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.

Amazing concepts shared by James Patterson. He truly shares his life's wisdom in few sessions that are definite to help out many new and existing writers.

James Patterson isn't going to teach me how to write----he's going to teach me how to think like a writer.

James unique style, grabs you to the guts and gets you hooked. That's pure Mastery!

This class, for me, was great because it allowed me to take a step back from all the damning thoughts I have about my own ability compared to a huge published auther and see that he is just another person in this rat race. And that time, dedication, luck and a good attitude will be what makes the difference with writing. Thank you Masterclass and thank you James!


Daniel R.

I was thinking in start an story that says: At a very young age Mom told me to writte novels for women because mens only have time for newspapers... That based in what James Patterson mention that he has more female readers

John Paul A.

Needs work, but here's a start: Ernie sends Mike, an old high school classmate, a social media friend request. Mike pretends to remember, as Ernie shares stories of the marching band, football games, the prom and tales of violence and murder. Learning too much, Mike believes he will never be free of Ernie.

Anwar E.

I really liked this lesson about story ideas. i would share my own ideas if i wasn't so paranoid that they would get stolen. it's not just that i think they are great ideas, but because i spend a lot of time with toxic work colleagues who are always out to steal from me and take credit for my work.

Paul L.

Lunatic Fringe Jared Hayes is a normal, seemingly well-adjusted sixteen-year old who constantly reads to escape an empty home life. His emotionally detached father has led Jared to believe his mother died when he was an infant. Jared discovers a strange book hidden in the attic that literally takes him to a different dimension whenever he reads it. He also learns that his mother is alive in a mental institution where she claims an evil being is about to ravage earth as he did her childhood world. Jared must walk on the edge of insanity himself to save both worlds...and himself.

Christopher M.

Daniel was a quiet, yet kind man. He didn't interact with people much beyond his family and close circle of friends. One day, Daniel was blindsided by false allegations from someone he knew and trusted. Those allegations led to a conviction that landed him in a maximum security prison for 5 years. His sentence now over, Daniel is a shell of his former self. He lives with his younger sister, Ruth, the only one who believes his claims of innocence. Shut off from the world, Daniel decides to write a memoir detailing the nightmare he endured behind bars, a nightmare that never should have been his. As he writes, he is forced to recount memories he'd tried so desperately to bury, memories that bring a heightened state of paranoia, making the world an even colder and more threatening place. As things spiral out of control, Daniel is forced into an unexpected confrontation with his accuser, an encounter that will put him on the seemingly impossible road to redemption. Or lead him down the path to becoming what everyone already thinks he is.

Barbara W.

I've always struggled with a concise summary. I'm going to work on that before I go on to the next lesson and would like to share it here if I can come up with a good pitch.

M.L. W.

This is the mini novel I published last year: GUILT TRIP Doctor Andrew Bradley is a clinical psychiatrist at the Greensborough State Penitentiary in Trenton, New Jersey where he works as a counselor to the inmate population. After counseling inmate Henry Lee Ray, a convicted serial killer, Bradley is convinced Henry Lee is “cured”, so he recommends his release to the parole board, against the recommendation of Detective James Donahue, the detective who caught him. Ray is released and shortly afterwards, kills another woman. Feeling responsible and dealing with the pressure of public criticism for his decision, Bradley tries to make things right by exacting his own brand of justice

M.L. W.

Thank you, Eva. I just told a bit of the story to my wife but I didn't tell her it was the story of my new book. She was hanging on my every word and asked when the story happened. The story captured her to the point where she had to hear how it ended. I finally told her it was the story of my next book. She admitted she was definitely hooked. Had she been reading the book, she definitely wouldn't have been able to put it down. This is my third novel but I'm especially excited about this one because I'm applying what I've learned in James Pattersons lessons.

M.L. W.

Hello Classmates. I welcome your comments on my next novel,below: Detective Marcus Honor has seen more than his fair share of grisly homicides in his career, but nothing can compare to his most recent case, a family annihilator. Why would Brian Merrick, a successful, well-liked pharmaceutical representative for one of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies, decide to kill his wife and two children before killing himself? That’ the question Detective Honor needs answering. The case appears to be an open and shut case of murder-suicide until Detective Honor gets an anonymous phone call telling him otherwise. The caller tells Detective Honor that the Merrick family was murdered, but not by Brian Merrick. Against the orders of his superiors, Detective Honor digs deeper into the mystery and becomes the target of an assassin that’s determined to protect a dark, insidious secret.

M.L. W.

Loving it so far. The course on how to write a plot was extremely helpful.