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Only, Only, Only You
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Yet Hope, In Part, Found Purchase
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Big Trouble
#1851 · 4
· on The Outer Dark
Before I say anything else, I must say this: I read this story on my phone while at work. A coworker, who didn't know what I was doing/reading on my phone, asked me why I had goosebumps.

This is far and beyond my top pick of my mandatory votes (and is equally why it gets my longest review with the most of my criticism. Love is funny that way, eh?).

Firstly, let's start with the perspective. You've taken to using a recounting method of narrative, one with a character telling another in the present (who is totally not an audience surrogate!) what's happened in the past. I, personally, like this sort of narrative. It's like a step up from first person, being that, rather than just using the pronouns "I" and "We," it forces a much closer perspective than normal first person does. Force, being the stressed word here, as normal first person can get this close; it just doesn't have to be, from what I've seen.

This setup does have its counterpoints, though—namely how in-the-way the framing device can get. There's a point where I really don't care if Rarity wants a brandy after all and just want her to finish the damn story. Ultimately, while it's good for initially setting a mood via 'this guy's pretty F-d up by whatever happened,' it starts detracting from the groove the real story's telling if you too readily let the narrator talk directly at the listener and/or reference their setting rather than the scene of the story he's telling. It's a criticism I've had of one of my own fics that, while author-blind to it then, here looking at someone else's story I can see rather easily. Inject sparingly.

I really like how you breadcrumbed who the speaker and the antagonist were. Well-placed clues gave just enough to pique interest without leaving us in the dark, with enough information for me to puzzle out the obvious antagonist around 500 words in, and just enough to be certain which of her friends was the narrator maybe a thousand or two words before the actual name drops, which did well in heightening the tension. I do have to say, though, that I feel you teased us a little too hard about who's who. Rather than just giving us clues, you seemed to go out of your way to reference Twilight as 'the mare who does not sleep’ and the like, as if to say 'haha! I know something you don't know!' despite how quickly you establish who it is.

The ending is 50/50 for me. I like how dark it gets (oh, Celestia, do I love how dark it gets. This is Horse Voice-level darkness and that's just unf!), but at the same time I was so into the one-way dialogue format that when it went third person it felt like a different story. I have no idea how you could preserve that same perspective without either gloriously ruining the current ending or an equally jarring perspective shift to Rainbow Dash, though.

My biggest concern with this story is, ironically, the narrative. It reads beautifully, and the imagery engrossing, but once you figure out who it is, it doesn’t seem to fit. The phrasing’s off. It doesn’t sound like her at all. Yeah, you might argue that she's pretty messed up by the whole ordeal, but this reads more like an eccentric like Doctor Hooves or an OC than Rarity talking. You need to hone in on that more the next time you go for a story like this. Even if direct usage of the character's voice would spoil the mystery, there should at least be some indication by the way they talk that would indicate who they are. Really, that should be used as part of your arsenal of clues rather than a thing that should be hedged to retain the mystery.

Let’s sandwich those negatives with a restatement of my overall feelings: holy fuck, I love this. Top pick. 10/10, would goosebump again.

This story has earned you a follower once I find out who you are (provided I’m not already following you, in which case I’ll upgrade that to stalking).

EDIT: actually finished that first point of criticism, cause I somehow forgot to go back to that point when I got sidetracked making the others.
#9368 · 4
· on Yet Hope, In Part, Found Purchase · >>Not_A_Hat >>HorseVoice
Yet Hope, In Part, Found Purchase, Retrospective

Because you guys commented and I didn't reference you below:
>>Fuzzyfurvert
>>FanOfMostEverything
>>Moosetasm
>>SPark
>>HorseVoice (Do I get to watch you eat your hat?)
>>Light_Striker
>>Xepher
>>CoffeeMinion
>>JudgeDeadd
>>Posh
>>Rao
>>shinygiratinaz
>>Morning Sun
>>Haze
>>GroaningGreyAgony (I have to say again that I loved this comment <3)


Alright, so. This one was loads of fun to put together. No idea where to begin, since I’ve never retrospecc’ed a thingie for a writeoff, but here goes. For starters, I’d like to link to a pretty picture that, while not the inspiration for this piece, holds a lot of the same emotion that I was going for. You can also use it as a tl;dr for all the stuff below if you want.

