Scene Purpose: How James Patterson (and his cowriter) does it

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In the last scenes post we looked at the scene purpose, of which Larry Brooks says, “James Patterson has mastered this, and it has become the accepted model of effective scene writing today: One mission per scene.”

So I picked up a Patterson book (actually a Patterson/Richard DiLallo book) from my library, the most current one I could find with fewer than 360 pages and without a bunch of holds: The Midwife Murders. (Only 309 pages!)

At the beginning of the book, Michael Connelly (Bosch) is quoted as saying, “Patterson boils a scene down to a single, telling detail, the element that defines a character or moves a plot along. It’s what fires off the movie projector in the reader’s mind.” Good sign, since that’s what we’re here for. (Alas, now that I’m done reading it, I’m not sure Patterson read this one before putting his name on it. Oh well. We’re here for purpose, and most of the book’s scenes do have one.)

So. Purpose.

A scene’s purpose is to reveal a piece of story information that moves the story forward for the reader and that, much more often than not, also drives the character forward in the pursuit of their goal, whether immediately, in the next scene, or eventually, in a later scene.

(In case you’re wondering: A scene’s purpose is distinct from a scene’s ending hook. The ending hook is the bit at the end of a scene that intrigues the reader enough, hopefully, to turn the page into the next scene. The scene purpose, however, may or may not propel you into the very next scene because, though revealed, its impact on the story may or may not be explained or realized by the characters just yet. Patterson/DiLallo gives us some examples of this, so . . .)

Let’s just get to it.


The Midwife Murders is about a midwife who works at a hospital where newborns are being stolen. When the midwife becomes dissatisfied with the way the investigation is going, she gets involved.

The cast of characters include:

  • The midwife main character (MC)
  • Detective Blumenthal (B-)
  • Dr. Rudi, head of OBGYN
  • Hospital CEO Katz
  • MC’s male midwifery assistant
  • MC’s female midwifery assistant
  • MC’s best friend, who lives in her building
  • The bad guys, a male and a female
  • A bunch of other characters, many of whom were emphasized and could have been good red herrings, except they weren’t entwined with the plot nor, in many cases, were they even mentioned a second time. (They therefore don’t provide a payoff.)

Some things to note:

Patterson famously uses one scene per chapter, so I divvied the story up by Chapter too. (Though he does vary from this pattern a little, as noted.)

If you’ll recall from the plot posts, the first part of a book, up to the first 25%, sets up the story for the reader. That’s Part 1/Act 1’s purpose: set the story up for the reader. With that in mind . . .

