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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FIVE STARS
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...
Published 18 months ago by bookmeister

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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars flawed
It is worth noting that, for a book about writing, written by a writer, for writers, Into the Woods is incredibly badly written. And I do mean just awful. The author adopts the tone, throughout, of an enthusiastic but hopeless missionary, trying to explain the holy trinity to a skeptical savage. Every sentence is so identical to the preceding one, each paragraph is the...
Published 14 months ago by M. Duncan


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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars flawed, 22 Aug 2013
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It is worth noting that, for a book about writing, written by a writer, for writers, Into the Woods is incredibly badly written. And I do mean just awful. The author adopts the tone, throughout, of an enthusiastic but hopeless missionary, trying to explain the holy trinity to a skeptical savage. Every sentence is so identical to the preceding one, each paragraph is the same as the last, so that eventually you have to read everything twice, just to extract the information from the sentence, because the cumulative effect is so boring. The book is so repetitive anyway, that you aren't sure if you've read this sentence before, or if you've just read one like it, or just feel like you have. Also irritating, in a book of this kind, is the personal opinions of the author being presented as fact, usually in the form of annoying assertions, like, 'Tarantino's achingly clever screenplay' or 'Jimmy McGovern's brilliant depiction of...' Let's all agree that value judgements are subjective, but that some things seem to be more popular for some reason. Let's work out why.

As for the content, it is varied. The book is about film and television writing exclusively. The author's ideas on story structure are interesting, and convincing in places. The book begins with an analysis of the parts of a screenplay, which offer quite little that is new to existing students of story structure, although the author goes perhaps further than others in believing that stories are broken down into parts that mimic the whole, in a process that the author likens to fractals in nature. In other words, he is an extreme structuralist. I found the author's explanation of structure, despite his dreadful prose, to be quite lucid, and insightful at times. Much to agree with and disagree with.

For example, early on, the writer states that there are two types of screenplay: those that are two-dimensional (in which the protagonist does not undergo a change) and three-dimensional, in which they do. This is an interesting distinction, and helps to clarify the difference between certain types of story. However, the author is clearly taken in by his own spatial metaphor. He comes to believe that three-dimensional stories are better than two-dimensional ones, by a process he doesn't explain (3 is more than 2, perhaps?). But anyone could come up with an example of a 'two dimensional' story (say, 'Alien') that most people would agree is better than a 'three dimensional story' (say, Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams). But the author largely ignores these two dimensional stories throughout the book, because he clearly favours the other kind. Sometimes he turns a 2 dimensional story into a three dimensional one, just to make his point (does Elliott in ET really have a flaw that he overcomes to rescue his friend? I don't think so). The author's decision to focus on one kind of story is the poorest decision of the book. It leaves a whole forest of questions unexplored, such as how does a horror film work, when there are multiple protagonists? How can two screenplays seem to contain the same elements, and yet one work well, and the other not work well? What is the difference between certain types of story: love story, bank heist, sergio leone western, etc? The author is not interested in differences, so much as similarities, which means leaving out everything which doesn't conform to theory, which means, pretty much, a lot of interesting stuff.

Once the book moves on from general story structure (acts, midpoints, inciting incidents etc.) the real problems begin. The sections on character, motivation, etc. are just useless. The author embarks on the most superficial and unnecessary explanation of Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic principles yet committed to print. The pages and pages devoted to explaining the hidden motivations of the subconscious and how they relate to the sublimated motivations of the characters of a film could really have been left out. The second part of the book, in fact, including the history of TV serials in the UK, and why some serials 'jump the shark', largely feels like something tacked on to flesh out the book.

