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By Matt Long

How to write a Dan Brown novel: a step by step guide:

Ingredients:
— One cookie-cutter protagonist
— A female sidekick
— Catastrophic world-changing discovery
— A murder most foul
— All the places your European tour guide recommends visiting that you never bother with
— A bunch of morally ambiguous secondary characters
— A religious fanatic
— A shadowy organisation

Mixing:
1) Prepare to reveal the discovery, but midway through, interrupt it with your murder. You can choose your generic “never met the protagonist” murder, or for higher stakes, splash out on an old acquaintance or colleague
2) Blend the protagonist and sidekick together until forced romance is produced. Crowbar it into every description of the two interacting with each other
3) Take whatever falls out of your blender, and sieve through using a bunch of European tourist traps, ideally at break-neck speed. You can expedite this process with constant pressure from the shadowy organisation, the secondary characters, the religious fanatic, or a combination of the three. If in doubt, sieve through all three and hope for the best

At this point you should have the bare bones of your novel ready to go.

Cooking instructions:
1) Blanche the novel in language an eleven year old would call “insultingly basic”. Be sure to overuse the words “devastated”, “shocked”, and “stunned” whenever possible
2) Drain thoroughly, ensuring to remove any trace of personality, humour, wit, or good storytelling. At this point, the novel should look like grey, sloppy porridge, but with none of the appeal or health benefits
3) Knead the gruel as it dries. Any cracks that appear in the plot can be covered and patched over with the first paragraph of a random Wikipedia page (for instance, did you know Winston Churchill was a “celebrated British statesman”? Because Dan Brown isn’t sure if his audience does!)
4) Flash fry the ending in a way that ties up all the loose ends in a neat little package. If the book ends with a lose end (I.E. half the world’s population becoming sterile) – don’t worry. It’ll never be mentioned in any other books
5) Finally, season with a guaranteed movie adaptation, and serve on the inside of a bin, ideally one that’s on fire