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Cutting Corners · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 3
Is it time for another FiM Short Story round already? Yay!

I hope the holiday doesn't get in the way though
#2 · 2
#3 · 5
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
It's winter. The wife can't make me go outside and experience life. (i.e. yard work) I may be able to contribute this week.
#4 · 4
She may ask you to do snow landscaping instead.
#5 ·
Ok, who submitted the Homestuck prompt?
#6 · 2
Grr, I'm going to miss this one as well. Selling my house and moving, and it's taken all the free evenings I thought I'd have to write!
#7 ·
· on Element Substitute
To start with:

Let me link you to The Writeoff Formatting & Style Guide where it says, "Paragraphs should be separated by a single blank line." That avoids the whole "wall of text" thing that's going on here and makes it a lot easier on us readers.

I'll then point you toward the Fimfiction Writing Guide's section on punctuating dialogue. It's got the rules for when to use commas and when to use periods with all sorts of examples. Because lines like “I’ve failed them Luna.” she muttered darkly. and It-it won’t be the same without you.” Sweetie Belle exclaimed, and Scootaloo said defiantly, ignoring the tears that flowed, “She’ll come through those doors any moment now!” are punctuated incorrectly, the first two with periods that should be commas and the third with a comma that should be a period. This happens here every time a line of dialogue doesn't end with a question mark or an exclamation point.

Also? There are misspellings scattered throughout: "Your right", for instance, and "its how you know". There are incorrect verb forms: "If we was to take a guess", for instance, and "We thought you was in trouble". There's rampant "said-bookism" here, too, using words like "shouted" and "exclaimed" and "sobbed" that don't really do anything except draw attention to themselves and away from the things that're actually happening.

Basically, I'm finding it really hard to dig through all the missteps and mistakes to make any possibly useful comments on the story itself. I could say that I'd like to know we're in an alternate universe earlier, I suppose, or that I'd like to know whether the Mane Six are dead or just missing--the story seems to go back and forth on that point. But the grammar and the syntax are so tangled here, those problems need to be fixed before anything else.

#8 ·
· on Element Substitute
Baal Bunny has the most important things covered in his post, so I won't go over them again. Please work first on achieving basic technical proficiency in English. That's the biggest and most important effort you should make right now.

With that said, I still decided to try to look past the mechanics and comment on the story this piece tries to tell because it looks like the work of a new writer just trying to find a footing and get started, and it's in that situation where I think critique is the most especially important and helpful. Improving is really what these writeoffs are all about, and I think it's worth the time to try to help new writers grow.

So. The big problem in regard to the story is that, well, there's not really a story. There's a scene. It could have come from the middle of a story; we don't know how this started and we don't get to see how things turn out. This scene is also a big problem because it's essentially just a big briefing, with some attempt made to cram all of what action we do get into it. The characters discuss what's happened, more for the purpose of informing the reader than for their own benefit. This kind of info-dumping feels, naively, like it might be a clever way to convey a lot of information, but there are a lot of problems with it - it's inorganic, coming off as very contrived because people don't do that in real life.

There's also a lot of disjoint logic that just sort of pops up out of nowhere out of the characters' mouths. Fact A is stated, and characters suddenly realize that it implies Fact B (example: Angel Bunny can talk => OMG new bearers of the Elements of Harmony!). The reader has no way of knowing the reasons why this should be so, it just gets declared as exposition out the characters' mouths and we're asked to just believe it. Trying to tell a story through having characters just issue declarations like that doesn't really work. If characters have to do that to inform the reader of something important, that's usually something you should have already informed the reader about. Not always, of course; surprises can be used to great effect. But that needs to be a deliberate thing. It's important to be conscious of what you've told the reader (or haven't) and why or why not, and how it's timed.
#9 · 1
· on At the Seams · >>TerrusStokkr >>Baal Bunny
This entry is putting too many images in my head. Yep, they're in my brain now...

