From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Dialogue and Character

Neil teaches you how to write realistic dialogue, how to listen to and trust your characters, and techniques to help readers remember your characters.

Topics include: Practice Compression and Economy · Listen to Your Characters · Trust Your Characters · Find the Part of You That Is the Character · Do Just Enough Research · Funny Hats · Case Study: Neverwhere


Neil teaches you how to write realistic dialogue, how to listen to and trust your characters, and techniques to help readers remember your characters.

Topics include: Practice Compression and Economy · Listen to Your Characters · Trust Your Characters · Find the Part of You That Is the Character · Do Just Enough Research · Funny Hats · Case Study: Neverwhere

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

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So people talk, when writing fiction, about character. And they talk about dialogue. And they talk about them as if they're two different things. And they are two different things, but they're two different things that actually amount to the same thing. And they're like the two legs the character needs in order to walk. So in the next class, we're going to talk about character and dialogue and what they are and how incredibly tightly interwoven they can be. When I started out, the most terrifying thing for me was the idea of character creation and who were characters. I didn't really get characters. I didn't understand what characters were. And it took a while for me to learn really how to write good characters, characters who were three-dimensional, characters who felt real, characters who felt real to me. A lot of the key to it-- people say, well, do you do those sort of books and things before you start? Do you list stuff lots of things about your characters, and I say no. Mostly what I do is try and figure out what they sound like, how they talk. Sometimes what they look like but mostly how they talk because dialogue is character. The way that somebody talks, what they say, how they say it is character. And dialogue has to show character. It also has to show plot, and maybe it can be funny along the way. And good dialogue is doing all three of those things at the same time. It's making you smile or making you see things you've never seen before. It's moving the story along. And more than anything it's telling you things about the people who are saying it and who they're saying it to. And so for me the key to writing good dialogue, which was the key to character were the years that I spent as a journalist doing interviews. I would meet somebody that I wanted to talk to-- writers, creators. I'd have my little tape recorder. I would talk to them for two or three hours. I would transcribe the tape. And then having transcribed the tape, which would give me 10,000 words of transcription, my task would be to turn that into a 2,000- to 3,000-word interview. So I learned a lot at that point about economy. How do you make somebody sound like themselves without ever necessarily using the exact words that they used because now you're compressing? And people don't talk like themselves. People don't use semicolons. People don't speak grammatically. People-- instead they start sentences. They leave words dangling. A few seconds ago, I said people and then I hesitated and then I changed course because that's how people talk, and you can't do that. Or you can't do exactly that in writing. But you can figure out where the rhythms are. You can figure out how to make somebody sound like the person who was talking to you. And you learn compression. You learn more than anything else economy. And it was that economy that actually I think looking back on it that was the most useful thing for going out there and writing fiction because I l...

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.


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

I have never felt so alive. After this class, I have seen a lot of things differently. I have taken a lot of classes on masterclass but this class was the one that told me to do what I am doing but do it better. Thank you so much for this class, Mr. Neil.

Loved it so so much. And hate to say goodbye. Invaluable lessons and quite a journey with Neil. Thanks for all the work to make it happen.

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

The class has given me many different possible angles from which a story can be improved or revised. Most importantly, it has given me the emotional energy to complete my writing projects.


A fellow student

Full of excellent advice, made all the more potent because I am a reader of Gaiman's work and know how he excels at character/dialogue. I learned great things from this, and I've been writing for years. My fave lesson so far from Gaiman!

Karey B.

My characters became so real, my husband joked that he should be able to claim them as dependents on our taxes 😆

Debbie J.

Developing characters has always been my favorite part of the process. My problem continues to be developing a plot around those characters and getting all of that down in a semblance of order that makes sense. Many thanks to Mr. Gaiman for creating this course. I love his teaching style. Very easygoing, personable and intriguing.

A fellow student


Alexandria S.

These lessons are really helpful for me as a young writer. I do know my characters, but I feel like I should start listening to them, hearing what they sound like, and trust them. The funny hats technique is also something to take into account when writing a story with multiple characters. It’s best to distinguish one character from the other so the reader can understand who’s who.

A fellow student

Neil's style of delivering the lessons is so interesting and captivating. His relaxed manner always makes me feel that I'm not looking at the screen but present with him and classmates, fully attentive. I like the illustration of how dialogue portrays a characters voice. I want to add here that I find the workbook extremely useful, definitely essential. The home works that follow are fruitful. Thank you.

Maylan M.

I loved the Calendar of Tales!! It always inspired me to write more so I'm really glad we get to do a case study on one of the months!

Daniel H.

Great lesson and very valuable tips! I find very useful that “funny hat” tool to quickly mark characters.


Very fascinating lesson to listen to. Will definitely keep these helpful tips in mind the next time I’m considering creating new characters for a story :)

Patricia F.

Okay. I really wish he should have addressed plotting. Because I feel like there is a gap that hasn't been discussed. Jumping to dialogue seems premature. How does he construct the actual narrative (plot, rising tension, events, etc) Maybe he addresses it next?