In this review, we’ll see if the Dan Brown MasterClass on writing lives up to its promises and delivers a course worthy of your investment.
Dan Brown MasterClass Summary
What you’ll learn: The anatomy of a thriller, how to find ideas, creating heroes and villains, building a story from the ground up, writing scenes and chapters, and how to live the life of a writer.
Run time: 3 hours and 32 minutes
Recommendation: 10/10—While some people may be apprehensive about taking this course because Brown is a thriller writer, he shares a plethora of tools and writing exercises to help improve your writing and creative process.
Growing up, I read The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, and Deception Point. They were the first “grown-up” books I read and left a lasting impression that good books are incredibly difficult to put down.
Being a writer myself, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from one of the most successful writers of our time: Dan Brown.
I don’t write thrillers, but Dan Brown’s MasterClass on Writing Thrillers is a must-view for writers of all genres. I learned valuable, practical lessons such as how to select the correct point of view, how to develop and stick to a writing process, and, most importantly, how to build a story from the ground up.
In this Dan Brown MasterClass review, I’ll answer a few key questions, summarize what I liked and disliked about the course, and give you my honest recommendation. I aim to give you as much information as you need to decide: Is the Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers MasterClass worth it?
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Dan Brown MasterClass Summary
- About Dan Brown
- What does this MasterClass promise?
- How much does Dan Brown’s MasterClass cost?
- What is included in the Dan Brown MasterClass?
- About the structure of the class
- Key Things I Learned
- Things I liked about the Dan Brown MasterClass
- Things I didn’t like about the Dan Brown MasterClass
- Does the class keep its promises?
- Is Dan Brown’s MasterClass worth the money?
Quick Q and A
Yes. MasterClass charges a yearly subscription to access all of their courses. Jump to the pricing section to learn more.
The Dan Brown MasterClass on Writing is 3 hours and 32 minutes long and spans 19 video lessons.
Yes. If you cancel within 30 days of purchase, MasterClass will issue you a full refund.
Yes. Even if you don’t intend to write a thriller novel, Dan Brown’s MasterClass is a tour-de-force on creative writing. I highly recommend it for writers of all skill levels and genres.
About Dan Brown
Chances are you probably already know who Dan Brown is. A best-selling author of books such as The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Deception Point, Dan Brown is the master of the page-turning bestseller.
Originally a composer and songwriter, Brown pivoted to writing thrillers after reading The Doomsday Conspiracy by Sidney Sheldon during a vacation in 1993. Five years later, Brown published his first novel, Digital Fortress. His first three novels garnered little attention, but it was his fourth, The Da Vinci Code, that put Brown on the map and at the top of The New York Times’s bestseller list.
Many of Brown’s works have been adapted for film and television, with a few projects currently in the works.
Currently, Brown says he has over a dozen more novel ideas for Robert Langdon, the fictional symbologist featured in many of his books.
With a writing career spanning nearly 25 years and millions of books sold, I hoped to learn a thing or two about writing in Dan Brown’s MasterClass.
What does this MasterClass promise?
Dan Brown pens in his own words (in the downloadable class workbook) what he hopes to accomplish with his MasterClass:
“In this class, I hope to unlock for you a toolbox of ideas that you can use immediately as you write your own novel. It is the same toolbox I used to write The Da Vinci Code and all of my books. My sincere desire is that this class inspires in you a passion for the writing process as well as the confidence to master your own personal voice and create a story that is distinctly your own.”
What I believe sets Brown’s MasterClass apart from other authors who dole out author-ly advice is that Brown doesn’t rely on adages and maxims but rather on practical tools for writers to implement.
While some people may be apprehensive about taking this course because Brown is a thriller writer, the term thriller is rather a modern take on a timeless classic: suspense. Even Homer’s Odyssey and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo could be considered thrillers of their time.
Nevertheless, Brown shares a plethora of tools and writing exercises to help improve your creative process.
So, did Dan Brown’s MasterClass live up to his promises? Did he meet my expectations? I’ll cover that at the end of the review (skip ahead if you want to find out). But first, let’s talk about what’s probably on your mind…
How much does Dan Brown’s MasterClass cost?
In 2021, MasterClass began testing alternative subscription models besides their original flat-rate annual membership. Eventually, they settled on a new cost-friendly three-tier MasterClass pricing model for their annual subscription:
- Individual – $120 per year (average $10 per month)
- Duo – $180 per year (average $15 per month)
- Family – $240 per year (average $20 per month)
The Individual membership (formerly the “Standard Plan”) is perfect for single individuals who are most likely to consume online learning at home. The Duo (formerly the “Plus Plan”) and Family (formerly the “Premium Plan”) plans are better for couples as MasterClass allows multiple devices to watch at the same time. (Netflix has similar restrictions for their membership plans).