Whatever rules you might wish to establish for storytelling, you can find examples where the rule has been applied, but the result is a bad product, because it hasn't been done well (that's without even getting into how you decide what 'good' and 'bad' are in art). That's why the author often drops in comments like, 'this rule, if followed properly...' But what is 'properly'? That is the big question haunting books that try to reduce storytelling to structural principles. Without the addition of talent, taste, experience, whatever you want to call it, these rules are of no use whatsoever, since they will be incorrectly applied, or lack some balancing element in the work.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FIVE STARS, 14 April 2013
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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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Purchase for Screenwriters, 10 April 2013
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I'm lucky enough to have attended John Yorke's lectures in the past, and this book is as inspiring and clear as he is in person. Comprehensive, wide-ranging, iconoclastic, and admirably clear-eyed, this makes dramatic structure feel logical and instinctive. It consolidates all of the theories and approaches to dramatic structure - from Aristotle to Joseph Campbell to Blake Snyder - into one, simple, absolutely persuasive story shape. This is an intelligent and extremely well-written book which also has the merit - unlike every other book of this kind - of being written by someone who is not just an excellent theorist, but an actual current practitioner; John Yorke has made hundreds of hours of TV and is still working at the heart of the industry. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.
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41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Snake Oil, 9 April 2013
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This book is a disappointment.
Relentlessly repetitive, it takes five acts to describe a one-scene story.
A harping, irritating prose style forever exclaiming how 'simple' and 'clear' things are, and forever promising some great insight into storytelling yet delivering bland obvious-isms. And the same ones over and over and over again.
If you've ever wondered how British television drama became thin, bland, predictable in its patterns and empty of idiosyncrasy or living characters, it could just be that this one man, John Yorke, is responsible... and now he wants everyone else to know how to do it.
More annoyed than I otherwise might be because of the claims the publicity makes that this is something different. Well done Yorke/Independent, you got £10 out of this sucker.
It's a cynical, massively padded, repetitive, strident, dull, pale, thin ghost of Booker's Seven Basic Plots from which, as far as I can tell, it takes a very great deal.
Seriously terrible, and not to be taken seriously by anyone who loves beauty, depth, idiosyncrasy or originality in their stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If there is one book that gives you a clear ..., 7 Sep 2014
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If there is one book that gives you a clear picture of how to approach story telling this is it. I found it related perfectly to my ideas and helped me focus on what was important about the story, instead of searching for the golden 'writing by numbers' formula. I certainly deserves a place on your bookshelf.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Structure is everything!, 8 April 2013
By 
ian kershaw (hyde, cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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You can't teach writing is true but structure can be taught and learnt. If you're serious about writing, not just for television but for any medium, then this book is ideal! John Yorke knows his onions, having worked with some of the greatest writers on British television as a script editor, producer and commissioning editor. In Into The Woods he lays out clear paths to follow, to help you tell your story. It's packed full of tips and suggestions with clear reference points - using anything from Greek dramatists to Wife Swap! It's not a prescriptive book - there are clear signposts to help you along the way, but they're not orders, they are universal truths about all stories which makes it a fascinating read, not only for writers (of all abilities) but also for actors, directors or for anyone interested in how stories are 'made up'!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one book on writing, make it this one, 25 Jun 2013
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There are some excellent books on writing: Save the Cat!: The Only Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (Methuen Film), On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and many more. I've read most. As a writer I am always searching for how story works, how to make it work better.

John Yorke's book is a must. This is no screenwriting guru who hasn't actually got a screenwriting credit to their name; this is someone who has been at the coalface of story for decades.

He goes back to basics - the five-act form used by the Greeks, by Shakespeare - to provide a structure for story, and a structure for his own book. As Yorke shows, you can fit pretty much any paradigm into any other paradigm, and he slots Campbell/Vogler's hero's journey into the five-act structure. It works wonderfully.

Although the book is great, there is, in the Appendix a "Lightning Guide to Screenwriting Gurus", which is a table that places all the "teachers" (Blake Snyder, Joseph Campbell, Syd Field, John Truby, Frank Daniel et al) on a five-act template.

A beginning writer would benefit, certainly, from reading this, but it may be of more value to someone who has done at least some writing and understands, for sure, that structure exists.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The write way for TV and Film, 8 May 2013
By 
W. Rodick (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Reading John Yorke's book I feel as though I'm being watched-over by an omniscient mentor as I consider the story I'd like to write. Every sentence has the tone of authority.

I was so impressed by the author's biographical details on the first page of the book, so many big hit shows and a drama I keep watching on dvd; The Curse of Steptoe. The Introduction has me humbled beneath the weight of knowledge. Make sure you check-out the notes. Note 9 has the author truly rip in to the 'gurus' who belittle structure. In the first chapter entitled 'What is a Story?' Note 5 tells me that 'niceness tends to kill characters.' From then on I'm the author's slave.

Suffice it to say that for this writer the book is a highly intensive work. His references are many and varied from Jack and the Beanstalk to Waiting for Godot. So sure-footed in his narrative and analysis. Although the book has 309 pages his work ends at 231 with the remainder used for Appendices, Notes, Credits and Index. For me it is not about enjoying his writing but employing the master's experience.

Update: having just finished this treatise on story I am now fully armed with the tools required. Ever since my dad took me to see '2001: A Space Odyssey' on the giant screen in Wavertree I knew story has to be a moving experience. I saw Cloud Atlas recently which shares 2001's landscape of all-time. Conflicts and intense scenes are impaled on the viewer. Mt dad wasn't sure about the ending. I knew it made sense. Teenage confidence. Order restored with birth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for professional actors, 4 Mar 2014
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It was a Christmas present for my son and he absolutely loves it, who is an actor. And that's says it all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Yorke, 8 Jan 2014
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For my money no one has tried to do more to invigorate the UK's, especially the BBC's, screenwriting talent. It's a little hyperbolic in places saying things like, "there are hundreds of books about screenwriting...I've read most of them...(and) two issues nag away: Most of them posit completely different systems, all of which claim to be the sole and only way to write stories...How can they all possibly claim to be right." p.xii. I think Mr Yorke's editor could have pulled him up on that one. Even the doyen of screenwriting, Robert McKee, who forbids you to speak at any time during his three day lecture unless specifically asked, does not claim that it's his way or the highway. Every book I have ever read says this is my approach, I hope it works for you. Once you ignore these outbursts you will find a very analytical mind at work. Remember this is the guy who brought Shameless and Life On Mars to the small screen. He knows how to make it happen.
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Into the Woods: A Five-ACT Journey Into Story
Into the Woods: A Five-ACT Journey Into Story by John Yorke (Hardcover - 29 May 2014)
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