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David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

Inspiration can be found in many places. For David Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo,’ it was during a poker game. Both as a 1975 play and a 1996 dramatic film, the logline could easily read ‘betrayal and bitterness collide when three losers devise a plan to rob a junk shop.’ As a Pulitzer Prize winner for Glengarry Ross, one of the tenets Mamet’s MasterCraft teaches students, is how to use life’s peculiar moments as the foundation for dramatic art. Chronicling events that occur in everyday life, make for good storytelling. Here you will learn his structure for drama, the subtleties of dialogue, and discover your unique voice so important in this cookie-cutter world. In lessons 2 and 3, Mamet discusses the purpose of drama and the importance of entertaining and not teaching. His belief that a writer’s job is to craft a story in simple terms, mirrors Aristotle’s teaching in Poetics.

As to be expected, lessons include Ideas for Storytelling, developing your Characters, the elements of Plot, Scenes, and the Writing Process. One of the most difficult writing lessons for newbies is, to show it not just say it. Learning how to minimize exposition and narration in your script is taught in lesson 15. Throughout his MasterCraft course of 26 lessons, Mamet references Glengarry Ross and American Buffalo at specific teaching points. Probably one of the most important take-aways most writers face from time to time, is how to overcome self- doubt. With a Pulitzer Prize to his long list of credits, he obviously knows how to do that as well as write compelling drama.

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