However, the ability to download video lessons for offline viewing is helpful for people who might want to watch MasterClass on their commute to work without eating up most of their data. The Plus and Premium plans offer their users the ability to do just that.
Personally, I go for the $120 per year option as I average about one MasterClass per month, which means my cost per class is $10.
The price may seem steep, but the all-access pass gives you access to all of the MasterClass courses, including other writing classes taught by James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and David Baldacci.
Plus, you must remember that each MasterClass is someone’s lifetime of work distilled into well-organized and enjoyable video content. In other words, if it turns out the Dan Brown MasterClass isn’t for you, chances are you’ll find other MasterClasses you do enjoy.
What is included in the Dan Brown MasterClass?
Here’s a rundown of what you are getting with the Dan Brown MasterClass.
|3 Hours 32 minutes
|4.7 out of 5 ⭐️
|19 video lessons
|1 PDF workbook
The runtime clocks in at just over 3 and a half hours, which I thought was a perfect length for the subject matter. I preferred watching the course at 1.5x speed which means I finished the entire video course in about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
This MasterClass (like all MasterClasses) comes with a supplemental PDF workbook that summarizes all the key topics covered in the course.
Now, most courses I’ve taken come with a brief workbook that is typically 15-30 pages in length. Dan Brown’s MasterClass, on the other hand, comes with a whopping 89-page, in-depth workbook. Each lesson chapter is covered in the workbook via the following format:
- Chapter Review—A brief overview of the video lesson
- Learn More—Additional pieces of information not covered in the video lessons
- Writing Exercises—Ideas to practice skills covered in the lesson (applicable for everyone)
- For Your Novel—Writing exercises tailored for folks currently working on a novel
As a writer myself, I found this supplemental workbook to be of immense value for all types of learners.
About the structure of the class
Dan Brown’s MasterClass is divided up into 19 lessons with an average run time of approximately 11 minutes per lesson. However, the video playback buttons offer you the ability to watch the course at 1.5x and 2x speed.
- The Anatomy of a Thriller
- Finding the Idea
- Choosing Locations
- Creating Heroes and Villains
- Universal Character Tools
- Character Case Study: The Da Vinci Code
- Research, Part 1
- Research, Part 2
- Building a Story From the Ground Up
- Creating Suspense, Part 1
- Creating Suspense, Part 2
- Writing Chapters and Scenes
- Selecting and Utilizing Point of View
- Exposition and Dialogue
- Editing and Rewriting
- Protecting Your Process
- Life As a Writer
- The Secret of Secrets
Other than the character case study in lesson 7, where Dan shares different character examples he used in The Da Vinci Code, the remaining 18 lessons are non-stop expositions on the various tools and techniques Dan uses in his books and that we, the learners, can apply to our own writing.
Two of the takeaways require two lessons each: research and creating suspense. I found the lessons about research surprisingly informative as it’s not really a practice many writers focus on. Typically, a writer sits at her desk and clacks away at the keys. However, Brown emphasizes the need for writers to get out into the world and find inspiration.
However, the most important of the Dan Brown lessons is lesson 10, Building a Story From the Ground Up. This 21-and-a-half-minute lesson is broken into a 13-step-by-step breakdown:
- Select the World and Find the Gray Area
- Create the Hero
- Create the Villan
- Check for the Three C’s (Clock, Crucible, Contract)
- Set the Stage
- Write the Finale First
- Navigate the Middle Muddle
- Develop the Supporting Characters (who have complementary skillsets)
- Turn Up the Tension (Secondary character back stories)
- Build the Obstacles
- Remind the Readers of the Stakes
- Motivate Your Character to the Next Location
- Wrap it Up
Side Note: One aspect of the class I found extremely helpful is lesson 3: Finding the Idea. Here, Brown boils down the writing process to one thing: What is the one simple question you are trying to answer? Brown suggests thinking like a philosopher first before thinking like a thriller writer. His advice? Find the moral grey area and start exploring.
Brown closes out his MasterClass not with more writing tools but rather advice to succeed as a writer. In lessons 16 through 18, Dan discusses what the editing and rewriting process looks like and how he edits with three colors of highlighters.
He then focuses on protecting your writing process and setting aside time daily to write. And then finally, Brown shares what it’s like being a writer, the need to be persistent, and how to invest in yourself.
