Dan Brown MasterClass Review: Will This Teach You to Write a Page-Turning Thriller?

by Joslyn Chase | 0 comments

Are you wondering what Dan Brown’s MasterClass is like and if signing up would be a good move for you? Do you want to learn how to craft a thriller that works or add suspense to your writing? I recently had the opportunity to take a MasterClass from the man who wrote one of the world’s best-selling novels, The Da Vinci Code, and in my Dan Brown MasterClass review, I'll share my thoughts about the experience and give you a peek into what I learned.

Dan Brown MasterClass Review

In this post, I’ll share my personal Dan Brown MasterClass review, let you know what you can expect to gain from the class, and give you an idea of how it works. I’ll also reveal what, for me, were the highlights and why you may (or may not) want to take the class yourself.

I’ll tell you one thing up front—the man is a believer in using tools to do the heavy lifting for you. I’m not going to argue with that!

Before we get started, I want to be fully transparent and let you know that while I wasn’t paid to write this review, the links below are affiliate links. If you sign up for MasterClass, it will help me be able to keep writing (and help me continue sharing what I’ve learned about the writing process). Of course, this won’t affect your overall price, and it didn’t affect my decision on the course.

Take a look at Dan Brown’s MasterClass here. Now, let’s jump in.

The master shows how suspense is done

Brown loses no time in demonstrating how to create suspense. In the very first video he makes a promise that at the end of the class, he will admit something he’s never admitted to anyone on earth and show us an artifact no one except him has ever seen. “And that,” he said, “is your first lesson in suspense.”

Brown talked a lot about the importance of making and keeping promises in order to create and sustain suspense. “Suspense is all about making promises to your reader. You’re telling your reader, ‘I know something you don’t know. But I promise I’ll tell you, if you keep going.’”

Meet Dan Brown

Puzzles, mazes, locked rooms and more…

Like Dan, I’ve always been a puzzle-hound. He tells how on Christmas morning, when the family got up and went down to the Christmas tree, there were no presents. Instead, there was a clue. They had to follow a trail of riddles and puzzles in order to find and open the gifts.

Can you see how his childhood experiences shaped him into the man who crafted The Lost Symbol, Angels & Demons, and The Da Vinci Code?

I remember creating similar treasure hunts for my own children, and you’ll rarely find me without a puzzle book at hand. I love solving riddles and mysteries and Brown’s MasterClass revealed how to take that kind of mystique and weave it into a well-plotted thriller that will keep a reader racing through the pages.

What you get in Dan Brown’s MasterClass

If you haven’t taken a MasterClass before, let me tell you about what you’ll get.

You’ll start out with a series of pre-recorded video sessions. In this case, nineteen videos adding up to almost four hours of instruction.

Be sure to download the beautifully constructed PDF workbook, which contains chapter reviews, additional information, opportunities to take your learning further, writing exercises so you can practice the skills Brown teaches, and some truly awesome resource links. I created a whole tab full of favorites on my browser just from the links in the workbook.

And the Dan Brown class offers an additional piece that I found to be of particular interest. Chapter Ten of the workbook features a worksheet with step-by-step instructions to help you build the structure of your novel using what you learn from Brown during the class.

Here’s a closer look at what’s inside the course:

1. Dan Brown himself!

Dan Brown

I had a whole lot of fun watching and listening to Dan. Like me, he grew up in a musical household and his parents were both teachers, so I could relate to so much of his background. It was inspiring to hear him talk about how he discovered his desire to write thrillers and to get some insight into the beginnings of his career.

2. 19 amazing HD Video Lessons

The videos are absolutely fabulous— splendid photography in a magnificent setting which I presume is Dan Brown’s own home.  It’s filled with fascinating pieces of art, gorgeous woodwork, and a secret passage tucked behind a rotating bookcase!

The music is pretty awesome, too, and in the course of the class you’ll learn how to use some of the elements of music in your writing to really make it shine.

Here’s an outline of all the lessons:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Anatomy of a Thriller
  3. Finding the Idea
  4. Choosing Locations
  5. Creating Heroes and Villains
  6. Universal Character Tools
  7. Character Case Study: The Da Vinci Code
  8. Research, Part 1
  9. Research, Part 2
  10. Building a Story from the Ground Up
  11. Creating Suspense, Part 1
  12. Creating Suspense, Part 2
  13. Writing Chapters and Scenes
  14. Selecting and Utilizing Point of View
  15. Exposition and Dialogue
  16. Editing and Rewriting
  17. Protecting Your Process
  18. Life as a Writer
  19. The Secret of Secrets
To learn more about what's inside each lesson, click here.

3. Downloadable PDF Workbook

The workbook is beautifully designed and full of great content, summing up the lessons, providing prompts and suggestions for further study, and as I mentioned before—some really cool links to fantastic resources.

It starts off with a brief author bio and then Brown presents a letter which includes this paragraph:

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.

4. Writing Exercises

We all know the importance of practice in developing our skills as writers. The workbook provides exercises designed to let you practice the concepts Brown introduced in the lesson.

5. For Your Novel

The workbook also includes a special section geared toward writers who want to begin or are already at work on a novel. This is intended to help writers apply the lessons to the process of developing a book-length work.

