From Dan Brown's MasterClass

Finding the Idea

Dan teaches you how to mine the world around you for big ideas, how to choose the right topic for your book, and how to find the moral dilemma at the core of your story.

Topics include: Trust Your Taste • Write What You Want to Know • Start With the World • Identify Your Sole Dramatic Question • Find a Moral Gray Area • Think Like a Philosopher, Write Like a Thriller Writer • Focus on the "How," Not the "What" • Choosing the Right Idea


Dan teaches you how to mine the world around you for big ideas, how to choose the right topic for your book, and how to find the moral dilemma at the core of your story.

Topics include: Trust Your Taste • Write What You Want to Know • Start With the World • Identify Your Sole Dramatic Question • Find a Moral Gray Area • Think Like a Philosopher, Write Like a Thriller Writer • Focus on the "How," Not the "What" • Choosing the Right Idea

Dan Brown

Teaches Writing Thrillers

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Whether you are a musician, a chef, a painter, or a writer, you need to create the symphony, the souffle, the painting or the novel that you personally like, the one that suits your taste. And then you just have to hope other people share 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, and 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 kinds of 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. I remember when I was a young writing student, and a teacher said, you've got to write what you know. And I remember thinking, I'm 16 years old. I don't know, I know junior high school. That's not very interesting. And I learned very, very quickly you've actually got to write what you want to know. Find what's interesting to you. Go out and research it. And your enthusiasm as you research this new material is going to help inspire you to do the hard work of writing a novel. It's also going to come through to your readers. If you're excited about this new information, it will come through in your writing. The best advice I can give any aspiring writer is to choose a topic, choose a world that you're excited about. Maybe you don't know about it today, but you might start learning about it tomorrow. And what that will do as you sort of step out of your comfort zone and say, well, I'm just-- I'm an accountant, I just sort of know numbers, but I've always been fascinated in underwater archeology, for example. Well, guess what? Go start watching documentaries on underwater archeology. Start reading books. Make a phone call and find somebody who does this for a living. Go visit, look at their gear, look at their photos. Get excited about their world. It's important to remember that thriller writers write about all sorts of different things. I wrote a book about the Arctic Circle and NASA politics and ice science. I didn't know anything about those topics before I started to write the book, but I was interested. I took a year, and I studied and I studied and I studied. And I learned about these topics. That's what you can do also. No matter what it is that you think you want to write about, you can write about it. Just go educate yourself. Especially now, in the age of the internet, you don't have to fly to the Taj Mahal to write a thriller about the Taj Mahal. The blueprints are online, thousands of photos are online, essays are online. You could probably just with searching the internet find somebody who's just been there. Give them a call. Educate yourself. Choose the topic that's gonna make yo...

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.


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

The most important thing I learned about this class is that I'm not alone. I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed and in doubting myself. It's a normal thing and can be overcome.

This was an excellent course with just the right amount of coaching and technical detail.

For anyone writing, beginner or experienced, this is one of the most informative and engaging lessons in writing novels. Great teacher. When he left his seat for the last time I almost cried because it was over. If only we could have our own little Dan Brown's next to us during the writing process.

Pacing and promise are the two key things I took away from this class. I loved this class!


A fellow student

Great advice but the problem is I keep getting hacked and then everyone gets to read my hard work for free which is exactly what happened and I still don't know exactly which good "friend" or relative was behind stealing my private diaries. I do plan on working on second book which is all TRUE and a real thriller however I worry about getting hacked again. I might take dictation and let someone write for me since my right hand has been injured and it's painful now for me to write more than 10 pages a day. I honestly thought I had this wunderbar childhood and everything was great and people told me I was a "liar" and it wasn't that way at all? Did I have amnesia or something? I'm not a liar. If anything I'm too truthful. I do love writing but I never planned on writing a thriller in a million years.

Pravesh A.

Hi, Masterclass. I'm watching this class for the second time. But every time I close the browser and open it the next day, to continue the class where I had left it starts from the "Introduction". Not only for this but for all classes. Can you help me with this?

A fellow student

I was stuck on creating the story world and its characters without knowing where I was going. Now I have an idea.


Awesome advice and it all makes so much sense. I was hoping to use these classes as a guide for my first thriller, and this is exactly what I need to hear right now. Love that he talks about the importance of "how" over "what." Ideas (whats) are a dime a dozen. It's the story of how the what happens that's interesting--and accounts for most of the work of writing a book. I once read about an author (I believe it was Isaac Asimov) who was often contacted by people with great ideas that they would offer to share with him if he agreed to write the book and share the profits with them. Ha! He started telling these people that instead, he could give them an idea and they could write the book. He didn't have any takers. I write nonfiction and have experienced similar situations: people want to give me ideas for books, but I don't want to hear them. I have a million ideas of my own and limited time to develop them all. There's a saying about genius being 1 percent inspiration and 99 perspiration and I think the concept holds true for book writing as well: 1 percent what and 99 percent how. Get your idea--the best idea you can think of. Then buckle down and write the how, the story. That's the real work.

Gerald M.

This lesson reassured me that I've been doing a lot of things right. The three C's were especially helpful. As soon as I finished watching, I was able to go back to my novel to re-write and clarify a few things so that they better satisfied the "contract". I love posing questions and giving answers (sometimes with an appropriately long delay), so the contract is my favorite of the C's!

Pat L.

So I'm not trying to give a 5-star rating across the board but I am really finding all of these very useful.

Tyra M.

Loved this lesson the first time around, this listening it was even more profound. I couldn't come up with my big idea, but for some reason autonomous killer robots kept popping into my head. The ethics of the machines seems sketchy to me, regardless of the arguments of saving lives, because such devices make war so much easier and cheaper. My partner showed me several articles on quantum computing and computers. They will be able to hack any modern computer in minutes. So what would happen if the bleeding edge combat capable robots meet up with a quantum computer? Add in a learning program, autonomous capabilities, and a company that wants to corner the emerging market in combat robotics that is estimated to be worth trillions -- and I have my big idea with a built in flaw. The quantum computer in my story was not developed to work with a robot, and definitely not designed to work 'on' a robot. Couple that with profit being the prime motivator, the man running the team cuts corners to get his product into the field before it is considered 'safe' by the various developers, he accepts levels of risk consistent with 'financial' thinking. Any such bleeding edge tech is worth more then gold, jewels, diamonds, etc. So I have multiple parties interested in the tech all willing to kill to get it. And they all meet up in the tiny community of Winnipeg Beach, during their annual Winter Festival on the Lake. What could go wrong? LOL! Thank you Mr. Brown, this is fun!

Brian F.

Great information. One of the assignments is to find what magnetizes you right now. A great place to start is by opening your browser and viewing your Internet browsing history. You might find it depressing, but we are attracted to the morbid and the marvelous.

Rich G.

Appreciate when he says the process he's teaching applies to all types of writing, not simply thrillers.

Lu P.

All I can say is WOW! What great insight and from such a well-known author. I will definitely be using his suggestions.