#200) 2023 is the Tipping Point Year for the ABT Framework

There’s lots of excitement around Chat GPT AND it’s clear Artificial Intelligence will soon put an end to human culture (as Maureen Dowd conceded yesterday in the NY Times), BUT in the meanwhile Narrative Structure is still everything, THEREFORE we’re hard at work in 2023 propagating the ABT everywhere possible.

Suddenly the ABT is being put to work in a lot of places. Yay.



It’s taken a decade. From the World Bank to Pfizer to the Smithsonian to Cornell University … people are seeing the power and application of the ABT Framework as a tool for finding the narrative core of your material.

All we can say is yes, it works.

To learn more:  ATBFramework.com

#198) Crowdsourcing Our Knowledge of “HOW TO TEACH THE ABT”

What do you do when you’ve created an incredibly powerful communications model that has you so busy training people with it that you don’t have time to write a book on how to teach it? You crowdsource it. Which is what we’re doing now as people contact me with their great stories and publications on how they are using the ABT Narrative Framework in teaching. Our podcast, “ABT Time,” has become our forum for this with two in-depth discussions (so far) of How to Teach the ABT, Parts ONE (2021) and TWO (2022).

THE NEWEST BATCH OF ABT TEACHERS. From English to Geography to Biology, the ABT Narrative Framework is spreading rapidly. Tune in to our two podcast discussions (so far) to hear how complete strangers to us are weaponizing the ABT for teaching.



Q: We’re too busy to write a book on how to teach the ABT, what should we do?

A: Crowdsource it!

Time for an ABT (if you don’t know what an ABT is read this article in Ensia).

ABT: We’ve spent a decade developing AND understanding the power of the ABT Narrative Template, BUT teaching it turns out to be a whole separate challenge, THEREFORE we pulled together a special episode of our ABT Time podcast last June for an initial discussion. It proved to be our most popular episode to date (of 41 episodes) drawing in a crowd of listeners somewhere between 2.5 million and a couple hundred (our tracking numbers are a little fuzzy).

In the year since then I’ve continued to receive a steady stream of awesome emails from people telling me how they’ve been using the ABT in teaching. Which led us last week to do a second installment on teaching the ABT.



Last week, a year after our first teaching special episode, we pulled together 4 more professors who have been using the ABT in teaching. They’ve even written a book built around it (Alan Crivellaro’s, “Effective Scientific Presentations: The Winning Formula”) and published an academic paper about its use in teaching geography (Robert Wilson’s paper, “Writing Geography: Teaching research writing and storytelling in the discipline”).

And guess what, I’ve already got another batch of folks who have contacted me with further experience in teaching the ABT. I’ll probably pull them together for a Part 3, in probably just a few months.

If you’re using the ABT in teaching please write to me directly at rolson@usc.edu to join our crowd!

#197) Two Examples of how the ABT is for EVERYBODY

Yes, we use the ABT Framework in working with the most sophisticated folks from the Federal Aviation Administration to Pfizer’s Global Epidemiology Team, but I also help my friends use it on a daily basis for everything from love letters to wedding speeches. Here’s two great examples from the past couple weeks of friends using it for a GoFundMe campaign and a non-profit fundraising video.

This is the photo from the GoFundMe page for Jesse Bielmann that has proven hugely successful. The concise ABT-structured text has been a major strength.


EXAMPLE 1: GoFundMe Campaign: ABT is on the job

This is a really tragic and painful story of my best friend Brian Bielmann’s military veteran son, Jesse having a complication from medication he takes for his military service ailments. The medical bills were staggering so we put together a GoFundMe page. I helped them write the one paragraph of text for it (not three pages of content as was their initial instinct — that “more is more”).

Look at what we posted. Very simple, with one big BUT right in the middle of it, then the last sentence is the THEREFORE (help us out). Plain, simple — set up, problem, solution.

