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Dan Brown’s Thriller Writing MasterClass: Secrets of Writing Suspense

Embark on a literary adventure under the guidance of Dan Brown, the mastermind behind one of the bestselling novels of all time that inspired a major motion picture franchise – The Da Vinci Code. In this review, we'll look at why Dan Brown's Masterclass is a must for aspiring novelists. Ready for the adventure? Read on!

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Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers: Our Verdict (2023)


4.8 / 5

Dan Brown's Thriller Writing Masterclass takes you on an exhilarating journey into the art of writing successful thrillers that hook readers. Hosted on the renowned MasterClass platform, this course is a comprehensive guide that challenges conventional storytelling advice and underlines the importance of relying on your passions, meticulous research, and unexpected plot twists to create intriguing novels. Dan Brown is as amazing as a teacher as he is as a thriller writer and offers invaluable writing lessons that go from storytelling fundamentals and character development to the impact locations have on making your novel a compelling and immersive experience for readers.


  • Expert guidance by a professional author
  • Engaging teaching style
  • Lots of resources, recommendations, and learning materials
  • Amazing learning platform and captivating visuals
  • Concise, practical expert tips


  • Limited accompanying guidance through learning materials
  • The structured approach might feel limiting

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As a fervent fan of thriller novels and a huge admirer of Dan Brown’s work, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a look at his Thriller Writing MasterClass. Novel writing, especially in the thriller genre, is a captivating and intricate art, and learning from one of the authors who inspired me to become a writer and seeing his novel writing process was an enriching experience.

Curious to uncover what this Masterclass has to offer? Look no further – this review takes you through the details you don’t want to miss! Prepare for a rollercoaster ride through the world of thriller writing as we dive into the secrets of writing successful thrillers filled with action and suspense.

Table of Contents

What is Dan Brown's Thriller Writing MasterClass?

Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers” is an online course hosted on the MasterClass platform, designed to guide aspiring novelists through the process of writing successful thrillers. With 19 lessons and a total duration of 3 hours and 48 minutes, the course is a detailed, in-depth guide filled with key writing topics such as storytelling fundamentals, character development, and the crucial role locations play in stories.

In this Masterclass, Brown goes beyond teaching writing; he shares his passion for storytelling, challenges conventional writing advice, and promises to make a big reveal at the end of the course. Brace yourself for a writing adventure where suspense and unexpected twists collide into the art and process of thriller writing.

Who is Dan Brown?

Renowned thriller author: Dan Brown.
Thriller author Dan Brown

Dan Brown is the acclaimed author of bestsellers like The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, Inferno, and Origin. He is a master storyteller known for his intricate plots and engaging narratives that seamlessly weave art, history, and fascinating locations with multiple interesting facts. Born into a family where intellectual pursuits were a way of life—his father was a mathematics teacher, his mother a church organist—Brown developed from early on a fascination with the paradoxes between science and religion, themes that would later be the main inspirations for his novels.

Who is the target audience for Dan Brown's Thriller Writing MasterClass?

This course is designed for writers and aspiring novelists, particularly those interested in writing thrillers like Dan does. It’s also a great tool for those who are already in the process of writing their novel since Dan offers a comprehensive set of practical guidelines you can refer to as you take your idea from the early stages of writing to the completion of your novel.

There aren’t any specific requirements to take the course, so you can start whenever you are ready!

However, there is something you should need to know before doing so: Dan uses fragments of his novels as a means of literary examples throughout the course. So, if you haven’t already, you might want to check out his books to avoid any accidental spoilers that might surface during the lessons.

What topics does Dan Brown's Thriller Writing MasterClass cover?

Dan Brown’s Masterclass is a detailed guide to the process of writing thrillers, covering all the fundamentals you need to know to start writing your novel.

The course is presented in a video lesson format and includes a detailed PDF Class Guide filled with literary recommendations and writing exercises that you can refer to as you advance through each section.