Scene Purpose in The Midwife Murders

  • Prologue (This occurs in the front-story timeframe and reveals front-story-driving plot information, so I don’t know why they decided to call it a prologue. Anyhoo . . .)
    • Purpose: Begin the main story for the reader by revealing that “A newborn baby has gone missing” at the hospital where the main character (MC) works as a midwife.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC’s assistant calls to say that one of their patients is ready to deliver, and oh yeah, “there’s something else…” A baby’s missing.
    • Other Exposition: Establish Reader-Character Bond: MC has a rescue dog, runs daily, and is a single mom to one son.
    • Note that this scene establishes the main story for the reader but not so much for the MC who, while taking a curious look for news of missing babies on the internet, remains mostly concerned about her delivering patient. (Maybe this is why they labeled this a prologue. ?)
  • Ch1:
    • Purpose: Establish the story World for the reader.
    • Delivery Method: Action/Interiority. MC receives a text that a “Hosp nurse about 2 interfere” with the patient mentioned in the prologue, which allows the MC to provide World context through interiority: “the nurse-midwives are entirely separate from the medical staff” and “the hospital setting is around us only in case of emergency.” MC has and expects autonomy in her job as a hospital-based midwife.
    • Other Exposition: Show that MC’s not too concerned with appearances and that her attitude toward hospital public relations is contemptuous.
  • Ch2:
    • Purpose: Explain for the reader how a single mom believably succeeds in the World, balancing work and family.
    • Delivery method: Interiority that MC relies heavily on a best friend who lives in her building to babysit her son and dialogue from that friend that MC “might as well live at that hospital of yours . . . well, you practically do. Pretty soon Willie-boy’s gonna think that I’m his mama.”
  • Ch3:
    • Purpose: Introduce the reader to “pompous, self-important, arrogant, despicable” Hospital CEO, Dr. Katz.
    • Delivery Method: Mainly Action: Katz is greeting all the employees as they come in the building to tell them not to talk to the press about the missing baby.
    • Other Exposition: Introduce security guard Caspar (ultimately never seen again) and the presence of law enforcement.
  • Ch4:
    • Purpose: Reinforce for the reader the contentions between the midwives and the rest of the hospital staff.
    • Delivery Method: Introduce Nurse Franklin who ordered MC’s patient restrained even though MC’s assistants didn’t want her restrained and even though “GUH staff should not be anywhere near midwife services unless they are requested.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Suggest that MC doesn’t get along with anyone who’s not in midwife services.
      • Introduce the idea that some baby delivery circumstances require general anesthesia.
      • Set up for later the MC coming into possession of a baby: This patient is going through withdrawals.
  • Ch5:
    • Purpose: Establish MC’s character: she’s not intimidated by the hospital staff and she’s good at what she does.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC ignores Nurse Franklin’s taunting about how MC should take the patient for a C-section and tries something else first, thinking “I know when to make that call.”
  • Ch6
    • Purpose: Stretch the tension for the reader, allowing reader to enjoy the ride and giving reader the time to decide for herself whether MC knows when to make the call.
    • Delivery Method: Ch6 is a continuation of Ch5: they put the mom-to-be in the shower and deliver a live baby.
  • Ch7
    • Purpose: Introduce the head of ob-gyn, Dr. Rudi.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue: Dr. Rudi tells MC that after being taken to neonatal, the baby she just delivered died.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Instill doubt in the reader about MC’s judgment.
      • Lay groundwork on Dr. Rudi, with whom MC is contentious but not as much as with her other colleagues.
  • Ch8
    • Purpose: Now that backstory exposition is set up, return the reader to, and begin setting up, the main story.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue via phone call: “Another baby’s gone missing.”
    • Other Exposition: Might be stating theme here. MC tells the caller she’ll come back in. Her son says, “Mom, you gotta choose the right thing.” She walks to the foldout she sleeps on, and her son says, “Good choice, Mom.” (Turns out this isn’t developed, so not the theme. Not sure there is a theme.)
  • Ch9
    • Purpose: Establish for the reader the somewhat unique proximity of the police force.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue: Dr. Rudi tells MC that the NYPD is taking the case very seriously, in fact, they’ve set up in the hospital cafeteria.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Show that reporters have picked up the missing infants story despite Dr. Katz’s efforts to keep it quiet.
      • Juxtapose Dr. Katz’s concern about PR with MC’s concern about the missing babies.
      • Foreshadow the impressive lead detective.
  • Ch10
    • Purpose: Set up how far Dr. Rudi is willing to go to get what he wants.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue: Dr. Rudi asks if MC will help with a soon-to-deliver celebrity patient who just decided she wants a midwife instead of an ob-gyn. MC says no.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Clarify for the reader what, exactly, a midwife does: any traditional gynecological procedure.
      • Reinforce MC’s contempt for prioritizing PR and appearances by showing that MC also isn’t swayed by celebrity.
  • Ch11
    • Purpose: Now that everything’s set up, kick the main story up a notch.
    • Delivery Method: Discovery through Action: MC goes to the delivery room of her next patient, and the 17yo girl is missing.
    • Other Exposition: Give the reader a closer glimpse of the head detective, Blumenthal (B-).
  • Ch12
    • Purpose: Establish for later the existence of the Darlow Pavilion.
