Writing

Character

David Mamet

Lesson time 11:34 min

David teaches you what character really is—action. Learn how to create objectives for your characters and avoid the erroneous techniques commonly taught.

Play
David Mamet
Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.
Get All-Access

Preview

Here's the thing, Stacy Schiff-- just a great historian-- she just wrote a book about the witches in Salem. Marvelous book. And if you look at it, Salem-- right over here-- was involved in a mass hysteria for about a year and a half. And you could say, no I'm not a witch, but what you couldn't say-- and you might be able to get off. You probably wouldn't. But you might be able to get off. By saying, I can prove to you that I'm not a witch. I don't know how you prove a negative proposition-- you can't-- logically, but you might be able to get off. The one thing that would get you killed is saying there are no witches. Right? So the one thing, the unpalatable truth, is there's no such thing as character. Just doesn't exist. Where is it? Where is it? Here, go through the thing-- I'm going to shake it out. All there is, is the things that people say. Why do they say them? In order to get something from each other. Guy A wants to get something from girl B. Girl B wants to get something from guy A. That's why they talk. The rhythm of their speech is a certain kind of poetry, which is structured so that if each one of them is pursuing a specific goal you might even call it a play. But there is no backstory because they don't-- We imagine them. And here's a perfect example. We listen to the radio. And sometimes-- many of us had the experience of thinking, oh my gosh-- when we meet a radio personality-- I didn't think she looked like that. That's not what I thought she looked like. Because it's never what we thought she or he looked like, because we didn't think they looked like anything. We thought they looked like something, but we never had a picture in our head. And here's another example. Anybody have voices inside their head? I certainly do, and I won't shut up. Most of us do. We have this voice that's not quite our voice, but it's a voice. What does that person look like? It's not us. It's something. We think we almost know what they look like, but they don't have a physical being. And if we saw the physical being we'd say, no no that's not him. Similarly, these lines on the page create the illusion that there is something behind them. And that we can grasp it. We can write it. We can understand it. He's the kind of a guy who-- but doesn't exist. What we're creating is an illusion. And there's another way that we can understand, as Bruno Bettelheim wrote a wonderful book called The Uses of Enchantment about fairy tales. And he said the fairy tales work because-- one of the reasons they work is because we don't characterize the hero or the heroine. You say, a beautiful, young woman rode into town on a horse. We don't say, a beautiful, young black woman, because if you're not black it ain't you. We don't say, a beautiful, young white woman, because if you're not whi...


Write great drama

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I want to go through the door David had pointed. I want to fail, get up and try again. That's a good leader who can make me want to desire see my failures and continue till I don't fail

Mr. Mamet has created an enchanting series of tips and stories that attract the dramatist of theatre & screenwriting alike. I came here right after drafting my first feature film, and I'm excited to tackle the rest of my career with this foundation.

David is a very engaging and entertaining man. He clearly explains the key concepts and I found this course brilliantly insightful.

Other than a few particular tips, I don't know what I've learned, at least not yet. I do know that I love David Mamet.


Comments

Ellen B.

Is he a philosopher? A comedian? He is super entertaining. I would love to know what he thinks about "The Irishman"....

Nick F.

"Politicians are all a bunch of lying whores." You gotta love this guy. You have to respect a guy who tells the truth.

Robert P.

I'm loving it, love listening, hearing, Mamet is making me laugh out loud. The simplicity of the lessons is great.

laura J.

I am enjoying this so much, wow! Did I ever stumble into a great party, he is calm, cool and dangerous as an instructor, he keeps taking you to another stage, sets it up and leaves you writing as fast as you can! Going to take this class more than once.

Julian D.

Excellent and totally agree - I've always believed that in screenwriting there's no need to construct detailed character profiles, completing those huge questionnaires and ridiculous "interviews". I think you just need a rough age (ie "early Thirties) and a very brief description to give the director an idea of the character (ie "if she were a sweet she'd be peppermint"). Maybe different for novels which delve much more deeply into characters' personalities, thoughts and psychology.

A fellow student

This is great. We are often taught in film schools to spend hours on thinking about character, 80 questions on their likes dislikes backstories and spines - all of which can be useful. But it is comforting to know that you can begin with plot and the character of your protagonist is revealed through what they do.

Patrick T.

Does anyone know how to get the lessons just to continue to play without clicking? thanks

Fonde T.

Wonderful classes. Especially like how he illustrates his ideas with personal stories. The 'Lock and Key' story with the locksmith telling him the key was in the room somewhere and Mamet not believing him is fantastic. These classes have given me new inspiration.

EK T.

I love the backstory analogy. In a way, I feel as though I am devoting more time to some of these classes because it puts off the pain of writing, but, because I am obtaining helpful information, that makes it okay.

Mitchell F.

Mr. Mamet's assertions make sense when applied to the real world of production. Characters need do no more than the actions that carry them through the story they inhabit. We don't really need to know anything else about them. The audience will naturally frame what lies beyond these actions in their own minds. Each action is best united in single goal -- to carry the story forward to its conclusion.