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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 4 May 2013

"Into the woods" by John Yorke

Yorke, a successful television screenplay writer, explains that all drama adopts a three act or five act structure with a turning point exactly half way through (stories are almost exactly symmetrical). He illustrates his thesis with everything for Hamlet to Thelma and Louise (both five act) although he concedes that Raiders of the Lost Ark has seven acts.

At the same time, heavily referencing Joseph Campbell's Hero with a thousand faces (which I read in the mid seventies) which was itself the inspiration for George Lucas' Star Wars, he lays bare the skeleton of every story: an 'inciting incident' propels the hero into a strange world (into the woods), where he battles with an antagonist, changing, learning and developing psychologically; once he has grown he is ready to return to the normal world.

It is both inspiring and wonderful. It contains so many insights:

  • "Dialogue is not narrative ... dialogue is the characters' responses to the narrative." p150
  • The narrative fallacy is "post hoc ergo propter hoc": after this therefore because of this; the idea that because things are stated sequentially there must be some sort of causal link p215: "The wisest advice I ever received" was that Shameless "might just have been a success despite you." p216 He quotes Polly Toynbee as saying that journalists "precis a muddled reality into a narrative of right and wrong." p217


He's right. I watched the film Genova last week. After the young girl runs out of the church, seeing the ghost of her mother, and disappears IN THE WOODS I said to my wife: that's the turning point; we are exactly half way through the film. I was correct within three minutes.

This was a wonderful book and I shall keep it and dip into it again. It says a lot and I will need repeat readings to understand it all . But it has already changed the way I think about dramas.

Brilliant and thought-provoking. May 2013; 231 pages

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