Develop your potential as a storyteller with PWA's Storytelling for Screen course
  • Storytelling has a shape

    It dominates the way all of us tell stories
    Whoever we are, for whatever purpose we tell them
    Wherever we are in the world

  • Book and course based on 25 years experience

    Writing, producing and teaching
    Directing and commissioning

  • In collaboration with Peter Dale

    100 percent online
    Flexible yet tightly structured
    Community of learners
    Multimedia materials

John Yorke courses: Story for Factual TV

A seven-week online course based on John Yorke's Into the Woods, the bestselling book on story structure, developed with one of the UK's most experienced factual TV makers, Peter Dale (

This course helps builds your awareness of how to craft dramatic documentaries and compelling format shows by highlighting the elements common to all stories.

Suitable for new and established professionals in factual TV looking to develop greater understanding of how stories work.

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

Home PageJohn yorke courses: story for factual tv

Creative Skillset Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent by providing investment for individuals and businesses to grow.Story for  Factual TV: starts 30 January 2017, £1,200 Book your place now




  • New course to build an understanding of how factual stories work. 

  • Apply dramatic storytelling principles to documentary and factual programme making

  • Learn online in 7 week course with flexible, proven CPD learning model

  • Suitable for freelancers, sole traders and small businesses

  • In collaboration with Peter Daletaking advantage of his extensive documentary-making experience



APPROACH The course is based on studying and applying five-act structure as set out in Into the Woods. You’ll learn how to identify why certain stories resonate widely with TV audiences in the UK and around the world, and how story archetypes work. You’ll also find out how to apply the principles to the story you need to tell, experiment with different documentary techniques and formats, and develop the knowledge you need to pitch ideas to editors commissioning factual TV.


WHO IS IT FOR? Anyone involved in developing factual TV or documentaries, including producers, directors, writers, editors, technicians and executives.


This is a compelling and enjoyable learning experience. All you need to participate in the course is a computer and a good internet connection. The course materials are available 24/7, so you can work at a time that suits you.


The online nature of the course means it is ideal for people in rural areas with limited access to training. It is also suitable for people who may find travelling to and attending face-to-face training courses difficult, or those juggling work and family.


LEVEL The courses are appropriate for the novice storyteller or as a back-to-basics refresher for experienced practitioners or teams who who need to unify their approach to the craft.


DURATION 7 weeks


DELIVERY The course is accessed through an Into the Woods virtual classroom, hosted by the Professional Writing Academy (see The Course).


• Master story structure step-by-step
• Apply the principles to your own factual ideas
• Experiment with different documentary styles and formats; find the drama in any story
• Pitch two original programme ideas and receive notes from John Yorke and Peter Dale.


• Flexible timing; put in 5–7 hours a week at a time to suit you
• Learn within a supportive and stimulating community
• Constant feedback from your peers and tutor as you progress
• Acquire skills in a fun way and make new friends
• Can be used as informal or formal continuing professional development (CPD).


COST £1,200

Book your place now



Creative Skillset Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent by providing investment for individuals and businesses to grow.

This project has been partly supported by HM Government with Employer Ownership funding.


Who is John Yorke?

John Yorke is a drama producer, author and teacher who has spent 30 years studying our insatiable appetite for stories. His long career in TV drama has given him the tools to identify the underlying shape common to all successful narratives – from drama to corporate reports.


As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has shaped stories that have attracted some of the biggest audiences for drama in UK TV history. He has overseen some of the UK’s most enduring and popular programmes, from Shameless and Life On Mars to EastEnders and Holby City, alongside award-winners like Bodies and the internationally acclaimed Wolf Hall.


John has worked with a vast array of talent, from Paul Greengrass and Paul Abbott to Debbie Horsfield and Jimmy McGovern, making him uniquely placed to watch, learn and analyse the work of the finest writers in British television.


His approach to storytelling is based on the premise that there is a unifying shape to all narrative forms that comes from within. Where previous teachers of story have concentrated on “how” stories work, John looks at “why”. Into The Woods argues that once we recognise why story structure is common to all narratives (from tales heard at our parent’s knee to Hollywood blockbusters), we become able to tell all stories – and communicate – better.


As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy (85 per cent of graduates are in professional work), John was well placed to develop a range of online courses for screenwriters, programme makers and business organisations, based on the approach outlined in Into the Woods.


