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Arts & Entertainment

Story Ideas

David Mamet

Lesson time 10:37 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.

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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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...

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.

It felt like a very good friend was taking me under his wing, offering no BS advice, telling me it's okay.

Loved it! Have admired David Mamet's work for decades. Inspiring. A true Master class.

This was profound, informative, and inspiring. "Prophetic," to quote Mr. Mamet.

If we plan for failure, we will achieve it. We may as well choose to succeed. Powerful lessons from a great teacher. Thank you, Mr. Mamet!


Jacinta L.

"Writing a drama is just like analysing a dream. You are kind of doing it backwards. You are making up the dream. " I really like this.

Jared B.

David Mamet does it again. The key is in the room! It always has been. God. I love it haha.

André Z.

Although there were a lot of important and interesting reflections in this session, the story about the safe was amazing. When Mamet tells us the story of the safe he is demonstrating what dramatic writing is. The story has a beginning, middle, and end. Like in his previous video he mentions that he has a problem that he cannot find his way out of immediately and needs to think it through. Good teaching, like good education, is based on showing not telling and the safe story shows us exactly what this and the previous videos have been saying. He used a moment in his life where he was truly challenged. He constructed it to have a three-act structure with expositions, conflicts, and resolutions. The story had characters and an inciting incident. It works 100% as a short dramatic piece. It was really helpful to have that moment in this session.

Tobias M.

The further into this course I get, the more the initially obtuse thoughts coalesce. Some instructors point to places on a map, and deliver contained lessons around individual topics. David Mamet is working in patterns, in spirals of thought. It is less about aphorisms and more about ways to think, like swimming in the wake of a boat ploughing into deep water. Brilliant.

Roberta Artemisia C.

le perroquet - in French - is the bottle where old and crippled men can pee whithout leaving the bed,

Maritza C.

In this lesson, David talks about how ideas are all around us, how we must use our experiences in our stories, and that the writer should write about what they find interesting. David also talks about what has inspired his plays.

Rosemary D.

I put my life away for awhile and recently found that everything I knew and believed to be real before looks extremely different to me now.

Jaime P.

I am writing a screenplay that I want to shoot later this year. After watching and listening to Aaron Sorkin, Ron Howard, David Lynch, Neil Gaiman, and now, David Mamet—I am finally enjoying the chaos of my writing that is turning into an actually decent screenplay. All I can say is thanks David and all the teachers I have found and continue to find here in Master Class.

A fellow student

Is it possible to tell a story without committing to a theme? Perhaps he means to tell a story and not concern yourself with a theme. I'm having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around this because in my own process, the thematic backbone to the story I'm trying to tell is paramount to the play.

A fellow student

I kept thinking that he would open the safe and find out the the safe had in fact been robbed, and that the Locksmith was the culprit.