Essential Lessons in Writing Addictive Stories from Dan Brown
How to use Brown’s lessons in thriller writing for any story
Dan Brown’s thrillers are controversial, addictive, sell millions of copies, are turned into blockbuster films starring Tom Hanks, and are loved by many. He is one of the world’s most successful thriller writers.
I’ve never written a thriller before, but I have followed Brown’s Masterclass years ago (which I highly recommend). I found that the lessons for thriller writing are universal and can be applied to any type of writing.
I’ve used some of his tips in writing short stories and in the current book I’m working on. Certain essentials make a story addictive, whether it’s a thriller, a romance novel, or a biography.
Coming up with an idea
“If you’re excited about it, it will come through in your writing. The reader will notice.” — Dan Brown
Dan Brown has a thing or two to say about coming up with ideas for a story, the most important one is to write the book that you’d like to read.
Every story I wrote was about a topic I was excited about. Something I wanted to explore. An angle I wanted to investigate. A few examples: what if you could choose how to lead your afterlife, what happens if democracy looks different, why can vices like greed corrupt our minds or what’s the story behind a 120-year-old portrait my gran used to own?
The fun part is that you both get to educate yourself as well as develop a story that has the potential to touch others. Besides, if you’re excited about it, you are likely to stay motivated and avoid writer’s block.
Always be on the lookout for potential ideas. Keep a notepad with you. If you live in 2021, use a note app. Jot down your ideas. Things you encounter in conversation, in the news, while watching a documentary or movie, when you visit an exhibition or walk in the woods. What excites you?
Brown introduces a couple of key elements of coming up with a strong story idea:
- What is your story about? Have a sole dramatic question. Make it simple and easy. It’s your north star while writing.