To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact support@masterclass.com.

Arts & Entertainment

The Writer’s Responsibilities

Neil Gaiman

Lesson time 07:57 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.

Play
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 Started

Preview

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 loved Neil Gaiman's advice, and ability to give advice while telling his own story. Very inspiring!

It is important to hear from people who know what it's like to fail and succeed. Sometimes writers need to be reminded of the basics of the craft; that it's more art than science. Every lesson is a valuable tool for the writer's toolbox.

Wonderful! Deep, thoughtful, weary of listener's problems as new writer! Inspires to start writing

To trust my imagination, to believe in my writing!


Comments

Diamantis O.

Muy buen curso, una linda experiencia y me siento con una perspectiva fresca para escribir nuevas hisorias.

Victor Alfonso H.

I came to this course to learn and for inspiration. I got both. I learn where I was wrong and where I was right, and definitively inspired me. I learned from one of the best. Thank you for making this possible.

Christopher W.

I enjoyed it. Neil is very easy to listen to and has a lot of wise things to say. Every lesson has a gem in it and it was well worth the money. I particularly love his subversive sense of humour which comes out in his writing and speaking. Every writer can learn something from this course.

Wess P.

I used to feel bad about starting my writing at 40, after working as a blue-collar cog for decades, but I feel what Neil Gaiman says at the end is the most important. Write, finish things, and live life. Now, I feel a great benefit to have lived a lot of life before I started writing, because it gave me time to truly absorb the human condition and gather stories. Based on this course, I started with short stories and my writing just took off! At first, I struggled to find two-pages of story, now I'm knocking out five-page stories with relative ease. Do it every day for as long as you can and you will take off. Pull from your life and be honest about it, and it will be good writing... that's what I believe anyway.

Patricia E.

Absolutely awesome! I could listen to Neil Gaiman describe his methods for several more hours. Have enjoyed several of his books and was curious about how he came up with ideas for characters and stories. They are absolutely and fascinatingly unique. At 67, I find myself with more time to explore things I would like to do. So, I am toying with the idea of starting to write a short story or two, and see what comes up. This class was a birthday gift from my son, who knows how much I love to learn new things and how much I admire the genius of this particular author. Thank you Neil for such an enjoyable class!

Elise H.

Thank you Neil for a great course in writing! It was absolutely inspiring.

Heitor A.

I have been gnawing at writing for quite some time. It is not my major, my job, or my income. but it has always been there, staring at me. I am now already grizzly and wrinkled, 47 years old. Some years back it sort of crawled up upon me. and told me it was time. So I started writing more seriously over the past 4 years. I have made a lot of mistakes and learned tons. I am still very bad at it, but there is a drive that does not succumb, not even to a pandemic. The idea of having the opportnity of listening to a world class and talented writer, artist and person was just irresistable and I knew I would end up here sooner or later. I can say it was worth it. This masterclass is exactly what it says it is: the class of a master. I am so happy to have had this experience. I can't yet say how it will affect everythin, but the stone has been cast. I have listened. Thank you so much.

A fellow student

I found this course to be enormously valuable. I have published workbooks and a research/first experience book and several -books mostly of short stories, but I continue to struggle with issues that Neil Gaiman clarified in this class. Perhaps one of the most important is to know what the story is about, what is its purpose. With my life experiences of working in a prison, as an addiction and mental health therapist, I have stories and ideas, but recognizing how to reinvent what I've seen and witnessed is sometimes difficult. This course has provided more tools that I can reach down and retrieve. I am starting my 2nd draft and will be utilizing these ideas. So inspiration, practical, and education. Thank you.

Deyanira M.

This class is what I needed to learn about the value of my stories. I have essentially gone out into the world and collected the experience, the vast experience needed to write stories and I continue to go out into the world. Neil is really authentic and realistic, he speaks from his heart and he gets to the basics. I loved his stories and the way he exemplified his knowledge. I love all the new words I learned, my vocabulary has expanded and I appreciate that. I am SET!

Peter L.

Excellent Masterclass. Neil has a soft-spoken way of encouraging and coaching aspiring writers. His message: to be a writer, you must write echoes Rainer Maria Rilke and Stephen King: Rilke saying if the first thing you think of in the morning is writing, you're a writer; King saying write and read in equal quantities. I have enjoyed the Neil Gaiman masterclasses and he has opened my eyes to a new set of books to read, his; as well as giving me information to use in developing my writing. Inciteful and illuminating.