$100 Coaching Feedback Example

The following is, word for word, one writer’s answers to the Questions provided in The Amazing $100 Professional Story Coaching and Empowerment Adventure.

This author’s submission included two parts: the Questionnaire answers you see below, with my feedback… and a 4-page story summary, which also resulted in significant feedback, which is referenced in this document.

My feedback appears in ITALICS.



Dear XXXX — I read the outline first, with many comments there, so I suggesting that you review those comments first.  My feedback here will try to avoid duplication. L.

In which genre is the story told? 

Sci-Fi/Fantasy blend – soft sci-fi but some characters see technology as magic.

Everything about this story is SCREAMING for a Y/A genre.  The heroes are teens, the setting and plot (and some of the things I’m questioning, which become slightly less of an issue in Y/A) are all dead-center on YA.  It’s a huge market, the hottest market right now… I’d consider it, if I were you.  I’m not sure it plays as well in the adult sci-fi niche, but very confident it does in YA.

What is the source of the passion for your story? Why write it?  What about it energizes you (100 words or less, pls.)?

In high school, I was friends with lots of kids that I thought were way more popular than me. To me, they were always “up there” and I was down in my own little world. This was the inspiration for making my main character an orphan growing up in a world of giants where he literally does not fit in. I could go on about the settings and imagery I built into the story but what I really love is that Jareth goes from always being a victim, to taking responsibility and acting, and ultimately becomes a hero.

You have him victimized in your opening scene, then quite suddenly, almost without some catalyst, becoming ultra-heroic in the middle of the story.  I think you should look for ways to show this as a natural evolution, or one he is forced into to survive.

Which “voice” will you use: first person past, first person present, or third person omniscient?

First person past, with some epistolary bits (news clippings, messages, journal entries, etc.). The story will mostly be told from Jareth’s POV, but there will be other POV’s, especially to contrast the Jareth’s modern POV with the less-modern POV of Feneeshans.

Good choice, as this could fix the “global awareness knowledge” POV problem I pointed out in the other document.  Jareth could have accumulated knowledge about killer satellites and even the planet he lands on, and then muse on it within his narration.

The murder on the ship, and the disposition of he and the girl by the bad guy… that’s still problematic, though (see those notes).  Something that drastic shouldn’t happen (the murder), and then completely go away, unresolved.

At what stage are you now (still planning and outlining, mid-draft, or you have a completed draft that you are open to revising)?

Planning and outlining pretty much done (well, after consulting with you, perhaps), moving into drafting phase.
What is the DRAMATIC CONCEPT of your story (note: the seed/idea for a story and the concept of a story are usually NOT the same thing; also, know that your theme, that passion, is rarely the answer here)?  (Try to nail this in one sentence.)

A frustrated, misfit teenager runs away from home to another planet, but ends up on the wrong planet, where science and technology have been forgotten and are seen as magic.

The “wrong planet” raeference implies he was INTENDING to go elsewhere, and also for a reason (he has a reason to run away, but what’s the reason for heading to this intended destination?).  This collided head-on with his SUDDEN – too sudden – passionate urge to “go home” once he lands on the unintended planet.

Restate your CONCEPT in the form of a “WHAT IF?” question (example: what if a major religion employs a secret sect of killers to keep its darkest secret secure?… notice how that doesn’t speak to the theme, it speaks to plot/dramatic tension… that’s the role of concept).

What if a misfit teenager ran away from home to another planet where he could feel normal, but he wound up on the wrong planet? What if there had been a war that had diminished the population so badly that most technology has been forgotten there? What if they viewed technology as dangerous magic and only trained wizards were allowed to mess with it?

Good, but incomplete, because it doesn’t imply a role or need for Jareth.  It’s just a “statement of concept,” but YOU need to be clear on what the CORE concept is… it’s Jareth’s journey, not the problem that the planet itself has (which is implied by how you’ve written the above).

Is your concept leveraging your hero’s internal journey/conflict, or does it bring in external conflict as a means of that resolution?

Can it leverage both?  

Absolutely.  It SHOULD leverage both.

I feel like internally, the concept of being a misfit, surrounded by giants, makes it easy to understand and empathize with how Jareth could feel overwhelmed, powerless, and frustrated. Externally, it gives him a compelling reason to want to run away to another planet, and then after the first plot point, he has a compelling reason to want to try to get back home (that’s totally missing from your outline – what is that compelling reason, why isn’t he still interested in arriving at the original intended planet?), or at least to get off that planet (when you say “OR” it implies YOU don’t know… you NEED to know).

