Tuesday, August 27, 2013
How to Write a Thriller like Dan Brown
Ever since those non-stop reading sessions, I have been enthralled by the novels of Dan Brown. I purchased and eagerly read Deception Point and Digital Fortress. I pounced on The Lost Symbol shortly after it was published.
Now I have just finished reading Inferno. While I no longer read at the speed of flight, I still finished the novel in a very short time. This won't be a review stating how much I enjoyed the book and why. Instead, it's a review of what makes Dan Brown such a successful writer of thrillers.
Okay, it's obvious that any book Dan Brown writes will become an instant bestseller. What is so thrilling about Dan Brown's thrillers? There must be some formula, some hidden code that enables writers to write a thriller like Dan Brown. Many have tried, and most attempts have fallen far short of the original.
Here, in my opinion, is the formula of what is needed to create a Dan Brown-like thriller that will captivate readers.
1) An opening that immediately propels you into the action with no time to catch your breath.
2) Ordinary, likeable characters thrown into very unordinary events, with faults and phobias rather than any superhero abilities. It helps when readers recognize Harvard University professor of religious iconology and symbology Robert Langdon and picture the character as looking like Tom Hanks.
3) Short cliffhanger chapters that keep you reading late into the night.
4) An intense sense of the setting with more details than you will ever get from a guidebook or a tour guide.
5) Overwhelming information about every painting, sculpture, building, poem, musical composition, and book sighted or mentioned for even a split second in the narrative.
6) A male-female team that matches intellectual wits with no need to retire to a bedroom for meaningless diversions.
7) Friends who turn out to be enemies and enemies who turn out to be friends. First impressions may be misleading and dangerous, so it's best not to trust anyone.
8) Ruthless, cunning villains who belong to sinister organizations. Sometimes these villains are never even named.
9) A deadly conspiracy or threat that may actually be real. (After all, the author did his research so you can trust him, right?)
10) Fast paced action, with the main characters being cornered nearly every step of the way.
11) The knowledge that something bad is going to happen, and it's going to happen very soon.
12) The use of words that most readers will not understand. The book is so exciting that there is no time to run for a dictionary. The word of choice in Inferno is chthonic (silent ch), meaning 'of the underworld'.
13) An unexpected and hopefully satisfying conclusion. Knowing that Robert Langdon has survived makes us rest assured that another book in the series is soon to follow.
So, do you have what it takes to write a thriller like Dan Brown? I wish I could follow all of this advice for my own books!