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.

This class has been so inspiring and full of detailed information that has helped me as a writer. I loved it!

I'm not a writer of thrillers but I took David Baldacci's class from reading in the genre. My favorite take-away was his advice to do mini-outlines to help keep control of the story. Highly applicable to my genre, historical fantasy.

I really liked David Baldacci's instructional style. He made it interesting and informative. I got so much out of his class!

A fantastic adventure into the writer's world. As a videomaker, I like writing before recording, it's the beginning of the process, so each advice will be very useful for the future, and maybe I'll write a book for my fans, certainly another big experience in my life. Thank U David for your passion & your writing !


Joshua L.

This guy mentioned Gotham city and I never heard of him. I gotta read more freakin books!

Dev K.

One more comment--David Baldacci is a great teacher and he comes through as a man in love with his craft.

Mara D.

I absolutely love his style of teaching--he seems really passionate about teaching us what he knows, can't wait to learn more!

Liesl S.

I’m do not struggle to come up with ideas, plots and twists. Sometimes I think this is my downfall. I don’t follow through though because the ‘next idea’ won’t leave me alone. I’m all over the place! This lesson was still great and informative. and I am definitely downloading Evernote to attempt organising. I surprised myself with the ‘interest’ exercise... it gave birth to even more ideas! About to go out and do some ‘prism’ surveillance. ;)


Such a great lesson - David is so honest and upfront - clear and creative. I so much see, and appreciate, his genuine desire to help and the clever ideas he shares.

Lisa B.

I thought that is an impressive lesson. Actually, I have produced more information for myself than I had hoped for. I had more imput on interests which made it easier to pick new ideas and make new story lines. I recommend this lesson for writer's blocks.

Mary W.

This lesson should be highly recommended! it is my first class of DAVID BALDACCI. He and dan brown both are very great thriller writers. One of the BEST academic CLASSES!

Tina F.

I really liked the exercise about interests - it immediately showed me which path my new venture into thrillers should follow.

Pravesh A.

Such a great class. Only the 2nd part and already so many great ideas. This is going as great as the Dan Brown class.

Rowan C.

This was one of the best intros I've seen on MC. Thank you for all of these gems. The clarity is so rich. YES!