With time on my hands during this COVID 19 crisis and wanting to be as productive as possible, I convinced my sister to split the purchase of an all-access annual MasterClass membership priced at $180.00 for two. The best online shopping to date and believe me there has been way too much of that lately.
To my surprise, MasterClass is a compelling and alluring platform to learn everything from gardening to films, writing, music, politics, science, and even magic from some of the top experts, influencers, and geniuses of our lifetime. Surely a good investment if you can commit the time.
Today, I started another MasterClass. This time I chose the nationally acclaimed author Neil Gaiman who I knew very little about but was pleased to learn that he is a teacher of storytelling. For those who may not know much about him, he has written some of the most highly acclaimed fictional works of modern time, including The Graveyard Book, The American Gods, The Sandman, and the novel Coraline, now a well-known animated film for children.
Let me begin by saying that Neil Gaiman is delightfully easy on the eyes to watch, and as you listen to his slightly James Bond British accent, it draws you in and perks your listening skills. He is handsomely dressed in black with wavy black hair and glasses to match, sitting in a comfortable green chair in a lovely, stately room surrounded by books with the lights dimmed. No doubt, this is his library from which he can comfortably lean back to grab any book to share with his audience. He sits very elegantly looking straight into your eyes (well, I mean the camera), commanding your attention as if you are sitting in that room with him. He is both passionate and engaged in teaching the craft of storytelling. He never stops looking into your eyes (ok, the camera) unless he is going to read an excerpt from one of his books. He talks intensely on how he builds a story and develops the characters recognizing the essential ingredient to a compelling plot—- that being the notion of “conflict.” “You see, characters have “wants and needs” and their motivations are driven to collide with each other in getting what they want or need —- and there begins your plot.”
What was truly enjoyable and a bit teasing was to listen to Neil read a chapter from the Graveyard Book while revealing the process he uses to build the plot creating the urgency among his readers to want to turn the page. I now have no other choice but to purchase the book to find out the ending of this hair-raising plot. Damn, he’s good! Throughout the entire class, he does this a number of times while showing you the tools that he uses to create a story. He elaborates on the concept of “world-building,” a place where you, as a writer, can play god creating a world of characters and situations grounded in fantasies, contrary to the mundane world that we find ourselves living in.
As I continue the class on the next day, this time, I bring as a companion, a glass of Malbec to elevate my enjoyment. This day I learned other new concepts in writing, including injecting humor, adding secrets, learning the rules, ignoring perfection, and how to get unstuck. The best part was Neil’s reading of a short story from his book October Tales where for the first time, a Genie released from his lamp is confronted with his female rescuer’s disdain of granting her three wishes. Interesting ending Neil, although I could not help being curious, what if the rescuer was a male (Sorry folks, you will have to read the story to understand what this could mean).
Although I have no intention of writing fiction or a novel, I found this learning experience both wondrous and useful. What more can I say, I have become a fan of Neil Gaiman.
Now, I am eager to choose my next MasterClass experience.
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