Summary of R. L. Stine’s Masterclass on Writing for Young Audiences
20 key takeaways from the author of the Goosebumps series
- Writing can just be easy and fun. There’s a common belief that writing is difficult and that a good writer must dig deep and write from the heart, but that’s not necessarily true.
- Ideas come from experiences, memories, and imagination. Observe your surroundings, think back to your own childhood, and let your mind be open to randomness.
- Start with a great title as the seed for the story. You can often find ideas for titles simply by paying attention to things around you. From the idea in the title, write a detailed outline of your story to make sure the idea can be expanded to a cohesive plot.
- Study the mechanics of dramatic structure. Read works such as Aristotle’s Poetics to learn how to narrate conflict and resolution in dramatic writing.
- Write the ending first, so you can skillfully misdirect. Once you know what your surprise ending is going to be, it will be easier to plant false leads and take your reader where they don’t expect the story to go.
- Twists and turns and happy endings. Kids refuse to accept sad endings, so provide a happy ending, but throw in a playful twist. Keep creating cliffhangers, and the kids will keep reading, it’s a tried and true method.
- Kids identify with the monsters. They’re dealing with all these unfamiliar experiences and overwhelming emotions all the time, and often trying to suppress them, but sometimes having monstrous outbursts. Just like the monsters, the kids are yearning for triumph and control.
- Write from the first person point of view. Place your reader in the protagonist’s shoes, so they experience the horrors of the story as their own. As an exercise, you can try writing a scene in third person as well as first person, and compare the effect.
- Introduce the main characters and conflict setup within the first few pages. You will need to capture kids’ attention much quicker than books for adults. Kids want to be entertained, and your book is competing with everything from TV to video games.
- Build suspense through the unknown. Slow down the action at strategic points, such as when your…