Outline Case Study

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 7:44 min

Bob shares two versions of his outline for I Am Slappy’s Evil Twin—the one that was rejected by his editor and the one that was accepted—and breaks down how he strengthened the plot in the outlining phase.

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.
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I put two outlines online on Masterclass resources for you to download and compare. One is the first outline of "I Am Slappy's Evil Twin", which was rejected by my editors. And then the second one is the one that they accepted and the one I wrote the book from. And you will see quite a difference between the first version of the outline and the second version, because the first outline was totally rejected by my editors. If you look at them, you'll see that in the first outline, it's supposed to be a Slappy book, but Slappy doesn't appear until chapter 13. And this was a real problem. They said, how can you do a Slappy book when he isn't there? He doesn't even appear until nearly, you know, 2/3 of the way through the book. I was trying something a little different, but they hated it. So you will see in the second outline that we have a prologue, and then Slappy appears in chapter 1. And Slappy and his twin both appear in chapter 1, and the book gets off to a really fast start. I'm going to read the first three chapters of the second outline. This is actually like a 12-page outline. And this is the prologue. The book has a prologue that happens before the story actually starts. And I'm just going to read it to you and you can see just-- I think this gives you a better idea of how the outline thing works. This is chapter 1 or the prologue. "1920, a farm village. Puppeteer Franz Mahar working in his workshop finishing a ventriloquist dummy. 'You are made of the finest coffin wood and I've given you the dark powers I learned on my tour of Europe. Someone will pay a million dollars for you when they learn of the abilities and powers I have given you.'" So you see, I put dialogue. It's not just action in the outline. There's also dialogue. And when I go to write the book, there will be a lot more. It will be stretched out. This just gives me an idea of where I'm going. "But wait, a pounding on the door. Who is beating on the door like that? Mahar opens the door to find the entire village storming his cabin. They carry guns and torches. What do they want?" End of chapter. Here he is in this bad situation. He's got these menacing villagers outside and the chapter ends. So you pretty much-- that's the cliffhanger for this first chapter. Two. "They angrily accuse him of bringing bad luck to the village. The crops have withered and died and the cows are all giving sour milk. 'It's the doll,' they cry. 'Look at that evil face. The doll has brought evil and bad fortune to our village.' They grab the dummy. Mahar pleads with them. 'No-- it's my life's work. I beg you!' But the villagers build a tall bonfire and they burn the dummy. As the flames consume it, a scream of pain and horror rings out over the village." End of the chapter. Chapter three-- "The scream came from Mahar as he watched his dummy burn. The villagers warn him to stop his evil work. 'My work is over,' he tells them, appearing to be a broken man. 'You ha...

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.

What a brilliant Masterclass . This was totally unexpected and my hat off to Mr Stine, what a generous, brilliant man. Thank you!

you are my hero ! i read all your books when I was young, and I am 37 now.. you inspired me to write from the day i found your books in the library !

R.L. Stine covered everything on my wish list as an author-in-progress. His style is engaging, his lessons cogent. I am grateful to MC for having the lessons available for review whenever I need to go back to refresh myself. I have recommended this class to my writers' group and shared the link on FB. I will continue to recommend MC as I continue with new courses.

There is something completely compelling and weirdly cute about this odd man. He's a great teacher and although I've never read one of his books, I will now even though I'm WAY out of the age range of his regular readers. So fascinating. Thanks for being so interesting and so open Mr. Stine. Way to go!


Hannah M.

This has been my favourite R.L Stine lesson so far. It's really interesting comparing the two plot outlines...and it's comforting to know that even the pros don't get it right first time.

A fellow student

Ah, this is why he makes the big bucks! *grin* Brilliant lesson! So helpful and inspiring. I appreciate the samples. It helps us see how better to organize our work. :)

Sherry R.

The PDF download for Chapter 7 does not appear to be working for me. Any suggestions?

Nonita T.

Can someone tell me what the words mean? (To activate the dummies). I think I am missing the whole point of the book. Thank you.

Jerry R.

This is a great example of rule number one: ways introduce your main character right away, so the audience will know who to root for.

Simon S.

Where do we find the outline examples? I can only see the PDF of the Outline Case Study?

Candace A.

Hi, it says that there are 2 of his outlines for us to review but I don't see them on the pdf. Am I missing something?


Very enjoyed this topic and understand his structure of story building! #Vancouverfilmmaker

Tina K.

I'm so glad that Mr. Stine gave us these examples. It's just not what I imagined as an outline. I literally made a diagram and chart for my story ideas. This method makes a great deal of sense. I feel like I've been given a new tool for my toolbox!

Vince M.

Where can I find the two outlines to download. I can't find a link in the lesson plan or the complete workbook. Thank you. Vince