Lessons from David Mamet

Posted on Posted in Romantic Fiction Craft

I recently came across the 7 Story Rules or Principles stated by screenwriter David Mamet to his team of script writers when he was working on the TV crime show – The Unit.

They serve to show, yet again, that writers are writers are writers, no matter what the form – because we are all in the business of serving readers.

Here is a summary of the first TWO key points for me, but it is worth reading the whole thing:

1. INFORMATION IS NOT DRAMA.

THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL

2. ASK THREE QUESTIONS

WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM AND THEIR ANSWERS WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

I think they can totally be applied to creative fiction in the same way. Don’t you?


 

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