Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay

“There is a lot of great advice here… Most important, as I read Calvisi’s Story Maps, I was inspired to rethink my current project. And that’s what it’s all about, right?”

Learn the secrets to writing a GREAT screenplay from a major Hollywood movie studio Story Analyst who will show you how to BLOW AWAY THE READER! Master the structure and principles used by 95% of commercial movies by studying detailed breakdowns, or “Story Maps,” of several recent hit movies in all different genres, including The Hangover, The Dark Knight, The Wrestler, Juno, The Social Network, Black Swan, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Drag Me To Hell. It also offers lessons taken from classic films such as Sunset Boulevard, The Godfather, Gladiator and As Good As It Gets, to name just a few of the hundreds of great movies analyzed in the book.

Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay cites examples from hundreds of hit films, several television series and includes samples from actual produced screenplays to show you HOW TO DO IT. The book provides detailed lessons on format, capturing voice and tone on the script page and developing great characters with powerful dialogue.

The book also includes exclusive insights from major industry professionals with whom the author has interacted with, including Robert Zemeckis… the screenwriters of Final Destination, Limitless, Armageddon, Antwone Fisher, Speed, Justified and Blade Runner… Elijah Wood… and the President of Production of Columbia Pictures.

You are learning from the pros by studying their work and reading their advice.

This is NOT a formula or just another structure paradigm — it is the view from behind the desk of the people evaluating your screenplay, what they want to read and what they will buy. With all the competition in the Hollywood marketplace, your script can’t just be good, it must be GREAT.

The Appendix of the E-Book includes the following Story Maps:

  • The Hangover (Comedy) 2009
  • Drag Me To Hell (Horror) 2009
  • The Wrestler (Drama) 2008 (Sample here)
  • The Dark Knight (Action/Super Hero) 2008
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Romantic Comedy) 2000
  • As Good As It Gets (Dramatic Comedy) 1998
  • Sunset Boulevard (Noir Thriller) 1950

“Daniel Calvisi’s Story Maps is readable, insightful and exciting. It focuses on the hard work and narrative strategies the screenwriter needs to adopt to write a commercially viable screenplay, and is up to date and strategic in the clearest way. Dan’s book will help you do what you must do to succeed with your screenplay.”
-Ken Dancyger, best-selling author of Broadcast Writing, Alternative Scriptwriting, The Technique of Film and Video Editing and Writing the Short Film

“Loved it! Should be required reading in every film school.”
-Daniel Fazel, sold screenwriter and VFX Artist (Alice in Wonderland, Benjamin Button, I Robot)

“A brilliant example of what every aspiring screenwriter needs to know about the art of writing screenplays. Dan has a no-nonsense approach to screenplay analysis that cuts through the bull and delivers the goods. A must read for serious screenwriters.”
-J. Stephen Maunder, writer/director (Tiger Claws I, II, III, The Veteran, Shadows in Paradise)

“Writing a great screenplay is not easy. Dan has created a book that is straightforward and full of valuable insight and guidance for screenwriters at different experience levels. This book provides a simple way to approach your idea or rewrite for maximum results…and helpful to evaluate your work in whatever stage it’s at so you can make necessary improvements that will allow your unique story and vision to shine!”
-Laurie Lamson, co-editor Now Write! Screenwriting

Read More:

Testimonials from Readers
Script Magazine Review
Excerpt from the Introduction
Excerpt from Chapter III “The Big Idea”
Excerpt from Chapter VI “The Full Story Map”
Sample Story Map Excerpt: The Wrestler
Sample Story Map Excerpt: Black Swan
Sample Story Map Excerpt: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Sample Story Map Excerpt: Sex and the City movie
Read more about Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays
About the Author
(Note: the story maps in the books are text-only; they do not contain images from the movies.)


Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays breaks down 12 GREAT MOVIES (NOW 13! Includes exclusive bonus map, only in PDF version, of the iconic thriller Seven, 1995) primarily from the past decade. These hit movies are fantastic examples of professional screenwriting and rock-solid structure 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.

The following films are mapped in this e-book:

  • Juno (Teen Comedy/Drama) 2007
  • The Social Network (Biopic) 2010
  • Hustle & Flow (Music Drama) 2007
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (Action/Adventure) 1981 (sample here)
  • Black Swan (Thriller) 2010 (Sample here)
  • Sex and the City (Romantic Comedy) 2008 (Sample here)
  • Meet The Parents (Comedy) 2000
  • The Matrix (Sci-Fi Action) 1999
  • Rain Man (Drama) 1988
  • Rocky (Sports Drama) 1977 (Sample here)
  • Up (Animated Comedy/Action) 2009
  • X-Men (Superhero “Origin Story” Action) 2000
  • BONUS: Seven (Thriller) Se7en 1995

Any book that gives lessons in the skill of blowing the reader away is a book writers need to read. From the Introduction to Dan’s closing, “Good luck and Happy Writing,” Story Maps delivers. Imagine sitting around a coffee shop or a bar and talking one-on-one to a movie-writing, storytelling pro like Dan Calvisi. A no-holds barred, no frills, tell-it-like-it-really-is, no sugar-coating conversation. That’s what reading this book is like.

