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Arts & Entertainment

Mixing Horror and Humor

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 10:48 min

Horror and humor go hand in hand. Bob explains why humor is harder to write than horror and how to use humor to create breaks between scary scenes.

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.


It's hard to talk about what is funny, and what makes you laugh. We all have-- this is why I think humor writing is much harder. It's much harder to write funny stuff, than it is to write horror because we're all afraid of the same things. We all have the same fears. We're all afraid of the dark. And we're all afraid of being lost in the woods. We're all the same, when it comes to horror. But we don't all laugh at the same things. We all have different senses of humor. I laugh at stupidity humor. When people are really-- like "Dumb and Dumber." That movie-- I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. From the time I was little, I always liked funny stuff. I loved cartoons when I was little. And comedians, and all kinds of comedy shows, and comedy films. I was just drawn to it, and so when I started writing, that's what I wanted to write. And I wrote humor, for years. I wrote, maybe, 100 joke books for kids. My first book was called, "How to be Funny." When it came time to writing scary stuff and changing gears, I knew that I'd have to carry over what I love and carry over the humor into the horror. And it's proven very effective because you know, I don't really want to terrify kids. It's not really why I write "Goosebumps." We write to entertain them and maybe, give them little creepy stories. So I use a lot of humor it in those books, to keep them from getting too scary. Now I have to say, there's something wrong with me. There's something strange about my brain in that horror doesn't scare me. When you go into the movie theater and you're seeing the shark comes up and eats a kid and is chewing the kid, and there's blood splattered. I'm the one in the theater who's laughing. Horror makes me laugh. And I've never had that feeling-- people come to me and they, say, when I read your book, I had to lock all my doors. And I left my lights on the whole night. I've never had that feeling. I don't know what that's like to read a book or a movie and be scared. It always makes me laugh. And I think, it's the same visceral reaction-- when you come up behind somebody-- a baby or even, a grownup-- and you go, boo, the person always gasps and then, laughs. It's so closely connected. When you go to an amusement park and you walk up to the roller coaster, what do you hear? You hear people screaming and laughing, at the same time. What if you got on a roller coaster and it went up, up, up, up, and then, it came down and then, it came down again, and then, it came down again. And then, it went upside down, again. And then, it came down, and there was no pause in between. I don't think it would be very much fun. I think it would be one, exhausting, and two, just too terrifying. And that's why roller coasters are built. You go up, you come all the way down. You're screaming. And then, there's like a pause, there's like a nice part and you're lulled into thinking you're safe. And then, it happens again. And then,...

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.

He keeps it simple and easy to understand. Great tips on how to work with your audience.

there are so many things I learned, too many to list here. I realize that I already had a few of the skills and that gives me encouragement, but from what I have learned, I am prepared to move forward with much more confidence. I have many ideas thanks to this, and a new plan

That was quite entertaining and insightful. There was quite a bit of repetition but it was good to hear how Stine writes.

I finished my first rough draft of a YA Horror novel last year, but I felt it lacked a lot of things that could make the story great. R.L. Stine has given me multiple tips and tricks that I know I can practice and use in my own writing, and he has given me the motivation to follow through on telling my stories.


Keven P.

I actually just bought this book, "Young Scrooge" and I did chuckle at the part he read in the video.

A fellow student

Did you guys know that R.L. Stines made his books for humor before they were supposed to be scary? Since people thought it was scary, he wrote more.

Ysabel O.

I love this class! I'm teaching a fantasy unit now to my 5th graders. Thank you, R.L Stein!

Stephanie R.

I remember when I was younger, reading one of your books that was a bit more descriptive. I can't remember exactly was it was called, but it had a kid and his neighbour's cat got ran over or something, so they go to the shelter to try cover it up and there's a cat that looks exactly like it. I remember reading up to the scene with the torn up goldfish and then shutting the book, terrified. But know I look back on that and I think of how there were a few scenes in that book that younger me sort of laughed at. So I agree with mixing horror and humour to make it less scary, I just think that book was too much for small me to handle.

Margaret M.

Hello, Masterclass. The what did you like best/what could be improved screens weren't working for me.

Rachel M.

One of the first books of yours I read was "How to Kill a Monster." My favorite bit was (SPOILER WARNING) when the monster licked the girl and he suddenly gagged, saying "Are you a human?" "Yes, I'm a human." "Oh, no! I'm allergic to humans!" I just burst out laughing! And was no longer scared of the monster.

David S.

Cool lesson. I'm writing a horror/comedy book called "Attack of the Man-Eating Plants" where our protagonist accidentally grows a swarm of man-eating plants in his garden. At one point, this is a suggestion from another classmate that I thought was a good idea, a few of the plants break loose and attack a vegan convention. The scene will mix horror and humor as will the rest of the story.

Tina K.

I adore the delivery of his quips during these lessons, priceless. And, then he looks at the screen as if saying, get it? I visualize him as a 10-year-old kid! Kids can be pretty funny, I've been around them for many years now, and they typically make, dumb, goofy mistakes that would seem mean to laugh at them as a parent, but would be writing gold. And, remembering my own, dumb, goofy mistakes, this would be humor kids could relate to and feel safe to laugh at both themselves and others. A funny thing happened in the grocery store the other day, and a NEW, Rick Astley song came on the music system. It was funny to me because I exclaimed, out loud that's Rick Astley! Lady next to me said, "Yeah, that sure is honey!" I immediately thought of Mr. Stine's comment from one of the previous lessons, and I thought all culture circles back around.

Abigail E.

I love the mixture of Horror and Humor in both books and movies. I have the same issue though I can't watch Horror movies in the theatre because I laugh when scary things happen. It's a coping thing i think, but it does make it a lot more interesting.

Clara S.

Let's not forget that laughter can serve to cancel our fears, and a nervous laughter releases build up stress. The best example is to walk through a Halloween horror house, you 're about to die of laughter and fright at the same time. Kids do love both, a good scare and a good laugh.