David Roden, course tutor at PWA, gives advice on set
  • 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

  • Into the Woods

    What does five-act structure tell us about story shape?
    Why do all stories function in a similar way?
    What does this tell us about human psychology?

  • Book and course based on 25 years experience

    Writing, producing and teaching
    Directing and commissioning
    The best of UK TV drama

  • Guided learning pathway

    100 per cent online
    Flexible yet tightly structured
    Community of learners
    Multimedia materials

John Yorke courses: Storytelling for Screen

Online courses based on Into the Woods, the bestselling book on story structure. Developed with John Yorke, who has championed many of the defining works of British television.

Learn the archetypal structure common to all stories and develop an original idea for a compelling drama.

5–7 hours study per week at a time to suit you. Browse through the tabs for more detail.

Learn more about John - www.johnyorkestory.com

Home PageJohn yorke courses: storytelling for screen

Storytelling for Screen: starts 23 January 2017


APPROACH The course is based on studying and applying five-act structure as set out in Into the Woods. You’ll learn how narrative works in drama and how to apply the principles to your own screen stories.


WHO IS IT FOR? Anyone involved in developing drama for TV, film, theatre and radio, including producers, directors, writers, editors, technicians and executives. Many novelists have found the course invaluable. You can enrol as an individual for the ‘open’ course, and organisations can block-book a dedicated class.


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.


OUTCOME At the end of the course you will have developed a treatment for an original drama, for feedback from John Yorke and his team.


DURATION The 16-week Storytelling for Screen course comprises six fortnightly sessions followed by a month-long final development session. It requires approximately 5–7 hours of study weekly. Within each fortnightly session there is flexibility as to when work is completed. (See The Course).


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




John Yorke is former Managing Director of Company Pictures, the UK drama independent producing shows as varied as Shameless, Skins and Golden Globe winner Wolf Hall. Previous to this he was Controller of BBC Drama Production and Head of Channel Four Drama.


As a Commissioning Editor and Executive Producer, John has championed many of the defining works of British television, including Wolf Hall, Life on Mars, The Street, Shameless and Waterloo Road. 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’s television career began in story-lining EastEnders during its very first BAFTA-winning year, a relationship that lasted 16 years.


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


In 2005, John created the BBC Writers Academy, the only writing course in the world guaranteeing broadcast work and which has produced a generation of successful television writers. John Yorke is Visiting Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He lives and works in London.

John Yorke at Penguin Books

This is an online, independent-study course for people who want to learn more about the physics of storytelling and create stories for television and beyond. It uses Into The Woods as a coursebook, is practical in focus and self-paced to give you flexibility when and where you study.


Each session features workshop-like discussions that allow you to give and receive detailed feedback on your work.


As you work through the courses you will:
• understand the underlying framework behind all stories
• practise essential storytelling tools
• gain the confidence to create and share stories
• learn what’s not working in a story – and how to fix it
• find out how to write a professional treatment.


The course is  delivered over 16 weeks in a dedicated online classroom where you will find available 24 hours a day:
• learning materials
• forums
• chatrooms
• videos
• podcasts
• practical assignments
• peer critiques.


You will get a chance to meet John in online chat sessions. Feedback on your treatment from John and his team is included in the price of the 16-week course.





Session 1: Introduction to Storytelling Part 1

This first session is about reading, watching, thinking and experimenting. You’ll start by thinking about 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 Storytelling Part 2

The second session builds 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 Storytelling Tools

This third 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, and experiment with three-act structure. By the end of this session you should be able to deconstruct a story.


Session 4 Five Act Structure

This session breaks down a story into five acts and looks at why this is such an invaluable tool for storytellers. Practical exercises include identifying turning points and midpoints and rewriting a TV soap episode in five parts.


Session 5 Building Stories

Session 5 introduces the basic building blocks of stories – scenes – and their properties, and explains why you need to get inside your characters’s heads to make them work. Once you have looked at scenes, you’ll move on to utilise all your acquired knowledge by working on a treatment.


Session 6 Top 25 Storytelling Tips

So, by now, you should know how to create your story, know how to test its elements to ensure it works, and structure your story into beats, scenes and acts. This recapping session takes you through some simple tips that will inspire you to look at stories and scripts with a fresh eye.


Session 7 Developing your own Treatment

Every production company will ask you for a synopsis and a treatment before commissioning work. We start this final session by looking at the difference between a synopsis and a treatment, then learn the rules for writing a successful treatment. You then produce your final submission.


To find out more about how online learning works, see here and here.

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

John Yorke discusses his approach to TV drama and writing.

 • Video: John’s Authors at Google talk: How storytelling works

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

Writing continuing drama Q&A Screen Yorkshire, May 2010

Interview Scriptwriter magazine, March 2007

Buy a copy of Into the Woods