13 Tips for Writing a Dan Brown Page Turner

Every time Dan Brown publishes a book, it quickly becomes the best-selling book of the year. In fact, Brown’s 2013 release of Inferno earned sales toppling both J.K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling,  and Veronica Roth’s enormously popular Divergent.

Dan Brown InfernoOn his entertaining blog, Ellis Shuman Writes, indy author Shuman recently asked the question: 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,” he surmises. “Many have tried, and most attempts have fallen far short of the original.”

Here are 13 applicable observations Ellis Shuman has made, his deduction of the formula required 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.

Are you a Dan Brown fan? What advice can you add to this list? Post your comments below!

To learn more about Ellis Shuman, visit his blog, Ellis Shuman Writes, follow him on Twitter at @ellisshuman or check out one of his most popular blog posts: How I Sold 910 Copies of My Book in One Week.

Find me on Twitter at @TheRJLacko.