James Patterson

Lesson time 11:26 min

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.

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


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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 :)

Thoroughly enjoyed the James Paterson Masterclass. I learned so many interesting nuances of the writing craft, But mostly I loved just getting a feel for Mr. Patterson. I really liked getting to know James Patterson some small way.

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A fellow student

I want to write a thrilled set in my home town. how do I find out what i can and cant use as far as names of places etc.

Michael A. G.

Writing in third person is a mistake I have made many times. Thank you for this class.

Joey L.

I found where I was making my mistakes. I was just making it up. I should have conduct some research. Some of my stories were to unrealistic. I'm going to stop doing that. I'm learning a-lot about writing by listening to James Patterson.

A fellow student

Great! Except the Chapter 5: Research does not download for me. Please advise! Thanks!

Matthew B.

I was looking for some gold nuggets that I can apply to filmmaking. Appreciated your perspective on research especially when it comes to telling a story on video.

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.


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?