Not everyone is a fan of David Mamet but one would be hard-pressed to deny his commitment to dramatic writing as an art form. Someone from his TV show "The Unit" leaked a memo that he wrote to the writing staff and I've always found it inspiring.
I trimmed out about 30% of the memo that spoke only to TV writing and the challenge of satisfying the "Penguins in the Blue Suits" (i.e. network execs). The rest is pure gold. - Jim C
ON DRAMATIC WRITING – from DAVID MAMET
QUESTION: WHAT IS DRAMA?
DRAMA IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE 3 QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON'T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.
THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE - THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE. ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.
ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.
START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.
I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF "IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?
ANSWER TRUTHFULLY. IF THE ANSWER IS "NO" WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU'VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.
LOVE, DAVE MAMET
(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT Questions OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.
Laphillyboy. That's a sizable chunk of copyrighted material. This puts the owner in jeopardy. The article is interesting. Thanks for posting. We'll see if Paddy or Paul are concerned about it. Nice to see you participate. Although I was surprised to hear Mr. Mamet knew how to write less-studied fair.
Edd wrote: Laphillyboy. That's a sizable chunk of copyrighted material. This puts the owner in jeopardy. The article is interesting. Thanks for posting. We'll see if Paddy or Paul are concerned about it. Nice to see you participate. Although I was surprised to hear Mr. Mamet knew how to write less-studied fair.
Apparently Mr. Mamet's taste and range is fairly broad. His most recent feature film was a Mixed-martial arts kickboxing film. Whodathunkit?