    • Delivery Method: Interiority: In searching all over the hospital for the missing patient, MC has the opportunity to explain the Darlow Pavillion as they’re passing through, “a fancy area of the hospital . . . designed for super-rich patients willing to pay a lot of money for being sick in absolute privacy and luxury.”
    • Other Exposition: Deepen tension by having the locating officer refer to the missing 17yo patient as the “victim” and her location as “pretty grim.”
  • Ch 13
    • Purpose: Set up a lead for later. (Ultimately an unpaid-off Red Herring)
    • Delivery Method: Bury the lead in Dialogue: One of the security guys says the room in which the victim/patient is found is being used as “some sort of goddamn private place for raising lab rats. I’ve got an idea who’s doing it. . . .” (But no one asks him who . . . and this is never mentioned again . . .)
    • Other Stuff: Draw out the tension for the reader by delaying the victim/patient’s outcome.
  • Ch14
    • Purpose: Escalate the main storyline and raise the stakes.
    • Delivery Method: Description and Interiority: After describing the scene and the victim/patient’s physical condition, MC spells it out for us in interiority: Not only is the bad guy stealing babies, he’s cutting them out of the womb. (Actually, stealing-babies-from-the-womb only happens this one time, so . . .)
    • Other Exposition: Reveal that the patient/victim is still alive.
  • Ch15
    • Purpose: Reveal a clue about the bad guy.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue: “The incision they used to take the baby out…is neat and elegant, a traditional bikini-cut C-section. . . . it was done by a trained professional, a real live doctor.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Establish the character power hierarchy by showing Hospital CEO Katz starting to smoke in the hospital, ignoring MC when she tells him to put it out but then obeying detective B- when he tells Katz to put the cigarette out.
      • Introduce Helen Whall, “the finest plastic surgeon at GUH, possibly in all of New York City.” (Mentioned once more and could have been a good red herring, but she’s ultimately underutilized/not satisfactorily paid off given the detail spent on her.)
  • Ch16
    • Purpose: Reveal another clue about the bad guy.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. The lead detective clarifies the main story goal (find the “pervert”) and the stakes (save three missing newborns) and what his team has done so far (set up security and interview people), and in the midst of all this he says, “The entrance and exit security was extremely tight. So it could have been an inside job.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Reveal that Dr. Rudi performed the reconstruction surgery, and the patient/victim is going to live.
      • Reinforce the character power hierarchy by having B- tell CEO Katz to get off the phone and having Katz comply.
      • Reveal that, since this is a kidnapping, the FBI will be involved. (Though they never actually are, except in summary in the last chapter.)
      • Reveal that the NYPD has set up security at all the hospitals in NYC.
      • Reveal that B- expects to be set up in the hospital cafeteria for at least the next 24 hours.
  • Ch17
    • Purpose: Suggest that Dr. Rudi is hiding something and/or set Dr. Whall up as a suspect/red herring. (Turns out it’s the former. This is the last we hear of Dr. Whall.)
    • Delivery Method: Interview Dialogue. B- asks Dr. Rudi whether anyone left the operating room while he fixed the patient whose baby was stolen from the womb. R- says no and then lists off a bunch of people who left, forgetting the obvious person: Dr. Whall, who gave the patient update to everyone waiting. Dr. Rudi insists that he didn’t recall Dr. Whall leaving and “I certainly don’t recall asking her to update anybody on my patient’s condition.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Show that MC is dissatisfied with the detective work.
      • Foreshadow a trip to MC’s hometown by revealing that MC thinks she’s qualified to advise on an NYC crime because her uncle was a cop in West Virginia, her home state.
      • Suggest where Dr. Rudi falls on the “prioritizes appearances” continuum by having him insist on giving MC a ride home and telling her to meet him outside: “Look for a handsome man driving a blue Lexus.”
  • Ch18
    • Purpose: Foreshadow a necessary characteristic about Dr. Rudi. (Actually, no. It turns out the purpose is just to tell reader a bit more about Dr. R.)
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. On the drive to MC’s house, Dr. Rudi tells the MC that his ex-wife left and took their kid to Nepal; he’s lonely, so he takes a lot of drives around Brooklyn and is very familiar with the area. (I reread this to see if this conversation is how the MC knows about the climax location, but it’s not. As far as I can tell, this conversation has no payoff.)
  • Ch19
    • Purpose: ? On the first read, I had no idea, and I’m not much clearer now that I’ve finished the book. Perhaps it’s to suggest Dr. Rudi as an ally? A love interest? A psycho? All of the above?
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. At her house, still in the car, Dr. Rudi and MC talk briefly about B- and then Dr. Rudi says he wants to take MC to dinner. She says she can’t (son waiting), and Dr. Rudi gets mad: “‘Damn it, Lucy. Get out of the car.’ He’s not teasing.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Show that Dr. Rudi agrees with MC that B-‘s detective work leaves something to be desired.
      • Show that Dr. Rudi is interested in MC (more likely he’s just lonely).
      • Suggest that he has borderline personality disorder.
      • Reveal that Dr. Rudi somewhat creepily knows MC’s address: he put it in the GPS without asking her what it was.
  • Ch20:
    • Purpose: Reinforce the stakes
    • Delivery Method: Action/Dialogue. The 17yo patient/victim is awake. She and her parents want the baby back. “trying is good, but is not good enough.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Provide another piece of the setup that will reveal how far Dr. Rudi is willing to go to get what he wants: he is listed as offsite all day.
  • Ch21
    • Purpose: Introduce the reader to the bad guys.
