Arts & Entertainment, Writing

The West Wing Writers' Room: Part 8

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 04:11 min

Aaron and the students wrap up the virtual writers' room and discuss lessons learned.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Virtual writers' room


To write the rest of the show, what we need is specificity. OK? Specificity when you're writing-- I mean when you're actually writing, when you're writing dialogue, is hugely important. For instance, something that I was thinking when we were talking about this scene over in the residence with Bartlett and Abby, and we were talking about what's the FBI doing, Abby wouldn't say, well, call the FBI director. She'd say, well, call Bob. Right? That kind of specificity is hugely important. The specificity that we'd need to do the rest of the show is we're talking about, right now, just some vague-- we're talking about the illusion of a threat, not the real thing, but the illusion that they're trying to create. We're talking in the vaguest possible terms. We would need to start getting specific about that. How is it unfolding over the course of hours? What exactly is being done? We're now past the time when Clark Gregg and Anna Deveare Smith can just stand around theorizing. Something has to be going on. They have to be following clues. And we need to get specific about that. We also want it-- we're desperate for the appearance of reality. And with a plot like this, it's very easy to slide off into fantasy of the world coming to an end, that kind of thing. What's going to help us with the appearance of reality is getting people in who know what they're doing. So what we would do is we would obviously-- either have on a speakerphone the guy who's our Secret Service consultant-- we would have various expert consultants in the room or on the phone. And we would tell them, here's what's happened. OK? What do you do now? And we'd ask them a ton of questions-- all the questions that we can think of. Tell us what can go wrong. What's the wrong thing to do? What can our people argue about? And we would want to know, for a show like this, answers about the military, about the FBI. We would want to know, in terms of the press and the public, how do you deal with this? What's CJ's job in this situation? If we want to bring Tim Busfield, Danny Concannon back in, what he's doing-- we would remind them about Shareef. And we would get all these real answers. And that is what would make it seem real to everybody. And what we would do a lot of is struggle. OK? We would do a lot of banging our head against the wall. We would do a lot of looking at each other around this table, and then retreating back to our own offices to think there, going home at night, coming back in with ideas. Days would go by with no movement at all. Panic would start to set in, because this thing starts shooting on X day, and there's an even harder deadline than that. There's an air date for this episode that hasn't been written yet. And in this particular case, we've promised the audience a lot. Something big has happened. We've aske...

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Aaron Sorkin

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

Explore the Class
Sign Up