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Arts & Entertainment

Character Case Study: The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown

Lesson time 06:17 min

Dan takes a detailed look at the characters from his best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, to illustrate how different character types can be used to create suspense and propel the narrative.

Dan Brown
Teaches Writing Thrillers
In his first-ever online class, best-selling author Dan Brown teaches you his step-by-step process for turning ideas into page-turning novels.


The characters in "The Da Vinci Code" all serve a different purpose in the story. The story centers on a man, Robert Langdon, who is our hero. He's the one that we're following. He's trying to solve the mystery that we're trying to follow. He's our primary point of view. He is the spine, the heartbeat of the book. And when you write your thriller, you're going to have a character, maybe a couple of characters, who really define the point of view for the whole book. That's the person you're following. But guess what? They're going to meet a lot of other people. One of the key elements in a lot of thrillers is physical danger. And in "The Da Vinci Code," I wanted to put Langdon in physical danger. - He doesn't-- It ups the stakes. It's exciting for a school teacher in a foreign country to suddenly be in physical danger. It's something that we'd want to read about. And I needed to create a character who could do that. And in "The Da Vinci Code" that character became Silas. And you learn very, very quickly that he's very dangerous. He walks into the Louvre and he shoots the curator in cold blood. And that character becomes what I would refer to as the muscle. That's the person that Langdon needs to worry about being killed by. This isn't somebody who's saying you can't have what you want. This is somebody who's saying, yeah, if I see you, I'm gonna kill you. And that raises the stakes immediately. Of course, the character Silas, again, works in this moral gray area. He is somebody who is devout. There is a goodness in him. He sees the goodness in the church, the church that rescued him from an abusive childhood. And so you are sympathetic to him. And yet he's taken it too far. And so he becomes a villain. Sometimes you'll see that you really have two levels of villain. You have somebody who might be the muscle, the Silas character. But then behind the scenes, way in the background, is the puppet master, the all-powerful, faceless power broker who's moving the pieces. And part of the fun of many thrillers is figuring out who's the guy pulling the strings. Who's the person I really need to be afraid of? And when this villain, this Silas character, is finally dispatched, who's the Wizard of Oz? Who's the guy behind the curtain who's making it all happen? And that could be a tool that you use that enables you to create multiple levels of villains, multiple levels of manipulation of your plot. - Sang royal, it means royal blood. SIR LEIGH TEABING: When the legend speaks of the chalice that held the blood of Christ, it speaks, in fact, of the female womb that carried Jesus' royal bloodline. - But how could Christ have a bloodline unless-- - Mary was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion. - I was talking about the legend of the holy grail. And there's all kinds of conspiracy theory about the holy grail. I wanted to be able to present some of the crazier ideas in earnest, but not have it c...

About the Instructor

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.


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

This was by far the best Masterclass we've watched. The teaching was clear and immediately to the point, without waffle. Mr. Brown's energy and enthusiasm make for compelling watching; he is a great teacher. It was so interesting and enjoyable we didn't want it to end.

This is an absolutely fabulous MasterClass. I have pulled out my novel-in-progress, and printed Dan's list of "must haves" in a good story. I'm ready to finish this thing, making it better than I thought it could be. Thank you, Dan Brown.

Good advice, crisp lesson, clean structure and content, and very good contextualisation. Useful.

Dan Brown lays out a step-by-step process for writing a thriller that really helped me think about how to make my current work-in-progress (i.e., a middle-grade adventure) more exciting, more on-the-edge-of-your-seat for readers. I've taken several other Masterclass courses on writing and, in my opinion, Dan Brown's was the best and most helpful.


A fellow student

Warning! There are clips from the movie in this lesson. If you're like me and want to keep your own version of the characters in the da Vinci Code, beware. I think it's interesting that these clips are included after Mr. Brown said one of the great things about books is that they're different for each reader. Disappointing to have the movie included here. (But still a great lesson!)


Dan's classes are as fast-paced and thrilling as his novels. They're a really valuable resource on the craft of writing. There is a great generosity in him, as a teacher, letting us see behind the veil like this. Thanks Dan, and thanks again!

Fer T.

It´s amazing how easily he gives away what he knows, he´s a natural teacher

Dale U.

I'm loving this class. I just know I'll be going through it again at a later date. Dan Brown is a brilliant instructor.

A fellow student

Dan Brown is as compelling an instructor as he is a novelist. Any aspiring writer will benefit from this class.

Rich G.

I'm rematching this class again as I prep to jot down/make notes/start on another book.


That's a really good point about using the protagonist as a way to help the reader know what they should be feeling about what's going on

Brenda C.

I like how he helps the reader know what he is supposed to believe or not to believe through another character.

Jacqueline B.

I have a master's degree in English, which I was certain qualified me to write a novel. Boy, was I mistaken. My fiancé—who’s data-driven and results-oriented— has sent me on a ‘find and retrieve’ mission to locate a mentor who can work with me one-on-one to make certain that my writing is focused and headed in the right direction so that I don't waste time wandering in the wilderness. Can you recommend an author who has actually published who might be willing to allow me to peer over their shoulder to see the process in action? I need to see another writer in action in order to understand how they apply the very abstract concepts involved in building a novel. I'd be happy to provide an excerpt of my work if that might help to connect me with the resources needed to complete this novel. If not, could you point me to someone who could? Thanks! Jacqueline Ballard


Oh, so glad he explained why he put the conspiracy theory in the mouth of a sub-character.