    • Delivery Method: A scene from their perspective, a man and a woman, showing how their supervisors put them together and sent them to New York, from Russia, five years ago to buy and sell babies.
    • Other Exposition:
      • The woman is a pediatrician; the man looks for women willing to sell their babies.
      • They started in Jersey and then, a little over four years ago, they were moved to Manhattan.
      • They are middlemen who hand the babies off to someone else–people who, at least in Jersey, drive a white van (which is never mentioned again/not paid off).
  • Ch22
    • Purpose: Make the stakes personal for the MC so that she’s “determined to get more involved.”
    • Delivery Method: A news report calls their hospital the Hospital of Death. Dialogue drives the point home: “sooner, rather than later, we won’t have a functioning maternity ward, or, more importantly, we won’t have a viable Midwifery Division.”
  • Ch23
    • Purpose: Give a clue/red herring about the Bad Guy. (Turns out it’s a real clue.)
    • Delivery Method: Video surveillance. MC and assistant watch the surveillance video and spot a blond nurse in high heels.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Clarify that nurses never wear high heels.
      • Slip in a reference to a security guy named Jonah, who gave MC’s assistant the security film. (never mentioned again/unpaid-off red herring)
      • Provide another piece of set up for the scene that will show how far Dr. Rudi will go to get what he wants: MC gets a text “Birthing rm 4 ASAP G. Leonard.” Patient name doesn’t sound familiar, but off MC goes.
  • Ch24
    • Purpose: Pay off how far Dr. Rudi will go to get what he wants.
    • Delivery Method: Discovery. Upon arriving at room 4, MC finds Dr. Rudi and his celebrity patient. “You tricked me, goddamnit.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Show that while MC’s not a pushover, she prioritizes the babies: MC tells Rudi no, she’s not tending the celebrity. But the baby is ready, so MC acquiesces.
      • Reinforce that MC is not intimidated by appearance or celebrity; the celebrity will either do things MC’s way “Or they can wheel you right down the corridor to obstetrics.”
  • Ch25
    • Purpose: Reinforce the clue from two scenes ago.
    • Delivery Method: Interiority. MC considers telling Dr. Rudi about the nurse in heels but ultimately doesn’t.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Suggest where Dr. Rudi falls on the “prioritizing appearances” continuum: The successful delivery of a celebrity baby “will be wonderful publicity for the hospital. And we sure can use it.”
      • Reinforce where MC falls on the continuum: She has to agree it’s good press, but she insists finding the missing babies is more important.
      • Reinforce for the reader, but backtrack a bit for the MC, Dr. Rudi’s borderline personality disorder: he’s aware he acted the jerk when he dropped her off, and he says it won’t happen again.
      • Reinforce that MC is weirdly sort of attracted to Dr. Rudi but ultimately doesn’t trust him.
  • Ch26
    • Purpose: Motivate MC to take action. (Pay off the Darlow Pavillion)
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC looks for the celebrity patient in her room, but she’s missing. Turns out she’s just moved to the fancy Darlow Pavillion, but MC’s still annoyed . . . at the detective. (? Have to say I’m having trouble relating to MC’s thinking.)
    • Other Exposition:
      • Convey that Dr. Rudi apparently didn’t know the patient had been moved either.
      • Announce a question for the reader: Why is Dr. Rudi “such a supporter and defender” of B-?
  • Ch27
    • Purpose: Clarify for the reader, if not the MC, that B- is on top of the investigation.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC tells B- about the high-heel nurse in the surveillance, but B- has already seen it.
    • Other Exposition: Juxtapose MC’s “passionate” approach to the investigation to B-‘s calm approach.
  • Ch28
    • Purpose: Establish that MC is familiar with the world of vulnerable populations.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC’s first patient of the book, who lost the baby (one of a pair), needs help getting clean so that she can take home the remaining twin. MC is familiar enough with the social service and addiction centers in NYC to reject the one the patient favors and select the one with the highest likelihood of getting her clean.
    • Other Exposition: Foreshadow MC’s deeper entry into this world.
  • Ch29
    • Purpose: Establish that, not only is MC familiar with these worlds, she is connected to the world’s influential people.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC and her patient move to the front of the line because she delivered three babies for the woman in charge.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Set up that MC is well-known in this world. They call her Lucy the Baby Catcher.
      • Set up that MC’s best friend in her building will foster the patient’s baby while the patient gets clean.
  • Ch30
    • Purpose: Clarify that, while MC is a successful midwife, she’s not well-off.
    • Delivery Method: Action. In a scene of respite, MC and the best friend make “Lucky Pot supper,” something they do every week, where they combine literally all of their weekly leftovers into a pot and share it among their two families. Tonight is “curried oxtail, cubes of meatloaf, frozen peas, four Kraft singles, half a large can of V8 and–ta-da!–this morning’s remains of Willy’s Kellogg’s cornflakes.”
  • Ch31
    • Purpose: Take the story up another notch with a solid lead from the dad of the patient whose baby was stolen from her womb.
    • Delivery Method: Action/Dialogue. The 17yo patient’s dad comes to MC’s apartment and tells her that a man and woman, likely Russian, came to their house and made a deal to buy the 17yo’s baby. The 17yo accepted, then tried to renege, but the woman said there was no reneging.
  • Ch32
    • Purpose: Create anticipation for an encounter between MC and B- (because we’re about to slip into a different, potentially slow/boring POV and we want reader to read through it and into the next scene).
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC calls B- and says she’s coming to talk to him (about the lead she just got).
  • Ch33
