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In Your Quietest Voice
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In Spirit Golden
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The Gift & The Well
#21073 · 8
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa >>CoffeeMinion
Right. Haven't done this before, but there's a first time for everything! Let's give it a shot.
#21293 · 3
·
Well that was close. Very nearly didn't get anything done at all. Not my best work, but I'm glad I got something in.

Time for bed now, I think.
#21638 · 3
· on The Changeling · >>Miller Minus
The conflict here is made pretty obvious by the title alone. But that's not the point of the story now, is it?

I may be totally off the mark here but: this feels like a story about the trans experience. Even if unintentionally, you've done a wonderful job of showcasing the subtle claws of dysphoria, both personal and societal, in a way that translates seamlessly to the world of MLP.

Execution wise, this is excellent as well. If I spent a lot of time I'm sure there are lots of wonderful things I could point out, but suffice to say that everything read cohesively, immersively and engagingly. Top-tier for me.
#21132 · 2
· on Half a Pair Short · >>Posh
Packing that amount of emotional punch in 750 words is both unfair and incredibly impressive.
#21224 · 2
· on In Spirit Golden
Aaaand here come the retrospectives. I'm lazy, so rather than pre-writing them all I'm just going to respond comment by comment in chronological order, and post them as I go. First up: >>Bachiavellian (Congrats again on winning!)

I really like the premise here, with the unexpected origin story and all. This executes its last line twist really well, and especially liked the repetition describing her smile. Gossamer herself is also really interesting, with the whole semi-psychopathy thing going on.


Much appreciated! The premise stems from an idea I had back in 2013 I think? So practically forever ago. I'd completely forgotten about it, but the prompt both jogged my memory and made me flesh it out beyond "Chrysalis becomes a bug thing willingly". The smile line was one of the last things I wrote, but I'm pretty chuffed someone pointed it out because it's one of my fave lines. As for Gossamer herself, I found her personality pretty naturally flowing from "who would willingly become a soul-eating bug demon thing?". There are surprisingly few kinds of people like that, haha.

One thing that's a bit of a nitpick (and may speak much more to my ability as a reader than yours as a writer) is the fact that I somehow read every instance of "Solar Swirl" as "Star Swirl", until I started my 2nd read-through. It surprised me how easily my eye kind of skipped over the familiar-looking name alliteration, to the point that I actually Ctrl-F'd the story for "Star" just to try to figure out where I went wrong. Now, I'm not saying you should change your protagonist's name just because one doofus somehow managed to misread it five or six times--I'm just offering my reading experience as a data point.


In retrospect, I probably should have ditched Solar Swirl for the writeoff version. Not his character - but his name and specific backstory, which I attempted to cram into one line about his 'vaunted predecessor'. I still like my idea for him, but I can definitely do a lot more with him outside of a 750 word limit. Given this is a FiM fic, I probably should have foreseen the name causing a bit of confusion.

Something that I think might be a little more than a nitpick is the way this story handles its information reveals. The first scene comes off a little like a "As you already know..." speech from both characters, until the paragraph where Gossamer talks about her psychopathy. I can tell you're straining against the wordcount to get all of your ideas in there, and I appreciate the volume of info you're trying to convey (about the characters, setting, mood, and set-up for the magic bits in scene two). But I still can't help but feel that you may have taken the path of least resistance a time or two too many. In the end, the scene is serviceable, but definitely not quite as engrossing as it could have been.


You are 100% correct about me straining against the wordcount. The start of this story was originally past the half way mark. I had to chop the opening 200 words or so three separate times as I was writing, and as it came down to the wire I was definitely having to make a few brutal editorial cuts. Perhaps, as you pointed out, a bit too brutal. Something for me to keep in mind for the next writeoff! Thanks for pointing this out.

My suggestion would be to focus on making your information dumps feel less like information dumps. It helps a lot when there's some kind of immediate concern or question presented to the reader as a kind of distraction, so I suggest doing something like heightening Solar Swirl's initial distrust of Gossamer, and making that seem like the driving conflict of the story. This'll help the complicated ideas in the first scene go down a bit easier, and would heighten the emotional stakes of the twist in the second scene.


