From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Worldbuilding

Learn Neil’s philosophy of worldbuilding, including how to create compelling and believable settings for your novel, and how to avoid the common pitfalls many inexperienced writers make.

Topics include: Smuggle in Details From Your Own Life · Moments of Reality Create Credibility · Allow Your Characters to Discover the Rules · Do Your Homework · Worldbuilding Influences

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Learn Neil’s philosophy of worldbuilding, including how to create compelling and believable settings for your novel, and how to avoid the common pitfalls many inexperienced writers make.

Topics include: Smuggle in Details From Your Own Life · Moments of Reality Create Credibility · Allow Your Characters to Discover the Rules · Do Your Homework · Worldbuilding Influences

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

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I think that the joy of worldbuilding in fiction is honestly the joy of getting to play god. Because as an author, you get to build the world. Some authors do it a little more invisibly than others. In the same way, as far as I'm concerned, all fiction is fantasy. It is all made up. You are creating people who didn't exist or didn't exist like that, and putting them into situations that they were never in, making them say things they never said. It is an act of magical creation to do that. When you're starting out as a young writer, especially a young writer wanting to explore the fantastic, wanting to create places that are not, the urge, which you should always try and push back against, the urge is to take places from fiction. You know, it's the urge, the fan fiction urge. And fan fiction is great in its place, but if you are going to be a young writer and you are going to want to create a world, you do not want a world that you borrowed from Tolkien. What you want to do is look at the world outside. Look at the world outside your window. Get out there onto the streets. Look at places. Think about the places that you've been, and then change them. Make them bigger. Make them smaller. If you're somebody who's only ever been to school and you think you have nothing to write about except school, what would that school be like if it covered an entire city? What would that school be like if it was an island? What would that school be like if it was floating in the sky, and people only got to visit it dragged on the backs of enormous birds? How do you get into that school? That gives you a place, but it gives you a place grounded in realism. Because the moment that you start describing a school, if you know a school, you know the things that make schools weird and unusual. The smell of cooking cabbage, or the smell of sports clothes unwashed in lockers. You know what that place is. You know what kinds of people are there. Every little detail that you can steal from the world and smuggle with you into your fiction is something that makes your world more real for your reader. But much more important, it makes it more real for you. You need to be the one who believes in your story. You need to be able to believe in your places. If you are building a world, you have to care about the world. And sometimes, you're also going to have to stop and ask yourself weird questions. Even if those questions are not answered in the text, it's always good for you to know. Where do these people go to the toilet? Where do they get their food from? How much food does it take to feed a small city? How much farm land? Where are these farms? Where does the food come from? Where does it come in? And suddenly, you're asking yourself questions that it's good for you to know, even if you don't want ever to turn your book into a treatise on medieval economics. If you're writing something set in medieval times, do your homework. Go and look at pla...

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.

Write like you are already a professional, acclaimed writer, not like a beginner.

I loved this class! Neil taught things in a way that helped fundamental truths hit home in a fresh way, just like he teaches to write. I've learned so much to help move me forward on my journey and I'm so grateful for all of his wisdom! I also loved the workbook, which gave additional resources and exercises which I know I'll come back to for years to come.

have enjoyed every Class I have been through. Master Classes has heighten me as an Author. This was the greatest investment I have ever made for My self it has empower me to keep writing the stories that are ready to be told by me. I would like to thank all the Masters .Sincerely Toya Jordan.

This class was one of the most rewarding adventures I have ever taken part in.

Comments

Debbie J.

I've always been fascinated with world building and remain completely in awe of how masterfully Tolkien was able to do it. I've always wanted to do it, myself...Have always had so many ideas in my mind about how my worlds might look....but I've always been so intimidated and overwhelmed by the process. Neil Gaiman describes his process in a way that makes sense to me and makes me think that I just might finally be able to do this thing.

Alexandria S.

World building seems to me one of the fun things to do. However, I never fully understood it until I heard Neil talking about it in a way that I could understand. I did create some worlds in the past, and sometimes they would be in short sentences. Here is an example of one: The clouds she stood on were pink and glowing. Looking to her left, she spotted a small pond trickling sky blue water, shells of purple and green laced almost in a pattern. To her right, there was only the sky, filled with various colors almost like an aurora borealis.

Daniel H.

Simple but powerful tips! Take a walk, write notes, look at the world outside.

Jonathan O.

Watched the Dan Brown course before. Neil is unsurprisingly much better. Sorry, Dan.

Melissa P.

I love how Neil Gaiman’s mind and creativity just flows and it’s so easy for him to imagine and build upon the places and things from the real world. He shows how easy it is to just let your imagination go and imagine.

Ekin Ö.

I loved the way Neil builds his worlds based on actual places. I especially loved the graveyard example because a single graveyard was not enough for him; he traveled and built his world bit by bit. That's a fun way to get creative. Also... the whole thing reminds me of lying: If you base them on facts, then they become more believable.

Tauna S.

I agree that you shouldn't base your world on Tolkien's version. However you might start out with a place little known by most people. Iceland or Finland, as Tolkien did. The first for the land and the second for the elfin language he used. But, don't go to fiction, go back to the original source and make it your own. You can pick any place in the world, any time in history, and research it and twist it until it becomes your own. More importantly, twist it, until it is the world that the people you fill it with, live and breathe.

Ibrahim A.

I have a question for writers, I'm a none-native English speaker and my vocabulary list is very limited, my question is at what stage writers introduce strong words? Does the writer do it as he/she writes or do writers write normally without thinking about vocabs and then they revisit what they have written?

Theophilus W.

My Quick Stab at Worldbuilding: I just wanted to see where the words would take me. I gave myself 10 minutes and here is what I came up with. Better Make It Two (1)

Jorge R.

This simply the best lesson. I really loved and ended a long white page period.