It takes an immense amount of discipline to resist spoon-feeding your audience. And it takes the same discipline to solve story problems by writing only dramatic scenes, not expositional scenes.

I read a post that talks about this topic this week on Go Into The Story, one of my current favorite blogs. Scott Myers collects an amazing variety of great screenwriting tips, scene analysis from famous films, and general wisdom from great screenwriters.

In this post, Scott re-posts a letter from David Mamet (if you don’t know him, you should find his stuff) that was written to his writing team for a television series Mamet was writing a few years ago. In the letter (there is some colorful language – it’s Mamet) he exhorts his writing team to be disciplined to write scenes and dialogue that serve to move the story forward dramatically.

It’s the bane of every writer to have to deal with collaborators (not the word Mamet uses to describe the network executives) who make suggestions. Often the suggestions (or orders) come in form of a request to make the story more clear, fill in blanks, flesh out characters, etc. And, too often, this results in dreaded exposition speeches by characters or the inane dialogue that spells out what the audience probably already knows and would enjoy discovering for themselves. Mamet colorfully outlines his criteria for what needs to happen in a scene for it to be worthy to remain in a script.


Author: TomK

I'm a husband, father, and adopted child of God. Vocationally, I'm a visual storyteller; that means filmmaker with all its possible variations as the world of visual storytelling grows and changes. I like to tell and pass on stories that help people find the place where their deep satisfaction meets the others' deep needs.

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