Fiction Writing Workshop

Ten Tips from Advanced Structure with John Yorke

Last August I attended a Fiction writing workshop on Advanced Structure with British Television Producer John Yorke at Regent's University in the beautiful Regent's Park in London.

The fiction writing workshop attracted writers of all levels and mediums. There were many children's writers in attendance. Whilst looking for the entrance to the venue I bumped into lovely Chicken House author Emma Shevah who helped me find the way.

Why take a fiction writing workshop on advanced structure?

I was already familiar with John Yorke’s famous book, Into the Woods, and wanted to learn more about structure after the editor I was working with suggested the middle grade manuscript I was writing needed restructuring.

The workshop took place as part of the London Screenwriter’s Festival. They had such a great line up that once there I wished I could have stayed and taken more workshops.

Ten tips from the Advanced Structure workshop

1.  All stories contain the following:

  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Inciting Incident
  • Desire
  • The crisis
  • The climax
  • Resolution

2. John Yorke showed us the Michelle Obama speech where she urges people to vote for Hilary Clinton. He explained that the same structure that we see in stories is in Michelle’s powerful speech. Structure is everywhere.

3.       Structure is about how we perceive the world. We’re incapable of not ordering it.

4.    Structure comes naturally if you write enough.

Fiction Writing Workshop: Writing 5 Acts

5.       Although the five act structure provides the key to how stories work you can have as many acts as you like.

6.       You can work out the whole story from the midpoint (and the pitch.) He notes that if you can think of the midpoint of your story first and get it right you can come up with stories really quickly. The midpoint is the heart of the antithesis.  For example in the Godfather it’s where he embraces his evil self.


7. Opposites are at the route of everything. In Star Wars you have Luke and Darth Vadar. When story structure is working properly opposites always kick in.

Need and want

8. Your characters must have a need and a want and these are not necessarily the same thing.

- A character's want is the facade in action
-  They pursue an object that will prop up their illusory self
- The character's need is attempt to overcome flaw

Empathy and the Enemy

9. Empathy is essential. We, through empathy, become the protagonist. We want the goal they want. All of this will not work without empathy. Neither will all of this  work without a common enemy.

10. Ten questions they asked of scenes at BBC Soap, Eastenders 

1. Whose story is it?

2. What is their flaw?

3. What's the inciting incident

4. What does the character want?

5. What obstacles are in the characters way?

6. What's at stake?

7. Why should we care?

8. What do they learn?

9. How and why?

10. How does it end?

One final piece of wisdom from John Yorke to leave you with:

If you get a chance to go on one of John Yorke's workshops I'd thoroughly recommend it. He makes them really interesting using lots of practical examples you can relate to. He clearly knows his stuff and comes across as a really nice man.

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