The Idea Store

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 9:41 min

Bob reveals how to stay alert for ideas and shares three great places to find them: experience, memory, and imagination. These are departments in what he calls "the idea store."

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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Every author-- their most asked question is, where do you get your ideas. Everyone asks it. Adults ask it, kids ask it, reporters ask it. Where do you get your ideas. I'd say maybe 2/3 of my fan mail starts out like this. Dear RL Stine, our teacher is forcing us to write to an author. I chose you, where do you get your ideas? And I have to say, in all honesty, I can't tell you how to get ideas. I can't. Other authors I know-- people will say, well why don't you start by asking yourself the question, what if. What if this happens. But that doesn't-- that's not an idea. You have to have an idea to answer the question. And I can't-- I can't tell you how to get ideas. But I can tell you how to go about getting ideas. I can tell you how to stay alert for ideas. And it's just a matter of thinking in the right ways and staying alert and keeping yourself open and watching for ideas. For a long time, I used to go to schools and I would say, well you can go to the idea store. That's where I get my ideas. I get my ideas at the idea store. And there are three different departments in the idea store. There's experience, memory, and imagination. And those are the three departments you can go to find ideas. And, actually-- I mean I made up idea store, it's ridiculous. But those three things are the way to lead you to ideas. Being alert is so important. I was taking a walk in my neighborhood. I was walking up West End Avenue in New York. And it was after school time and a boy walked by with his mother. And just as I passed, the boy said to his mother, "I'm the only boy in my class who can color inside the lines." And I thought, wow, I haven't thought about that in so long. The whole idea of having the color inside the lines. And I thought about that. Heard the voice, what the boy said. And I went home and I wrote a story. It actually became like a little radio play on my website called "How to Color a Monster." and it was about some kids who started coloring a monster coloring book. And if they go outside the lines, the monster will come to life. But I am telling this just as an example of how you can get an idea just from anything, from any brief moment. You just have to be alert to it. But one day I was in the airport in Los Angeles. And I was watching a family say goodbye to their kid-- their son. He was nine or 10 years old and he was flying by himself for the first time. And the parents were really nervous. They were hugging him and kissing him and saying, you'll be OK, you'll be fine. He was-- kid was fine. He was perfectly OK. But they were very nervous. And finally, he turned to go to the gate to get on the plane. And as he did that, his father handed him a white envelope. And he walked off and went onto the plane. And I'm watching this whole thing and suddenly I'm thinking what if he gets on the plane, he sits down, he opens the envelope, he takes out a note, and it says, "we are not your parents." How-- that just...

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.

This course gave me an excellent overview of the writing process and what it is like to be an author. I loved R.L.Stine's sense of humour! His course was enjoyable and informative.

So interesting to hear how he approaches his craft and compare it to others. This was very practical and has inspired me to pick up a pen.

This class was it great! The class confirmed some things that I had already thought about. The teacher was pleasant to be with for 28 units. He made a lot of sense and was very positive, which is required when you are starting out, as I am. I loved the part about how to make objects scary, how to work out plot details, and all the other tips and hints given. Wonderful!

It's not nearly what I expected, but at the end, his closeness I think that makes a great starting point for anyone thinking in becoming a writer, not only for kids stories. I'm really happy to have completed this masterclass.


Donna S.

I like the idea of going to an "Idea store." I usually come up with ideas okay, but I need to work on turning the ideas into a story and keeping it going from start to finish.

Phil A.

He mentions Say Cheese and Die and having no clue where the idea came from. There's actually a Twilight Zone episode called A Most Unusual Camera that's a little similar, where people find a camera that can take pictures of the future. I only mention this not that Stein "stole" the idea, because he developed it (no pun intended) in a very different way, but because in the next lesson, he openly mentions being a huge fan of Rod Serling.

Margaret M.

No shortage of ideas here. Turning an idea spark into a full plot is harder for me--all those decisions! (Just like Karen, below.)

Meg N.

I love the idea store! ... and I also now realize why I've tended toward writing non-fiction and doing translation: the lack of a sense that I could have a world that I could control. My world is one where we "just deal with it"..to the best of our ability. Hm.. yes, we are natural story tellers. And yes, it must might be fun to create worlds and stories where I was in control, not so intently focused on accurately reporting information that might be useful... Very glad that I signed on for this.

Karen E.

Ideas aren't something I have trouble coming up with. I love to people watch and come up with stories of what is happening. Fully forming them with a complete plot is where I get hung up.

Doug A.

I just realized there were a TON of things that scared me when i was a kid! I made a quick list!

Jacob R.

I can almost never remember my dreams now. Maybe I did have one about making a sandwich. I know I've had dreams about using the toilet and have awoken to THANKFULLY not actually have done what I dreamed I was doing.

Jerry R.

Once the idea comes to you, other ideas have to generate as well along the way to finishing, so this is a useful way to get those ideas.

Will S.

Love his "idea store" concept. I disagree about dreams, but I think that's pretty subjective. He clearly has boring dreams--the bologna sandwich line had me laughing. If you have vivid and striking dreams full of adventure and color though, I say go for it!

Meagan A.

Oh my gosh, this lesson was everything for me! I love observing the world around me and I feel like I might do it more than the average person. Sometimes it makes me feel nosy, but I love the idea that I can shift my attitude and use this to generate ideas!