Anyway, I really enjoyed seeing people try and piece this together. Collectively, most of my intended story was picked out, and while It’d be nice to see it more universally understood (that’s most surely the wrong word, but I’m tired so that’s the word I’m gonna use), it was fun to watch the interpretations run wild. Shows quite a few people were engaged.

This piece was meant to be two separate perspectives: the ‘down-read’ from filly Twilight just stepping into the exam room for her entrance to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, the ‘up-read’ newly-crowned Twilight looking back on the event in light of all she’s accomplished thus far. (I will refer to these two halves as such because the intended format of this poem is to be physically written only once and then read down and up.) As far as how clearly those perspectives come across, the down-read, according to the comments, I believe was much more successful.

In the interest of gathering as many opinions and critiques as possible (because that’s literally why we’re all here), below is a line-by-line of the intended meaning for this poem in full-frontal transparency, so that you all can yell at me about parts where I fucked up, because there’s a good handful, and I’m sure many more I didn’t notice post-entry:

How frightening the world had seemed.
When first I tried to hatch my friend,
I feared my schooling found an end…


Intended to be pretty straightforward.

How simply, silly had I dreamed?


She had big aspirations for herself. The sky’s the limit! This is evidenced from the show in how encouraging her parents were whenever they were on screen. But in light of this entrance exam, she’s doubting how foolish her aspirations were. Also, >>Not_A_Hat
is right that I derped on using the word ‘silly’ as it’s not an adverb.

How silly, simple I had been –
To think me ready;


Taken literally. She’s chiding herself for those aspirations.

What'd it say,
If I impressed Princess today,
With tactless fluke – the scholar's sin?


What would it say if she passed this test by sheer, dumb luck?

Was this the destiny I’d earned?
It's quaint;


“Am I destined to fail? It’s fitting, I guess, since I wasn’t prepared for it.’”

and judging eyes abound –
In silent vigil kept.


Referencing the teachers who stared down on here with silent, judging eyes.

I found
My solace shattered, what they spurned

And whispered, true.


She’s lost all composure, and her upreparedness that they spurned and what they whispered amongst themselves were all true, because she was unprepared.

Here, there was a technical issue with the comma, which I noticed from Not_A_Hat’s confusion on the meaning of this part. That comma shouldn’t be there, in either the first or second half of the poem.

The grounded fears
Found purchase in my trembling heart
Still innocent.


A bit of repetition with the lines before it, but with added mention that she’s innocent, that she’s unaccustomed to this sort of situation, that situation being unprepared and about to get her metaphorical ass handed to her by this exam.

Yet hope, in part,
Saw fit that I should hold back tears

And strive against.


Pretty straightforward here. Literally to try despite the assumed outcome.

A silent plea
To Princess – aid, prepare, to share –
(To hatchling, now to fledgling mare)
To help with what was asked of me –


She says a prayer to Celestia, then to Spike the unhatched egg, and then to herself. Also, that ‘now’ should be a ‘then,’ to better clarify that.

Inveigle them to empathy;


Literally, convince them to empathize and, therefore, help. Mostly, I just love the word inveigle, but, admittedly, this was a filler line to prop up the poetic structure.

Is ignorance, unfettered, bliss?


But would it really help? Is it better this way, that they don’t know and therefore don’t help? It’s a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit.

There were no books the likes of this;


Two-layered line here: the literal intention being there were no books on hatching dragons, the sub-meaning being there were none on how she should feel about her coming failure/her inability to inveigle Celestia/Spike/herself.

Yet years gone by had helped me see

That tender youth knows simple truths.
I fathomed, clear, behind their eyes:
Those simple truths – those damning lies –


Here’s where the story falters most glaringly. At this point, it was around 9pm, I had stayed up through my bedtime, and I was racing the clock, as I had to be on my way to work by 10:30 (which I wouldn’t have gotten home from until well after submissions closed) and I hadn’t yet proofread my poem.

Having been awake for about 22 hours by that point, I was out of poetic gas. My brain had had enough, and was stuck in this sort of limbo where it could only think of enjambed lines, yet I was more or less in a pickle with trying to make sense of everything and just getting myself out of those damned sentences that all ended in-line. Somehow I succeeded on that front, but at the cost of losing clarity on just what’s actually going on. My poetry brain said ‘oooh, reuse the word “truth” cause that’d be a good little poetic flourish,’ and that’s about all I remember of how this section came about.

tl;dr, the intended meaning here was to be ‘she sees within the teachers’ eyes that they don’t care.’ However botched it comes across is up to you.

