Dramatic Rules (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 8:22 min

Start at the beginning of your story and don't stop until you reach the end. Throw away anything that isn't plot. David teaches you what to cut from your script and how to master the rules of writing.

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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The rules to me are very, very simple. I was very involved in martial arts for a while and I wrote a martial arts movie that I also directed called Redbelt. And this woman comes and she's been physically abused and she comes to this great teacher of martial arts. And he says, come onto the mat. So he comes on to the mat. And he says, OK, so I'm going to stand sideways to you. I'm not going to touch you. I'm going to touch you. You stand about three inches apart. He says, if I stood sideways to you and you grabbed me, could I strike you? She says, no I don't think so. He says, OK I want you to stand 20 feet away from me. So she stands 20 feet away. So he says, at 20 feet away, could I strike you? She says no. He says, OK, but walk forward. Get to the point where you think I could strike you. So she comes forward until she's about four feet away. He said, could I strike you there? She says, yeah. He says, don't stand there. If you want to come back for a second lesson, give me a call. So that's what I feel. The rules are pretty darn simple. There aren't that many of them. They're pretty darn simple. Tell the story, start at the beginning, go until you get to the end, don't stop, be interesting. Make sure that everything is on the line. If you want to go from New York City to Baltimore, it doesn't matter if there's something interesting. In Boston, that's not what you told me wanted to go. So, there's something that happens when you're making a movie that I call location sickness. So, location sickness is I'm shooting a scene at a girls school. The girls come out, blah, blah, blah, whatever. The bus comes but the bus is late. So, the girls-- they're going to practice cheerleading on the sidewalk because they're going to the competition. OK, that's our setup. So, we go there in the location. People say, OK here's our girls. Go see, it's great. Oh my god, look over there. There's a shoe store that was built in 1940 in the shape of a sneaker. That's magnificent. We got to figure out some way to put that sneaker in the story because it would be a shame. It's free, right. So, it's the free stuff that kills you, that's called location sickness. It doesn't matter that it just looks like a sneaker. That's not the story that you were telling me. You got to throw it away. The rule is, like Hemingway said, write the best story you can and throw out all the good lines. So, that's how you make a movie. Anything that's not the plot, throw it away. So one of the rules is-- and this is especially true of screenwriting, and it's harder to learn in screenwriting that isn't playwriting, because in playwriting, you write the play you put on with the audience. You get it, right. When the lights go down, you've got their attention. It's yours to lose. When yo...

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'm excited. I have followed Mr. Mamet for years. I trust this guy.

This was the best class I've seen so far and one of the most informative pieces of content I've ever seen. Ever. It was fantastic.

David is a class act! I feel like I've known him for years and would be friends with him immediately. He is truly an inspiration and I'm so glad I participated in watching his Master Class.

Intrigued, inspired, intimidated (in a good way!)


Maritza C.

Here's the rules he lists: Tell a story. Start from the beginning and go until the end. Don’t stop. Be interesting. Do what you said you’d do. Also, anything that is not the plot must be thrown away. These are ok tips but David does not explain this thoughts thoroughly and in an organized way. Also, he says “right?” too often.

A fellow student

Anyone know where I could find those Lindsay and Crouse writing tips, or what the 'pamphlet' that contains them is called?

Warren D.

Mamet description of the process, the story, and the drama is expressed with such enthusiasm and clarity that it is easy to follow, profound, and admirable a magnificent adventure into the thoughts and ideas of an interesting and wonderful dramatist.


"Stop giving your best lines to the secondary characters". Thank you so much for that tip! I give the best lines to my heroes, but then I take them away and give them to my second characters. Afraid my hero would take all the credit, or something like that.

Katharina T.

Just a tiny note: "Arsenic and Old Lace" was written by Joseph Kesselring, not Lindsay & Crouse.

Anastacia S.

It makes me nervous when I wonder if I've met the three rules for my stage play, which I think is very good, but I am going to have to go back and check...

Jamie C.

I find it funny Mamet talks about story being a straight line yet he can't stay on a line for the life of him. He has some real nuggets of wisdom, but he needed an editor for these classes, between talking about his love of jiu-jitsu or his flying analogies or his other random asides. I'm glad I got the All-Access Pass because if this had been the only class I bought I'd be very disappointed, but seeing his thinking compared with Sorkin and others helps clarify what the "real rules" are.

Gus C.

This lesson reminded me of an English teacher who said that Shakespeare had to kill off Mercutio because he was stealing the story away from Romeo and Juliet. Thematically he doesn't, because, like the Nurse, his views about love are limited to the sexual. But, he has a lot of good lines. Also, about Aristotle's Poetics - the rules mentioned by Mamet primarily pertain to tragedy, and not all plays are tragedies.

Vickie R.

PS How is this for a freaky story. At my brother's wedding to a Thai woman we didn't even know a thing about, the band played the funeral march to Schidnler's List? No kidding and I couldn't figure out for the life of me why they did that? Major sabotage if you ask me.

Vickie R.

Funny and how true. I was once told by my relative that the worst sin in life is to be BORING. And I agree. I'd rather listen to an amusing psycopath than a boring person talking about the weather.