This is excellent advice, and as I try and rework this for Fimfiction, I will be coming back to this quote. Thanks again!
#21305 · 2
· on Cages · >>Baal Bunny
...I'm not crying, you're crying.

This wouldn't feel out of place in a published compendium. Minor quibbles: I don't know why Gloria is italicised outside of the top line of each letter. It looks kinda odd? And we never get any context for who the heck Jonathan is.

But then that doesn't really matter--it's not really the point. And that last line did the same thing to my heart that Jonathan did to the letters.
#21350 · 2
· on The Gift & The Well
Super late on this retrospective (IRL stuff kept getting in the way), but here goes!

It seems people didn't think too highly of this entry, which is fair enough; it's certainly not my best work. I think I may have become a little too invested with the 'gimmick' of the story, as it were, and rather lost out on some of the much needed content. But this was the definition of a last minute entry, and if nothing else has let my prove to myself that I can, in fact, finish an original piece of fiction. That's worth its weight in gold to me, regardless of how good or otherwise the final product ended up being.


Anyway, let's start with >>AndrewRogue:

I figured out what was going on in scene nine. Mostly by virtue of knowing what the available art was, but still.

There are still a few things I can't quite place (like what exactly is happening at the beginning of the penultimate scene) yet, but for the most part I think I worked out all your poetic kitchen descriptions.


I don't think most people need it, but confirmation if you did--this was indeed supposed to be about an ant on his epic quest to the kitchen sink.

My problem ends up being that, once I realized the gimmick, my interest kind of faded because the compelling force behind the narrative is that mystery. Ithilis gets just enough characterization to exist, but they aren't particularly compelling either? The stakes aren't really well established for them. The parallel narrative doesn't actually do a lot to illuminate their motivations (or really provide much in the way of stakes).


This is a very accurate and fair criticism. I don't really have much to respond with other than 'I'll try and do better next time'. I don't think I'm going to rework this particular piece.

The parallel narratives also don't really build on each other tension or interest curve-wise either. The flashbacks are fairly flat and mostly informational, providing context for the current scenes. But them being set directly against the present scenes doesn't really add much IMO, and, by breaking up the journey, make it seem like a pretty minor thing instead of as harrowing as it seems like it should be.


This is actually very helpful. I've noticed that I have a tendency to drift towards these parallel narratives, so it's good to know that they weren't effective here. I can see what you mean about them breaking up the journey too. Thanks.

Of course, the somewhat ironic problem is that pre-figuring out the gimmick, the Terminology and Words are so thick and fast that they really get in the way of actually trying to appreciate what's happening.


Also good to know! I think this is in part, as I said up at the top, down to me getting too hung up on the gimmick. I think I was trying too hard to make the gimmick shrouded in mystery, and I just ended up writing very confusing prose instead.

I dunno. This is cute conceptually, but I think as a story it comes up short because it is -too- focused on the gimmick. I'm a bit sleepy now though, so I'll take another look on rested eyes later.


100% agreed. I really need to stop writing these entries at 5AM the day of in a mad rush--maybe that will help me write an actual focused narrative.




Next up, >>Baal Bunny:

I never got:

Any real image of what anything looked like. I kept thinking we were outside in a park around a drinking fountain or a spigot with a garden hose attached or something. But then the ending with the queen coming in made me wonder if we're dealing with a terrestrial situation at all--once again, never having taken biology in school leaves me confused as to how the insect world works. In the end, though, I couldn't form any pictures in my head of what's going on here. Everything was way too abstract for me to feel any attachment to the goings-on...

Mike


I mentioned this in my response to AndrewRogue's comment, but it bears repeating--I got way too hung up on the gimmick in this. So much so that it really impacted the quality of the actual writing, as I was too focused on making sure the whole 'an ant travelling through a kitchen' thing was hidden enough people wouldn't spot it, but obvious enough that people would go 'oohhhh' (I pretty clearly failed to accomplish either). I didn't think about how people without much insect knowledge would read this either. Thanks for the comment, sorry the story didn't deliver much.




Let's see if third time is the charm for me and have a look at >>Watchglass Mercury's comment:

I like the package fairly well. There are a couple of typos, but it reads clean and has some great, if impenetrable, descriptions.


Yay! Given this story is almost entirely made up of impenetrable descriptions, I'm pleased some of them landed.

The esoteric nature of those descriptions, on the other hand, did make it difficult to firmly visualize the world, as >>Baal Bunny said, and that left me grasping for meaning and how to set the scene.


I'll say it again--I got way too caught up in my gimmick for the story. Definitely negatively impacted the actual quality of the storytelling.

That is, unfortunately, how I spent most of the rest of the story, trying to tease out the importance of name choices, some hints from descriptions, the grandiose mysticism. I was able to do that because the driving impulse of the story never caught me. I cottoned on to the ant angle fairly early, but all that did was change my focus to "how does this fit that piece of art?". It then became a matching puzzle rather than providing a solution that let me get back to the story.

I had no reason to care about Ithilis's quest because I didn't know what they were doing; I couldn't get on to why or how when I was stuck with what and where.


This is very useful feedback. I'll be keeping this in mind, and trying to avoid these pitfalls, for the next pic-to-fic round.

The divine mystery from two angles has potential, balancing the active quest against the historical inspiration with alternating POVs. But something weighty is missing, something to anchor me, the reader, to the mystery through the character's eyes rather than my own.


I think my real problem (the 'something weighty' as it were) is character. It's always been a failing of my original writing--I can build an interesting world, and I don't think my prose is mechanically too shabby, but I kinda suck at characters. :/ Definitely something to work on.

I think I might also have been too ambitious? Epic adventure in what, 3000 words? Not the best plan. Anyway, thank you for the feedback!





Last but never least, we have >>Miller Minus:

I didn't understand what had happened until I got to the comments. Oops. I need to brush up on my ant science, I guess.


For shame! :y Best get cracking with that revision; the exam will be on Tuesday. :p

I think Watchglass puts it best when he says the descriptions are great, but impenetrable. Because they're that way by design. The story can't describe anything clearly to us because it would prematurely reveal to us what's going on, yet the story is written with the descriptions of the environment as the main event, so everything's beautiful, but we're not allowed to see it.


Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head there. Reading through it again, there's so much I held back on, or didn't adequately explore or describe, because I was trying to hide the reveal.

And that's the main issue here. I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said, but I just want to point out that this is really priority number one. Author, I think if you wanted to tackle this story again, there's a lot to be said for having the "twist" established up front. It's tough to pull off a story about ants, but I think getting it out of the way makes for a prettier story.


That's definitely good advice, and almost certainly how I'd go about rewriting this. But I think I'm just going to leave this as it is for posterity's sake. Maybe I can come back in a few years and go 'wow I really sucked back then huh?'. One can dream.

But thank you for submitting! You've done a good thing. Best of luck in the voting!


I appreciate this sentiment a lot, and it's why I'm not too upset about my placing in this. In the end, I'm here to try and improve as a writer--better to try and fail, than not put forward anything at all.


Thank you all for commenting, and see you in the next round!
#21634 · 2
· on And That's When She Sees Us
A couple of stylistic things, to start:

peculiar Pinkie by her side

This felt... weird. Just not particularly like Celestia's voice, and very much like alliteration for the sake of it.

She slowly opens each one of them with her magic, noting the difficulty it takes to rip them all off, like some active force was trying to ward her off from the letter.

After the seventh seal is removed, the scroll finally unfurls.

Celestia’s heart begins to pound. It's not normal for Twilight to use two seals, let alone seven.

Why does Celestia only show signs of worry after opening the seals? Surely she would have started feeling nervous as soon as she saw the thing, not unbind every seal (with noted difficulty) and then think "hang on, lots of seals is bad news, oh dear".

Maybe she’s discovered

I think you lost your tense here...

Anyway; all of that aside, this isn't one of my faves for this round, but it's not bad. Just a little clunky in places. It's a quirky little idea in a serviceable vehicle--you might be able to make something longer and more interesting out of the core idea of this, but with the angle you took it's more "the characters are watching us oooohhh", and that's ok. And I do think it ties in to the , or even half of it picture in an interesting way.
#21639 · 2
· on The Butterfly Effect · >>Caliaponia
The first 5 or 6 times I read this I had no idea what I was reading. I was very much in >>Pascoite's boat, and so thoroughly confused that I was tempted to abstain.

It's only on my most recent reading that it finally made sense. "D15, coordinater". Ha!

Once that clicked, I grew to appreciate this a lot more. It's very dense, especially for a minific, almost approaching unreadable. But once you know what's going on that sort of adds to it? Enhances the impression of a very alien, robotic mind. I ended up liking this a heck of a lot more than I thought I would anyway.
#21749 · 2
· on Rest Easy, Justified
~Time for the final bout...~

So...

This story really didn't go where it was supposed to.

Unlike In Your Quietest Voice, I didn't really know what I was going for here? I had a concept (one that I don't think I really achieved) but no real idea of how I was going to realise it. I just kind of sat down and wrote.

But I'm not too unhappy with the result. It's far from my best work, but my overall impression is that people at least thought it was 'solid', which I'll happily take for what it was. And while I was intending for a more melancholic story about memory (good and bad) and how time changes how you view the people and places of your past, I think this alicorn-angst-that-isn't still hovers in the same thematic area, even if it doesn't quite land in the right place.

It also ended up being something of a goodbye to the series for me? Not the fandom, but G4 is slowly but surely coming to and end, and it's been a big part of my life for a good few years, and a HUGE part of me slowly becoming a writer. I'll miss it, but it's had a good run, and there's a lot of good things to remember.

I'm not going to do the one-by-one and line-by-line response I did for In Your Quietest Voice, so this'll all just be one big comment. In that vein, I'll say it here: I fucked up with the Britishisms. Twilight is very much speaking in my voice not hers, and my only defense is that it was about 3AM and I was a bit drunk. I wish I could say I'm sorry, but I find myself kind of enjoying the effect? It's ridiculous, but amusingly so (to me at least).

>>Pascoite
I definitely struggled a lot with finding some way to make this unique or stand out in any way from alicorn Twilight angst fics numbers 1 through 15 million. I didn't really think I'd succeeded, and evidently you agree. I'm still happy I got in two entries though, I've been trying to do that since the first time I entered, so overall this project was a success for me even if the story ended up flopping a bit.

>>Bachiavellian
The prose here is really clean. You strike a great balance between keeping it easy to digest while still keeping it descriptive enough to effectively build the mood. Solid text-level execution is something that has a deceptively big impact on how a piece can come across to the reader, so I wanted to highlight it as a big plus for me.

Thanks! This is great to hear, I'm always trying to improve my prose and not just my story-telling.

And I freely admit all those words are just me putting my own words into Twilight's mouth. My bad...? Surprised to hear fob is such a rare word though, it's something I've heard relatively often here in Brexitland.

I like Princess-immortality-related stuff (just look at my submission history), so I had a good time with the idea. It's a little straightforward, but in minifics I often have more trouble with fics that try to overshoot what they can do with 750 words than fics that feel overly cozy.

I think this is why I'm more happy with this than I'd expect to be. I realised as I was writing I wasn't going to achieve the grand piece I wanted to, and instead just went for what I could. And I thinked it worked out okay.

>>Posh
I have no problem with a good cliche, so long as it's used effectively. I think you... sort of do? There's angst in here, but it's unusually optimistic angst. Does that make sense? Twilight's clearly burdened by the deaths of so many friends, but she's also very well-adjusted, and just seems to treat it as a fact of life, of her role in Equestrian society. I approve of that. This story acknowledges the burdens that comes with alicorn longevity, without letting the protagonist become self-indulgent over those burdens.

This is why I'm reasonably pleased with how this story turned out. Everything you mentioned above it is why I'm not actually happy with it. If I do end up trying to rework this it'll definitely be a ground-up rewrite, and I'll keep in mind your suggestion about making the time period a bit clearer.