What is the “problem” or goal you are giving your hero in this story, relative to that EXTERNAL conflict, and its resulting dramatic question?  (This might be the most important question – okay, the second most important question – in this process.)

The external conflict is, at first, how Jareth runs away from home (that’s just the setup, it’s not the CORE problem, which defines the CORE problem), and later, how he gets back home.

Not sure that’s his problem, based on what I read; go deeper, understand what the core story is; his wanting to go home isn’t heroic, but his wanting to heroically save this planet and the people who befriend him there, that IS heroic… and he needs to be heroic for this to work; this is a critical issue, you need to know the difference, and then nail it.

The resulting dramatic question is: Can he overcome his feelings of victimhood, take action, and achieve his goal?
Two things here: first, in the outline you haven’t really described HOW and WHY he overcomes his victim thing.  He just does.  He doesn’t seem to reach a breaking point with it, nothing really happens that makes him a victim that would cause him to change… it should.

Then, I think you’ve stated only half, and perhaps the wrong half, of what the real dramatic question here is.  You’ve stated the THEMATIC question, but it doesn’t focus on the reader’s sense of drama (yours, perhaps, but you’ve just stumbled on the Great Trap many writers fall into… you’re writing this for you, but you need to write this for THEM, the readers.  And they respond first to EXTERIOR drama, which isn’t defined in your dramatic question. 
The external dramatic question – one you need to grasp and put into first position and priority – sounds like this: “will Jareth be able to reach the floating city and destroy the satellites, along with finding or building an escape craft, before the Red Wizard either stops him or uses him toward his own evil ends?”

See the difference?  His growth, your theme, EMERGES from that drama, it isn’t the dramatic question itself.  This is a make or break subtlety, I think.

What opposes the hero (antagonist) in the pursuit of this goal?

Jareth needs to stop focusing on his obstacles and failures.

Ironically (and I don’t mean to sound sarcastic here, but… so do you) and start focusing on his resources and successes. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, even past the tyrannical Red Wizard and his army that stand in Jareth’s way.

You’ve completely missed the real antagonist in this answer: the Red Wizard.  It’s that simple – he’s the bad guy.  He’s the thing standing in Jareth’s way, he’s the THREAT to Jareth, other than natural issues of negotiating time and space.  In you next answer you go right at it… but not here.  Take a look at that.

What are the goals of the antagonist in your story?

The Red Wizard is obsessed with power, especially the kind that superior technology/magic brings, but his lifelong ambition has been to get up to the floating city of the Ancients, to see their wonders, their magic, to find out what they are like, perhaps to join them, as he has never felt like he fit in on Feneesha.  (Just like Jareth… interesting, they have similar emotional context.)

What is AT STAKE for the hero relative to attaining (or not) the goal (which can be stated as survival, the attaining of something, the avoidance of something, the discovery of something, etc.)?

Survival, getting home (???????????), and maybe getting the girl too. 

You should add, he can save this planet or community or his friends, that’s just as heroic.  Your goal for him is a little self-centric, which isn’t perceived as heroic.  Make him a better HERO and your story will work better.

Why will anyone care about this?  What will set it apart from other stories in your genre?

C’mon, it’s like a mashup of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and The Goonies! Okay, maybe thats overgenerous. 

No, I think it’s pretty accurate, which is pretty cool.  But I do think everyone can relate to feeling different and/or in some way smaller than everyone else around them, wanting to run away, and the yearning to get home, even after having lots of bad experiences at home.  I agree.

I’d kind of like to know if YOU think anyone will care about this and what you think sets it apart from other YA sci-fi/fantasy stories. 

I agree with you on this issue.  Is is a lot like those stories, which worked well.

What is the compelling OPENING HOOK in your story (which should appear in the first or second scene)?  What questions does it pose, and why will your reader be compelled to know the answers? 

Jareth has just been brutally beat up by a bully who is three feet taller and almost 100 pounds heavier than him. Everyone around him is much bigger as well. And their neighborhood and tech are similar but definitely more advanced than our own.

Where are we? Why was Jareth beat up? Why is he smaller than everyone (or why is everyone so much bigger)? How bad is he hurt? What sort of universe is this where people can be so different? If this is the main character of this story, and he’s getting thrashed so bad this early in the story, what else is going to happen to him?

