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Submitted for Your Approval · She-Ra Short Story ·
Organised by QuillScratch
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 1
· · >>QuillScratch
Man, I haven't even finished season 4 yet.
#2 ·
oops this one snuck up on me

Friendly reminder for any new folks that entries must remain anonymous until the site reveals authorship at the end of the contest, and that we have round discussion both in the writeoff discord chat linked in the header and over in the She-Ra fan discord (you'll need the writeoff role to see the channel in the latter!)

Best of luck to all our entrants!

You should probably go do that. There's at least a few moments I remember watching and thinking "Raisin's gonna love this."
#3 · 1
Well, at the very least I'm proud we have a round whose prompt is a Twilight Zone reference.

Now if I can just finish season 4 and come up with a story for said prompt...
#4 · 1
I'm in.
#5 ·
· on A Song for the Unforeseen
A few obvious typos, which makes me wonder if this is a last-minute submission.

As to content, this is an interesting exploration of what all the events of the latest season meant to Hordak. Not all of it is surprising, since he was obviously affected by Entrapta and already had some hopes concerning Horde Prime. The show did touch on him maybe starting to realize what friendship was with Entrapta, but it's a nice step here to go beyond that and have him extrapolate that to seeing worth in everyone there. If I'm reading this right, there's kind of a delicate balancing act going on, where he wants to see the pleasant things he does in Entrapta in everyone else as well, but he keeps clamping down on that and reverting to saying he just wants to learn from them so he can conquer them more effectively. Plus the way he repeatedly returns to Catra's betrayal, that may be why he keeps going back to conqueror mode, too, since he fears anyone else he cares about as much as Entrapta will also betray him. Then that also leaves the ending feeling split as well, whether he wants to conquer Etheria or his brother. "Tizzy" is kind of a mood-breaking word choice.

Simple but effective. I don't have any specific suggestions, unless I'm completely misreading your intent, in which case that is my suggestion.
#6 · 1
· on Weathering the Storm
This one's a bit of a doozy. I liked it, and it was a nice exploration of Bow's internal conflict about everything that's happening. Plus Perfuma with the laser-focused commentary.

Some minor editing things, but nothing too bad.

On the whole, I think it was a good piece. What bugged me about it might just be my personal reaction, but it might be useful for you to know what that is, in case it strikes something with you.

First, there's no way to put tags on stories here, so it's up to me to figure out this is AU, though it may take place well in the future after such time as they've triumphed over Horde Prime. It doesn't seem like the tension between Glimmer, Bow, and Adora would persist that long, though, and you haven't hinted at it coming from a different source. So I'm taking this as an AU where Brightmoon defeated Hordak before he ever had a chance to alert Horde Prime where he was, though they must have still triggered the portal in some fashion if Angella is gone. I can buy all that, so no problem.

The romance seems forced. I don't know if you'll end up being someone from the MLP side of the writeoffs, but a common trope there is that a close-knit group of friends all pair up into relationships, though the odds against that are astronomical. At least with She-Ra, there's a much smaller cast of named characters, so you don't have as many options unless you're going to bring in nameless citizens or original characters. I can still buy this, though it's harder. Mermista being so openly and publicly affectionate toward Sea Hawk is a little odd, while Bow asserting the kiss with Perfuma was just a one-time thing might be what's going on there as well? Maybe they're all just blowing off steam after the war? When all the relationships are casual (except the barely on-screen Netossa and Spinnerella), it kind of cheapens the romance angle all around, though. And then there's another thing we see a lot in MLP, and Bow even brings it up explicitly: that a large chunk of the given population is gay.

Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle already being cleared was a little odd, too, since they're still processing captives. They did defect toward the end of season 4, and I can't tell how much later this is supposed to be, but I'm not sure Brightmoon would so quickly embrace them to the point of letting them have free rein of the place and even have some responsibility with the other prisoners.

I don't get why Bow is still angry at Glimmer, unless it's on Adora's behalf. Like I said, the only source of tension I can assume is Angella, and in the show, there wasn't any direct conflict between Glimmer and Bow about that.

When Glimmer claps at Adora's choice to see Catra, I didn't understand what mood you were going for. Did she clap to applaud Adora's decision? Or was it just her alerting the guards to bring Catra in? Showing a little more of her behavior about it would clear that up.

Brightmoon has never been shown to have a judicial system, but that doesn't mean none exists. I'm just curious what function Adora is actually performing and whether she's remotely qualified to, if there even are such qualifications in their society.