(note: An Adobe PDF file will open on any computer, Mac or Windows, as well as on most e-readers, such as the iPad and the Kindle. My PDF files feature full color graphics, super-fast bookmark navigation and print-style layouts. You can also print the book from a PDF in high resolution, if you’d like a hard copy.)




Looking for Story Maps: TV Drama?

All rights reserved. No parts of these books may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

21 replies
  1. Tom M
    Tom M says:

    If you are a new writer trying to wade through the jungle of screenwriting websites and information out there, allow me to help you save a little time…

    If you want a career as a screenwriter, then Dan Calvisi’s “Story Maps: How to Write a Great Screenplay” is by far one of the most important tools you can have in your tool box. I’ve been writing and producing for several years now. I’ve taken multiple screenwriting classes, attended industry workshops (Writer’s Store, UCLA, etc.) I’ve read a plethora of books and online articles, and this book is at the top of the list when it comes to giving solid information you need to write a powerful script that producers will want to produce. When I start writing a script, this book is always at my side. While I know the principles of this book very well, I still refer to it on a regular basis, and always find a great nugget of info that will help me. This book is truly a gold mine of information that ANY writer, at any level, can benefit from. A map to writing a successful script (…see what I did there?)

    The information in this book is a gold mine for writers, with gold nuggets of useable information you’ll need, to write marketable scripts. As a producer, I can tell you that there are PILES of scripts out there that don’t employ the basic use of story engines, structure, and the mechanics needed to get through the all important “first ten” pages. Dan’s book moves you through these areas with expertise, and his use of real scripts from studio produced movies really helps you to see how it is all put it into play. It’s great! This book breaks down the principles, the structures and the techniques that will give you the best chance of writing a marketable script. And in an industry that is flooded with scripts, you’ll need all the advantages you can get to write a properly structured, properly written script.

    I HIGHLY recommend Dan Calvisi’s Story Maps. It truly is one of the best I’ve come across

  2. William Scott Harkey
    William Scott Harkey says:

    I first stumbled upon Calvisi’s website while searching for information on The Dark Knight Rises, which at the time hadn’t been released. I saw Calvisi’s story map on the film, where he mapped out the then unreleased film using information gained from the trailers and his story mapping method. After seeing the movie, I was shocked at how accurate Calvisi’s map was with the film’s plot. Seeing how close Calvisi’s map was to the movie without having seen it, I was immediately sold on his method. Now, having read his book and other maps and religiously follow his website updates and podcasts, I’m reading stories and analyzing films with the greatest sense of structure, which in turn is aiding me tremendously in constructing my own stories and screenplays. His Story Maps is a must-read for anyone interested in storytelling and its underlying mechanics.

    William Scott Harkey

  3. David Schwartz
    David Schwartz says:

    This book was recommended to me by a working screenwriter when I was struggling with a very immature first draft. I had read other screenwriting books, but have not been able to find one that provides a “nuts and bolts” process as well as a theoretical underpinning. Calvisi has accomplished that goal in an easy-to-read tutorial. I guarantee that after you read this book you will be in a much better position to write that screenplay. Get it!

  4. ScriptTease
    ScriptTease says:

    Okay, so I just purchased the Story Map and the twelve-screenplay bundle. Every time I think I have a semi-perfectly structured screenplay, a professional reader advises me otherwise. I’ve wasted several years and so much time half ass writing, so I will take my time and study this, and rewrite my last screenplay “Angels Cry”. I shall return. 🙂

    • StoryMapsDan
      StoryMapsDan says:

      Thank you for the purchase and I hope you like my books! They will definitely help you to structure your script from the ground up, and my method is very practical and accessible.

      I know it can be frustrating with all of the different writing books out there, but a part of your journey is to find your process and your working method. Books and coaching can help you to find your winning method.

      Let me know if you have any questions or have interest in working with me.

