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Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,763 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Into The Woods is a revelation of the fundamental structure and meaning of all stories, from the man responsible for more hours of drama on British television than anyone else, John Yorke.
We all love stories. Many of us love to tell them, and even dream of making a living from it too. But what is a story? Hundreds of books about screenwriting and storytelling have been
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2013 by Particular Books
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Gemma Hoyle While John Yorke valiantly attempts to break storytelling down to its fundamentals in terms of actually teaching you about the craft itself I would…moreWhile John Yorke valiantly attempts to break storytelling down to its fundamentals in terms of actually teaching you about the craft itself I would have to hands down go with McKee. 'Story' is just packed with information whereas 'Into the Woods' falls a bit victim to the vagueness it denounces. That's in no way saying it's not definitely worth reading though. I would recommend both! They're currently my top two go-to books on the subject.

Even though Yorke is at sometimes vague I especially like how he puts emphasis upon how when it comes to writing about narrative theory there's a lot of guff to wade through as well as about 101 different snake oil salesman all trying to peddle their own variations on story structure. With his invaluable personal experience he helps to give some clarity to it all.(less)

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Leonard Gaya
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Yorke is a British TV producer. His book is in the same vein as Syd Field's Screenplay, McKee's Story, Vogler's The Writer's Journey or Snyder's Save the Cat!. These books are essentially screenwriting handbooks, which try to surface and elucidate the hidden structure of storytelling. This sort of research however can be traced back to Campbell's studies on myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Propp's Morphology of the Folktale and first and foremost to Aristotle's attempt at describing ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The stories we choose to tell, and the ways we choose to tell them, speak who we are and how we understand our role in this world, or so Yorke tells us in his wonderful "Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story."

This book surely shed some light on my understanding of how stories work. Best of all, all the knowledge and wisdom Yorke bestows on us comes in the form of great, funny, engaging examples taken from the books and movies we all have read and watch.

Yorke—professional screenwriter
Joseph D'Lacey
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With Into the Woods, Yorke has performed a service to every writer on the planet.

Personally, I found it uplifting and liberating because it encouraged me to do what has always worked best: following my own quiet, but deeply held instincts about what and how to write.

It's so easy to be swept away by creative self-doubt and the fear that, just because you're not a 'big name' in fiction or film, your work isn't good enough. That insecurity sells every 'how to' manual ever written and makes gurus
John Martin
Jun 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I've put this book aside after reading about 10 per cent of it. It came highly recommended, but it's a bit too academic for me. That's my failing, not that of the author who comes with a long list of achievements. The thing is I have other books on my TBR list and I need to do some culling. I've given the book three stars but remember that's only based on 10 per cent of the book! Greater minds than mine rate it much more highly.
Renee Godding
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review to come
Aug 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Like many such books that seek to provide a universal theory of narrative, Into The Woods is only able to do so by proposing one so abstract that almost any story can, when tortured enough, be said to fit within it. The author then has little left to do but repeat the same points over and over, until the reader is hypnotised into accepting the supposed genius of this system, or gives up. I chose the latter.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is fascinating to read John Yorke break down story to its core elements; stripping away plot, dialogue and motivation – and all other artifice and decoration – to really examine what makes stories work. Yorke pulls away at the very concept: working out how one particular component functions; then yanking away some more and examining another aspect; before holding it up to the light again and so on.

Some of what he comes up with I already knew as, I think, would most consumers of books, TV and
Nick Imrie
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
How to structure a story is a topic that's pretty much been covered. It's all just footnotes to Aristotle, right? In fact, it's been so covered that there are a great many writers who indignantly swear that they won't be constrained by stuffy old prescriptions on how to structure. You'll notice those writers are still writing pretty well structured stories - almost as if it were an inevitable consequence of how humans understand the world and not just a bunch of arbitrary rules. ;)

