Aristotle, Hegel and Chris Rock all have something to contribute to Yorke’s overarching thesis: Attention to structure is...

INTO THE WOODS

A FIVE ACT JOURNEY INTO STORY

Former BBC Drama head Yorke, now director of an independent production company and founder of the BBC Writers Academy, distills his experience in film and TV in this concise guide for aspiring screenwriters.

“This isn’t a ‘how to write’ book,” he cautions, although, like other writing manuals, this one does feature templates, charts and many rules. Yorke focuses most emphatically on structure: of a whole work, components of acts and scenes, characterization, dialogue and subtexts. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from The African Queen to The Wizard of OzHamlet to Glee, the author points out what all stories have in common: a protagonist, whom the audience will care about most; an antagonist, “the thing or person the protagonist must vanquish to achieve their goal”; a desire to propel the protagonist to action; an inciting incident; a journey; a crisis; a climax; and resolution. All of these elements, he contends, can be structured into three or five acts; he prefers five since it “allows us to uncover the most extraordinary—and intricate—underlying pattern.” In creating a character, Yorke points out an essential internal conflict “between how we wish to be perceived and what we really feel” and brings in Freudian theory to account for varieties of behavior. Dialogue can be useful in conveying personality, as long as the writer remembers that successful dialogue “doesn’t resemble conversation—it presents the illusion of conversation, subservient to the demands of characterization and structure.” In six appendices, Yorke provides structural analyses of a few movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark and The King’s Speech; a separate appendix offers a complicated chart summarizing the advice of a dozen “screenwriting gurus,” all of whom, writes the author, “are grasping to capture the true shape of story.”

Aristotle, Hegel and Chris Rock all have something to contribute to Yorke’s overarching thesis: Attention to structure is essential in all narrative forms.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0809-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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