Thursday, October 28, 2010

What I Learned From Reading Goosebumps Part II

Part II of what I learned from reading Goosebumps books. (Part I here.) Happy (early) Halloween!

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Synopsis: An unpopular girl gets a chance to have three wishes granted, but each wish brings her more than she bargained for.

Lessons learned: There's nothing like ending your title with an ellipsis to really draw in readers. It's second only to making sure every other chapter has the requisite cliffhanger ending.

The Werewolf of Fever Swamp

Synopsis: Grady and his family have moved to the swamp. Grady hears strange howling noises from the swamp and starts finding dead animals. Is there a werewolf? And if so, who is it? Could it be Grady's new dog? The crazy swamp hermit? Turns out it's Grady's new best friend, Will.

Lessons learned: It's never the crazy hermit. Or lupus. Also, note to illustrator: if you do want to sustain the illusion that it is the crazy swamp hermit, don't illustrate the werewolf surrounded by typical tween clothing. In the length of time I took me to feel up the embossed lettering on the front cover on the way to the check out counter, I managed to figure out the ending.

The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight

Synopsis: Jodie and Mark visit their grandparents' farm for the summer. Stanley, who helps around the farm, has figured out a way to magically bring the scarecrows to life.

Lessons learned: Between this and the Are You Afraid of the Dark scarecrow episode, all of the positive work Wizard of Oz actor Ray Bolger did revamping the image of the scarecrow has been in vain.

My Hairiest Adventure

Synopsis: Larry Boyd and his friends find an old tube of suntan lotion. After they put it on, Larry realizes it's expired. Soon after, he grows hair in the oddest places. Convinced it's the suntan lotion, Larry does his best to cope with his weird problem. But it turns out, Larry's problem has nothing to do with the lotion: he and his friends were originally dogs that a scientist changed into human babies for couples who couldn't have their own kids.

Lesson learned: Correlation. It doesn't always equal causation. Also, if your editor gives you deadlines for your rough drafts--stick to them.

The Curse of Camp Cold Lake, the Horror at Camp Jellyjam, Ghost Camp

Synopsis: Scary things happen at a summer camp, ad nauseum.

Lessons learned: Everyone associated with patenting the name Camp Crystal Lake is MIA. Also, note to self: when you're writing your very own children's series, don't put Friday the 13th on in the background.

How to Kill a Monster

Synopsis: Gretchen and her stepbrother Clark find a monster in the closet when staying at their grandparents' house. They accidentally release it and try to kill it: by tricking it into falling off an unfinished floor in the house and by feeding it poison. None of it works until the monster tries to eat Clark and dies due to an unforeseen allergic reaction.

Lessons learned: How to kill a monster.

Attack of the Jack o Lanterns

Synopsis: Drew and her friend Walker, with their friends Shane and Shauna, try to play a trick on Tabby and Lee, two kids who have pranked them in the past. Two giant pumpkinheads with magic powers show up--could they be Shane and Shauna? Yup--after Tabby and Lee run off in a panic, it turns out Shane and Shauna were aliens all long, using their powers for a Halloween joke. Shane and Shauna take off after warning Drew and Walker not to eat too much candy because aliens like to eat fat people.

Lessons learned: See what a difference sticking to deadlines and writing drafts can make? Instead of having to churn out an ending where your characters are revealed to be dogs, you can write one where they turn out to be aliens.

How I Learned to Fly

Synopsis: Two boys try to compete with each other for a girl they both like, doing everything they can, including using a book to learn how to fly.

Lesson Learned: It was R.L. Stine and illustrator Tim Jacobus who really pioneered the Converse high-top sneaker craze. (See also, the cover for Monster Blood II, Attack of the Jack O'Lanterns, and any other cover where a kid is wearing sneakers.) Forget Vice and American Apparel--if you want to dress like a hipster this Halloween, raid your attic for your old copies of Goosebumps.