Greetings, Friends – My name is Gina Cubero, and I am the Proud Mother of Jesse Bielmann, a highly decorated combat war Veteran. We need your help. My son Jesse served six years in the Air Force as a Special Operator with multiple deployments including a combat deployment to Afghanistan. As an Air Force Combat Controller, he was involved in very intense combat. His courageous journey has been manageable until now. Jesse successfully coped with the significant physical and psychological trauma from horrific combat experiences. But, in March 2022, he had an adverse reaction to prescribed medications for his physical and psychological traumas. Jesse had multiple seizures that left him in a coma with sustained heart and organ failure. He is unable to work while he is on the pathway to recovery. Daily necessities and crippling medical costs have caused severe financial duress for himself and family. Normally, Jesse is strong, resilient and resourceful, but his medical and financial challenges can not be met alone or with just family support. The funds that we raise will cover Jesse’s bills until he can get back on his feet. The time has come to ask for your help!


EXAMPLE 2: Non-profit Fundraising video: Paging Dr. Dobzhansky

My friend Laura Pavlakovich has been written up in the New York Times for her amazing work running a non-profit for Type 1 Diabetes. I’ve introduced her to the ABT and the Dobzhansky. This post from her a couple days ago says it all…

#196) The 4 ABT Long Haulers: Palermo, Howell, Padilla, Knowlton

They were there from the very first round of the ABT Framework Course in April, 2020. Two of them gave guest lectures in the first round (Palermo, Howell), two of them connected with elements of the business world from Park Howell that instantly resonated with them (Padilla, Knowlton) resulting in them joining the instruction team. By two years later the four of them had combined for over 100 guest presentations as well as embodied the single most important trait for the ABT Framework, which is the ability to LISTEN. They are true role models for effective communication and lead spokespersons for the ABT Framework.




The ABT Framework course has not been your basic “media training” program. It has been an incubator as we’ve slowly developed “strengthening the ABT” into a 3 step model. After two years of running the course, it looked by Round 24 drastically different from Round 1.

In the beginning there was no 3 Step Model, no books, no Working Circles — not much more than just the three word narrative template and the ABT Build exercise. But by the end there was a whole second level of detail.



Similarly, each of the guest instructors went through a sort of selection and change process. In the first year we brought in a wide range of guest speakers. It was partly to entertain myself during the height of the pandemic — a chance to have fun with old friends.

The guest speakers came from a diverse range of disciplines — filmmakers, scientists, actors, journalists — each making a connection with the ABT Template. But by the second year it became clear that four of the guest instructors needed to be recurring characters.

They became the central cast of: improv actor Brian Palermo, business podcast host Park Howell, senior scientists Dianna Padilla and Nancy Knowlton (all pictured above). Each one developed their individual presentations going from “a bunch of stuff” on their topic in the beginning, to eventually mostly their ONE THING which was LISTENING (Brian), CLIENT AS HERO (Park), PROPOSALS (Dianna), and OPTIMISM (Nancy).

By the end, each one fit together like puzzle pieces, following my 5 introductory “Nuts and Bolts” lectures on the basics of the ABT Framework. There were lots of great rounds of the course, though a few (the coral reef scientists, fisheries biologists, some of the National Park Service rounds, and East Carolina University) really stood out as exceptional.



One of the greatest parts of the whole project has been watching two senior scientists Dianna and Nancy fully absorb the power of the ABT Framework. I had them talk about this in a little detail a year ago in this 5 minute video.

The two of them, along with fellow septuagenarians Mike Strauss and Rick Nelson (formerly of USDA and USFWS, both central members of the instruction crew), demonstrate that it absolutely is possible for older scientists to learn the ABT Framework. This is a super-important point. I have had some older scientists say to me, verbatim, “I’m too old for that communications stuff.” Nope. Sorry. Turns out it’s actually easier for older folks, provided they’re willing to LISTEN.



As I’ve said, two years, 25 rounds, over 750 ABT Builds for me … it’s been an intense and fun incubator for the ABT Framework. Now it’s time to apply what we’ve learned. As Matt David has pointed out, we’ve completed the “arouse” part of the “Arouse and Fulfill” couplet, now it’s time for the fulfillment.

