Category Archives: David Mamet Masterclass

Structuring your plot cut away what doesn’t belong

Lesson 11 Case Study: Structuring the Plot

I normally take the first few sentences that, David Mamet says at the start of his video lessons. Today, I just listened and used one from the center of the video and one at the end.  I laughed at each one.

David loves structure. I have a thing for disorganization.  I wondered how I could come together with Davids teachings.   I can. He tells us to see the structure at the start, watch it move through the middle the end, Act 1 -Act 2- Act 3.  Watch for change.  See the weight of the knife. How does it change?

Structure is very important, I mean I think a lot about structure. And I think about our greatest western philosopher. I think a lot of you guys have already beat me to the punch, when I say of course it was, Daffy Duck. Because Daffy Duck asks the essential question of philosophy which is “Say what’s going on here, anyways”


People said, Michelangelo’s statue of David, Right, pretty cute. And they say, my God how did you do that? He said, I just looked at this block of marble and I cut away everything that wasn’t David. And so, I grew up like everyone else thinking my God how brilliant. Until I realized, that what he was really saying, was buzz off.”

So, what you gonna do with that knife, Mamet?

10 Structuring the Plot (Cont’d)

“So, What’s my objective? Aristotle says that is the only thing that matters. What is the objective of the hero, to get from point A to point B; the scenes are the incidents and each indents builds up into a three-act structure. Okay, so the first Act structure is where my ideas run out Act 1. The second Act I don’t remember that- I am to drain the swamp when I am up to my toosh in alligators. ……”

…act I act 2 act 3 Its all about a knife,….same knife but the knife has a different weight in each act…

I watched this lesson three times. I am enjoying David Mamet’s enthusiasm as he teaches about plotting.

Today is the last day in January. I posted something each day so my GOAL has been completed…Hmmm,  on to February, 2018 and a new twenty-eight-day GOAL.

Have you seen Lesson 9 David Mamet Structuring the Plot

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“I am covered in tats and my left arm is Admire Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay, 1895. And my right arm, and I think I am the only guy who has this, you tell me, is the final scene from Kramer vs. Kramer. And on my chest is the first chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey. But it’s reversed so, I can read it when I m shaving. And on my back, it’s good night moon..”

I listened to this video three times, and I will listen again. I love how David Mamet talks. He starts out talking about how he normally dresses and his tats. I have a tattoo on my right arm, ‘This Living Hand’ by John Keats. I had asked for it to be put on upside down so I could read it.  I was talked out of that placement…Hmmm, maybe  next tat.

Back to David Mamet and Lesson 9.

He tells us:  he uses corkboards and tacks on index cards or butcher paper and draws out where the story is supposed to go. He will easily ‘see’ if his story is working out.  He will be able to see if the progression makes sense: from  scene 1, to scene 2, to scene 3, By laying them out he can see if the progression makes sense.

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This will reduce his story to an incident. Example:  I walk up the stairs. Or I sat down at a table;  put that on the board.  You can see if your story is staying in line with where it is supposed to go.

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Need more information on David Mamet’s Masterclass dot com. Click on his name, in the top left sidebar.

Plotting your story is hard work

Lesson 8 David Mamet Plot

“Plot is all that there is. And that’s all that there is. And I say the perfect example is the joke. Right! There’s nothing in the joke that doesn’t not tend towards the punch line. Anything in the joke that does not tend toward the punchline kills the joke. And if you talk to comedy writers in LA, they have a saying among themselves what do you do all week? They are shaving syllables. They are taking out extra syllables “


“Everything in the joke tends towards the punch line. That’s what a plot is if it doesn’t tend towards the punchline take it out”

Listening to David Mamet on plotting is what makes these  MasterClasses worth their salt.

He tells us that plotting is something you learn, by creating plotlines.  And that each new piece, screenplay,  story, will need a new plotline.

