Story for Screenwriting: Advanced Structure

The course

Develop an industry-standard treatment for your original TV, film, or stage drama.

Our professional development course is based on the techniques BAFTA-winning storyteller John Yorke developed to train new writing talent on the BBC Writers’ Academy scheme. Our alumni work on award-winning shows, including Emmys, Oscars and BAFTAs.

This four month online training will help you master the essential building blocks every successful story needs, and uncover the blueprint underlying all archetypal stories.

You’ll work in a small group of dedicated screenwriters with an expert tutor. You will emerge able to look at any story and pinpoint why it’s not working, and how to fix it.

Meet your course director

John Yorke

John Yorke is widely acknowledged as the UK’s foremost expert on story, and his book Into the Woods is the bestselling book on the subject in the UK. John’s worked on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama, from EastEnders to Shameless, Life on Mars and Wolf Hall.

In partnership with John Yorke Story

Accessible, industry-focused CPD training and consultancy for professionals at any stage of their career. Online learning led by BAFTA-winning John Yorke, author of bestselling book on story structure Into the Woods.

How it works

We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts. In the case of our live workshops, this includes a live online seminar.

You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.

You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.

Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor - a critical part of the writing process.

You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.

Things to know

Story for Screenwriting: Advanced Structure is for anyone who writes (or wants to write) drama for film or TV and would like to know more about how and why story principles work.

We teach this Master’s-level course in groups of up to 15 people. You can book as an individual, or you can block-book a class for your team. Often production companies enrol small teams to unify their approach to telling dramatic stories.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Write for TV, film, radio or stage – or would like to move into screenwriting from another form, such as novel-writing
  • Have an MA in TV, Film or Writing and would like to gain practical industry-level skills
  • Work as a screenwriter and would like a refresher on story structure
  • Are a team developing drama, and would like to share a common vocabulary of story
  • Would like to see the blueprint underlying all successful stories, and learn how to manipulate it to tell more effective stories
  • Need to discover why your stories aren’t working – and how to fix them
  • Would like to develop new effective writing habits and take yourself more seriously as a writer
  • Need to produce a professional treatment for an idea
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course

This professional training allows you to:

  • Acquire the key technical skills screenwriters need, from character wants and needs to effective use of scenes and fractal storytelling
  • Understand story structure, including five-act structure, turning points including the midpoint, breaking a story, the roadmap of change
  • Gain greater understanding of industry expectations around commissioning and audience
  • Clearly identify and pursue your potential as a screenwriter
  • Master techniques to help diagnose and fix problems in any story
  • Get to grips with writing a professional standard treatment
  • Develop the professional skills screenwriters require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Increase your professionalism in working with others
  • Practise giving effective feedback to other writers and receiving critical notes
  • Network with other writers and with the tutor team and industry guests
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and critical judgment as you self-direct, self-manage and realise your assignments and final project to the course briefs.

Session 1: Introduction to Story (1) – You’ll start by learning the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements of a story, and experiment with summing up a protagonist’s wants and needs.

Session 2: Introduction to Story (2) – We build on the basic building blocks of the archetypal story identified in Session 1, examining structural form in more detail. We’ll look at the inciting incident, the character’s journey and story endings (crisis, climax and resolution).

Session 3: Essential Story Tools – This is about ‘breaking’ a story into its component parts to see whether it’s working as well as it could. You’ll also experiment with three-act structure. By the end of this session you should be able to deconstruct any story and understand how to fix parts that don’t work.

Session 4: Five-Act Structure – Now we break down a story into five acts and look at why this is such an invaluable tool for dramatic storytellers. You’ll learn the art of identifying turning points and the all-important midpoint, and experiment with rewriting a broken story in five parts.

Session 5: Building Stories – We introduce the basic building blocks of stories – scenes – and explain why you need to get inside characters’ heads to make them work. You’ll use the knowledge you’ve gained to plan an original story in five parts.

Session 6: Top Story Tips – By now you should know how to create a story, test its elements to make sure it works, and structure it into beats, scenes and acts. This session offers simple tips that will inspire you to look at stories and scripts with a fresh eye. If you have a problem with a story, this session will provide the solution.

Session 7: Write Your Own Treatment – We look at the difference between a synopsis and a treatment, then learn the rules for writing a successful professional-standard treatment.

Submit your treatment for an original idea and receive a detailed one-to-one feedback report from your tutor.

At the end of the course you’ll have everything you need, including expert feedback, to move onto our Story for Pitch Decks course, and prepare to pitch your idea at agents and commissioners.

Join our alumni

After your course, you can join our online alumni community where you’ll meet our growing network of past students. You’ll be able to.

  • Rejoin your classmates in a private forum
  • Continue to access an archived version of your course materials
  • Meet alumni from other courses and share work for feedback
  • Join discussions about screenwriting, script editing and the industry
  • Attend live chats with guest writers and industry folk

Mentoring and one-to-one feedback

The John Yorke Story tutor team offer mentoring, script reads and reports. We are happy to quote by job or script, or to arrange a longer mentoring scheme as you work on a specific story idea. We’ll create a package to suit you, so for more information please email [email protected]

Taking things further

If you’d like to take another John Yorke Story course, we’ll give you a discount. Please get in touch for more details.

This course has been made possible by the support of ScreenSkills, and has been approved as part of an informal or formal continuing professional development (CPD) programme.

You may be eligible for a training bursary for this course. Apply direct to ScreenSkills here, at least FOUR WEEKS before the course start date.

As this counts as CPD training, you may also be able to get funding from your employer to do it. See here for all John Yorke Story’s latest bursary and funding opportunities.

The team

Meet your course team

John Yorke

Narrative expert

John Yorke is widely acknowledged as the UK’s foremost expert on story, and his book Into the Woods is the bestselling book on the subject in the UK. John’s worked on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama, from EastEnders to Shameless, Life on Mars and Wolf Hall.

More about John Yorke

Kieran Grimes

TV Drama for All

Piers Alder

Business Communicator

Chay Collins

Moderator

Piers Clifton

Screen Storyteller

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