Writing, Community & Government

Roxane’s Writing Toolbox

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 06:45 min

Roxane offers bite-sized tricks that will help make your writing more persuasive and engaging.

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

Topics include: Writing Opening Lines · You Have to Write It · Using Humor · Using Rhetoric · Creating Titles · Saving Your Work (I Still Love You)


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Opening lines are really important to me. Opening lines, opening paragraphs, opening chapters, depending on the length of the piece. Because if a story or an essay or a book has a bad opening, I am not inclined to continue, and the attention economy is pretty demanding. And I don't believe that people have lost their attention spans-- I think that people have lost their tolerance for bad writing and for bad content. And so it's not that we're competing with screens or anything like that. It's that we're competing with a lot of really excellent work out in the world. So how do you write an opening line that will demonstrate your voice and harness the audience, and really get them engaged with your piece? And there's no sort of rule, but I think that when you have that great mind, you're going to know. And that might be the one part of your piece that never changes, because you just sort of throw that sword into the wall and see it just stick. I find it useful to know where I'm starting. It gives me sort of that compass point, that true north that guides me throughout the piece. There are, of course, people that start with the end and then they write backwards. And that might also work for you. You just need to have one true thing. You have to have sort of that North Star. [MUSIC PLAYING] I love using humor in my work. It's the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. You know, I write about a lot of depressing topics, and when you really want a reader to listen, so many people will turn away from ugly things. They'll turn away from, you know, politics. Like, I don't want to talk about politics. Why not? And so how do you reach those people who hesitate to be made uncomfortable? And I find humor is an incredible tool for doing that. Everyone wants to laugh. And don't put this in there, but I'm very funny. And so it can be really great to find that way of disarming people and letting them know, I'm not here to judge you and I'm not here to make you feel badly about yourself. I'm here to say that something is wrong in the world and we need to do something about it. But first, we can actually have-- find this common ground through humor. And I do think when you look at the world beyond writing, that humor does actually create a lot of common ground. Like, how many millions of people watch "Saturday Night Live"? Whether they agree with what they're watching or not, it's this like unifying thing. And people from all walks of life enjoy various comedians, because it's just laughter and the ways in which people use humor to engage with the world can be really useful. It's that inroad that keeps you sort of feeling reasonably good about yourself. [MUSIC PLAYING] You know, I think repetition is useful when you feel like you need to make the same point several times to build towards something even larger than that. You know, the challenge with repetition, and I still haven't--...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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