From Dan Brown's MasterClass

Research, Part 1

For Dan, research is one of the most important parts of his creative process. Learn how to use on-location research and subject-matter experts to bring specificity and authenticity to your writing.

Topics include: Research to Find Your World • Find Inspiring Elements of Your World • Seek Out Specialists • Prepare Questions for Specialists in Advance • Absorb as Much as You Can on Location


For Dan, research is one of the most important parts of his creative process. Learn how to use on-location research and subject-matter experts to bring specificity and authenticity to your writing.

Topics include: Research to Find Your World • Find Inspiring Elements of Your World • Seek Out Specialists • Prepare Questions for Specialists in Advance • Absorb as Much as You Can on Location

Dan Brown

Teaches Writing Thrillers

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For most writers, research is the very first thing you do. Research helps you decide what you're going to write about. Research is one of the most fun parts of writing a novel. You're learning. You're traveling. You're reading. But there are different kinds of research. There's research that you'll do to start your book to say, I wonder if this is what I really want to write about? And it's the kind of research where maybe you travel somewhere. Or maybe you read a bunch of books about a topic. And those are-- that's sort of exploratory. That's casting your line out and trying to find ideas. But that first step is really just to learn about the world. Let it inspire you, and let some of these questions start to percolate. Research, as a first step, will get you excited. It will give you ideas. And it will help you choose a world, which is really the first thing you need to do. Once you have an idea, you do a much different kind of research. Once you decide, I'm going to write about overpopulation, well, guess what? Then you're reading books on demographics, and population, and environment, and pollution, and bioengineering. Then you've sort of-- you've cast your line. You've pulled an idea. And now it's time to get serious. For the kind of thrillers I write personally, I will read history, and philosophy, and art, and conspiracy theory. When I wrote "Origin," I read four books that said, Darwin is wrong, and evolution isn't happening. To my taste, that's insanity. Of course, evolution is happening. But I read the other argument such that I could have characters make that argument to create that moral gray area. Then I sort of think, well, I'm going to need settings. In the case of "Origin," I said, well, I'm talking about the evolution of life. I'm talking about devout Catholicism, Spain. I just said, what a great setting-- very, very devout Catholic tradition but also modern art, advanced supercomputing. They have a very sort of advanced scientific thinking. And in that particular country, there is this conflict already between the very old and very new, modern thinking, ancient thinking. And I decided, Spain is going to be my world. That came out of research. That wasn't pulled out of nowhere. That is researching and deciding Spain's going to be my world. Once I make that decision. I say, where are these settings? Again, research-- what's amazing in Spain? I could set this in the middle of the desert in Spain-- not that interesting. Literally, I happen to have lived in Spain. So I know Spain well. But I might have pulled up, what are the top 10 things to see in Spain? It might be that simple as a point of departure. And maybe you don't know that the Guggenheim Museum is in Bilbao. Maybe you find that out researching your novel. And you say, are you kidding me? There is this amazing modern art museum. I could set a scene there. Boom, you're already moving. You're already saying, OK, I'm going to set a scene th...

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.

ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. I feel like I am being held by the hand. Each Master Class in writing adds more to the ones before. Thank you, thank you so much.

I certainly have committed to my writing proces once again, making a plan of when and for how long I will be writing each day. And Dan's energy has gotten me all motivated to start!

Dan Brown's class was as gripping as his books. He was really didactic about the process of writing novels and gave very generous advices. I think all chapters were great and helpful, but if I had to highlight a few it would be 10 and 16 through 19. Thank you for this very instructive experience.

Dan Brown has the big 3--honesty, integrity and humility--in his teaching. He is a spectacular and natural teacher. I will watch again and probably again. He inspires confidence in the process and belief in self. Every lesson is about not giving up, just keep going and keep the faith in the process. Thanks Dan!


Maja K.

Love these lessons. Does anyone know a visual software that can keep track of plot, scenes, characters and research and notes? Thank you :-)

Vickie R.

No one seems to want to answer any of my research questions? Very defensive and secretive about programs that went on during 1960s.

Vickie R.

I tried very politely to interview a German scientist from the 60s and he got VERY defensive and almost hung up the phone on me and then he tried turning my DAD vs me!!!!! Not a very nice man. Felt some kind of cover up was going on in my story from the 1960s Ultra Program and Monarch programs.

Marco P.

The moment when you realize that Dan Brown has the same accurate approach to story writing that Alan Moore has. I'm amazed.

John D M.

Research? ABSOLUTELY! Loved mine - learned so much more than I ever used in my first book, but 'the knowing' helped me feel relaxed and confident when delving into areas I had no previous knowledge of. In my second book 'my hero' has cause to visit his bank in Switzerland. This was intended to be a brief excursion - a means to an end, but having just Googled '10 most visited places in Switzerland', I'm wondering if this place shouldn't become central to the plot - SO MANY amazing venues!

Henry Irwin P.

I believe in order for me to be a successful writer it will depend on finding a productive way to do research combined with excellent outlining and planning. I find that Dan is very thorough and methodical. He is really helping me right now make sense of a lot of things on my mind. Thank you.

Donna S.

Lots of great information about doing research. It's definitely important to research and to talk to the experts. Then you can fill your novel with the specifics, the details.

Noreen L.

Generous of Dan Brown to share his knowledge. He's clear, concise, and knowledgeable. Great sessions, esp about the research.

Deborah S.

In the last two weeks I have acquired all the video tools from past projects. I completely agree, why try to add stress to your process. I have used this process for years. It truly works. I also video what I called inspiration sessions. Discussing characters and returning to the video later is a real treat for ye old memory.

Deborah S.

My very first acting coach gave me some of the best advice I have ever had. He explained that as of that day that we should become trained observers. Everywhere you go, try to look at your surroundings, the people walking by, the various aromas of each place you visit and try open your imagination to do this before you walk through any door. Dan touches on the same truth. As writers, we must see, smell, and take in all that we can. Keeping a journal is very helpful. The most important point, I believe, is to see more than you thought existed, feel the dynamics of the fact that you, being there at that moment is unique if you can allow yourself to let the images flow from your mind to your eyes and then through your ability to express everything you have seen. If you have never tried it, do so. You will never regret it.