What spurs the fears of helpless youths!


Seeing them staring down at her like that was terrifying. In retrospect, this is mostly fluff, if not at the very least strong for the perspective.

I curbed my heart and trembled, cowed –
When first I stepped into that room,
From tow'ring teachers glaring doom.
"Well, Miss Sparkle?" echoed loud,


Pretty straightforward, then cue the quote from the show.




"Well, Miss Sparkle?" echoed loud,
From tow'ring teachers glaring doom.
When first I stepped into that room,
I curbed my heart and trembled, cowed –


This restates the previous paragraph. Not much I can say good in that regard, other than it’s still perfectly readable.

What spurs the fears of helpless youths!


Here, though, comes the big turnaround in perspective. It’s not yet apparent on initial read, but as the reader continues on to realize this is newly-crowned Twilicorn, this is to be interpreted as she’s angry at the ways adults can act that can deter children in such a way, reinforced by the next lines.

Those simple truths – those damning lies –
I fathomed, clear, behind their eyes:
That tender youth knows simple truths.


Here, the rough patch on the down-read reads very smoothly is reworked into a much clearer read, that she’s damning how those teachers acted, that they assumed wrongly that tender youth is stupid and not worth their proper attention—cause remember those teachers were all a bag of dicks and a half in the show.

Yet years gone by had helped me see
There were no books the likes of this;


“Children are not stupid.” They might be ignorant to the way the world works, but that does not make them stupid.

Is ignorance, unfettered, bliss?


Is it okay that they the teachers think this way and/or should she accept it?

Inveigle them to empathy;


“Fuck that shit.”

To help with what was asked of me –


Drawing from the phrasing of the previous line, rather than its underlying meaning: Convince them to help her with what was asked of her.

(To hatchling, now to fledgling mare)
To Princess – aid, prepare, to share –
And strive against.


Here, the parenthesis, like >>Jordanis rightly commented, directly references her ascension to Twilicorn (from filly, to pupil, to princess). Synthesizing these lines with the lines above, the whole is meant to say that she wants to convince them to help with whatever she’s meant to do as a new princess, because don’t forget that she had no idea what she was supposed to be a princess of back then. (There was even a song about it!)

Again, that ‘now’ should be a ‘then.’

A silent plea

Saw fit that I should hold back tears
Still innocent.


Though she’s been made a princess, she has her doubts on just how ready for this new position she is.

Yet hope, in part,
Found purchase in my trembling heart
And whispered, true.


“Yet hope, in part, found purchase in her trembling heart and whispered that yes, she was ready.” (Personally, this sentence is my favorite part of the whole poem. It is also why it’s the title.) Again this comma comes back to bite me. Removing it clarifies this better.

The grounded fears

My solace shattered,


Though she may doubt, she believes in this hope that has found purchase, and in that, her solace shatters the fears of those doubts.

what they spurned
In silent vigil kept.


This one’s an oddball sentence that doesn’t parse correctly on reread. I intended this to mean that the ‘they,’ being an ambiguous group of haters who are gonna hate, spurn the solace that shattered her fears/Twilight in general, but the sentence structure doesn’t really work with that, since the comma makes the dependent clause reference the grounded fears rather than her solace. Shame on me, right?

I found
It's quaint;


Literally. In retrospect, she finds the whole situation quaint.

and judging eyes abound –


Now that she’s a princess, all eyes are on her, including those previously intended spurners.

Was this the destiny I’d earned?

With tactless fluke – the scholar's sin?


Here, in light of the quaintness of it all, she’s starting to wax nostalgic, especially at how oddly it all began.

If I impressed Princess today,
To think me ready;
What'd it say,
How silly, simple I had been –

How simply, silly had I dreamed?


The ‘today’ here being the day of her ascension to princesshood. If she was able to convince Celestia that she’s ready for princesshood today, what does that say for how silly and simple she had been to fear those failures she had as a filly in the entrance exam? Also, the adjective strikes again. I really don’t know why I didn’t notice. Damn the inverse exceptions to the adverb -ly rule.

I feared my schooling found an end…


Essentially, answering her own question and propping the stanza.

