From James Patterson's MasterClass


With the right plot, your reader won't be able to stop turning the pages. In this lesson, James measures out his unique approach to developing plot lines that keep readers wanting more.

Topics include: Condense your plot • Raise the stakes • Create conflict • Create worthy opponents • Build in surprises • Less is more


With the right plot, your reader won't be able to stop turning the pages. In this lesson, James measures out his unique approach to developing plot lines that keep readers wanting more.

Topics include: Condense your plot • Raise the stakes • Create conflict • Create worthy opponents • Build in surprises • Less is more

James Patterson

Teaches Writing

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Story is about-- it's about the thrills and the twists and the turns, but more than anything else it's about revealing character. In a thriller it's how will that character react in a very dramatic situation. I really believe that character is revealed through action. Try to write every chapter as if it was the first chapter in the book. We pay a lot of attention to these first chapter because we know they're important. Try to write every chapter as if it's that important. Write a story, not necessarily a lot of pretty sentences, write a story. Don't set out to write a good thriller, set out to write a number one thriller with a number one story idea. Don't write a single chapter that doesn't propel the story forward. Leave out all the parts that readers are going to skim. They're going to skim stuff. If you find it's that kind of writing, leave it out. Try to write for a single reader who's sitting across the desk from you and you don't want them to get up until you're finished. And if you're smart, make that reader a woman. Why? Women by 70% of the books. Women by 70% of my books, which is interesting. A lot of people don't-- they think that I have a lot of male readers. And I have a number of male readers, but more women. Now let me just give you just a couple of thoughts about condensing plot into something that's manageable very quickly. So if you take the Great Gatsby, you start with Gatsby has everything anybody could ever dream of except love. Gatsby gets love. Gatsby loses love and thus loses everything. And that's kind of Gatsby. And we have Ian Forster's famous line about story and plot. And he wrote, "a plot is a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality." The King died and then the queen died is a story. But the King died and then the queen died of grief is a plot. The time sequence is preserved but the sense of causality overshadows it. Let's talk a little bit about personal stakes in a novel, in a screenplay. You'll certainly hear that when you-- if you've sold something to a studio or you're doing television work or with your editor when you're doing your book, that the stakes need to be raised. And that essentially means that what's at risk here, or what's to be gained is so important to the character, or should be, that you feel-- that the reader feels it big time. So if there's no stakes-- and that's one of the things, I'll talk about having worthy adversaries. If you know as a reader-- and you kind of know-- that the good guy is probably going to win the day. It can't be that simple. You have to feel that there are stakes here. So worst case in the Cross books, in Hope to Die or Cross My Heart, one book and then Hope to Die second book, the stakes couldn't be higher because Alex Cross' family has disappeared and he believes they're dead. But he's not 100% sure they're dead...

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.

Very practical and straightforward discussion of the tools and techniques of writing popular fiction.

This class definitely gave me a new perspective on things as well as a new approach to my writing. I never waste a chance to learn new things and that is exactly what I got with this class.

This class brought together for me all the knowledge that I had piecemealed throughout my life. James clarified things like story development and pace, which I count as some of the most valuable elements of the program. I will never forget that every chapter must move the story forward. Great class. Thanks.

Thank you James Patterson for sharing your gifts. What an epic series! I learned not to give up or given in to my discouragement. So much of this process is about the daily tasks, the minutia. I am a writer, I'm ready to be a paid writer.


A fellow student

So far, I think I'm getting everything right. That scares me. It tells me I probably think I'm doing it all right but not really "getting it." Everything I hear resonates with my approach. I set out three years ago to do all the things I'm hearing now. And I think I did them all. So how do I know?

Carey P.

I enjoyed hearing about James' process and the different paths he took along the way that culminated into his overall success. It helps me realize just how much devotion and persistence it takes...a lot more than you would imagine, before "success" becomes reality. His emphasis on soul searching...making sure that writing is your passion, was very thought provoking. Also, the tip about writing down story ideas and keeping a journal or folder of them was very helpful, because that has always been the most difficult barrier for me...finding an idea worthy of building a story around.

Redmond R.

So far, James/ RL Stein/ and Samual Jackson are the best Masterclasses that I have taken by far. (I haven't done all of them so maybe there are others just as good). The difference between these three people and how much obvious work and effort they put into these classes vs one like Natalie Portman (She is an AMAZING actor and seemed very nice but that the by far the worst Masterclass I have taken. It was just her being interviewed. There was no class. A few of the masterclasses seem to go this way sadly. ). James has really made me excited about writing again.


I like the way James describes the plot. I have already written a novel about ten years ago but I knew that even self-publishing would be a mistake at that time so I set it aside and am tackling the completed draft form now. It is about how a magical Grimoire calls to its' victims in order to gain strength from them. It starts out in the mid 15th century. After the people (monks) who have made the book find out that it is being used for evil purposes and that at least one person has befallen himself to the book, the monks want to destroy the book. Much to their chagrin, they cannot and so decide to separate the book into four parts and send it to Egypt, Haiti, and Tibet leaving the fourth part in France where it was first bound. They leave the sections in the hands of witches (protectors of mankind) and each have a magical gift to waylay those who want to covet the Grimoire. My story begins here with Sacmis (Egypt), then to Xavier (Haiti), and lastly to Choden (Tibet). There is a fourth with (Harper) who is the only one to defeat these powerful witches and so goes to France to find the final section. She is under the magic of the book and does not even want it but is compelled to take what is not hers, anyway. A new character comes into play, Yangchen who is loosely based upon Milarepa a Buddhist monk of the 12th century. He helps all of the witches because by this time the book has helped it become flesh once more. The demon Zigan. That's the crux of my novel and I love it but it needs a great deal of work to make it great for readers.

Mia M.

I've been playing with this story for a while. It's part of a series, so the characters are very familiar to me and that sometimes bogs me down in the details of their world. This exercise has forced me to boil it down to the mechanics of the plot as perceived by someone who hasn't read any of my novels -- a very useful exercise. Here's what I've got: A woman juggling a challenging consulting career with planning her wedding witnesses a kidnapping while traveling in the tropics on business. It makes her feel vulnerable, but she sets aside the impact and carries on with her work and her wedding. She returns to the same island with her new husband on their honeymoon. She learns that the kidnapping was not a one-off, but part of the larger scheme of a criminal gang to gain control of one of the profitable industries in the area: the industry that she's consulting with. And then her new husband is kidnapped and she has to overcome that vulnerability in order to help get him back.

A fellow student

I really enjoyed this lesson. James is a really good teacher and have always looked up to him and loved his writing. However, I wish the classes were a little bit longer and more detailed.

Mateo B.

I loved this chapter though maybe it has too much focus on thrillers. I wonder if all the concepts apply all the same if the novel is fiction but not necessarily a thriller. Maybe they do and that's the trick.

Christy C.

I found almost everything in this lesson was a very useful reminder, especially that plot is about revealing character, and causality is key. Not just this happened then that, but this happened because of that.

Kent B.

Good lesson. I am about half way through a manuscript about a Jack the Ripper wannabe... and a crude, odd detective chasing him. I would like to ask the readers a question, "Would you as a reader, prefer the antagonist gets away in the end, or gets caught?" The murderer is not a nice guy and cuts up his victims, and the detective has a high rate of closing cases. I am on the fence here and hoping your feedback will drive my ending...Thanks.

O.C. C.

Simple information but hard to do. Mr. Patterson is a true teacher and an icon.