David Mamet’s Rules For Writers – What Do You Think? Exposition & Clarity Vs Drama in Screenwriting

The next are excerpts from a memo from screenwriting nice David Mamet to the writers of his Emmy-nominated sequence The Unit. It is superb how even skilled writers nonetheless must be reminded of the basic ideas of writing. I notably admire the best way Mamet differentiates between the producer’s (typically misguided) want to make issues clear with “data” and the author’s must create drama.

As Mamet places it: (Please excuse his capital letters. He is an excitable man!)”Any dickhead with a bluesuit will be (and is) taught to say “make it clearer”, and “i need to know extra about him”.

Whenever you’ve made it so clear that even this bluesuited penguin is blissful, each you and she or he can be out of a job.”

That is as a result of, as Mamet so brilliantly factors out, no one watches a film for exposition. They watch a film for an expertise. And creating that have is all about character.

Put all of your deal with caring for your viewers, and regardless of all of your exhausting work, they’re going to be snoozing of their seats.

Focus in your character, and your viewers will comply with you wherever. Meaning creating a personality who needs one thing desperately, tries to get it towards overwhelming odds, and in so doing undergoes a journey that can without end change his or her life.

That is what Mamet calls drama. Once more, in his phrases:

Query: what’s drama? Drama, once more, is the search of the hero to beat these issues which forestall him from reaching a particular, acute purpose.

So: we, the writers, should ask ourselves of each scene these three questions.




The solutions to those questions are litmus paper. Apply them, and their reply will inform you if the scene is dramatic or not.

Mamet follows up with a “crock of shit” record of vital guidelines for searching for out and destroying non-dramatic scenes. As all of you realize, I am suspicious of any guidelines in terms of writing. However these are positively value contemplating. Listed here are a number of the highlights:

Any time two characters are speaking a couple of third, the scene is a crock of shit.

Any time any character is saying to a different “as you realize”, that’s, telling one other character what you, the author, want the viewers to know, the scene is a crock of shit.

Should you faux the characters cant converse, and write a silent film, you’ll be writing nice drama.

Should you deprive your self of the crutch of narration, exposition,certainly, of speech. You can be solid to work in a brand new medium – telling the story in photos (often known as screenwriting)

Take a look at the scene and ask your self “is it dramatic? Is it important? Does it advance the plot? Reply honestly. If the reply is “no” write it once more or throw it out.

After all, like several guidelines, these too have exceptions. Watch the series opening of Inglourious Basterds for instance, and inform me if that scene would have been higher if it had been written like a silent film.

Or take the fully non-essential “McLovin’ and the cops” sequences out of Superbad and see when you nonetheless need to watch the film.

I feel what distinguishes these exceptions is that although they violate lots of the guidelines of Mamet’s memo, they’re true to the three ideas that create drama: a personality pursuing one thing she or he desperately needs, towards large odds, and in a method that can without end change his or her life.

And naturally it does not damage when you’re humorous.

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