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Writing

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.

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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.



Reviews

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

This is my favorite Master class so far. Dan Brown generously and clearly shared what he does in his process. Without sugar coating or understating what is needed, he gave to me and others do-able steps and attitudes and tools to write our novels. (Actually, what Dan said applies to other creative areas.) Thank you, Dan!

Amazing ! Clear and simple rules, great guidance. It gave me inspiration to begin. Great course !!!

Outstanding! Thanks Dan Brown for giving me the tools I needed to get my first novel on the right track.

Excellent class! I learned so much. Thank you Dan Brown for your generosity in sharing your insight with us.


Comments

Mike

Fantastic lesson. Love how Dan used the example of Breaking Bad to discuss Flashbacks, and I certainly appreciated him referring to his own works in showcasing how to build suspense. It is, after all, his class so it would only make sense that he would discuss how he does it in his books. In the Masterclass online guide, there is reference to other books to consider how to build tension and use suspense. I really appreciate how Dan talks a lot about fulfilling your promises. One of my criticisms about The X-Files, for instance, which was a great show, but it tended to drag out it's storylines too long, and kept us guessing too much (e.x. what happened to Mulder's sister, was there an 'alien conspiracy?). The questions for the first five seasons were brilliant and intriguing, and I kept watching eagerly for the answer, but by about Season 7 I found the show taking us down too many rabbit holes to the point where I found myself no longer caring. The show took way too long to answer those key questions, and fulfill those promises, that this viewer, at least, lost interest. I trudged through Season 8 & 9 and was relieved when it was over. Glad they finished it off with a movie and the long delayed Season 10 & 11, and despite the overall 'happy' resolution to the series, at least in terms of Mulder and Scully's relationship, I still don't think they ever did satisfactorily fulfil those core promises. I appreciate Dan's guidance in lessons in helping me to avoid this type of pitfall in my own writing.

A fellow student

Way too many examples from his own story. Clever way to try and sell his book. I would've appreciated a few examples from other writers and how their writing principles are the same and different from his.

Rose M.

I love the connection with musical pieces, quiet and louder parts. Definitely a great lesson.

Dorothy E.

Wow, this is a really great lesson. I've always been a seat-of-your-pants writer, simply following where inspiration led me (sometimes to a dead end!). Combining this with what James Patterson says in his Master Class on outlining, I think I've finally gotten excited about the outlining process. A big thanks to both of these talented writers.

Chuck

One bullet point per chapter is so simple and brilliant. I had already written most of my chapters, organized them on a bulletin board and was having trouble deciding which ones to cut because everything seemed a little long-winded. The one-bullet-point method very quickly made that decision for me. Thanks, Dan!

Fernando P.

Much like Aaron Sorkin's writing class for scripts, it's really neat to see that Dan Brown has a taste for applying musicality to his writing. Music is everywhere and for good reason. Really insightful!

Veronique R.

Not only this information is invaluable, but Mr Brown is quite the talented teacher!

Dale U.

A very valuable lesson. I'm already going over in my mind how to apply it to my current novel. Plus I gained some knowledge about music. What a bonus!

A fellow student

I found this to be one of the best segments. I really enjoyed the scene breakdown from Da Vince Code. It really captures how to move the story forward. Less is more!

Lawson B.

Having written one novel, this class has validated some of the steps that I took as a first timer. It also has opened my mind to the many areas in which I need to improve and also provided me with some great ideas going forward. Dan Brown is awesome!