The Writer’s Responsibilities

Neil Gaiman

Lesson time 07:53 min

Neil concludes with a deeply personal discussion of the responsibilities that people who create art have to their audience and what this means for humans as a whole.

Neil Gaiman
Teaches the Art of Storytelling
In his first-ever online class, Neil Gaiman teaches you how he conjures up new ideas, convincing characters, and vivid fictional worlds.
Get All-Access


Over the years, one of the things that I've given an enormous amount of thought to is what my responsibilities are as a person who creates art. It wasn't something I thought about to begin with. It wasn't until a man was found dead, believed to be a suicide, with a note on his chest saying that the Sandman did it, and the Sandman would bring perfect peace, and a copy of "Sandman" by the body. I had to go, hang on, did I do this. What happened? And I had a very, very bad weekend. And then, a few days later, I discovered that actually he wasn't-- it wasn't a suicide. He'd been murdered. He'd been murdered by his boyfriend who had written the note and put the comic there to try and make people think that this was a "Sandman"-inspired suicide. And the boyfriend also killed himself. And I was very angry. I felt like someone had tried to frame me for murder. But I also thought that the questions that it raised-- what is my responsibility-- were huge and important questions. And what I decided was my responsibility is to tell good stories and tell honest stories, tell them as well as I can, tell them to as many people as I can. My responsibility is to encapsulate, as much as I, can the things I believe and the values that I believe in the stories but also having a point of view, being willing to allow other points of view in, to be able to allow characters who I might not even want to associate with into my fiction, and to do them justice. Those, I figure, are my responsibility. And that, for me, has to be there at the bottom of everything that I write. So I need to be able to point to "Good Omens" and say, yes, it's a farce. It's a silly, funny farce about the end of the world. But absolutely, it has a message I can stand behind. It says that human beings have to be responsible. We have to fix the world, that war is very rarely a good idea, and avoiding war, which rarely gets praised, actually is huge and important, and that, , really we have to remember that the greatest triumphs and the greatest tragedies of the human race are nothing to do with people being basically good or people being basically evil, they're all to do with people being basically people. And so that-- I can take a farce, and I can stand behind it. I can say, this-- this is something I believe. This is real. I can take a book like "Coraline" and say, it's filled with scary stuff for kids, absolutely. There are people who feel that is absolutely and utterly inappropriate, and kids should be kept safe from all the darkness and all the terror and all the bad things. And to those people, I say good luck to you, although I personally believe that if you are keeping people-- young people safe from the darkness, then all you're doing is, when the darkness shows up, you are denying them tools or weapons that they might have needed and could have had. But really, it's a book about bravery. It's a book about carrying on. And that for me is important. I know I can ...

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 loved this class. I learned things and relearned other things and... Y'know, now I think better of myself and my write. I loved this class... NEED MORE!

Inspiring, honest, practical, insightful. A great resource. Has given me a real boost and more belief. A massive and genuine, thank you !

Like Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman is both a gifted writer and a gifted teacher. He gently goads you with anecdotes and analogies to realize larger points. I would often smile with each discovery of an unexpected little pearl that fell during a lesson. A delightful and informative class of great value to writers of multiple genres.

I've learned to continue writing & submitting. To view short stories as the last chapter of a novel I didn't write, and to view everything that happens and everyone I meet as things I will need in my stories.


shirin K.

Thank you Neil, this is insightful and makes me think deeper about my responsibilities as a writer. Glad I'm kick-starting the course with this module - I feel it will inform my writing process while I learn from the rest of the modules.

Matt P.

Fantastic! Thank you, Neil. You filled in the blanks for me, confirmed some instincts, and broadened my outlook on the writing process. Up until now, I've been a lazy writer. Now I resolve to be an honest and passionate writer.

Manne L.

This course was amazing. Not that any of the Master Class writing courses I have seen were poor, but Neil is such a seemingly endless fountain of quirky imagination that I felt like having a 1-2-1 with a real superhuman. His voice acting abilities and clear gifts for auditory storytelling are not a bad thing either, when conveying information. I will go and finish things now. :D

Steve E.

Loved everything about this course by Neil Gaiman. And I am really making an effort to follow the rules and getting something done. Great advice, will definitely work if you/we do.


This is amazing, insightful and so detailed! It reaffirmed many things and taught me a lot of new ones. Just feels so real coming from the horse's mouth.

Sirka S.

It was fantastic to have an instructor you could simply put on "pause". All the more so as I found myself exploding with ideas while was listening. I had read quite a few books on how to write "the perfect novel/crime story...." and attended some classes. Some of them hat useful information, too. I guess what was different this time, is that I really felt encouraged by this class. I loved the idea of being truthful in your writing and finding your voice. It seems that I was told by all the classes and books before what not to do and where to go wrong, whereas in this class I felt inspired and sometimes couldn't even finish the video because I simply HAD TO start writing right now :-) Thank you for so much encouragement!

Ryan C.

I think I've found the starting line. I'm not sure if I'm ready, but I'm going to begin anyway. Thank you, Mr. Gaiman


I am sure that Mr. Gaiman doesn't actually read the, but hopefully Masterclass updates him. This class was the best I have taken for inspiring me, rather than "this is how to write a novel". I learned I need the creative writing aspect, more than the technical side. I needed to be reminded what inspires me.

John G.

Lots of words now waiting in line. The sincerity of your tone and honest impression makes this so enjoyable. Thank you so much for an utterly inspiring class! Master.

A fellow student

Could not have enjoyed our instructor any more than I did. Neil Gaiman was great!