Judge Feedback on The Bully King

This is the message I received from the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge judges:

“The feedback from the judges on your first round submission from the Short Story Challenge 2021 is below.  You should be proud of rising to the challenge and we hope you find the feedback helpful.  Because you placed in the top 5 of your group, you have advanced to the 2nd Round kicking off at 11:59PM EDT (New York time) on Thursday, April 8th.  Congratulations and best of luck in the 2nd Round!

”The Bully King” by Mary Lamphere –     WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY –

Ewwwww ~ You did a marvelous job, (right up front, too, as it should be), of providing a most repellant description of your Bully King:

“Greasy hair falls across a field of acne and the bearer’s breath rivals that of week old entrails….his crooked nose still rimmed with flaking blood from his earlier battles…his patchy beard.”

It was also very impactful that all that surrounded the King, e.g. his lands, fencing, flooring, drinking mugs, and even royal throne, were in such filthy, even desiccated & rotting, states.

LOVED Mismary’s observation: “Genuine mirth is the most melodious of sounds”.

So fabulous: the concept of a Summoning Bowl, and that Mismary had the magical skills to work it.

Equally impressive: that she could take the infant Everly and raise him to be a kind & chivalrous King.

Nice variation on that classic final line!  

The writing was well crafted. And the theme of bullying and the cycle of abuse did a great job of giving the story a genuine heart. 

We’re immersed in a fairytale setting with characters right from the beginning. The offer of  wish to the king is intriguing and raises questions and we wonder what the consequences will be–for fairy and king.

The king is an outrageous character, full of bluster and gusto. The end is sweet and full of hope as we see the king a boy again with a life to create all anew and with new promise.  


Your Logline composition doesn’t affect your overall score. I’m just sharing this tip as a bonus extra to up your game in future:
The most effective Loglines contain these three elements:
your Protagonist(s),
their Goal, and
an Impediment to that Goal.
In your case, you have a Ruler who makes one wish which doesn’t work out, and so makes another. If we knew what the wish was, and what impeded it, you’d have all three elements, and would be rooting for or against this tyrant.

But you make him unattractive whilst sounding as if all the power of agency is in his hands. Or is it? Again, if you named his Antagonist, the conflict would be juicier.  

The pacing feels a bit off towards the end. The first page is a rich description of a scene and a conversation. And while I enjoyed the ending, the time between Everly asking for his second wish and the ending felt a bit rushed. 

It’s not clear who this fairy is speaking to in the beginning. Be clear up front that this looming face is the king so we are grounded in this situation.”