Here is a quick overview of what to expect from this MasterClass:

  1. Introduction to Thriller Writing: In this first lesson, you will meet your instructor: best-selling author Dan Brown. Dan lays out what you’ll learn in his Masterclass and provides his first lesson in suspense, promising a big reveal at the end of the course.
  2. The Anatomy of a Thriller: Explore the vital elements of suspense – the contract, clock, and crucible. According to Dan, all stories are comprised of the same elements, and these are the essential components every story needs.
  3. Finding the Idea: Dan teaches you how to explore the world around you to come up with big ideas and know how to choose the perfect topic for your novel.
  4. Choosing Locations: Treat locations as dynamic characters that will help you shape your story. Learn how to use location to intrigue readers, generate suspense, and structure your novel.
  5. Creating Heroes and Villains: You will learn how to build multifaceted heroes that connect with your readers and complex villains who act as catalysts for action and conflict.
  6. Universal Character Tools: Dan guides you on populating your novel’s universe with diverse and engaging characters and strategically designs the relationships between them to maximize conflict and drive the plot.
  7. Character Case Study: The Da Vinci Code: Explore characters with examples from Brown’s work. Dan conducts a detailed analysis of characters from his best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, to showcase how different character types create suspense and keep the narrative going.
  8. Research, Part 1: Explore the critical role of research in novel writing and learn from Dan’s approach to on-location research and talking to experts to infuse authenticity and specificity into your writing.
  9. Research, Part 2: Delve further into Dan’s research process and uncover connections between seemingly unrelated story elements.
  10. Building a Story from the Ground Up: Follow Dan’s step-by-step guide to build a successful story. From the initial idea to the final chapter, Dan walks you through his entire writing process and gives you a step-by-step guide to turn your idea into a best-selling thriller.
  11. Creating Suspense, Part 1: Using his novel Origin and content from an unreleased project, Dan shows you how to employ parallel plotlines and gripping openings to keep readers hooked.
  12. Creating Suspense, Part 2 Dan teaches you strategies to immerse readers in your scenes and create cliffhangers that will leave them on the edge of their seats.
  13. Writing Chapters and Scenes: You’ll understand how to structure chapters and scenes focusing on pacing and stakes and will learn the process of turning an outline into a first draft.
  14. Selecting and Utilizing Narrative Point of View: Dan teaches you how to strategically use narrative points of view to increase suspense, withhold information, and reveal character.
  15. Exposition and Dialogue: You’ll learn how to appeal to your reader’s senses and write dialogue that shares important information and reveals character.
  16. Editing and Rewriting: Learn to refine your writing while preserving its essence through Dan’s practical editing system.
  17. Protecting Your Process: Learn the importance of having a dedicated writing routine to help you overcome the challenges of a writing career. Dan’s philosophy is simple: protect the process, and the results will take care of themselves.
  18. Life as a Writer: Dan shares tips on how to build a team that believes in you and teaches you how to write an outstanding query letter.
  19. The Secret of Secrets: Dan ends the course by encouraging you to write and believe in yourself, and he fulfills the promise he made at the start of the course.

My favorite lessons from Dan Brown’s Thriller Writing MasterClass

The course has a lot of great writing and storytelling lessons to offer, and here are some of my favorites:

Emphasizing that writers gain insights by reading and observing the construction of stories
Writers read to see how stories are made
  • Read critically: Reading plays an enormous role in the lives of all writers. Dan’s advice is to immerse yourself in the genre you want to write and learn from others’ writing styles, reinforcing how important being an avid reader is to become a proficient writer. The more you read, the more you are going to know how stories are put together.
Encouraging the selection of a topic that sparks excitement
Choose a topic you’re excited about
  • Write what you want to know: Find what’s interesting to you, and then go out and research it. You can write about anything if you educate yourself properly. Nowadays, the research process is so much easier thanks to the technology we have available.
Emphasizing the significance of understanding the 'How' in the process
It’s about the How
  • Focus on the how, not the what: Shifting your focus from big ideas to great execution is a liberating concept. Every single idea has been done over and over, so you should take the pressure off yourself.
Initiating research with reading, but emphasizing that it shouldn't conclude at that point
You start your research by reading, but it can’t end there
  • Research and seek out specialists: I loved Dan’s approach to research. He suggests learning by traveling, reading, experiencing new things, and talking to specialists. From research, you can find starting points and settings that inspire you through learning. Learning from real-world experiences and combining them with the expertise of specialists adds authenticity and depth to your writing.
Deconstructing the novel 'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown
Deconstructing Dan’s novel The Da Vinci Code
  • Case studies from Dan’s work: Dan shows how his tips and techniques apply in writing by using examples from his novels. Having excerpts of some of my favorite novels deconstructed and read aloud by the author as case studies while getting to know more about his creative process—words cannot suffice to express how exciting that was!
Exploring Dan's approach to the process of editing
Dan’s approach to editing
  • Color coding editing: Dan’s tip on color coding for efficient editing is life-changing. Implementing a visual system to identify the editing status of your work at a glance has become part of my writing routine, as it makes the process so much more efficient and fun.
Preparing your desk and manuscript for tomorrow's work
Get your desk and your manuscript ready to receive you tomorrow
  • Set the table for breakfast: At the end of every day, Dan likes to do what he calls “ Setting the table for breakfast.” The idea is to leave your writing process in a state ready to resume the next day. This is a practical and motivating habit that helps you build momentum without having to face a blank page each day.
Acknowledging that it's all part of the writing process
It’s all part of the process
  • Dare to suck: Dan learned this great advice from Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith. Understand that mistakes are part of the process, and allow yourself to make them. Dare to be terrible. This will help you fearlessly experiment with your writing.

