Aaron Sorkin Deconstructs One Of His Own Scenes To Teach You How To Write A Long Speech

As we head towards the screening of Aaron Sorkin and HBO’s The Newsroom, the PR campaign is kicking up a notch. One nice promotion is a piece by Sorkin on how, and why, he writes extended speeches.

His explanation uses an extended musical metaphor, from:

A song in a musical works best when a character has to sing— when words won’t do the trick anymore. The same idea applies to a long speech in a play or a movie or on television. You want to force the character out of a conversational pattern.


To resolve a melody, you have to end on either the tonic or the dominant. (Try humming “Mary Had a Little Lamb” right now, but leave off “snow.” You’ll feel like you need to sneeze.)

…and just a little beyond.

And it’s true, there’s a rhythm to be observed and timbre to be struck.

Read the piece at GQ, but watch some of the scene under discussion in this trailer for the show. How the dialogue is being delivered by Jeff Daniels is certainly important, but the actor’s decisions are built upon, and action very close to, the foundations built and explained by Sorkin.

The Newsroom kicks off this Sunday night on HBO. The UK run kicks off on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday July 10th.