Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Story Ideas

David Mamet

Lesson time 10:36 min

David teaches you how to harness your fantasies and life experiences for drama. Look for drama in places where you'd least expect it and discover the inspiration behind several of his plays.

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Topics include: Life Experiences • Themes • Looking for Ideas • <span style="font-style:italic">American Buffalo</span> • <span style="font-style:italic">Sexual Perversity in Chicago</span> • <span style="font-style:italic">Oleanna</span>


I always used to tell my kids, and they'd say, dad, where do you get your ideas? I say, well, there's this little Mexican guy in Encino. And he drives in on the weekend and he sells them off the back of his truck. So we all have ideas all the time. I mean, our mind is, I believe, Swinburne said, is a raging fire. We have all these ideas all the time. What if that person turned around and said, I love you. What if we got a thing in the mail saying that it's not your real father. What about if I found a wallet with a billion dollars? That's how we go through life all day. We're fantasizing. I mean, it's kind of a shame that people are on these, the little machines everybody uses all the time, just because they spend less time fantasizing. It fantasizes for you. At the beginning of my life, I was living a rather interesting existence in Chicago, and earning my living doing various things, and playing a lot of poker, and hanging out with a bunch of thieves. And I also working in a prison for a couple of days a week, two prisons, and I was fascinated by everything that I saw. So I wrote about it. And the milieu, which I was writing at that point, was kind of the underbelly of a big city, which I was involved in. That's what I was doing when I was 20 and 30. Later on in my life, I was doing different things, and I got interested in different subjects. And I wrote about them. I think it was a famous story about Stanislavski. Someone said-- some woman was preparing a part, and she said, should I use my own life experiences? He said, what choice do you have? So I mean, my own life experiences are somewhat similar to everybody else's, and sufficiently different that they, at least, interest me. The questions is, what choice do you have? I'm not trying to make a point. I'm just trying to get the voices in my head to shut up. The American Buffalo, I was playing-- I used to play a lot of poker. This is in the days when nobody played poker. But it started again, I think, in the 80s. But in those days, poker was just played in home games and illegal games, and a lot of them were run by the mob, especially in New York. And in Chicago, a lot of the illegal games were kind of a crossbreed between a legal game and a home game. And I used to play in this one game that was all thieves. And they played poker all day, because they didn't go to work until the sun went down. So I hung out with them, and I was very inspired by them. And one of the kids said something once about-- it was the son of one of the owners. He said, if I didn't know better, I would think that you guys was cheating me. And I thought, oh, that's interesting. That's very, very provocative. Because he is both accusing them and not accusing them. He can't figure it out in his own mind. So I started writing about those guys at the poker game. The inspiration for Sexual Perversit...

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

David Mamet

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

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