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12. Building A Chapter: James Patterson Writing MasterClass

Since I'm working on the 1,000 word chapter for the James Patterson co-author contest, I'm skipping to Mr. Patterson's Chapter lesson.

Michael Connelly said that, in every chapter, every scene, James Patterson moves the characterization and the action forward, and turns on the movie projector in the mind of the reader. Mr. Patterson says to start with enough information from our senses to make the reader feel they are in the scene. Write how the main character perceives the environment: what do they see, hear, smell? The description needs to be new, fresh, catchy; make it your own, especially no an old cliche.

Regarding point of view, Mr. Patterson prefers first person and third person in the same story. First person gives an immediacy to the writing. Third person allows other's view points. Mr. Patterson likes to include the villian's point of view. In a chapter, choose who's point of view is the best to accomplish the desired effect.

Mr. Patterson views a writer's work as building each chapter with characters in a scene doing import things to move the story along. Write as though you are in the scene with the characters, make it come alive for the reader. A scene's description should echo the character's point of view. For example, a house can be described was as having eyes starring down on the character making him feel small. Or the same house can have warm pastel drapes like their grandmother's house, giving the effect of welcoming eyes.

Chapter's need drama to catch the reader's attention and hold it. Build from there to the middle. The chapter ends with something to propel the reader to the next chapter. The chapter should generate questions that must be answered.


Here is my opening to my co-author contest chapter:

Cat[, a junior CIA reporter] and Noi[, a Thai bargirl hooker] jumped out of their taxi and entered Bangkok's international airport where tourists, business travelers, and assassins were getting their boarding passes.

In the main departure hall Cat heard the drone of a thousand voices and baggage wheels rolling across the floor. It was the size of an American football field contained within five story high glass walls and ceiling. The afternoon sunlight brightened the airline counter isles.

“We need to split up to quickly find Chan,” Cat said.

“Where he go?” Noi asked, head tilted up to the departure board. “America? Europe?”

Poor uneducated Noi. Cat guessed her paying boyfriends were from there. However, she also scanned the board. “No. China, Taiwan. Maybe Hong Kong.”

“What airline?” Noi asked.

“Noi, you're wasting time. Go that way. I'll go this way.”

Cat walked off. Noi had wanted to remind Cat how Teacher[, Cat's CIA cultural studies instructor, who Cat was working with,] had told them to stay within sight of each other.

...

Aspects of the Novel, by E.M.Forster (Part I)

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To improve my fiction writing skills, I read about writing by the best writers. In the James Patterson MasterClass writing course, he mentions E.M. Forster. Forster wrote the classics: A Passage to India and A Room With a View. Aspects of the Novel are his lectures delivered at Trinity College in Cambridge, in the spring of 1927.

If you want to write a classic, take note of how a classic writer writes.

On Story

Forster takes a real life view of novel writing. We experience life in a time sequential story. In our external real world, we write non-fiction works such as memoirs, news, magazine articles, and history books. The inner world is rarely revealed, or in limited perspective.

Daily life is time ordered talks, and thoughts which lead to action during events.

A story is told of characters in their shared external world, and in the internal world of their thoughts and imaginations. A character's external world actions are motivated by their internal thoughts. A novel's events are ordered in time sequence.

A complicated story is one that if something is removed, then there is a gap in the story. The story would be clean and clear of side stories. If parts of a side story were removed, the mainline story would still be complete.

Story has a time line of events where characters measure their most valueable intense memories. A writer writes of the unseen emotions and thoughts which drive the characters to do as they do, giving the reader a broader experience, the full experience of the life of its characters.

Story People

A history book focuses on real world evidence of people's actions. From the evidence, there is conjecture. We don't know their actual thoughts and intentions.

A novel's characters have secret lives visible to readers. The writer exposes their thoughts and intentions.

Readers, people, have secret lives invisible to others. A writer interviews people to get their thoughts and intentions, but it is a person's remembered point of view. The actual is invisible.

E.M. Forster asks, "Can we, in daily life, understand each other?"

Characters are adapted to their creator. Flat, one dimensional characters (their actions and thoughts) can be describe in a single statement. Round, multi-dimensional characters are flat, and round when they act in surprising, believable, convincing ways.

7. Writing an Outline, Part II: James Patterson Writing MasterClass

How to write an outline, is the major writing technique I want to learn, by working through this course. This is great! This lesson discusses Mr. Patterson's (and co-author Howard Roughan's) outline for the book, Honeymoon.

The outline is 27 pages long, one paragraph for each chapter, includes specifics such as character names, locations, and important items. Outlines is great way to plan suspense, twists, and surprises. He says, and as I do, to include notes about scenes, plot, and characters.

The outline is the complete story line from start to end. It is a plot in that it includes character motivation. Each scene was written into a 2 or 3 page long chapter; the book is 400 pages.

6. Writing an Outline, Part I: James Patterson Writing MasterClass

An outline saves time and makes a better book. Saves time from going back to rewrite sections because of a change in the story. Had the writer been working on a outline, there would only be minor changes verses dropping completely written sections. Stephen King writes a couple drafts and polish. James Patterson writes multiple drafts of the outline before writing the first draft of the book.

As Stephen King says in his book, On Writing (20 tips), "Story, story, story." James Patterson says to focus on the story in the outline, not on specific written sentences; not the prose, just the story.

