So basically, I’m a consultant. “Life coach” is so 90s, so greasy, implies scam and scandal. Consultant is clean and plain. Aerodynamic. Like a paper plane arcing through the sky.
As far as company names go, “Storify” was already taken by that Twitter app and “Storycorps” is already that NPR thing, I think, and I couldn’t come up with anything better than those, so my consultancy is nameless. At this point if someone says oh I’ve been seeing Kate Cobb lately then everyone will know exactly what they’re talking about because I’m the only one who does what I do. I’m in extremely high demand. I’ve had to raise my prices three times in the last eighteen months.
What I do—this is the elevator pitch, or the cocktail party pitch, or the sitting next to you on a flight to Dubai pitch—is help people understand the story of their lives.
Naturally, if they live here in Los Angeles, and additionally they have decided to come to me, a client already understands themselves to be the main character. This is helpful. But usually whatever other impressions they arrive with are quite mistaken, and the first step in my process (patent-pending) is to disabuse them of preconceived notions, fully establish a blank page before I start my actual work.
Narrativization is the keyword here. Identifying where in the classic hero’s journey a client is; what they can expect to come next. What archetypes their friends embody, and their enemies. If they think they don’t have enemies they are probably wrong. I help them understand who in their lives is oppositional or malicious in terms of character traits and motivation.
I get them to open up—tell me everything—which they are usually practiced in doing, whether that be from years in intensive therapy or from getting drunk and high and oversharing to strangers at parties. Some might find this part boring. I never do. This trend for “autofiction” has been the best possible thing for my business. Pretty much everyone, no matter how boring, understands now that they have a best-seller inside of them, a sensical, compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end. They come to me, and I help them write it.
I’ve always been prolific. I wrote an entire novel at the age of 12 based on the protracted and poorly-hidden affair, clearly visible to my young eyes, occurring between my married Spanish teacher Mrs. Wang and my equally married science teacher Mr. Urquhart. The book was one hundred pages long, single-spaced, in Microsoft Word once I typed it up from the handwritten drafts in my composition notebooks, and by the time I had it fully edited and printed out, the affair had imploded in precisely the way that I’d written it doing so in the final act: including Mr. Urquhart’s violent breakdown in front of his sixth-period biology class, Mrs. Wang’s divorce and reversion to her maiden name of Andersen, and the swift departure of both teachers for greener pastures and perhaps, in the case of Mr. Urquhart, an inpatient program.
The novel itself was incredibly derivative, its dialogue and pacing copied uncreatively from my mother’s soap operas, its descriptions deeply purple and meandering, but the essential emotional truths were all accurate, as were their eventual manifestations. I knew then that I had a unique talent, though it wasn’t until later I figured out how to effectively monetize it.
I’m not psychic, or anything. I’m not into crystals and incense makes me sleepy. This is about stories.
Speaking of stories, that’s the second stage of my consultation. Exposition, establishment of motifs and themes. Framing childhood and young adulthood in terms of pivotal moments. And this is where I have to go, look, I know what you’re thinking but I’m not a Freudian or anything like that.
Anyway, after that, it gets properly holistic. Nothing is one-size-fits-all in this business—I work on a client-by-client basis. I’m not filling out templates. That would be boring. I delve. It’s all instinct. They don’t teach this stuff in MFA programs. I have a talent. And that talent gets results.
If someone’s life doesn’t seem to be moving towards any kind of eventual resolution, then I work with them to reframe the whole thing as episodic vs serial. Or perhaps if they’re dealing with a bunch of clowns who don’t understand them, we figure out that they’re living in a multi-cam comedy and not a single-cam drama. These are things everyone understands, right? Instinctively so. It really is ingrained in a socio-cultural sense. Everyone gets it, at least in the places my clients come from. Los Angeles is filled with people whose religion is television and film; New York is filled with people who only believe in books. Tomato tomahto.
My own story started when at age seven, my grandmother showed me her diary from the 1940s. I read it all the way through, those looping cursive entries full of longing and indecision, having to choose between proposals from Herbert and Bob.
There were a few blank pages at the back where I added my own entry, in my best imitation of Grandma’s handwriting—I wrote down what I thought would happen next, and I showed it to her.
“It didn’t happen like that,” Grandma had said, “but it might have. It could have. I remember wanting it to. Maybe I still wish it did… but then I wouldn’t have had your mother, and she wouldn’t have had you. But how did you know all that, little Kate?”
A client of mine was struggling with love and dating and so after doing my usual delving into her work life and her home life over a few sessions, I dropped into her inbox approximately five thousand words of erotic fiction starring her and a coworker.
And that—yes, alright—is what we call the “killer app.” Nobody else is doing it like me. This sort of thing is really what they’re paying for, even if they don’t realize it yet:
Callie had always found George’s voice to be annoying, especially in meetings when he had nothing to contribute. He was much improved in silence, with his mouth occupied, licking a hot stripe up the center of her.
“Oh, God,” Callie cried, her legs quivering around his head. She grabbed a hunk of George’s thinning hair and he moaned into her, increasing his pace and intensity. If she’d known he was so good at eating pussy she would’ve treated him better, would have perhaps signed her emails to him with a “Best” or even an “x” instead of just her name.
When he lifted his face away to catch his breath she looked down and found herself looking into his eyes. She saw something there that made her gasp aloud—such intense hunger, and for her, only for her...
Now, this George fellow was, as far as she knew, a minor character in her own story as we’d drawn it out so far. Nothing about him, to her, marked him out as appealing or particularly interesting.
But I knew. I could tell.
I sent her the story and she went ballistic. Breach of contract, invasion of privacy, et cetera, yadda yadda. I didn’t hear from her for two weeks. Fine, whatever, I’ve got a hundred other clients banging on my door.
Then one morning I wake up to an email from Callie asking how I knew what color and brand of underwear George wore. And two weeks later she comes to my office and she tells me the whole story, of how she fucked George on her desk just like my story said and it was the most thrilling experience of her life; of how now she and George are going to team up to head a new initiative within the company together after their boss saw how well they were getting along, about how her career is finally starting to move forward again.
Only a consultant like me, looking at her life from the subjective viewpoint of a narrator, could have understood and foreseen how all of that would play out, you know? And okay, I guess maybe I am a Freudian because it really does come back to sex with alarming regularity. The romance novel industry is booming, apparently, but I’ve never had it in me to make up stories out of nothing and for no one. I don’t have the head for it. Like, who does that help, you know? Cheap schlock starring fake people; escapism, really. I’m not an author. I would consider myself a professional consultant for whom writing forms a large part of my practice, and the stories I deliver are not fiction. They are maps. Everyone wants to know where they’re going, how to weather the gales of ambition and come out safe and satisfied on the other side. How’s it going to end, you know?
I’ll tell them how. I’m always right. In an emotional sense, you know, if not perhaps always a strictly predictive linear sense. But that too, pretty frequently. I’ve got a good track record. I’ve built up a reputation. Currently I charge eight thousand dollars for a six-week contract. I’m thinking I might raise my prices soon again, though.