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Arts & Entertainment

Outlining: Plot Twists and Tricks

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 9:25 min

As you continue to write your outline, Bob reveals what you should include in the middle of your book to keep readers engaged, from twists and surprises to false leads.

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.


Too many children's books, YA books, middle grade books are too linear and they become predictable. They may be beautifully written and great characterisation, but they just move along. They move along, move along-- they're just linear. And I think one reason that my books have lasted so long-- I mean, here's "Goosebumps" 25 years later and "Fear Street", which is even older-- but it's the surprises in the books and it's the twist and it's the fact that they're not linear, that they'll turn around and, suddenly, they'll be going in a different direction and they'll come back and there will be something that kids haven't guessed. It sort of plays with their minds. The books are a tease, they're a real tease because they're not that scary, really, but it's the teasing part, it's the joking part, it's the surprising part that, I think, keep kids reading these books. I did a book called "My Hairiest Adventure." It's a "Goosebumps" book. And in the beginning of the book, these kids are in a garage and they find an old bottle of suntan lotion, and they all splash it on, they all went tans. They splash on this thing. And then a short while later, the main character looks down and he's growing hair-- he's got hair growing-- and he quickly shaves it off. He doesn't want anyone to see. He doesn't know what's happening. And then he goes to see one of his friends and his friend is gone. His friend isn't there and no one wants to talk about it. And no one-- his friends are disappearing for the kids who were in the garage. And he's got more hair growing on him, more hair growing, and his parents finally has to let him know he is growing hairy. And they take him to a doctor and he gets these shots. And this is one of my best twists, I think. This is like-- I don't think kids are going to guess this. He's not a boy, he's actually a dog, and he's reverting back to his dogness. And all these parents were in on it where they took these dogs and gave them shots that turned them into kids, but it's all wearing off and he's actually a dog. And to me, you know, I think kids are shocked by this. You've got a great surprise here-- oh, wait a minute, wait a minute. And then he's looking at his sister and his sister has eyes just like the family cat, and he's wondering what is his sister really, at the end? So you've got twist after twist on that. And I think this is-- especially writing thrillers or writing horror, I think this is really important for kids' writing. I try to have at least two or three twists in the book, at least. I would love to even do more, but then it might get crazy. But I like to-- right in the middle of the book-- I like to have a moment where the reader says, oh, my gosh, oh, I had no idea. Oh, I'm totally shocked because the whole book is suddenly turned around and no one is who they thought they were, and I try to do that in every book. [MUSIC PLAYING] To me, the middle of the book is the hardest part. It's great,...

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.

Mr. Stine defiantly knows his stuff. Loads of useful information!

Writing is easy and simple once you have someone to guide you out of the dark. RL Stine was that person.

RL Stine is very clear and straightforward in his advice and his track record, to put it mildly, is practically without equal. This is a tremendously valuable class.

I loved the practical aspects of writing that was put forward. It was more about how to write than what to write.


Keven P.

I disagree that Cell Phones ruin every story. I've used most of all the major carriers and their are places in my home town where I have no service. Plus if you're dealing with something supernatural there is nothing to say that it couldn't effect cell phone service. Another idea is not all parents support kids having one. So they could still exist, but your main character's parents don't believe in kids having them at a young age.

Cara B.

My and my Aunt (Sammy) are both watching it and have written careful notes - by far my favourite Masterclass.

Jacob R.

I am an engineer and technology and general technicalities have ruined pretty much every idea I've had for a story since high school. It used to be that I could come up with some sort of magical place where the laws of physics didn't apply or technology existed that wasn't around yet. Now, if I come up with some sort of premise, I have to wonder, if that actually physically happened, could I make it work? Could a computer actually do that? Does that follow logic? Then I get caught up so much in the technical stuff that the idea for the story evaporates. I need to force myself to set my story in a remote area and involve as little technology as possible.

Jerry R.

This one hit home. I have to remember to put in these twists. They're not really that hard, but you have to have a set up for them, so they seem logical. As for technology, I am in the middle of a story now, and already, the first thing I had to get rid of the technology, otherwise they would have made a call for help.

Dennis R.

I found this to be a very helpful lesson with great examples from Mr. Stine's books. These are simple techniques that helped spark some ideas to make my writing more creative and interesting. I will definitely implement these tricks into my class project! I also like that Mr. Stine brought up the idea of not letting technology ruin your story. I took this as, "pay attention to the details of your story and do not let anything slip through the cracks." Kids will catch onto small things and will ask a lot of questions, so it is up to the writer to answer these questions and keep the kids satisfied. Great lesson!

Elizabeth S.

I have to disagree with trying to remove tech from a plot. This might sound mean, but it just shows the author's age. Learn the uses AND limitations of cell phones and other tech, so you can use it convincingly. If you have a group of friends, show mounting anxiety/panic when the phones fail one by one: someone drops theirs in water, the second can't get service, the third forgot their charger and their friend's charger doesn't fit. Finally they're relying on one last person's phone, trying to get a call through, but the battery level keeps dropping: 12% ... 10 % ... 9% ... critical battery ... Going for a hike to try and find service to put a call through when your car battery's dead in the middle of the woods and your phone is dying is stressful, believe me. I've lived it.

Kent B.

I like getting rid of the technology idea. I am in the process of my first book, and my two heroines are drug into an unknown time where the cell phone is useless...but, the phone is a secondary character that plays an slightly important role as I used it in a twist that he talks about in this lesson. Love these classes!

Dajana L.

I love this man. I remember being obsessed with his books as a kid - I had to buy every new story and I'd read it in an afternoon. Nowadays I am totally not into horror stories (or movies for that matter) and I have sort of forgotten about RL Stine's existence before I saw this class. I am SO glad it's the first one I've chosen to take, though. He literally embodies the three qualities a teacher needs to have in order to be great - he's analytical, simple, and direct. I love this course!

Marco C.

I liked how in Uncharted 4, the cellphones end up getting the main characters in big trouble and they have to break them so they won't be tracked. I think one way to get rid of tech is to have the main character be one of those kids who wasn't allowed to have a cellphone OR the kid is sensitive about getting one because of the ultra harmful radiation. So he stays far away from tech as possible :D

Alec B.

Instead of getting rid of the cell phones, why not have the cell phones be the twist or help aid in the twist? Have the police at the other end of the 911 call be the antagonists, or have the main antagonist forward all 911 calls from the victim's phones to his own so that when they call for help and give the "police" their location, they're actually giving their location directly to the main antagonist. That would really play on peoples' fears. The anonymity, security and the trust we place in cell phones would be turned against the protagonist and they wouldn't even realize it until it was too late.