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Writing

Plot

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.

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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.



Reviews

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

Enjoyable thus far. Looking forward to the next lessons.

I love it that he cares about feelings/emotions, and that he has less rules than God.

Very helpful: practical, easy to follow, anchored on common sense. A freeing experience.

I have really enjoyed the tips and insight that I have learned. I like the format and the average length of each lesson.


Comments

Chester D.

Informative lesson! The background sound of the vacuum cleaner in the ‘Raise the Stakes’ segment of the “Plot” lesson is distracting.

Esther K.

After taking the classes of Dan Brown and David Baldacci, James Patterson seems incoherent and a little chaotic. I can't always follow his train of thought, which for me decreases the value of his classes.

A fellow student

Definitely the most difficult lesson so far. I love when he said "Don't skip the parts that people won't read," too often in my writing I get bogged down thinking I have to describe everything. I have this up on my wall now, "JUST WRITE THE STORY!"

Barbi W.

Ugh, the hardest part yet. Not my strong suit, but this lesson is very helpful to narrow down what my story is really about.

Maximo O.

It was great the way James Patterson explain sounds unbelievably easy I am writing a book

Mallory T.

A few years ago. I was sitting at home and trying to unwind after an argument with my ex. I took out the notepad of my computer and all of a sudden I was writing about this warrior who was laying on a bloody battlefield, broken and dying. He was angry that the loyalty he had served with had been betrayed. The love he had for his people used as a tool against him. It was an idea that even lost when that computer was fried has always stuck with me. I feel like I need to develop this idea into something more and see what happens.

Karl D.

I just brain dumped this, so it's rough: A loving and dedicated husband who recently lost his wife to an aggressive form of cancer is still reeling from the loss. He slips into a dangerous pattern of self destructive behavior and deep depression. He just wants the pain to end. In a rare moment of clarity, he reaches out to a suicide hotline hoping to find a glimmer of hope to keep him holding on. Unexpectedly, the woman that answers the phone sounds like his wife. The more he talks to her, the more he becomes fascinated and enamored by her. He begins calling her every day and the two slowly become enamored with each other. I see a ton of possible twists and surprises in this synopsis. Is she his wife's doppelganger? Is she a clone? Oh so many possibilities depending on what genre I'm in the mood for lol

Camille M.

Excellent! I usually outline my stories like a braid. There's the superficial plot, internal struggle, and a strong B-story. I weave those together and add other threads along the way. If I over outline a story, I feel locked in to a narrative with very little room for creativity. But if I have those three basic threads down, I have a strong plot to work with!

A fellow student

it was enjoyable and fun also interesting and absolutely knowledgable. this lesson is going to be helpful for my future for sure as a matter of fact

Bubblz B.

Great lesson! I took many notes :) For me, I either can tell the story in 15 minutes or get lost in writing one chapter for days trying to make it perfect. Sometimes I can think forever about how to artfully reveal things. Gosh, where to even start? The beginning or the end LOL! One of my key takeaways is JUST WRITE THE STORY. Go back later for the rewrite/details. I will try that... I hope I can make it happen.