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David Mamet’s Letter to The Unit

Exposition, exposition, exposition.

Sometimes, when you’re sitting alone in a room trying to tell a story you start to wonder “is this making sense to anyone else but me?” A dangerous temptation (which I succumb to all the time) is to over-explain your character’s feelings and motivations. This results in “on-the-nose” dialogue, meaning dialogue that spells everything out, leaving no room for subtext or reader interaction.

Recently, Stephen R. Bissette shared this letter David Mamet wrote to the writing staff of The Unit with me and my fellow students at The Center for Cartoon Studies. It’s a good reminder that though exposition is important, it’s not the most important element in the scene. If you have inspired the reader to read the next page, you’ve done your job well.

I hope you enjoy!

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