Nothing generic here.  Over the years I have searched out, ‘how to write a plotline’ and found so many different answers.  David Mamet is right up front telling us that plotting is hard.  And you need a new one to fit each new project. So, shortcuts are out the window.

When you start listing out your plot, if there is anything that you wrote down, ‘that doesn’t take your original goal to the end’ then take it out.

Listening to David Mamet is worth the price of this course. I am only on video eight (8)   of twenty-six (26) and I have learned something from each of the  (8) classes.  If you would like to check out the site: click on his name in the top left sidebar.

Or just read my other posts on David Mamet classes.

Lesson 6

Masterclass dot com Lesson 7 Character, David Mamet

“All there is- is the things that people say. Why do they say them? To get something from each other.  Guy A wants to get something from girl B.   Girl B wants to get something from guy A.   That’s why they talk. The rhythm of their speeches is a certain kind of poetry, which structured so if each one of them is pursuing a specific goal, you might even call it a play.” 


Have your character use the jargon of his or her profession.




This lesson had me a little confused with ‘not’ manipulating change in the character, it could be because I was multitasking; listening to the video, petting my cat, trying to remove the cat hair off my computer and watching  Captain Kirk.  My thoughts, I may be wrong, but what I got was -let your character evolve don’t force it.

At one point he said,( And I am paraphrasing here)  that when you create your characters, create a man or woman, don’t  color them in. You want your readers to imagine themselves as that character. You will lose that connection if you become too specific at the beginning.

Lesson 6 David Mamet’s Story Ideas


David Mamet lesson #6 Story Ideas

David Mamet’s

“I always used to tell my kids- they’d say -‘ dad where’d you get your ideas,  ‘I’d say, there’s this little Mexican guy in Encino, Ok and he drives in on weekends and sells them off the back of a truck’ we all have ideas all the time. Our minds, Swinburne, I believe 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 that said, he’s not your real father..”

David Mamet’s

David Mamet used his life in Chicago. What can you use from your life? Your life is different, unique with your own experiences.   

David Mamet’s

He admits he ‘wrote about the ‘underbelly’ of life’. His life in Chicago.


David Mamet’s


He isn’t interested in themes.  He is interested in telling a story. He said,  “no one ever left a great play humming a theme”

He said, “a good writer kept what a bad writer threw out”

“If it doesn’t make sense- work it though,-and see where it leads you”

He said that writing is like a dream, pick out in that dream what doesn’t belong. Then,  focus on that thing that wasn’t supposed to be there.

I found this interesting PDF : Notes from a David Mamet workshop

If you are interested in David Mamet’s Masterclass click here.

Lesson #5 Dramatic rules David Mamet

Lesson #5 Dramatic rules (con’d) this video is 8:20 (eight minutes and twenty-seconds)

David Mamet starts this fifth video, the second on Dramatic rules with this line.


“The rules to me are very, very simple. …”

That sentence is a declarative sentence that drew me in, I wanted to know those rules.

  1. Tell the story
  2. Start at the beginning
  3. Go until you get to the end
  4. Don’t stop
  5. Be interesting
  6. Make sure everything is on the line

There was another part of this video where David Mamet mentions, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse a pamphlet of tips for playwriting. He said that we could find that pamphlet online. I am searching out the pamphlet I haven’t found it yet. Here are a couple of the rules that David talks about.

  1. Save your biggest laugh for the end of the second act
  2. At beginning of the second act remind the audience who they love and who hate
  3. Stop giving your best lines to the secondary characters

If you are interested in this course, maybe just curious here is the link to, or you can click on David Mamet at the top left sidebar.

David Mamet’s  Masterclass lesson Point A to Point B

David Mamet Masterclass

David Mamet’s  Masterclass lesson #4 Dramatic Rules

I watched this video, three times before I started taking notes.

Why so many times?

Answer: Because it was that good!

