James Patterson

Lesson time 9:18 min

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.

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

I loved the style of the class, I loved how James presented the information, it was interesting and entertaining, and not the same as other creative writing classes I have attended. Was great to have an insight into an accomplished writer career. Inspiring and enjoyable. I also liked the filming style and editing. Overall it felt like spending time with interesting and intelegent person. Thumbs up

The class was entertainment, clear and concise, but I think there should have been more coverage based on today's reality, including lessons on self-publishing and promotion. More on promotion, because let's face it, even if you're novel is fantastic, if no one hears about it, it will not sell.

This class was phenomenal. There are tidbits here that I will be referring back to, not just in the short term, but as far as my mind can see forward.

I loved this course. It wasn't too detailed, but the information shared mattered and gave me a lot to consider. Thanks for this awesome course!


A fellow student

This is my first Masterclass series and I am enjoying it. I'd been eyeing James Patterson's class in particular for over a year, finally took the plunge to get a membership, and am happy that I did. I expect that in addition to watching other great masterclasses, I will likely re-watch this one as there are a lot of gems that I feel I might miss this first time around.


This is also my first Masterclass. I'm very impressed with the quality of the video/audio and the .pdf lesson materials. I've read a lot of Jim Patterson's books, so it's incredible to learn from him, firsthand. I appreciate his candor and the number of details he's sharing about his processes.

Abrielle R.

Really enjoying this so far. First masterclass and impressed by the thoroughness. Very refreshing to hear from a pro as opposed to endless and often faulty online articles. Very easy to follow. I honestly didn't pay much attention to the background, more focused on the lesson.

Tom P.

Hello all. I have been on and off with this for a while and have stories both written and some that float around. Mr. Patterson is great here. Tells us more about what goes into a good story. It is fast paced and worth listening to a couple of times. Best of luck to all students here.

John G.

I thought it was really informative. I think we've all read books that we've stopped reading because the plot is so weak or the characters just aren't interesting enough to carry on with. As for his choice of background i wasn't too concerned. infact i think it made it more relaxed and informal rather than have him in a classroom environment or lecture hall with people coughing and spluttering . In another way, maybe he's showing us(conciously or not) that you can write anywhere and use those sounds to your advantage.

A fellow student

I was a bit stumped by the causality comment and would like more depth. Maybe it's coming later. Is he saying the plot and the characters are knit together by a sense that something unusual is propelling the story forward? It's not clear in my mind how to do that yet.

Amy B.

As a beginner, I loved the lesson and am thrilled to go through the exercises. Curiosity about the writing process has been both a motivation and am obstacle to getting started in the past.

A fellow student

Why on earth did we move to a noisy room with traffic in the background? What he's saying is priceless and I want to hear it. I don't want to listen to a vacuum cleaner.

Roger S.

This video had so much information! I was pausing the video all the time to take notes. I suspect this is one of teh videos taht I will come back to to seek more understanding from Patterson's context of the notes that I wrote!

Ian C.

These lessons are incredibly insightful and inspiring. I love writing. My specialty is decision-making and I have written successfully non-fiction and short fiction (fables) and now I've decided (haha) to write a novel about decision-making after I came up with an intriguing plot and style (reading many novels fuelled my passion). Yet, as a first-time and aspiring novelist, it is huggingly reassuring to have spectacular and warm advice to help me make less mistakes as I go. I am so grateful that you've taken the time to share your experience and knowledge - thanks James and team.