From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Truth in Fiction

One of the central tools of literature is using the “lie” of a made-up story to tell a human truth. Neil shows you how to make your story’s world—no matter how outlandish—feel real to readers.

Topics include: The Truth of Coraline · Be Honest · Honesty in The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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One of the central tools of literature is using the “lie” of a made-up story to tell a human truth. Neil shows you how to make your story’s world—no matter how outlandish—feel real to readers.

Topics include: The Truth of Coraline · Be Honest · Honesty in The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

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Fiction stories are one of the most interesting phenomena that human beings have. Human beings are storytelling creatures. We tell stories. Stories are vital. Stories are important. We can go back later to why they're vital. We can go back later to how they're important. We can go back later to how long they have been around. But the important thing to understand is that stories are part of us. And we convey truth with stories, which is fundamentally the most gloriously giant contradiction that you can ever imagine. What we're saying is we are using lies. We're using memorable lies. We are taking people who do not exist and things that did not happen to those people in places that aren't, and we are using those things to communicate true things to kids. Now whether you're looking at-- And to each other. I mean, we're-- not just kids, but it begins with kids. You tell a child the story of "Little Red Riding Hood," and there are lots of takeaways from that story. But one of the takeaways that is always taken is, you know, there are people out there who may not mean you well. There are people out there, who when they say, where are you going, what are you doing, you may not want to tell them. That might get your grandmother eaten. Might get you eaten. There are people it is best to avoid. Some-- some people-- some wolves are hairy on the inside, and some wolves are hairy on the outside, and perhaps, you're best keeping yourself safe. And it's a true thing. It's a good thing to learn. It may be not something that we are automatically told, so a story like that gives us that as information. You're telling a reader something that you hope will stay with them, something honest, something important, something vital. But you're using lies. "Little Red Riding Hood" never existed. Wolves don't eat grandmothers and then climb into beds disguised as grandmothers. And if they did, Little Red Riding Hood would walk in and go, that is a wolf. She would not be sitting there going, grandmother, what big eyes you have. All the better to see you with, my-- And wolves can't talk. But we understand that. We, as human beings, are really good at taking that information. That is the magic of stories. That's the magic of fiction. Because it's giving you something big and true and important that you might not otherwise get. And you can carry it in your heart, and you can tell it to your children and your children's children. [MUSIC PLAYING] I began "Coraline" with a quote that wasn't from GK Chesterton, although I said it was. I said, "Fairy tales aren't true. Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated." That, for me, was the important thing about "Coraline," the idea that dragons can be defeated. I wanted to tell my kids something that had taken me 30 years of living to figure out. So when I was writing "Coraline," I wrote the first third of the book, and th...

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.

Yes , good advises interesting stories never read him....will do bravo!

Really good classes, I learned I should start write, to finish it. with all the very inspiring stories, I will watch it again to get more idea from those lectures.

Excellent class. Would highly recommend the class to anyone who wants to learn how to write!

This class gave me a few helpful things, and areas in which I can improve. But mostly what it did for me is give me affirmation of how much I'm doing right, that my experience is not atypical, and that I'm on the right track. Thanks.

Comments

A fellow student

I love the way he talked about being a journalist of life. So far my writing is about seeking the truth of my experiences that happens to my characters.

James

If ever there were a time when two souls connect in a fatherly-son life lesson way, it was this first video of what I hope continues to be one of the best journeys I decided to embark on. I’ve literally been rendered quite emotional.

A fellow student

I loved that you used the analogy of being a "journalist" rather than just a writer. I never thought about it that way, how we need to almost report on the truths of life through fiction rather than just telling a story. Thank you for this!

June W.

So much resonated with my while you were speaking. I am an honest writer of fiction and love to convey unutterable truths in "memorable lies" but I am scared to put it out to be judged. It remains hidden in my room which, when I hear the struggle you had, makes me laugh with relief. So you see, you have told me your story and I see my truth in it. Thank you for being honest.

Rosie W.

I love this message of being truthful via storytelling and fiction. Using a lie to tell the truth. In what I am writing, this is what I am striving for - powerful emotional honesty in a made-up place. The anecdote about Coraline & the yellowjackets really struck me. The idea of being brave, going back to a thing/place that is scary, and doing it anyway, has really given me an idea for my writing. I feel assured I am writing the right kind of thing. Thank you, this is so helpful and encouraging.

Alexandria S.

I didn’t know Coraline, the book, was mostly inspired by the yellow jackets. I saw the movie first before reading the book, and even though I didn’t read the book yet, I saw the hidden message in that film. I think I’ll need to read the book now. Aside from that, I’ve learned that I should be more open in my storytelling, even if I’m using a lie to tell a truth.

Yu-Han

This is so funny! I didn’t know yellow jackets were insects. I was so confused. A yellow jacket nest? Does he mean a pile of raincoats shaping like a nest? Huh? And then he was surrounded by a CLOUD of yellow jacket? What??? I was so puzzled that I couldn’t take it in when he said they were wasps. I thought— This must be a dream or a fairytale. But why he tells it like a true event and it just comes out of blue? This doesn’t make any sense. So hard to follow. And then I watched it again.... LOL.

John S.

I wrote out this lesson in my writing journal. It wrecked me for the better part of three weeks. I chose to write about something I regret and found that it was also something that I was holding as a secret. I wrote about the recent death of my father. There is so much there that even the one aspect that bothered me the most took several pages and hours of scribbling in my notebook. After realizing how much this "simple" exercise was affecting me, I read it aloud to a very old and trusted friend. I was rewarded for my trust and efforts with the relief I felt afterwards. I was able, after a few more days of contemplation and discussion to get passed the grief I was apparently, I had no idea it was hiding in my brain, stuffing down the past several months. Whats funny is, I was reviewing one chapter in a story I am writing, and the grief the character was suffering, although different and for different resons, was all over this segment of the story. Enough said.

Tamara

As a (funeral) celebrant I write people's stories for them - well, for their (generally) loved ones. This masterclass is my birthday present to me. I am thrilled to have opened it and found it is exactly what I had hoped. Your great humanity, everything about your writing that touches me is here. The ocean at the end of the lane is such a favourite of mine too. I was never a 7 year old boy and this story was not my childhood (not that I can remember anyway) but it was my experience of psychotherapy. Thank you

A fellow student

Thank you Mr. Gaiman. I love the calm professional way you teach. I love creative writing and I am currently working on a fiction novel. I know your class will help me to properly use my memorable lies to complete a great story. I hope to buy some of your books soon-they must be interesting.