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Arts & Entertainment

Finding the Idea

David Baldacci

Lesson time 12:50 min

You want to write—but how do you find your idea? David walks you through his daily practice of looking at the world through what he calls the “writer’s prism.”

David Baldacci
Teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing
In his MasterClass, bestselling thriller author David Baldacci teaches you how he fuses mystery and suspense to create pulse-pounding action.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Probably the question I get most of all, when I'm out on tour, and from writers, where do you get your ideas from? And the answer is not simple, but it can be made a little more simple by what I'm about to tell you. You have to-- writing isn't a job, or an occupation, or a hobby. It's a lifestyle. So for all of you out there, it has to be something you incorporate in your life as you go through your daily routine. I get ideas from waking up in the morning and walking out the door. And I look at the world through a writer's prism, as I call it. It's sort of cocked a little bit, and I see everything that everybody else sees, but when I look through and I look at the potential of what could be out there if I sort of add a little pixie dust-- fictional pixie dust to something. You can't just see what's out there in black and white. That's what everybody else does, and those people are not gonna be writing novels, or screenplays, or anything. They just see the world, and they forget it, and move on. Your job is to see the world and then realize the potential of what is out there every single day, every single minute of every single day. If you just look at the world, twist your prism a little bit, and think, if I combine a couple of elements of my imagination, I can make this scene of a plane flying over, and a truck passing by, and a guy looking out a window-- I can make that into a compelling story. All I need to do is connect the dots. You just have to see the world and feel the world in a way that is so visceral that 99.9% of the rest of the population are totally oblivious to. I'll give you a couple of real-life examples. I wrote a book years ago called "One Summer," and it was not a thriller, and it came about because my son was being confirmed in the Catholic church. And my wife said, get to the church early because we're gonna- it's gonna fill up. We get a lot of friends and family coming in. So I went there, and it was just me and the priest, who I'd known for a long time. And then he left and it was just me. And some personal things in my life-- my dad had died. My mom was probably gonna pass away pretty soon. My son-- my youngest-- was being confirmed. And you know, you have your own sense of mortality. At least when I go to mass, I sort of sense my own mortality coming at me. And I just sat there thinking about those things, and this idea for "One Summer" came, which is about a family drama. The guy, the husband is terminal. He's saying goodbye to his family. His wife's gonna be the remaining parent to care for the three kids. But as it turns out, the husband turns out to be the surviving parent, which is kind of the twist. I would never have written that story, never envisioned it, except I went to the church and kind of looked around my own inner experience, and at the church-- what it meant to me-- and through the writer's prism, this idea unspooled spool I was waiting for the mass to start. ...

Captivate your readers

David Baldacci has captivated readers across the world with gripping, suspense-fueled thrillers. Now the New York Times–bestselling author of 38 novels shares his techniques for crafting authentic characters, developing research-based plots, and navigating the world of publishing. Learn how to write a novel with red herrings, clues, and plot twists that will keep your readers turning the pages.


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

Oh David is mindboggling...he would have done great good to humanity if he had taken up as a motivational speaker. He oozes confidence in his entire speech. Hats off to a great motivator

There were many great tips e.g. revise the first chapter if necessary; create outlines but break it down; dialogue should reflect the character... Thank you. It's always a pleasure to listen to an intelligent and articulate story teller. About "The feeling that one day people will find out that I don't know what I'm doing" - Jane Fonda said that too in her autobiography "My Life So Far" :-)

Loved it. Very practical and incredibly inspiring!

The lesson on Life as a writer, and writing a series, was worth the one year fee.


A fellow student

Listening on day 100+ in quarantine "If you walk out that door everyday you'll never run out of ideas" hahahahaha!


Please, am I the only one intimidated to review a lesson on writing by writing a review? Loved the askew perspective. Brings me to photography, tilting the camera 15 degrees right or left to just see a scene in a different perspective. I'm so excited to have access to such a great tool. Thank you David Baldacci and Masterclass.

A fellow student

This particular part was interesting because as he began to describe his idea about a story and the tree being replaced, etc. he said he used this idea to write a book called The Target. I have read a lot of his books an either he got the name wrong or he has used that same premise twice because I am reading one of his books called Hell's Corner and it has the tree being replaced scenario in it. :)

Eileen N.

After watching intro video, i went on Amazon to look at his writing style. This guy....CAN TELL A STORY. i knew it within two paragraphs. Bought two novels. i know that he is the one to teach me that elusive thing for which i have searched (and could not name..... because a great teacher provides students with the answers to questions that they themselves do not yet know to ask). .


I watched the James Patterson Masterclass first. No thanks. This one is 1000X times more brilliant. Baldacci actually knows what he's doing and knows how to help you. James Patterson is a flash in the pan. No one will view Patterson's work as good centuries from now. But writers like Baldacci, King, Rowling, Tolkien, etc. These are people with complex, well researched, and most importantly subtle story-telling skills that can stand the test of time.

Dale U.

This was a great introduction to the course. Davids passion for his craft is contagious and I'm looking forward to learning more.

Shayla R.

My favorite quote was: "Writing is not a job or a hobby. It's a lifestyle." Also loved what he said about feeling a little bit smarter after having read a novel.


Great start to the class! Going over these points in this lesson has revitalized my own passion in the novel I'm currently working on. I've felt like any of my thoughts lately have grown stale, but I think all I need is to take a look at my environment and angle my writer's prism just a little differently to get that new perspective

Freddie K.

Given plenty of structure to otherwise seemingly unconnected ideas for my plot. Good to know that we have 'permission' to wonder whether we have got what it takes. This particular project I'm dreaming up seems overwhelmingly large and I have no idea how it's going to turn out; almost as if I'm trying to solve the puzzles inherent in the plot in real time.


Very interesting. Good tools. I don't think writers have a problem with finding ideas (if you do, you probably shouldn't be a writer haha); however it is very interesting to know how a successful writer gets and organizes his.