From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Short Fiction

The short story is an ideal format for risk-taking. Neil teaches you how to focus your scenes and descriptions for maximum impact.

Topics include: Imagine Your Story as the Last Chapter of a Novel · Only One Thing Has to Happen · Use Short Stories to Practice Your Craft


The short story is an ideal format for risk-taking. Neil teaches you how to focus your scenes and descriptions for maximum impact.

Topics include: Imagine Your Story as the Last Chapter of a Novel · Only One Thing Has to Happen · Use Short Stories to Practice Your Craft

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

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A good short story is a magic trick, and it's close-up magic. It's not a giant grand illusion where five people go into a box, and the boxes haul up, and then there are fireworks, and then they're gone. It's that thing where somebody shows you that their hands are empty, and then they cover it, and then when they reveal it again, there's a rose that. And you go, how did they do that? Was the rose always there? The rose must have been there. I once wrote a book of short stories for children. I'm just going to read you my very short introduction. "When I was young-- and it doesn't really seem that long ago-- I loved books of short stories. Short stories could be read from start to finish in the kinds of times I had available for reading, morning break, or after-lunch nap, or on trains. They'd set up, they'd roll, and they'd take you to a new world, and deliver you safely back to school or back home in half an hour or so." "Stories you read when you are the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them, or what the story was called. Sometimes, you'll forget precisely what happened. But if a story touches you, it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit. Horror stays with you hardest. If it brings a real chill to the back of your neck, if once the story is done, you find yourself closing the book slowly, for fear of disturbing something, and creeping away, then it's there for the rest of time." "There was a story I read when I was nine that ended with a room covered with snails. I think they were probably man-eating snails, and they were crawling slowly towards someone to eat him. I get the same creeps remembering it now that I did when I read it. Fantasy gets into your bones. There's a curve in a road I sometimes pass, a view of a village on rolling green hills, and behind it, huger, craggier, grayer hills, and in the distance, mountains and mist that I cannot see without remembering reading 'The Lord of the Rings.' The book is somewhere inside me, and that view brings it to the surface." "And science fiction takes you across the stars and into other times and minds. There's nothing like spending some time inside an alien head to remind us how little divides us, person from person. Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds, and other minds, and other dreams. They're journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner." "Ive been writing short stories for almost a quarter of a century now. In the beginning, they were a great way to begin to learn my craft as a writer. The hardest thing to do as a young writer is to finish something, and that was what I was learning how to do. These days, most of the things I write are long, long comics, or long books, or long films. And a short story, something that's finished over a weekend or a week, is pure fun." "My favorite short story writers is a boy many of them my favorite short s...

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.

Very honest and valuable class. Mr. Gaiman provided us with great hours because he fully understands their value. Thank you both the MasterClass team and Mr. Gaiman.

I have an MFA and everything, but I learned so much from this class! I find it super encouraging and invigorating and useful. It helps me feel free.

Just finished watching it all the way through for the first time and now plan to watch again and complete all the exercises. Neil exceeded all my expectations for this course. His advice was both inspirational and practical. I know exactly what I need to do now as I continue on my own writing journey.

Neil Gaiman is a brilliant story teller with an amazing talent for speaking.


Debbie J.

I remember reading Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber back in grade school. Really well written. I love what he said about his best stories being the last chapter of a novel he never wrote. I'll remember that one. I believe that writing short stories is good training for writing novels. I'd love to be able to write something that will force me to condense as I've always had a hard time with that. I have a terrible tendency to now. :-D

Arjun I.

"Write your short-story like it's the final-chapter of your book". I think I'll live and die by that sentence for the remainder of my writing-life. It perfectly encapsulated everything that I want to do, and have been trying to do with writing short-stories. And I'm happy to learn that it's Ok to begin one's writing practice with short-stories since they help one hone the craft. Just as Sherlock Holmes cannot make bricks without clay, I certainly cannot hope to create a massive palace of stories if I don't know how to work with the bricks of short-stories.

Alexandria S.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on 5 creations that are likely going to be novels. What Neil said about writing short stories to see your creativity sounds like a great idea. I’ll also take the advice of keeping it short like he did with Nicolas Way.

Daniel H.

What a great class! I really get the concept from the short tale of Santa! Crystal as water! Thank you very much!

Aaron B.

Lilly stood in the garden. Bright, vibrant, luminous colors of red, purple, and yellow colors surrounded her, giving life to the roses and the flowers that bloomed with her every passing. But, in this one place, a place where no life ever dared to go nothing grew. As if the cold, reaching, suffocating grasp of darkness denied the existence of such warmth, such beauty, and such fullness. Lilly sat down by the woman's side. Her name was Deidre and she was beautiful, Lilly thought, pale skinned, thin and almost boney frame, but full of a melancholic splendor. She looked off at the animals as they played, the birds chirping, and the squirrels moving along nudging their acorns to their secret hiding spot. Lilly asked, Deidre, why do things always want to come to me and yet they stay far away from you. As if you were the ugliest and most unapproachable thing in the world? Your beauty was so much more simplistic, almost transcendent, in its ease. So, why do so many of Gary's creations love me and not you? All I do is bring them pain, make them cry, and tell them lies, show them that there is so much to fear. So why do they turn away from you and turn to me? Revel in my encapsulating light, and feel at peace with my warmth, I do not deserve it. Deidre walked over to a young bird whom sat on the ground unable to fly. His wing had broken from a fall and he fought to get up. Deidre touched the creature's chest, and as he gave his last final fight, his soul, so young, so beautiful, lifted up to the Heaven's. No more fighting, no more wanting, no more crying, except from his distraught mother. She held, begged, and pleaded for her sweet son, her everything, to be brought back to her. To give him back, it wasn't fair, and it wasn't right. Deidre stood up and turned to Lilly. Because, she said, you are the false hope that they hold on to, I am the truth that they fear.

Gareth S.

Very encouraging. As I was watching the lesson, I realized something: The best short stories I have read had a density.

A fellow student

Really loved this lesson and keep going back to it. It's great to stumble upon short stories, as my first attempt at writing was a novel, and I have found it gruelling to say the least. I've started reading the essays and short stories and it really is a sense of relief. On a practical note, it really does makes sense to improve your skills on shorter stories and essays - because as my writing improves (which is probably a debating point) I can see how I need to either re-write my first novel or start again with another novel when my skills have improved. Or maybe it's better not to look back?

Suzanne C.

I love how he goes to get his glasses and there are (5!)different pens in his pocket.

joyce (moms) F.

For the writing exercise I chose the 'deathbed' scenario, but every time I tried to start it I became so depressed that all I could do was cry. So, I changed my subject to 'when was the last time you cried...' and was able to write my deathbed scenario from there. I also ended up reading the first 3 short stories in the reading exercise, because I kept getting caught up in the actual reading, and would forget to stop and do the assignment. I gave up trying after Apollo. However, on the upside, I discovered I really enjoy reading short stories and ordered Terry Pratchett's A Blink of the Screen. I'd also like to say that Chapter 7 - Short Fiction has been my favorite lesson thus far. :-)

Christa A.

Really inspires me to try out some new characters and ideas in this short story format. I like to think of my backstories of characters in a larger work as short stories.