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Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them Paperback – 3 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141978104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141978109
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Brimmingly insightful ... fresh, enlightening and accessible ... a gripping read from beginning to end (Robert Collins Sunday Times)

Terrifyingly clever ... Packed with intelligent argument (Evening Standard)

So detailed and engaging is his methodology that any consumer of books, plays, TV or films will find the experience enhanced; and scriptwriters themselves will find useful guidance - because when you know the why, the how is natural (Robert Epstein Independent on Sunday)

This is a marvellous analysis of screenwriting and, with any luck, should help a great many people achieve their dreams (Julian Fellowes, writer/creator of Downton Abbey)

Another book on screenwriting! Oh, how I wanted to hate it! I didn't. I loved it. Much of it was fresh to me. And always interesting, always intelligent and, for a writer, always rewarding (Jimmy McGovern, screenwriter, The Street and The Accused)

In an industry full of so called script gurus and snake oil salesmen, at last there's a book about story that treats writers like grown ups. This isn't about providing us with an ABC of story or telling us how to write a script by numbers. It's an intelligent evaluation into the very nature of storytelling and is the best book on the subject I've read. Quite brilliant (Tony Jordan, screenwriter, Life on Mars and Hustle)

Even for a convinced sceptic, John Yorke's book, with its massive field of reference from Aristotle to Glee, and from Shakespeare to Spooks, is a highly persuasive and hugely enjoyable read. It would be hard to beat for information and wisdom about how and why stories are told (Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director, The Globe Theatre)

This book is intelligent, well written, incisive and, most of all, exciting. It is the most important book about scriptwriting since William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade (Peter Bowker, screenwriter, Blackpool, Occupation and Eric & Ernie)

Part 'How-to' manual, part 'why-to' celebration, Into The Woods is a wide-reaching and infectiously passionate exploration of storytelling in all its guises ... exciting and thought-provoking (Emma Frost, screenwriter, The White Queen and Shameless)

Into The Woods is an amazing achievement. It has a real depth and understanding about story, a fantastically broad frame of reference and it's interesting and absorbing throughout. Full of incredibly useful insights, every TV writer should read the first chapter alone (Simon Ashdown, series consultant, EastEnders)

Testing the adage that "in theory there's no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is", this is a love story to story -- erudite, witty and full of practical magic. It's by far the best book of its kind I've ever read. I struggle to think of the writer who wouldn't benefit from reading it -- even if they don't notice because they're too busy enjoying every page (Neil Cross, creator/writer of Luther, Crossbones and writer of Dr Who, MI5)

Books on story structure are ten a penny but Mistah Yorke's is the real deal (Kathryn Flett)

All script-writers will want to read Into The Woods. All plots and archetypes BUSTED (Caitlin Moran)

Got to say Into The Woods by John Yorke is marvellous. The prospect of another screenwriting book made me yawn, but its terrific ... It's a great read, wise and cogent, and a must for all screenwriters (David Eldridge)

A mind-blower ... an incredibly dense but very readable tome about the art of storytelling ... Really worth a read (Lenny Henry The Independent)

I don't always enjoy books on writing, but Into the Woods by John Yorke is brilliant on story structure. (Ken Follett, author of 'The Pillars of the Earth')

In his brimmingly insightful, stimulating study of how stories work, Yorke compellingly unpicks how a whole range of films, plays, novels and fairy tales all display the same archetypal structures . . . His book, in telling scores of stories in such a fresh, enlightening and accessible manner, is a gripping read from beginning to end (Sunday Times)

The best book on the subject [of storytelling] I've read, tells us everything we need to know about it. Yorke's analysis is superb (London Evening Standard)

A mightily impressive opus, both hugely informative and highly educational. I love the way it's populated with so many examples - the many combinations of both mass market and the slightly more esoteric giving a something-for-everyone feeling. A brilliant work (Peter James, best-selling author of NOT DEAD ENOUGH and LOOKING GOOD DEAD)

