Black Swan story map screenplay analysis

Black Swan is a tight, merciless thriller that forges one, driving throughline that is supported by every character and element in the story. In order to become the Black Swan and achieve her dream of ballet perfection, Nina must prove to her director Thomas that she can transform herself on stage, fight off her mother’s attempts to stifle her and defeat her rival Lily, all while suffering from the rapid deterioration of her psyche. She loses the battle for her mind but she achieves her artistic dream, dancing a perfect Black Swan, at the ultimate cost of her life.

Download the FREE Black Swan sample Story Map

The Black Swan Story Map is unique in that Nina has only one goal: to become the Black Swan. As the film goes on, this will exist on two levels — to dance the black swan on opening night and to literally become the swan-hybrid-creature (for lack of a better term) — but they eventually become one and the same so I see no need to define an External and Internal goal.

It’s all the same line, just with new story engines and escalating conflict: Nina must “let herself go” in order to learn the dance and outshine her rival to make it to opening night and win over the crowd with the perfect performance. As her psyche unravels, the method to achieve this is to metamorphose into the swan-hybrid-creature to dance on opening night.

All of the sources of conflict stand in the way of this focused line of action: her rival Nina (Mila Kunis), her stage mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), the jealous has-been Beth (Winona Ryder) and her iron fist director Thomas (Vincent Cassel). And, of course, her schizophrenia, which escalates in an active, shown manner until it consumes her.

Download the FREE Black Swan sample Story Map

The script is separated into very clear sections with high-stakes story engines. There isn’t a single wasted moment as it shows us Nina’s world through her eyes, challenging us to delineate between reality and fantasy. You may suspect there’s a supernatural element or you may never doubt it’s all in Nina’s head; either way, it still works because the Central Dramatic Question remains the same: can Nina become the Black Swan and finish the play? Make sure to watch it twice to pick up on all of the little clues and details.

The E-Books Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay and Booster Pack #1 include Full Story Map analyses of 19 hit movies, primarily from the last decade.

These successful films are great examples of professional screenwriting in many different genres and budget levels aimed at varied audiences. I stand by each title as a strong example of its genre and as a primer to learn the screenwriting craft at the level that you need to be: the “submission ready” tier that makes a good script into a GREAT script.

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Good Luck and Happy Writing!


Related: Free Story Map sample: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Related: Free Story Map sample: The Wrestler

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Related: Free Story Map sample: Rocky

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