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Arts & Entertainment

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.


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.


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

James, I not only enjoy your humor, insight, and boyish good looks, but love the way your eyes light up with the passion you have for your craft.

He has so many great ideas. Some of them I knew, but was lax on implementing. Some I suspected and he confirmed. Some I hadn't thought of at all.

Very good, has dispelled doubts I had before signing up. Feels like another level up, beyond many a workshop and how to write book.

Top notch. Will re-watch at some point to go over it all again.


Patricia G.

It’s so interesting to “see” through his comments, why certain books I’ve read captured me, or in some cases, didn’t hold my attention. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion in the way that a good book is able to suck you in.

Faye L.

Whose point of view is the story or scene more interesting from? Good point there

Patricia B.

I am just a new beginner, at writing, at the age of 60 so as green as they come. James has made a lot of sense and given me a lot to think about when I finally get around to writing that book I promised myself I would write one day!!I will definitely be applying a lot of what he suggests.

Rafal S.

James Patterson is a great teacher. I want to buy all his books:) does Masterclass provides %discount for students?


I am overjoyed at discovering James Patterson and these lessons. I had almost completed the first draft of my first book only to know I need to start right from the beginning again and apply so much more in-depth content, especially to my characters. Thank you!

Dale U.

The movie projector in my head. All the years I've been using it and I just now learn its true meaning. This class is brilliant.

Dannie A.

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!