Monday, 15 July 2013

John Yorke's Into the Woods & 2 others

I made a decision a couple of years ago that I wouldn't review books. I have too many friends who write wonderful ones and I would spend my whole time writing about them. However, I am about to break that rule.

IC recommended John Yorke's Into the Woods the other day and so I got myself a copy and started dipping a toe in. Being a CW lecturer I am often bombarded with information on the latest 'must have' creative writing book. Some I look into, some I don't. On this basis I was slightly sceptical when I started reading it. The matt black cover did appeal until I realised how marked it became but that was no reflection on the content.

If you are a writer or interested in the process of writing this is well worth having a look at. Don't get me wrong, it is not a 'how to' book. Also it focuses on scriptwriting but I found so much I could take and apply to my own work (and am doing). I am particularly fascinated by the five act journey into story that he explores throughout. It made so much sense. I know already it is going to be one of those books that I go back to, over and over again. It is written in such an accessible way. As it says in the blurb John Yorke 'takes us on a journey to the heart of storytelling, revealing that there truly is a unifying shape to narrative forms' while drawing upon the likes of Vogler, Campbell, McKee, Broker and Propp, to name but a few. When you read it you realise actually how obvious it is and how often you are doing it intuitively.  This in itself was intriguing for me.

John Yorke has such a wonderful amount of experience to draw upon. He has brought us things like Shameless and Life on Mars as well as setting up the BBC British Writers' Academy. I believe he has used all his experience to create a book that is easy to use and so insightful. It is divided into its own five acts - which work perfectly well. I read it from beginning to end because I was enthralled by it but it is also a book you can just dip in and out of as and when you need guidance.

There are another two books I would like to suggest you have a look at. Holly Thompson's The Language Inside and Sarah Crossan's The Weight of Water. They are both beautiful stories written in verse that still maintains a fast moving narrative. The ability of both writers to create such evocative and vivid pictures through so few words is extraordinary.

Many of my students (and myself at times, if I am honest) often end up using more words than are necessary. Two words, where one would do at the very least. Both of these books are great examples of how to pare back those words and yet leave enough information on the page for the reader to paint their own picture. If you do anything this summer I think you should read at least one of these books.

They are both great examples of something that John Yorke explains with regard to musicians and artists but also, as he highlighted, equally applicable to writers: 'They had to know the restrictions before they could transcend them.' Basically, you need to understand the rules (even if it is intuitive) before you break them.

So on that note it just has to be David Bowie's Life on Mars:

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