The West Wing. I'm a little late to the party (the series ended in 2006), but the fact that it's a current events political show from more than 10 years ago hasn't made the show any less addictive. And there's one person I want to thank for that: the show's creator and writer, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is well known as a master of dialogue (does "You can't handle the truth!" ring a bell?). He's so passionate about it, in fact, that he recently broke his nose while reading some of his own writing in the mirror.
While I plan to keep my nose in tact, I was wondering how I could take my
So I tried an exercise. Using a West Wing online script source, I tracked down a memorable exchange of dialogue:
DONNA: It turns out I'm not an American citizen, so Secret Service wanted me to talk to INS.And I put my characters in their place, using a situation from my WiP:
DONNA: I was born in Warroad, Minnesota, only I wasn't, 'cause INS just clarified the border, and it's now in Manitoba.
C.J.: You're not an American?
DONNA: Missed it by four miles.
AMY: You seem pretty calm about it.
DONNA: No, I'm very upset. I don't know the words to my national anthem. I've been throwing out Canadian pennies my whole life. I've been making fun of the Queen. We don't do that.
(The West Wing, Dead Irish Writers, Season 3, Ep. 16)
ROLLO: Turns out I haven't been running a legitimate business.It's not the same, but I understand a lot more about Sorkin's use of cadence and downplayed humor by mimicking it. And it was fun!
ROLLO: Propping surfboards up in the garage and hand-painting signs isn't recognized by the IRS.
ANNA: You going to prison?
ROLLO: White collar. Martha Stuart style.
RAINER: You seem pretty calm about it.
ROLLO: No, I'm worried. I've never lifted weights or played softball. And I don't understand what a Ponzi scheme is. There's no way I'll fit in.
So I took to the internet to see what other TV shows writers watch for dialogue. Below are some of the most-recommended shows, and resources for where to finds scripts of your favorite episodes. Read a few, pick out a few scenes, and try this exercise for yourself!