Arts & Entertainment, Writing

The West Wing Writers' Room: Part 7

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 13:01 min

As Aaron says, "You don't have to assault the audience with plot." The writers discuss the value of pacing—plus the limits of reality within fiction.

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Topics include: Virtual writers' room


What is your idea? Basically, our is pretty similar, actually. Just the person who is talking to President Bartlet is the only thing that's different. So my idea was for Leo to go check in on President Bartlet, and there was some question of whether or not he would be briefing the president still on a day-to-day basis, or whether or not he would be able to deliver that information, or whether something would be withheld because of the acting president's orders. That is interesting and that's something-- I'm sorry, did I interrupt you? I was just going to finish that thought-- Go ahead. No, it's OK-- and say that it would probably be President Bartlet's natural instinct to kind of give Leo orders or to find out more information about whatever it is, but he wouldn't be able to, and Leo would remind him. So it's sort of a call back to the end of 25. That's what we're looking for. I'll add my thought to that in a second. Let's hear your ideas. Kind of similar, only I thought it might be something that we haven't really flexed a lot is-- Bartlet knows Toby's had twins, but that's a new development at the end of 25. They haven't really talked about it. And there's this interesting parallel between Toby having gained children, and Bartlet having potentially lost a child. Sure. And that's a conversation that I think could happen because Bartlet-- maybe to distract himself, maybe because he knows how much it means to Toby-- asks him about his kids. He doesn't really know that much about them. He doesn't. Neither does Toby, for that matter. He just met them a couple of hours ago. I feel like the scene you're talking about is a good scene that has to come later. That right now we are still in the first hours of a really unthinkable crisis, and the kind of early-on talk happened in the Oval Office at the end of 25 in a moment where they're waiting. They're just waiting. Bartlet congratulates Toby and-- I can't remember what exactly what the setup line is, but Bartlet's asked Toby, what do you know now that you didn't know before? Toby said, babies come with hats. And then Bartlet says, slap a-- can't remember what they're called. Those-- Ankle bracelets. Bracelets on her right now and don't take it off. Here's what I know, and again it'll be helpful when we bring in the military, and intelligence, and Secret Service consultants. But here's what I do know-- ex presidents are entitled to-- every morning the president receives an intelligence briefing from the CIA. All the scary stuff that none of us know about. We know about one of them because it became famous. The PDB-- the President's Daily Brief-- that said, "bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States." Presidents get that every morning. Ex-presidents are entitled to get that intelligence briefing, as well. And some of them take it. Ex-presidents want to kind ...

About the Instructor

Aaron Sorkin wrote his first movie on cocktail napkins. Those napkins turned into A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson. Now, the Academy Award-winning writer of The West Wing and The Social Network is teaching screenwriting. In this class, you’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you’ll write screenplays that capture your audience’s attention.

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Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.

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