Arts & Entertainment, Writing

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.

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

Topics include: Choose a view point • Example of a great chapter • Be in the scene • Find a voice • Give the reader questions


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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James Patterson

James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.

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