From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Comics

Writers don’t need to shy away from comics just because they’re not illustrators. Neil demonstrates his process of plotting and scripting a comic, using an award-winning issue of Sandman as an example.

Topics include: The Idea for Sandman #19 · Start With Thumbnails · Writing the Script · The Page Is the Unit · Working With Artist · Narrative Collaborators

Play

Writers don’t need to shy away from comics just because they’re not illustrators. Neil demonstrates his process of plotting and scripting a comic, using an award-winning issue of Sandman as an example.

Topics include: The Idea for Sandman #19 · Start With Thumbnails · Writing the Script · The Page Is the Unit · Working With Artist · Narrative Collaborators

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

Learn More

Preview

When you get an idea and you start turning the idea over in your head and inspecting it and trying to figure out what the strengths of the idea are and what the weaknesses of the idea are, a lot of the time, that's when you start to figure out what medium the idea would work in best. When you get to comics, you have a whole different area of territory. We get to use the pictures and the words to try and do things inside the head of the reader that you might never be able to do in prose or in film. For example, why don't I take you through the process of plotting a comic. And not just plotting a comic but of taking an idea through to a script. Now, bear in mind that one of the strange things about writing comics is as far as I can tell, there are probably as many ways to write a comic as there are people in history who have written comics. I do it my way. I'm sure everybody else does it their way. But I can give you how I do it and how I did it. "Sandman #19." In "Sandman #19," this is the first of "The Absolute Sandman" volumes. It is huge. It is very heavy. You could use it to stun a burglar, if necessary, which has always been my definition of art. I have been to a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I loved it. I'd forgotten how funny it was. And it was an open-air theater, and there was something very strange and magical about being outside as the play began in daylight and moved into night. What would be interesting about "Midsummer Night's Dream?" How could I do this? I thought, well, look, the first performance of "Midsummer Night's Dream" outside with Shakespeare and Shakespeare's men putting it on before an audience consisting of Oberon and Titania and Puck and the fairy creatures would all be a little bit more dark and dangerous than they are in the play as a gift. I like that. That feels like it's about something. And it also felt dangerous, felt hard. Nobody had ever done anything like that in a monthly comic. So then I reread the play-- "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Just made notes. Just put little pencil marks where I thought lines would be important because I realized, of course, I was going to have to have various layers of action going on through the story. There would be the play always ticking on. There would be the front row of the audience which would be Morpheus, the Sandman, the Lord of Dreams, and Oberon and Titania and Puck. There would be the back row of the audience. I loved the idea of just a bunch of idiot fairies commenting on the action and explaining it to each other. I thought, that'll be fun. And then I began. [PIANO MUSIC PLAYING] The way that you begin, if you're me, if you take some paper, you take a bunch of sheets of paper, you staple them together, you fold them over. And I knew I had 24 pages, so I numbered 1 to 24. Actually, all I needed to know. I didn't fill in very much detail in the middle. Normally, I'll fill in roughly what's happening on each page. But...

Unleash your imagination

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling in his online writing class. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Just 3 episodes in and I am hooked. It's like reading a bestselling writers manual. Much wisdom. Mr. Gaiman is honest and vulnerable.

Mr. Gaiman gave a wonderful class. He has inspired me to keep going....keep finishing....keep putting my work out there, and he has given me a wonderful example to follow. I appreciate the heart he put into his teaching, and I look forward to revisiting certain segments later. Thank you, all who were involved in creating this class.

This was the course that compelled me to enroll in Masterclass! Neil offers tips in storytelling, and gives you a glimpse behind his works.

Not only really practical lessons and advice, but the motivation and inspiration to move forward. Brilliant.

Comments

Aaron G.