Be sure to foreshadow some burning desire in Jareth, and perhaps an inner hero awaiting liberation, to play into his transformation later.

What inner demons will plague your hero through this story?

Jareth is used to being a victim, having low self-esteem, and not raelly being given a chance because of his height. And as he tries to change things, although he is making progress, he keeps feeling as though he’s only making things worse. He wants this girl to like him but has no clue about girls, since there’s never really been a chance back home for romance (girls aren’t usually interested in guys two feet shorter than them). He feels very small and wants to be bigger, to be noticed, to assert himself, but has little experience and very few ideas on how to do that.

This is all sub-textual after initial establishment (in that first hook, perhaps), and should be alluded to, only slightly referenced, within the context of the story itself.  It’s there, haunting him, driving him, holding him back, beckoning him to change.  He can talk about it to others (through dialogue), but avoid on-the-nose thematic narrative after it’s in play.

What is your hero doing (world view, goals, values, problems, etc.) PRIOR to the First Plot Point (which is where the story-specific quest, in context to obstacles and stakes, is launched or imbued with meaning; sometimes the FPP is a moment that heightens or changes something the hero is already engaged with)?  And, how will this build reader empathy prior to the arrival of the First Plot Point?

He’s running away from home to change his environment. He sneaks through security at the skyport using his wits and common sense (and stuff he’s learned from movies and comic books) and stows away inside a trunk full of books. Inside the trunk, he gets up to a starliner in space bound for another planet where he can be the same size as everyone else. On the starliner, he bumps into the first girl his age, his size, that he’s ever met and befriends her. And all this with a broken arm in a cast and sling.

I love this.  Great  fodder for your Part 1.  He doesn’t sound much like a victim, though, this is pretty ballsy stuff.  Maybe someone, at some point, TELLS him he’s no longer a victim, that he’s already past it.

What is the theme(s) of your story (sub-text)? What issues are at hand in your story(less than 100 words, please)?

You don’t need to keep being a victim. You can change things, but it takes courage. The pursuit of power is rooted in fear.

What IS the First Plot Point in your story?

Jareth and Dayla are both trying to get each other alone for very different reasons. Jareth is very interested in getting closer to Dayla because she’s the first girl that he thinks he has a chance with. Dayla thinks that Jareth might understand a traumatic experience she’s gone through, because he looks as broken as she feels. They go somewhere a bit isolated on the starliner and stumble across a murder. The killer can’t use a gun on board a starliner – security sensors would detect it. He can’t choke both of them, like he just did to his victim. He grabs them and stuffs them into a lifepod and reprograms it to launch towards Feneesha, a planet the cruise ship passes by (for decades a grid of killer satellites has kept everyone away from Feneesha but cruises and tours go by it and throw garbage it and the passengers ooh and aah as the killer satellites blow up the garbage with brilliant lasers). The lifepod fills up with liquid oxygen and makes them feel they are going to drown, and the lifepod is going to barely miss getting blown up as it passes through a gap in the satellite grid to crash on the planet below.

This is a great idea for an FPP.  But… see my notes in the outline… there is a huge “jump the shark” aspect to it that I recommend you see – the nature of, and your abandonment of, the murder on the ship — and revise accordingly. How does this spin the story in a new direction?  In what way does this begin or alter your hero’s journey?  How does the FPP put STAKES and CONFLICT that wasn’t readily apparent prior to it (within the Part 1 scenes) into play?

It completely changes the arena of the story, for one. Jareth has always considered himself a victim, someone put into unfair circumstances and who had no power to change those circumstances, but that hasn’t really been true for a long time now. Now he’s in a place where he has no hope of rescue, and pissing and moaning is not doing him any good. Its all up to him now. He has to figure out a way to get off this planet because no one else will do it for him. This will test his assumptions about how life and the universe works.

I had feared that your Part 1 would be too long, but you’re dead on structurally perfect here, both in terms of placement and content/context of your Part 1.  Just make sure that you are eliciting EMPATHY from the reader, STAKES for Jareth, and FORESHADOWING what is to come, with some sense of OPPOSITION currently, and down the road. 

At what point in your story does your First Plot Point occur (optimal location is at the 20th percentile)?

It is at the 20 percent mark.

What happens in your Part 2 scenes?  How does this illustrate a RESPONSE (the contextual goal of Part 2) on the part of your hero?

