Writing, Arts & Entertainment

Writing for Different Age Levels

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 12:37 min

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

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

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


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...

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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