So the course has been a huge success AND we’ve all had a ton of fun, BUT we want to see the ABT Framework in action for a bit, THEREFORE … we’re launching a new phase starting May 4.

I’ll be explaining this in detail in a blogpost in a few days.

#195) 25 AND UP: 2 Years, 25 Rounds, 750 Graduates, time for the next phase of the ABT Agenda!

What more can be said about a course that was born by the pandemic, gave rise to 250 one-hour sessions, 200 conference calls among the 20 instructors, produced over 750 graduates, plus a podcast (ABT Time) that just produced its 35th episode. We developed the first ever detailed model for narrative structure (NOT storytelling) (you can read about it at ABTFramework.com) which is now detailed in 4 books. And of course the best news of all: We’re only getting started!




On Friday, April 10, 2020 I was surfing with a buddy who began telling me about the online course he was designing around his book on child behavior. My ears shut off, my brain lit up.

By the following Monday we had announced our “ABT Framework Course” on Twitter. By the end of the week we had filled all 50 slots for the first run.

Last Friday we completed the 25th round of the course. We eventually trimmed each round to 30 participants, producing a total of somewhere between 750 and 1,000 graduates.

This past February we hit maximum intensity as we ran 4 concurrent rounds (NPS, Cornell, ECU, Pfizer). Now it’s time for a little breather.



It’s fitting that last week’s episode of our ABT Time podcast was with Dr. Tom Hollihan of USC Annenberg School for Communication. He’s the guy, 24 years ago, who told me about the iconic couplet of “Arouse and Fulfill,” that lies at the heart of effective communication.

With the first 25 rounds of the course we have performed the “arouse” element — training up a whole cohort of ABT users. Now it’s time to move forward into the “fulfill,” phase.

This week I’m doing a series of 6 blogposts.  I’ll cite the 20 or so amazing amazing instructors involved with presenting the course at various stages. I’ll tell about the 4 books that arose from the course. I’ll dive into some of the details we learned about the ABT Narrative Template as we developed a deeper understanding of how it works. I’ll tell the story of the “sentient robot” who has worked tirelessly with me from the start and now threatens to know the ABT better than me.

And best of all, I’ll present the outline of our next phase, which is going to be called THE REAL NARRATIVE GYM, starting May 4.

Lots to share. Lots ahead. We’re just getting started building Mount ABT into something so large that even the skeptics (who continue to say “it’s just not that simple”) will be forced to take note!

#194) Dr. Michael Osterholm, guest today on The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast: A Quick Guide to the Discussion

Two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, Joe Rogan had on Dr. Michael Osterholm as his first COVID expert. In response to the recent controversies around the show, he brought back Dr. Osterholm for a 2.5 hour discussion. I listened to it as soon as it was posted. I don’t see any index to their discussion, so here’s my own crude notes to help you jump to specific topics if you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode.




Dr. Osterholm opened by emphasizing the need to practice “humility” in dealing with our knowledge of COVID.

The first half hour of the discussion is almost entirely focused on “gain of function” research on viruses and the theory that COVID was a virus that escaped from the Wuhan laboratory. At 31:00 I realized Joe was still pushing this topic. From there I began taking these crude notes with time codes.


At 00:31 – Joe is STILL hitting laboratory release issue

00:33 – MO defines “gain of function

00:35 – Eco-health Alliance

00:36 – Ace 2 receptors

00:38 – Risk/Benefit issue

00:39 – “the narrative of …” — “The Entertainment Debate”

00:40 — JR: “I don’t know if that’s a good analogy”

00:41 – MO: I tell you the truth, you can take that to the bank

00:48 – rate of hospitalization for non-vaccinated

00:49 – JR: White House didn’t promote health/obesity

00:51 – JR: – how important is weight?

