This story structure is best known in UK circles, but it’s equally applicable across the world. Yorke focuses on two key aspects in his theory: Tentpoles and Knowledge. Tentpoles are points of plot that keep the structure solid while still allowing creativity in between. This is like knowing your inciting incident, your midpoint, and your finale before you begin writing, but everything else is unknown. Yorke argues that the journey the protagonist goes on is about knowledge, both of the world and plot, but also of the theme.
No Knowledge: In the beginning the protagonist has no knowledge of the theme.
Growing Knowledge: But an inciting incident puts them on the path.
Awakening: On the quest for more knowledge, the protagonist steps into the new world.
Doubt: The protagonist demonstrates doubt in the new knowledge.
Overcoming Reluctance: However, they overcome this momentary setback.
Acceptance: And choose to incorporate the theme into their lives.
Experimenting with Knowledge: The protagonist experiments with their new thematic knowledge.
Midpoint: At the midpoint they receive a new piece of knowledge or a key reinterpretation of what they already know that significantly raises the stakes and changes the trajectory of the story.
Experimenting Post-Knowledge: The protagonist tries to incorporate the new knowledge of the midpoint into their lives.
Doubt: However, they begin to doubt themselves again.
Growing Reluctance: This new doubt grows and grows.
Regression: Until it begins to undo the progress of the protagonist.
Reawakening: The protagonist realizes something about the knowledge that allows them to push past the doubt.
Re-Acceptance: Finally they are able to truly and unabashedly incorporate the new knowledge into their lives.
Total Mastery: And demonstrate that they are masters of this new knowledge.
Pros and Cons
Having tentpole moments allows the writer to have large amounts of freedom while still heading in a general direction.
Focusing the protagonist’s journey on their accruement of knowledge can help drive scene work.
Splitting the story into five acts takes the sting out of the scary 2nd act and makes it easier to digest.
While a meticulous outliner may want to plot out every beat between the tentpoles, this story structure isn’t designed towards that style of writing.
Yorke places a great emphasis on the importance of the midpoint twist. While not wrong by any means, it does somewhat alienate midpoints that are more lowkey in nature.
Difficulty Level: Hard
Use Case: Yorke’s structure works best for a confident writer who knows how to structure a plot and is more interested in figuring out how to write character arcs across a story.
John Yorke's best-selling book Into the Woods, detailing the 5 story act structure, can be found on Amazon here.
Level-up your screenwriting software
With Arc Studio, you stay focused while writing your screenplay, craft better stories, and collaborate with ease.
The most efficient, elegant, intuitive, and all around user-friendly screenwriting software I've ever used — and I've used them all.
Arc Studio lets us collaborate across the entire season and manage incoming notes or changes without ever losing track of a single thing. Can’t imagine ever going back.
Showrunner, Arcane (Netflix)
For decades I've been searching for a seamless screenwriting app and and everything has come up way short – until Arc Studio. Writing and collaborating is easier than ever and it gets better every week. Well done!
Writer/Director "Role Models"
The fastest way to get your first script written
Get an actionable guide for writing your first script from HBO writer David Wappel. He takes you to a fully written script, step-by-step. Totally free for a limited time only.
We emailed you the download link!
Please check your email to confirm and download The Action Guide to Screenwriting. Have fun writing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.