Masterclass Notes: James Patterson – Part 2 – Ideation

Part one of this series can be found here. It’s important to note that the points below are a combination of what was viewed & the insights it stirred.

Lesson 3: Raw Ideas

Patterson doesn’t write realism, he writes whatever interests or excites him.

His stories are usually the opposite of what you would expect. For example, three unexpected factors from his story Honeymoon:

  1. The main character is a bigamist who is a woman. When most people think of bigamy, they usually think of men.
  2. The main character ends up killing her husbands, so you have a black widow scenario. Essentially, a female serial killer. When most people think of serial killers, usually the names Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, or Paul Bernardo come to mind. All male. Women aren’t usually thought of as serial killers.
  3. A detective is drawn into the case because of the inconsistencies. It plagued him. He’s a shrewd individual and you think he will crack the case. But as the story progresses, he begins to fall for her and starts believing her story about the murders being accidents.

All those points were the opposite of what most people would think. Patterson thought of what could happen and took it down the opposite path.

A good story is a combination of one, two or three things (or twists) that are normally not combined. (Orson Scott Card, writer of Ender’s Game, did something similar when he came up with his ideas.)

But how would you get ideas like that? Patterson advises by learning as much as you can. Don’t limit the world you live in. Find out as much as you can about a variety of topics so that your well runs deep when you go to draw from it.

“The more you know about, the more likely you are to be able to combine things into an idea that’s striking.”

James Patterson, MasterClass


  1. Write what interests/excites you
  2. Think of where the story is most likely to go. Then choose the opposite direction.
  3. Combine ideas and/or ensure your story has 3 twists.
  4. Ensure your well runs deep. Take in as much of the world as you can get your hands on. Learn, explore, and pay attention to as much as you can.

Posts in Series:

  1. MasterClass Notes: James Patterson – Part 1 – Passion & Habit
  2. MasterClass Notes: James Patterson – Part 2 – Ideation
  3. Masterclass Notes: James Patterson – Part 3 – Plotting

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