Another one of my favorite authors has partnered with MasterClass to offer a course on something at which he is one of the best: storytelling.
Neil Gaiman is a prolific fantasy author of popular works such as Stardust, Coraline, American Gods, Good Omens, and The Sandman. He has written fiction for both adults and children and has explored a multitude of mediums including novels, short stories, film and television, graphic novels, and comic books. He’s also Professor of the Arts at Bard College. To put it simply, the man knows his sh*t.
He’s one of my personal favorites because of his dark twists on fairytales and mythology, sense of humor, and captivating storytelling. When I made a list of all the classes I wanted to take this year, his was at the top so I dove into it in January. It did not disappoint.
Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling
Who It’s For
Like the other courses from MasterClass I’ve taken so far (Shonda Rhimes and Aaron Sorkin), I found the content to be relevant to beginners and advanced writers alike. As I mentioned, he’s written novels, short stories, screenplays, graphic novels, and comic books so his lessons on storytelling apply to all of these mediums.
If you’re a beginner, this class is a perfect welcome into the craft. Neil covers everything from coming up with ideas and creating characters to dealing with writer’s block. It will give you a solid foundation with which to start your journey and attain a stronger grasp on the many layers of storytelling. He delves into the complexity of the art form while easing any overwhelm you may experience along the way with his soothing, grounded approach to being a creator.
If you’re an advanced writer, I think you’ll still find that Neil offers a lot of wisdom through his unique perspective. I’ve been writing for a long time, taken many classes, and read countless books on the topic, but I didn’t feel like his class was at all redundant or overly basic. It was awesome to get a look inside his process and how he approaches the many facets of writing and storytelling. He was very open and honest and went deep into his own experience, which was priceless.
His Teaching Style
Neil has such a gentle, yet passionate approach to teaching. He takes you by the hand and leads you on this incredible journey of storytelling through his eyes. Like his books, there was an air of mysticism throughout the whole thing, which was aided by the wonderful production (they are really upping their game at MasterClass). The whole presentation captured the magic of being a writer. What I loved most was how beautifully he expressed the soul of writing and communicated everything with the spirit of an artist, but you can tell he’s a seasoned educator because of how clear and rich his lectures are.
Neil covered all of the key topics on storytelling and even offered a few bonuses, like his lessons on humor and comics. While I’ve never written a comic book and I’m not sure that I ever will, I was fascinated to learn about the medium, his approach to it, and how he gets creative with its structure to tell his stories.
Here is a full list of the curriculum:
It also comes with a beautifully designed 94-page workbook that includes notes from the class and worksheets.
Neil Gaiman Quotes on Storytelling
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the class:
“Stories are part of us and we convey truth with stories, which is fundamentally the most gloriously giant contradiction that you can ever imagine. What we’re saying, we are using lies. We’re using memorable lies. We are taking people who do not exist and things did not happen to those people, in places that aren’t, and we are using those things to communicate true things. That is the magic of stories. That’s the magic of fiction, because it’s given you something big and true and important that you might not otherwise get. And you can carry in your heart.”
“The problem I think that so many of us have, especially the process of writing, is because it creates magic, because when you read the story, you are off in this wonderful, magical place, you can forget that it’s a craft. And you can also, especially as a young writer, forget that you simply do it by doing it.”
“You learn more from finishing a failure than you do from writing a success.”
“You can fix dialogue that isn’t quite there. You can fix the beginning of something. But you cannot fix nothingness, so you have to be brave. You have to just start.”
“Every now and again, the mists will clear, and you’ll get a wonderful view of the valley on the other side or the town that you’re heading towards. You know what’s happening. And then the mists will come back in again, and once more you’re creeping along. But that’s how you write a novel.”
“People don’t normally list sending a story out into the world as one of those acts of bravery up there with standing up to armed robbers or wild dog attacks. But really, they really are.”