00:52 – Chronic fatigue syndrome/Epstein-Barr

00:54 – UFC fighters

00:56 – Definition of “long COVID”

00:57 – “mild COVID” long term effects

00:59 – how do you should you have long COVID

1:02 – new treatments from pharmaceutical companies

1:03 – AIDS taken to chronic, manageable disease — vaccines remain central,

1:03 – IVERMECTIN – 5 big trials going on, including high dose

1:04 – Paxilovid from Pfizer, has great potential

1:05 – WE NEED comprehensive system to deal with surges, impact by race, Vitamin D correlation?

1:06 – now is time to address health disparities

1:07 – “Surge Capacity for Testing”, Minneapolis fire dept, we should pay for test capacity

1:08 – some of the biggest advances in Africa

1:09 – TESTING, Ron Desantis, expired tests

1:10 – “Vendor Management” can reduce problem of expired test kits, can only put so much in stock

1:11 – can’t make test kits at the last minute, “Hope is not a strategy,” need to be planning for next surge

1:12 – Vitamin D and race, people with more melanin have less Vitamin D, is it a marker for something else?

1:13 – need more studies

1:14 – FRONT LINE WORKERS, they did the hard, dangerous work, how do we protect them?

1:15 – Novel Programs — barbers talking health, started at Univ Maryland, Dr. Steven Thomas

1:16 – Healthcare Workers – refusing to get vaccine because already had COVID

1:17 – MO: Should add previous infection as part of assessment, infection + vaccine is highly effective

1:19 – 99% of doctors got vaccinated, technicians had lower rate, health care workers brought in virus

1:21 – MO — those with previous infection should get credit for that

1:21 – MO: Moderna is better than Pfizer because stronger

1:22 – MO – J&J gets better over time

1:23 – MO PREDICTION: we will be talking about the preferred “heterologous approach” — one dose of mRNA, one dose of J&J

1:23 – MO: CIDRAP doing study of new versions of the vaccine

1:24 – JR: exposure might not be as strong as hoped for, MO – we don’t know what’s meant by “having antibodies”

1:25 – can tell you protective level for measles, but can’t for COVID yet

1:26 – MO: Rocket science is easy, immunology is complicated, COVID is a good opportunity to get better

1:27 – JR: Can we some day boost OVERALL immunity? MO: there is no “natural immunity”

1:28 – MO: other kind of immunity — innate immunity, you want more specific, recognized immunity

1:29 – MO: must be careful about boosting overall immunity — don’t want one overall boost

1:30 – MO: CANCER VACCINES have a huge future, mRNAs got initial boost from cancer research

1:31 – MO: most important thing is overall staying healthy

1:32 – JR: What causes the adverse response to the vaccine? Myocarditis being major one

1:33 – MO: risk of myocarditis much greater from COVID than the virus, virus does A LOT to the heart

1:34 – JR: Does vaccine cause heart problems? MO: Zero cases of this JR: what causes myocarditis from virus

1:35 – JR: Any understanding of how to prevent myocarditis

1:35 – MO: only 2 cases under investigation of people who died from myocarditis from vaccine

1:36 – MO: more concerned about thrombosis (blood clotting) from J&J vaccine, JR: ceasing of J&J vaccine?

1:37 – MO: reduced production because for excess inventory, don’t like term BOOSTER, look at waning immunity

1:38 – “Booster” wanes at 6 months, should change terminology to 3 DOSES, immune compromised should get 4 doses

1:38 – JR: What’s up with Israel? High number of unvaccinated, had surge within them

1:39 – MO: just covered on my own podcast, surge was from UNVACCINATED

1:41 – looking up papers on Israel surge

1:42 – MO: Omicron 2-3 times more infectious

1:43 – Israel is 40% unvaccinated against omicron

1:44 – omicron evades original vaccination

1:47 – numbers show that VACCINES WORK

1:48 – “We can’t boost our way out of this pandemic” — the problem: waning immunity

1:50 – JR: an attenuated COVID vaccine? MO: “live attenuated” could be one way to go, too early to say

1:51 – PROBLEM – in January of 2021 we jumped on the mRNA bandwagon thinking it would do everything, not perfect

1:52 – MO: what is going to be vaccine 2.0

1:52: JR: What are your thoughts on monoclonal antibodies? MO: addressed this week on my podcast

1:53 MO: we have monoclonal antibodies not being used

1:53 JR: why did they get rid of first monoclonal antibodies?

