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Arts & Entertainment

Creating Characters

James Patterson

Lesson time 14:09 min

From Alex Cross to Michael Bennett, James has mastered the art of creating complex and memorable characters. Hero to villain, learn how to make your character stay with your reader well beyond the last page.

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


If you write something mediocre chances are it's not going to get published. Now how does it not become mediocre? It becomes not mediocre because, a, you have just this tremendous idea. And we talked about ideas and how some of them really rise above the pack. Or you've created these characters, or a character, who's just so fresh and involving and just the way they look at the world-- that's really what it is. It's the way they see the world. And you really want your readers to have strong feelings about your characters. You want them to love that character. Or you want them to want that character to somehow pull themselves up somehow. Or you want to hate that character. But you're not going to do it unless you create characters that really make an impression on them, make them feel. What goes into creating a character? What goes into a human being? What goes into me? What goes into you? What are the parts? One of things that's useful, I think, is just think of anybody you've met, anybody in your life, that you find interesting. Why is that? Are you a religious person? If you're not, what are you? Are you a spiritual person? How does that affect how you conduct your life? Do you have any physical attributes that are important? Are you 70 pounds overweight? What does that mean to how you conduct your life? Your internal life and the way you deal with the world. Pretty much everybody you meet, if you just start writing down all their little ticks and all the things they do, and that's what makes them who they are. And there's a kind of an infinite number of things. I mean they really are. And that's the challenge of it. You know, what fits your main characters that are relevant to your story? So that's-- you just want to make it as tight as you can in terms of those talents really making that story stronger and stronger and stronger. And you just keep more and more attributes and things that the characters do. And eventually-- and that's also an aha moment, and also very joyful, when you figure out something about that character that that's exactly right. And what you're going to find that is you're starting to understand your own character. As I said, I don't write realism. But I've had hundreds, maybe thousands, of policemen and FBI people go, you got it right. And I think what they mean by that is not that I got all the details right, but I got the spirit of it right. I have the feeling for what it's like to be a cop and after doing a very difficult job that a lot of people don't understand how hard that is, and then how hard it is to leave it behind and go home and try to be a father or a husband or a wife or whatever that particular cop is. So I get the emotional part right, and that gets me over a lot of bumps. Talking about Michael Bennett and one of his kids who goes out and is robb...

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.

This was an excellent course. Mr. Patterson amazing.

what a lovely ending to a fantastic class - thank you so much Masterclass and Mr Patterson

Super inspiring! And lots of great strategies!

Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this journey with us!


Freddy l R.

I absolutely LOVED this lesson. Having just finished publishing book one of my novella series (VIRTUAL) through Amazon, this let me know everything I need to know, in order to make book two better. Too, his character examples for primary and secondary characters helped me understand the balance needed in writing good characters. They must be human, solid, and able to hook the readers into the lives of other "real people." Having complex and dynamic characters is a must. Great lesson, and I love reading Mr. Patterson's books.

Nick F.

A one dimensional villain can absolutely ruin a movie or a book. There's so much of that in Hollywood these days. The bad guy is super bad, but we never know why. Sad. Some of these movies have so much potential.


Sarah is a wannabe author. Perusing the internet, she comes across a masters class program that features famous authors. She signs up for it. Hell! nothing to lose. She reckons that if she learns one thing, it is worth it. Why did she wait so long? that is another story in itself. The master-author man is a famous thriller author, intense blue eyes, eloquence, wit, she drinks every word as truth coming out of the well. The classes are inspirational but to Sarah the whole program misses a dimension that she cannot define until she notices that in every video take, the production mixing all kinds of clips made obvious with different lighting and wardrobe, the friendly author is in front of a window where what appears to be a kindergarten playground next door. The same children appear again and again, somewhat distorted through the video lens and window but consistently the same kids, until one disappears…

Thank you! I was worried about my secondary characters- I thought they added to the story, but I am happy to hear the importance of them.

Rob B.

Be relaxed - but get it done. Take breaks....use TBD and come back to it. Great advice.

Joey L.

Good idea's about how to make your character's interesting. Very useful information in this video.

A fellow student

This section is very helpful as I am trying to make my main character a nurse, with flaws. She is a warm and pleasant person but has anger issues that come out with harassments when she was a teenager. The more she is exposed to the real world she gets physical. I have a back story, but I think she needs more flaws? any help is appreciated. Thanks, Lenora.

Paul A.

I enjoyed this lesson, but I would like to have had specific examples from Mr. James Patterson's books. I would like to see or hear clips showing how he built his characters.

Catherine M.

I've been reading "Liar Liar" by James Patterson and am truly intrigued at how he developed the character Harriet Blue "Harry". At first I really disliked her, but by the end of the book I loved her and was pulling for her to win. A complex character with a dark backstory that melds perfectly with her need to track down a serial killer who is, one by one, killing off the people she cares about. The novel sort of drew me in morbidly, then pushed me away, then drew me back in, and by the end I was up reading into early morning hours. A quiet work of art and something to learn from!

Michael O.

I don't know, maybe I'm ready. I found this lesson opening me up about character, opening up the possibilities. Quite a release for the moment, like a flower bud blooming. This felt real, significant, sincere. I believe this will help with next step(s) of creating character. Thanks.