Arts & Entertainment, Writing

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.

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

Topics include: Who is your character? • What makes your character tick? • Make a complex hero • Make a complex villain • Make important secondary characters • Create reader intimacy


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.

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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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