    • Purpose: Establish the juxtaposition between MC’s hospital, with its “welfare patients,” and the Immaculate Conception Hospital (ICH), where people go “if one is very rich and slated to give birth.”
    • Delivery Method: Summary with some dialogue between two doctors who work at ICH.
    • Other Exposition: Foreshadow and set the reader up to immediately understand the circumstances and implications of the next missing baby.
  • Ch34
    • Purpose: Establish that MC can accomplish things on the investigation that the detectives can’t.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC tells B- about the baby buyers who wanted the 17yo’s baby, a story B- hadn’t heard before (despite presumably having interviewed the 17yo and her family).
    • Other Exposition:
      • Reinforce the juxtaposition between B-‘s calmness and MC’s passion.
      • Undermine the developing theory that the kidnappings are all from vulnerable populations, likely from reneged baby sales, by revealing that a baby was stolen from the Immaculate Conception Hospital. (Although I don’t know why, because this detail ultimately isn’t developed and doesn’t lead anywhere.)
  • Ch35 Sc1
    • Purpose: Reinforce that B- is good at his job.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. After MC leaves the room, she listens to B- update his team. He takes her information seriously, gives her credit, and knows she’s listening at the door.
  • Ch35 Sc2
    • Purpose: Clarify that while B- is good at his job, he’s also “quite creative in ignoring the rules.”
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. Dr. Rudi says he supports B- because the mayor supports B-, because, the mayor says, B- is good at his job, despite “ignoring the rules.”
    • Other Exposition: Reinforce Dr. Rudi’s shadiness by having him reveal information about the mayor that should be protected under patient-doctor confidentiality (she’s trying to get pregnant). (She’s also never mentioned again).
  • Ch36
    • Purpose: Foreshadow MC becoming an active part of the investigation.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC offers to pose as a poor pregnant woman, but B- says that’s a bad idea, because the buyers check the pregnancy.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Clarify the juxtaposition between MC’s passion and B-‘s calm. MC says she’s being proactive; B- says being proactive is “a synonym for wasting time, for making a lot of noise for no real reason.”
      • Motivate MC to take a break and go home (because we need to show some scenes that require a different setting and cast of characters) by having B- tell MC to take a break.
  • Ch37 Sc1
    • Purpose: Reinforce that MC should take a break so that when she does the Reader will agree that it’s MC’s best course of action.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. Her assistant independently says MC should take a break.
  • Ch37 Sc2
    • Purpose: Reinforce that, though a successful midwife, MC is not well-off.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC borrows Dr. Rudi’s car because she doesn’t trust hers to make it more than five miles.
    • Other Exposition: Reinforce Dr. Rudi’s good-guy qualities: “My car is now your car.”
  • Ch38
    • Purpose: Create anticipation about MC’s family.
    • Delivery Method: Interiority. MC explains that her mom was a midwife who now cares “for her long-dying husband and her drugged-out son.”
    • Other Exposition: Reinforce reader-character bond.
  • Ch39
    • Purpose: Show that MC has a tight-knit family.
    • Delivery Method. Action. Her mom “and her cane rush out to greet us . . . Daddy hobbles and stumbles along with his walker. Cabot wheels the oxygen tank.”
  • Ch40
    • Purpose: Explain how MC became familiar with vulnerable populations, social services, and addiction clinics.
    • Delivery Method. Description and Dialogue. A drug dealer’s Mercedes is across the street from MC’s family’s house. MC and her mom disagree over whether to blame the dealers or the users themselves for people, like her brother, becoming addicted and wasting their lives.
    • Other Exposition: Introduce Balboa Littlefield, the little town’s drug dealer. (First and last we hear of him.)
  • Ch41
    • Purpose: Show just how prepared MC is to help people in need. (Turns out this isn’t foreshadowing a front-story event.)
    • Delivery Method. Action. Her brother OD’s and MC has a syringe of what’s necessary to revive him.
    • Other Exposition: A moment of family intimacy and respite.
  • Ch42
    • Purpose: Provide another clue.
    • Delivery Method. Dialogue. MC’s mom reminisces about her days as a midwife and mentions a guy named “Eagleburg or Eaglehead” who “supplied newborns for rich people” in Harrison, New Jersey.
  • Ch43
    • Purpose: Get MC back on the case.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. While playing miniature golf with her brother and son, B- calls and says he needs her here right now.
  • Ch44
    • Purpose: On the fresh read, I thought the purpose of this scene was to free MC of the responsibility of her son so she can focus on the case while possibly setting up an opportunity to raise the stakes by putting everyone she loves in the same place, especially since Dr. Rudi keeps tabs on her, including her address, and just let her borrow his car, which he’s also likely tracking (which he actually does mention in the next scene). Having finished the story, however, it seems the purpose of this scene is to set up the MC and son for a red-herring/foreshadow mugging.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC doesn’t want to, but she will leave now and let her Mom drive her son to the train station tomorrow.
  • Ch45 Sc1
    • Purpose: Reinforce that Rudi knows things about MC and keeps tabs on her. (Not paid off.)
    • Delivery Method: He reveals that he knows where her family lives. MC assumes this is because he has a tracking device on his car.
  • Ch45 Sc2
    • Purpose: Bring MC into the investigation.
    • Delivery Method: B- has a lead on the baby buyers. He asks MC to call the man as herself, a midwife at the hospital willing to help the man procure babies.
  • Ch46
    • Purpose: Create anticipation for the conversation between MC and the baby buyer.
    • Delivery Method: Have B- and another detective explain the plan.
