Writing Chapters and Scenes

Dan Brown

Lesson time 0:15:10 min

Learn Dan’s guiding principles for moving from an outline into a first draft, including how to develop stand-out, big moments and manipulate tension and release.

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.
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So when you actually move from your outline into that moment when you actually start writing a chapter, you might ask yourself, well, how do I do this? How do I know what goes in this chapter? One of the easiest things you can do is just literally create one bullet point. What is this chapter trying to accomplish? Well in this chapter, I'm going to reveal this secret. Or in this chapter, I'm going to kill this character. In this chapter, my hero is going to escape from the Lourve. Start with one bullet point. That is the purpose of this chapter. Now once you've done that, you realize, well, in this chapter there's going to be a lot of description. There's going to be dialogue. There's going to be maybe new secrets that start to appear. It's almost as if you have a framework for this chapter that is incredibly simple. It has one hook on it that says this is what's going to happen in this chapter. And it's important to remember there are many different kinds of chapters where as you build this armature that has one hook on it. You say, what is this chapter about? That hook can be any number of things. Maybe this is a scene in which you introduce your hero. Maybe that's the hook. This is the scene where I introduced the hero. Maybe this is a chase scene. We say, this is the scene where they run from point A to point B and they're being pursued. Maybe this is a chapter where you set a hook. You say, this is the chapter where I promise the reader I'm going to tell them X. And then at that point, you can kind of relax and have some fun with the chapter. Describe what you want to describe. Have the conversations you want to have. If this chapter is when your character escapes, figure out how they escape. You know what's going to happen, you just have to figure out how. Just as a point of example for knowing what the purpose of a chapter is, I wrote a chapter in "Origin" in which a rabbi is killed. Rabbi Koves is killed in this you eerie bar in Budapest. When I set out to write that chapter, I quite literally wrote down Koves dies. That is the purpose of this chapter. I knew that at this point in the story, that's what needed to happen. So that's the framework. And then I stepped back and said, let's have some fun with this. What's the most interesting way that this can happen? And how can I draw this action out as long as I can? If Koves steps out of his house and the killer just shoots him in the head, not that interesting. But if you've read that chapter, you know that there's a chase. They're on the same bus. Koves tries to get off, and the other guy gets off. They're going through a crowd. They end up in a bar. Koves runs to the bathroom, and tries to trick the killer into thinking he's had a heart attack. The killer doesn't fall for it. It's a long, drawn out process. And really, all that is is an author saying, let's have some fun with this. This scene at the opening of "The Da Vinci Code." Robert Langdon has been as...

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.

There is so much here. I am in the middle of writing a book at the moment and there were tidbits here that I have not heard before and I have read A LOT of books on writing. Well worth taking.

This course helped me achieve something I have long been trying to achieve, and that is to think clearly. To see a book as an organized set of thoughts rather than a half-remembered dream. Dan Brown's enthusiasm is contagious and every lesson gave me more courage to continue one of the stories that run through my mind.

I'll be watching this one again because it was so dense with solid advise. I love it!

I can't even begin to describe what I have learned throughout these lessons. I'm sure through my own process it will become evident the advice I have absorbed from this class. Looking forward to rewatching the lessons over time and implementing them into my future.



I tend to end up having similar endings for each of my chapters--going to bed, the day ending, threat is gone, anything that shows the protagonist can relax--so this was very helpful.

Brenda C.

I like how he talks about suspense here. I also like how he mentions a ticking clock and a treasure hunt.

Greg R.

I'm taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November and this content is pure gold. I have ideas and rough first 10 bullet points. Knowing the ingredients that I need to keep readers "on the hook" makes working out chapters easier :)

Patrick H.

I wonder if Mr. Brown might show us how to use a cliffhanger or raise a question at the end of a page when we're using double spacing for partial chapters or manuscripts to submit to agents?

Zahra M.

He is the best,he gives us very helpful information to write chapter,thanks

Paul A.

It's been a long time since I've seen "meetith" used. Only in books and movies these days, I guess. Certainly not used in modern vernacular to the best of my knowledge. "I'll meetith you and your friends at the restaurant later, okay babe?" I said to Jane, kissing her soft cheek. "What?" she replied, looking worriedly confused if her new-ish boyfriend is some weirdo that will only embarrass her. "You meant to say, meetup, right?" "Um, yes, of course! See ya later babe! Save me a seat!"


"If you turn the page, I will tell you what they are looking at". Love that line.

Alan K.

My favorite lesson so far. Mr. Brown takes the impossible task of writing Chapters and tells in simple terms of what do and what not to do. I thought the fact that thinking of your Chapters musically was an unique tidbit that was so helpful. Thanks alot Mr. Brown!

frederick P.

I love how Dan is taking us deep into the weeds of the construction of plot and suspense. It is a lot of very helpful information!

Patrick H.

Painting characters into cornes? Dan does this so often that readers must wonder how it's possible for the characters to survive? In Deception Point, I tried to work out what would happen when Rachel, Tollend and Corky were swept off the Milne Ice Shelf in the Artic Circle plunging towards the freezing water. Even the Special Forces hunting them thought they had no chance of survival. But survive they did. And how Dan achieved that was spectacular.