Writing, 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.

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Topics include: Use Twists and Surprises to Tease Your Readers • Don’t Let the Middle Drag • Plant False Leads • Don’t Let Technology Ruin Your Plot


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,...

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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