Something I liked:

What a sugary tale this is. Not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I'd say the immensely comforting chemistry between Sandbar and Yona is what makes it all work. If this was just about Sandbar having anxiety over the possibility of having kids (and that is a good chunk of the entry), then I wouldn't be so keen on it. Thankfully, almost in spite of the fact that I don't know too much about the young six, the relationship between Sandbar and Yona is quite believable, and diabetes-inducing. I also like how Yona is written here. Not only does she feel accurate to the show, but she doesn't feel like some child in an adult's body; she knows more than she lets on. And of course some of Sandbar's remarks are funny.

Something I didn't like:

With that said, there are a couple major problems I had with this. The first is the scene with Discord, which doesn't feel like a productive use of time and words, but also Discord just sounds... off to me. It could be that for some reason he sounds like someone's grandma, and maybe he wants to knit a sweater for Sandbar, but I never in a million years thought he would sound the way he does here. The second problem, which is much bigger, is that my suspension of disbelief took a beating reading this entry. I don't understand why Sandbar and Yona didn't have this conversation before, considering how long they've been together and how much (presumably unprotected) sex they've had, and it rings to me as absurd.

Verdict: A perfectly fine rom-com that probably wouldn't exist if it made more sense.
#10 ·
· on The Butterfly · >>TerrusStokkr
Nicely written:

But I'm not getting much of an idea about what's going on. Why does the Nightmare come to Rarity on this particular day, for instance, instead of, say, the day after Winter Wrap Up? I mean, the Nightmare could come to her at any time, so what's the trigger that causes it to make her this offer today? And I'm not at all sure what happens at the end. Surely it'd take something splashier than an empty room to make Rarity scream?

A few details confused me here and there, too. Rarity falls asleep looking at her cutie mark? How? Is she curled up like a cat? And why does it never occur to her that she might be dreaming during her hours of falling? She's also very subdued throughout the whole piece, something that Rarity very rarely is. I'd like to see more flashes of her bravado and her resourcefulness especially if you mean for her to be crushed by whatever it is that happens at the end.

#11 ·
· on The Story of O. · >>TerrusStokkr
Very nice:

The opening confused me a bit once I got to the tape recorder. Is she listening to one of her own live recordings? If so, it'd be simple enough to tell me that right in the first line by making it something like, "The audience had hardly made a sound, she remembered."

Also, I found myself starting to skip the narrative parts about halfway through so I could get straight to Octavia's actual spoken lines. Maybe find ways to get some of that information into her monologue? Another way to help that would be to make more use of the physical environment. You do some of that now, but a few more bits of her looking at or even touching objects that have meaning to her in the house would be welcome.

The big thing, though, is that I never get to know what the note says. The idea of Vinyl communicating with Octavia is so key to the story that withholding the actual piece of communication from me makes the ending less impactful, if I might descend into jargon for a moment. :)

#12 ·
· on At the Seams · >>Baal Bunny
Like what >>No_Raisin said, it is weird that Sandbar and Yona never talked about having foals before. Especially, if Yona knew that is was possible. If neither knew, that would have actually been better, as they could have gone through this journey together.

Just rewriting some to the plot points would fix many of these problems. Like, Yona and Sanbar knew when Yona's 'three nights' are, but avoid them because they are afraid of the outcome. A slight adjustment to the plot, but keeps most of the story intact.

>>No_Raisin, I'll have to argue on your point about Discord (especially since this takes place after the finale). Discord acting different would be in character and work if the other creature is utterly confused, like Sandbar was. Expect the unexpected with Discord. However, this would be the only situation (or ones very similar) where this would work.

I did enjoy the story, but I'm afraid I can't point anything else out that >>No_Raisin already hasn't.

Rating: Fluff(le) Minus Puff
#13 ·
· on The Butterfly
I agree with >>Baal Bunny, Rarity practically took that sitting down, which isn't her style (unless her spirit is crushed). And I'll again agree with >>Baal Bunny, why on that random day of all days? Also, what happened to Sweetie Belle? You built up to a cliff hanger, without any buildup.

I'm honestly assuming you ran out of time writing this so that is why the ending was so abrupt, but it did hurt your story quite a bit.

I do like the message behind the story, "Be a rock that will weather the storm", "Don't give up", etc. I honestly see Rarity filling this role if the others were to lose their motivation (this would suit Twilight better, but Rarity is the next best choice). Good choice.

