Mamet and his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, last year.(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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David Mamet Tells You How To Write

‘THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC’

by
Marc Tracy
March 24, 2010
Mamet and his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, last year.(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

If you harbor dreams of one day writing television shows, or perhaps just watching them, then your official lunch-break reading is David Mamet’s advice to the writers of the show he created, the canceled CBS drama The Unit. It’s tough, hypercritical, and of course profane, but also fair, not un-admiring, and just plain brilliant. Did I mention that Mamet also wrote The Wicked Son, a Nextbook Press book?

One highlight (his bold and all-caps):

ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.



ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.



DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

But, really, read the whole thing.

And, sure, why not:

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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