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The Spring in Her Step · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 3
· · >>Griseus
I'm gonna try my damnest to get into this one. It's been way too long since I've done any kind of creative writing and two years since my last WO entry. Crazy how time goes like that.
#2 · 2
Good! GroaningGreyAgony got me into this and I've sort of got better at writing.
#3 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
I'm in like Flynn.
#4 · 2
· · >>Griseus
Hell yeah!! :D

I got in yesterday, but I'm still doing some spot edits. Editing is endless. :P
#5 · 2
Yuper. *thousand yard stare*
#6 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian >>GroaningGreyAgony
I won't have a story in, but I will do art for everyone who submitted.
#7 · 2
· on The Most Important Beverage
There is not a single 9-to-5 worker who cannot relate exquisitely with the pain of needing coffee. Loving the choice of subject matter. :D

Let me start this off by just making a note that I think comedies are one of the most subjective genres to write, and folks' tastes on them vary wildly. I also think that my own preferences for comedy are a bit weird, so take everything with grains of salt.

First off, I had a great time with your dialogue, especially when it was snappy/punchy. Fluttershy's "Bitch have you lost your freaking mind" was great, and not just because it'll always be funny when she cusses. Similarly, I liked the "Only villains drink that" explanation for why Twilight's acting the way she is.

Inversely, I think the jokes in your non-dialogue prose were a bit more hit-or-miss for me. I'm not sure why that's the case, but it might be because the general tone of the text feels like it has a degree of separation from the events it describes. What I mean by that is, despite this being told in Rainbow Dash's perspective, most of the action statements are pretty omniscient and high-level.

This is definitely not objectively wrong to do; many stories and comedies have a distant narrator. I think the area that caused friction for me was how this high-level detached approach tended to interact with the comedic stakes.

The perfect example for me is when Twilight fires Fluttershy. We get two lines of dialogue that escalate the ridiculousness of the scenario: Fluttershy's "bitch" line, and the actual firing itself. But right after that scene, we get a very matter-of-fact-ly description of Fluttershy bursting into tears and needing to becomforted by PInkie Pie. This strikes me a little oddly: instead of making the situation feel ridiculous and comedic, now I'm almost left wondering if I should be feeling sorry for Fluttershy. On my first read-through, I genuinely thought this might be a point where the story was shifting gears and turning into a serious drama.

Honestly though, I recognize that this is a really, really subjective and personal take on reading comedies, so I'm interested in seeing if any other reviewers have something to say. And regardless of my own quibbles and nitpicks, I really think this has a solid backbone of dialogue here.

Thank you for writing!
#8 · 2
· on A Little Help
Okay, so I absolutely love these kinds of comfy stories that straddle the line between SOL and drama. It's most of what I write, I think, so you've already got yourself many points in my book for your choice of the scale of conflict. There's something stories like this that's fits the MLP really well and is just really satisfying.

In particular, I really like the the way you set up and pace your scenes, in the macro sense. Each scene really does feel like it's got a concrete goal, and as a whole the story spends an appropriate amount of time with each moment or concept that it needs to build up. I think you do a great job of telegraphing to the reader where they are in the story's progression, which can be a really tricky thing to do without feeling like you're giving away the whole story too quickly. The fact that most scenes open with Berry's alarm clock or phone is a nice touch that gives the whole story a feeling of continuity and theme.

Now, I think the area with the most potential for improvement is gonna be your sentence-to-sentence level of construction. Two things in particular come to mind.

Easy thing first, you should really format your scene breaks when you can. The second time Berry woke up to her alarm clock, I read it as though it happened immediately after the previous scene, and I thought that everything before that point had been a dream that Berry was waking up from. To avoid this (and really make sure that the reader is in the proper mindset to digest a new scene) you should use soft scene breaks (empty paragraph, which is 3 empty lines) or a hard scene break (type "hr" between two straight brackets [ ] without the quotes). The other stories in this contest use hard and soft scene breaks, so check them out if you wanna see how it looks and feels. In my opinion, you would probably want to use hard scene breaks for most of these scenes.

As for the harder part, I think it might be good to think about your prose on a mechanical level and consider how you're constructing your sentences. There's quite a few places where you default to using a simple, single-claused S-V-O sentence several times in succession. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these kinds of sentences in and of themselves (I love using them for emphasis and to speed up the perception of time!), but when any sentence structure is repeated many times quickly, it makes for a bit of a monotonous experience for the reader. They might not notice consciously, but they may feel bogged down and disconnected from the story.

A quick self-check you can do is to glance over a paragraph and see how many sentences start with a subject noun. Somebody told me about this trick several years ago (I think it was Pascoite, actually!), and as soon as I realized it, it made a huge difference. Also, try to gauge whenever many sentences in a row have a very similar length (for instance, the paragraph starting with "Berry stepped in and found..."). When there isn't a lot of variety in sentence length and structure, things can start feeling less like a story and more like a blocky list of things that happened.

Try think about how you can vary your sentence length and structure; add 2 or even 3 clause sentences if you want to slow things down and make the reader think about a complex concept. Semi-colons and colons are your friend here, too! I personally can't get enough of em dashes—you can really use them wherever the hell you want.

I know that I spent a lot of time talking about what could be improved, but I really don't want to understate how much I loved the bones and structure of this story. It's really exactly the kind of way I outline my own stories, and I personally think that this is the hardest part of writing at all, and I thought you did a great job with it.

I really hope that you find these thoughts helpful! Thank you for writing!
#9 · 1
· on Night of a Thousand Stars · >>Bachiavellian
This was a nice bit of SoL. Thank you for writing it.

As someone who hadn’t even glanced at the FiM comics, I hadn’t even heard of Gilded Lily until today. I only just now googled her. You’ve really found yourself an interesting premise that I bet not many people know about.