When first I tried to hatch my friend,
How frightening the world had seemed.


This is meant to hit as more of a capstone to that nostalgia. It would have been stronger, I think, if I used an ellipsis on the end, but that would have had the ill effect of an ellipsis on the start of the story, which would ruin the initial tone of the down-read, so I let it ride on the nostalgia of the previous lines.




And there we have it! In all, most of what I see on my own is that I need to work on density and better figure out how to trim fluff lines without compromising structure. But what do you guys think? Comments and critiques are greatly appreciated. I want to improve on my poetry and stuff, so please, please, please poke me about anything relevant.

As always,
Onward and Upward!

P.S. I’ll say this for Jordanis cause of his comment: this poem took me 7.5 hours to write.
#8444 · 3
·
Welp, I wrote a thing. Now to wait anxiously for 7am. No sleep before shift? Worth it.
#1780 · 2
· on Might Make Right · >>Everyday >>horizon
This was interesting. You took a side clause in the recent episode, turned its silliness into a serious matter, and then ran with it. I love the idea of doing this sort of thing, but part of me wants to hold back and share some criticism.

First, it feels rushed. Granted, that's a Write-off thing, usually, but it needs to be pointed out anyway. Most specifically, the first scene is what's most notably rushed. Perhaps starting closer to the beginning of that conversation you opened with would help.

The whole "(hug)" thing was a little obscure. Yes, it's clear he can't stop hugging dragons, but who is he hugging in those first dozen or so parenthesis? Also, not sure I feel the transition enough from silly to serious with those (hugs). It's a hard boundary to cross, sight-gags like this, in written media, but yeah.

The meeting between the ambassadors seemed unsure if it wanted to be funny or serious. From our perspective, they overreacted to a silly friendship report. But at the same time, the way it's presented leaves wiggle room for 'I'm actually trying to be serious,' because the soldiers' reactions really were believable. That said, we're talking about a friendship report sparking the scene's actions in what is effectively a cartoon show, so more effort could have been put into clarifying the intent of comedy or srs bsns.

I do have to say, though, I loved the detail you put into Celestia's thoughts and whatnot regarding her magic. Really nice touch.
#2011 · 2
· on Might Make Right
>>horizon
The devil's in the details, as they say. The magic bits added a touch of flavor to Celestia's character, both in bringing her down from an invincible all-powerful being and in raising her to that status. That might sound contradictory, but its great to see that you were able to establish a precedent for what's considered "master-level multitasking" when it comes to magic; give her the ability to do that master level stuff, because she is the sort that should be able to; but then reign her back in on the power meter by saying that even she struggles to a degree with it, via the migraine.

That's why I loved it: Teensie bit of worldbuilding and character building all in one tasty fruit rollup.
#1827 · 1
· on The Trolls · >>horizon
I liked this one. Silly throughout, yet keeping enough seriousness to care. Writing was solid, save baal's comments above. My only main concern is how easily the trolls were just like "meh, I guess we don't need to pillage and burn everything." If there were more examples of them seeing the ponies working together, or even of the yaks doing so, I'd believe it more.
#1859 · 1
· on Return To Sender · >>The_Letter_J >>Bremen
Like the above said, this was cute. I liked it. The ending felt a bit rushed—or perhaps concise, if you want to mince words, as I found the final line suitably effective.

One thing I can definitely critique here, though, is Zecora's dialogue. Traditionally, she speaks in iambic tetrameter—four sets of unstressed-stressed syllables. That can be argued, as she has a few appearances where she breaks from this to use practically rhymed free verse, but I'll stick to my guns here for the sake of critiquing. Her lines, in chronological order, are as follows:

If all they want is to rear an alicorn,
Perhaps you can show them their hopes are forlorn.

You are right that the story cannot be deleted,
But what if they thought it would not be repeated?

I am flattered you think my idea is a winner,
If you like it so much, why not thank me with dinner?

She saw a joke where there was not;
Still, I think, it was worth a shot.