My fast-track lesson plan
Although three and a half hours of video lessons isn’t a huge time commitment, I created a fast-track collection if you are looking for an abbreviated lesson plan. In just over 60 minutes, you can watch these lessons, grab your computer or notebook, and start your writing journey. I found these lessons to be the most impactful and beneficial to helping me learn about the writing and creative process.
Course Reviewers 60-Minute Lesson Plan
Key Things I Learned
The notes I took for the Dan Brown MasterClass on writing thrillers easily outpaced any of the other MasterClasses I’ve taken in the past few years. Why? Because every lesson was jam-packed with information and advice that Dan used to write dozens of books and sell millions of copies. As an aspiring novelist myself, I wanted to absorb as much as I could from one of the best.
Here is a small sampling of what I learned.
Below are a few key learnings that stood out during the MasterClass:
- The anatomy of a thriller consists of the 3 C’s:
- Contract—If you read this book, you will find these answers. Make a promise and keep it.
- Crucible—Don’t let your characters run away. They only have one miserable path.
- Clock—Time pressure.
- Suspense is about making promises (I know something you don’t know, turn the page, and I’ll tell you more.)
- How do you jump from a book outline to writing a chapter? Start with one bullet point: “What is this chapter trying to accomplish?” Each chapter should have one hook on which to build a framework around. Ask yourself, “How do I make this as interesting/suspenseful/drawn out as possible to keep the reader turning the pages?”
- When editing your work, print out your manuscript. Put yourself into a reader’s position.
- Be gentle on yourself with the output, but be tough on yourself with the process.
Things I liked about the Dan Brown MasterClass
Where to begin?
First, I need to stress once again that I am not a writer of thrillers. Nevertheless, I found this course to be immensely valuable and informative and on par with my other favorite writing MasterClasses (Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman). I learned so much.
Second, the downloadable class workbook is equally informative and is an excellent companion to the video lessons. The fact that the MasterClass team put together individual practice plans for each lesson reminds me why MasterClass is the best online learning platform.
Finally, like Brown’s books, this course is full of cliffhangers and suspense. From the first lesson to the last, I eagerly binged my way through the video lessons. They are engaging, high-quality, and entertaining. What more can you ask for?
My favorite quotes from Dan Brown’s MasterClass
“I will tell you, writing a book is hard work. And it takes a long time. And you’ve gotta stay excited through the whole process.”Lesson 3
“I will tell you, writing a book is hard work. And it takes a long time. And you’ve gotta stay excited through the whole process.”Lesson 5
“The thing that makes great art, great art, is the negative space. You need to learn that as a writer.”Lesson 13
“The difference between good writers and bad writers is that good writers know when they’re bad.”LEsson 16
“Protect the process, and the results will take care of themselves.”Lesson 17
Things I didn’t like about the Dan Brown MasterClass
I honestly cannot find any fault with Dan Brown’s MasterClass. The course length is ideal. The subject matter is broad enough for non-thriller writers to enjoy. They even use clips from the film adaptations (which I assume cost MasterClass a pretty penny to license).
All in all, I believe this is the first course I’ve taken on MasterClass where I could not find anything that I disliked.
Does the class keep its promises?
Yes, absolutely. As Dan Brown promised in the course workbook, “I hope to unlock for you a toolbox of ideas that you can use immediately as you write your own novel,” he delivers just that and more.
I’ve been “writing” a novel for the past three years. I’ve gotten to a point where I felt discouraged and doubtful. After taking Dan Brown’s MasterClass, I am more excited than ever to re-engage in the process and see the project through.
This, by the way, fulfills Brown’s second promise to his learners: “My sincere desire is that this class inspires in you a passion for the writing process as well as the confidence to master your own personal voice and create a story that is distinctly your own.”
Is Dan Brown’s MasterClass worth the money?
Yes if you…
- Are a writer looking to gain new skills
- Want to one day write a thriller novel
- Find writing/creativity interesting
- Are a fan of Dan Brown and wish to emulate his success
- Enjoy writing and want to broaden your knowledge
No if you…
- Are not interested in writing
- Don’t enjoy thrillers or suspense
- Have no desire to write a novel
Taking everything into consideration, I believe Dan Brown’s MasterClass on Writing Thrillers is worth checking out if you consider yourself an avid (or even passive) writer and wish to broaden your skillset. Coupled with the other writing-related MasterClasses, the $180 price point is well worth the investment.
If you’re interested in learning more, here is a trailer to the class: