Raw Ideas

James Patterson

Lesson time 13:14 min

How do you recognize a great idea? How do you figure out if it's worthy of your effort? James spells out the techniques he uses to generate his ideas and then separate the good ones from the less compelling ones.

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


People will always ask the stupid question, where do I come up with my stories. No, I'm kidding. People frequently ask where do I come up with the stories, and it really can be anything as I had this big folder of ideas. That's a piece of it. So how do these ideas get into the folder? I'll see something on the street, or I could probably write a story about anything. I could write a story about the classroom here probably. Figure out a way to make it an interesting mystery. Sometimes a title will come to me. Sometimes just some little-- some little scene I'll see in the street. Just some little thing catches my eye and I go, oh, I see. That stimulates something in me. The idea to the Women's Murder Club-- women frequently are more collaborative than men are. And I notice this in business. A man will come in and go, I got it. They have the idea that-- whatever. Whereas, a lot of times women will come in and they want to hear the other people's ideas in a room and contribute and get to something-- so that collaboration. And I found that interesting. And in the world of detective fiction, it didn't seem to me that there was much of that. So the idea of a police inspector, a medical examiner, an assistant district attorney-- now they would normally be together. They would know each other, presumably, and could have become friends. And then, little tricky with putting a journalist in there because they would have issues maybe with sharing some information with the journalist. But they come to trust the journalists, Cindy. And they get together and they just chat about cases. And is it realistic? No, not really. I don't write realism. But it's a cool idea-- that you get four women together and they would collaborate on solving mysteries. And maybe it's been done somewhere, but I'm not aware of it. So I just want that-- I think that's a cool idea. One of my favorite, if not my favorite of the novels that I have written is one called Honeymoon. And you start out with the book and you always hope it's going to be spectacular. And you just never know. You start writing and some of them turn out better than others for whatever the reason is. That one started with the idea of, I love the idea of a woman who was a bigamist. So that's where it started-- a woman who would, you know-- and it went a lot of different places from there. But the way the book opens is you have this couple and they're married. And they're in bed together. And it's just a delightful Sunday afternoon and they make love. And you really like them. You like the way they interact. You like the dialogue. You go, I'd love to be there. I'd love to-- that's the way I want my life to be. And then she has to go off. It's Sunday. She's got to go off on a business trip. And she goes to Boston. And s...

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've learned that all of the feelings and emotions I've been feeling about become a published writer are valid. This class gave me every piece of information I was looking for and made me feel like I am definitely on the right path. Thank you so much!!

Being a click away from the most sought after author was incredible! Thank you Mr. Patterson for your expertise!

So awesome! Great format.....everything was fantastic....musical interludes and drive me nuts but this format was PERFECT!

I've realized I need to complete a thorough outline before starting on my book. And I've been inspired to start the next novel. Thank you, Mr. Patterson!


Freddy L R.

Love this lesson! Truly confirms my creative instincts, yet expands my thought process and approach. For me, once an idea hits me, I write a log line for it. From there, I either do an outline or a synopsis. However, for my current work in progress, an idea hit me and I just started writing. Two weeks later, I'm on chapter ten and have a complete outline, log line, and synopsis which I've registered for copyright and with Writers Guild of America west (WGAw). I'm presently writing chapter ten of my new novel, and this is a perfect time to learn from the greatest. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge, Mr. Patterson! Happy writing everyone.... Truly, Freddy L. Robinson

Ben W.

This was a good one. Very practical advice, esp. the idea folder. Writing takes discipline and work and this is the underlying point I think he keeps making. Being really observant and having a 'good gut' is important, but the discipline of being organized and engaged is where it happens.

Freddy L R.

Awesome lesson! For me, if I start building a story around a simple subject, and find myself developing and writing the story everyday; then it's a great idea. Especially if it's a universal them that everyone can latch onto. Best, Freddy


I smiled about the part regarding getting people to read chapters to gauge how others would react to what is being written. I did this when I first started trying to write a book and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by many people in the young-adult age range that I could have ready what I had. The book was going to be for that age range and 15/15 people who read my first 3 chapters (drafts) said it was interesting, 10/15 said they would buy it, and 2 or 3/15 said they wanted a signed copy when it was done. I still have those chapters on my computer almost 5 years later.


This is the first WRITER (among others here) I am really mesmerized by. Great tutoring. Now I understand the purpose of this masterclasses website.

Tina W.

MY Goodness. I sat there watching this and felt like you were talking to me. I loved the way you passionately tell your story idea. I felt like I wanted to tell you my plot ideas. I have a folder of them. All in different states of development. You think like I do.

Ashleigh H.

His piece of advice about learning more about different things is so spot on. This is where the adage, "Write what you know" comes from (though it is often misunderstood). Drawing upon the accumulated knowledge over the course of your life is what will make for an amazing well of potential story ideas. And what better way to learn than to read! lol

Joe B.

I've been looking for where we're supposed to submit assignments and this is the only interface I can find, but I don't see anyone else posting their Raw Ideas here. Can anyone shed some light on where to post assignments for critique and feedback?

A fellow student

Hey all. Would you please share with me the book's name, which he had read in JWT.

Michele K.

I totally agree with Mr. Patterson when he says ideas come from knowledge and experiences. You need to expose yourself to as much of life as possible to be able to generate fantastic ideas.