To be fair, Jareth has been through a lot, but he just kind of rudely demands food and a place to sleep from the village elders. Despite the youth of Jareth and Dayla, with their strange clothes and his attitude, the elders banish them from the village to the nearby ruins of the Ancients. Jareth’s response is bitter pissing and moaning. He thinks he’s had it so hard, and done so much, and each action he takes, life just smashes him again. When a paladyn (paladyns are warrior priests), his acolyte, and a village girl show up with food and blankets, he is appropriately grateful, but when the paladyn tells him he is there for a purpose, he gets angry. When Dayla starts paying more attention to the acolyte boy, Jareth gets sad, then angry, even though the village girl is paying a lot of attention to him. He’s all reaction, no action, not pro-active. Not yet. After the pinch point and seeing how Dayla is seemingly okay with village life, he is frustrated again, but this time he begins learning some aspects of village life. The other village boys laugh at him because he doesn’t know most of the simple tasks they’ve done hundreds of times. The oldest of the village elders dies, they have a funeral, and Jareth decides he doesn’t want to die here.

This is where you could set a situation in which Jareth steps up to SAVE this village, both from itself and from the bad guy, and the oppressive belief that technology is magic.  You risk a drop off in TENSION in what you’ve described… what is Jareth’s new goal, what is he risking, what threatens him,  and how does he RESPOND to THAT.  You have him responding to his conditions, not a threat or a new goal to reach.  You need to do the latter.

Do you have a PINCH POINT moment in the middle of your Part 2 sequence?

Saveedyn, the paladyn that is kind to them, is taken away by soldiers of the Red Wizard, and they have to hide from the soldiers because of their strange clothes.

A perfect Pinch Point.

What is the MID-POINT contextual shift/twist in your story?  What new information does it impart to the story, and how does this shift the hero’s context from “responder/wanderer” to “attacker/warrior?”

Despite his impossible circumstances, Jareth decides he can’t just accept his fate and adapt to village life.  He HAS to at least TRY to change things, and he goes from being a victim to taking responsibility and making some bold choices.

Once again, while this is a good writing objective for this point, and it does change the context… it doesn’t say WHAT HAPPENS. 

I’m betting you know, but this questionnaire is like an acid test.  It’s like asking a student, “what are you doing to do after college?”  and the answer is, “well, I’m going to make something of myself.”  Not enough of an answer, if you’re the parent or the fiancé or the life coach.  And it’s REALLY not enough of an answer if the student himself has ONLY that, there’s no plan, no action, no strategy.

So, in reading this, I still don’t know what your mid-point is, from that answer.  What HAPPENS, and how does it change the story?   I’m hammering you on this for one reason: you need to start THINKING ABOUT YOUR STORY in this way, in specific ACTIONS AND OCCURANCES AND TWISTS, instead of what they “mean” or what it does to the character arc.  Theme and character arc are the RESULT of what happens, they aren’t “the story,” they are the “take away” from the story.  If you answered an agent this way, they’d drill you until you could tell them what the mid-point is in the story… and if you didn’t have an answer, well, not good.

After reading your outline, I think I know: it’s when they leave the village, or wherever they’re hiding out after being cast out of the village, and head off to meet the wizard.  Right?

What happens in Part 3 of your story, now that your hero is in proactive attack (of the EXTERNAL problem/goal) mode?

First, he tells Dayla, Mawch (the acolyte), and Kasee (the village girl) that he is going to rescue Kasee’s father, the wizard of the village, because he wants to go home and wizards seem to be the only people around there that might be able to help. They talk him out of it – his arm is broken, he needs to heal, he doesn’t know the country, he can’t do it. He challenges them to come with him and they all kind of shut up and make excuses.

So what IS the mid-point?  If “they talk him out of it,” that means it has to wait, meaning this hasn’t been a mid-point context shift… yet.  Needs to be one right there, at 50%.  Not just him thinking about it, making an internal shift… he needs to DO something, or something else externally needs to HAPPEN.

But later Mawch offers to heal his arm, which he does (through mental energy/divine power/the force) and asks if they could rescue his master Saveedyn as well. Jareth fully expected to have to go alone but now, with his arm healed and a companion he is getting hopeful of success. Then Kasee says she’ll come since its her father they are going to save. Then Dayla comes because they are her only friends. And maybe because Jareth is a lot more interesting when he’s not pissing and moaning. 

