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When in natural state, is guzzling coffee with some music in the background
Keep Pretending
FiM Minific
Bronze medalMortarboard
In Name Only
Original Minific
Ingénue, c. 2003
Colour Contagion
Original Minific
Sibling Ribaldry
And at the End, You Shall Remain Alone
FiM Minific
The Emissary
The Howl in the Dark
Original Minific
A Triptych For Amduscias
All the Time in the World
FiM Short Story
To Prepare A Paradise
#18996 · 3
· on The Glimmer In The Silence · >>Miller Minus
Alright, time to take a swing at this.

The idea of portraying all the sounds in the story as light and vice versa is pretty neat; you've basically taken the prompt and turned it upside down. I wouldn't say it's a novel approach, but it's something that definitely improved my perception of the story after giving it another few more times. The vagueness of it all definitely did leave me a little frustrated at first, though I can come out and say that without it, the story might not work as well as when it's obvious the first time around, so props to you, author!

If anything, I wished the concept could be delved into more. You've left me wondering how the howling and growling of the wolves would look like, or how the moonlight sifting through the leaves as our protagonist rushed through the woods would sound like. It may surpass the word count, surely, but I argue that they could be implemented in place of some of the more 'telly' parts of the story.

Which brings me to the one gripe I had with this entry.

The narrative of the story seems to be a single chase scene through the forest because the protagonist wants a bit of fruit. It's a simple and straightforward approach — justifiable, again, considering the word limit. I had wished you'd build upon the concept with the narrative, though that approach would be difficult considering the word count. On the contrary, even with that in mind, I believe the narrative isn't simple enough, to be frank.

I don't think it's to the story's merit that we need to know the 'why' and 'how' she got into this situation, nor is it important to focus too much on the environment— the one paragraph that goes into detail about the tree's bark sticks out like a sore thumb for me. I also think you don't have to outright identify the antagonist as being wolves as well; if it's something left to our imagination, I believe it would amp up the fear factor a little and would allow you to be a bit creative with the descriptions a little.

Also, the ending.

Maybe it's me, but the ending was close to contradictory to the tone of the story that you've set so far. I would rather see the doom of our protagonist be described with the lights and sounds approach. How would you craft an image of death using the distorted instruments of light and sound, I wonder? It also doesn't function narratively: you mentioned several times a wolf tasted her directly, yet somehow, they just ignore it as if she's a mushroom in the middle of the forest. I would think wolves with their acute senses could smell the blood from the cuts in her skin and recognize the taste of warm breathing flesh as well.

Overall, it's a neat story with a wonderful concept that's unfortunately dragged a little too far down by its narrative. I do hope some of my fellow writers would give further insight into some things I've missed and would love to hear their opinions on this piece, cause I think the ideas being toyed with here are interesting.

Best of luck to you!
#19691 · 3
· on Aftercare
>>Pearple_Prose, >>Haze, >>Bachiavellian, >>Rao, >>Posh, >>Hap

So this did better than I expected.

First of, just wanna say thanks to everyone for the comments! Really glad everyone enjoyed the banter between these two. Also special thanks to Zaid for the art. Good stuff, man.

So, like what Bachi said, the idea behind the camera was to give a sense of where Chrysalis was emotionally and also situationally. She had lost her entire hive and she's desperate to get it back, but she also needs to sate her hunger, so in this story, she turns to the one pony she knew would never deny her that.

The opening, I agree, could be a lot better. I think it turned out this way because, frankly, the relationship between Fancy and Chryssi I had intended for this story was a lot simpler, but as time went on, it became rather complicated to nail down that relationship of theirs properly without keeping it interesting in such a short span of time. In the end, the essence of the relationship was still there, but the change was still rather drastic, which is why I opened it as such to cede some information to the reader: it was meant to imply how Fancypants views Chrysalis in general, which I'll get into in a bit. Of course, it's still done with vagueness in mind, so yeah.

On that note, Fancypants.

The relationship between him and Chrysalis in this story is definitely complicated, mostly on Fancy's part. They do love each other and have been with each other for seven years, but at this stage, there's also a lot of dishonesty regarding their feelings of each other thanks to the circumstances, with the liquor being sort of a marker for their honesty. Chrysalis was a lot less subtle about admitting it. Fancypants, on the other hand, was much more careful, albeit he does slip up from time to time. His feelings for her, however, are much stronger than hers for him, which is where things start to seem sketchy for him.