Those are a lot of little things, but they do add up. The ending felt a little off, too, and I'll explain why. It's an open ending, since we don't know how things turn out between Adora and Catra, and that's fine. The trick to making open endings work is making it clear what outcomes are possible/likely and what the stakes are attached to each. But let me step back a bit. The story was centered around what Adora was going to do about Catra, then in the last few paragraphs, it diverges from being about that anymore and closes on a sentiment having more to do with this rift between Glimmer, Bow, and Adora. I will applaud you for the way you handled perspective there. Bow is the point of view character, and he's left the room, so the narration can't tell me what's happening in there anymore.

But back to the open ending. We of course don't know what transpires between Adora and Catra, and that's okay, but I need a little more information on what the options are so that I know what emotional stakes to invest in Adora's choice. If she decides to let Catra go free and clear, will Glimmer honor that? Will Adora be pressured to keep Catra under some kind of monitoring no matter what? Basically, I don't know enough about what the actual options are to know how I feel about the decision facing her.

Wow, I didn't intend to write that much, and the way these She-Ra rounds have gone, I'll probably never know if the author even looked at it, but there it is.
#7 · 1
· on A Stab in the Dark
I don't recall seeing Octavia before this season, but it stands to reason she came from somewhere, so it's nice to see her here. And good job of working in Catra as the reason for her injury.

Some editing problems here, but not more serious ones than any of the other entries have.

By now, I've looked at who the participants are, and I know I've only got veteran ponyfic writers on the hook. It's really hard to judge these, because they're all good. As people have lamented many times before, it's a shame someone has to come in last, because none of them deserve it. They seem quite even in my eyes. The one about Hordak was one where I understood what the character motivations were, but I didn't have as good a handle on exactly what was happening. The Bow story was the opposite. Here, I understand both. The Hordak story gave me the most unexpected plot.

Anyway, back to this story. I think it could have used a little more gravity to Adora's situation. As it turns out, she just has a one- or two-day bug, so it's not that serious, and I don't know that Shadow Weaver would have been that peeved to wait that long for the mission. Adora didn't communicate that she had a sense of urgency about it. Of course, it may be a case of she was ordered to do it then, so she'd better obey, but some sort of weight behind her need to do it without delay would have helped.

I'm a little surprised this hadn't been dealt with before, or that Catra wouldn't know what to expect there. By now, Scorpia's one of the Horde soldiers, and she should have known, right? She would have been especially equipped to do that mission, too. The guardian might have let her take the pendant uncontested if it recognized her authority over that kingdom. Honestly, just because of the venue, Scorpia seems very conspicuous in her absence. Even as Catra realizes this place is related to the black garnet, Scorpia doesn't get a mention, even though it's in her family's lands.

Having Catra responsible for Octavia's eye is a nice way to make the world seem bigger than the story, like there are other things going on outside the confines of the narrative that would be interesting, but not vital, to know.

I'd like maybe a little clearer establishment of setting at the beginning. You open with dialogue, and in the very next sentence, I get that it was Octavia speaking and Catra listening. Maybe it's my fault for making assumptions, but with Octavia being a season 4 character and this obviously taking place in the Fright Zone, I'm thinking it's present day. So when the next line of dialogue comes, I still don't know that anyone but Catra and Octavia are there. It's not something Catra would say, so it must be Octavia, but it sounds odd for her as well. A couple paragraphs later, you finally mention a blonde girl, but with me still in the present-day mindset, I don't know who that is, and I'm trying to think back to whether Octavia had blonde hair. It's finally evident in the sixth paragraph that Adora is there and this must be happening in the past. Anything you can do right after that first paragraph to clue me in to the time frame or explicitly name Adora as being there would alleviate my confusion.

In all, I like this as a more in-depth look at the favoritism Shadow Weaver showed Adora, and Catra's desperation to earn recognition. The show has mentioned both a number of times, but has never really demonstrated them more than once, and even then, kind of superficially.

It's going to be very tough to rank these stories.

EDIT: Catra being the one who injured Octavia is actually from the show, which is a detail I'd forgotten.
#8 ·
· on A Stab in the Dark · >>Wanderer_D
This is a difficult one to review. It hits all the beats that the (rather limited) traditional idea of story structure says it should, so it's sufficient. But that's just the problem: It doesn't really go beyond sufficient.

One of the things fanfiction can do very well is dig deeper into the source material, tease out implications that aren't investigated, show us what isn't there but could be. The emotional core of this story is Shadow Weaver's favouritism towards Adora, and the effect that has on Catra. And there's the problem: It doesn't dig deeper. It just revisits what the show has already given us. I could already see what was going before the fight, because I'd already walked down this route before.

A couple of other issues:

The fight with the guardian starts very abruptly. Not just in the middle of a paragraph, but in the middle of a sentence: “just as something smashed the ground right where she had landed.” It's jarring, and deflates any sense of tension or urgency.

