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The art of telling stories is something that is eternal about humanity. From the days of listening to the elders tell tales around the cave fire in our stone age past, to binging on the latest TV shows on Netflix, human beings love stories. But telling stories is not a skill that everyone possesses.
One of our time’s great storytellers is novelist Neil Gaiman. He is now teaching a course on the art of storytelling for Masterclass. Now you can learn how the author of classics such as Stardust, Coraline and The Sandman approaches his craft, and benefit from the insights he provides. Read on to discover all you need to know about the Neil Gaiman Masterclass course on the art of storytelling.
Neil Gaiman is an English novelist, who was born in 1960 in Hampshire. Of Jewish background, Gaiman’s family were also Scientologists, something that Gaiman says used to confuse people when he was a child. The writer learned to read at the age of four, an important first step on his journey to becoming one of the world’s most highly regarded novelists.
Early influences on Gaiman would include both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, and he would also enjoy works by Edgar Allen Poe, Michael Moorcock, Lewis Carrol, Rudyard Kipling and Mary Shelley. As Gaiman matured, the works of American fantasy author Roger Zelazny would also become a key influence, as would science fiction writer RA Lafferty.
As well as fiction and great writers, though, Gaiman would also be influenced by other genres. The comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a key influence, and Gaiman remains a fan of the comedy troupe to this day. In 1984, another key influence would emerge, this time in the shape of comics. It would be the comics artist Alan Moore who would provide Gaiman with his next major source of inspiration.
Gaiman noticed a copy of Moore’s Swamp Thing comic. The artist’s approach to comics turned Gaiman, who was then working as an aspiring journalist, into a comic book fans, and he started taking regular trips to Forbidden Planet in London to purchase comics. While working as a journalist, Gaiman made contacts that would help him later in his writing career. In 1984, his first professional short story was published. This was a fantasy story called Featherquest, and it appeared in Imagine Magazine.
Gaiman’s first book was published in 1984. This was a biography of the band Duran Duran. He would stop being a journalist in 1987, and concentrate entirely on his fiction writing. In subsequent years, he would become famous for his work on the comic The Sandman, as well as writing stories for DC Comics. Gaiman’s first novel, Good Omens, was written in collaboration with Terry Pratchett in 1990.
In 2001, Gaiman’s key novel American Gods was published. Other works include novels like The Graveyard Book and The Ocean at the End of the Line. In February 2017, a book by Gaiman was published entitled Norse Mythology. This consisted of Gaiman’s personal retellings of Norse mythological tales, and was the latest step on what has been a fascinating writer’s journey.
The Masterclass course on the art of storytelling taught by Neil Gaiman is one of the longer offerings from this provider. The course consists of 20 video lessons that take up four hours and 51 minutes in total. That represents a pretty significant time commitment from anyone who enrols in the course, so you need to bear that mind before signing up.
Obviously, this is not a course where you are learning the kind of practical skills that you might from Massimo Bottura’s Masterclass course on modern Italian cooking, or Stephen Curry’s on attacking skills in basketball. But while you will not need to practice techniques like you would for those courses, you still need to set aside some time away from the course itself. Gaiman teaches concepts that you will need to think about and reflect upon. You should also be trying to deploy them in your own writing.
All course materials can be accessed on your mobile device, something that helps with time management. What do those course materials actually contain? We’ll answer that question for you in the next section of this review.
The Neil Gaiman Masterclass course on the art of storytelling opens in typical fashion, with the course tutor introducing himself and his career to learners. The second lesson deals with a key concept that will be familiar to anyone who has ever grappled with fiction writing of any kind. That is how to convince your readers that you are telling a ‘truth’ even though your fictional story could be considered a ‘lie’. This is fundamental to all writing of fiction, and is a really important session of the course.
Gaiman then moves on to cover how to find inspiration as a writer, and to store up ideas on a mental ‘compost heap’ for further use. After that, he offers guidance on how to find your voice as a writer. This is your unique style that allows anyone who picks up a page of your writing to see who wrote it. You then get taught about developing story ideas, before the course includes its first case study.
This case study is on Gaiman’s novel The Graveyard Book, a story he wrote for young adults. He highlights how characters and their motivations should be the fundamentals on which you base your plots. Short fiction is dealt with next, and there is a case study on short fiction included that uses Gaiman’s March Tale as its foundation text.
The second half of the course focuses on more important concepts for creators of fiction. Gaiman covers topics like world building, humour, writing description and how you can surprise audiences by playing with their expectations of genre. There are also sections on dealing with writer’s block and editing, before the course concludes with an illuminating session on the responsibilities of a writer.
The course is packed with illuminating and insightful material. As well as anyone interested in writing fiction, the course would be suitable for anyone who is interested in Gaiman and his work. You can access the course by signing up for the monthly Masterclass subscription, which costs £14.17 a month, or for an £85 one-off fee. There is also a downloadable workbook that provides lesson recaps and additional resources for you.
We have to say that this is one of the more impressive Masterclass courses that we have seen. The course materials are of a very high standard, and Gaiman himself is an intuitive, sensitive and empathetic tutor. The insights provided are very interesting, and of great value to anyone who aspires to write fiction of their own.
So if you have any interest in what makes a top fiction writer tick and how they go about their work, we recommend signing up for the Masterclass course in which Neil Gaiman teaches the art of storytelling. Who knows? It may just provide the inspiration for you to get started on that novel you’ve always been meaning to write.