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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.

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.


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.

I loved his classes so much! Childhood dream come true to be taught how to write by R.L.Stine!

Bob's class has helped my confidence in a major way. Prior to taking this class I was very intimidated, not knowing how to begin and organize my thoughts. Thank you for deciding to create this class.

I loved this course and especially stine's wierd sense of humour :) The course was interesting and inspiring.

This was a great class to watch! Every class, I take away something. I love his imagination and ideas to open your imagination.


Keven P.

05:30 This is true the first horror story I wrote was called "The Awful Pumpkin Patch" when I was 10 or 11. My teacher found it interesting, but thought the contents was to mature for someone my age to read. I had a middle grade title with an adult like story surrounding kids. Good times!

Keven P.

'R. L. Stine talking about having the librarian eat a kid' - I feel this over protection of kids does more to insult them than to protect them. If you kid would think someone at school would eat them after reading such a thing you're failing as a parent. But I'd say that kids are smarter than believing such a thing.

Ece G.

I love his class! I also recommend Margaret Atwood's. These two have different styles, but great advice from both.


I can’t stop laughing while watching this masterclass. Turtles are crunchier, right? LOL.

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."