What Kind of Day It Has Been – Aaron Sorkin and Writing

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Welcome back my fellow randomners! Not a word but I have decided to make it a word. Hey, if ‘LOL’ is allowed in the dictionary then randomners can be too. Glad we got that sorted. Moving onto today’s random topic.

Aaron Sorkin

Just writing about him might be controversial. Almost everyone on the internet (professional and amateur) has an opinion about his works. Before we go any further, let me give some background on who Aaron Sorkin is as a person (this will be general since he has been active in the entertainment industry for a very long time).

Aaron Sorkin is a writer that has written plays, television, and movies. He is famous for his quick walk/talks (which he has made fun of himself on 30 Rock), and characters that tend to have the same name, and many of the shows have the same episode titles. He has written ‘A Few Good Men,’ ‘The West Wing,’ ‘The American President,’ ‘Sports Night,’ The Social Network’, and ‘Newsroom’ (just to name a few).

There is a severe hatred of his work. There is an extreme love of his work.

Where do I land? What is the point of this piece of writing?

Aaron Sorkin as a writer has inspired me in more ways than even I could imagine. My endgame is not to praise him or bring him down. This piece is about how much his television shows, plays, and movies have affected the way I write.

Let me start at the beginning. It starts on a channel called Comedy Central.

I was bored one snow day. My big activity for the day was to channel surf. I was clicking by so fast I always went by what was on Comedy Central. A simple laugh track (we will get to that) and two guys having a quick conversation about pants.

I’m talking about Sports Night. My first taste of the Aaron Sorkin and his brand of comedy (more on that show tomorrow). I moved to The West Wing, which is one of the best-written television shows ever to exist. Period. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip appeared in my life when I came to a trailer, and I was on a Matthew Perry kick. Great show but had terrible timing. I look at it as a miniseries. The Newsroom brought a lot of ire from critics, but I enjoyed seeing these newsroom idiots run around and try to be the best they could be.

So, how did any of this affect how I write?

I learned that characters needed to be flawed. If you go through every show, Aaron Sorkin ever wrote a few quirks show up all the time. One of my favorites? Every character is flawed in some way. His characters may be flawed morally. Some are more superficially flawed. Either way, every character we as an audience meet is flawed.

I grew up in a world where authors made characters without fault, and it must be the other people who are the problem, not the main character. Watching Aaron Sorkin shows it does not matter what your characters position is in the story. The characters will have faults.  Having faults is not a death sentence.

For instance, Toby from The West Wing had a tendency to overreact to situations. Piss him off enough or hurt someone he loves, he is coming for you in his own way. However, he was an effective communicator. In The Newsroom, Mac always had trouble with technology, but she was smart and knew how to run a newsroom successfully even with a difficult headliner.

Having faults is ok. Those flaws can exist and should. Without fault, how can anyone connect to a character?

I learned that you should hold your audience to a higher standard. You can see this in the way Aaron Sorkin writes. No one is too stupid or too smart to understand and relate to his characters. Something I remember about some of the books or screenplays I read was how they described something or the way a character talked to others or even the audience. Some treated the audience as if they were stupid or who they are as a person is stupid. I never got that from an Aaron Sorkin script. The characters, the setting, and situation never talked down to an audience. The writing showed that an audience does not need something dumbed down to understand it. Treat the audience with respect. Always treat the audience with respect and they will respond.

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I learned a lot about writing from reading and watching Aaron Sorkin. I think without him or his shows in my life I would be missing a small piece of good entertainment and lessons in writing. He isn’t my only inspiration, but he was a big one in my life. I know it is cool to hate him right now (you may have excellent reasons to in same cases) but I think we can all agree that the man knows how to write great dialogue and characters.

Tomorrow I will be talking about Sports Night. An Aaron Sorkin show that no one talks about or cares about. I think it is time people gave it some attention.

Until next time, the randomness has ended. I hope you enjoyed.

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