REVIEW Into the Woods

This month, Zoe Williams reveals how she can now see the wood through the trees after reading John Yorke's Into the Woods

I am writing a fantasy fiction novel for young adults and am now on my second edit. It has three points of view, a complicated plot and a world in which I was getting a little lost. When I was explaining my concerns to an editor, it was suggested that I read Into the Woods. 

It starts with demystifying plot and analysing how the story should be mapped out.  It was fascinating to see how books and films you thought had nothing in common were plotted in the same way. Like chess pieces on the board, your character and plot must go on a 'journey' with peaks and troughs. Into the Woods enables you to look over your plot in the cold light of day and map it out to pack more punch and lead the reader through your story. I would certainly recommend reading it before plotting your story especially if you’re a novice. 

Chapters include Three-Act Structure, Showing and Telling and most interesting for me Character and Characterization, while using a broad spectrum of references from Shakespeare to Citizen Kane. Because this book applies to screenwriters and authors there are many nods to film and TV as well, so it would be better if the reader like myself knows the classics. Alternatively, of course, you can grab the popcorn and settle down for some binge-watching. However, that's not necessary to read this book.

What was incredibly insightful for me was the character analysis and critique. It demonstrates how to delve further into your characters and the importance of giving them depth including the good, the bad and the ugly. It explains how important it is to show a character's external and internal conflicts. One fascinating point was letting the reader know essential information through a dramatic scene, such as an argument rather than the obvious info dump.
In short, a handy book that should be read and then reread and dipped into as needed. It is packed full of useful tips and tricks and it will help you see 'the wood from the trees'. 

Header image: Sara Netherway


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Zoe is the children's book reviewer for the South Wales Evening Post and blogs at She is an artist and is currently writing a young adult fantasy fiction novel. @zoeartist Instagram Facebook


Natalie Yates is Reviews Editor for Words & Pictures @eastyorknat

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book too Zoe! And the references are so broad-ranging that everyone can get it. Mine is filled with bookmarks and highlighter pen. I grab it now and then just to flip a page and see what I can bring to the fore of my writing mind. Lovely review :)


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