Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Dialogue (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 13:05 min

David talks about what informs and motivates dialogue, and how to achieve a musicality and rhythm in your character's speech pattern.

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Topics include: Rythmic Dialogue • Characters & Dialogue • Just Write it Down


Play is essentially a poem. It's a poem written for two voices or three voices or four voices. So the lines have to be rhythmic and beautiful, if you can. Because they aren't about conveying information. For example, Churchill says, we will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the fields, we will fight them on the landing fields, we will never surrender. And he could have just said, we're going to fight. But his speech created an idea in the minds of its hearers. The poetry of Churchill, which comes right out of his love of Shakespeare and of the King James Bible-- those are the same cadences. Encourage the British people-- they were beaten in 1939. There was no way that they could have defeated the Nazis. There was no way. Except Churchill said, we're going to win. We will never, ever surrender. And he said, it may be our fate to drown in a welter of our own blood. And that's preferable to living under the Nazis. And he wasn't talking to the Nazis. He was talking to his fellow Brits, who said, yes, that's true, we are like that. But they weren't like that until Churchill said it. Then they realized they were like that. So that's the power of poetry. Dr. King's a perfect example. I have a dream. The speech changed America, right? He was speaking prophecy, he was speaking poetry. And he could have spoken like a politician. Nobody listens to politicians because it might be true, but it's all drivel, right? But when you put it in poetry, which has an element of prophesy in it, it has the capacity to move souls. Some people have a gift to write poetry and others don't. And great poetry has the capacity to move and it works itself into the mind. Like if you read Shakespeare, you're going to remember a lot of Shakespeare, even if it's only a phrase. You remember a lot of them. You read Rudyard Kipling. You read, say for example, Coleridge or Keats or Shelley or those guys. You remember it. Glossy magazines today publishing are drivel that they call poetry-- you can't remember one. If I said to you, OK, I'll give you a billion dollars if you can quote me that poem tomorrow, you couldn't remember it. The poetry is the stuff that you want to shout back and forth to each other across the hall. There are certain cultures that I've encountered that communicate by telling stories or telling jokes. One of them is the Jewish culture. We communicate by telling stories, by telling jokes. And we grew up in a mixed neighborhood-- an African-American and a Jewish. And we all used to play the dozens on each other, right? Just on Stony Island Avenue. And status was awarded for the ability to be witty, to be funny, and to be trenchant, right? As it is in the Italian community, as it is in the law enforcement community. You know? If you can tell a good story, if you come up wit...

About the Instructor

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.

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David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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