Rating: Rough-Cut Gem
#14 ·
· on The Story of O.
As >>Baal Bunny said, not showing what was written on the note was a bad decision. Especially since Vinyl is mute. Vinyl can't express herself as much as Octavia, so it is impossible to infer what she wrote onto the note (which is what I assumed I was suppose to do).

For most of the story, it was a one-sided conversation, and that was fine until Vinyl wouldn't talk to Octavia. It was pretty jarring, not knowing what set Vinyl off. Again, since Vinyl can't express herself as much as Octavia, I saw that Vinyl was angry, but I didn't know why. Also, Vinyl's anger seemed to be unwarranted simply because Octavia wouldn't express how much she loved her (it seemed like 'never speak to me again' anger due to Vinyl not even bothering to look in Octavia's direction). Honestly, I could see Vinyl harassing Octavia by poking at her (just to annoy her) and not love on her, so she could get the point across better.

Despite the two flaws I pointed out, I think it is a good story. I can't wait to see how you will finish this.

Rating: What's written on the note?
#15 ·
· on Stitches · >>TerrusStokkr
Very nice:

The story's pretty much here, author. All I can offer are a few fine tuning bits. Like feeling there's one too many "purple and gold" moments in the scene with Twilight--the first time is a perfect nudge against the theme of the story, the second time is banging me over the head with it. But then I'd like another glancing "purple and gold" reference in the last scene at least and maybe even one in the scene with Coco. Just to carry the thread through--as it were-- from beginning to end.

"there’s also a such thing as" should be "there’s also such a thing as", and Dash's one line at the end of the story doesn't sound very much like Dash. Maybe instead of "I love my dress, Rarity", we could get something like, "This dress is beyond awesome" or like that, and something more Dashy for "thank you for making sure I’d look so nice on my big day."

Like I said, just fine tuning stuff.

#16 ·
· on At the Seams
The major point:

That needs addressing here for me, author, is something the show never really did either: give Sandbar some character. Other than "laid back," he's a blank slate, so if you want him to be the sort of guy who never even thinks about pregnancy and kids, just convince us that that's who he is. Maybe show us early on that he's really good at short-term planning but not so much long-term?

#17 · 2
· on The Butterfly
Mostly pretty good. Technically proficient, no complaints at all about style or mechanics.

The visuals felt a bit rough for me, though. Or, perhaps not rough, so much as not fully finished. Baal mentioned the thing about Rarity falling asleep looking at her cutie mark. This seems like an odd choice of position, without being justified by further explanation.

"There they were, in the hundreds of thousands, tiny dots milling amidst the landscape."
The landscape just seems to be referenced out of nowhere. I pieced it together, but this doesn't feel like a thing readers are intended to be piecing together on their own. Try more clearly describing how it is that Rarity sees a landscape.

Similarly, I pieced together what (I think) happens at the end, and it makes sense - but again, this seems like something too subtle, not fully formed. The two commenters above me seem to have gone past it without picking it up, which is a pretty good indication that more elaboration is required. Now, I think this should be on the subtle side to work most effectively as a dark turn to end on, so just a touch more, don't beat it over the head or anything - but it does need something, because as it is, it seems to be coming off to other readers as a sudden, unhinted twist that's clashing the rest of the tone rather than as the foreshadowed and successfully blended-in sinister turn I think it's meant to be.
#18 ·
· on Stitches
Preface: I'm a inspiring writer, so most of my advice will be about the plot and theming (as I feel I understand those concepts better than anything else).

With that out of the way, this was a great story. This was very welly executed, and I don't notice any mistakes, (grammar and the like that wasn't already noted) so that's good. As >>Baal Bunny said, Rainbow Dash doesn't sound like herself at the end, but it is a nitpick at worst. Again, I'll agree with >>Baal Bunny about the "purple and gold" moments with Twilight. It feels like a brow beat. But besides that, the story is perfect as is.

Honestly, while I was reading this. I thought this was going to be a Rarijack vs. AppleDash fic. Mostly Rarity being angry at herself for not noticing the signs earlier. I'm actually happy that I'm wrong, because I enjoyed Rarity's character growth. Her being envious of AJ and RD because their relationship works, while she still has yet to find her special somepony. I didn't expect that, and I'm glad I didn't.

