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.

It was amazing. Dan Brown is a great professional, a great mentor and a great person. Thank you very much Dan!

I really enjoyed this class. I wish more teachers in general had Dan's kind, articulate communication style. Every lesson felt thoughtfully planned. I took notes throughout the course and found something useful to write down each lesson. The most beneficial part of the course was Dan's helpful advice on process and workflow.

ery revealing! Very informative! Brilliant stuff! One of the best classes I have had the honor to experience here so far!

Great Instructor! Easy to understand, passionate about the subject, and logical teaching style. It was a pleasure to complete this course.


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.

Grant L.

Taking staff notes skipping like a stone across the mesosphere's thermocline abeam, a clef hanger, aye, professor Dan's vicarious Wingman as he takes me into a bat-turn and barrel roll, "O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last!" surveying the master's craft of quill in awe... yank and bank daring to touch heaven, Jonathan Livingston Seagull caws "Sierra Hotel!"

Shayne O.

Wow. So if the bottom falls out of the writing gig, there's always teaching. And my favourite one who inspires not just tells.


Just added "I'll tell you when you get in!" near the beginning of one of my chapters. So simple and heard it a million billion times, but also so effective

A fellow student

To reproduce the error with pdf - just let cookies expire. In several hours. Just let the page open for 2-3 hours and then try to download. To temporary "fix" it - just reload the page and download again. But yes - it's a technical stuff and needed to be fixed. It looks nasty for a modern web site.

Markus A.

Even though most of the Langdon movies are entertaining - and the cast is good - the inbalance of fortissimo - pianissimo parts (eg. in character building) bothers. Because the experience of reading a Dan Brown book is an adventure similar to a Gustav Mahler symphony with all the strenghts and colours.