Career Summary

  • As Managing Director of the UK drama independent, Company Pictures, John produced shows as varied as The White Queen, George Gently and Wolf Hall.
  • In his role as a Commissioning Editor and Executive Producer, John championed many of the defining works of British television, including Life on Mars, The Street, Shameless and Waterloo Road.
  • As both Head of Channel Four Drama and Controller of BBC Drama Production, his CV encompasses big popular works like Hustle, Spooks, Casualty and Holby City alongside award-winners such as Bodies, Omagh, Sex Traffic, Not Only But Always and The Curse of Steptoe.
  • John created the BBC Writers Academy in 2005, the only writing programme in the world guaranteeing broadcast work and which has produced a generation of successful television writers and programme makers.
  • Into The Woods has been heralded by screenwriters, authors and critics alike, from Caitlin Moran to Peter Bowker, Ken Follet to Peter James and The Times to The Guardian. Since first publication, it has been the UK’s bestselling book on narrative structure.
  • John began his television career story-lining EastEnders during its first BAFTA-winning year, going on to script edit, produce and executive produce the show – a relationship that lasted 16 years.


Current Roles

  • Managing Director of Angel Station TV – currently making Red Rock for TV3 and Cover Up for ITV.
  • Visiting Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
  • Drama consultant to King Bert Productions, the company run by David Walliams, Miranda Hart and Jo Sargent.
  • Course director of Storytelling for Screen and Telling Stories for Business online courses at the Professional Writing Academy.
  • Tutor at Drama Centre London, University of the Arts London.
  • Regular speaker at London Screenwriting Festival and guest lecturer at MA writing programmes, including at De Montfort University, Leicester, Falmouth University and City University.

John Yorke Story

John Yorke at Penguin Books

Creative Skillset Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent by providing investment for individuals and businesses to grow.

This project has been partly supported by HM Government with Employer Ownership funding.

The course is delivered via our virtual classroom using a tightly-structured, interactive learning journey and multimedia learning materials. The learning model is structured around a combination of peer and tutor feedback and aims to develop and hone your critical faculties through constant practice and revision.


• The course lasts 7 weeks
• Each session runs over a week. You will need to put in 5–7 hours work per week
• All the teaching, interaction with participants and tutor moderation takes place in an online classroom, accessed via a website, and course materials and forums are open 24/7
• Sessions open on a Monday; assignments must be completed and uploaded by Saturday with critiquing of fellow participants’ work completed by the Sunday, before the next session opens
• Completed sessions remain open throughout the course so that you can review course materials and revise your work.


The course is taught using the following:
• Short audio files from John Yorke and Peter Dale
• Short video files from John Yorke, David Roden and/or other industry experts
• Online guidance notes and directed prompts and exercises, devised by John Yorke and Peter Dale
• Directed reading and viewing lists from John Yorke and Peter Dale
• Online peer critiquing from other participants in the group
• Tutor moderation (David Roden)
• The support of an online community and virtual classroom
• A dedicated resources area, continually updated by the course team
• Tutor feedback on your final submission by Peter Dale and John Yorke.


Book your place now


Course overview

Session 1: Introduction to Storytelling
We start by thinking about the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements a story needs, and experiment with summing up a protagonist’s wants and needs.


Session 2: Essential Storytelling Tools
We then build on the basic building blocks of the archetypal story, examining structural form in more detail by examining the need for an inciting incident, the character’s journey and story endings (crisis, climax and resolution).

At the end of Session 2 there is a webinar with John Yorke.


Session 3: Five Act Structure
This session is about being able to see if a story works – how to ‘break a story’. You’ll start by thinking about the essential elements of a story, learn the 10 key questions to ask every story, and experiment with three-act structure. You’ll find out about the three key documentary models. By the end of this session you should be able to deconstruct a story.


Session 4: Building Stories
In this session we break down a story into five acts and look at why this is such an invaluable tool for storytellers working on documentary and format shows. Practical exercises include identifying turning points and midpoints and rewriting a factual TV show in five parts.

At the end of Session 4 there is a webinar with Peter Dale.


Sessions 5 and 6: Developing and Pitching Your Own Stories
We start these sessions by looking at what makes a great factual pitch. John and Peter offer their top tips for checking whether your story is as good as it can be. At the end of Session 6 you will submit pitches for two original factual ideas, and receive written feedback notes from your tutors.

The online classroom closes at the end of Session 6, but you will have the option to continue working with your peers in a specially created course alumni area online. This includes an archive of your course materials and forums that enable you to continue posting work for review from your peer group and others who have completed the course.


To find out more about how online learning works, see here and here.
Creative Skillset Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent by providing investment for individuals and businesses to grow.


This project has been partly supported by HM Government with Employer Ownership funding.

What the experts say about Into the Woods


Of all the books I’ve read about story construction and the art of fiction, this one is the most comprehensive and concise.

John Collee, writer Master and Commander, Happy Feet, Creation, Walking with Dinosaurs

Another book on screenwriting! Oh, how I wanted to hate it! I didn’t. I loved it. Much of it was fresh to me. And always interesting, always intelligent and, for a writer, always rewarding.

