People Who Influenced Our Childhood: R.L. Stine

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Before I put a single word into this article, the image of The Sleepwalker was clear in my mind. I vividly recalled the image of teenager Mayra walking down the street in a white nightgown, a haunting look in her eyes. I was a budding writer in Mrs. Friedman’s 5th grade language arts class when I discovered R.L. Stine. Little did I know that a simple YA novel would inspire me to walk the path to becoming a professional writer myself.

R.L. Stine is the author behind the Fear Street and Goosebumps novels. Ironically, Stine started his career writing humor and children’s books. It wasn’t until 1986 that he wrote his first teen thriller, Blind Date. The book became an instant success and national best-seller. He wrote several more YA horror novels soon after. Then, in 1989, he created Fear Street, a series set in the quiet town of Shadyside, Ohio, where murders and supernatural happenings occurred regularly. The books helped fuel the fire of the growing the teen horror genre that included such authors as Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusik, Lois Duncan, and L.J. Smith.

The next generation got to enjoy the Goosebumps series, which launched in 1992 to become a worldwide phenomenon. The new series was aimed at a younger audience and actually has some streaks of humor. The books focused on scary, supernatural incidents, but did not contain the depravity and violence of other horror novels. Nobody ever died. Stine claimed this was key to Goosebumps’ success. Protocol Entertainment and Scholastic Productions developed the books into a TV series that ran from 1995 to 1998, and it just so happens that a Goosebumps movie is set to hit theaters on October 16th.

Stine’s books were–and still are–a gateway for children to discover the horror genre without the gore, sex, and foul language presented in mature films. Children could experience suspense and fear in a safe way. Like many intelligent children, I wanted to read stories that were intended for me, but weren’t “dumbed down” because I was a minor. I felt respected reading these novels. Some people disagree, apparently. Stine’s novels have often been challenged to be banned from school libraries for depicting occult or satanic themes. I’m pretty sure most children know the difference between fiction and reality, but I guess some adults don’t agree.

Fear Street and L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries (I mean the original novels, not the CW television show, thank you) planted the seed of my love for supernatural fiction. I was inspired to write my first scary YA novel when I was 12 years old thanks to these books. My passion for writing blossomed over the years as I continued to read and discover new authors, and I’m certainly not the only one. More importantly, reading is so vital to developing the mind, and Stine’s works are exciting to read. It can be tricky getting kids to take interest in reading, but with this genre, so many can discover the joy that comes from picking up a book.

Thank you, Mr. Stine, for influencing our childhood.

Feature image credit: Dan Nelken/Scholastic

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