Meet your new instructor: Neil Gaiman, one of the most prolific storytellers of our time. In his first lesson, Neil explains why he loves to teach and how he wants to encourage you to tell stories that matter.
02 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.
03 Sources of Inspiration
Neil believes that even old stories can be approached from new angles. Learn how to create your own “compost heap” of inspiration and how to draw from your experiences to make a story uniquely your own.
04 Finding Your Voice
Your writer’s voice is what makes it possible for someone to pick up a page of text and recognize that you wrote it. Learn how to develop your voice and how to overcome the fear of making mistakes.
05 Developing the Story
Every story has a big idea. Learn how to find a big idea that’s meaningful to you, as well as how to create conflict and compelling stakes for your characters.
06 Story Case Study: The Graveyard Book
Neil uses his young adult fantasy novel, The Graveyard Book, to illustrate how character motivations serve as the essential building blocks of a compelling plot.
07 Short Fiction
The short story is an ideal format for risk-taking. Neil teaches you how to focus your scenes and descriptions for maximum impact.
08 Short Fiction Case Study: “March Tale”
Using “March Tale” as an example, Neil shows you how to expand your narrative by creating conflict for your protagonist and how to bring your story to a satisfying climax.
09 Dialogue and Character
Neil teaches you how to write realistic dialogue, how to listen to and trust your characters, and techniques to help readers remember your characters.
10 Character Case Study: “October Tale”
Neil explains the technique of bringing a character to life by putting them in an unfamiliar situation that creates tension.
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.
Neil shares his techniques to liven up descriptive prose, including cold opens, withholding information, finding emotional weight, and choosing memorable details.
Neil shows how he uses humor in his work. He includes a close look at his novel Anansi Boys to illustrate his personal techniques such as “sherbet lemons” and “figgins.”
Readers’ expectations are intrinsically tied to genre. Neil explains how an understanding of your story’s genre can help you provide delightful surprises to your audience.
Writers don’t need to shy away from comics just because they’re not illustrators. Neil demonstrates his process of plotting and scripting a comic, using an award-winning issue of Sandman as an example.
16 Dealing With Writer’s Block
Every writer faces times when they’re stuck. Neil talks about some of the difficulties of the writing life and gives ideas about how to get through them.
Neil gives advice about the editing process, including why it’s important to take time away from a project and to get feedback from a trusted reader.
18 Rules for Writers
In his rules for writers, Neil talks about striking the right balance between humility and confidence, as well as the need to stay organized and devoted to daily work.
19 The Writer’s Responsibilities
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.