From the opening, the context I gave was that Fancypants thought condescendingly little of the admiration other ponies had for him. The whole 'one too many admirers' and 'Few had the privilege. Fewer deserve it' was there to paint that. The idea that ponies would flock to him as if he were some sort of god disgusts him. However, it's also meant to serve as a connection to how he views Chrysalis, all via a single twist of a word:

They were all faces to him, all craving to be seen, to be recognized by name.

A face he'd recognize anywhere.

'Recognize', in this case, had its definition twisted to mean 'reverence'.

Basically, Fancypants loves her to an unsettling degree. Fancypants wants her to come back to him, wants her to feed on him and only him. Fancypants genuinely believes she won't kill him because he loves her just that much and no one else could ever do that. He would've forbidden anyone else to have sex with her because how dare they? In the end, he lets her have the camera because he suspected, deep down, that she was going to fail, and once she did, she'll come back to him by her own will, as if it was meant to be. The final lines of each scene (“Don’t worry. I’ll be with you soon.” and “I’ll always be here if you need me.”) was honestly what I intended to be the hook of the story.

Of course, there's another layer to this, which might open up to why he was acting contradictorily.

Fancypants loves Fleur, but not Queen Chrysalis.

Fleur was the Chrysalis he fell in love with. The Fleur he took in seven years ago was the pony he loved. That was why he refuses to address or even view her as Chrysalis. There was a point of time where Chrysalis wasn't hell-bent on world domination, that she was satisfied with what she had, but once she invaded Canterlot, it was a point of no return. Nevertheless, Fancy remains determined on trying to bring Fleur back, albeit really carefully ('you should walk around town, get a new hobby', 'I have friends who’ve asked you where you’ve gone, Fleur' and Because you’re better than that) for fear of losing her love entirely. He believes that, in the end, Fleur will return to him after all her efforts are in vain.

As for Chrysalis? Fortunately (or unfortunately), she's innocent in all of this. She still loves Fancy, but she doesn't want to admit it, and that's it.

I guess in the end, there's supposed to be a moral about the magnitudes of evil and what will be considered acceptable and such, but I'm not intelligent enough to go there.

Again, thanks for reading!
#19712 · 3
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5 · >>horizon >>horizon
Me upon learning this is actually happening.

I'm up for writing some, especially with the backlog of monsters in my head. I'm definitely not used to Borges' style though, so I might need some help on that front.

Can't wait!
#18997 · 2
· on When Insides Turn to Outsides
Joining the bandwagon here.

I feel like there's a good story somewhere in this entry. I agree with everyone else, the tone is visceral, and I do like it, yes, but it doesn't serve any other purpose other than to unsettle us. I feel like the point it's making is lost in all the descriptions, which were done well, but the message behind them is not coming through.

One fix I can think of while reading this story is that we change the reader's perspective to that of Doctor Bronner.

He seems to be the fulcrum of the story, with the sequence of events ostensibly more important to him than to our objectively more boring protagonist. Considering how absurd the direction of the story was already from the victim's perspective, I'd like to see a transcendence of that by jumping into the mad doctor's shoes. I want to understand his logic, as illogical as it may be. I want to feel his ecstasy, as immoral as it may be. If there's a message in this story, perhaps it can be accentuated further with this character in the focus without sacrificing all the little details in the process.

To put it in the simplest and bluntest way possible, the story had the gall to disturb us for the moment we're reading it but lacked the conviction to cement it for eternity. If you want to write something shocking, I'd say make it a memorable one. It can be done and it has been done before, even with a short word count.
#19064 · 2
· on A Triptych For Amduscias
>>Miller Minus

Thanks guys for the comments!

Honestly, this was more as an exercise in atmosphere than story, so I wasn't really concerned about the plot or the characters. I didn't really think of the plot twist as being a plot twist when I was writing this either, so I never really intended on making it shocking or really delve into the background of the characters.

Abigail is not the killer nor is she a ghost. It's more of an entity wearing Abigail as a shell, the entity being Amduscias, one of the Great Dukes of Hell from the Ars Goetia and the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. That's where all the unicorn and trumpet symbolism is from, as well as the thunderstorm outside.

Here's a picture of the devil in question.

