The Author of Angels and Demons and The Davinci Code Uses a Unique Style to Create Hard to Put Down Thrillers
Having enjoyed reading Dan Brown’s books, it is no surprise to me that his books have been translated into over 40 languages, and as of 2009, sold over 80 million copies. His unique style of writing and compelling, yet controversial, plots make for an extremely intense reading experience. Although he utilizes multiple literary elements, his use of plot points and suspense seem to be the sole drive to the momentum of his novels. Starting out completely separate, Brown gradually pieces together the stories of each of his characters. Brown’s use of converging plot lines creates an air of suspense in many of his novels, including Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code.
Angels and Demons
In Angels and Demons, the stories of two characters are used to generate a level of tension that would not be possible without the union of the two. In the opening scenes, Brown describes the protagonist, Robert Langdon, after receiving a late night phone call, “Robert Langdon wandered barefoot through his deserted Massachusetts Victorian home and nursed his ritual insomnia remedy – a mug of steaming Nestlé’s Quik.” Brown uses this description to illustrate the fact that, at this moment, Langdon’s biggest concern is extremely minute. Although his life is usually chaotic, he is feeling somewhat relaxed and not worried about much else besides himself. 4,000 miles away, “On a busy European street, the killer serpentined through a crowd… As the killer walked, he imagined his ancestors smiling down on him. Today he was fighting their battle, he was fighting the same enemy they had fought for ages, as far back as the eleventh century…” This killer, who is not named in the novel, is on a personal mission that he believes will benefit himself, as well as the people who came before him. These quotes are meant to show that each individual is entrenched in their own realities and not the least bit concerned about the other. The distance between the two characters lessens the amount of suspense felt by the reader. The audience feels that because Langdon and the killer are not in close proximity, the events that are taking place have absolutely no correlation. As the story continues, though, Langdon is called upon and informed about the doings of the killer. He finds out that four religious officials have been kidnapped by the killer. Brown describes the situation in this quote, “Somewhere beneath Rome the dark figure prowled down a stone ramp into the underground tunnel. The ancient passageway was only lit by torches, making the air hot and thick. Up ahead the frightened voices of grown men called out in vain, echoing in the cramped spaces.” This description illustrates the condition of the cardinals and also allows for the audience to imagine what may happen in the near future. And although Langdon is not yet physically involved, the quote increases the amount of suspense in the story. In this next quote, Langdon discovers one of the horribly injured cardinals, “It was then that Langdon saw the second figure, moving around behind the prisoner in the dark, as though making final preparations. Langdon knew he only had seconds to act.” At this point, the stories of the two characters have united and the level of suspense is at its highest. Up until now, Brown has kept Langdon and the killer separate, making their situations less significant than when they are combined. This union between the two stories creates a heighten amount of suspense in Angels and Demons and is the driving force for the movement of the plot.
The Da Vinci Code
In his sequel to Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, Brown once again executes the use of the delayed combination of otherwise separate plot lines. Similarly to the previous novel, Brown describes Langdon in a somewhat normal situation. The only difference is that he is not at home, “Robert Langdon awoke slowly. A telephone was ringing in the darkness – a tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom…” Brown prefers to describe his main character in his usual state to make the transition to increased action more distinct. This also has the effect of lessening the amount of suspense in the plot at this point of time. Simultaneously, his antagonist, Silas, an albino monk, is engaged in his own “normalcy”,
“Silas turned his attention now to a heavy knotted rope coiled neatly on the floor beside him. The Discipline. The knots were caked with dried blood. Eager for the purifying effects of his own agony, Silas said a quick prayer. Then, gripping one end of the rope, he closed his eyes and swung it hard over his shoulder, feeling the knots slap against his back. He whipped it over his shoulder again, slashing at his flesh. Again and again, he lashed.”
Although most people would not see this in any way normal, this ritual is something that Silas devotes much of his life to. With this quote we as the audience understand the type of person he is, but until he comes into contact with a protagonist, his atypical tendencies reside in the back of the reader’s mind. The reader later learns that a monk has killed four priests and is angered by a nun when she refuses to tell him the secrets he is searching for, “A sudden explosion of rage erupted behind the monk’s eyes. He lunged, lashing out with the candle stand like a club. As Sister Sandrine fell, her last feeling was an overwhelming sense of foreboding.” Because of the events that have taken place prior to this, the audience can make the assumption that the monk is actually Silas in disguise. This quote shows that the intensity of Silas’ actions is increasing, which is then magnified when Silas receives a call telling him that, even after what he has accomplished, “Our work tonight is not yet done.” The phone call foreshadows the guarantee of more conflicts taking place. This idea is solidified when “out of nowhere, a crushing blow to the head knocked Langdon to his knees. As he fell, he thought for a moment he saw a pale ghost hovering over him, clutching a gun. Then everything went black.” This is the first meeting between Langdon and Silas, and within the first seconds of it, the audience can already see the increased tension occurring. Brown utilizes the placement of each characters story in The Da Vinci Code to create an intricate plot line and ensure that level of suspense continuously increases.
In his novels, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown attempts, and succeeds, in creating an intense plot line through the use of the convergence of the lives of the protagonists and the antagonists throughout the story. This technique is successful because it gives the audience two opposite sides of the story with limited amounts of suspense. But as the characters’ paths lead them closer and closer, the suspense climbs higher and higher. Perfect for any type of mystery novel, Dan Brown’s writing style keeps the reader intrigued and always wanting more.