1:55 JR: which monoclonal is most effective for omicron? MO: made in UK

1:56 JR: what can be learned from the early treatment of the virus? MO: a lot WAS learned

1:57 MO: Intensive care community did so much to document

1:57JR: Are we now in better shape for a new pandemic? MO: No. 500,000 health care workers have quit

1:58 MO: very few were fired for being unvaccinated, Our heath care system is FRAGILE

1:59 JR: What could be done to prepare for new pandemic? MO: Better prepared for surge capacity

2:00 MO: Have lost so many senior doctors. All 8 Minnesota health care groups took out full page ad.

2:01 MO; health care workers were vilified

2:01 JR: Do masks work? MO: You tell me, what’s similar between a 727 and a car? JR: they both hold people? MO: both have tires, that’s all

2:02 MO: Poor studies on cloth masks

2:03 MO: People don’t use masks properly

2:04 JR: what are masks doing? MO: It’s a bout fit and filtration.

2:05 MO: Filtration is even more important, good masks has electrostatic charge, virus goes through cloth

2:06 MO: need major initiative to promote N-95 masks

2:07 MO: N-95 masks are now readily available for everyone

2:08 MO: Ventilation is huge, Corsi filters

2:10 MO: I don’t support general lockdown, just apply the brakes, there’s a time and a place for MANDATES

2:11 MO: wear high quality masks

2;12 JR: what could have been done to reduce the “residual effects” of the pandemic (suicides, depression)
MO: #1 reason for depression during the pandemic was LOSING A LOVED ONE

2:13 MO: Going through a pandemic is tough

2:13 MO: Public now tuning us out, why? FATIGUE, much longer than ebola outbreak

2:14 MO: problem is the long term nature

2:14 MO: we didn’t communicate clearly JR: what was done incorrectly?

MO: we gave the public wrong expectations, a year ago I made darkest days predictions

2:15 MO: too many talking heads making wrong predictions JR: Why? MO: we lacked humility

2:16 MO: have to have willingness to say I DON’T KNOW, the three most important words

2:17 JR: To wrap it up on the Israel data? MO: Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine

2:19 JR: What is going on with Africa and low rates? MO: S. Africa did have high rates

2:20 MO: much younger age distribution, still studying, other diseases have gotten worse because of disruption

2:22 MO: S. Africa has come down, but not gone away

2:22 JR: Have any countries done well? MO: Australia and NZ, even though islands

2:23 MO: look at Minnesota vs NZ, huge difference

2:24 MO: Denmark did a good job, we should copy them in the future

2:25 JR: What’s your take on doctors who put out protocols for early treatment. MO: Has to be science driven.

2:26 JR: Previous studies of ivermectin weren’t good? MO: no

2:27 MO: So many studies need to be done much sooner, as quickly as possible.

2:27 MO: Need to do a better job of telling stories.

2:28 MO: My overall message: HUMILITY

#191) The ABT Framework Course Turns One Year Old…

The ABT Framework course turned one last month. Just like a child, it has grown and changed a great deal in a year. Last week we began the 14th round of the course. Here’s what the 10 one hour sessions now look like. For a fascinating comparison and demonstration of what I’m saying about the evolution of the course, have a look back at a year ago and the original content of the 10 one hour sessions.




The ABT Framework Course began on April 20, 2020 in response to our Story Circles Narrative Training course being shut down by the pandemic. We’re currently in the 14th round of the course and have learned a great deal as it has evolved.

The course gave rise to a 3 Step Development model. The model became the core of the new book, “The Narrative Gym,” published last fall. The book is now pretty much the bible for the course

The training is built around the one sentence ABT Narrative Template. Each participant submits their ABT (usually for a project they are working on) at the start. They then get their chance to work on it live in front of the class as an ABT Build exercise with me, then in greater depth in the half hour Working Circle that they host with four participants.

