows a demon to stay in the real world--the demon itself appears outside of the doll, but in a way that always obscures how it really looks, which does make it pretty creepy. That being said, I always have wanted to write a creepy doll story--maybe a short story would work...

Nichole S.

Slappy was the scariest monster to me, and it was even what had started my fear of dolls and ventriloquist dummy. I wasn't even watching the show, because I was too much of a scaredy cat to watch it but it was on in my grandparents room and I was passing by to get to the computer room just across from theirs, and saw the episode was on Night of the Living Dummy 2 and when Slappy came on the screen for a second my nerves turned so cold that I was chilled straight through the bones. It's just those staring eyes that can get right into my soul, it gives me the creeps every time I even think about it. The R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour show even expanded that fear with the idea of what if a doll was trying to take your place and they were even a better person? It is, and will always be my favorite episode of that show, sigh, I miss it so much. I wish there were still good scary kid shows like those and Are you afraid of the Dark.