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Arts & Entertainment

Structuring the Plot

David Mamet

Lesson time 13:48 min

David shares with you the methods he uses to structure a plot and teaches you how to connect plot points.

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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Can I say something about my outfit? Because I love this outfit. I showed up this morning in my usual street clothes. I got a wife beater T-shirt, OK, cutoff jeans, all I've worn for 70 years, flip-flops and a motorcycle jacket. And I thought that would be cool to let you into how I actually look, because also if I take off the motorcycle-- I'm covered in tats. And my left arm is Admiral Dewey at the Battle of Manila, 1895. And my right arm, and I think I'm the only guy who has this, you tell me, is the final scene from Kramer vs. Kramer. And on my chest I got the first chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey but it's reversed so I can read it when I'm shaving. And my back is Goodnight Moon. So when I go to the gym, I do a lot of weightlifting, I can bench press [? 1,000 ?] pounds. And I get all sweaty, and the people in the gym, they can read Goodnight Moon while they're working out. So this outfit, it's wicked cool, I'm dressed up like a professor. You see, I've got the prop and everything. But I realized, you can't wear it on the street, because if you do, a bunch of people are going to descend on you and try to sell you a Volvo. And there's nothing wrong with the Volvo, by the way. The only thing wrong with them is they never wear out. They got the original Volvo were pulled by horses. The horses died, so those guys are immobile. Everything after that is still on the streets. It's a great car. It's the national car of either Sweden or Denmark. And their national pastime of course, as we know, is suicide, is jumping off of cliffs like lemmings, so how wrong can they be? Having issued that disclaimer, I'd just like to say how glad I am to be back with you today. I want to talk about plot. And we'll talk about a couple of plays of mine and how I structure a plot, and I like to use a board like this. I'm always surrounded by a bunch of corkboards in my offices that either put up a sheet of butcher paper or else index cards, that all say scene one, blah blah, scene two, blah blah, scene three, so I can look and see if the progression makes sense. Because sometimes it's much easier to see if the progression makes sense than to see if the scenes make sense. Because you get involved in the scenes and the scenes might be wonderful and you work so hard and them, they say such cool stuff. You have to reduce the scene to an incident-- I get out of the stuck elevator. And put that-- at least, I do, on the board. When the progression makes sense, then the play makes sense. And I'd also like to say about plotting, that we all know about plotting. We all do it naturally. Plotting to get Sally and Susie together. Plotting to get Aunt Mabel to leave me the silverware. Plotting to get my bad coworker kicked off. Plotting a surprise party. It's all plotting. We say OK, I know where I want to get. What do I have to do...

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.

Excellent insights, instruction and humor. Mr. Mamet shares what has worked and not worked for him during his career. He advises us how to take chances, avoid laziness and never be afraid to create.

In each lesson David left me with something to think about, consider, study and carry with me throughout my journey as a writer. I did not have some great epiphany but came away with little bits and pieces that are far more valuable then some "great whole".

It helped me look at playwriting with better sight and to look at writing with a whole new spectrum.

The story structure and outline. Also, I'm more familiar with biblical passages. Thank you, David


Jared B.

Really like the idea of thinking of scenes as problems that need to be fixed or passed on the hero's way to their overall objective. If a scene doesn't move in someway towards the end of your line then why is it there?

Phil A.

He had me going at the beginning there, so much so I just had to look up photos of him. To quote Mark Twain, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." Chapeau David!

Nick F.

Somehow when we use the word "plot" it just freaks us out and makes us freeze up. Why can't we just say "a sequence of events that tell a story?" I can do that. A plot? Not so much.

Leonidas M.

"The difference between a vacation and an adventure is, on a vacation you always wish you were home"

Robert G.

"...and here's Los Angeles, the cultural capital of - Los Angeles County..." Hilarious.

A fellow student

Great stuff! MASTERCLASS team - can we please have a "Previous Lesson" button at the top? It's really clunky to navigate to the previous lesson right now.

Bahman M.

Some good stuff, but man oh man -- heavy handed & repetitive stating the obvious.

Donna S.

I love his example of driving from point A, (New York City) to point B. (Los Angeles) You may not be able to take the direct route due to all the incidents that take place, but you're still going from A to B. That is a great way to illustrate structuring the plot.


I love this. So clear and simple. The causal connection from one scene to the next that allows the hero to move from point A to B. You always need to have the destination in mind, as you swerve around or over obstacles.

David M.

This is great. All the points are close to the bone. In the worst of times, I've written what I'm good at, avoiding what is harder. David Mamet's no-nonsense approach focuses on what you need to do to get the job done. Gold.