The contextual mission of Part 3 is to see the hero morph into a proactive warrior, beginning to engage, to attack (versus the Part 2 context of “reaction” and “wanderer”).  But here, you have the others convincing him they should come along, after turning him down.  Why the shift on their part?  If it’s in response to something HE (Jareth) does, if he’s the proactive one that brings this shift about, then yes, that’s good.  But if it’s not Jareth causing the shift, if he’s still passive here… not good.  It’s’ time, beginning at the (still missing) mid-point context shift, for him to TAKE CHARGE and be proactive.  To start acting HEROICALLY.

They visit a few wizards along the way to get gear and advice (they learn that the satellites shoot down anything that flies higher than the floating city), but are attacked at the stronghold of the second wizard they visit because the Red Wizard has declared all other wizards enemies of the Tower until he figures out who has been collecting all the fallen satellites (he thinks someone might be threatening his power by getting and denying him certain technology, and it that it can only be other wizards).

How does he respond to these attacks?  Be careful to not sudden imbue him with superpowers or over-the-top heroism… the important thing is to show him being DIFFERENT here, acting cleverly, courageously.  It’s a fine line, he’s still a kid battling warriors, and one-on-one he’d lose.  So he has to be proactive in other ways here.

What is your strategy to escalate dramatic tension, pace and stakes in the second half of your story?

Running from the forces of the Red Wizard, (careful, he’s not “responding here, as he was in Part 2, his new context is warrior/attacker… and if he’s being attacked, he needs to proactively respond like a smart, though outnumbered and outgunned, warrior would, rather than simply “running from” them) getting closer and closer to the Tower and the floating city (by virtue of his new proactive non-victim self being clever and courageous), the attempted escape from the Red Wizard’s prison inside the Tower, then being captured and taken before the Red Wizard himself (again, you need to walk the line here, he’s not “fleeing” in Part 3, he’s becoming heroic)… the action and tension are definitely escalating. 

Yes, but I think you are at risk here, this all sounds perhaps too Part 2 –ish… responding, wandering, fleeing, running, getting captured… versus… proactive, attacking, warrior-like, courageous, clever, heroic; see the difference?  You shouldn’t mess with the different contexts of the four parts: orphan… wanderer… warrior… hero/martyr.

What is the Second Plot Point in your story?  How does this change or affect the hero’s proactive role?  What new information enters the story here?

The Red Wizard thinks they must be part of the mysterious faction that are taking all the fallen stars (the fallen satellites) before his men can retrieve them. He threatens them with death unless they take him to the secret base where all the satellites are. They swear they don’t know, they’re just kids.

Good, just right for PP2, because it changes the story, kicks it into final gear.  Suggest you make Jareth HEROIC and brilliant in the way he convinces the Wizard and saves himself and the others, and from this point forward, Jareth is THE MAN… but… he’s still a kid, not Super-Kid, so make it credible.  He can’t suddenly be able to beat Darth Vader in a sword fight.

The Wizard believes them and orders them released, but not Kasee’s father, Degren, or the paladyn Saveedyn. Jareth thinks of something and bargains with the Red Wizard to release him and his friends, along with Degren and Saveedyn, if they can lead him to the secret base where all the fallen satellites are being kept (he knows his netlink/smartphone is keyed to the signal of the lifepod they came down in, but is only half-sure that the lifepod was taken to where all the other fallen satellites have been taken). The Red Wizard has no other leads and Jareth promises they are within a day’s march of the Tower, so he agrees. Jareth & the others are allowed to see Degren and Saveedyn but they will remain at the Tower until Jareth has upheld his end of the bargain. Saveedyn reveals to Jareth that it has been the paladyns, not the wizards, that have been rounding up all the satellites and he is told that he must get up to the floating city and shut down all the killer satellites remaining in orbit in order to get home and, in effect, save the planet. In parting, Saveedyn gives Jareth his lantern, telling him he will need it.

How does your story end?  Describe how your hero becomes the primary catalyst for this resolution.

When the Red Wizard and his army arrive at the secret base where the paladyns have been bringing all the fallen satellites, the paladyns ambush them (these are like warrior monk paladyns, not ascetic, berobed scribes) and Jareth and company escape in the confusion. Jareth is about to lead the team back the way they came, to climb the Tower and get across to the floating city (the tower was originally constructed to reach the floating city) when he sees the barn with all the fallen satellites inside.  (a great scene, I can see it.) The paladyns have been constructing an anti-gravity flying contraption from parts of the fallen satellites. Kasee gets it going (for this to work you’l have had to establish her as a genius engineer and not among the technologically-fearful, because you keep having her “rescue” them with her ability to build and fix things; be careful of a rabbit-out-of-the-hat convenience in doing so) and they escape into the sky, flying slowly across the valley up to the floating city, Lanokis. They are greeted by “zombie robots” – old machines, falling apart, that have been tending the gardens and keeping the lights on for 100 years, but the rest of Lanokis is overgrown. They ask the robots to lead them to the underground control room and Jareth leads the way with Saveedyn’s lantern.

