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.
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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.

Mr Patterson had so much practical advice, especially about first steps and how to form my stories. I feel much more free to write now than I did before. Thank you!

Very insightful and truly inspiring. Helped give me a basis on how to control and guide my writing. Forever grateful for you sharing your knowledge.

As a great admirer of Mr Patterson, It was delightful to be able to sit in his class and witness the behind the scenes process. I will re-watch!

This class, for me, was great because it allowed me to take a step back from all the damning thoughts I have about my own ability compared to a huge published auther and see that he is just another person in this rat race. And that time, dedication, luck and a good attitude will be what makes the difference with writing. Thank you Masterclass and thank you James!


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.

Peggy H.

This makes the best since to me. James explains stuff that we know but don't realize. Learn so much in a short time.


He stress the point to go for the reader as if he/she is sitting across from u as the reader.

George T.

I have struggled with endings. In A token for a Host, A novel from The Pleiades Chronicles, my challenge was to have a logical ending that introduces the next one. The last thing I need is to have pissed-off readers, yet, my stories must go on, therefore, I have had to create endings with a twist that provides a certain finality to the book then tells the reader; by the way, in the next book, there's more.

Tyra M.

Wow! Really enjoyed this one. I find myself replaying the lessons and seeing in my WIP where improvements need to be made, and that I'm also doing things right (here and there, lol). Right now my printer is broken (we're waiting on the part, it's delayed). So I'm finding it difficult to get work done (my process involves me printing off the chapters and then doing the assignments, this is my process, and so far every attempt I've made to change it, has stopped me writing). Mr. Patterson has a lot of passion and knowledge. I think whom ever selected the authors for these courses should get an award.

Melissa R.

I enjoyed this because endings are important. But what I find challenging as a writer and a reader is what Dan Brown calls the Muddle in the middle. I've put down or flipped to the end of books because they got bogged down. So that's why James' ideas about always keeping the action moving is important.

Francesca A.

Thank you, James Patterson for this lesson! I've read a lot of books with so so endings and there is one particular author that, for some reason (perhaps torture LOL), has the most crappy endings. I wonder how he got published and how he wound up on the best seller list! But I love his books, despite the endings! He's passed on now so I can't write to him about it. The same is true for movies. We get invested in the plot and characters and the ending sucks! That's the worst! I think that's why I pay so much attention to the endings in my work to make sure they are good. :)