Yorke sets out to analyse the patterns behind storytelling, explaining why the fundamentals of narrative have remained the same from Aristotle to Aaron Sorkin. A great starting point for anyone wanting to create a story (Stuff Magazine)

I've just read a book about professional writing which has genuinely helped me. It's for those who are serious about avoiding bad 'How To' books and want to raise their game, and it's more intelligent than most of the others. John Yorke's Into The Woods: How Stories Work And Why We Tell Them is a genuine game-changer and has helped me put past bad habits to rest (Christopher Fowler, Author of Bryant and May)

Into The Woods is utterly brilliant (Ed Cumming Daily Telegraph)

Love storytelling? You need this inspiring book. John Yorke dissects the structure of stories with a joyous enthusiasm allied to precise, encyclopaedic knowledge. Guaranteed to send you back to your writing desk with newfound excitement and drive (Chris Chibnall, creator and writer of Broadchurch and The Great Train Robbery)

Into The Woods is brilliant. One of the best books on script writing out there . . . I loved the book. Inspiring (Dominic Mitchell, creator and writer of In The Flesh)

There is no end of books that instruct us on how to write the perfect screenplay, but few that delve more deeply into the art of storytelling than this erudite volume (Financial Times)

Its strength is Yorke's acute perception of the wellsprings of universal narrative structures relevant to all artistic activities (The Times)

Terrific . . . It's a great read, wise and cogent, and a must for all screenwriters (David Eldridge, writer of Festen and In Basildon)

It's a great read. It makes me smile and say 'Yes!' aloud. Only this and PG Wodehouse do that (Lucy Gannon, writer/creator of Soldier Soldier, Peak Practice, Frankie, The Best Of Men)

Not How 2 Write them but how stories work. John Yorke's Into the Woods: A 5 Act Journey into Story is brilliant, illuminates & explains (Susan Hill, Author, The Woman In Black, I’m The King Of The Castle)

I'm only 70 pages into John Yorke's Into the Woods but it's already helped me crack two stories (Andy Diggle, former editor of 2000AD, comic book writer for Marvel, DC)

Highly recommended reading (Huffington Post)

Yorke is aware that the world is not suffering for lack of prescriptive screenwriting manuals. Instead, with Into the Woods, he takes a scalpel to narrative structure - dissecting protagonist, antagonist, inciting incident, crisis and so on - before asking how and why this underlying shape still holds audiences spellbound like a fairytale witch. "A story is like a magnet dragged through randomness," Yorke writes, but while he elegantly untangles the deepest roots of storytelling, he also honours the human need for truth and sense with some more superficial questions: why do series tend to "jump the shark" round about season three, for example, or why is clunky exposition - particularly in medical dramas - so appallingly comical? Sit comfortably, then begin (Guardian)

I absolutely love this book. It's incredible and so well written. I keep trying to find fault but so far no joy - It's so good (Matt Charman, writer Bridge of Spies (dir Stephen Spielberg); Black Work (ITV))

[John Yorke's] writing book is arguably possibly almost as good as mine, all right it's loads better shut up (David Quantick, Author of HOW TO WRITE EVERYTHING)

