Right now I’m a little obsessed with watching West Wing–you know, that early-2000’s TV show that starred Martin Sheen as the President of the United States. I’ve always been inspired by TV and movies as well as books and WW is tripping those triggers left and right. Watching a show as a writer isn’t much different from reading a book as a writer; the medium is different, sure, but a lot of the same lessons can be learned. Here’s what I’ve picked up on so far:
1. Dialogue. Sorkin really kicks ass at this. All his characters have unique ways of speaking and personalities all their own. In the visual medium we don’t have internal dialogue to tell us about a character, so the actor and the verbal dialogue have to do that for us. Witty repartee is the norm for this show.
2. Tension. Sorkin has this in spades. It comes on several different levels: macro tension from, you know, world and American politics; micro tension when skirmishes between characters blow up on a daily basis; internal conflict (for example, when the press secretary wants to date a reporter but won’t allow herself). There’s also great conflict resolution on display. Yes, the characters fight and express their own opinions and sometimes go off the rails on each other, but in the end they’re all working together for a common goal.
3. Strong female characters. They are all over this show. I can’t think of a single female character that backs down from fight or agrees with someone just because the person they’re talking to is a man. The women are opinionated, feisty, intelligent, and driven individuals that also acknowledge that they want someone to kiss them. They are interesting and complex.