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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.
#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 it's 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 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 too 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!
#21133 · 1
· on On A Scrap of Paper, Hidden Away in Applejack's Drawers · >>Bachiavellian
If a girl’s is fixing

Should be either "girl is fixing" or "girls is fixing", unless I'm missing some subtle nuance of Southern grammar (quite possible, given I live in Warwickshire, England).

Outside of that, I absolutely loved this. If AJ wrote poems in her free time and stuffed them away in some obscure drawer never to be read, this is exactly what it'd look like.
#21134 · 1
· on My Sister Loved You
That double spaced paragraph near the start is bugging me. Don't know why, but it just kinda looks out of place.

I thought I should mention that in particular because I don't really have any other complaints with this. Tight, evocative writing, which tells its story in exactly as many words as it needs. The beginning hooks you instantly, and I loved the ending. Great job.
#21135 · 1
· on In Spirit Golden
That's certainly a unique take on the 'brightly' part of the prompt! Not a bad entry, nice and eerie.
#21137 · 1
· on Retirees
Weirdly enough, I think this particular spoiler only makes me want to catch up with the seasons I haven't watched.

That aside, this is one of the cleverer ways I've seen EqG explained, and I have to say I really rather like it. I'm always a sucker for the Royal Sisters, and they're very natural in this. From Luna's opening rebellious mutter, their relationship flows wonderfully - very sister like, and also very Sister like, which is not a balance people manage as often as you'd think. Great work.