Overall, the course consists of three main elements:

PRESENTATIONS – 10 half hour presentations followed by the ABT Build half hour

ABT BUILDS – roughly 7 minute sessions, one for each participant, to edit their ABT live

WORKING CIRCLES – half hour sessions outside of the 10 one hour sessions for individual ABT development

Here are the topics for the 10 presentations. The second half of the sessions are usually presented by guest speakers.



We begin with the fundamental goal of the course — to NOT “preach to the converted.” This is a pre-occupation of mine from literally forty years ago. Back when I was studying coral reefs in the 1980’s and already seeing the environmental problems emerge for them, I couldn’t figure out why PBS documentaries on coral reefs were narrated with a privilege, elitist voice that was clearly meant for the people who were least likely to be involved in the destruction of nature. There are two fundamental audiences — the INNER CIRCLE and the OUTER CIRCLE. The goal and challenge is to reach the Outer Circle. That is what the ABT is for.



This is the starting point for the 3 step ABT Development Model. It begins by going to the BUT element in the ABT. This is the statement of the problem, and the problem is the core of narrative. There are lots of attributes you want the BUT element to have, starting with ideally being a single problem, making for The Singular Narrative.



Every good story at its core is little more than a problem/solution exercise. This become clear when you take a look at the Monomyth template. This gives rise to the concept of the Ordinary World versus the Special World.



This course is about narrative structure, for which we draw a fair amount of knowledge from Hollywood storytelling. This session delves into the divide between mass appeal ABT-structured Archplot, and art house smaller audience AAA/DHY structured Miniplot.



The second half of the course requires broader, less literal thinking. This begins with the concept of “the fool.” This is the person who is so far outside your inner circle that they are beyond even your outer circle. The concept was brought to us by famous historian of the American West and MacArthur Fellow Patty Limerick. If you look at “the fool” in terms of content you can dismiss this person for not knowing your field of work. But if the fool knows narrative structure, that person can be the most valuable member of your Working Circle because their mind is so free of clutter.



My long time improv instructor and co-author of our Connection book, Brian Palermo underscores the power and importance of listening to narrative. The ABT begins with the AND element which is the power of AGREEMENT. For it to be possible, you have to be able to listen to the world around you and yield to the experts who have come before you. This is one of the central element of improv training — developing the ability to listen. It is central to the ability to communicate.



Yeah, in know, if you’re a scientist and/or academic you probably find this entire concept off-putting. But like it or not, in today’s world, the title of Daniel Pink’s bestselling book is true, “To Sell Is Human.” Park Howell, the host of the podcast, “The Business of Story,” (now it it’s 6th year) brings this element to the course with his book, Brand Bewitchery.” And believe it or not, it provides a smooth segue into the next session, which is the writing of research proposals.



My undergraduate marine biology buddy and Professor of Ecology and Evolution, Dr. Dianna Padilla, listened to Park Howell in the first round of the course and immediately said, “Yes. This is totally relevant to proposal writing.” She has had decades of writing and reviewing proposals, even serving as a program officer for the National Science Foundation. When she said narrative concepts from the business world are relevant, you know it’s for real. Also, she underscores the need to, “Genuflect to the Elders,” meaning the need to study, absorb and cite the proper literature for research that has come before you. It is central to writing successful proposals, and it is right there in the A of the ABT.



In another shocking development in this course, Dr. Nancy Knowlton (of the Smithsonian Institution and member of the National Academy of Sciences) listened to Park Howell talk about his concept of “The Narrative Spiral,” and immediately saw the relevance to her work on “Earth Optimism” and the entire history of the American environmental movement of the past century. She brings both the monomyth template and the larger scale pattern of the Narrative Spiral to make sense of the long term journey of the environmental community in general.