A few of my favorite things

Here's what I loved about this class (honestly, a lot!):

  • The Three C’s: the Contract, the Clock, and the Crucible. Brown says this is where suspense begins, and I enjoyed how he showed these ideas in motion and gave tips for creating them in my own work.
  • Case studies. It was so interesting to hear Brown talk about how he created certain scenes and then to hear him read from his own work to demonstrate how the tools worked in that case.
  • Movie clips! It was fun to watch Brown’s stories come to life on the screen.
  • Relationship with the reader. I love how Brown emphasizes that we’re not writing alone but with a partner who brings their own experiences to the table. “Your job,” he says, “is to create a framework, the points of interest that the reader’s imagination fills in and connects.”
  • Novel guide. Brown provides a step-by-step process for building a thriller novel from the ground up and shares some concrete tools for making it happen.
  • Music lessons. As a music teacher myself, I got a particular kick out of the way Brown relates effective writing to music and what we can learn from music to improve our writing.
  • Focus on POV. “Be excited about point of view,” Brown says. “It’s a powerful tool.” I couldn’t agree more, and I appreciate his demonstrating how to use POV to best effect.
  • Heavy lifting tools. Brown shares a lot of specific techniques to help accomplish the job of writing a terrific book. He claims that using these tools will eliminate a lot of the heavy lifting involved in crafting a novel.
  • The Secret of Secrets. As promised, Brown made an admission and displayed an artifact intended exclusively for members of the class. I’m not going to tell you what they were except to say that they were pretty cool.

Why the class may not be for you

Honestly, I loved the class and think there’s a lot of value in it for any writer, but there are a few aspects of Dan Brown’s MasterClass that might make it less than ideal for you:

  • Requires self-discipline. With no deadlines or grades at stake, it’s up to you to do the work for your own growth and benefit.
  • You have to read. The class draws a lot upon Brown’s own work and as a prerequisite, it’s recommended to read Digital Fortress, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno, and Origin.
  • No critique. Though there is a place for class discussion in the comments section, there’s no formal avenue for submitting work or getting feedback.
  • It might sound familiar. If you’ve spent any time studying good writing techniques, you’ve heard a lot of this before … but maybe not like this. Even though Brown takes his material from the time-honored trove of writing wisdom, he presents the information in exciting and unique ways.

If the class sounds good to you, sign up here. Or read on for my final review.

My review: Is Dan Brown’s MasterClass for you?

Should you take Dan Brown’s MasterClass? If your aim is to become a better writer, learn how to make and keep promises to your reader, and create a novel full of nail-biting suspense, then this class is for you. I loved attending the class and feel like I got a lot out of it.

Ready to take Dan Brown's MasterClass and learn the secrets of writing thrilling suspense?

Click to sign up

The video lessons are fantastic and the workbook is super helpful, informative, and packed with great resources for further study. Listening to Brown explain the ins and outs and how-to’s of effective writing was fun, encouraging, and inspiring. I learned a lot, and know I’ll implement the ideas in my own work.

For instance, Brown talks a lot about developing and trusting your process and how patience and gentleness with yourself come into play. Becoming an accomplished author takes time and the process needs to be its own reward. Brown’s first three books didn’t sell many copies, but he took the initiative and found his own opportunities for marketing. When The Da Vinci Code came along, he’d done the groundwork necessary for success.

And the Secret of Secrets that Brown reveals at the end of the class is pretty powerful. I’m really glad I got to be there for that.

You can get Dan Brown's MasterClass as a part of the all-access pass for $10 a month ($120/ year) and have access to other classes with authors like James Patterson, Neil Gaiman, R.L. Stine, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Dan Brown's secret passageway

Final verdict: I absolutely love Dan Brown’s MasterClass and recommend it, without reservation, to anyone who wants to improve their writing. The class is targeted toward thriller writers, but many of the concepts taught in the class apply over the broader spectrum and would be of help to any writer.

If you’re able to take the class, I say go for it! Sign up here.

Have you taken Dan Brown’s MasterClass? What do you think of it? Tell us in the comments section.


There’s magic in motion. When you make your characters move through space during their dialogue, you not only provide “stage business” to break up the speech and draw the reader deeper into the scene, but the action adds momentum and excitement. Instead of setting the dialogue at a table in a restaurant, let it play out as the characters are running through the airport or hiking up a mountain.

Choose a dialogue scene in your WIP where the characters are stationary and put them in motion. Rewrite the scene, using details of what they see and encounter as they move through the setting and see how it spices up the scene.

If you don’t want to use your WIP, take one of these prompts:

Sandy is explaining to Jewel why she lied about her family background.

Frank and Bob are arguing about which style of pizza is better—New York or Chicago.

Stacey confronts her husband about the perfume-scented love note she found in his pocket while doing laundry.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you are finished, post your scene in the Pro Practice Workshop and be sure to provide feedback for your fellow writers!

Any day where she can send readers to the edge of their seats, prickling with suspense and chewing their fingernails to the nub, is a good day for Joslyn. Pick up her latest thriller, Steadman's Blind, an explosive read that will keep you turning pages to the end. No Rest: 14 Tales of Chilling Suspense, Joslyn's latest collection of short suspense, is available for free at joslynchase.com.



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