6) JULIE CLAUSSEN: Driveway moments and the Power of the ABT

Have you ever had a driveway moment? This is the instance when you are in the car listening to something on the radio and the story is not quite over when you pull into the driveway, so you sit there until it is finished. This happens to me often and sometimes it is rather annoying: I have ice cream in the grocery bag, or someone is waiting for me, or I need to pee…but something keeps me in that seat until there is closure. Until I became a student of the ABT, I didn’t fully appreciate the power of the problem-solution dynamic and why that need to stay and hear an ending is so ingrained.

I recently had a driveway moment experience that emphasize all the major points of a well-crafted ABT story. I was in the car listening to RadioLab, a weekly science podcast. As I often do, I have my background analysis for the ABT structure running in the back of my mind, and this story was starting out in pure ABT. The set-up introduced the main character and their ordinary lives. I liked this guy. I wanted to hear more. Then came the BUT, and it was a tragic one. A terrible accident, and for any parent, it is one that the listener could viscerally feel. The tragedy was not death, but hope was lost. Doctors had given up. And then…I pulled into my driveway. For reasons I won’t go into, I could not stay in my car to listen, nor could I get back to the story right away, but I knew exactly what was happening to me. The AND set-up hooked me right in. The BUT was this seemingly insurmountable problem, yet I knew from the title that perhaps all was not lost? My brain was craving to know what happened. Pure problem-solution dynamic! And I didn’t know the solution! What was really interesting is how the story stuck with me. How I kept thinking about a possible resolution to this tragedy. This need to know what happened reiterated to me the power the ABT coupled with descriptive and dynamic content. It was especially intriguing since the Conversational ABT was a common theme “Boy meets girl AND they fall in love, BUT bad things happen, THEREFORE…”

Yes, I did finally get back to the story to get the “therefore” and it was indeed satisfying. This story could have added a lot more detail and discussed more of the science and what the doctors thought, but it didn’t. As Randy often tells us: The power of storytelling rests in the specifics. This means not too many, not too little, but just enough. For me, this was a great example of all the ABT forces at work for a good story. If I have sparked your interest in finding out the specifics, you can find this story on RadioLab from 2011: Finding Emelie.