From James Patterson's MasterClass

Research

For James, conducting in-depth research not only makes his writing better, it also boosts his credibility with his readers. Find out when and how James conducts his research and how he incorporates it into his writing in a thoughtful way.

Topics include: Seek inspiration • Build your credibility • Know your locations • Conduct interviews • Know your vocations • Don’t be a know-it-all • No excuses

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For James, conducting in-depth research not only makes his writing better, it also boosts his credibility with his readers. Find out when and how James conducts his research and how he incorporates it into his writing in a thoughtful way.

Topics include: Seek inspiration • Build your credibility • Know your locations • Conduct interviews • Know your vocations • Don’t be a know-it-all • No excuses

James Patterson

Teaches Writing

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The more you BS when you're writing a book, the worse it is. And people have a real tendency to do that with thrillers and fantasy. They just start making stuff up and that's really hard to do. So I think the research, one, it just makes the writing better. It builds your confidence because you actually know what you're talking about. Sometimes you'll read stuff in the research and it will give you more ideas things, things you hadn't thought of. And that's another beauty of research. With Maximum Ride and the flying kids, I wasn't sure where that was going. And then I thought of sort of an outlaw lab and then I went and did a little bit a research with biotech people. And they said that things like that in the world of biotech will happen in our lifetime. Not necessarily humans with wings, but they said we could do that. We could do humans with wings. There would be a lot of problems with it. So I said, well, that's kind of cool that you could do it. And that idea of a little bit of the Frankenstein thing, OK, what have we created if we created flying kids? And you begin to see the possibilities for the story. Different writers have different approaches to how they use research. In some cases, they really feel the need to build credibility with their readers and some readers really love that, in particular males. Male readers really like a lot of-- they're very narrow in terms of what they like and they don't like. And they really want realism. Not every male but an awful lot of them. And if they don't get it, they feel that it's just not authentic. So looking at a Picasso in terms of art, no, no, no. I don't get that artsy fartsy stuff. So in particular for male readers, a lot of authentic detail is really useful. I mean, you can't tell them enough about a car, or how a car works, or how this, that, and the other thing works. And if you get it wrong, you lose them. I mean, you literally lose them. You get the information that you have about guns wrong, you lose anybody that knows anything about guns. They just go, well, if this person, if this writer, can't get his facts straight, how can I believe anything in the story? But for my money, whether it's a kidnapping, even a bee sting, research. What happens when it was a bee sting? If you're writing about-- go on the subway. I mean, don't fake it. Don't make it up. You know, look, if we go somewhere and somebody asked us, unless we're horrifying verbal storytellers, we'll remember a few details that really capture it. Just a couple of things. You go, this was cool, and this was cool, and this was cool. My son and wife just came back from Berlin and they kept talking about things like the fact they have these water pipes all over the city built above the ground and they're in colors. And anyways, you're immediately getting very quick pictures ...

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.

I love listening to you! You have an amazing way of getting your thoughts across. I imagine that is why you are so successful. Thanks again :)

James helped give me the confidence I need to keep forging ahead with my book. I am very grateful for his candor and passion. Thank you for the course!

I have learnt so much James!! I can't put it down to words, I just want to start working now!

Love the fact we are face to face with Mr. Patterson. Makes it easy to listen to and become engaged. I enjoyed it very much. Looking forward to more!

Comments

Ambrey N.

I will have to get on this research part of things. Right now I am just writing but I am hoping to add in more information as I go back and going forward.

Judy

I can't do regular research like a walking person can do effortlessly so I rely heavily on Wikipedia. I know it is probably not my best bet, but it is difficult to get out in a wheelchair as so many places do not cater to the disabled. Strange as that is to say (and I'm just joking there. So many places have two floors with no elevators. Very odd.) So I use my imagination, my creativity and Wikipedia. It seems to work out (at least I hope it does.)

Christy C.

