the unit

What genre fiction authors can learn from David Mamet

Posted on Posted in The Prolific Author

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

the unitImage Credit:imdb.com

It is worth reading just for the passion behind every word. TV shows fight for survival in a crowded market and he was determined that The Unit was going to be a winner and find an audience [ sound familiar?].

[ I should warn gentle readers that Mr Mamet does not shy from using profanity to get his point across. This was an in-team conversational style memo to close pals.]

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.

You can read the entire memo here: http://www.slashfilm.com/a-letter-from-david-mamet-to-the-writers-of-the-unit/

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?


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *