Home Forums Circularity Mike Strauss: Session 1. Chat Questions

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      Michael Strauss


      Great first session everyone! For many of you these are new concepts. Initially it seems simple to just use ABT, but as you begin to realize the subtleties through the Narrative Build sessions it can be a challenge. The key we have learned is to “just keep working on it.” 


      It’s a bit like learning to work with clay. You begin with the intention of producing a nice, polished piece. But your first attempts may fall far short of what you hoped. So you keep working to refine your abilities and learn about how the material “behaves.” As you work you become more accustomed to it and your results improve. 


      It’s not so much a set of rules as it is a skill that takes practice. 


      Evelyn: What is the role of audience in ABT structure (if any)?  That is, does your audience change the way you think about ABT?

      The audience is key but even if it’s a highly technical audience you should never skip the A on the assumption that they know it. It’s always important to let the audience know from where you are beginning.


      Dean: Citing “…could cause pandemonium” raises the issue of: why should we care? Can that be more focal and earlier. What is the importance/impact of the story you’re telling?

      Why should I care is at the center of almost every blockbuster movie or great piece of literature. Michael Crichton tells you that in Jurassic Park. George Lucas tells you that in Star Wars. T.V. crime dramas tell you that in the opening trailer. And great science writing starts there.


      Cara: Question: How should we balance the basic narrative and examples? I think the hotels and cruise-ships are examples for how the habitats are being destroyed, right? So would it make sense to keep it in the next version as examples?

      First get the core narrative then see how and which examples reinforce it.


      Antonia: do you want to have the “and” ratio to be around 2.5% or is it more that the lower the ratio, the better?

      It’s a general target; but it’s not a hard and fast rule. For nearly all of us if it’s greater than 2.5 the text is probably AAA. But there are exceptional writers (e.g., Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea) that “break the rule.” In large part because they have such a superlative command of narrative. So if it’s more than 2.5 you’re probably boring your audience.


      Robert: So is the goal that the whole audience should take away the same message? I often find that people latch onto the one point that most aligns with what they already know which is different for everyone

      There always are people who “don’t get it” but a compelling narrative assures you that more of the audience won’t miss your message.


      Antonia: Thanks for this. I’m curious if you ever found a case where writing in a format other than the narrative was more effective? Or have you always found narrative (or ABT) to be the most effective way to get points across?

      If you’re writing a technical manual, like for software, that may not be read in a linear fashion then maybe AAA. But I’m not aware of anyone describing the writing in a software manual with words like “compelling”, “riveting”, or “spellbinding”


      Euan: What is the power of inserting ‘questions’ specifically into your narrative?

      This is tricky. My own preference is not to insert questions. My bias is that if you have to tell the reader what your question is then you haven’t got a clear narrative. I would rather you construct the narrative so as to raise the question in the reader’s mind. Then you have him/her engaged. But that’s my bias.


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