Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Research, Part 2

Dan Brown

Lesson time 10:07 min

Dan goes deeper into his research process to show you how he uncovers the shocking connections between seemingly unrelated elements in his stories.

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

Topics include: Research Exhaustively to Find Connections • Don't Focus on Organization Too Early • If It Doesn't Serve Your Story, Don't Use It • Be Fair With Your Creative License • Don't Let Research Become Procrastination


One of your jobs as a thriller writer is going to be making connections the reader doesn't see coming. That's part of the fun. When a reader says, oh, my god, that's why that happened, or that's related to that? You, of course, know all the answers when you're writing it. Your job is to hide it, and to reveal it in an exciting way. And you say, well, how do I find these connections? How do they magically appear? They don't magically appear. You do a lot of research. If you pick 100 pieces of information out at random, you have much greater possibility of finding two that are related than if you're lazy and pull out three pieces, and you say they're not related. You're right, they're not related, keep looking. This is-- it's a process of attrition. You-- if you pulled 200 facts out of the world, it is not difficult to make sure that a couple of them are connected. When I was researching "Origin," I knew that the world was science and religion. It was evolution. It was the interplay between science's version of where we came from and religion's view of where we came from. But I'd also set it in the world of modern art. I wanted Langdon to be a fish out of water, sort of exploring a world he hadn't explored before. And I thought, what artist could I use that tied into these themes of science and religion? Fortunately, William Blake is exactly that. His work is-- has a foot in both worlds. And I said, well, I have to use William Blake. He's perfect. I didn't know how I would use him. You don't need all the answers on day one. I just thought, William Blake's going to be perfect. He ties into the themes of this book. So without having all of the answers, I make a note to say, we're going to be looking at the art of William Blake. And that's really when you start the research process all over again. You dive into the works of William Blake, criticisms of his work, and you figure out, how can I use him? What little tidbit is-- am I gonna see? And it could be one line out of a 300-page book. And I don't want to pretend that I read a 300-page book on William Blake and know every word. I'm skimming. I'm looking for a diagram, just something to sort of go, wait a minute, I'm gonna find out about that. And that's what you can do, that you can sort of decide, I think this idea right here is going to work for me. And I don't know how. And then you research it. And through that research, you'll figure out, this is how it's gonna work. He wrote a poem about science and religion. Whoa, OK, hold on. "The dark religions are departed, and sweet science reigns?" Are you kidding me? That's perfect. The only way I found that is through research. And you put a big circle around it and you say, I'm gonna use that somehow. I still don't know how, but it's perfect. The harder you work at researching, the luckier you will get. The more work you do to gather information, the more fortunate you will be when you start looking for connections, when you...

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Dan Brown

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.

Explore the Class
Sign Up