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Arts & Entertainment


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.


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

Mr. Patterson is very easy going, conversational, which I appreciated. I was hoping for a little more meat... but this was a perfect intro to M.C.

I loved James’ teaching style and matter of factness. He really reminded me to do a little bit each day and that is the journey.

The importance of understanding the industry.

An amazing, eye opening, funny, honest and genuine look into writing today. From the perspective of a great writer. Thank you for the experience!!


Rich J.

Research Assignment - describe a carpark. Anyone mind giving me some feedback on this little paragraph? 'Even a city with reliable public transport like Berlin is full of cars. As the city grew, so did the number of vehicles. At some stage an elegant solution was found, and abandoned bunkers from an unforgettable past were repurposed into underground carparks. Solid cement bomb-shelters that carry the echo of a ticking clock fill the city centre. Dimly lit and poorly ventilated, they're not the sort of places you plan to stay in. Unless you need privacy from the outside world.' Thanks!

A fellow student

I tuned out as soon as he started talking about how male readers care a lot about facts. I guess it's more convenient to live in a world in which women only care about emotions and daydreams. Patterson said that the moment a male reader understands that you don't know how x works, you lose him. I'm not a male, but Patterson -- you already lost me.


I don't understand what James Patterson meant how "that particular notion" loosens people up when you're interviewing them and it's going poorly. What "notion" was he talking about?

A fellow student

I love these lessons. Guys... please practice the "hour a day" or "1k words a day" method. It truly makes a difference after giving it some time. And so, here is my garage description. Hope it's alright. Beneath the musky air were sets of faded white lines, dotted with the shriveled remains of cigarette buds. Half repaired potholes covered each concrete floor and chock full of narrow spaces and sharp corners, the Lotus parking garage in downtown New Orleans exuded an aura of anxiety.

Raya L.

Hi - Looking to do the interview portion of this assignment and would like to talk to someone about investigations of any kind but I would love to speak to someone on cyber-based investigations.

Nathan W.

Can I ask, two it remotely advisable...remotely in the realm of a good read...for a book to have two reasonably separate endings? I feel I might be revealing too much, to type this. Secondly, I've heard this before and I like it. When you don't know where the story is heading. To me it sounds something of channelling. Can you both try to plot it out and just see where the story is headed?

Michael & Maryon A.

I like this lesson a lot. I especially like when James gives a point and I think 'oh of course that has to happen'. There are a few but one was when he said 'what are the stakes...what are the risks, what is the puzzle...who or what is the worthy opponent, what is the chase in surprises.' And of course the great reads I like have all of these things. Excellent advice thank you James, my character Ben Elspeth is in for an interesting ride (I hope).

Alain D.

I do wish they could fix the error page I get while trying to access the CRITIQUE — RAW IDEAS ASSIGNMENT.

Peter L.

Here's my take on the parking garage assignment: An empty parking garage sat, skeletal in the desert of the business district after hours, blood flow dried up, veins empty of all but a few rotting clots. The wreck in the corner, now more rust than metal. The hub cap on 2B. Broken glass, crushed cans. Every so often, the overhead lights spasmed, aglow once more. But this was not so much evidence of life as the involuntary contractions of decomposition.

Susan L.

It streams slowly. Is there something that I can do to change this? I hear only a few seconds and it stops to catch up.