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.

I appreciate the insights he chose to share for a start. I think his intensity and focus could help me understand how to harness mine.

This was a truly inspirational and informative class. It was extremely entertaining as well. I give it my highest recommendation.

I liked his blue-collar attitude to the craft of writing and how to keep things simple and exciting in the writing process. This will be a huge help in my future stuff and as I train others in crafting stories.

I loved this class! I love David's way of illustrating the points he is trying to make. I love toward the end of the class how he says not to start a sentence with "I wish..." He said instead to start with "I will..." or "I intend to..." Because if you say "I wish..." you won't do it. He is an awesome instructor!


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.


This is what I needed to hear! It all makes sense now. Thank you, David Mamet!

Franc C.

David Mamet is a master storyteller and I find it useful when he cites Aristotle: "A play is the structure of the incidents."

Primwatee G.

I love his style. He's very funny, yet gets his points across. His explanations are very clear and makes perfect sense to me. He's an excellent teacher and I'm learning a tremendous amount from him. I love the way he has broken down the structure of a plot and how to connect them to make a story work.

Tom D.

Contrary to what a student writes below, David is an excellent teacher. His course, from my observation, focuses on “why” and not on “how”. With the former we learn purpose which we can then apply with our own creativity and style. At the very beginning David told us WHY we write drama - we do so to entertain. Why a plot? So we can get from the beginning to the end. Why incidents? So the story is interesting. Going beyond the HOW and teaching the WHY David has helped us to become better writers because we have a better understanding of the craft. Thank you David.

Pato C.

David, what's up with that map? Baja California is still part of México, not part of the United States... Not yet anyway. And BTW, I didn't know you had tattoos; humanity won't be able to visit your grave in a nice Jewish cemetery. Kidding aside, SO MANY amazing and wonderful useful points. Your experience is pure-gold, thanks for sharing it. Love, -Pato.