Carol, I have heard of “Into the Wood” by Yorke. He promotes the idea of five-act structure and is yet another title in the burgeoning ‘how to’ set of screenwriting books.
Here’s my thing: There is no one ‘right’ or ‘correct’ way to teach or learn screenplay or story structure. Every writer is different. Every story is different. And ‘story’ itself is by its very nature organic and we, as writers, have to respect that and not cram what we write into any sort of predetermined paradigm or pattern. Otherwise we run the risk of formulaic writing.
That’s why I say — no matter what theory or story structure principles you use — start and end with character. As long as you tap into the heart and soul of your story, which resides in the goals and inner drives / conflicts of your characters, allowing THEM to lead you into and through the story-crafting process, you should be in good shape.
Question: Did your MA program teach much in the way of character development and exploration?
Carol, I regret you have come away from your MA experience less “confident”. If the source of that is you feel like you could have spent your time and money more wisely, perhaps take the long view, your entire life-journey as a creative. Maybe Yorke’s ideas resonate with you. Great. Now open yourself up to whatever story ideas come along which move you to write them, stories which arouse your creative passion. Then just immerse yourself in the lives of your characters and see where they take you. In other words, close the chapter on your MA experience and open a new one to embrace everything you’ve learned thus far in your life — in an academic and non-academic setting — and trust your creative instincts to take you on a meaningful writing journey.
Finally as a way of balancing out the expense of your MA program, be my guest to peruse the archives of this blog — 20K+ posts — to your heart’s content, all of it free!