The killer had basically offered her to Amduscias as a body to possess, the triptych (one of it's definitions: a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.) being the three drives that featured a photo of her body, the incantations of praise, and the sound of her screaming. I had thought of ending it with Harold turning around to see Abigail smiling at him and the lights going out, though I opted for a more vague approach by mentioning the thunder again.

All in all, I didn't mind you guys (and I'm pretty sure everyone else) not getting it. Just me trying out a hand at atmosphere for another story.

#19605 · 2
· on Daring Do and the Ibis
Coming in a little late this round, sorry about that!

Since the first round was over, I'll come out and say this story came out right above the middle of my slate. There's a lot of things I like, the dynamic between Daring Do and Ibis coming out first and foremost. Like with another fic this round, the dynamic of mother and child reminded of the Lynne Ramsay film We Need To Talk About Kevin, which itself was adapted from a novel by Lionel Shriver. The unsettling vibe I had gotten from their exchange managed to draw me in, so it definitely set the bar high in terms of a strong opening. If there is one gripe I do have, it's this small moment of insight into Daring's thought process.
Now was not the time to be cross. After all, the only thing that made her feel worse than yelling at her son was being laughed at immediately afterwards.

No, today was a day for a new strategy.

I think this portion of the story did dampen the tension a little. It revealed information about her thought process as a mother, and though I appreciate the insight, I wished you kept us guessing at how Daring's attempts at motherhood are going to be like instead. I think even without that section, we can connect the dots.

Past the halfway point, my biggest issue with the story came with Ibis stumbling upon her memorabilia. The sequence of events itself isn't bad by itself writing-wise, and I don't mind being duped into this story being fake-horror, but I just wished that somehow, there can be a connection of sorts that's more personal to her as a mother than her as an explorer. Something more tangible than 'he'll have to learn about this someday'. I came away with it thinking there's a more important and precise reason that Daring hid her adventuring life from his son that we aren't seeing.

Simply put, I've seen Daring Do as an explorer before. I want to see Daring Do as a mother.

That aside, this story definitely's one that stuck out to me, in that I didn't need to open it up in a new tab to remember what it's about. The dialogue between them is impeccable and, again, calling back vibes I had from the film I mentioned. One line stood out for me because of how 'Daring Do' it was.

"So… Are you… an octopus?"

Because of course, the first thing she thought of would be some weird sea creature from under the deep.

All in all, it's a story that hits the right spots in me more than it misses. Thanks for writing!
#19627 · 2
· on Cheerilee's Five
I usually am a big fan of stories with a sprawling concept and an acute attention to detail. Part of the fun for me in reading it is to dissect and extract the smallest pieces of information that's usually hidden between the lines, however grand or sparse they may be. It certainly improves my reading experience if the writer brings something more to the table than just the story at its surface.

This isn't that kind of story, but I still liked it a lot, and that's saying something.

I actually liked the choppy, fragmented structure in this story, even if it's done unintentionally. For me, it's a reflection of Cheerilee's plethora of shock, confusion, amazement, and slow-burning frustration. To basically distill all her encounters down to the smallest details that mattered to her and the comparison she inevitably makes to her day-to-day life I find hits home the disillusionment she feels.

There's still some small pieces of information that I think the story could do without ('And she? Stuffy, traditionalist, old mare.', the frequent callbacks to the sea, the whole bit about the Cherilee five being singers) that could otherwise give you more room to maneuver. I do think there are some threads in the story that were left unexplored as well, the most poignant one being Rarity. I'm drawing the assumption that Rarity was first mate of the Five, and that her 'betrayal' of sorts hit Cheerilee the hardest. Whatever it may be, it's an interesting choice to leave her out of the story yet seem essential to the equation at the same time.

As it is, I really enjoyed this story, and I'd fave it even if it's left alone in this state, though I suspect there's a lot more going on behind the scenes that you've intended to put in, yet cannot do so because of the word count. Either way, this one made me smile a lot and I can't wait to see what else is in store, should there be more.

Best of luck to you, fellow writer!
#19700 · 2
· on Shrine to a False Dashity
Okay, so I don't want this post-contest review to come off as an act of pity (even though pity definitely played a part in this, but don't take my word for anything, I'm no psychologist) and the last thing I want for this story is to become the poster-boy/girl/attack helicopter for the current situation, but I did have some insight on this story that perhaps became easier to pinpoint than before the contest ended.