Exactly what I've been wanting to go deeper into, thank you Master Gaiman. I have a question, though. How much of a story, The Sandman for example, is chartered ahead of course before the details of the initial issues are written in concrete? The reason I ask, is because I had written a twelve thousand word treatment, which reads very much like a comic script, and is a complete, arcing story on its own. However, after writing it, and being very happy with finishing it, I realised my predicament. It wasn't going to fit into the larger story for the main characters, not at least since later realising the themes I had written into their decisions, while adventurous, action-grabbing, and creative, were very wrong for the course I want their larger journey to take. I have struggled a lot to rewrite it, or even edit it, because so many of the locations, the other characters and what motivations they belong to, and the main characters' arrangements are achieving a completely different commentary to one I feel this story should be responsible. The upside of simply going at a story from the hip, is learning how to be creative, and how to tie loose ends into preluding triggers, which was immensely satisfying. It has its own rhythm of closure, and on its own is colourful and fun. So my sequencing is working really well, but the accumulative total wasn't going to work as a prequel or sequel to a story I'm in control of, nor able to tell for any socio-political ideal. It's just creative writing that's structurally sound. Is there an amount of far sight that needs to be understood, before a certain amount of initial ground work is laid? Writing creatively, with few but strong elements in mind, is really fun, mysterious, and personally exciting. But it seems I'm running the risk of sabotaging something I can't deny, which sooner or later is a need for my creative writing to have a real-world bittersweetness of truth, or prediction of consequence. I'm still working out how to apply a plan to the creativity.

Michele H.

As someone who had no idea how to approach the writing of comics/ graphic novels, what an enlightening lesson. Working my way through the Sandman omnibus now and to glimpse the process behind those stories is amazing.

Corey M.

Okay, I am really digging this entire Masterclass. This Chapter really spoke to me and reassured my path as a writer. The thoughtfulness of considering Comics/Graphic Novels as a respectable medium is appreciated. I currently write screenplays and at the end of last year started writing comics. The process is fulfilling, allowing me to write a script and produce it on my own. It made me feel a lot better than waiting for funding and studios to put the story into 'production'. I am loving the process and I don't see myself stopping any time soon.

Eric C.

Probably the biggest reason I took this class was to see the comic/graphic angle. Why? I've developed a story, and even have a rough draft of the first of three books, I think could translate well into a graphic novel. My problem, which per this lesson is obviously not a problem, is that I don't have the patients to create the images... and frankly what I can draw would be more of a cartoon than a comic, and my idea is more serious. This lesson has given me much to think about. I am changing much of the structure of the first book as a begin the first rewrite. But now I think I can envision a little better what I could see in a graphic novel version. I want to continue as a traditional novel, but this has been very helpful.

Sukhdev S.

It's always good to try new mediums. Only then can you fully say that you've tried all arts, that you're an artist, that you've experimented, that you're curious...

A fellow student

I published my first comic book recently and this lesson has given me a lot to think about. As Neil says, there are many ways to write a comic book as there are comic book writers. I'm still trying to figure out the most effective and organized way to write my ongoing series. Writing the first issue of Bel and the Beasts took me 6 months, but the actual process of publishing it took us more than a year. While this lesson offers plenty of tips, I would love to exchange some tips with other artists. Just let me know!

Patricia B.

So much to love about this. Starting with those blue glasses and lovely, nicely manicured beard, but I digress! So Shakespeare! Yes! Love Mid-summer Night's Dream and Hamlet. I enjoy the impact that allusion brings to reading. Young Hamnet, like Prince Hamlet, suffers from melancholy. The heart of the story is broken. I really liked the info on process and then his editor's comments followed by Neil's comments on theme, how he worked on his script to address this, and the results. I love following the development of story as well as craft. Very insightful and enjoyable.

logan P.

This was a great lesson. I'm writing short format television, one page =one minute. Each episode is ten minutes long. You can combine episodes to make half hour episodes if desired. There are some great movies where every ten minutes the story moves on to the next bit. If you are having a hard time starting that novel or a two hour movie script, try sketching out your story this way. This has really helped me stay on course.

James P.

This was so difficult. As an avid comic reader I've always been able to imagine the best way to present a scene in a comic page, so I figured scripting a comic would be natural for me. Turns out - nuh. Trying to imagine a story in comic form just didn't work - I eventually gave up and mapped it out like a short story, and then broke it up into pages. A longer process, but maybe it will be easier with experience.

Jenna G.

Oh boy! This lesson reminded me of when I tried to draw my own manga... it was basically manga fanfic lol I've been "doodling" the comic version of my first two chapters and it's really made me pause and think about how the story plays out visually, and how the pacing could be modified.