Overall, a great story with a few flaws to work out.

Rating: Rough Around the Edges (heh, heh)
#19 ·
· on The Butterfly
Interesting that you used Time Turner instead of Doctor Whooves. Really subverted my expectations there.

Something I liked:

I have mixed feelings about this entry, but one thing that isn't mixed is the representation of the Nightmare. Now, I'm not familiar with the comics, but I do know that Nightmare Rarity was a thing. Probably got some juicy fan art, maybe even a centerfold. More importantly, I like that the Nightmare is naturally charismatic, which is a quality that seems to rub off on whoever gets attached to it. Nightmare Moon and Nightmare Rarity are treacherous villains, but at least they're charismatic and sexy. Am I getting side-tracked? For what it's worth, but this is a rather engaging conversation, not the only time we'll see an entry this round that's almost like an extended monologue.

Something I didn't like:

I feel like in an effort to keep the tense pace of the story going, there's very little context given as to why it's happening. There's also something off about Rarity, which has been noted in other reviews. To put it bluntly, i can't imagine her interacting with the Nightmare in this way. She seems to submissive, which is a quality that for Rarity requires a lot more justification than what we're given. The ending is also... there? Something bad happens to Sweetie Belle, but since we don't get any word from her within the story it's hard to be invested in what happens to her, and the immense vagueness that goes into those closing sentences doesn't help. I feel like if you're going for a gut punch of a twist, you should make sure the audience knows.

Verdict: Nicely ominous, but also too vaguely framed for me to feel the tension like I should.
#20 ·
· on Element Substitute
I would do my normal format for reviewing here and go into some depth about what I did and didn't like, but... I legitimately didn't know what was going on? Re-reading on desktop was somehow more nightmarish than mobile.

Reformat the story and I'll be sure to give it a proper review.
#21 ·
· on The Story of O.
Interesting that you turned Octavia into a low-key pervert. Really subverted my expectations there.

Something I liked:

Seriously though, this is fine. Maybe more than fine, I'm not sure. At first I was worried there would be a very obvious reversal of roles with how we associate these characters with certain personality traits, but their relationship ended up being a lot harder to pin down than I expected, for better or worse. I'm gonna disagree with Mike and say I was more interested in the prose than Octavia's monologue, which itself is not badly written by any means. It's just that there's a certain sense of mystery with what happens around the monologue that I find more compelling. There is certain information here that we're either not given right away or just not told about, which I find eye-catching, if not necessarily gold.

Something I didn't like:

Going back to the monologue, I do feel like it can be considerably more fleshed out. I'm trying to map out what Octavia is saying in my head, and what she says sounds kind of scatterbrained. To a degree this makes sense, given how she's feeling and how she'll try saying anything to Vinyl, but I feel like the semi-randomness of the monologue messes with the already-weird structure of the whole piece. You could convert some of the prose and make it part of the monologue, or you could refine the prose around the monologue and make it an overall smoother reading experience, or maybe both? And of course it'd be nice to get more physical descriptions of Vinyl, since she doesn't talk. I don't need to know what the note says, though.

Verdict: Kind of enigmatic, but also kind of fascinating. I don't mind not knowing what Vinyl wrote tbh.
#22 ·
· on Stitches
Interesting that you made Rarity a female incel. Really subverted my expectations there.

Something I liked:

Boy, it's a stroke of genius that you had Rarity get up in arms about contributing to Rainbow Dash and Applejack's wedding. If it was a ship I had any respect for, I'd be not as quick to sympathize with Rarity, maybe even think of her as a petty pony. For real though, once we find out what Rarity's internal conflict is, it becomes pretty relatable. This might be the entry I liked most as a gut reaction, because as a character piece we get such a vivid picture what Rarity's life is like. Not only it future timeline, which I like, but we the message in so many elegant words that not everyone is exactly happy after the villains have been defeated. There are still problems to be solved, even if they aren't of the life-threatening variety.