As a fantasy writer, I find that research offers pillars to build the story around. You make up a lot of it, of course, but people forget that good fantasy often requires even more realism than realistic fiction to make it believable. You lay down the rules, but then you have to follow them, and ask yourself, 'What would REALLY happen in this situation?' Research is indispensable for this.

Lorraine A.

Parking Garage: It was summer, and summer in the city feels hotter than almost anywhere else. That is, except for the underground parking garage beneath my office building. The strong smell of gasoline should've sent me rushing to my red Blazer. The sound of screeching tires that echoed off the barren walls should've made me want to escape to a place of quiet tranquility. The gray walls, metal rails and hard floors should've felt uneasy. The dimly lit layers with shadowy alcoves should've been frightening. None of that mattered. Instead, the coolness of the air was welcomed. Three levels up, the temperature was still in the nineties at half past six in the evening. The normally unfavorable conditions of the Seventh Street Parking Garage were all a small price to pay for a breath of cool air when forced to leave my air-conditioned office and make my way to my air-conditioned car.

Kim P.

I have to say that the research section is a struggle for me. I'm writing a story in which half of the story is set during the period of World War I. There is so much that I don't know and so many people I can't interview and so many places that I cannot go that I'm getting bogged down in the research. I need to figure out the happy medium in which I know enough to make the story seem real but also get some writing done and not just research. Any tips?

Meghan T.

Between the layers of concrete was a cool respite from the sizzling black asphalt surrounding it. The parking garage was mostly shiny SUV’s and pick-ups stuffed into the too narrow white lines. All of the suits were not only willing but anxious to pay triple the monthly fee of the open lot down the street. Paper well spent shortening their steps through the strangling damp heat. It would save them that just in dry-cleaning bills, they reasoned by rescuing them from stained circles under the arms and salty creeks of sweat down their backs. The young skirt thought it an even better value, an essential really. A preventative to the sharp sting of her legs being ripped from the leather seats when she would jump out to thrust the keys at the valet later, eager for a happy hour discounted “bushwhacker.” And after all, 600 yards might as well be 6 miles in thin tapered heels. So there was no doubt it was worth packing her lunch each morning to help pay for it just in case fewer navy blazers on wire hangers and covered in plastic didn’t completely do the trick. Mitzi would’ve pretended she was too busy working to leave her desk for a salad around the corner even if she had resented it. That pricey bit of cement was worth even the anxious, almost panicky feeling that engulfs her and causes her breaths to come faster each time she enters its shaded areas alone clutching her pecan colored leather “C” logo-ed purse tightly under her arm.

A fellow student

The open-ended questions are a productive technique to interview anyone. It is taught in nursing and a great communication tool.

Lee

This section on research is utmost important for accuracy if the character is or was a real person Also in timeline and location etc.

Victoria O.

Here's mine: Veronica started every day by dropping her car off in the parking garage near her building. It was a mundane appendage of the concrete jungle she lived in. Her heels clacked off the grey cement, with a echo which was bigger than her liking. It would draw attention to her, if the garage wasn't so desolate. Her shoes might as well have been saying "I'm here! Feel free to topple me over and swipe my purse!".

A fellow student

I like the challenge of this assignment, describing a structure as boring as a laundry hamper. Here we go: Luke's courtship in concrete, one might call it, began on a Tuesday, the day he would walk alone from his morning Calculus II class, through the Euclid St. parking garage to the main student union. Escaping the midday, Tucson sun was always a blessing upon entering the structure of simple ramps and columns. Luke would barely give the building a thought save for some passing jealousy over those who could afford to park in round-the-clock shade. But that day, a new garage employee's smile lit up the whole place as she sat behind the window of her office. Luke would later marvel at how infatuation spreads. Her place of employment went from a rat maze to a garden path, a prison to a playground. With her, he saw color in the grey. Lunching on the top floor Saturdays, they would feed sparrows and watch students below file in and out of the union. But that first day, it took Luke running into the ticket machine to break the bashful silence.