The “A” and “B” Stories of Our Lives

What's your story picture

by Stephanie Shafran

Did you know each of us has an “A” story and a “B” story to our lives? I first heard about this concept at a featured reading by Ann Averill, a talented local author who recently published her memoir “Teacher Dropout: Finding Grace in an Unjust School”. Summarizing these main ideas from “Save the Cat Writes a Novel”, by Jessica Brody, Ann explained the concepts behind this formula.

The “A” story we carry with us consists of the actions and/or experiences that occur at any moment(s) in our life. For instance, from Ann’s title it becomes clear that this teacher/narrator had an experience of “dropping out from the title” of school at some point, either as a student or teacher. Of course, It’s not clear from the title whether this was a literal or figurative “dropping out”.

The “B” story of our lives records our journey into a new landscape (literally or figuratively) and the insights we glean from it. This journey is usually not a smooth one; either something or someone “rocks our world”, disrupts the status quo we are living in that moment, setting off a destabilizing, uncomfortable period of tremendous change that we are challenged to endure.

But by the end (of the book, chapter, or a period of our lives), something dramatic has changed—a transformation has taken place, leading the main character (each of us) to a new “beginning”, a new “blossoming”, from which there is no turning back. Using Ann Averill’s title, this transformation is hinted at in the second half: “finding grace in an unjust school”. From this part of the title, the reader surmises that something positive occurred for this author after she dropped out of a school that was somehow “unjust”. To discover the details, we are invited to read the memoir from beginning to end.

As soon as Ann articulated this way of conceptualizing one’s life story, something significant clicked in my brain. Over the past decade, I have begun three different drafts of a memoir, each one from a distinct perspective. With each, after an initial period of inspiration, my enthusiasm soon faded, leading me to abandon the writing. No more, I declare! Next time, I’ll conceptualize my “A” and “B” story first, then identify the guideposts for each one. I have confidence that the trajectory of my life story will then reveal itself more clearly and convincingly to me. From there, it’s only a matter of time and discipline (only???) before completion of the first draft of my memoir.

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