From Dan Brown's MasterClass

Building a Story From the Ground Up

From the initial idea to the final chapter, Dan walks you through his entire process for building a story, and provides a step-by-step guide to transforming your vision into a captivating thriller.

Topics include: Select the World and Find the Gray Area • Create the Hero • Create the Villain • Check for the Three C's • Set the Stage • Write the Finale First • Navigate the Middle Muddle • Develop the Supporting Characters • Turn Up the Tension • Build the Obstacles • Remind the Reader of the Stakes • Motivate the Character to the Next Location • Wrap It Up

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From the initial idea to the final chapter, Dan walks you through his entire process for building a story, and provides a step-by-step guide to transforming your vision into a captivating thriller.

Topics include: Select the World and Find the Gray Area • Create the Hero • Create the Villain • Check for the Three C's • Set the Stage • Write the Finale First • Navigate the Middle Muddle • Develop the Supporting Characters • Turn Up the Tension • Build the Obstacles • Remind the Reader of the Stakes • Motivate the Character to the Next Location • Wrap It Up

Dan Brown

Teaches Writing Thrillers

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Preview

One of the things that I thought might be very helpful in this class is to walk you through the process of creating a thriller from the ground up, creating the world, asking the questions, figuring out who the characters are, and just doing that together right here. I can't tell you what your idea should be, but I'm hoping to give you an idea of the process of turning an idea into a thriller. So the first thing we're going to do is to figure out what is the world in which we want to set this thriller? How about if we choose the world of winemaking, for example? I know nothing about the world of winemaking. I love wine. But I do know that the world is filled with a lot of ego, a lot of money, eccentric characters. There's a lot of possibilities in that world. So let's right now just choose winemaking. That's the world in which we're going to set this thriller. So now that we have a world, let's figure out what this question is. What's the moral gray area that we're going to be writing in? In the world of winemaking, it may be using pesticides that could hurt people. Maybe it's that you're promoting a product that's addictive. Another idea might be your moral obligation of how to use your land. Can you use your land however you want? What if that's hurting other people? If there is a river flowing through your property, can you use all of that water to water your vineyard, leaving nothing for the vineyard next door? Or is there a moral obligation, maybe even a legal obligation, to let some of that river flow on to your neighbor's? Doesn't sound like a thriller yet. Sounds kind of boring. But you've got an interesting world. You've got kind of a subtle gray area. Now let's try to turn it into a thriller. So we've got our world, and we've got this moral gray area. Let's come up with a hero. You're in the world of winemaking. An obvious hero would be a vintner, a winemaker. Let's create a hero who is a superb winemaker, maybe world renowned, one of the best winemakers. He has a little boutique vineyard. He's got vines that have come over from Europe three generations ago. His family has been making wine for a long time. And last year, tragically, his wife was driving the airport to pick up his parents, and on the way home they had a car accident. His parents are gone. His wife is gone. He's a widower. He has two kids that he needs to feed. So there's our hero. He's not really heroic until there's a lot of pressure applied to him. We need somebody to apply pressure. We need a villain. We need some extraordinary set of circumstances to apply pressure to this ordinary person. In comes the villain. In this case, why don't we make it some huge corporate agro business that has bought all the land just upstream from him. And maybe they've decided to take all the water in that stream and use it for their business. And all of a sudden you have a hero with two kids to feed who's running a vineyard. And he walks out, and one day ...

Craft page-turning suspense

Packed with secret symbols and high-stakes suspense, Dan Brown’s thrillers have sold more than 250 million copies and include one of the world’s best-selling novels, The Da Vinci Code. In his writing class, Dan unveils his step-by-step process for turning ideas into gripping narratives. Learn his methods for researching like a pro, crafting characters, and sustaining suspense all the way to a dramatic surprise ending.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Dan Brown has broken down the writing process for thrillers in an extremely helpful and accessible way. This is one of the best learning experiences i've had for writing novels thus far.

Dan Brown inspired me to see all of it, to get a grasp on the whole process and to see my book, my story and made me feel like I can. Like a true teacher. (I actually felt happy during this whole masterclass :-))

Wow! I learned a lot about keeping the story moving, planting red herrings, keeping the reader's attention and the writing process.

This was absolutely amazing I'm so glad that I took this class

Comments

Fülöp B.

This was good! No, but seriously, Dan Brown is EVIL. I have always kind of laughed at the "writers are evil" crowd (a good part of which write themselves), until I've sat down to watch this video series. There is just thing about watching him planning out in great detail how to torture his main character just a little more and 1) being very effective at it and 2) having so much fun... Idk. Maybe I've read too much fantasy, but we really should be grateful that thriller writers are on our side. And that they don't have any power over the Real World.

Terry M.

Your story about the family's vineyard is excellent. It makes the writing concepts easier to understand.

Kjetill O.

It wasn't possible to download the pdf. Please send to ken.oftedal@gmail.com.

Shayne O.

This is so useful and brilliantly and excitedly presented. I'm not a thriller writer as such but my memoir has elements of a thriller so loving this.

Nadia C.

OH MY GOD! This lesson was amazing. It really helped me with the story I'm creating right now. AMAZING!

A fellow student

I love the diagram images...grapes for supporting characters !! Pure genius glinting humor.

Patrick H.

This Dan Brown is incredible. So kind, and giving information that I haven't heard elsewhere. Thank Mr. Dan Brown.

Vickie R.

Strangely I'd neve been turned down for an interview, so this German radiologist getting so mad at me really scared me. Very cold man and then called my dad and I could hear him dissing me to my dad about my questions. I hope I don't get found in some back alley next week?

Elaine

So much in this lesson my head is spinning. Takeaway nuggets include: the three C's -- a clock, a crucible, and a contract; write the finale first ("Novels have a beginning, a muddle, and an end"); use location to decide what kinds of scenes might go in a book; create a secondary character with some sort of secret and a different skill set that can work in synergy with your hero; make it horrible; parallel plot lines; the hero needs to win in a way you don't see coming and the villain needs to face the music but the punishment must fit the crime. Excellent!

A fellow student

It is unreal how much he just developed in just a few short minutes. The story he just described I will read just based on his enthusiasm and creative genius