A Valuable Lesson I Learned From Aaron Sorkin

We have all heard the name of screenwriter extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin. But what makes his fiction so unique?

Aaron Sorkin’s fiction has force behind it. His characters speak with conviction and strength. The drama comes from ideas clashing head to head. But, how does he consistently create charismatic and hypnotic characters capable of great feats, yet so terribly human? Where’s this strength coming from?

After watching most of his fiction, you might be inclined to believe that all of his talents rest on they way his characters speak; on their wit. But you’d be wrong, it’s not the fact that his characters speak fast while walking down corridors, it’s not the speeches they utter, nor how smart they sound. What makes Sorkin special is that he has something to say. That his characters have something to say. That they are both bursting with intention.

You can agree or disagree with him, but you can never deny that he believes with all his heart what he’s putting on the screen in front of you.

Hemingway said:

“It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.”

And from Sorkin’s fiction, I get that feeling. He’s pouring all his hopes and fears into the page, an essay made into a drama. His concerns turned into courtroom conflicts.

Photo by Merrick Morton — © 2010 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.

His characters are compelling because they burn bright with conviction and intention. They have a clear and specific goal. To me, these characters mirror the passion from where they came from. There’s strong belief in what they say because there’s so much passion bursting out of the hand that wrote them.

Sorkin says about characters:

“It all boils down to intention and obstacles. Somebody wants something; something’s standing in their way of getting it.”

This direct approach to character makes them perfect conduits to the force behind them. But one of the great things he manages to do is showing us what he feels about a certain subject, without sounding preachy or condescending.

Sorkin achieves this through understanding; empathy is one of his greatest tools.

“You really want to write them like they’re making their case to God about why they should be allowed into heaven.”

Sorkin connects with the character in his story. This makes both antagonist and protagonist as strong as they can possibly be. And what happens when and immovable object clashes against an unstoppable force?

Magic happens.

Sorkin wrote A FEW GOOD MEN on napkins while bartending in New York; you can only write like that if you need to get it out of your system then and there. The same conviction that made him write while on the job comes through his characters. It is explosive, honest, and unique.

Aaron Sorkin taught me that having something to say is really important, maybe the most important thing there is. The fire that got you to write should be at the center of everything the character does, it should be the fuel of your story.


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