We all love stories. But why do we tell them? And why do all stories function in an eerily similar way?
As someone who wants to be a writer, I read a ridiculously miniscule amount of books on writing. I think it’s probably because, when I was younger, I made the decision that the best way to learn how to write was to read as much as possible. I thought experiencing story after story and learning the craft by example was all I would need to improve my own writing. Now, obviously, reading helps an awful lot. It’s one of the key parts of writing and is probably the best way to improve your writing.
However, it’s not the only way. In fact, recently I’ve been finding myself analysing the stories I come into contact with more and more (thanks to this blog and my film/TV review blog) and I began to think that in order to write better I needed to figure out what good writing was. It’s all very well and good reading a great variety of things and forming an opinion but you need to be able to say why. Why is this a good story? Why is the beginning/middle/end so strong? Why is that character so relatable or that plot device utilised so well?
John Yorke is the creator of the BBC Writer’s Academy and is an experienced screenwriter. When I visited my local Waterstones to see if I could find some books on screenwriting and some published copies of screenplays ‘Into the Woods’ was all I could find. In all honesty, as soon as I read the blurb I felt at once that this would help me in some way. Even if it just outlined the basic structure of the script it would be worth it. In fact, the book does far more than that. It gives an in depth analysis of structure, character and key driving points of the script.
The great thing about Yorke is that he uses so many examples. It’s incredibly helpful when reading the book to not have to consider a screenplay in the abstract. Instead, he gives you specific examples that you can then apply to the idea(s) in your own head. One of the aspects of the book I found most helpful was that its very simple to make notes on each chapter that you can then transfer and use in the planning stage of your script. Each section is also so clearly marked that its simple to go back and find the passage you need so that I know that if I struggle on some aspect while writing it will be simple enough to go back and see what Yorke has to say about my problem.
I think the best selling point of the book is Yorke himself though. Not only is he an experienced writer with a brilliant reputation but he is also very entertaining. The book never felt difficult to read and in fact I flew through it in a matter of hours, managing to easily make notes from the text as well.
All in all it was a very enlightening read and thoroughly enjoyable. I can only hope that I will find it useful in the future although I can see that I’ll have to keep a close eye on my copy because my mother is already eyeing it up, ready to steal it one day when I’m at work.