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.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I absolutely love this masterclass! James Patterson has given me so many tips and inspiration to push me to write!

First let me say that I like this guy. any one willing to share his wealth of knowledge speaks volumes of his generosity. Thank you.

I think the biggest "Ah ha" moment for me was when James described how he outlines his stories. I've outlined mine, but only as we've been taught in school. Something so simple but so eyeopening for me. Thank you! I really enjoyed this class.

Loved the format; like sitting with James after 18 holes talking about writing no b.s. to sort thru take what you need and go for it


M K.

I can download all the PDFs no problem, but none of them print? Anyone know why? And... please don't suggest that I am out of paper etc. I checked, and can print a Word Doc no problem. It's these PDF docs that are the issue.

Diane C.

When I click on the links in the workbook to see Patterson's critiques of student submissions, I get a "This page does not exist 404 Error" message. Are the Office Hours videos gone now? If they are still available, where can I access them?


The marginalization of male readers bothers me a little. Also the praising of female readers suggests a little sexism there.

Patti H.

I have used Google Street view before. It is a great way to get an idea of the "lay of the land" in an area you want to set your story in, but maybe have not actually visited before. :)

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.