The Key to Scary Writing: POV

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 9:57 min

When writing horror, Bob believes writing from the point of view of your main character will maximize fear. He explains the importance of focusing on what your characters are experiencing, rather than what they are feeling.

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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One of the decisions you have to make, when you're starting to write a book, is are you going to write it first person? Is it going to be from the point of view of your protagonist? Or are you going to write it third person, from the point of view of the author? If you're interested in writing horror, the secret to making it scary is close point of view with your main character. I almost write all my books-- almost all of them-- are first person, because it's so much scarier to be in the protagonist's head. Everything that happens in the book, you're-- the main character sees. It's everything she sees, everything she hears, every smell, everything. Everywhere she goes, it's-- you're right with her. It's such close-- such close point of view. That's all the secret of horror, I think, is being able to do this close point of view, because then when something terrible happens, your reader is the protagonist. Your reader is right with it. And the reader is experiencing this horror close up. The closer you get to the character, the better your scares will be, and the better your story will be. That's the whole secret to being scary. That's said in one sentence-- close point of view, close point of view with your main character. When you're writing first person, and it's a point of view of the teenage girl who's being terrified by something, you have to be very careful to keep the balance between what she's feeling, and what she's seeing, and what she's thinking. The one advantage of first person writing is that you can write the thoughts of your character. But you have to be real careful. You can't overdo that. If there's too much thinking in a book, it slows it down. It makes it tedious. If the girl is thinking, "Be braver, Julia. You've got to be braver. Go in there." Then "I'm-- I know I can do it." You don't want that kind of thing. You don't want that kind of thinking. You don't want to put in too much thinking. It's a real fine line. And it's a fine line between how scared she is, and what's scaring her. And that's-- that's-- it just takes experience, I think. And you have to be careful. You're going to really describe what the scare is, and what-- what danger she is in. But you don't want to spend a whole lot of time saying, "Oh, I'm so scared. Oh, I'm--" you should know that from what's going on. So you-- you've got to be very careful at balance between feelings and actions. Of course, there are limitations to writing for first person, in that at some point it's sometimes you want to skip from character to character. And this is why, you know, most authors do a lot of third person writing, because you can't go-- it's very hard if you're a first person with someone, and then you want to tell-- you want them not in the story-- you want to tell someone else's point of view, it's very hard to switch over. And if you're doing a whole book first person that can be confusing. You know, Robert Crais writes these police proce...

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 gentleman is a true story teller. Writing for kids is hard. You have to pull back and simplify, make it easier for them to read and understand, all the time wanting more. I now have an understanding of this delightful genre, writing for young adults. This course, was truly amazing, riveting and Awesome. Congratulations for introducing this wonderful Instructor to Masterclass. GOLD.

It's great to get insight into the mindset of this great writer. His process in writing is not unique, but effective. I appreciate him providing this class.

Very helpful. It taught me to be more aware of what I'm writing and my audience. I realize that there is much more to consider than character names.

This is the second Masterclass I've taken. It was really great for writing to a younger audience and writing horror. The tricks were helpful, too (write in 1st person, then in 3rd person; write the whole outline in dialogue). It'd be really helpful if you could add some of their agents, editors, publishers, lawyers (Patterson) to help navigate what comes after.


Jacob R.

In my early writing, I tried to replicate the style of K A Applegate, where every book was in first person, but each book in the series rotated between a few main characters. I liked Goosebumps a lot more, though, because the characters were almost always different, and the setting was always different. I wasn't locked in to a specific universe; I could start fresh every time. The latter is what I want to get back into.

Noah P.

Just finished the writing exercise. I definitley felt more tense writing the spooky graveyard scene in 1st person than 3rd person, so I can only image how a young reader might feel.

Dennis R.

Another excellent lesson. Mr. Stine continues to do a wonderful job at explaining why he writes the way he does. My next book will definitely be in the first person after listening to this lesson.

Lauren M.

Wonderful lesson! I wrote a middle grade horror book in first person after beginning it in third and the flow was much better.

Kent B.

Mr. Stine makes it look so easy...he is a master. I am writing a middle grade Halloween story and it WAS in third person...after this lesson, I am switching to first person. This lesson really made a difference in my thinking on how to put the book together,

Cat S.

It's so much easier for me to write in the first person. I need help writing in the third person. It just feels like herding kittens.


I am thoroughly learning a lot from this class. I've written one children's book called "The Bully Cat." My book is for a younger audience 5-8, but now I am thinking more about writing YA books. According to R.L. This age group is very popular. We shall see....

Aditya P.

I'm currently writing a thriller/ horror story that involves the exploring the fears of the main character and all her friends. Although I really enjoy writing in 1st person, her friends also play a huge part in the book. What should I do?

Robert Lewis H.

You got me at "...give me your skin..." I'm hiding behind my laptop. The 'apple' symbol is now permanently embossed on my forehead...

Clara S.

I find writing in first person POV daunting. My stories are written in the third person omniscient, an easier way to express the thoughts, emotions of all characters if together in a room. I check a lot of writers of middle-grade horror books and compare their style to what I feel I like best, take for example Neil Gaiman's books written in third person POV, more up to my style, but this time I'll challenge myself and give a go to a first person POV. May my soul be saved! Lol.