This lesson is –WOW! And I am not exaggerating. I am only on the fourth video and I have taken away something from each of those four videos. In Lesson #3 Mamet talked about how humans have two inclinations, ‘good inclination’—yetzer ha-tov—the ‘evil inclination’—yetzer ha-ra. I have been reading about these inclinations. To me, they are like a  tiny Devil on one shoulder and a tiny Angel on the other.

This video lesson #4 David Mamet is sitting at his desk looking at the camera,  and his first words are:

“Your job is to tell a story. A story a story has a hero, and he or she wants ‘one’ thing and the story begins when something precipitates the event.

From this point, some -not all-  of what he is saying  I have heard or read before.  But never in the way that David Mamet delivers it.
He points us to read, Aristotle Poetics, you can find it HERE.


David Mamet’s delivery, the way he imparts the information, is impressive. This video only lasted eleven minutes and forty-six seconds. I wanted more. I wanted to jump right into the next video lesson. I had to pull myself back. I had this Blog post to put together and I wanted to read Aristotle’s Poetics, first before jumping feet first into lesson #5

A little of what I learned,  was that the audience /reader is the hero of the story.

The Hero’s Journey
“Every play has to have a beginning middle an end – Just like a joke.” ~David Mamet

Inspired by situations

Your hero needs to be inspired from the inside out.

Aristotle’s Unities

David Mamet’s

From Dr. Wheeler’s “UNITIES, THREE (also known as the “three dramatic unities. A good play, according to this doctrine, must have three traits.
The first is unity of action (realistic events following a single plotline and a limited number of characters encompassed by a sense of verisimilitude).
The second is unity of time, meaning that the events should be limited to the two or three hours it takes to view the play, or at most to a single day of twelve or twenty-four hours compressed into those two or three hours.
The third is unity of space, meaning the play must take place in a single setting or location.

*It is notable that Shakespeare often broke the three unities in his plays, which may explain why these rules later were never as dominant in England as they were in French and Italian Neoclassical drama.”

Keep the story simple.

David Mamet’s

You decide where will your story start, and where will it end.


Simple maybe or not, but it is a start.

Drama Happens When your characters try to Achieve Something

David Mamet: #3 Purpose of Drama (Cont”d)

Drama is also, just a form of myth. Myth is a poetic statement of an unverifiable reality. Like, myth is not false it’s just unverifiable. Like, for example, Jesus Christ died for our sins. It’s not false if you are a Christian, that’s the essence of your life. You just can’t point to it on a sheet piece of paper and say, see here. But its none the less true for that. so myth, again, is a statement of a truth that is unverifiable and so is drama, drama evolves us in the quest of a human being to achieve something.” ~David Mamet, Masterclass

“ Yes, I understand how at every step this human being was trying to achieve something and they underwent traumas I can’t even begin to imagine and they doubted themselves and they all wanted to quit every hero and heroine wants to quit…” ~David Mamet, Masterclass

I would love to write out every word David Mamet said in this lesson. I can’t.

The shortened version: “Drama is the stepchild of religion” and “humans are basically insane” and “all drama is the same as a joke the joke frees us from reason.”

What I took away is that I have been looking at ‘drama’ from the wrong end. I was looking at it as a teachable moment when all it really is…. the cause from the effect.

Think of when Lucy got a job in a candy factory and the conveyer belt started to run faster and faster.


Think of a time you over embellished at that family dinner or the time you caught a fish or how many steps you climbed when the elevator wasn’t working. That is drama, you’re telling a story. You are not trying to make a point, and just embellishing those three steps into a hundred or how big that fish really was, gives us the drama we so love to express.

I do wish I could tell you everything David Mamet talks about in this lesson # 03 Purpose of Drama (Cont’d)

If you are interested in checking out this course by Clicking HERE or click on ‘David Mamet’ in the upper left sidebar just above James Patterson.

Other posts different lesson for David Mamet’s Masterclass series

Teach Me, David Mamet You Are My Only Hope 

David Mamet’s 2nd video Purpose of Drama