First off, the story gets straight to the point. Part of me was happy that it did, but at the same time, another part of it was simply confused that the scene was resolved so easily. As the contest went on, some of my fellow authors started pointing out the things that I wondered about this story, but quickly realized that it wasn't exactly the thing bothering me in my case. It took me a while (too long of a while, in fact) before I started grasping at just what my issue with this story really is.

The story seems set up with only a single conclusion to progress towards to.

Okay, I'm aware of how stupid that statement is, but I think with many of the other stories here, there were moments in the story where, had the characters made a different decision, we get a different conclusion. I honestly can't imagine a part in the story where should anyone make a different decision without going out of character, the story would end up in a different place. It's impressive, in a way, because everything seems to be neatly and perfectly built to that conclusion, but at the same time, it left me feeling like it should've been a lot less rigid in that aspect.

I can't really say if that's the reason why there's little talk about, but I can honestly say it's my personal reason for why I'm finding it so hard to figure out something to say about this, especially as I'm being particularly nitpicky with my above reason. I do hope, however, that others bring their insight into why this story's good. In my case, the characterization is perfect, the dialogue is an ace, the situation is absurd but handles itself perfectly, the writing, in general, is great. My gripe? Perhaps it was too perfect.

Onto the topic of reviewing and talking about the stories on the site itself, there's definitely more that can be— no, has to be done. I definitely need to review more often myself and I hope my fellow writers would do the same.

Hope it didn't get to you as badly as I imagined it did. Can't imagine the WriteOff without you around, bud.
#20324 · 2
· on Sibling Ribaldry
>>No_Raisin. >>Cassius, >>Monokeras, >>Miller Minus, >>GaPJaxie, >>AndrewRogue

So, this story was a mistake.

Basically, I had three versions of this story in my folder. The first was written more to outline the story proper, complete with a placeholder ending whose final line reads 'And that's why Ben Shapiro is a reptilian apologist.'

It's an objectively better ending than this one, I swear.

The second draft is an edited version of what you guys read up there, though really the only change would be the last line, which says "So, how about we do Mom's for Christmas?" or something along those lines. It probably clears up a lot more things on why I ended it the way I did. Nevertheless, even with that change, I wasn't exactly happy with what I got in the end, mostly because of the reasons that >>AndrewRogue put out there. (Andrew: 1, everyone else: 0)

The third draft was the one I intended to put up here. It's the one that omits the line that everyone found troublesome in the first place, so that's already a plus. It doesn't have more incest though, so I should apologize to Cass and everyone else interested. I'm open to bribes, however.

I'll just copypaste the True Ending here:

The deed done, brother and sister waddle their way back to the car.

"You know, you can always come live with us," Joseph attempts. "I'm sure the kids will take to you. The wife might need some time, but I think—"

"Joey, promise me something once you get me home."

"A-Anything, Gen," he manages at her sudden request. "Anything."

The silence that follows was as brief as it was dreadful.

"That I'll never see your face again."

Honestly think this ending brings a lot more interesting things to the table. Not sure if it solves all the issues you guys mentioned—I think it does have its own share of problems—but it's my preferred ending over what you guys got.

Now, onwards to individual responses:

It was initially written as a comedy, I think, but I did a bit of backpedaling on that front. Yes, it counts as vandalism. Also, yes, I was really tired.

I snickered every time you brought it up in chat.

You got that 'deliberately severing their relationship' and 'petty thefts' part of the story that Cassius missed, so yay! I would say though, that line definitely could be worded better. Imagining it in context, it just felt like something the sister would say in her drunken stupor to both flip the bird at him and weird him (and everyone else) out.

I wasn't really thinking about what message the story was sending when I wrote this version of the story, or whether it would be believable, to be honest. It just felt like it would be fun writing something quirky, to which I can safely say I did.

>>Miller Minus
Mission accomplished. Also, I can safely say that I'm not going around knocking over gravestones with a sledgehammer.

Regarding their situation, I think when I wrote this, I always pictured that the dad's death was pretty recent and completely failed to translate that into the story in any way, so that one's on me. I don't think I was writing this to make them sympathetic though. The situation they were in, yes, but not their behavior.

It's Cassius's fault.