  • Ch 47
    • Purpose: Pay off the baby buyers lead, the anticipation for the call, the setup about MC’s financial situation, her passion, and her insistence that someone finally do something.
    • Delivery Method: Action/Dialogue. Despite being scared, Lucy makes the call. The buyer assumes she is working with the police, but she persists, and the buyer decides to take a chance because he’s had people watching her and he knows she’s “a single mother, a poor family, a drug-addicted sibling with a criminal record” so maybe they can work something out.
    • Other Exposition: Set up a face-to-face with the baby buyer.
  • Ch48
    • Purpose: Stretch the tension and pay off the nurse in high heels.
    • Delivery Method: Action. Despite being scared, Lucy arrives at the location and is instructed to another location by a woman wearing the high heels.
  • Ch49
    • Purpose: Pay off the meeting with the baby buyers.
    • Delivery Method: Action. Lucy meets face-to-face with the baby buyers.
    • Other Exposition: The baby buyers tell her “to report to the NYPD that I will never do business with them.”
  • Ch50
    • Purpose: Insert a red herring/mystery.
    • Delivery Method: Action. Hospital CEO Katz receives a police escort out of the building and B- won’t tell MC why.
    • Other Exposition: Raise the stakes: two more babies have gone missing.
  • Ch51
    • Purpose: Pay off the son taking the train with a mini red herring that foreshadows an imminent front-story event.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC picks up her kid from the train station and a man and woman mug them (but they don’t appear to be Russian and they don’t kidnap MC and son for, say, a baby-buyer Boss).
  • Ch52
    • Purpose: Set up another piece of the foster baby payoff.
    • Delivery Method: When MC gets home, her friend in the building has received the addict patient’s baby.
    • Other Exposition: Set up that MC will help with the baby in the morning.
  • Ch53
    • Purpose: Set up MC to lose the foster baby.
    • Delivery Method: Action/Description. Show MC alone at a park with the baby.
  • Ch54
    • Purpose: Pay off the last three scenes.
    • Delivery Method: Action. The baby buyers mug MC and take the baby.
    • Other Exposition:
      • A witness caught a partial of the license plate.
      • MC uses Voice Memo to record what the baby buyers say.
  • Ch55 Sc1
    • Purpose: Mitigate that the story is about to pay off one of the baby buyers with a deus ex machina.
    • Delivery Method: Summary. Show the POV of two “Good but not great” cops on lunch break, who respond to a car accident nearby, between a cab and “two men, along with a woman who is holding an infant,” only because they hear a shot fired.
  • Ch55 Sc2
    • Purpose: Deus ex machina the capture of the male baby buyer and the recovery of the foster baby.
    • Delivery Method: The cops arrest the male baby buyer because he’s holding an infant and his license plate matches the partial.
    • Other Exposition: Keep the woman baby buyer in play by having her leave the baby and run off.
  • Ch56 Sc1
    • Purpose: Set up conflict for the scene where MC returns the baby to the foster mom/MC’s friend.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC tells her “I should have called. I’m sorry. [The baby’s] at the hospital, my hospital, GUH, with me. Everything’s fine.”
  • Ch56 Sc2
    • Purpose: Remind reader about, and create anticipation for, the recording taken of the baby buyers/snatchers.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC gives a copy of the recording to B- and says to listen with an interpreter nearby.
  • Ch57
    • Purpose: Free MC of her charge (the foster baby) so she can get back to the case.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC returns the baby to the foster mom/MC’s friend, who yells at MC because MC took the baby to the place where babies are being kidnapped.
  • Ch58
    • Purpose: Motivate MC to act on her own.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC asks B- what the recording says and he says, “I can’t tell you. It’s classified.”
  • Ch59
    • Purpose: Set up/Show that MC is willing to act on her own to follow up on a lead.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC drives to the store of a former patient who speaks Russian to have her translate the recording.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Create worry that the former patient and her husband are in on the baby buyer scam. (First and last we hear of this.)
      • Reveal the recording: The two baby buyers don’t get along and they speak Ukrainian, not Russian.
      • Reveal another lead: The baby buyers say, “Our customers need a baby right away.”
  • Ch60
    • Purpose: Set up the reveal of an important lead.
    • Delivery Method: MC goes to the station to yell at B- about not telling her what the recording says, and he tells her “I think I’m on to something–actually, someone.”
    • Other Exposition:
      • Clarify that B- couldn’t tell her what the recording said because you can’t repeat classified information over the phone.
      • Foreshadow an additional lead: MC’s female assistant didn’t show up to work today.
  • Ch61
    • Purpose: Stretch the tension/anticipation for the reveal of the “someone.”
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC walks and waits for three pages.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Reveal that the lead is MC’s male assistant.
      • Create mystery and romantic tension by introducing a woman, Barbara Holt, who is looking for B-.
  • Ch62
    • Purpose: Pay off the “someone” and steer the story toward conclusion.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC’s male assistant (the “someone”) says that MC’s female assistant has been doing freelance jobs for a Russian couple, and now the assistant hasn’t been seen for two days.
  • Ch63
    • Purpose: Let the next domino fall.
    • Delivery Method: Action/Dialogue. MC watches B- interrogate the male baby buyer with the information from the MC’s male assistant, which results in the full name of the female baby buyer.
    • Other Exposition: Set up that B- will now engage in his creative breaking of the rules. (Which, despite all the setup, isn’t paid off. It isn’t shown and no one mentions any new information resulting from it.)
