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Arts & Entertainment

Ending The Book

James Patterson

Lesson time 13:55 min

We've all read great books with terrible endings. Of the infinite possible endings, learn how James chooses the right one.

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


Your ending is hugely important because-- and this is true in movies, and it's true in books-- because that's what they walk-- they walk out of the theater here. They're clapping, and cheering, and feeling great, and spreading the word about the movie, or rather their apartments or whatever in terms of the book. And a lot of it has to do with what you did at the ending, how you pulled it all together, the surprise at the end, the surprise that fits, that's appropriate. So you really have to make sure that it is satisfying, or you're going to disappoint people. And you'll won't get that good word of mouth. You might not get published because there's no ending. It's not just you. It's you and a reader, and I want you to always think about that, because when there is a reader in the process, it's a different thing. The reader's sitting across from you, and you're playing this game. You're playing this cat and mouse game with that reader. And the other important thing about that reader is, you have to go for the highest common denominator. I mean, if you're going to write a best seller, there has to be common denominator. It's got to work for a lot of people. But you want to write for the highest common denominator. It's a really good thriller reader. It's a really good mystery reader. Because you have to satisfy that person. If you satisfy that personal, you're going to satisfy everybody else. [MUSIC PLAYING] It is rare. I'll do the outlines, and I'm preaching outline, outline, outline. I almost never do the ending that's in the outline. Well, at least more than 50% of the time, it's a different ending. Because just in writing the book, so much has changed. So many things have happened. The stakes get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. The villain gets more interesting. Something may have happened to the hero along the line that was a little unexpected. And the ending that I write in the outline is never-- and I think part of the problem is, the outline is a bit more logical than emotional. And by the time I get to that ending, my emotions are really churning, and I'm always feeling it just needs more. It needs more than this. It just can't be about logic. It has to be logic and emotion. You've got to feel something in most cases, certainly in commercial fiction. You should feel something. You should-- and whether it's a tragic ending in which you go, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That can be incredibly effective and appropriate. I can't believe, oh, my god. I got to tell people. Oh, Jesus. That's good. That's a good thing. Happy ending, once again, that can be terrific, if it's honest, where that reader or the person in the movie's going oh, shit, man, that's, oh, yeah, baby, yeah. That's good. That's a good thing. [MUSIC PLAYING] The ending should be really satisfying...

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.

Persistence is key! Don't be bound by the rules of others. Just do it!

Persevere. Focus. Choose Joy. Keep the reader in the room where you write.

This class has drastically helped me improve my character development and writing techniques. It has also helped me with keeping inspired and driven to complete the book I'm writing!

Ta-da! Well, I am inspired. It was just neat to hear him speak. This was a great opportunity. What a NOVEL idea... to hear from professionals you admire and aspire to be like/learn from! Now I must write.


Emerson J. C.

James Patterson, one of the Masters, graced us with is take, very down to earth and informative. Inspirational, like you've know him forever. Great info and words by which to get writing ! Thank you Jim.

Thor T.

I see what he is saying here. I like the idea of being open to possible endings and then choosing the one that's right for you as the author. Ingenius!

Dale U.

Some writers are in the habit of writing the ending first and then working back from there. I'm trying that with the book I'm currently working on and so far so good. And thanks to James I'm also considering an alternate ending. Great class.

Nanette P.

Wow! After watching and listening to James Patterson go on about the most outrageous endings, I'm going back to the black board. I am at the END of editing my book. Now I'm going to take another look at my ending. I hate when I read a book and can figure out what's coming next, and it does. Thank you JAMES.

Abrielle R.

Yes! Endings are so stressful to commit to! Great great advice. Nothing is worse than investing a ton of time into a movie or a book and get an ending that makes you regret your use of precious hours.

Eric L.

I guess I am not the average student here, in that until yesterday, I had never read anything in this genre or by our teacher. It isn't my genre. Obviously I know who James Patterson is, and have great respect for his accomplishments which is why I took the class. My point is that, I went through the videos once and kind of missed a detail in this video, which was the ending to Along Came A Spider, which I read last evening so I could more easily frame the course. I thought, when I read the book, that the execution of Jezzie was unnecessary. Now, having watched this a second time I had to ask myself if I felt the same way, and I am not as sure now that I hear the reason. Would have I made the same choice? Could I make that choice? I don't know. I probably would not have considered killing the redeemable. It is easy to spare the irredeemable, as that can be a future plot device. Though, so too would have I considered Jezzie. It is something to consider.

Daria V.

Thanks for the secret tip! I'm going to write my first big novel after a dozen of short stories and I will definitely use this piece of advice. Actually, I have one good (in my opinion) ending for my novel in my mind that can probably impress the reader, but I think it's worth writing several endings and then choosing the most compelling one. Who knows, maybe I will come up with something even better than what I have so far.

Ian C.

Great tip to popcorn many alternative endings that make sense. I am writing an epilogue with an alternative (surprise) ending that have been incredibly satisfying for me and I hope others will love the twists of the alternate ending too. I love a clean ending for closure as well as a bit of ambiguity to make me think and perhaps to lead into another book (as part of a series - having invested in the characters). So that's the way I want to write my ending to my first novel. Any ideas on how to write cliffhangers that also give closure while not leaving readers frustrated?

Ann S.

James Patterson is amazing at chopping out the real meat of writing. He not only presents valuable substance in his lessons but also explains how to do it.

Lorraine A.

I like the idea of alternate endings. I'll definitely try it with the book I'm currently writing.