Writing

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.

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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.



Reviews

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

Absolutely the best class I have ever taken. I am going to do it all again- what a brilliant mind!

Overall, how to write prose and comic vs screenplay, use of humor and overall inspiration.

It is absolutely fascinating. Each lesson taught by Mr. Gaiman is worth a whole library of Creative Writing books. I am amazed.

Neil Gaiman is as wonderful a teacher as he is a writer. I was enlightened, entertained and genuinely moved by his unforgettable lessons. Bravo!


Comments

WILLIAM C.

Stories have the power of prayer. They have magic power. It is the stories and songs of the faeries that bring the beauty to the world. Stories can change the world, time, and space. Do not ever underestimate their power. Best Taliesin

A fellow student

Brilliant! What a wonderful class. I’m very pleased to have come across it. Thank you.

A fellow student

Dear Mr Gaiman! It was absolutely fantastic! Thank you with all my heart!🙏🏻

Stephen B.

Thanks Neil! I finished my first fantasy novel around the same time as this course. You challenged some of my decisions, reinforced others, and gave me wonderful perspective on what being a writer means. I have something to say, and I'm excited to create art that conveys it to those able to listen.

A fellow student

I could listen to Neil for hours on end. Question for Neil - I am interested in screenplay writing? Do you write treatments? Let's take Good Omens as a fine, fine example. (Watched it 3 x now) Did you move from book to screenplay, or draft an outline for each episode? Is it possible to purchase G.O.'s as a screenplay to study? I am looking for a good source/store to purchase screenplays - any suggestions? My favourite one in Toronto disappeared years ago - it was like losing an old friend. Bravo on the course. Was good to hear I am doing absolutely everything write, even the stuff I'm doing wrong. Thanks.

Melissa

WONderful. Considering repeating it to just make sure I'm catching all the details. I do wish the navigation was easier however? I can't tell which chapter I'm in at any given time while it's playing (other than by its title) I can see the name of the chapter, but I have no idea if it's chapter 4? 7? Sometimes I want to compare notes with friends also taking the course and it's been more difficult than necessary to give them a time stamp. Also- I'd love to be able to search the content- Neil Gaiman has a 100 word story that is lovely, but I can't find which chapter it's in. I can guess by titles, but it's definitely stabbing in the dark... LOVE the class!!! Thank you!

Teya

AMAZING! I will be watching and re-watching this class. I love how he took things I know as a writer and author and twisted and turned it into something new that inspired me.

A fellow student

Wonderful! Best writing instructor I've seen. I will be watching this again.

Natalia R.

I have the responsibility to share my experience. I was afraid to do it, but now I'm certain that I have to.

David G.

I've been taking music classes on Masterclass and this lesson popped up in my email. So timely, as there are days when the music writes itself as if delivered to me personally from Heaven, and there are other days where I'm wrestling for hours to get the right sound, arrangement, or even going note to note to get something to sound cohesive. I'm blessed for having watched this video!