From Dan Brown's MasterClass

Exposition and Dialogue

Learn how to craft exposition that appeals to your reader's senses and write dialogue that communicates essential information while simultaneously revealing character.

Topics include: Appeal to Your Reader's Senses • Keep Prose Transparent • Delineate Flashbacks Clearly • Use Past Perfect Tense to Ease Into Flashbacks • Use Present Tense for Fact • Find Interesting Ways to Share Information • Exposition Case Study: Origin • Think of Dialogue Like Music • Create Dialogue of Conflict or Revelation • Put Your Characters in Motion • Intersperse Dialogue and Exposition Effectively

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Learn how to craft exposition that appeals to your reader's senses and write dialogue that communicates essential information while simultaneously revealing character.

Topics include: Appeal to Your Reader's Senses • Keep Prose Transparent • Delineate Flashbacks Clearly • Use Past Perfect Tense to Ease Into Flashbacks • Use Present Tense for Fact • Find Interesting Ways to Share Information • Exposition Case Study: Origin • Think of Dialogue Like Music • Create Dialogue of Conflict or Revelation • Put Your Characters in Motion • Intersperse Dialogue and Exposition Effectively

Dan Brown

Teaches Writing Thrillers

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Preview

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 are there. Appeal to your reader's senses. That's the way that we as human beings experience the world. A great way to attack exposition is to reveal something through a character's eyes. Have your character look up and describe, internally, what they're seeing. Robert Langdon looked up, and this is what he saw. Now when you do that, you have to remember that the way human beings look at something is their eye travels. They don't sort of look there and then look there and look over there. Your writing should do the same thing. We should have the experience as a reader of looking up at the ceiling and seeing the fresco and following the columns down to the floor, and then looking at the floor and then noticing somebody coming in the room. That is the way a human being experiences a space. And your description should work the same way. It's subtle, but the effect is very powerful. And you will know, as a reader, immediately if somebody hasn't done that. You will have the experience of being almost disembodied, that you're suddenly looking there, then you're looking here, then you're looking here, and there's no continuity, and what happens is you get pulled out of the story. And you, as a writer, never want your reader to be pulled out of the story. You want the experience to be a human experience, a natural experience. So when you give exposition, give it the way a reader would experience it. When I was a young writer, I had a fantastic writing teacher who told me your writing should be transparent. The best writing is the writing that simply communicates, and that's an important thing to remember. You're not writing a book to show off how many words you know or what sort of crazy syntax you can use. You're writing to communicate. You're writing to tell a story. And so the prose that you create should, especially in the thriller genre, be transparent. Your reader should forget that he or she is even reading. So part of your job is to use language that is appropriate to the book that you're writing. It's okay to know a lot more words than you use in a novel. You're serving your reader. You're trying to create prose that is accessible, is transparent, and serves the story. It doesn't serve your reader to hit a word that is so obscure that they have to stop and look it up to know what you're talking about. It takes them out of the reading experience. Your job is to keep them in the reading experience for the entirety of your novel. There's a wonderful Hemingway quote about the importance ...

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 shows me how to find and keep a process. Amazing to learn how he designs chapers and scenes.

I went into this class with a vague idea for a novel but absolutely no idea how to start. I left with a vast toolkit to begin writing with confidence.

A superb class, a superb instructor/lecturer. Very inspiring!

All of the material about story structure was very helpful. That is mostly why I took the course.

Comments

MK W.

Wow! This class is amazing. I am on my second draft of my 4th novel and I think it will be the best one yet because of these amazing insights. Thank you so much!

EK T.

Dialogue. My favorite subject in any writing course. Too bad writing good dialogue can't be taught.

Cynthia H.

Dialogue has always been one of the more difficult things for me to write. I'm talking all the time - but for some reason, I choke when I start to think in terms of writing this for characters. Your class on this really helps me to see this in new light. Keeping the characters moving in a run and talk - walk and talk fashion - is a great way to remember how to move things forward. This may explain why I like the show "Grey's Anatomy" so much, because the characters in the hospital setting are always typically moving, while they are in action - moving a gurney up the hall to surgery... etc... You have some great tips and advice. I really like your teaching style and feel that I'm making a lot of progress by taking your course. I was blown away when you were reading the two paragraphs out of "Origins". I haven't read that book yet - but now realize that I must! Thank you! Your course is truly outstanding! I really enjoy learning this - and hope to apply it in my own writing!

