Looking for the Hook, Dramatically

Part 1 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure

What’s the problem with the “Indoor Air is Bad For You” story? I’ve pitched it several places, with no takers. The angle with which I’ve shot it over the transoms is

The emerging discovery that it’s cheaper to treat asthma by fixing people’s homes than by prescribing them asthma drugs.

Let’s take the story apart, as a dramaturg would take apart a play, to see how it works. Or, in this case, how it fails to work.

A play has Characters, distinguished by what they want, how they hope to get it, and the obstacles to their goals.

A story has Stakeholders, also distinguished by what they want, how they hope to get it, and what’s in the way.

For the Indoor Air story, the stakeholders are:

People with asthma and other illnesses caused by houses. They want to be well. Many don’t know their home is the problem, or that anything can be done about it. So their obstacle is ignorance of what’s making them sick. The cause is all around them. The living room in the living room, so to speak.

Organizations that pay for other people’s medical expenses. These stakeholders are insurance companies, state Medicaid funds, and taxpayers. Also individuals with high-deductible insurance, who pay most of their own medical costs. These people want to pay out less money. They don’t care as much about how much health they get for their money. Most of them believe the only way they can pay out less money is to make someone else pay, like the patient. In other words, they play zero-sum games.

People who fix homes, that is, contractors. They want their customers to be happy, and they want to make a living.

The new building scientists. They want to understand how to fix buildings that make people sick. They hope to do that by figuring out how modern airtight buildings work, and how they make people sick. Their obstacle is isolation. Most builders and policy makers don’t know about their discoveries.

Do we have any other major characters in the story?

Contractors who want to use the new building science to get paid for making sickening homes healthy. Their obstacle is general ignorance that this is possible, not to mention the ignorance that houses can cause health problems in the first place. So when they offer these services, they sound like scammers peddling snake oil.

Okay, we’ve taken apart the story, and the pieces are spread out on the desk.

Next post – How to put the story back together, better.