Building A Chapter

James Patterson

Lesson time 10:20 min

James is well known for his numerous short and snappy chapters. Learn how he propels the reader through the book with an outline as his roadmap.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.
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Mike Connelly, he said what Jim does is every single chapter moves the characterization and the action forward-- every chapter-- and turns on the movie projector in our heads. And that's, I think, exactly what you want to do. And that movie projector in our heads means that I could see the scene. I could hear the scene. I could smell the scene. I could taste the scene. I was getting enough information that sets me in that scene so I could be there with the character. And that's really, really useful. Some writers don't write that way, but if you want to write commercial fiction, that's important. I tend, most of the time, to write in the first person and third person limited. Now, some people will go, well that's cheating. Well, I don't give a shit what-- it's my creation. I can do whatever I want to do. There are no rules. The 11th commandment didn't come down and say you cannot use the first person and the third person in the same story. Yes you can. You can do whatever you want to do if it works. I love to write in the first person because for some reason, it helps me to get in touch with the scene and what the character's thinking. I just find it easier to get in touch, to be there, to be in the scene with Alex Cross or Michael Bennett or Lindsay Boxer or Maximum Ride or any of the characters I've done. The limitation of the first person is obvious because then, if it's all first person, that's the only character you can follow. Because I like to follow the villains frequently and I like to evolve some of the secondary characters, I like to write in the same book in both the first person and limited third person, and you get the best of both worlds. So you can get really in on the first person, but yet you can switch off and write from another character's point of view. One of the things you have to deal with with every chapter is whose point of view makes this the most interesting. If it's a crime, is it more interesting from the victim's point of view, the killer's point of view, or the detective's point of view when they come on the scene and see whatever the results of the crime is. What's the best point of view to accomplish whatever you want to accomplish there? So that's where you have to think about, OK, what's going to make this come alive the best? And sometimes, and this happens frequently, I might have in the outline a certain point of view, but when I get to the chapter, I go, you know what, this is going to be better written from another point of view, because the other point of view, suddenly it just becomes richer and more mysterious, or whatever you wanted that chapter to be, scarier. I mean, you always should have a feeling for emotionally, what did you want to have happen in that chapter. Did you want the reader to feel something? You want him to feel scared? You want him to feel pity for somebody? You...

Set out to write a best-selling book

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Best course so far. James gives excellent tips and ideas which can also be transferred into script writing and no doubt TV writing as well.

This class has been so encouraging and affirmed my desire to write great stories. Thank you, James Patterson!

The information presented in Mr. Patterson's masterclass was very beneficial. It presented new and old information and above all it inspired writing on a consistent basis.

It has given me the motivation to actually start the book I have had in my head for the last three years


A fellow student

I love the part about questions the reader must answer. going to take a good look at my first chapter to see if I can identify them and if not add them

Ian C.

To propel them to the next chapter … "Set them up with questions they must have answered." - priceless thanks James. :)

Cynthia H.

Write like a movie projector in the mind - you can see, hear, feel, smell the scene - commercial fiction - important! Great! I like this -- Love that you allow people to use 1st person - and 3rd person limited to follow the villain. This is a great concept - Who's point of view makes this scene the most interesting - the victim, killer, detective, the best point of view to accomplish what you want to come alive in this scene. Emotionally - how do you want the reader to feel? Sexy, pity, suspense, scared? Emotion? Favorite Line! -- "Its good if you are a little schizophrenic!" - LOL... Great lesson!

Cynthia H.

"Filthy Rich" - James Patterson's book on Epstein may have had a significant impact on pulling this guy back into a position where he was now arrested. I came back to James Patterson's class after this. I'm working on a book now - and dialogue is one of my weak points. This is a very good lesson. He has some great classes... I'm back!

Art M.

Love the lesson! He reinforced, confirmed, and reminded me of what I've kind of been doing all along--tell my story that people have already learned from along the way... and they like it, as in they lean forward as I'm holding their attention for the entire short few minutes I'm expressing myself. In my notes, I highlighted "...more involved halfway thru the chapter than you were in the first paragraph... at the end of the chapter something should happen that propels you on to the next chapter... setting them up with questions they must have answers..." I find myself giving names of my chapters and have to determine whether that's good or bad. I have the ability to remind the reader, somewhere before the chapter ends, what the name of the chapter is. Hm. Decisions. Decisions.

Michael L.

As a reader, I despise mixed perspective. Just my taste. When authors switch between first and close third, it really breaks the fourth wall for me. It does feel like cheating because I'm listening to the character as narrator and then all of a sudden, he's telling me things he doesn't really know about. Just doesn't work for me as a reader. I might be the only one - who knows.

Paul A.

I do not enjoy reading stories written in the first person. I try, but I just can't do it. Mr. Patterson says he writes some novels in both first person and third person limited. This sounds very interesting to me. Does anyone know of any examples I can read?

Lorraine A.

I usually make a choice. In my first book, I wrote in the third person. In my second, first person. I tried mixing them up and my editor insisted that I make a choice. I'm writing a book now mixing the POVs. I find it easy and fun. I'd cross my fingers on this new approach, but then I couldn't type. Question: On third person limited, do I write how they're feeling or do I make it sound like my main character is telling the story? FP: "When I walked in, three people stood and left. I wondered if they knew how badly I felt." TP: "When Lorraine walked in, three people stood and left. I could tell she was humiliated. I felt sorry for her."

ernest C.

i like the first person idea, feeling the experience that imagination (YOUR) creates on the pages is destined to bring LIFE into FORM.

Gordon H.

Nice to hear an established author talk about using first and third person in the same work! I tried it for my first draft and both the manuscript assessor and the editor slammed it because it 'didn't make sense to mix them up'. I thought it made great sense and actually improved the story so I will try it again in the next manuscript.