Patterson Payoff

Well, there I was in a waiting room…waiting. And waiting. Luckily, I did not enter it empty-handed. I grabbed a James Patterson – Andrew Gross thriller called Judge & Jury and took it along for the trip. Like many of the books that James and his colleagues churn out, this one was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Well, Shakespeare has nothing to worry about, but I will say this for our boy Jim: he knows how to write a page turner. This started me pondering on what his MO is and why it works so well. Here are a few tools of the trade he’s really mastered:

Strong opening: The novel’s told in first person and hooks you from the first page by taking an event we all know well — a wedding — and giving it a snappy twist. What should be a joyous affair turns out to be a mob-fest and quickly turns into a shootout. As readers, we’re in: we need to know why and how all this happened.

Strong characters: Jim keeps his cast of main characters small and they are delivered straight up — nothing complicated. We’ve got Nick, the good guy FBI agent; Andie, his love interest; Dom, a ruthless mobster; and Remi, his ruthless henchman. That’s about it, except for a few bit players.

Really bad bad guys: Our authors pull no punches when it comes to delivering antagonists we love to hate — and yet, they give at least one of these bad boys a redeeming character trait: he loves his son. But overall, we have no problem choosing sides. There’s no moral ambiguity to muddy the waters: we’re with Nick, the white knight in the story, all the way. This makes for a relaxing read because you don’t have to sort anything out on the ethical front: it’s all done for you by the authors.

Strong plot and pacing: Again, the plot is simple: it revolves around the mobster’s trial and his efforts to break free. Nothing fancy, though it does take some twists and turns. And Jim is masterful when it comes to pacing: he switches back and forth among the characters to keep us intrigued and moves the story along with relentless energy.

Amazing what you can do with a few basics: a good opening, good plot, clearly defined characters, and brisk pacing. Hey, if Jim can do it, so can we. Write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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