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Arts & Entertainment

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.


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.

Not to be afraid to venture out and write your dreams; Act out your wishes; Be true to yourself; Never give up.

A great man - Thanks for your knowledge and wisdom.

Very inspiring, I have gained confidence in my own abilities as a writer and a dreamer.

What else can I say: after wanting to for over 45 years, I have started writing!


Ina B.

Hi. Where is the video critique on raw ideas that's mentioned in the workbook? I get a 404 error with the link.


No - Masterclass links do not work - no incorrect - not there. Site appears to have been abandoned. Unable to find anything current.

Barbi W.

RAW BOOK IDEA #3 Working Title: The Wire Journalist Samuel Felt gets a cryptic message from a source in the White House that says he can prove that the pandemic health crisis was a virus that, although was not intended to be unleashed to the entire world, had been meant to create havoc for the American people and disrupt business as usual with China. Felt and most other journalists have reported tirelessly against the virus being a conspiracy theory. All his deep digging, undercover sources, and respected colleagues (along with his gut instinct) have not led to any real possibilities of the virus was planted maliciously. Felt is so sure he is right, he would bet his Ivy League education on it. Not that anything is impossible these days, the pandemic and the virus are not what his source is alluding to. But, then again, who would have believed Watergate was possible or that Trump would be elected president, Felt responds to his source for more information. The reply piques Felt's interest. His curious nature and solid belief it's his due diligence to follow the lead, Felt takes the bait and finds himself in a world of espionage the former war correspondent never knew existed.

Barbi W.

RAW BOOK IDEA #2 Working Title: Compromise Therapist, Claire Donaldson, finds herself counseling a client who leads her to the man who was the ringleader of the child prostitution ring her mother sold her into at the age to 13. She believes her client’s employer, a charismatic preacher, is using the church and its assistance in overseas adoptions to place “orphans” into harm's way. If Claire is correct, the man, Stefan Sharapova, is not a man to reckon with. But rather than turn to the police, Claire ignores her instincts and her own advice to expose the church and the chihld prostitution ring. Soon Claire finds herself sucked back into her old world of sex and drugs but this time with an axe to grind. Growing up as a child prostitute in Russia gives her an edge but how far down the rabbit hole is she going to go to find Stefan before she gets herself and those around her killed? Not soon enough. One evening she finds herself in a room with someone more powerful but much easier to manipulate than a Russian, the president of the United States. In a compromising situation, Claire’s mission turns into more than just revenge at her own upbringing, she’s now on the path to take the president down in the name of all the hashtag Me Too victims. Fueled by rage and anger can Claire use her education both street and college to accomplish killing the president before she gets killed?

Barbi W.

I am not sure if I am supposed to answer the question "How did you like the lesson?" or post our "assignments" here. I tried to use the attachment link but that only works for photos, so I'm posting my Raw Ideas in three separate posts here. RAW BOOK IDEA #1 Working Title: #agingparentsFML It’s Golden Girls meets Modern Family and goes all Breaking Bad when circumstances force elderly divorced parents to live together again in the small rural, border town they lived together in over 40 years ago. Karen, a single woman in her early 50s, is the only one to care for her aging divorced parents. Her mentally stable mother, Sharie, is running out of money after being forced to retire. Now Sharie has nowhere to live but with her daughter. Karen then finds out her estranged father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and newly widowed. The death of his wife left him well-off, but he’s dangerously close to losing all of his money to scammers and “friends” and needs his daughter’s help. Out of angst, anxiety, and frustration from dividing her time and resources caring for them, she decides to take her photographer’s brilliant advice: Have them live together. Her mother needs a place to live, and her father needs someone to take care of him. Violå! Problem solved! But is it? When Janice meets her aging ex-husband’s gay “Man Friday” caregiver, the two immediately bond and plot a creative, yet illegal, way to improve everyone’s financial situation.

Raya L.

A serial killer is on the loose but the authorities are unaware they even exist. A young woman witnesses them abducting a victim. She goes to the police but they dismiss her as a kid just making up stories. As she gets older it becomes her mission to find and stop the serial killer that no one else is even looking for.

Barbi W.

I liked knowing that he doesn't write realism! As a journalist, I have a hard time getting out of my own way with "realism" for creative writing. Not that I don't think life is stranger than fiction, especially under the current COVID-19 situation we are in, but learning how to bridge the gap between fiction and reality, like why does my main character have a severed head in her designer tote!

Rui O.

Here's an idea of mine: When the souls of deceased children—all bearing the same markings—start appearing, Lucy must break the cardinal-rule of the Death business and save souls, not collect them.

Kathryn M.

It's not quite what I was expecting - the first Masterclass I've taken here. It seems more like an informal chat that someone has structured into units, rather than the expert (James) giving specific instruction about the craft of writing. Despite that, I'm finding it useful and hoping that the exercises will help me progress. The lack of feedback on the exercises is also not a feature of learning I'm used to, but I'm a very autonomous learner, so I'll park any judgement on that. I'd love any feedback from fellow students though. My first story idea is one I've already written and published, but the plot needs re-working (a lot. In fact more than a lot). The other 2 are new story ideas. The three story ideas I have are: *Fantasy - Magical Realism - Dystopian Fiction:* Talents of Terra Series - Book 1 (Apprentice) Centa-orbits after the collapse of society as we know it, intelligences on Terra have evolved but human nature remains the same. To prevent her corrupt nemesis from seizing power, Terra’s failing Prime must find a more worthy successor; her search leads her to a traumatised orphan outcast, whose Talents lie locked beneath buried memories of a past too painful to confront. *Sea stories - Dystopian Fiction: Blue Nomads series - Book 1:* When she and Nate decide to sell up, buy a boat and cruise the world, Rebecca pictured pina coladas at sundown in front of deserted tropical beaches. Instead, she finds herself dealing with the fallout of apocalyptic events and the darkest side of human nature they inspire in a race to rescue the family she left behind. *Historical Romance - Magical Realism - Family Sagas: Promises are forever*: Mary cannot understand why her family left Ireland; Scotland is not the welcoming safe haven her father promised. William is the town larrikin, using his humour and wily ways to stay one step beyond the law as he makes a game of pursuing daughters of the local gentry. When romance blossoms between them at the Cotton Mills, neither are prepared for the consequences of their forbidden love.

Seana F.

I have a few ideas rattling around. I've actually started the writing process (outline, character descriptions, first few chapters) on two of them. The first is about three sisters from Ireland. They are immortal and each possesses a unique power. They were forced to flee to America hundreds of years ago in fear for their lives. They were assisted by unlikely allies, Viking warriors. They thought they were safe so far from their homeland, but an ancient foe has tracked them down, and they must face the danger now. A turn of events throws them into turmoil when they find out that someone they thought they knew was not who they appeared to be. The second is about a woman who moves to Martha's Vineyard with her husband to care for his mother while she was dying. They end up staying there and she makes new friends at work. The ladies often meet for cocktails and discuss all the island gossip. They often agree that life would be so much better in their tight knit community if certain individuals would simply disappear or die. It's all light hearted banter until their wishes start coming true. The third, and the one I have not delved into as deeply as the others, is about a nurse who has worked in different specialties over the years as she and her husband move around the country following his work. She slowly becomes aware of the corruption in healthcare and the questionable number of deaths. Deaths which cannot, in her mind, be explained away as accidents or natural causes. When she decided it's time to tell someone, she is brushed off by law enforcement and nobody takes her claims seriously, until she meets one detective.