Ideas for scenes should be complete enough to fit into the complete outline. When I read Mr. Patterson's book (and co-author Andrew Gross), 3rd Degree, his writing style is to have each scene as a chapter, each chapter only a two or three pages. Each scene should be interesting to the writer. The writer should be excited to write the scene. In my outline, there is a scene where Teacher introduces Cat to a Shaoline Intelligence Agency temple office. I am looking forward to having fun with the conversations between Cat and the monk she is first introduced to. This scene also introduces the capiblities of the Asian style of an intelligence agency.

The outline includes character arcs. Characters need to grow during a book. In mine, Cat starts out as a junior reporter wanting to be promoted to an analyst. As the story goes along,her cultural perspective grows. She appreciates her heritage even more, to the point where she cares for the Thai people more than getting promoted. As a writer, as I believe for my readers, we will care more about Cat as she gains depth.

5. Research for my James Patterson's Writing MasterClass book

Mr. Patterson talks of the usefulness of research to improve story points. Useful for:

  • Add location details.
  • Improving character points of view. Having characters make correct points, act within the bounds of real sample situations. In my book, characters playing parts during historic events which occurred after the 2014 Thailand coup.

My sample research:

  • Which university did Cat go to for journalism? Answer: Washington, DC's American University
  • Scene locations: Bangkok industrial area (Pathum Thani), temple (Golden Mount), bars (Nana Plaza), hotels(Grand Sukhumvit), restaurants (TBA).
  • Who, and what organizations, are the political powers in Thailand? Answer: the King and other royal members, PM and other politicians, the military, military appointed politicians, and Thai Royal Police.
  • What are the stages of a Thailand coup? Answer: (1) PM is democratically elected; (2) political and social unrest--this is used as a reason for the military to take action; (3) martial law is declared; (4) Military moves in and installs their leaders into power; (5) Stability is enforced; (6) Military politicians run the government functions; (7) New government is democratically elected.
  • How to Become a CIA Economic Analyst.
  • CIA World Factbook: Thailand

Reading about the Thailand coups, I am learning the language to use in my story. Examples:

  • Social unrest: negative events leading up to the coup
  • mass rallies: large number of people protesting
  • Thailand as the 'Detroit of the East'
  • Supporters: support one side of a conflict or the other
  • "Disruption by the opposition": the opposition group causng events to disrupt what the other group/party is doing
  • Martial law Thailand: Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) with himself[a military leader] as its commander. Charged with the duty to "restore peace to the people from all sides without delay", the POMC was initially given the power to "prevent, suppress, abate and resolve" any situation affecting national security, to enforce every provision of the martial law, and to summon any person.

Research Links

CNN article about the past King of Thailand.

The military established a junta called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to govern the nation.

CNN Article: Thailand coup: A cheat sheet to get you up to speed, By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN, Updated 8:05 AM ET, Fri May 23, 2014

CNN: Photos during the 2014 Thailand coup.

From BBC News:

Wikipedia: 2013–2014 Thai political crisis

4. My Plot and Storyline for James Patterson's Writing MasterClass

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Red roofed Shaolin Intelligence Agency offices and residence for the monks of Golden Mount temple (above) downtown Bangkok.


The CIA has an eye on the conflicts in Bangkok, which is bad for American interests. The CIA send Cat, a junior analyst to get intelligence first hand from their Bangkok operative. She takes notes as the local American operative shows her around. He doesn't tell her of his illegal gun sales to the local underworld. The next day a bomb goes off in an industrial suburb of Bangkok. Cat immediately goes to the scene.

She's thinking, this is great, I get to report on a bombing. Her enthusiasm is dampened by the seriousness of the scene, the side of factory building blown away, emergency crews attending to victims. She's surprised to see her instructor from her CIA Asian cultural studies class. He is helping the Thai police organize and secure the area.

Her former Teacher simply says, "Hello Cat," and then instructs her to take photos of everyone in the area, "Now." This begins a partnership as they investigate the team that carried out the bombing. Teacher wants to protect his students, innocent people, many from the countryside trying to earn a better living. Cat wants to be a star reporter, she wants a promotion to Analyst.

Chan, the man responsible for the bombing wants to scare the Thai factory workers and cause economic problems for the foreign factory owners. Manipulating economic and political environments is his expertise. His employer is an international Asian corporation.

To track down those responsible, Teacher takes Cat to the Golden Mount temple in the heart of Bangkok.

"This seems irrelevant," Cat says. "Are you going there to pray for help?"

"No," he says. What he does is introduce Cat to the underground Shaolin Intelligence Agency. They operate out of temples, disguised as religious monks. They have a network of computers and people supporting a connected intelligence agency; Asian style.

Cat and Teacher end up in skirmishes in Thailand before following the enemy to Taipei. Cat learns the enemy also has an intelligence network, as the Shaolin Agency informs her that she is on their list of known CIA personnel. As others get involved, resistance rises against Chan's employer.


Cat graduated with a Masters in Journalism from Washington, DC's American University. She's a Chinese & Thai mix, living in California.


I enjoyed walking around the temple grounds, and ringing the bells and gong of the Golden Mount temple.

Before walking up to Golden Mount temple Golden Mount temple

Temple gong and bells