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.

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

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.


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

Very insightful. David isn't here to teach you how to use a pencil, but points you in the right direction to uncovering your greatness.

I will be applying the plot line to my stories.

I'm just getting started on my craft and this was an excellent foundation course to begin the journey. I need to get to work.

Inspirational guy and speaker. I would love to speak and command attention like David Mamet.



“education the worst thing to happen since kale” Spoken like a true dialogue genius. If you listen to Davids punchlines alone you will learn dialogue from a master.


Because you can't teach anyone to write great dialogue, you may as well talk about it.

Marc L.

All right I'm done. This is the worst Masterclass I've seen yet. Mamet provides nothing to actually help in your writing. What a waste of time.


the worst thing to happen since kale is a literature degree from Yale but arugula's best when put to the test and poetics could land ya in jail

Marilie B.

Kale, my horse won’t even eat it. Who decided kale is the new romaine. I have a hard time with dialogue. Probably cause I was told to not talk at the dinner table, “ it’s better to be seen not heard”. As a kid riding in the very very back of our 1979 wood paneled station wagon without a seatbelt because I’m in the section where there is no seat, like a dog that’s been to the beach. The game was who ever is the quietest gets shotgun on the way home. I’m sure my dislexia robbed me of any understanding into how my brain is not like your brain. At school, every morning after the bell rang my heart would pound visibly through my white cotton shirt, palms sweating, knees knocking. We settled into our worn wood school desks. The teacher would call on me to sit in the corner. I was to stupid to join. The kids called me stupid under their breath as I did the walk of shame to MY place in the classroom. I countered them by defeating them at every playground activity. I countered them by being pretty. I countered them by licking my lips and learning that the only thing to get me out of this hell hole was batting my lashes at just the right time. It’s funny how now when I hear someone talk about the walk of shame it takes me back to 3rd grade. Not leaving a strange house with a strange guy that looked good in the disco lights. It’s also funny how when you write or maybe it’s just me, that I get nervous like my teacher from 3rd grade is peering over my shoulder smacking a long wood ruler with a metal edge into the palm of her hand. Looking forward to my fucked up writing so she can have me in the corner as she tells the class to put their heads on their desks. Her shriveled skin hanging loose from her fingers. Mouth pursed like a sphincter. I think maybe I’ll try text to dialogue. The End As you can see there’s no dialog. And there’s no dialogue because there wasn’t any. Action was my dialogue. I didn’t speak much as a child and for that matter I still keep it quiet. I learned to quiet my mind. Keeping my interior dialogue focused on the colors of the sky. Hear the crunch of dirt beneath my footsteps I walk the winding dirt trails. Trees blowin, hair glowin. I’m pretty sure I’ve taught all my divices to be stupid too. The End Ps. I ain’t stupid.

A fellow student

Makes so much sense - In order to write good dialogue, read good dialogue - gosh I gotta read more...

Kasiemba O.

One of the things I realized from this masterclass is that David reads A LOT. All these pieces of literature he references... WOW!

Robert Lewis H.

Chpt. 14- Wow. Less is more. 'What came first. The chicken or the egg?' "No schmuck. The omelette came first." "You read Heron's poem." "Yip. Sure as eggs is eggs."

Mia S.

"I love to read. If I'm not writing, I'm usually reading. It's like having a different language - they say if you got another language, you got another soul. You also get a chance, in reading, to see how other people observe human interactions. Read some great genius writers, say, 'Man that's great.' Not that I want to be just like him or her, but now I see that I'm capable of ascribing to that sort of concision or poetry. Most of the writers I read, it's not so much the dialogue that I appreciate... George V. Higgins, Patrick O'Brian, John Le Carre, their dialogue is just spectacular. Hemingway. Don Powell. Nobody reads him much anymore. Writers always love to pick painters for their heroes because they think, 'I'm being a writer, I loathe every second of it except the time that I don't, and then I loathe myself for being proud of myself. But painters, man they got it easy- they just sit down and blah blah...' Writers love having painter heroes. [Hemingway] had this painter hero who was divorced from a movie star, and he hasn't seen the woman movie star in years and years, and it's during WWII and our painter hero's living in Cuba, and the movie star shows up, and they have a bunch of drinks, they take a walk on the beach, and out of nowhere, he says, 'It's the boy, isn't it?' She says, 'Yeah.' He says, 'He's dead, isn't he?' She says, 'Sure.' It's genius."

Mia S.

"The cops, they prize verbal acuity. They love to tell stories, put it the best way possible. A lot of us have that ability and some of us don't. I'm always struck by people who don't know how to tell a joke. I always think, 'Anybody can tell a joke, how can you tell a joke that badly?' But some people don't hear it. Most people do. My sainted grandmother spoke very broken English, accented English, I just loved listening to her. My dad would speak to her and say, 'Ma, we're going to move you into this other apartment, but in the interim I want you to stay here.' She says, 'Buddy, when you say the interim, do you mean the vestibule?' One time he's saying, 'Ma, I see you've been doing this and that, blah blah. In lieu of that I'd rather you did this...' She said, 'Buddy, who is this Lou?' She was an old country Yiddish mama. One of the first plays I ever wrote was about these two old Jewish DPs - displaced persons - sitting on a bench in Lincoln Park in Chicago. They're two old Jewish guys talking about ducks - and I was influenced not only by my grandparents; everybody I knew, their grandparents came from the 'old country.' There was nobody in my neighborhood whose grandparents didn't grow up speaking Russian and Yiddish. I had just read a book by Aaron Copland, Theme and Variations, and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool to write a series of variations? But instead of writing them musically, to write them dramatically.' So these two guys doing effectively 14 variations on a theme of talking about ducks. That was that idea - two old guys sitting on a park bench."