by Xander Scott
This is a snippet of a ghostwriting style analysis of the author Dan Brown.
| Dan Brown begins the first chapter of his novel, The Davinci Code, with an active sentence. "Robert Langdon awoke slowly."
He instantly introduced Langdon's mental state with the use of the adverb slowly. We begin the story with action and description instead of narrative.
The second sentence starts a new paragraph with a contradictory writing style. "A telephone was ringing in the darkness--a tinny, unfamiliar ring." This second sentence is passive and normally avoided because, unlike the active version-a telephone rang-it places the reader in a disconnected state, allowing us to feel the same way as the character, Langdon.
Dan Brown immediately returns to an active voice. "He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on." While the prior passive sentence was used well, Brown knows the action in his first chapter must move quickly. He begins to give us a sense of the character's surroundings, continuing to describe the action in a way we recognize and follow.
He completes his introduction by describing the immediate surroundings as Langdon sees them. "Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four-poster bed." This allows the setting to form without telling the story through narrative, and gives us a sense of the main character in relation to his surroundings before he guides the reader with the first question. "Where the hell am I?" Again, putting the reader directly into the mind of his character.
In just four sentences he has introduced a setting, a character, a series of actions, and a subtle hook. In describing the room, he implemented the rule of threes. The furniture, walls, and bed, bring us a longer and more interesting sentence structure to break up the rhythm of the previous short sentences.
To answer the reader's question, he writes "The jacquard bathrobe hanging on his bedpost bore the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS." It is a passive sentence, keeping a slower pace to the writing and reminding us, subconsciously, Langdon is still waking up. He implements suspense into his writing by placing the important information at the end of the sentence to give the reader a sense of reward before reminding us something actually had awoken Langdon. He then acknowledges the disconnected feeling and helps us transition with the character. "Slowly, the fog began to lift."
"Langdon picked up the receiver. 'Hello?'"
Brown has introduced just enough of the setting to make the character interactions make sense. He finally tells us we are in Paris only because it has immediate importance to the story and helps introduce some background to the voice on the phone.
"'Monsieur Langdon?' a man's voice said. 'I hope I have not awoken you?'"
Brown's use of description within dialogue shows us the pace and pauses of the speaker without telling us where and what they are. We read the pause in our head because the speech is separated by defining a speaker. The language seems more natural and fluid.
He shows Langdon's lack of response by placing description after the dialogue. "Dazed, Langdon looked at the bedside clock. It was 12:32 A.M. He had been asleep only an hour, but he felt like the dead." He finally gives us a sense of time, important to any setting, then immediately relates with Langdon so the description has purpose and reason.
At this point, Brown could have had Langdon complain, murmur, be grumpy, or respond in any number of ways, and it would make logic sense for the flow of the story. Instead, Brown chooses to quicken the pace of the story by skipping unnecessary filler.
"This is the concierge, monsieur. I apologize for this intrusion, but you have a visitor. He insists it is urgent."
Only moments after giving us a sense of time, Brown now gives us a feeling of time-constraint. The pace of the writing has quickened. As a reader, our immediate question has once again been guided. Brown anticipates our question and builds on the question's suspense.
"Langdon still felt fuzzy. A visitor? His eyes focused now on a crumpled flyer on his bedside table.
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT LANGDON
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLOGY,
Langdon groaned. Tonight's lecture--a slide show about religious symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral--had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience. Most likely, some religious scholar had trailed him home to pick a fight."