Of all the 100+ online courses available on MasterClass, “Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling” was the class I wanted to review the most. To say that I am a fan of Mr. Gaiman would be an understatement. “The Graveyard Book,” “American Gods,” and “Coraline” are some of my favorite books of all time.
So, when I finally got the chance to review the Neil Gaiman MasterClass, I was elated. After all, I will get a peek into the mind of one of the most prolific, creative, and inspiring authors of our time.
Despite being a massive fan of Gaiman, my review will be entirely unbiased. The man is brilliant, this is obvious to anyone who has read his prose. But, how is he as a teacher? Will the course provide real value to creatives? Are we dealing with an online course that uses Gaiman’s reputation for an easy cash-out?
In this in-depth review of the Neil Gaiman MasterClass, all these burning questions will be answered.
Table of Contents
What is the Neil Gaiman MasterClass?
“Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling” is a popular online storytelling course on MasterClass. The class is led by Neil Gaiman, arguably the most well-known and acclaimed fantasy writers of our time.
You can take the class in two ways. If you are starting your literary work from scratch, I would advise going through the materials slowly and in a chronological manner. This will get you well-versed with the basics and will get you on the right track from your very first work.
The Neil Gaiman MasterClass is not a “do X and you will succeed at Y” style of online course. Storytelling is way too personal and complex to be learned by a “how-to” manual. Instead, Gaiman will provide his students with a practical toolbox for storytelling. And, despite the relatively short length of the class (19 video lessons, duration of 4h and 49min), Gaiman sure manages to cover a lot of ground.
Who is Neil Gaiman?
Neil Gaiman is a best-selling English author of novels, graphic novels, films, nonfiction, and audio theater. His work encompasses a wide variety of genres including fantasy, horror, science fiction, comedy, and children’s literature.
As an author, his most well-known works are from the science-fiction and fantasy genre. The captivating books of Gaiman have amassed a total of eight Hugo Awards, the most prestigious literary awards for the science fiction genre.
His opinion pieces and articles have been featured in publications such as The Guardian and NY Times.
If you are not a bookworm (yet), maybe you have seen the hit TV series “American Gods”. This acclaimed show is based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. To keep the fantasy world of the “American Gods” TV series aligned with his vision, Gaiman also serves as one of the executive producers of the series
For 5 years, Neil Gaiman has also taught in the prestigious Bard College, where he is a Professor of the Arts. According to Gaiman himself, his experiences teaching in large auditoriums were the main inspiration for collaborating with MasterClass.
After all, why stick to teaching storytelling for an audience of 300 if you could do it for an audience of 30000?
Who is the target audience of this course?
The Neil Gaiman MasterClass is an inspiring program for beginners to fiction writing. The class will help aspiring writers structure, develop, and publish their works successfully.
Still, the class is not strictly for fiction writers. It is a common misconception that storytelling skills are only useful for people planning on writing a 500-page book about hairdressers on Mars.
In reality, storytelling skills will be beneficial in many areas of life. For example, masterful storytelling skills can be the difference between an average and a great grant proposal.
To give you a clearer idea of who this class is for, allow me to give you some examples of writers who can benefit from the Neil Gaiman MasterClass:
- People who want to start writing yet have no idea where to start. The class will help new writers by teaching the fundamental blocks of character development, literary structure, and storytelling.
- Fiction writers who are struggling to find their own style of writing. For these people, the course syllabus contains lessons on how to develop their voice.
- Writers who are constantly struggling with writer’s block. For these people, the course offers actionable strategies for overcoming this issue.
- Aspiring comic book writers. The course teaches you how to plot and script a graphic novel even if your not an illustrator.
- Writers who are struggling with finishing their works. For these writers, the course will show why finishing things is arguably the most important thing for new writers.
What lessons does the Neil Gaiman MasterClass include?
In his MasterClass, Neil Gaiman shows the students how to take an idea and develop it into a fully-fledged written story. What if students find it hard to conjure up new ideas for their stories? After all, starting is the hardest part. Don’t worry, Gaiman has dedicated two “how-to” lessons for finding that very first spark of a great and original story idea.
To give you a clear idea of how the Neil Gaiman MasterClass works, here is a chronological breakdown of the course content:
- In the first 3 lessons, Gaiman shows you how to draw inspiration from your life to create fictional worlds. He also gives you tips on how to make your story feel authentic, no matter how offbeat your fiction might be.
- Lessons 4.-6. are on building your own style of writing and overcoming fear. You will also learn how to develop compelling conflicts between your characters.
- Lessons 7.-8. dissect the format of a short story. Gaiman breaks down the key components of a well-made short story. He also uses his own short story “March Tale” to give you examples of techniques previously taught in this MasterClass.
- Lessons 9.-11. are on developing engaging and believable dialogue. You will also learn how to build memorable settings for your stories.
- Lessons 12.-13. are on using various descriptive techniques and humor to liven up your writing.
- Lessons 14.-15. are on the importance of knowing the nuts and bolts of your genre. You will also get an in-depth look into the often-overlooked genre of comic books.
- Lessons 16.-17. are highly practical techniques for overcoming writer’s block and procrastination. You will also learn how to edit your work for maximum impact.
- In the final 2 lessons, Gaiman discusses the importance of staying focused and devoted to writing. He also discusses the roles and responsibilities writers have in their work.
All the above topics are also bolstered by examples of use from Gaiman’s own work. This is highly useful for seeing how the techniques are used by an acclaimed writer. What better way to learn than from a true master of his craft?
