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Story for novelists: What fiction writers can learn from screenwriters

Guardian Masterclasses

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM (GMT)

Story for novelists: What fiction writers can learn...

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Story for novelists: What fiction writers can learn from screenwriters Dec 5, 2017 £49.00 £2.46
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Event Details

Do you dream of writing a novel that could be adapted for the screen? Discover the universal secrets of storytelling with screenwriting guru John Yorke and author Tim Lott.

All stories have a shape or an outline – it may not be always visible to the untrained eye, but beneath all the layers of paint, there lies the drawing. Storytelling expert John Yorke and acclaimed novelist Tim Lott will show you how to make that first sketch.

While novelists divide their attention between many different aspects of writing, such as plot, style, character and theme, screenwriters always have three things at the top of their agenda – story, story and story. They know all there is to know about story structure – they study it, apply it, live by it. In an industry where some films have budgets reaching millions of pounds, screenwriters have to get it right.

Novelists tend to be more relaxed about story structure. Partly because they can be – since the pressure from other stakeholders is lower – and partly because many of them believe that structure gets in the way of inspiration. Therefore, structure is often undertaught and underexplored at creative writing courses.

However, these days, book fairs are flooded with TV and film producers trying to buy up rights to novels that would work on the screen. As long-form miniseries gain popularity in the TV world, that trend is likely to continue. This means all would-be novelists need to understand story structure not only for writing a commercially successful novel, but also in order to have a chance of being adapted for the screen.

Analysing major books from Great Expectations to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Tim and John will show you the story skeletons buried within many of the great novels. You will understand why some events need to be in your novel – and why some need to be left out. You will also discover the mechanism of change inherent to the secret structure of fiction and leave with an idea of how to make your story work, beat by beat, event by event, act by act.

Content 

  • What is an “event” in a story?
  • What characteristics does a protagonist need to make a plot come alive?
  • How do the three and five-act structures work in the novel? 
  • What is a “reversal” – and why does it matter?
  • Why is the “mid-point” so important? 
  • How does storytelling relate to human psychology?
  • What do film and TV producers look for in novels?

Tutor profiles

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. As former head of drama at Channel 4, controller of BBC drama production and managing director of Company Pictures, John has shaped stories that have attracted some of the biggest audiences for drama in the UK’s TV history.

Tim Lott is the author of eight novels and Penguin Modern Classic memoir The Scent of Dried Roses. He has written screenplays for the BBC, Company Pictures, World Pictures and others. Tim is one of the most sought-after writing teachers in the country, particularly through his personal mentoring services. His writing has been highly praised by Hilary Mantel, Alan Bennett, Sebastian Faulks, Tony Parsons and Sarah Waters, among others. His students are equally enthusiastic.

“Tim’s help got me to a point where I was ready to write my next draft. That next draft got me an agent.”
Ben McPherson, A Line of Blood

“No one else could have taught me what Tim did. Without him I can safely say I would still be flailing around in piles of rejection slips.”
Rebecca Thornton, The Exclusives

Full course and returns information on the Masterclasses website

Have questions about Story for novelists: What fiction writers can learn from screenwriters? Contact Guardian Masterclasses

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When & Where


The Guardian
Kings Place
90 York Way
N1 9GU London
United Kingdom

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM (GMT)


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Guardian Masterclasses

Welcome to Guardian masterclasses – a unique programme of learning embedded within one of the world's most forward-thinking media organisations.

Masterclasses offer a broad range of short and long courses across a variety of disciplines from creative writing, journalism, photography and design, film and digital media, music and cultural appreciation.

Harnessing the expertise and specialisms within the organisation, our courses are led by first class and award winning guardian professionals whilst also drawing on the skills and expertise of other leading figures at the forefront of the creative and digital industries.

The programme is aimed at anyone interested in personal or professional development whether that be refining your skills, focusing your ambition or simply broadening your mind and gaining inspiration.

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