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Film & TV

Writing Scenes: Part 1

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 9:18 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.

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


Your script starts here.

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.



Reviews

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

Aaron's a master. Plain and simple. Relatable, brilliant and practical wisdom for artistic craftspeople

This class has definitely opened my eyes up to so many aspects of screenwriting that I wasn't fully aware of; I'm definitely going to be rewriting my recent feature spec script with a completely new perspective.

This class inspired me to develop a voice and style of my own—and to trust where my writing takes me.

It has helped me to structure the story more clearly.


Comments

Casie

Quick update, you should now be able to access the full class - so sorry for that inconvenience!

Marc C.

Hello Everyone. My name is Marc Calixte, and I am a screenwriter! (BTW: I briefly stood up after I typed that as if this were one of "those" meetings). I am three-days old as a Masterclass member and binged most of yesterday on this Aaron Sorkin lesson. My question for this group is that I watched three (3) Group Workshops yesterday and returned today to continue with them as well as the rest of the lessons, but I can't find the workshops listed on the "View All Lessons" Tab. Am i doing something wrong? Can someone point me in the right direction? Thanks in advance for any responses and I look forward to chatting, sharing and learning from you all.

Tony A.

Are there other lessons between "Rules of Story" and "Writing Scenes: Part 1"? In the title sequence for "Rules of Story", we see "9" typed on the paper (and the previous lessons were consistent with this numbering), but in the title sequence for "Writing Scenes: Part 1", we see "17". Is anyone else seeing Sorkin lessons on here that are numbered "10" through "16" in the title sequence?

Matthew P.

Now I really wanna know what show he's talking about! I'm betting it's Westworld

Cynthia

I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed the table reads and discussions. That was interesting and I'd love to see an additional module for this class down the road that would bring we students MORE of this type of learning. I'd also love to hear all 10 pages...to get a sense of what needs to happen in those first pages: For 30-minute, 60-minute and Feature-length projects. These writers were really good...how fortunate they were to be selected to participate in this hands-on way with Mr. Sorkin. Also makes me feel in good company as a long-time actor turned writer eight years ago! Good stuff. Thank you.

Melissa H.

I love that his default position IS writer's block and that he isn't the type of writer that sits down at 9 am and writes so many pages before lunch.

Śmigły .

I've experienced the "change in destination" as I've written a scene. It was almost like using one of those "mapping" programs online. I know where I want to start. I know where I want to end. It's just that the route to get there isn't the one I thought it would be.

Jess

Hi everyone! Message from the MC Community team -- make sure you join Aaron Sorkin's Class Community! There you can discuss writing techniques and other class material, network with other students, trade tips and reviews, and stay up to date on class contests & activities. Link here: https://community.masterclass.com/c/film-tv/as-workbook Also, FYI! We recently launched a contest to win 2 tix to Sorkin's latest screenplay adaptation on Broadway, To Kill A Mockingbird. Learn more and enter here: https://community.masterclass.com/t/contest-win-tix-to-aaron-sorkin-s-latest-broadway-show-to-kill-a-mockingbird/35249 Contest closes this Sunday, Nov 24 at 10pm PT. Can't wait to see your submissions!

Tara Jade B.

I thought hearing Aaron talking about scenes was great. I recently got a feedback from a developmental editor (this is for a novel, not screenplay) and the editor was confused with ending of my chapters because "they seemed like episode endings with a little cliffhanger". She wants to be able to put the book down between chapters. But I don't :) I want readers to continue from one chapter til the next until the end of the book. So I was really happy to hear Aaron insist on ending of a scene (often a chapter in a novel) where it leads to the next one and people want to know more. Thank you!

Paras M.

Poorly prepared training. Talking in exposition, doesn't really help in the thinking or writing process.