From David Mamet's MasterClass

Dramatic Rules

As a dramatist, your job is to tell a story. David teaches you how to keep your story simple by using Aristotle's <span style="font-style:italic">Poetics</span> as a guide. Learn how to keep your hero's journey at the heart of your narrative.

Topics include: Aristotle as a Guide • The Hero's Journey • Simple Stories


As a dramatist, your job is to tell a story. David teaches you how to keep your story simple by using Aristotle's <span style="font-style:italic">Poetics</span> as a guide. Learn how to keep your hero's journey at the heart of your narrative.

Topics include: Aristotle as a Guide • The Hero's Journey • Simple Stories

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

Learn More


Your job is to tell a story. The story has a hero, and he or she wants one thing. And the story begins when something precipitates the event. Aunt Martha dies, and the first nephew or niece who can get to her house gets a million dollars. The story didn't exist before that, now it does exist. OK. The story ends when we either find out that Aunt Martha left you the money or find out why she didn't. Everything in the story has got to be a progression from the telegram I have to get to Aunt Martha's will-- to the reading of the will. Anything which is not in that line, throw it away. And what happens when you get yourself into a situation you can't think your way out of? That's great. Because if you can't think your way out of it, the audience can't either. So that's the point you've got to say, hold on, it's now time for me to sit down and drive myself crazy trying to figure out how to get out of Buffalo. Aristotle wrote a little pamphlet on playwriting called Poetics, and he said it all comes down to very simple rules. He says it's the hero journey from A to B. The hero has to be transformed from a beggar to a King, from a King to a beggar. It has to happen in the least possible number of steps. It has to happen in one place over 48 hours. And at the end, we have to undergo recognition, we have to undergo shock and awe, we have to undergo fear and pity. Fear and pity. Pity, because we see the poor schmoe. My god he's just like me. And fear, because you might say, oh I didn't see that coming. How is it possible that I, just like the hero who represents me onstage, didn't see that coming? If they undergo-- and so that's what we have to undergo. What the hero has to undergo, is two things called recognition and reversal of the situation. In one moment, bam, Aristotle-- he realizes he's been sleeping with his mom. He killed his dad. He puts his eyes out. He goes from being the most powerful man in the world to being a blind beggar. So he undergoes reversal of the situation and he undergoes recognition. He has to undergo-- he has to say, oh my god. What have I done? And that's the punchline of the tragedy. So that's basically Aristotle's Poetics in 30 seconds. Every play needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end. So Jean-Luc Godard said, yes, every movie needs to have a beginning, middle, and end, but not necessarily in that order. And that's why French movies are so effing boring. Because it says F-I-N at the end. Which is French for, you can go home now. So a play needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, just like a joke has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. So you've got to start at the beginning, go on till you get to the end, and then stop. So every story is the hero journey, and we're the hero. But there's Moses. He's the prince of Egypt, he's like unto...

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.

I loved it. I feel inspired and I'm going to get to work.

David Mamet tells us like it is... One thing he doesn't say but is implicit in his biographical info is, you gotta live a life have material.

This master class gave me a better understanding of the writing business. I will take and apply the one thing rule for the day. Great Class!

He's amazing... I've never learned more in my life.



Excellent introduction to drama. I am looking forward to learning how to implement these theories in writing.

Jaume M.

It's funny whan you attack Jean Luc Godard to breaking the rules of the order, but what about Pulp Fiction? It breaks the rules too and is really really great, and is the hero's journey.

Rebecca B.

I love storytelling and now have a type of map and destination in mind. Everyone remembers the burning bush.

Anastacia S.

I don't want the lessons to end, but that is a good way to procrastinate writing, hahaha... But also a compliment to Mr. Mamet.

Katharina T.

Thank you so much for this class! This has given me a real push - I've started trimming some lines already, shaving off loose material. Feels great. And right.

Nina T.

"...a burning bush - so now the Movie starts." I absolutely enjoyed how he summed up the 5 books of Moses, the Hero's Journey. He had me sitting on the edge of my seat! This is great teaching. One of my favorite and most informative sessions so far. Looking forward to the rest!

danilo G.

I feel like the Poetics, altough essential for a writer are a bit overrated. That's because of Character study films in which the story is the character. I love learnig the rules of Poetics, but i don't think they are set in stone

Richard T.

I appreciate the distillation of POETICS into something understandable. Because I read that puppy, on the recommendation of Aaron Sorkin, and had no clue what the heck Aristotle was talking about. However, i think sometimes we find our heroes from history based on those who's ideas comport with out own in the present day. Aristotle wrote compelling rules, but how much of that thinking has shaped our concept of drama rather than allowing the human mind to go in a different direction? Why, for example, are we compelled to watch any given episode of Game of Thrones from Seasons 1-5 when no rational human has any idea what is going on? about a story that fails the rule of starting here and going there.


All drama boils down to getting out of Buffalo. Love David's 30 second interpretation of Aristotle's Poetics can read here

Jamie M.

'I've got a knife and some matches, I'm going to live in the woods.' Yes. How do you write? You just take the two things you need and start. With Mamet's flying analogy I am also reminded of these words by Lewis Carroll : BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING GO ON UNTIL YOU COME TO THE END THEN STOP (Alice in Wonderland)