A rather communications-challenged climate scientist once said to me, “Randy, you just think the ABT is a hammer and everything is a nail.” Imagine telling a molecular biologist, “You just think DNA is a hammer and everything in life is a nail.” Um, yeah, actually it is. And actually, Park Howell said long ago, when he first absorbed the ABT that it is “The DNA of Story.” Thus I titled my fourth book, “Narrative Is Everything.” It really is. This final session brings the entire course together for the grand synthesis as most, if not all, of the participants exit the course with a new realization of the overwhelming and ubiquitous power of narrative structure.

Plus having had fun.

#190) VIEWING ADVICE for the NARRATIVE BLITZ: It’s not a Symposium, it’s a FILM

Would you pick and choose a handful of scenes from “The Wizard of Oz” then feel like you “got it” on the overall story? The Narrative Blitz is going to play more like a movie than a symposium. It’s going to BUILD. The first two sessions will lay down the foundation, the second two sessions will draw on them and hopefully deliver some deeper insights for you. Which means you need to join us for the entire ride. Come on, it’s gonna be fun AND memorable. Also, another piece of advice: BRING A PROBLEM that you’re working on. You’ll get lots more out of it if you do.

RSVP NOW: If you haven’t RSVP’ed for the NARRATIVE BLITZ (on Wednesday, April 14 at 11:00 a.m. PDT) or don’t even know what it is, click HERE.


THE BLITZ WILL BE INTERACTIVE:  There will be Q&A sessions for each of the 5 half hour blocks, we’ll be looking to Twitter for your questions.




Think about what this means. You don’t want to pick and choose among the 20 four minute talks, like a symposium. You want to watch EVERYTHING in sequence, like a film.

Why? Because it BUILDS. We’re pulling the final pieces together as I type this, and now viewing entire blocks.

We’re being hit by a realization: It’s a feature film.

Here’s some other pieces of advice for your viewing on Wednesday.

NARRATIVE STRUCTURE: There are four main sessions. The 1st two lay the groundwork for the 2nd two. Which means, the 1st hour lays the groundwork for the 2nd hour, then I’ll come along with the final session to demonstrate the ABT Build process and answer overall questions.

FIRST HOUR: It’s “nuts and bolts” material, introducing the Narrative Tools and explaining how they are applied.

SECOND HOUR: Putting it all to work, both in terms of what we’ve learned about the ABT Framework, & using it in the REAL WORLD (title of the last section).

BREAKTHROUGH MOMENTS: If you take the full two hour journey of the four sessions, you’ll find the first hour interesting and engaging, but it’s the second hour where you should have some, “ah-ha” moments. This stuff is about narrative. Narrative is what underpins stories, and stories are all about MOMENTS.

WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? This is a huge warning about the quality of your experience. People bringing “a problem” to their viewing will get the most out of the Narrative Blitz. If you’re having trouble writing a good essay, video script, research proposal, love letter, comedy routine, magazine article, political campaign strategy, eulogy, apology, elegy, or speech, this is the event for you. The more that you’re working on your own narrative during the Blitz, the more you will get out of it. As you hear about the deeper dimensions of the ABT, the Dobzhansky, the Christmas tree, the Circles, the Fool — all of the attributes of the ABT Framework — the more you will get out of the two hours.

SHORT ATTENTION SPAN FOLKS: This event both is and isn’t for you. If you pick and choose and jump around and lose focus and come and go and change channels and take calls during the two hours, don’t blame us if it doesn’t work. But on the other hand, the talks are only 4 minutes each (roughly) and all have tight narrative structure (how could they not, it’s obligatory if we’re going to preach narrative). They are custom made for your short attention span. You’ll be amazed at how quick they will blow by. In that regard, it’s perfect for everyone.

DON’T TAKE NOTES: Yeah, I know, you’re a compulsive note taker, right? Doesn’t matter. Stop yourself, for this one event. Don’t take notes. Most of what will be presented is in the book, “The Narrative Gym.” When you’re taking notes you’re splitting your focus between what we’re trying to convey to you and your motor skills for writing. Don’t water down the experience. Give us your 100% undivided attention (ugh, my father used to say that to me, which explains a lot), and we will pay you back with insight. Promise.

