From R.L. Stine's MasterClass

Writing for Different Age Levels

Learn how to build the appropriate amount of “scary” into books for different age levels.

Topics include: Don’t Include Real Life Horror in Middle Grade Fiction • Make Your Horror Real in YA Fiction • Consider How to Approach Violence • Choose the Right Vocabulary for Young Readers • Determine How Far You Can Go With Adult Content in YA Fiction


Learn how to build the appropriate amount of “scary” into books for different age levels.

Topics include: Don’t Include Real Life Horror in Middle Grade Fiction • Make Your Horror Real in YA Fiction • Consider How to Approach Violence • Choose the Right Vocabulary for Young Readers • Determine How Far You Can Go With Adult Content in YA Fiction

R.L. Stine

Teaches Writing for Young Audiences

Learn More


I work very hard to make sure that the books are appropriate. I mean, I'm doing horror so it's got to be scary, it's got to be creepy. But I hate it when parents come up to me and I'm doing a book signing and they say, oh, you gave my kid nightmares-- you gave him nightmares for weeks. They had to sleep with us. I hate that. It's not what I want to do at all. In fact, a woman wrote to me once with the perfect line. It was like the perfect letter. She wrote and she said, I love your books for my kids because they give them shudders but not nightmares. And that's what I try to do. I did a "Goosebumps" book called "The Girl Who Cried Monster." And it's about a girl who goes to this library and she knows that the librarian is a monster. She's watching from the stacks and the story's sort of the girl who cried wolf, because no one will believe her, no one believes her. And then one day-- she knows the librarian's a monster. And then one day, she's back in the shelves and watching, and in the original version of the manuscript, the librarian eats a kid. So I handed this book in and they said, Bob, we're not having a kid eaten. The librarian cannot eat a kid. This is one place-- maybe one of the few times where I went too far. They said we don't have kids eaten. So I said, OK. So I took that out and I put a large bowl of live turtles on the librarian's desk, instead of the kid. And every once in awhile, the librarian would reach over and pick up a turtle and put it in his mouth and crunch it up. And that was my solution to having gone too far. And actually, it was better, I think, because turtles are crunchier. Right? It's very crunchy and a great graphic, great image for a monster. So you have to be careful. When you're writing for middle grade-- well, look at "Goosebumps--" no one ever dies. There are no guns. No one ever dies. If there's a ghost, it happened a long time before the story started. The real world is pretty much kept out. That's my one rule, my big rule, for writing middle grade horror is that they have to know it's a fantasy. The reader has to know this couldn't happen, couldn't really happen, it's all just a story. And once they know that, if they know-- if you've established that and you've written it in a way they know that it couldn't happen, then you can go pretty far. You can go pretty far with the scares. [MUSIC PLAYING] Writing for teens is kind of the opposite. It has to be very real or they're not going to buy it. The details have to be real. And I do, in "Fear Street," kill off a lot of teenagers, so we do that. It's sort of the opposite of the middle grade books, because every detail has to be so real. They have to believe it. They have to believe this is happening-- this is happening. If it's phony, if it goes too far, they're just not going to buy it. In the early days of "Fear Street," I got criticized a lot for having violence in these books. There was fighting and there would be a lot...

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.

Thought that RL Stine gave a really comprehensive Masterclass. Loved his style and all his advice and exercises very impressive.

He was the best so far for writing. The rest are good with content and did a great job presenting, but Mr. Stine's personality make the class so I can't wait to get to the next chapter. I want more for writing, others I have not taken and I will

I am really impressed by this class. It has been so inspiring and I feel so motivated to write something of my own now. Everything is told in such an interesting way that I never become bored of the videos and it has been very valuable to me. Now I am going to start making an outline and a character sheet and then, hopefully, write an entire book.

I found the information shared was valuable and will help me to write a novel. I loved Bob's style and sense of comedy through the scares. He is generous with tips and helpful ideas, accumulated over years of experience. This is a masterclass well worth your time.


Jacob R.

I like the idea that you don't include death in your books, but you are mistaken, sir. I do recall some death in a couple Goosebumps books, albeit not to main characters. One of the molecular villains in Attack of the Mutant dies. And in How to Kill a Monster, the monster dies from an allergic reaction to the kids.

Kent B.

Another good source for kids' wording and actions is Nickleodeon, Disney Channel etc.

Gail T.

A great resource: Children's Writer's Word Book, published by Writer's Digest Books. Contains grade level word lists and better yet, has a thesaurus that gives reading levels and alternate words, listed by grade level.

Rachel M.

Hmm. Can't kill off anyone in middle-grade horror unless it's before the story begins. Well, I was going to write a story in which this 12-year-old girls dead sister played an important role and I was going to begin the story with the day she died, but now I think I should start from maybe a few weeks after that, and what I'd already written can be incorporated into flashbacks.

Robert Lewis H.

Reading age for Mid Grade= 5th Grade Level. What is reading age for YA=? Adult is 8th Grade.

Clara S.

I like to eavesdrop on my 11yr old grandson playing his computer games with his friends. The words they use to refer to each other and all the terminology that gamers use nowadays. It helps me a lot if I'm writing about a boy his age. Word file has a very helpful tool that shows readability statistics. It shows reading level Flesch Reading Ease test , Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test. No need to buy it. Bob's advice about writing simple vocabulary it's great. I've been told to tone down my "big words."

Miles T.

I think is tough to write for middle graders if you are into violence and stuff. I might aim my work to YA.

Bojana B.

I have a little dilemma after listening to this lecture...My characters are 11-12, but I am not sure is my idea and plot too complicated for this age (it has to do with space travelling, parallel worlds etc....sort of kids horror SF novel) ..nowadays kids are well informed and bombed with this themes, but I don't want to go too far (when it comes to science background of the thing...). ..

Coffee During Teatime K.

I naturally write at a 6th grade reading level which works out because I want to write for 11-12 yr olds.

Hagop K.

Hi all, I have a sort of dilehma that I'm hoping to get some advice on. I wrote a very short book about characters who are made out of rocks and minerals, and my editor said that because of it's length, it's a chapter book and the target audience is 4-6 year olds. The problem is that the characters in my story are much older. 12-16. So, my editor is recommending that I make my characters much younger. Which would not be a big issue if I hadn't already designed (and spent money designing) the characters. I'm more than happy to make the book longer. So, what do I do? Make characters younger, or make the book longer? If these were the characters in the book, how long would you expect the book to be and how old would you expect the audience to be? Any help is appreciated. thank you, Kane