Shayne O.

Always good. Yes, important each character has their own voice to differentiate them without being bogged down with the 'she said', 'he said', but actually a writing style I will have to get used to. A terrific tip about interspersing the dialogue and the exposition.

John D M.

As Dan suggests, dialog is tremendously helpful in building character. Just write, "Eee, by gum, lad!" and your reader no doubt thinks this surely has to be a person from northern England, and expectations of look and manner begin to be imagined immediately.

Jacqueline K.

So pleased someone has actually explained to me which tense to use when doing a flashback. It's something I've never fully understood. I've done many of the writing Masterclass courses now and this is the first one that has really taught me something I didn't already know or was common sense. This is by far and away the best class and the workbook is so comprehensive and helpful. Love it.

Catherine M.

Ok, here's my assignment on dialogue. I chose the man-purse option because it's so darn funny. Comments welcome. I love criticism so please feel free to use a sharp knife. ------- “Are you kidding me?” she laughed out loud. “You have a man-purse?” “Hey,” he said, frowning. “This is a different shape. Women’s purses are kind of square. This one is rounder at the corners, more manly.” “Yup, looks like a regular old purse to me,” she said. She leaned over and touched the leather bag hanging from his shoulder. “Feels like one too. In fact, I might borrow it sometime.” He frowned again. “It’s not for women. Look. It has a much wider cotton strap in army green, pockets for my stuff, and tons of room inside for my IPad and other things. It’s the modern day briefcase.” She started to saunter away from him. “Ok, so then why not just carry a briefcase, which actually is manly?” “Because I don’t have enough stuff to put in a big briefcase. I don’t do paper. I don’t have a giant computer. I don’t even take my lunch to work. Besides nobody uses briefcases any more.” This louder because she was getting further away. She turned and looked back. “Well it’s very nice. You look quite…fetching with it on your shoulder like that.” She looked like she was trying not to laugh. He sighed and jogged a little faster to catch up. He was out of breath already. Guess it was time to start up that gym membership again. The little jiggle around his midsection was disconcerting too. When had that happened? Somewhere between starting a career and his umpteenth business lunch? “Fetching is not a word I’d use. I’m going for more of a ‘hey, I’m a go-getter with great management potential and a unique approach to solving problems. ‘ That’s it…I’m a problem solver.” “Sooooo…all that in just a man-purse?” “I really wish you’d stop calling it a man-purse. It’s a man-satchel. Actually, you know what? It sounds stupid to put “man” in front of it. In fact, putting “man” in front of anything sounds dumb. Man-splaining. Man-cave. Man-onesy. Man-purse. They all sound like ways of turning a man into a woman.” She smiled again, throwing her curtain of dark hair back with one hand and shading her eyes with the other hand. For some reason he found that small gesture incredibly exotic. He had caught up and they were walking through the grassy area toward a small pond. It was an idyllic suburb scene, complete with ducks and a boy launching a toy boat. “I think I’ll just throw the damn thing away and use my back pocket for everything like a real man.”

Valentina

Some writers advise against too much dialogue, but the advice has always confused me. I'm so glad to hear Dan's explanation. I'm more drawn to books with interesting dialogue and description than not. They show, more than tell. Thank you Dan. Your class is the best I've taken so far.

Karmen B.

Wonderful tips on how to keep your readers engaged with diaglogue, movement, interwoven with exposition, meanwhile, appealing to the senses, while teaching up to date fascinating information. Thank you, Dan. Having the pdf to refer back to this lesson will be invaluable in the future.

Meg N.

This lesson skillfully works out the tools that will create the color, weave, and texture of the story we write - the tricks of the use of verb tenses, descriptions using all the senses, the dialog of conflict or exposition, and the importance of dialog in moving things right along. One of the biggest challenges I see in writing is that people's attention and ability to absorb long, solid blocks of text has almost evaporated. Short sentences, 3-line "paragraphs", and the most ordinary vocabulary used to express even the most intricate of processes are vitally necessary in the newsletters/notice sheets that I issue in one of my day jobs. If the text in an announcement violates any of those 3 aspects, the writers complain to me that "they didn't read my announcement / report / request"... If I spend my time writing a thriller, I don't want people not reading it. Very glad to have this lesson on how to make sure their eyes are riveted on the page, and their fingers fumbling to turn to the next page before they've read halfway through.