Story for Script Development

The course

Learn the story-shaping skills you need to thrive in the HETV drama arena.

This seven week, online professional development course trains you to identify issues with scripts, solve key story problems, and craft polite, constructive and positive notes for writers.

Explore effective ways to tackle issues with tone, focus, streamlining and storylining, while honing characterisation, agency and proactivity.

Study with a small group of fellow script editors and an expert tutor.

You’ll emerge with increased confidence in judging story ideas, distilling a story to its essence, working with writers and the wider team, and crafting stories that resonate with audiences worldwide.

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.

Meet your course director

Caroline Young

Caroline is a freelance script editor. She started her career working in development for BBC Drama Series, which included helping John Yorke set up the first BBC Writers Academy.

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.

CPD accreditation

This course has been independently accredited for integrity and quality. It reaches globally recognised CPD standards and benchmarks for active learning that develops professional skills, competence and career aspirations.

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

This CPD training is for those working in (or who want to work in) TV drama or film. And anyone looking to learn the mechanics of story structure and how apply it practically, especially in HETV drama.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Work as a script editor, script reader, development assistant, trainee script editor, researcher, storyliner, story assistant, story supervisor
  • Work with writers in other roles, such as agenting or as an exec
  • You would like to move into script editing from theatre work or technical roles
  • Your role requires you to spot future hits at the script stage, or you need the story-structure tools to develop more ambitious stories with larger, more complex teams
  • Have an MA in TV, Film or Writing and would like to gain practical industry-level skills
  • Need to be able to pinpoint problems in a script more quickly… and express your thoughts more effectively
  • Would like to learn or sharpen your awareness of five-act story structure
  • Are looking to understand storylining over a series or ways to work with larger scale stories
  • Would like to feel more confident in giving notes to writers, including giving notes you’d rather not give
  • Would like to develop new effective working habits
  • 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 story skills script editors need, including understanding the blueprint underlying every successful story and crafting constructive notes for writers
  • Master story structure, and use the principles of narrative to streamline your reading and diagnose and fix story problems
  • Refresh your skills and understand decisions you’ve always made using instinct
  • Gain a more specific narrative vocabulary for communicating with writers
  • Distill your thoughts to produce clear headline notes and succinct billings
  • Gain greater understanding of industry expectations and processes, with a focus on HETV drama
  • Clearly identify and pursue your potential in script development
  • Develop the professional skills script editors require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Increase your professionalism in working with others
  • Practise giving effective feedback and receiving critical notes
  • Network with others working in development, 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.

Each course is divided into sessions. These sessions are released one by one (weekly or fortnightly, depending on the course). 

There’s no need to log on at a set time. You can work through the learning materials whenever suits you, day or night, wherever you are in the world. Just complete the assignments and join forum discussions by the session deadline. 

Our teaching method is based on the science of active learning: you read/listen/watch, try out, share and reflect. It’s a social experience – you become part of a small group, feeding back on each other’s writing to build a supportive bunch of readers you trust. Find out more here.

Session 1: Introduction to Storytelling –We start by thinking about the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements every story needs. We’ll look at the script production process and the role of the script editor and other team members. We will ask you to make notes on a TX’d script and precis the protagonist’s journey through the first act.

Session 2: Basic Building Blocks – We build on the basic building blocks used in dramatic storytelling. By the end of the session you’ll understand what makes a good story – and what doesn’t. We’ll also look at the HETV market and audiences, and the specific opportunities and constraints the form presents. We will ask you to write a billing for an episode using the building blocks of story.

Session 3: Fixing Stories that Don’t Work – We look at how to tell if a story works – or how to ‘break a story’. You’ll learn the 10 key questions to ask every story and by the end of the session should be able to deconstruct any story and understand what needs to be done to fix any problems. You’ll apply those principles by giving headline notes on a live script.

Session 4: Mastering Structure – We break down a story into first three and then five acts and look at why the midpoint and turning points are such important elements in a script. We’ll introduce key ways to read a script and look at storylining across series. Practical exercises include breaking a script into five parts, giving notes on a deeply problematic script and identifying why it doesn’t work as a piece of TV drama.

Session 5: Giving and Receiving Notes –We look at ways of acting on notes – to make scripts better not just different. We’ll assess a script at scene level and think about the merits of seeing a story from the character’s perspective. We’ll look too at the script-editing process from the viewpoint of the writer and the wider team. You’ll compare a first-draft script with a TX’d version and ask whether the changes were successful, looking at ‘artistic’ best vs tone, focus and streamlining.

Session 6: Putting it All Together – In this recapping session, which lasts two weeks to allow you to work on a longer final assignment, John offers his top tips for checking whether a story is as good as it can be, to help you recap everything learned through the previous sessions. At the end of the session you will submit notes to self and a set of headline notes on an unscreened development pilot script, and receive a detailed one-to-one feedback report from your tutor.

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

Caroline Young

Course Director

Caroline is a freelance script editor. She started her career working in development for BBC Drama Series, which included helping John Yorke set up the first BBC Writers Academy.

More about Caroline Young

Matt Tefler

Matt Telfer

Script Shaping Wizard

Matt Telfer has extensive experience in film development, development production for multimedia ideas, and consultancy. He offers consultancy, ghostwriting and translation services to a number of American and French media companies. He also wrote, translated and adapted plays for the fringe theatre in London, Edinburgh and Paris.

More about Matt Telfer

Emma Millions

Emma Millions

Story and Pitching

Emma has been a development producer for multiple broadcasters and independent production companies alongside writing for the likes of Ant & Dec, The Chuckle Brothers and the director Ken Russell. She teaches screenwriting at several film schools and is passionate about finding the perfect format for every individual story.

More about Emma Millions

Emily Unwin


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