STORYSOFT’s ABT Framework Guide

There is no one way to go about telling a story. Some begin in medias res, while others start from the ground up, before the action has loudly announced its presence and trampled over a book’s pages or hurtled off a storyteller’s tongue. Stories can be short or long, prose or verse, simple or complex. They can have a single perspective or a multitude of perspectives. But while stories are unique, most of them loosely adhere to a basic narrative structure. For the purpose of this blog, we will be diving into one universal formula in particular: the ABT framework.

The ABT framework was coined by Randy Olson, PHD, who leads an ABT framework crash course in his book with Park Howell, The Narrative Gym for Business.


"And,” “but,” and “therefore” are the three magic words that open effective storytelling doors.


And: the hook

A story without a hook is about as useful as a line without bait.


How many times have you skipped a commercial or put a book down because it didn't immediately grab your attention? I'm guessing the number is incalculable.


The hook is the most crucial aspect of a story. It locks in your audience. With no hook, you might as well have no story at all.


In fiction, the possibilities for hooks are endless. The main character could think a startling thought. The narrator could pose a compelling question. The setting could be riddled with mysteries to draw readers in. There could be a fight scene on a pirate ship, a dead body, a curse to be broken...will they break it? It’s all about generating suspense and general intrigue.

In marketing, the hook should serve to set up your product as the hero.


Say you’re selling a line of sustainable skincare products. You want to start by identifying what prospective customers want and why. The promise of their needs being met will hook them.


Assuming your prospective customers would be environmentalists interested in switching to a green routine, you could start with something like, “You want to keep your skin and the planet clean.”


Notice this also introduces what’s at stake. (The planet.) A story is nothing without stakes. Stakes add drama and elicit empathy.


But: the problem

The problem, otherwise known as the conflict, is the meat of your story. It employs “but,” the mighty word of contradiction.


“But” thwarts the smooth flow of a narrative, like a railroad switch setting the train onto a new, unexpected track. It jolts your customer out of autopilot, activating their brain so that they become fully immersed in the story.

Let’s add "but" to our hook: You want to keep your skin and the planet clean, but the sustainable products you’ve found are too expensive.”


The problem is the exorbitant price. It's the antagonist your customer can't best. (That is, without your help.)


Therefore: the solution 

Now we reach the resolution of our story, in marketing terms, the solution. It’s time for the hero to swoop in and save the day.


Remember, your brand wears the cape. More than that, other brands don’t. Set yourself apart from your competitors. Show that no other brand would suffice.


Let’s put it all together: You want to keep your skin and the planet clean, but the sustainable products you’ve found are too expensive, therefore, try Roots, the leading green skincare line, for an affordable price.”


In an entire ad versus this sample statement, you'd want to elaborate on why your brand is the leading green skincare line and compare prices, your brand positioned favorably, of course.


So now you know how to tell a powerful story and engage people using the ABT framework, but you don’t know how to reach the right audience, therefore, use STORYSOFT’s digital storytelling platform to target specific customers across channels.


Tell breakthrough digital stories with STORYSOFT. Learn more.

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