Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Writing Scenes: Part 1

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 09:20 min

A great story is more than just a collection of great scenes. Learn how to give your script momentum from one beat to the next.

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

Topics include: Purpose of a scene • Comedy scenes


If you're not moving the story forward, you're standing still, and you better be careful about how long you're standing still because the audience won't hang out with you as long as you want them to. So, you have to be moving the story forward. Stories involve motion, OK? If you're about to write something, you're thinking about this thing that you're going to write, and the idea is that you're going to start at point A. You're going to go due north and end at point B, which is somewhere north of point A. But in the writing process, somehow, you stop going north, and you start going north by northeast, and that kind of thing, and somehow point B ends up being due east and not due north. You haven't done anything wrong. As long as you have traveled from one place to another place, you're in good shape. Your next script, you can go due north. In that one, you'll probably end up due west, and then you've got a third script where you can go due north. But you have to travel. There has to be motion. So, at the end of a scene, we have to be at least one step further than we were before. [MUSIC PLAYING] You can do a few different things to launch yourself from the end of one scene into another scene. You can have the next scene be an answer to a question that you asked in the previous scene. In other words, you can-- let's just take, for the sake of argument, the Jets and the Sharks, OK? West Side Story, the Jets and the Sharks. If you have a scene with the Jets at their hangout, it's before the rumble-- this scene, by the way, does not exist. I'm now making up scenes for West Side Story. This scene does exist. They sing "Cool Boy." The Jets are in their hideout, their hangout, and they're nervous for the rumble, and they're talking about the rumble. And someone says, gee, I wonder what the Sharks are doing right now? Lights up on the Sharks, and you do that. There was a really well-made HBO movie. It was written by Danny Strong called Recount, about the 2000 Florida recount, and every scene ended with a launch into the next scene. I mean, it was beautifully constructed. Every scene would end with, well, there's no way that the Florida Supreme Court is going to rule this way. Cut to the Florida Supreme Court has ruled this way. That kind of thing. And you know, Danny connected that together like LEGO blocks. It was perfect. Depending how you're structuring the script, the end of a scene can be kind of a mini climax, and it should jettison you into the next scene. [MUSIC PLAYING] Not every scene has to end with a cymbal crash, you know? But a scene does have to end with you very happy to move on, that you want to keep going. As opposed to this feeling that you're spinning your wheels, when is this thing going to gain traction, what am I supposed to be looking for. I'm not going to name the show, but there's a show on tel...

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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