Jimmy McGovern

All script-writers will want to read it.

Caitlin Moran

This is a marvellous analysis of screenwriting and, with any luck, should help a great many people achieve their dreams.

Julian Fellowes, writer/creator of Downton Abbey

In an industry full of so called script gurus and snake oil salesmen, at last there’s a book about story that treats writers like grown ups. This isn’t about providing us with an ABC of story or telling us how to write a script by numbers. It’s an intelligent evaluation into the very nature of storytelling and is the best book on the subject I’ve read. Quite brilliant.

Tony Jordan

A mightily impressive opus, both hugely informative and highly educational.  I love the way it’s populated with so many examples – the many combinations of both mass market and the slightly more esoteric  giving a something-for-everyone feeling. A brilliant work.

Peter James, Dead Again

Love storytelling? You need this inspiring book. John Yorke dissects the structure of stories with a joyous enthusiasm allied to precise, encyclopaedic knowledge. Guaranteed to send you back to your writing desk with newfound excitement and drive.

Chris Chibnall, Broadchurch, The Great Train Robbery

I don’t always enjoy books on writing, but Into the Woods by John Yorke is brilliant on story structure.

Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth, World Without End

This book is intelligent, well written, incisive and, most of all, exciting. It is the most important book about scriptwriting since William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade.

Peter Bowker, Marvellous, Occupation, Eric & Ernie

brimmingly insightful, stimulating study of how stories work

Robert Collins, Sunday Times

Yorke’s book, in telling scores of stories in such a fresh, enlightening and accessible manner, is a gripping read from beginning to end.

Sunday Times review

There is no end of books that instruct us on how to write the perfect screenplay, but few that delve more deeply into the art of storytelling than this erudite volume.

Financial Times Summer Reads

Its strength is Yorke’s acute perception of the wellsprings of universal narrative structures relevant to all artistic activities.

The Times review

Even for a convinced sceptic, John Yorke’s book, with its massive field of reference from Aristotle to Glee, and from Shakespeare to Spooks, is a highly persuasive and hugely enjoyable read. It would be hard to beat for information and wisdom about how and why stories are told.

Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director, The Globe Theatre

Testing the adage that ‘in theory there’s no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is’, this is a love story to story – erudite, witty and full of practical magic. It’s by far the best book of its kind I’ve ever read. I struggle to think of the writer who wouldn’t benefit from reading it – even if they don’t notice because they’re too busy enjoying every page.

Neil Cross, Luther, Dr Who, Spooks, Crossbones

Into The Woods is brilliant. One of the best books on script writing out there… I loved the book. Inspiring.

Dominic Mitchell, In The Flesh

Terrifyingly clever… Packed with intelligent argument.

The Scotsman review

Part ‘How-to’ manual, part ‘why-to’ celebration, Into The Woods is a wide-reaching and infectiously passionate exploration of storytelling … exciting and thought-provoking.

Emma Frost, The White Queen, Jamaica Inn, Shameless

Into the Woods is an amazing achievement. It has a real depth and understanding about story, a fantastically broad frame of reference and it’s interesting and absorbing throughout. Full of incredibly useful insights; every TV writer should read the first chapter alone.

Simon Ashdown, former lead writer and series consultant, EastEnders


Creative Skillset Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent by providing investment for individuals and businesses to grow.


This project has been partly supported by HM Government with Employer Ownership funding.

What makes a great screenplay? The Guardian 15 March 2013

Top 10 tips for telling stories The Independent, 3 April 2013

10 fundamentals to remember for your screenplay MovieMaker 6 August 2014

One key ingredient every story needs Huffington Post 2 June 2014

Redeemed characters: how the nation views the monarchy as soap opera Demos 2002

On drama and morality: Speech given at the Bishops’ Conference for clergy and other ministers in the Diocese of St Albans

ExtractBroadcast magazine, 18 April 2013

Review of the book – ‘a convincing hypothesis’ – Robert Epstein, The Independent, 6 April 2013

Review of the book – ‘terrifyingly clever… Packed with intelligent argument’ – Nick Curtis, London Evening Standard, 4 April 2013

Review of the book – ‘brimmingly insightful, stimulating study of how stories work’ – Robert Collins, Sunday Times, 31 March 2013

Hilarious TV review inspired by Into the Woods, Andrew Collins, The Guardian, 19 March 2013

Interview Flex online, June 2012


Buy a copy of  Into the Woods


Creative Skillset Creative Skillset empowers the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent by providing investment for individuals and businesses to grow.


This project has been partly supported by HM Government with Employer Ownership funding.