"READER BEWARE-YOU CHOOSE THE SCARE!"

How to Write Your Own Give Yourself Goosebumps Books
by R.L. Stine

R.L. StinePICK A SCARE, ANY SCARE
The most important choice in writing Give Yourself Goosebumps stories is the same one you make when you write any other kind of book. Choose an interesting "what if."

  • What if you were trapped in an evil carnival?
  • What if you had access to a time machine?
  • What if you were being hunted down on a jungle island?

GET DOWN TO DETAILS
Once you establish a "what if", think about all the scary things that could happen to you in that situation. Then think about all the ways you might be able to get out of that terrifying situation. The choices you make about what happens and what you will do become your story.

HOW IN THE WORLD DID I GET HERE?
What did you do that got you into the "what if" situation?

  • You were in a museum and your brother got lost. You opened a door to a secret lab and activated a time machine.
  • You and your friends had to spend the night in a creepy old hotel.

These situations are called your "setup."

THE BIG DECISION
After you decide on your setup, you must think of the two major choices you could make.

  • You are in the time machine. Do you want to go to the future or the past?

This is a big choice. Each of these choices take you in a totally different direction. Think of a tree. The setup is like the trunk. The two major choices are like the two biggest branches of the tree.

THE PLOT THICKENS
Okay, now pick one of the branches and think:

  • What will happen here?
  • How will I survive?
  • What problems will I have to face?
  • Who might I meet here?
  • Can I trust him or her... or it?
  • What will be the danger?

When you answer these questions, you are branching out even further.

YOU BE THE JUDGE
Answer the questions below. As you are making the choices, you'll be asking your reader to make choices too.

You're in the past, in the Middle Ages, and two dragons approach. YOU ARE IN DANGER.

  1. Should you try to scare the bigger dragon away by playing your boom box loud? OR
  2. Should you follow the smaller dragon who claims to be your friend?

Don't forget to make the choices count. The secret to good Give Yourself Goosebumps books is that the reader is actively doing something, not just letting things happen to him or her.

WHO IS THE BAD GUY?
The best stories have the most interesting villains. The more weird and evil your foes are, the more exciting your story will be. It is also much more engaging if a major problem is revealed as the story goes on. Stories become dull if you do not keep experiencing or learning something new.

I DON'T BELIEVE IT!
Good stories shock you.

  • You think the big dragon is bad, BUT he is actually the good guy.
  • You think you are never going to get out of a situation, BUT then you realize it was all a bad dream.

Most importantly, Give Yourself Goosebumps endings should always be full of surprises. And they should be funny.

For instance, in GYGB #26: Alone in Snakebite Canyon, the reader and his big brother Pete are being chased by a lion in a rocky canyon. Pete claims to know the quickest way out, but suddenly "a snarl sounds right above you. You peer up-into the open mouth of one hungry-looking mountain lion. So much for shortcuts. Now you and Pete are cold cuts."

KEEPING TRACK OF IT ALL
By now, you are probably wondering how you keep track of all the page numbers. There are lots of ways to do it, but here is one way:

Let's say your book is going to be 32 pages long. Take a piece of paper and write down the numbers 1 to 32 just like this:

15913
261014
371115
481216etc.

Then every time you use a page number cross it off on your piece of paper.

MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL (or how to make sure you don't loose your mind)
Draw a Give Yourself Goosebumps map. The map should show how the stories branch off and what page numbers you have assigned to each choice.

Picture how a tree looks on a piece of paper. It starts off with the roots. The roots of the tree on your map are the "what ifs."

The roots shoot up into the trunk of the tree. The trunk of the tree is your setup.

The trunk has two big branches coming out of the top. The two biggest branches of the tree are your two biggest choices to make.

The two biggest branches have a bunch of smaller branches coming off of them. These are your different storylines.

The tree continues to branch off. So does the story. Until you reach the end. However, which ending is up to the reader.

So there you have it. Try it out yourself. Go ahead and give yourself goosebumps.

And have a scary day!

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