Something I didn't like:

Two things, and neither of them is big. First, the reveal that Rarity doesn't have a crush on either Rainbow Dash or Applejack feels almost like queerbaiting, because we were led to believe at first that she was upset about the wedding because there was unrequited love involved. I'd rather not have that be treated as a reveal. Or you know, just let Rarity be queer but have her not have any romantic feelings for her friends. I also feel like the ending is too clean with how it resolves Rarity's inner turmoil, but I do like how it gives the story sort of a circular structure where we end up where we started, but with a different mindset. Some of Rarity's dialogue also feels too upfront in its self-reflection, but that can be easily revised.

Verdict: A little rough still, but barely qualifies as an inconvenience. This entry's more or less finished.
#23 · 1
· on AbNeb! · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Awwwww yeah, information I can absorb through my eyes!
#24 · 1
· on AbNeb! · >>GroaningGreyAgony
So, I super admire your commitment to making art for this. Like, serious props.

Now, I have no idea what this is based on, but it's pretty dang great. Those letters had to have taken effort, and it paid off. The photoshopping of the cigarette into Nightmare Rarity's mouth is a little rough, but the characters themselves are really amazing. The magic and the drinks came out particularly well too. I feel like the highlights on Normal-Rarity's eyes are a little weird - whether they're too big or just a little misaligned I don't know. But I think the bloodshot effect is very well done. Normal-Rarity's mane and tail are also super top-notch.

I know that's kinda just a smattering of comments with no real structure, but that's pretty much the order my brain saw them in.
#25 ·
· on At the Seams · >>Baal Bunny
This story is very sweet, but feels like it makes sacrifices in the narrative to achieve that sweetness artificially - and like most artificial sweeteners, the taste comes out a bit off. Sandbar feels like kind of a doofus here, not knowing things he should probably know about Yona. Other people have touched on this, so I won't harp on it.

More importantly to me, the central conflict to this story feels like it lacks gravity by virtue of being solved too... well, conveniently. It just sort of turns out that Yona knew what she was doing all along, reducing the problem to a mere kerfuffle of miscommunication (or simply missed communication). Many great stories have been built on these, of course, but here it's just sort of played for fluffiness instead of setting the characters down a real path to some clash of perspectives or methodology in pursuing their goals.

Does it need to be a tragedy? No. But it does need at least a bit of something more substantial, IMO, to get it somewhere beyond just sweet fluff, which is a nice place to be but not always the most engaging.
#26 · 1
· on At the Seams · >>Miller Minus

Congrats to the other medalists:

And thanks, everyone, for the comments. And I do mean everyone--am I reading the page correctly? Were there just 4 of us reading, commenting, and voting this time around? Our own private Writeoff...

As for the story here, it's an outgrowth of the process I've been going through working on a story for Miller's upcoming Cash Money Contest. I'd never really thought about writing the student characters, but once I did, I came up with a couple ideas that I decided not to pursue. This was one of them, and since it kind of fit the prompt, I took the writing weekend to actually make it into a story. I needs another draft or two, but while I still like the idea of the problem being completely in Sandbar's mind, I'll take a look at that during the rewrite.

Also? I keep typing "Sandbat" when I mean to type "Sandbar."

#27 ·
· on At the Seams
>>Baal Bunny
Aragon once accidentally wrote his name as 'Sandbag' and now I can't stop thinking of him as a means of keeping floodwater at bay.
#28 · 2
· on AbNeb!
>>No_Raisin, >>MLPmatthewl419


Thanks for the comments and the highest (and lowest) ranking!

Ever since seeing Nightmare Rarity in the comics, I've been tagging her in my mind as Nightmare Fab. It sort of exploded, guided by this image, into a crossover of the britcom Absolutely Fabulous! with MLP. I regret causing Moonshot any confusion, as this image has little to do with the story aside from the displayed characters, but I won't apologise; I had to make this happen somehow.

...photoshopping of the cigarette...

I'll take this as a compliment; as with everything else in this image, the cigarettes were drawn as vector objects in Illustrator. It's all curves, boxes and gradients. Photoshop was only used to crop the image and to correct the leg fade in one area.
#29 · 1
· on AbNeb!
Oh. OH. This is glorious. I didn’t see this until now, but it’s the greatest thing. Brava!