From Dan Brown's MasterClass

Writing Chapters and Scenes

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.

Topics include: Start With the Purpose of Your Chapter • Scene Deconstruction: The Da Vinci Code • Think Musically About Your Chapters • Create a Negative Space • Find a Fresh Way to Begin Each Chapter • Paint Your Characters Into a Corner • Choose Obstacles That Are Interesting to You

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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.

Topics include: Start With the Purpose of Your Chapter • Scene Deconstruction: The Da Vinci Code • Think Musically About Your Chapters • Create a Negative Space • Find a Fresh Way to Begin Each Chapter • Paint Your Characters Into a Corner • Choose Obstacles That Are Interesting to You

Dan Brown

Teaches Writing Thrillers

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Preview

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.

Reviews

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

Dan Brown is so inspirational I consumed all 19 videos in a couple of days. I took pages of notes and I'm starting the class over to begin writing my thriller using the steps he lays out. Great class!

This was an excellant writing course. Dan Brown's insights are just as good as his novels.

Dan offered wonderful insights to how to create a successful process to write your novel. It was an inspiring and fun class and I learned many useful tips . Thank you!

This class is brilliant. You really feel as though he is talking to you on a personal level and he teaches with such enthusiasm and detail.

Comments

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.

Jason

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.

Delvin C.

Unable to download the .pdf. Error message and code: <Error> <Code>AccessDenied</Code> <Message>Request has expired</Message> Technical fix required??

Lisa

So, I have taken several of these writing classes, all by brilliant writers and they have all been extremely valuable and insightful. But this one has provided the most practical and actionable tips - as in they actually make me think I can do this. He also has such a genuine and infectious enthusiasm about his work. Bravo, Dan Brown! Maybe I'll try tackling a thriller :-)

Judith M.

I tend to think of negative space as being that which is between vibrating molecules, The space defines the shape of the object, but without the vibrating molecules and the space together, there is no solid...or story. Also the active and thoughtful parts of the plotline interweave or vibrate together to make the whole stronger. Music formed from the genre of the book.

Meg N.

Interesting. Withholding information skillfully as being more important to the tension and interest than providing it. Malcolm Gladwell said something similar in his course on writing. This is a lesson I dearly need to absorb and put into practice. Planning out what needs to happen in each chapter is good as well. In life there are those who make no plans, just go with the flow, and those who plan every last detail to be under control... most of us are probably somewhere in between; I tend to buy the return ticket when I get to my destination, and then plan what I can fit into the interim. The point is to know where you're going, and enjoy the process in getting there, with some suspense about it. Great fun ahead!