      Good luck and happy writing,
      Dan Calvisi

  5. Stephen G. McDowell
    Stephen G. McDowell says:

    Dan Calvisi’s “Story Maps” book is by far one of the most valuable reference tools an aspiring screenwriter can invest in. I have read literally dozens of books published to address the trials and tribulations of writing a coherent script. Syd Field’s works inspired me tremendously. Blake Snyders “Save The Cat” gave me food for thought, but came up short in the realism and readability department. Dan Calvisi’s “Story Maps” is as essential to screenwriting as a Rand McNally roadmap is to cross-country motoring. It’s written in a sharp, sensible style. It’s wrought with “From The Trenches.” It cites credible examples from a thoughtful selection of genres. And once read, it will serve as a standard into which your story idea can be literally poured. In a time when everyone wants to be a Hollywood screenwriter, where script readers are jaded and overburdened by countless submissions lacking style and structure, Dan Calvisi’s “Story Maps” will give the aspiring writer a competitive edge.

    Stephen G. McDowell
    Former Magazine Writer and Editor
    Aspiring Screenwriter
    Professional Photographer
    Information Technology Consultant

  6. Chad
    Chad says:

    Great Book! Learning the fundamentals of screenplays becomes much easier with the use of story maps. To say this book is a wealth of knowledge is an understatement!

  7. Brent C
    Brent C says:

    This book breaks down screenwriting into understandable building blocks, and then helps you put it back together so that you too can write a GREAT screenplay. But perhaps more importantly, this books gives you a truthful and honest industry perspective that shines a whole new light on screenwriting. STORY MAPS flips the script and allows you to look at screenwriting from the inside out. And for that, this book is a MUST have.

  8. Chris J Dean
    Chris J Dean says:

    STORY MAPS comprises EVERYTHING you need to write a GREAT SCREENPLAY, Dan strips away all the fat that you find in many other publications or web-sites. Dan succeeds in taking the reader along an illusive juxtaposition of technicalities with creative freedom.

    Metaphorically speaking, Dan is a great Swordsman who knows, like Indiana Jones, how and when just to use a gun instead of fancy martial arts to make a point!

  9. Kevin G
    Kevin G says:

    Discovering STORY MAPS inside of Dan’s ACT FOUR SCREEN PLAYS site reminded me of the great scene in ”Raiders of the Lost Ark” when Indiana Jones discovers the Map Room. After much ‘lost in the desert of screenwriting books’ time, I felt as though I had suddenly stumbled upon the ultimate solution for which everyone else is also searching. Upon reading the first few pages I could not help but think to myself, “Whoa…, this is it!” Thanks to STORY MAPS, I know just where I am, where I need to get to -and exactly how to get there. Top-shelf, Dan! Top-shelf.

  10. Randy Morgan
    Randy Morgan says:

    Probably the most comprehensive study and insight into the art and mechanics of screenplay writing I’ve found. It’s way deeper than Save the Cat and other story mapping techniques I’ve read. I’m currently re-booting my latest script with Dan’s technique. Finally things are flowing and hitting the mark. A must for beginners and pros.

  11. Alberto Russo
    Alberto Russo says:

    Finally an up-to-date book with a detailed analysis of the most recent styles and movies! I have studied dozens of screenwriting books and I can say without any doubt that Story Maps is definitely within the top 3 of the books that most inspired me.

    Alberto Russo
    TV Presenter , Journalist and Screenwriter

  12. Guy McD
    Guy McD says:

    I’m an aspiring screenwriter and found Story Maps to be a very accessible and informative read. It offers practical advice and guidance in crafting a better screenplay and tools to help your plan out and organize your ideas more coherently and usefully before you start.

    As I’m an aspiring writer, not a successful professional, you may be wondering if my comments are really that valid. It’s a fair call, I am in no way especially qualified to assess the quality of such a book. However, I do feel my opinion has some evidence to support it. Like many aspiring writers, I seek and swap feedback from other writers, usually through online screenwriting communities. My most recent screenplay has had an overwhelming positive response in terms of peer feedback. I really have been blown away by how well received my new script has been. It’s the fourth feature I’ve written but the first thing I’ve written using Story Maps to guide me. My own assessment and that of others really makes me feel that I’ve taken a huge leap forward as a writer since my last screenplay. I like to think part of that improvement is from lessons learned from past efforts but I’m sure a lot of it is also due to employing the models and knowledge laid out in Story Maps.

  13. DannyY
    DannyY says:

    Dan’s Story Maps is by far the most concise method I’ve come across. Although I’ve only had a brief opportunity to work with him once on my first screenplay, I’ve used this method countless times to analyze movies I watch and to develop my screenplays. This method alone, made me understand structure, theme, character arcs and so much more. Not only does he outline the beats and turns in each act, but he gives examples from movies you’ve seen to get an idea of what he’s talking about. He’s also quite generous with his discounts and offers! For any beginner like I was, this is a definite MUST READ.


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