So Yorke does
Liz Fenwick
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have said before that the right 'writing craft' book has a way of falling into your hands when you need it. I bought Into the Woods two years ago and it has sat on the shelf. Last week I picked it up and each page has provided me with clear insight in the story writing process. For the novel writer I would say that the first 2/3s of the book is the more useful but all of it is clear and interesting. The later third of the book, particularly the summing up is more about defending the theory ...more
May 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, theory
Meh. Much filler. Wow. Very reachings. Such vapid.
(And I like JY's actual stories, too! And the overall 'learning your craft won't kill your yoonique special snowflake genius, honestly' direction is one I'm totally behind. But lord what a philosophically hollow, cobbled-together disappointment of a book.)
May 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 the author 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 ...more
Book: three stars
Swedish translation: zero stars
Brandon Will
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
This is hands down the best book I've ever read on story and structure. The guy is a maniac with encyclopedic knowledges of where structure comes from, how it's evolved, what that means, how it can be used. He's absorbed McKee and Murdock and Field and Campell and pretty much every other writing guru you can name -- for anyone who also consumes that stuff, it's fun on that level alone, his insights into these various schools of though, and playing them off each other. This book was majorly ...more
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
For a book partly about how to write, this is very poorly written. There are far too many grammatical and other errors, including sometimes simply the wrong word used.
There are some interesting points but some of them are very obvious (eg you need conflict for a dramatic scene to work, well yes!)
Some of the points don't work at all, especially the analysis of Waiting for Godot and the film No Country for Old Men. Both these two works are ground breaking precisely because they DON'T fit the
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting treatise on how stories work and how they are built. Useful in terms of offering insight and terminology for someone like me who obsessively watches TV shows and occasionally dabbles in academic Film Studies.
My biggest complaint is that this book was really, really repetitive. Ironically, Yorke makes the claim that the constituent parts of movies etc. mirror each other and repeat the same patterns, like in a fractal. The same can, unfortunately, be said for this book, as reading it
Tom McInnes
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've read a bunch of these books over the last 15 or so years and this is probably the best written, most entertainingly referenced and generally easiest-going. The five-act structure isn't anything like as revelatory as Syd Field's 'sequences', but what sets this one apart is its final chapter. Where other books of this ilk usually conclude with a section on how to format or package up your screenplay to get it bought, this one reframes everything discussed in previous chapters as basically the ...more
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A fascinating and well researched book into the how and why we tell stories. You don’t need to be budding writer or media student to appreciate Yorke’s insights into the world of narrative structure and what makes a good story work. A great read for an inquisitive soul or avid readers alike.
Maya Panika
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As former Controller of BBC Drama and head of Channel Four Drama, John Yorke knows his stuff, and he makes a great case for thinking of narrative in Shakespeare's five - rather than the currently almost ubiquitous - three act structure. He sold me on the concept: it's radically altered the way I think about the way stories work.
This is, as you'd expect, a very well written, highly readable, academic book about creative writing and story structure that reads as easily and entertainingly, as a
Brian Kohl
If you're interested in narrative structure or any other academic element of storytelling, you can skip Christopher Booker's SEVEN BASIC PLOTS, Snyder's SAVE THE CAT, and all the creators who say story structure is for saps, and go straight to Yorke. In classic narratologist style, he one-ups everyone else by explaining why they actually were saying what he's saying. But I think he's correct. A well-researched labor of love, and all the more entertaining because it comes from the dubious source ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational. I've looked long and hard for a book on story that isn't a "how to" but a why - and this is it. This won't tell you how to write a screenplay or novel, but it will help you to understand why people tell stories and what those stories mean psychologically. It tells you why we need them. And in doing so it will help you write any story in any way - even non-traditional narratives like journalism or documentaries. For John Yorke they are all part of the same human hunger for meaning ...more
Ellie Louise
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully clever and well informed book, littered with references to TV and film to give arguments some substance, including some classic Eastenders quotes. The later sections of the book are probably the most enjoyable, as Yorke begins to hit upon the truth universal to both stories and people-when you stop changing and growing and simply stagnate, you're finished.
Lukasz Chmielewski
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent, very helpful analysis of storytelling as an eternal phenomenon. A must read for everyone interested in telling the stories and creation of narratives.
It was great to read just few pages every day and then practice gained knowledge by telling new bedtime story every evening ;)
Jessi Golden
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm writing a play and picked this up on a whim. Really liked the literary perspective. He waxed too deconstructive at times, especially toward the end. But as a whole, it was helpful.
Van Hoang
Oct 09, 2018 marked it as dnf
I've read a lot a lot a lot of books on writing, but this was a total snoozefest and I didn't learn anything new tbh.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives the reader food for thought when it comes to writing a story. A must read for aspiring writers and for people who wish to understand why we tell stories.
Mark Fogarty
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This might be the best book on writing I have ever read. Incredibly thought-provoking without resorting to gimmicky ideas, this is the anti-Save the Cat.
Tim Heath
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It came highly acclaimed and I can see why. There is a lot to it, of course. It’s not always easy to understand unless you speak the lingo (which I don’t that much). But it does give a wonderful overview to story structure and the frame work behind many films.
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Into The Woods, subtitled A Five Act Journey into Story is a book about story-telling. We all know what a story is, and books that tell us how to write the supposedly perfect novel/screen-play/short-story etc are everywhere. But what these books never address is just why we tell stories?

What is it about humanity that insists on the need to tell a story and why is there a unifying narrative structure to all of our stories? From the X-Factor to films and novels to an episode of Eastenders, Yorke
Julie Bozza
This is an interesting look at story structure - the best of the ones I've read, because it gets into the human / psychological reasons behind it. I also appreciated that the author is UK-based, and considered a few different examples of story-telling than usual, including TV series - though the main examples are the usual filmic suspects. I very much appreciated the protagonist and antagonist being referred to throughout with they/their pronouns, and thereby finally providing a significant ...more
B.P. Morrison
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pretty much any of the blurbs can tell you what sets this book apart. I'm not normally one for screenwriting how-to manuals, but Yorke does something different by asking, "Why?"
Why do we have story structures?
Why do they come so naturally to us?
Why do those that shun structure end up using it?
Parts of this book are really helpful, is all I'm going to say. He breaks down classic films into Act structures, too, which always serves to inform.
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