I know I said that my next writing lessons would have to come from a non-fantasy author but then I moved house and the people who packed the boxes didn’t really get the organisational structure of my collection. As I unpacked my house in a matter of two days, at the moment the books are on the shelf in whatever order they were put into the boxes and that means there is really no order at all. Finding a book, or group of books, from any one author is next to impossible and I like to have the books with me when I write these posts to refer to.
Technically R.L. Stine writes children’s horror rather than fantasy so it is a slight change of pace. He was my first favourite author and I read all through the Goosebumps and then Fear Street series as a kid. I couldn’t get enough of the books. I’ve read and reread my entire collection of these books so many times. The fact that I can read one of these books in under an hour also helps as I tend to use them to de-stress.
What lessons did I learn about writing from reading R. L. Stine?
- Just because a book is a part of a series does not mean the story has to continue. Sometimes I wish all series were like this. You can pick up any Goosebumps book and get a perfect understanding of the story. Or you can read them in order and you get a slightly bigger picture of the whole but for the most part it doesn’t matter. The Fear Street books were a little more connected at times and reading them in order helped you understand some of the references, but the stories made sense regardless.
- Simple writing does not have to mean simple story telling. The Goosebump books are fairly formulaic but the Fear Street ones really open up to a variety plot twists and intrigue even though the writing itself remains fairly basic.
- An off-sider is an incredibly useful device. Reading the Goosebumps and Fear Street stories, every protagonist has someone that they talk to and the few that don’t tend to keep journals and the like. The reason for this is the stories are written in third person but the author wanted us to know what was going on in the protagonist’s head. It is very much the same in Doctor Who. Without someone tagging along for the ride, why would the Doctor ever bother to explain anything. By having the off-sdier the protagonist can get away with explaining things to the reader. Though, R. L. Stine did like to vary his off-sider . He had brothers, sisters, best friends, worst enemies, dogs, neighbours and pretty much anyone who would serve the purpose filling this role.
- You don’t have to save everyone. Even as a young reader I really appreciated that R. L. Stine would at times kill his characters. This was very different from other books that were recommended for young readers and I really liked the fact that tragedy could happen. In other books for kids you don’t get a real sense of tension because you know that everyone is going to be all right. When reading R. L. Stine there is a good chance they won’t be and so you tend to care more about the characters and are more intrigued by the situation as a whole.
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