Dan Brown Quotes (Author of The Da Vinci Code)
As an influential novelist, Dan Brown has some advice for aspiring writers:
On trusting your taste: “You should never be chasing somebody else’s taste. I write the book that I would want to read. Some people love what I do, some people hate what I do, but you stay the course as a writer, you say, ‘well this is just my taste, and maybe you don’t share my taste, well fortunately the great thing about novels and thrillers, there are all different kinds.’ If you don’t like mine, find somebody whose taste you like. The important thing for you as a writer is to write the thriller that you would want to read, and I promise you, if you like it, somebody will share your taste.”
On writing what you know: “Writing a novel, I don’t care how good you are, how good an idea you have, how fast you write, the sheer size of the project means you’re going to be doing this for a long time. So you better choose a topic that you’re very excited about.”
On starting with the villain: “When we’re talking about populating a world with characters, I would argue, you might want to write your villain first, because your villain is the one who is going to define your hero. Nobody is heroic until they have to come up against an obstacle because it is the hardship, the obstacles, and the challenges that make him or her heroic.”
On finding the moral gray area: “When you’re building your foundation with a single brick, when you’re trying to figure out what is the question around which this book circles, make it a question that is morally ambiguous. A question that is just not cut and dry. A question where you can argue both sides of that equation honestly. You’ll end up with a villain who’s much more interesting.”
On putting yourself in your heroes: “My dad was a professor, my mom taught music, teachers were my heroes. So when I sat down to write a series of books, I chose a hero—a professor—not somebody who knew how to fire a gun, or eliminate six guys with Jiu-Jitsu. This was a guy who had to get out of problems with his mind, and that’s what was exciting to me, and that’s why I chose it. You’re going to have different things that are exciting to you, and you need to choose a hero that reflects your passions, the people you admire, something that your reader ties to in a human way. That’s why you put a little of yourself in your hero, because it will automatically make your hero human.”
On appealing to your reader’s senses: “One of the easiest ways to bring your exposition to life is to appeal to your reader’s senses. Don’t just tell them what it looks like, tell them what it smells like. What it sounds like. What it feels like. If a character walks into a seedy bar, don’t just tell them that it’s dark and smoky. Tell them what’s playing on the jukebox. Tell them about the grit under their feet as they walk across the floor, and they will immediately feel like they’re there. Appeal to your reader’s senses. That’s the way that we as human beings experience the world.”
On creating negative space: “The thing that makes great art great art, is the negative space. You need to learn that as a writer. That there will be moments in your novel that are quieter, that make the louder moments stand out. Quieter moments in your writing will also function to let you share those inner thoughts, those quieter, personal relationship details that aren’t appropriate as you’re running away from a murderer. These are moments that resonate for us as readers because we’re all people and we’ve had that moment when you look in somebody’s eyes and you feel like maybe you’re starting to know them a bit better.”
On sharing information: “So when you’re writing your thriller, and you have a bunch of information that you want to get out on the page and give to the reader, think in terms of how do I make it palatable? It’s just not a brick of information. How do I make it fun? Maybe I flashback to a lecture somebody gave that was fascinating. Or maybe your character looks it up on the internet and sees a video presentation that’s very exciting. Find interesting ways to share information. That is your job. To share information in an exciting, entertaining, and interesting way.”
On knowing when it’s working... and knowing when it’s not: “You as a novelist need to find that commitment to your idea, but temper it with an understanding that you’re not going to get it right the first time. There’s a difference between being committed to your idea, and being a lazy editor.”
On doing a 180: “When you outline a book, you’re going to be creating your questions, your answers, your suspense, and your payoffs. And as you outline the book, you will sort of say, ‘I think this is going to be the payoff, this seems like it’s going to make sense.’ And sometimes you’re going to get there and realize, well this payoff doesn’t feel quite right. And you might need to go back and set it up in a different way.”
On life as a writer: “...The process itself needs to be the reward. You can’t be striking out saying, ‘if I don’t sell “X” number of books, I’ve failed.’ You need to love the process of writing a novel and understand that it takes time to build a readership, that your first novel almost invariably will sell very few copies. You have to love what you do and do it for the sake of writing.”
Want to Learn More About Writing?
Whether you’re writing as an artistic exercise or trying to get the attention of publishing houses, learning how to craft a good mystery takes time and patience. Master of suspense and bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown has spent decades honing his craft. In Dan Brown’s MasterClass on the art of the thriller, he unveils his step-by-step process for turning ideas into gripping narratives and reveals his methods for researching like a pro, crafting characters, and sustaining suspense all the way to a dramatic surprise ending.
Want to become a better writer? The MasterClass Annual Membership provides exclusive video lessons on plot, character development, creating suspense, and more, all taught by literary masters, including Dan Brown, R.L. Stine, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and more.