I struggled with this in the outline.  Friendly security robots?  Who suddenly serve their every need?  Seems too easy, and too unlikely.  Add to the tension by creating something more formidable here… maybe Jareth was a programming whiz back in school and he, under pressure, has to reprogram them on the run, before they are killed by them in their role as guardians of the floating city.  I just can’t see (or wrap my head around) robots greeting them with high fives and appetizers.

Security robots guard the control room and they have to retreat

Seems like a contradiction in what you just said about the robots that greeted them; if you’re suggesting two different personalities of the robots, I think that’s a little weak.

They figure out that the lantern is actually a nano-reactor and Kasee is able to cobble together a primitive power sword/light saber using the nano-reactor as a power source (this is why this is a YA and not an adult novel), and Jareth fights the robots and gets them in. They shut down the satellites and everyone sees the fire trails in the sky as all the satellites fall to earth. The Red Wizard knows that this means he can fly up to Lanokis now (anything flying up to Lanokis previously was shot down by the satellites, but the satellites don’t shoot at each other and their contraption is made from satellites) and he marches everyone back to the Tower, enraged that someone has gotten to Lanokis before him. He preps an airship and loads up soldiers, and the rest of the army are ordered to march to the top of the Tower and using the boarding ramp. The kids see the airship coming and run back to the control room to try and move the city away from the tower, but as soon as they start changing the direction of the city, a huge shudder goes through the island. It, too, has been floating for 100 years and not getting all the maintenance it should. Pylons start fluctuating and one gives out, causing the whole island to tilt a few degrees. They try to tell the city to keep moving away from the tower and the city below, and then flee to their flying contraption to get out of there. 

Did they cause this shift from the control room?  Hope this isn’t a coincidence.

Its too late – the Red Wizard has landed. He, like Mawch and Kasee, is amazed to find Lanokis abandoned, but then he’s angry. He (he should have a cadre of soldiers guarding him, threatening) stands in the way of the fleeing kids and demands that they fix whatever they broke. The pylon that sputtered out minutes before comes roaring back to life and rips through the surface of the island, shooting into the sky and knocking buildings over.

It might be better to have it so Jareth actually engineering this to happen, as part of his proactive heroic final attack to stop the bad Wizard.

Jareth turns his power sword back on and fights the Red Wizard and his troops that haven’t already fled back to the airship while his friends escape. 

I suggest some Clint Eastwood-like showdown, ultimatum standoff type of thing that goes South, and then Jareth kicks into hero-mode to save the day.

The city becomes increasingly unstable but when the Wizard “attempts(Larry’s change; more active than “decides”) to flee back to his airship (Jareth keeps him engaged a few seconds more and his men leave him behind. The Red Wizard perishes as he is caught atop another huge pylon as it explodes upwards and shoots into the heavens (another reason this should be the result of something Jareth DOES, rather than a coincidence of it happening otherwise). Jareth flees, finding a jetpack (careful of convenient providence here). The city crashes to the ground in a tremendous explosion of rock, dust, and fire, as Jareth streaks into the sky, escaping the carnage.

Jareth joins his friends and later, in the night, shuttles and ships begin coming down from space. Jareth’s father comes, as does Dayla’s, to take them home.

Jareth’s FATHER?  That’s from out of the blue.  He was given up by this guy for adoption by his best friend long ago, and wasn’t in his life, and we don’t know where he’s been all this time… how can he show up now?  How does he even know where Jareth is, or that he’s in trouble, and how would Jareth know how to call him for help, why wouldn’t he call his adoptive father… and how would they get there, what is Jareth doing until they do… and finally, Jareth RAN AWAY from his old life, why would he call them for help anyhow?

Think you need to take a closer look at this tag ending (Jareth’s transition to the future… what would that be?)  Going home… seems like going backwards.


Great story landscape.  Good structure, other that the Mid-Point, which as I read here is void of specific action or external shifts.