Now, the same with stressors and [syllable, foot] counts:

If all they want is to rear an al-i-corn, [11, 5]
Perhaps you can show them their hopes are forlorn. [11, 4]

You are right that the story cannot be deleted, [13, 4]
But what if they thought it would not be repeated? [12, 4]

I am flattered you think my i-dea is a winner, [13, 4]
If you like it so much, why not thank me with dinner? [13, 4]

She saw a joke where there was not; [8, 4]
Still, I think, it was worth a shot. [8,4]

If you look, only line 7 is iambic tetrameter, and also the only perfectly iambic line in here. Lines 3 through 6 are effectively* anapestic tetrameter (un-un-stressed), which is why they feel right, while line 2 is true anapestic tetrameter. The rest is just a mish-mash of syllables. The number of feet (sets of stressed and unstressed syllables) are consistent on a couplet basis, save the first, which helps her speech come across as not too stilted, but the lack of consistent meter is still very much noticeable. Here's a website I've come to reference as a 'poetry bible.' It'll get you writing Zecora—and any other creature you please!—and her rhymes like tequila 'til the clothes come off.


I apologize for the per-line spoiler tags... I used fimfiction as a guide, and it wasn't letting me spoiler separate paragraphs for some reason, so I played it safe here.

*There's names for the trimmed syllable on line 7 at the leading anapest and for the added unstressed syllable at the end of both lines, but I don't know them; ask Baal Bunny/AugieDog.
#5465 · 1
· on Only, Only, Only Me
>>horizon

Huh. So you took her intentions in a different direction than I did. Original intent in OOOY wasn't that NMM wanted destruction for destruction's sake. She was the salve that Luna went to in her initial struggle against being overshadowed by Celestia's radiant reign. Taking from the write-off version (who's scene referenced here was cut from the final published version), NMM stumbled upon Luna in a dream while praying upon some other pony. She, a parasite subsisting on the night terrors of others, was taken in by Luna—kindred souls cast to the fringes of society. From that shared bond, they found comfort, and, eventually, love. True love, not hollow platitudes and poisonous words meant only to feed an empty stomach. It's not just a need for sustenance; NMM needs Luna emotionally, intimately. The entirety of the first scene—whether you reference the original or published version—ring true with this. Anything gleaned as duplicitous, while not necessarily incorrect, strays from my intention in the piece.

Nightmare Moon is not inherently evil. She only seeks what is, by her definition, correct, deserved, and necessary for self-preservation (and by extent, preservation of those she loves). It just so happens that what she defines as such falls within the category of evil from our perspective. Rather than being evil by nature, she is actually just a monstrously aggressive creature, and with such predatory aggressive instincts bent toward the defensive, it magnifies her inherent violence. If someone were mentally/physically abusing the one you loved right in front of you, would you not go fisticuffs to make them stop? If people failed to appreciate the hard work your loved one does for them, would you not do all that you can so that they do appreciate it? (Looking back, I can see where this might have fallen apart some with NMM's mentions of "We" being interpreted as she's doing this for herself. Those weren't meant as a Royal We's, but rather as 'us together''s—as the First Lady with her hand on her husband's shoulder as he poses for pictures behind his desk in the Oval Office.)

The only difference here is that NMM doesn't understand moderation (nor good/evil, only what is 'fair.' Eye for an eye and all that), and will stop at nothing to achieve what it is that she desires: Luna held to the esteem that she deserves, which is only achievable by removing the one that holds her back from that esteem. She only employs her manipulative powers in order to do what she feels is in Luna's best interest. A "Mother knows best" sort of thing.

In contrast to your interpretation, it's through her undying love for Luna that she's more than willing to commit the atrocities she mentions, which, I think, makes the piece all the more stronger than if she were just some insidious parasite who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others and taking the throne for herself by puppeteering another's body; she's doing what she thinks is right and is being punished by the world at large—and the one she loves—for it. By her aggressive dog-eat-dog nature, she cannot even fathom why she is being punished for doing the 'right' thing. It's such a sick and twisted sort of tragedy that I can't help but love, namely for the original theme this story was grounded in:

Sometimes, the harder we fight for the ones that we love, our actions are often what ultimately push them away.

Still, derivative works have their own life to live, and by virtue of that breathe life into the original. No matter the differences in our pieces, I love what you've done here.

That about wraps up what I have to say in response to your retrospect. There's probably a few points here that I forgot to touch on, though, so feel free to poke me back.
#8017 · 1
·
>mfw I actually have an idea for this one.
#8108 · 1
· on Why Gardening is So Good for You
I like this one. Author really knows the feel of working hard for something out of reach, wrapped up in a nice, empathetic story.