Neil Gaiman is among my favorite authors. I read the Sandman comic series as a young adult and remember it vividly. It is a wonderful collaboration between top artists, with fantastic covers from Dave Mckean.
Neil also wrote Coraline. It’s been adapted into an animated movie. I love how Neil doesn’t shy away from darkness for children. Dark tales are about survival, the most valuable knowledge we can pass on to future generations.
I took Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass on Storytelling and noted down bits for digestion.
How to move the story forward
- Ask questions and answer them
- Find the characters’ ulterior motive: what do they want, and where are their wants mutually exclusive?
Short stories are chapters of novels one didn’t write, set at a time when everything unravels.
Comic books are created by a 2-person film crew: the writer is director and screenwriter, the artist is the camera-person and director of photography. When someone does both roles eg. Frank Miller, they’re a one-person film crew.
Be a smash and grab robber. Do not stick around since research can take an unlimited amount of time.
There are 3 types of stories
- From rags to riches, eg. Aladdin
- Boy meets girl, eg. Romeo and Juliet
- A person learns a lesson, eg. The Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy
The process of writing is 2 steps
- The bomb explodes (write). Jot down thoughts to add to the compost heap of imagination.
- Inspect what worked and what didn’t (edit)
Dialogue has to show character and plot. It can also be funny.
- Build from the real world
- Change it: make a school bigger/smaller, put it on the back of a bird, … subvert the reality
- What makes the subject memorable?
- Use 5 senses: smell, taste, feels, touch ← especially important in the dark
How to deal with writer’s block
It’s a sign that a piece of writing is not working.
- Do something else
- Pretend you never read it. Read it from the beginning
- Write something new in 12 hours. Eg. hanging concentrates the mind
- What is a story: anything that keeps the reader turning the page
- What is satisfying: characters get what they need, not what they want.
Lastly, almost as a warning: You can’t fix a blank sheet of paper.
Those are the tips and takeaways, noted down for posterity.
Here is my favorite short story from Neil. It is about a Christmas celebrity and is only 100 words long.