ONE TIME ONLY: The good news is we’re doing this for FREE. The bad news is it’s a one time only event (what do you expect for free?). No, it won’t be posted. You need to show up ready to BLITZ. If you do, we’re pretty sure you’ll both enjoy it and find it valuable. No guarantees, but we’re pretty sure.

#189) The ABT Framework Course to Complete Round 11

A year ago the idea of an ABT course wasn’t even a twinkle in the eyes of the dozen of us now running it. We’re probably at about 400 graduates with the course sizes ranging between 30 and 50 participants. Next week we will complete our 200th Working Circle (the spin-off exercise that goes with the course). The ABT Framework is spreading, the course is booked into the summer, it produced a book and model for development, and we’re now at work on a big event with National Park Service for April 14 — details to emerge soon!

A NEW 4 MINUTE VIDEO on the strengths of the ABT Framework from two of our long time instructors Drs. Nancy Knowlton (Smithsonian Institution, Member of National Academy of Sciences) and Dianna Padilla (Dept of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University)

Narrative Gym Cover

GET THEE TO THE NARRATIVE GYM! The exceptionally short book that has arisen from the ABT Framework Course.



Last March the pandemic set in and I decided to commit the rest of my life to nothing more than playing tennis and surfing. But by April I was bored.

A surf buddy was describing the online course he was developing for his work in child behavior. Before he could finish I caught the next wave in, called my Story Circles co-instructors to pitch the idea, within three days we announced it on Twitter and by the end of the week had filled all 50 slots.

This week we finished the 10th round of the course (with fisheries folks), next week we’ll finish the 11th round (sponsored by NSF, with museum systematists and taxonomists). The following week we’ll begin the 12th round (with National Park Service). The next month will be the 13th round (with Ecological Society of America). Several more rounds are coming together, heading into the summer.

I could say tons of great things about it, but the best things said to date are in the 4 minute video above featuring Nancy Knowlton and Dianna Padilla. Both have been part of the course from the start. Their set presentations in the course (on the Narrative Spiral and Proposal Writing, respectively) have become mainstays, as we continue to evolve our understanding of this incredibly powerful communications tool, the ABT Framework.

For details on running the course, contact us at the Story Circles website.

#188) THE DOBZHANSKY DANCE: Somebody smart is writing speeches for Biden

NEWS FLASH: No president has ever given an inauguration speech like this. Somebody smart is writing speeches for Biden that have PUNCH. Not even Trump gave speeches like this.




Someday the NY Times and Washington Post will learn how to analyze the FORM of speeches instead of only CONTENT. They don’t seem to grasp that communication consists of two parts. The result is dull inductivist random walks like this one in the Washington Post where they just searched key words (any junior high school student could do the same).

But something is going on with the FORM of Biden’s speeches. His inauguration speech was unlike ANY other inauguration speech in form, and I’m willing to bet ANY speech from a president, ever. Total. All of them.

Even Trump, with all his bellicose bleetings, still produced speeches of mostly paragraphs. Just look at the structure below of Biden’s speech compared to a sample from one of Obama’s inauguration speeches. It’s fascinating.



The Dobzhansky Template is a tool to help find the one word theme at the core of a text. Whoever is writing Biden’s speeches, they found lots of one words for him to present.

Previous to Wednesday’s Inauguration speech I heard two speeches from Biden that made me sit up and say wow, something’s different here. The Narrative Index scores have not been that high (the Inauguration was an 18, see figure below), but they’ve had a punchiness to them that stands out.

Here are representative samples of the inauguration speeches of Obama and Biden. Whoever wrote the Biden speech, that person has my automatic respect, admiration and interest. Let’s hear more of it — way to make traditional dull communications punchy.





The Narrative Index is the ratio of BUTs to ANDs, multiplied by 100 to make it a whole number.