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I Liked about Dan Brown's Thriller Writing MasterClass

I believe everyone can learn something from this course, and if you have a MasterClass subscription, it’s worth taking a look.

Here are some of the main reasons why I would recommend it:

  • Expert guidance by a professional author: Dan Brown’s expertise shines through in his precise and insightful guidance, offering a unique opportunity to learn from a master thriller writer.
  • Engaging teaching style: Brown’s engaging and conversational teaching style simplifies complex concepts and makes them easy to remember. The use of examples, especially from his work, adds a personal touch, making the learning experience dynamic and entertaining.
  • The abundance of resources, recommendations, and learning materials: The course provides multiple resources, including a comprehensive class guide filled with tips for both aspiring novelists and those already in the process of writing a novel. Additionally, the workbook includes a detailed worksheet to structure your novel step-by-step following Dan’s process.
  • Amazing learning platform and captivating visuals: The MasterClass platform is very intuitive, and the captivating visuals used in each lesson create an immersive environment that makes the learning journey both engaging and visually appealing.
  • Concise, practical expert tips: Instead of just repeating standard writing advice, Dan gives specific and practical tips derived from his experience as a writer.

Drawbacks of Dan Brown's Thriller Writing MasterClass

  • Limited accompanying guidance through learning materials: While the course offers abundant resources, additional guidance through these materials, especially the included class guide, would improve the overall learning experience.
  • The structured approach might feel limiting: The course imparts excellent thriller writing advice, but it’s important to note that Dan Brown’s approach follows a basic hero-villain-attractive sidekick structure for his novels. This may feel somewhat limiting for writers who wish to explore alternative writing structures and styles.

Conclusion – Is Dan Brown's Thriller Writing MasterClass Worth It?

Dan Brown’s MasterClass goes beyond equipping you with the technical aspects of thriller writing; it gets you into the mindset of a successful author. The practical tips, especially those on maintaining a writing routine and embracing mistakes as part of the process, have become an integral part of my writing process.

Dan’s teaching style transcends the conventional, making each lesson a dynamic experience filled with practical and useful tips to help you level up your writing game. The result is a course that gives you all the tools you need to create suspenseful narratives and inspires you to believe in your work and commit to your writing journey with newfound passion.

What makes this investment truly exceptional is its immediate applicability. The course motivates you to take action and start writing, turning the acquired knowledge into skill.

In conclusion, taking Dan Brown’s Thriller Writing MasterClass is one of the best decisions aspiring novelists, particularly those drawn to the thriller genre, can make to improve their skills. The in-depth exploration of character, practical suspense-building techniques, and glimpses into the writing process shared by Dan Brown make this MasterClass a worthwhile experience for anyone serious about learning and mastering the art of thriller writing.

It’s not just about learning how to write; it’s about enjoying every step of the writing process, creating stories that captivate and thrill.

As Dan himself says, “The only way to really master the art of writing is to write, write, write.”

So don’t hesitate— enroll in Dan Brown’s Thriller Writing MasterClass, unlock the secrets to writing successful novels that keep readers on the edge of their seats, and start writing best-selling thrillers today!