...also, there are at least two cloud cities in MLP. Las Pegasus and Cloudsdale. you ffffffffffffake pony fan.

...
I genuinely totally forgot about Las Pegasus. Oh god I am a fake pony fan O_o

>>WritingSpirit
Going to go a bit line-by-line for this one.

I admire the fact that this story feels like the work of someone sticking true to their guns instead of overreaching their bases. It may not be impressive in the greater scheme of things, but I much prefer this over the usual hodgepodge of stories trying (and mostly stumbling) to prove a grandiose point of sorts, so props.

Thanks! You've highlighted part of why I'm content, if not happy, with what I ended up with here. I realised I was overreaching conceptually, set my sights a little lower and ended up making something that feels solid, if not anything great.

Overall, the prose is simple and clean. but rather fine-tuned as well— the first sentence alone is tantamount to how well-constructed the story is in general. There are a few hiccups about that did nudge the pacing a little, though nothing too serious that I stumbled with it halfway through. The tone is also forgivingly bright, especially when I consider the general sequence of events leading up this. It's nice, honestly. To me, it shifts the focus less on death and grieving to more on the general impermanence of life.

As I said earlier, I was initially trying to write a story not about death and grieving but about memory. I think that affected how this came out a lot. And I'm definitely a lot happier with the brighter tone than I would have been with "oh no, all my friends are dead, I am so sad". And if I managed to make you think about the "general impermanence of life" then quite frankly mission accomplished!

Also, I was really pleased with that first sentence, so I'm super happy you liked it so much. ^_^

You're right that the chat with the sisters ended up being a bit abrupt from lack of time, and gloomier than the rest of it. I think, in restrospect, that I should have just had Twilight asking them what they were up to and where they were in the same kind of way people typically write postcards, and ditched the "I'm giving up my crown!" bit.

I kinda like this one on my first read, but I find my experience with this story improving on subsequent re-reads. It may have a rather standard plot and it may not possess any immediate conflict that might warrant my attention, but it gave me a few cozy minutes away from the hectic miscellany of everyday life despite its subject matter. If you'd ask me, that's honestly all this story ever needed to do.

For what this is, this is the highest praise you could offer. That's two for two on comments from you for this round!

Twilight does have the right idea of not simply giving up the throne though. Strong and stable government and all that.

This gave me a sudden image of Twilight with Theresa May's face. I now have tea in my sinuses.

>>Rao
This is such a cool idea and I wish I could claim credit for being that smart. But no, it was just me getting a little too into the dialogue writing.

But yeah, I'm retroactively declaring this 100% canon. Because it's awesome.

As for Cadance and Flurry? Well Flurry is busy trying to figure out how the heck to run an Empire/city-state, whilst sending panicked letters to her Aunt Twilight asking for help (who suddenly has a much better understanding of Celestia's schadenfreude). Cadance buggered off to somewhere else much like Celestia and Luna. She's definitely not the source of those rumours about an isolated tribe finding their fertility goddess and becoming her harem, no sirree.

...Man, I should have included these two in the fic.

>>Miller Minus
Pretty much spot on. As always. Don't have much else to say as I don't think I'm rewriting this, but if I were, I'd be coming back to this comment.

>>Miller Minus
YEA BOIIII *ahem* Yeah I was pretty proud of that one!

>>Caliaponia
The sixth statue is totally Starlight/Sunset/Spike?/Shining Armour/Somone beginning with S and absolutely definitely not a mistake I made like an idiot.

Definitely.

ANYWAY, thanks for reading and for your comment! I'm glad you liked it even with its issues.

>>Comma Typer
I'm actually astounded you've managed to avoid the absolute deluge of immortal/long-lived Twilight stories that exist throughout the fandom but particularly on fimfic. Well done, I guess? And it should definitely help your reading experience if you can scrounge out some of the good ones!

And yes, you're right! Just because she's relatively cheerful, doesn't change that Twilight is in fact talking to statues. And while I hadn't personally thought of that take on the original prompt, it fits quite well.


Again, thank you all for reading and reviewing. Both are very much appreciated.