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I’m Not an Authority on the Subject, But I Can Write

I’m Not an Authority on the Subject, But I Can Write

Listening to Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing Aaron Sorkin and they’re talking about the scenes in The West Wing when two characters walk through the hallways of the White House and have incredibly intelligent conversations (or arguments or discussions) that were almost hard to believe that they actually happened because you wondered how two people could be so quick-witted, brilliant and even eloquent. It was called “The Walk and Talk” and they were a spectacle to behold.

Do you need to be the absolute authority?

Aaron Sorkin is saying that he’s not that quick witted or ridiculously intelligent and not at all eloquent, especially in person and on the spot, and that the beauty of his profession is that he doesn’t have to be–he has time to put it all together perfectly because he gets to write it all out exactly as he’d like the actors to do it.

He just creates characters. He loves to make them intelligent and well spoken, but he doesn’t pretend to be that himself. He’s getting some slack for his latest show The Newsrooom because his characters are so intelligent and (they’re saying) he’s not. He doesn’t see the problem. He’s not pretending to be his characters, he’s just creating them.

What if the writer just plays messenger?
So can I study a topic and then write about it as if I know what I’m talking about? I suppose it depends on what I’m trying to get across. Just passing along what I learned? Here’s another angle, maybe the experts can’t pass along the information so well because they’re not eloquent or well spoken. They have their knowledge, but they’re not going to able to share or spread it very well. Maybe that’s the gift of the writer: to get us the information in a way that we appreciate or can understand–or that will entertain or educate us.

Sorkin surrounds himself with experts who know the details and he just strings them together to make the story. Well, “just strings them together” and Bach just “strings together a few musical notes.” He does it, by the way, extremely well. I suppose, it’s what any writer does, but he just does it so well. He’s a master at creating characters that are experts: brilliant, well spoken, and awe-inspiring.

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