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November 7, 2020
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Analyzing John Yorke’s “What Makes a Great Screenplay?”

Analyzing John Yorke’s “What Makes a Great Screenplay?”


In his article, “What Makes a Great Screenplay?” John Yorke candidly begins by explaining the structure of a typical storyline by using the most-often heard sentence in stories, i.e., “Once upon a time…”. This grabs the reader’s attention and helps clarify the author’s position early in the essay. In the introduction, the author directly states his thesis that almost all fictional storylines employ a typical skeletal structure, each adding different intricate flavors, respectively. The introduction primarily suggests how he will develop his ideas further into the essay. In the conclusion, the author does not explicitly reiterate his thesis, however, implicitly restated how following an archetypical fictional structure amounts to various storylines that seem so starkly different from each other despite sharing a commonality in their storyline structures. Moreover, the concluding remarks also unraveled the bigger picture of story writing, in terms of how every storyline can be viewed as a journey to find some secret that exists outside the self, around which the entire narrative is formed.

Arrangement of Middle Paragraphs

In the middle paragraphs, the author elaborately explains the roles of each substructure within the story and how each plays a significant role in instilling emotions, feelings, and other details to the plot, which ultimately produce a story unique to itself and relatable to the audience. Regarding relatability, the author explains why and how story writing encapsulates the aspect of relatability to the audience in terms of connecting with them in real life in some avenue or regard. The middle paragraphs are chronologically arranged in temporal sequencing. The introduction of the protagonists and antagonists is followed by the underlying problem that needs to be solved in the story, and the entire journey to resolve that problem, including the crisis, is a typical sequence in any story. The author explains each of these aspects sequentially, explaining the significance of how each of these aspects adds value to the overall structure, coherence, and the entire appeal of the story.

Critiquing Examples

With regard to the examples that the author uses to underpin his assertions, I believe some of them may be subject to change and not always be carved in stone. In the passage, the author, while describing the crisis, states that every crisis for the protagonist entails an opportunity to confront their fears and live anew or deny change and revert to their former selves (Yorke, 2013). The example he used to illustrate this is that of Casablanca, where Rick says, “I stick my neck out for no man” and realizes he has the choice to confront his selfishness or retain his ways (Yorke, 2013). In my opinion, being faced with choices and sometimes the reasons for choices are much more complicated. For instance, in Interstellar, the protagonist (Cooper) decides to release himself into the black hole to save his fellow astronaut colleague Dr. Brand despite having promised his daughter earlier to reunite with her soon. The problem here is not the choice, but also the intentions behind choices. In Cooper’s case, the only way to save humanity and reunite with his daughter was to throw himself into the black hole, although the risk of that not happening was insanely high. The second reason he threw himself into the black hole was to save Dr. Brand so that the spacecraft has enough fuel and resources to get her back to Earth. Therefore, in Interstellar and other such movies, the issue of crisis is much more complicated, and sometimes tragedy follows the crisis without any resolution being formed.

Overall Coherence & Structure

The overall structure of the essay is coherent with neat transitions between ideas. The author effectively adds coherence to his thoughts by categorizing ideas in different subheadingsand clearly stating his thesis at the beginning of the essay, thereby informing the reader what components of story writing he will be touching on in a temporal sequence. The transitions are based on the timing structure of a typical story, so it is easier for the reader to understand the flow of ideas through each component of the story archetype. For instance, the author first introduces the role of the protagonist/antagonist and their respective desires. Then the inciting incident that creates a dilemma or a struggle between the two characters and their respective journeys towards their goals leads to a climax or the final showdown between the two characters. In this manner, the author ties all aspects of a story step by step, explaining each component in detail with elaborate examples and thereby adding coherence to his thoughts.


In conclusion, I think the overall arrangement of the essay is coherent and effective in terms of serving its purpose of explaining the crucial components of storytelling and their significance in developing the plot to the audience. With the smooth flow of ideas, coupled with elaborately defined subcomponents of a story and their significance, the author successfully brings all the various components of storytelling under one umbrella.

Word Count 826 words


Yorke, J. (2013). What makes a great screenplay. BCIT Liberal Studies Reader for LIBS 7001 (pp. 566-573).

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