Can't agree more. My gripe with this draft had always been "Why is Joseph even here in the first place?" and I wanted his presence here to be a lot more self-serving than just helping a sister out. Thus, the third draft was conceived, but alas, I'm a dummy.

All in all, thanks for the comments! Appreciate it!
#21025 · 2
· on Ingénue, c. 2003
>>No_Raisin, >>horizon, >>Dubs_Rewatcher, >>Monokeras, >>Cassius, >>Pascoite, >>AndrewRogue

Before I start rambling, grats to both >>AndrewRogue and >>Dubs_Rewatcher. I never left a comment on both of your stories as you guys did on mine (*´=∀=) but I enjoyed them both, bar the general criticisms that the others have already pointed out. Well-deserved win, guys!

I'm happy that this won bronze (and I get to wear that hat now) but I'm happier that there's a lot of buzz in this story, both on the site and in the Discord channel, so thanks a lot for the comments and feedback!

Also, just wanna say thanks and congrats to everyone who participated. However flawed all our stories may be, they are generally strong and memorable in this round overall, so kudos to everyone!

Without further ado, here's:

Ingénue: The Retrospective

Writing this was honestly a rather strange experience. I enjoyed it, but it's strange nevertheless.

I'll be honest, I had the basic idea for this story for about a week or so before the prompt was announced. It wasn't anything concrete: just two people and a painting. The title came second— it kinda just popped up in my head while I was writing something else and I Googled it to figure out what it means. It was only when I started typing away after the prompt was announced that everything else was worked in.

Most of the issues seem to stem from me wanting to coat this story with a sheen of vagueness throughout. I wanted to blur the lines a little and give away just enough for you guys to interpret what's happening. It's hard to get into the nitty-gritty without sounding like an ass that needs his mouth sewn shut, but I'll try my best.

That first paragraph was intentionally written to be ambiguous. In my head, I thought outright mentioning that it was describing the painting would be another obstacle that gets into the way of really sinking into Catherine's headspace.

On the story's emotional weight, I agree that there should be something more defined to really let it sink in. I think the dialogue (particularly towards the end) could've been utilised for that purpose so that way, I could kill two phoenixes with one stone, so to speak. However, since I structured and wrote out that final scene in the last few hours before the deadline, there goes that.

As for choosing the names Catherine and Kristen, I wanted to show that they're pretty much both sides of the same coin. It's also another reason why I repeated the phrase 'phoenix from ash' apart from what >>horizon had mentioned. It also extends to something else that no one was actually aware about that I wanted to mention.

I wanted to imply that both Catherine and Kristen can both be interpreted the former ingenue in this story. It's something that came up midway writing this that I think would be fun to work in. I think most of you guys managed to interpret the Kristen side of things, whereas for the more sinister Catherine route, >>Pascoite seemed to be the only one who came close. Kudos to you, Pasco!

Now to the individual responses:

Last I checked, I'm not a nudist or French. Just thick-skinned. I snickered at your light-hearted jab.

I personally find that it's hard for me to straddle the line between eroticism and intimacy at times, so I get where the whole tonal inconsistency bit comes from. Then again, it might just be the lesbians, though.

There will be nothing left worth living for in this life if that wasn't the case.

I think having multiple paintings being burned was broadening the emphasis on Catherine's love for that particular painting. A painting that, to Kristen, was just one reminder of her abuser out of many others. I do agree that the dialogue in general needs work.

Pretty much on the nose.

On the word choices: consternation is something I use in that context often to imply that the character is God-fearing, so to have something beyond that to look forward to instead, I imagine, would be terrifying.

As for asynchronously, you kinda got the mechanical part. I wanted it to be something above 'a distant look in her eyes as she stared into the fire' so I thought it'd be nice to slip that in instead. Helps that it sounds nice too when you say it out loud. Also helps with the wordcount too.

I see I'm still mixing up my American English and British English whenever I get the chance to. Sorry 'bout that!

Generally in agreement with most of everything you said here and with what you said in the Discord too. Story would be better off with those things on the table.

Yep, apart from everything I addressed, am pretty much in agreement generally as well.

Dialogue needs work in general, can't argue with that. Definitely have done better with dialogue in past entries. They're usually the thing I spend the most time brooding over in the editing stage, so it's only inevitable that it ends up being rather sloppy when I don't have the time to run them through my head.