  • Ch64 Sc1
    • Purpose: Pay off why Katz got a police escort.
    • Delivery Method: Article in the paper says he was indicted for Medicaid Fraud.
  • Ch64 Sc2
    • Purpose: Set up the setup for the climax.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC’s remaining assistant calls to say a very nice woman with a history of very troublesome pregnancies is about to give birth.
  • Ch65
    • Purpose: Set up the climax by getting the still-unknown-to-the-reader bad guy on the scene.
    • Delivery Method: Action. The baby crowns but “The baby’s shoulders are stuck in your wife’s pelvis,” so MC calls obstetrics and pediatrics. And Dr. Rudi appears.
  • Ch66
    • Purpose: Set up the climax by putting the baby in the hands of the still-unknown-to-reader bad guy.
    • Delivery Method: Action. As instructed by MC, Dr. Rudi delivers the baby by breaking its collarbone and then takes the baby to NICU to tape its shoulders.
    • Other Exposition: Keep the bad guy off the reader’s radar by showing his nicer qualities: Dr. Rudi defers to MC and takes the course of action she prefers (break collarbone, no C-section), lets her sew the episiotomy even though midwives aren’t supposed to, and, upon delivery, he “seems as happy as the parents.”
  • Ch67
    • Purpose: Set up the climax by having the baby go missing.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC goes to the nursery to see how baby collarbones are fixed, and the baby in the crib isn’t the right baby.
    • Other Exposition:
      • Subtly reinforce that this is an inside job by revealing that the baby monitor alarms were turned off.
      • Keep the bad guy off the reader’s radar while also setting up his bad-guyness by having a nurse confirm “Dr. [Rudi] brought the baby down here just a little while ago. He had some other doctor with him. That woman [not paid off and, ultimately, doesn’t make sense] just snapped the brace on the baby in two seconds.”
  • Ch68 Sc1
    • Purpose: Set up the climax by getting the detective in motion.
    • Delivery Method: Dr. Rudi suggests MC call B-.
    • Other Exposition: Keep the bad guy off the reader’s radar by having him show up in sweaty gym clothes (presumably having an alibi) and willing to call the detective.
  • Ch68 Sc2
    • Purpose: Set up the climax setting.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. B-‘s assistant detective reveals that the detectives spoke to the MC’s freelancing assistant’s ex-boyfriend who said the baby buyers’ goldmine of clients is in Harrison, and that B- is “heading up to Harrison right now.”
    • Other Exposition: Set up MC to follow her own lead by herself by having B- be too busy to listen to MC’s “idea that could really help us.”
  • Ch69
    • Purpose: Let the reader in on MC’s idea that could really help.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC calls her mom who reiterates that the story she told MC about baby buyers happened in Harrison, New Jersey.
    • Other Exposition: Make it fun for the reader by having MC and her remaining assistant borrow an ambulance.
  • Ch70
    • Purpose: Set up the climax by getting MC to the scene of the crime.
    • Delivery Method: Action. They drive to General Infant Health. (First we hear of this place.)
    • Other Exposition:
      • Clarify for the reader who hasn’t figured it out yet that there are two Harrisons. One up in New York, one down in New Jersey. MC thinks B- went to the wrong one.
      • Raise the stakes: MC had hoped the baby buyers were selling to rich couples who would take care of the babies, but now (after an internet search on her phone) she thinks they’re being used for human research.
      • Set up MC’s rescue by B- by having her assistant suggest they call B-. (MC says no.)
  • Ch71
    • Purpose: Split the MC from her assistant so that she enters the climax alone.
    • Delivery Method: Summary of their plan to split up.
  • Ch72
    • Purpose: Stretch and raise the tension.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. MC tells the receptionist of General Infant Health that she’s here to see “Mr. Eagleburg,” the name given by her mom. “Did you mean Eagleton?” Oh no! But–surprise!–this scene upends reader expectations: “They’re expecting you. . . . Ms. Ryuan.”
  • Ch73
    • Purpose: Reveal the bad guy.
    • Delivery Method: Action. MC is escorted back to where the babies are and she sees Dr. Rudi.
  • Ch74
    • Purpose: Bad guy explains his good intentions before being killed.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue and Action. Bad guy says his research will “cure infants with congenital heart problems,” and then B- shoots him.
  • Ch75
    • Purpose: Explain some loose ends.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue.
      • The assistant explains that he had to call B-.
      • B- explains that CEO Katz was framed by Dr. Rudi.
      • B- explains that Barbara Holt, a character mentioned one time (she was looking for B-), is an undercover cop (not a love interest).
  • Ch76
    • Purpose: Reinforce that this is a bittersweet ending.
    • Delivery Method: Dialogue. “We’re allowing in only the parents of the babies who made it through alive. Other moms and dads will have their hearts broken.”
  • Epilogue
    • Purpose: Tie up some loose ends and suggest a future between MC and B-
    • Delivery Method: Summary.
      • The FBI found the freelancing assistant at her parent’s house.
      • The female baby buyer was found dead by suicide . . . accomplished, presumably, soon after she left the foster baby and ran from the car accident in the deus ex machina that got her partner. (Hence why the presence of a woman who helped Dr. Rudi tape the baby’s shoulders doesn’t make sense–she was the only female bad guy in play, so there was no other available woman to show up and tape the shoulders. It’s possible, I suppose, that she hadn’t gotten around to killing herself yet, but even if she was still alive, given her evident distaste for what she was doing, I doubt she’d make a pit-stop at the hospital to steal another baby before getting around to suicide.)
      • B- and MC go to the female baby buyer’s funeral, and MC says “I think we just had a helluva first date.”