The delivery is incredibly blunt at times. We're only four sentences in when the whole theme is unceremoniously dumped on our heads: “She needed to impress Shadow Weaver to prove to her that she was just as good as Adora.” And at the end, we get another, similar faux pas in Catra's dialogue. Or, rather, three in quick succession: “I just wanted her to acknowledge me,” “I just wanted her to accept me,” “All I've ever wanted was her approval!” When your characters explain your theme, it's like a comedian explaining the joke. It removes pretty much any emotional impact.

The prose is often quite awkward. We get “The blonde girl” referring to Adora, and even “The human girl” referring to Lonnie. The sentence structure is repetitive. In Octavia's confrontation with Catra, we keep getting the form, “‘Dialogue,’ character said, verbing.” A lot of time, it felt like the verbing was unnecessary and could've been cut without the scene losing anything.
#9 · 1
· on Weathering the Storm
Halfway through this, I thought I had my main criticism: A lack of focus, wandering idly from the problems of releasing Catra to tension between Bow and Glimmer to Bow-Perfuma shipping.

I was completely wrong.

In fact, what stands out about this story is how focused it actually is. Once you see the theme and the emotional tenor, every fits together.

There's nothing superfluous here. We don't need to know the exact nature of Bow and Glimmer's argument, or Bow and Perfuma's relationship. The story is wise enough to know that, and confident enough not to waste time on such matters.

Nor do we need to know what Adora will choose. She's stuck because she has no good choices. And it's that note of melancholy that stops this piece from being saccharine. She will get to talk to Catra again, without all the scrabbling for power and ego that has ruined their relationship since she changed sides. That's not much. But it will have to be enough.

This story is the good-tempered fantasy denouement that S4 didn't give us. It's about healing, reconciliation, the mutual support that comes from community. It's about that theme we see over and over again in She Ra: The difficulty of finding yourself opposed to someone you care about.
#10 ·
· on A Song for the Unforeseen
So I had a bit of trouble with this story... The story being in first person for this specific character is a big risk, so kudos for that, it takes guts. I saw what was being attempted at a deeper insight into Hordak's mind, and yet... it felt like it was trying too hard.

Hordak is a complex character because we never really know what's going on his head. He's a bit self-delusional, terrified of his "brother" finding him, seeking approval of his underlings, yet anxious for any of it to actually happen. He's built a wall around himself that took someone he saw as an equal mind to break through, and then was proven to be a weakness because, through the cracks, Catra sneaked in and abused his trust... and yet, what I read are almost sterile observations that don't add any emotional (positive or negative) effect to his character.

So, again, a worthy challenge for someone that wants to write a tale about a tyrannical fascist that yet feels like he's losing and has a complex relationship with everyone under him.

And yet, this felt gimmicky from the beginning if I'm honest. It feels shallow, and like it's aiming for something, yet doesn't quite reach it or engage me enough to really want to stick through it.

There's a lot of mini-scenes, but little emotional engagement, save for cleverly-used sentences that tell us that "he feels worthless", but they feel empty because they don't echo what's happening as he talks to himself.

There's a lot to be said about the innovative use of fonts and formatting quirks in fanfiction that we get in digital media, since they give us a chance to emphasize (or downplay) many things: emotions, tone of voice, unexpected twists... but I feel that they should add something to what it's being told, not simply used by themselves to compensate for what feels to me like flat exposition.

It was a risk, and I hope you had fun with it, but if I were to offer any sort of advice, it would be that: A voice in his mind that challenges his arguments, or reinforces his feelings of inadequacy should be enhancing what is being said in the rest of the story, not just as a reminder of what he's supposed to be feeling.
#11 · 1
· on Weathering the Storm
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this story was how it tackles the chaos around Bow's life, as a character that has so much empathy, he lends himself easily to be someone that everyone else can really lean into and yet is in a very real sense the glue that keeps them all together.

I'll have to echo Pascoite's feelings of "where and when is this happening again?" I think that's one of the downsides of not having a short/long description before going in, at the beginning its a bit jarring to try and figure out that this is not canon timeline—oddly enough this slight moment of confusion regarding the time/placement is something all three stories seemed to have an issue with.

I guess if I had to offer any feedback it would be the same I need for my own submission to work better (one of two in my case): land the setting and timing really early on to ease the reader into the story. Overall, I enjoyed it!
#12 ·
· on A Stab in the Dark
>>Scramblers and Shadows Ah, thanks for the observations, I'll make sure to go over the story with those in mind before I post it!

Edit: Ye gods, thanks for pointing out the very real Blonde/Human/etc girl thing I did there. That's what I get for not editing before posting :P
#13 · 1
· on A Leap Off Face
Call it a hunch, but I think this might get gold.