About the Author

John Yorke is Managing Director of Company Pictures, the UK drama independent producing Skins, Shameless, The White Queen and Wolf Hall. For many years he's been responsible for a vast array of British drama, as both Head of Channel Four Drama and Controller of BBC Drama Production. In 2005 he created the BBC Writers Academy, a year-long in-depth training scheme which has produced a generation of successful television writers. He's also worked as Editor of The Archers. John is Visiting Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jecelyn Latimer on 5 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm an aspiring novelist (I've been an aspiring novelist for about 5 years now, will probably still be an aspiring novelist in another 5) and have a degree in English and Creative Writing, so like most writers I've read countless books on how to improve my craft. When it comes to writing, I've held Stephen King's 'read a lot, write a lot' mantra in my head for a while, but I still flick through non-fiction books with the hope that a single sentence will unlock the magic genie lodged in my brain and a fully-formed manuscript will just appear right before my eyes.
Into The Woods was a fantastic surprise. Its main focus is on scripts, but talks about how to structure a story in general for different genres in 5 acts, and why those 5 acts are better than the common 3 that we tend to work to.
This has changed my perspective of how I structure a story. Some writers can go off without any sort of guidance, but I am not that writer. I need to break down my thoughts in a simple way. I think that now I have the tools to break my work easily, I can focus on aspects that I hadn't been able to before.
The writing is intelligent and full of cultural references whilst not being omnipotent and self-imposing. I've been introduced to theorists I never knew existed and perspectives I've never thought of.
Would recommend this book to anyone of all levels of writing who wants to learn how to best structure their novel.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By bookmeister on 14 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THIS IS A BRILLIANT BOOK . A Must Read for writers and compulsive for anyone passionate, interested or involved in storytelling .
It is wonderfully written , erudite, clear, entertaining and full of love for the medium with excellent examples and ideas .
I know a bit about writing.....thirty odd years in the business ( WAKING THE DEAD) and I've read a few books on the dark art of making it happen . And this is by far the best .
And I say this having thought no one would ever better Robert McKee's "Story".
I especially loved the section of series and serials and the evolution of that and simply haven't read anything as intellectually and creatively interrogatory of Television .
No one can teach you to write but this is the sort of book which helps you convert what you half knew or thought you knew into applied practice .
At whatever stage there will be something both practical and inspiring for you . A book you can return to again and and again when you need to begin, to refresh or a kick start.
And for producers, directors, and writers of all fiction this is the map of the woods where story happens at its highest level.

Written for grown ups by the man who knows.
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By still searching TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Most people should be aware that, as humans, we love a good story: the success of W.H Smiths, champions of the `yellow backs', and Amazon attest to that fact and what John Yorke has done here, is to trace the development of the story through history from Aristotle to the present day. He is an experienced TV producer and should know his subject inside out. He illustrates his thesis, which, basically is that all stories conform to a three act structure (even those written in five acts) with examples, from all forms of entertainment involving the written and spoken word, Ridley Scott's film, Thelma and Louise, being only the most prominent. To give it a touch of academic credibility he chucks in a bit of Jungian and 'pop' psychology here and there and talk of universal 'archetypes'.

But this isn't brain surgery or even rocket science: the same impulse that drives us to see what is over `the next hill' is that which drives us to find out who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick - the need to know; we are curious creatures! And when that impulse becomes engaged by a well written conflict set-up our brains demand a conflict resolution: hence Act 1 - conflict set-up; Act 2 - crisis; Act 3 - conflict resolution.

And it could have made for an interesting exploration in a `wetter', shorter, more engaging and less repetitive book. If I hadn't already seen Thelma and Louise I doubt very much if the reading of this book would have compelled me to do so!

Oh, and the paperback has a horrible plain black cover that is faintly repellent to the touch.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'Into the Woods' explores story and the universality of story structure. Using examples ranging from mainstream and indie cinema to reality television, Yorke theorises that every story will fit into a five act structure, and how the journey of a protagonist, regardless of the genre of the story, will go on the same journey. Most interesting was the exploration of why stories vastly different in style share the same shape, and why this story shape inevitably limits the lifespan of even the most successful TV or film franchise.

As interesting as the book is, it does sometimes feel as though Yorke is simply repeating his points, rather than showing how a certain style or genre fits into it. There are several instances where Yorke summarises a particular film storyline, telling us that this particular scene forms the midpoint or that scene is the crisis point. However, with one or two of these, I felt he was rather trying to force the story to fit his theory, which weakened the overall argument.

Overall though, a very interesting and educational look at how story functions, and how universal many facets of storytelling are. Well worth a read, and unlike a couple of other reviewers, I actually liked the cover style and the (admittedly slightly unusual) feel of the cover!
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