And that, somewhat painfully, is that

Some techniques I noticed:

  • If you want the reader to gloss over one of the story’s hints/clues, bury it in the first scene of a two-scene chapter, preferably one that lands on a major hook.
  • Create tension by creating an intermediary scene, between the setup and the payoff, that slows things down and focuses on hopes and worries, risks, stakes, and motivation.

That’s it for me!

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Up Next

I feel like this exercise gave a decent grasp of purpose, but given that the story’s only saving graces were its short length and its stakes (can’t be a Patterson book without stakes), I think I want to do this again with another more successful book. I’m thinking The Da Vinci Code. So that might be next week. If not, I’ll get to that post sometime, and we’ll do the Scene beginnings post next week.

See you then!

2 thoughts on “Scene Purpose: How James Patterson (and his cowriter) does it

    1. Thank you. I’m a little disappointed the book was subpar because it makes me second-guess my purpose conclusions, but . . . I think I was more right than not. The scenes are so short I don’t know what other purposes they could have. Anyway, I’ve got it in the pipeline to try this again with the Da Vinci Code. But I think that post will actually, hopefully, be more of a spreadsheet that includes, in addition to purpose, scene questions and answer, question hierarchy, conflict . . . (I’m getting ahead of myself . . . these posts are coming up.) It’ll probably be a while, but I think it’ll be good. Better. More satisfyingly helpful. I hope. Anyway . . . thank you. =)


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