The real challenge, I think (and I’m commented on them a lot here), is the use of unlikely, coincidental and too-convenient expositional machinery to move the story forward.  Also, too much focus (here) on his internal landscape and arc, versus external tension and forward movement.

I hope I’ve given some things to think about, and that they result in value-adding enhancements, fixes, and boosts to all of the essences of story physics (the premise… dramatic tension… pacing… hero empathy… vicarious ride… optimized execution.

Thanks for letting me into your sandbox for a while.


(NOTE: Significant feedback was given to the author’s 4-page story summary, as well, some of which was referenced in this document.)


9 Responses to $100 Coaching Feedback Example

  1. Pingback: Novelists: The Data on “Normal”… And the Path to Extraordinary

  2. It’s wonderfully generous of you to share this, Larry. Just reading through the questions and getting your suggestions has helped me reconsider where to begin my WIP. I’m going to take these questions, give them tons of thought, and answer them in relation to my story. It can only help. 🙂 If my finances improve, maybe I’ll even get brave enough to submit it to you. I can see you’re offering tremendous value.

    This story of Jareth sounds like it could be a good read even for those of us who aren’t in the YA category. I was hooked by the discrepancy in size between Jareth and the others on his planet and certainly would keep reading to discover why it existed. And it sounds like the author raises more questions in the reader’s mind as the story progresses. Always a good thing!

    I’m pretty sure I would enjoy reading the finished product after the author acts on all your suggestions. I hope he/she lets us know when the story is published. And convey our appreciation for allowing this to be shared!

  3. Rosie

    I heartily endorse the above comment, thank you for being so generous and thanks to the story writer too.

    I will answer these questions and then when I am beyond – what I am calling – my rough draft. I will get back in touch with you for a proper look over.

    This is such a great thing to offer us and, in theory, it’s worked cos you are now my go-to-guy when I am ready to let anyone read my efforts. The more I learn the more I can see how crappy my writing is!

    Love Rosie

  4. Michael

    My hat’s off to XXXX for stepping up to the plate and letting the world look at your comments. Thanks. I agree, the feel of the story line is YA. I’ve recently read a LOT of unpublished and (self)published work, including quite a few pieces in the YA genre, and my only additional suggestion to XXXX is to be careful to end up with a story that reads like it was written for young adults and not by a young adult. Most of the YA pieces I read used simplistic plot lines, underdeveloped main character and antagonist through lines and failed to explore the story line completely. The result was that they felt unfinished and in some cases, patronizing (the works of Roald Dahl would be a good place to start for how to do it right). That’s why YA is so difficult to write — the problems of children growing into adulthood are intense and universal, but at the same time adults often underestimate their capacity to grasp proper problem solving.

    That’s why Pixar Studios have had ten hits in fifteen years and children can sit and watch those movies over and over — The stories explore all four aspects of internal problem solving (learning, doing, understanding, and obtaining), not necessarily in that order, but each with its own act (the psychological basis for the universal four-act structure). Children know a complete story on a subconscious level and are drawn to them (as are adults) because their stories give us a full solution to the problem presented by the inciting event.

    XXXX, thanks again for putting yourself on the line to help all of us. We appreciate it. And thanks to Larry for being there to keep us in line.


  5. Pingback: Good Intentions |

  6. I wanted to step out of the shadows and reveal that I’m “XXXX.” When Larry asked me about this I was understandably reluctant, but thought it could be a way to get even MORE feedback AND help others realize the value of getting this kind of feedback. I wanted to say a big Thank You! for the feedback so far. Michael – that bit about internal problem solving as it relates to the four-act structure? Awesome!

  7. Questions were a grea help to me. Really made me think. I will work on all aspects and get back to you when I think my ms. is acceptable.

    Thanks again,


  8. Shaun

    Hey Larry,

    Thanks for the sample questionnaire. Do you have different questions for those of us who are just in the planning stages? I notice you have questions that ask about the First Plot Point, Mid-shift, Second Plot Point etc. What if you don’t really know where the story is going? I’m mostly world building and planning. I have a very vague idea of where I want it to go.

  9. Shaun, there is no different questionnaire if you’re in the planning stages. What I would do, if you haven’t already, is go to THIS post: http://storyfix.com/from-idea-to-fully-viable-story-plan-in-one-blog-post . Use these ideas to help you flesh out your story, and once you’ve developed the story to a point that you want some solid, in-depth feedback, get some help form Larry and come back to these questions THEN.

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