My favorite lessons from the Neil Gaiman MasterClass
This class is best taken as a whole, from front to end. Still, some lessons are worthy of special mention. These are my personal favorites:
Sources of inspiration
Neil Gaiman has quite the imagination. He has stories that take place in a mysterious town underneath London. He has developed characters like Death (a beautiful gothic girl with a down-to-earth personality) and Coraline (a child raised by ghosts). Where does this stuff come from?
In this lesson, Gaiman gives you all the tools he personally uses to build his fantasy worlds. These techniques do not require loads of brain crunching. Instead, you will learn how to build a “compost heap” of imagination that will consistently provide you with unique stories and characters.
You do not have to write the next “Count of Monte Cristo” to make an impact. In this lesson, Gaiman explains why short fiction has a great risk-to-reward ratio, especially for new writers. He will also show you techniques that you can implement to pull off captivating stories as short as a few hundred words.
I was probably in Junior High the last time I read a comic book. But, after finishing this course, I immediately picked up “The Sandman”.
The way Gaiman passionately spoke about creating graphic novels was inspiring to say the least.
Dealing with writer's block
Writer’s block is something that all fiction writers will eventually face. In this lesson, Gaiman gives a throughout explanation of this rather annoying aspect of being a writer. Of course, you will also get actionable techniques that will help you reignite your creative juices.
How much does the Neil Gaiman MasterClass cost?
MasterClass currently only offers a full subscription to their service. This means that you cant buy the Neil Gaiman MasterClass (or any other MasterClass courses) individually.
A yearly subscription to MasterClass will cost $180, or just about $15 per month. This subscription will give you access to 100+ expert-curated courses on all platforms. You will also get access to all the course materials and the membership community of MasterClass.
Is MasterClass worth it? In my opinion, it is. But, as with any other online learning platform, only you can determine whether the pros outweigh the cons. What I can confidently say is that all the courses from MasterClass shine in production value, choice of instructors, and content selection. So, for an avid e-learner like myself, this is a bargain.
MasterClass also offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. This is ideal for people who want to experience the courses firsthand before making a long-term commitment to the service. Just enroll in a course or two and see whether the content is up to par with your expectations. If not, feel free to contact customer service and request a full refund.
What I liked about the Neil Gaiman MasterClass
Overall, I found the Neil Gaiman MasterClass to be a highly useful and enjoyable course. The following are the aspects I would like to highlight about this online storytelling class:
Suitable for all proficiency levels
Neil Gaiman is mostly known for his fantasy writing. Thus, I was afraid that his style of teaching might be too abstract for beginners to writing. Luckily, I was wrong. This course contains an uncountable amount of tips and techniques that writers of all proficiency levels can use.
The instructor is a legendary writer
In my opinion, Neil Gaiman is the Tolkien of our time. He is the most well-loved, acclaimed, and recognizable fantasy writers currently working. It would be next to impossible to find a better instructor for learning the art of storytelling.
And he also has a very warm and engaging manner of communicating with the audience. In fact, I could probably listen to Gaiman read out the dictionary for five hours straight.
The course uses examples from Gaiman's own work
One of the main benefits of the Neil Gaiman MasterClass is the number of captivating case studies. Gaiman uses his own work to give great examples of various narrative techniques.
For example, he uses his novel “The Graveyard Book” as a case study on how to use character motivations for effectively driving a plot.
Inclusion of a 96-page coursebook
The coursebook of an online course is usually just the syllabus in written form with some additional pointers. This is not the case here.
The Neil Gaiman MasterClass comes with a 94-page PDF book that contains further in-depth discussions on the video lessons. The book also contains loads of additional online resources to keep developing your storytelling skill set even further.
What I didn't like about the Neil Gaiman MasterClass
Before going into this, I had huge expectations for the class. And, all in all, I was not disappointed. Still, the class has a single downside that other reviewers have also mentioned.
The slow pacing of the course
This is not a long course per se, so highlighting the pacing as a downside might seem strange. Still, several reviewers have sped up the class by 1.5x to get to the key principles of lessons quicker. So, feel free to do so if you are in a hurry to get to the concrete techniques and tips.
Personally, I didn’t mind the way Gaiman occasionally meandered around with his words. I found that the smooth flow of his thoughts and words only added to the overall experience of the class.
Does not cover all writing fundamentals
Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass serves as an excellent additional resource for writers. After all, it’s motivating and Neil gives some excellent tips throughout the duration of the class. However, the online course does not (nor does it aim to) cover all of the basic techniques and methodologies of writing as a profession. That is why this course is not the ideal course for those who want to go from “zero to hero” as a writer through a single course.
Review conclusion: is the Neil Gaiman MasterClass worth it?
All things considered, I loved every single second of the Neil Gaiman MasterClass. As with all MasterClass courses, the production value was immaculate, almost cinematic in quality. But, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover. After all, beautifully shot videos are worthless if they don’t offer genuine practical value.
This is not the case here. Gaiman has put together a class that is entertaining, easy-to-follow, and most importantly, full of actionable techniques for fiction writers.
You should also be prepared for a few surprises, as this is not your average writing class. Some of Gaiman’s writing techniques go against commonly available writing advice.
I also want to highlight the intimate, almost soothing feel of the class. At times I felt as if one of the world’s best writers was directly mentoring my writing and rooting for my progress.
The pacing is the single flaw of the Neil Gaiman MasterClass. While the overwhelming majority of reviewers (myself included) enjoyed his almost poetic style of teaching, there is a minority of students who only want the practical tips and techniques. This is a minor issue that can easily be solved by speeding up the class.
Overall, I left the class with a much clearer understanding of creativity.
And, should Mr. Gaiman ever lead another online course, I will be signing up as fast as a bullet.