I like what you did with Gilded and Fleur here. Both as characters were believable, wholesome and likeable. Jet Set and Upper Crust were Jet Set and Upper Crust. 10 points. The snippy back-and-forth between them about their finances was my absolute highlight in the story.

Although, if I may suggest, at the big blow-out scene where UC starts screaming her head off, I imagined that she would’ve gone more for a seething chill than a raging fire type of anger. Like needling Fancy Pants about being a crummy father-figure until he blows a lid.

As a downside, the “point” of the story seems just a bit weak. Granted, it’s a slice of life story so that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel that the conflict of Fancy Pants being insecure about being a bad father-figure to Gilded could’ve used a stim. Nothing big, just something like not being able to get off the phone, so he could help Gilded with getting dressed, despite her wanting him to, for example.

But don’t think too much into that. I’m just thinking aloud with my fingers.

Thank you again for writing
#10 · 2
· on The Mare of La Mane'cha · >>Bachiavellian
Halfway reading through this, I was genuinely afraid you would turn it into a feghoot. Phew.

First off, very solid entry. Well done author. Secondly, the ending caught me completely off guard. Don’t know if it’s going to do that with everyone, but personally, I was blown away.

I can’t speak Scottish, so I have no idea whether your execution should be applauded or demanded.

The humour was superb. It tickled my funny bone to read Vantage’s description of Donna’s earlier years and family, and in the beginning, I chuckled when I realized that you’d reversed their roles. I also loved Donna's and Vantage's characterization.

Really the only shortcoming I could find in this story was the ending feeling a little rushed. That may have been because of the word limit. If you want to tweak this story, a thousand words or so would let the latter half build up the same way the first one does, and make the ending seem less abrupt.

Also, if I may nitpick, there were some typos. Mainly incorrect tenses, as is usual with present tense stories, but also this:

“Have ye any gold?” she flatly, in a quiet voice.

I can understand you probably had to cut some words to fit the submission requirement, but there were better choices out there (just kidding, everyone knows "said" is an invisible word).

And finally, don’t take my words too harshly, author. I’ve been wrong many times before.

Though I don’t think I’ll be when I say that this one is probably going to win.

(Almost forgot: kudos on the names. Me likey.)
#11 · 1
· on A Little Help
It’s been a while since I’ve read a good Berry Punch story. Thank you for this.

First off, I love how you’ve fleshed out her character. You’ve thought up an entire character arc almost. It was indeed interesting to find out how these characters could have grown.

I'm loath to say, however, that I feel this story could use a similar treatment as the first. It takes a while for the story to properly get to its “point” in my opinion.

I would recommend cutting some of the more redundant actions and descriptions in the beginning. Show don’t tell, as it were. You could also maybe make it clearer earlier on what the story is going to be about, or at the very least hint at it.

If you did, then you may smack me in the head with a restaurant platter, because I must have been still asleep when I read.

None of what I said is a deal breaker though; the story is still quite enjoyable as is. But if you were planning on improving upon it, these would be my suggestions.

Not much else to say, I'm afraid. Thank you again for writing.
#12 · 2
· on The Most Important Beverage
It's interesting that we got two stories that both start with characters waking up this round. If we’d gotten more submissions maybe we could’ve seen a pattern.

This was quirky. I like a good comedy as much as everyone else, and this one definitely had it’s moments. I can definitely see Rainbow's (and the others') penchant for coffee.

Though I wonder what brave fool was the one to introduce it to Pinkie of all ponies.

While I did enjoy the humour, the characters may have been a little too over-the-top for my tastes (more so Twilight than others). Getting the characters right is a problem I myself struggle with a lot, so take this with a grain of salt, but I recommend maybe toning down their eccentricity a notch. Or alternatively going full crackfic and turning it up to eleven.

Those are my personal tastes, though. YMMV.

I would recommend another round of proofreading, though. There were a few typos, but nothing too major. Easily fixed.

Not much else to say. I had fun reading this. Thank you for writing.
#13 · 2
· on Night of a Thousand Stars
Okay, so full disclosure, before I read >>Anonymous Potato's review, I didn't even realize that Jet Set, Upper Crust, and Gilded Lily were not OCs. I think I used to be pretty on top of keeping track of side characters, but clearly not anymore. :P

Out of all the entries this round, I think I like your prose the most. You give enough detail to be evocative and descriptive, but never so much that the reader feels bogged down in text. This is something I honestly think I struggle with a lot, and I usually default to trying to make my text feel invisible. But you do an excellent job of making the flow of the text feel like an important part of the reading experience.

There's also a lot of fun in the pseudo-parenting that contextualizes Fancy Pants' and Fleur's relationship with Lily. One of the best parts of this story is definitely the chemistry between the three of them, which comes through very strongly.

Now, one thing that I do wish was a bit more clear is how you set up your stakes. I realize that a purely SOL story doesn't really need a central conflict, but I think it should be pretty clear in setting that kind of expectation in the reader. In this story, we spend a lot of time examining the tension between Jet Set, Upper Crust, and our protagonists, but during most of the first 2/3rds of the story, there isn't very much indication as to how important the resolution of the conflict is going to be in regards to the story's overall payoff. In the end, it didn't end up being that critical to the grand scope of things, outside of giving Fancy Pants an opportunity to give Lily a lesson in modest self-assurance. Most of the story's payoff is in the small moments between our protagonists, but as a reader, I didn't really know that until the end. Consequentially, I enjoyed my second and third readings much better than my first.

If I were to spitball suggestions, I think what I'd do if I were writing an idea like this one would be to open the story with one or two short scenes that feature our main trio but are mostly unrelated to the outing to Equestria-Land. That way, there's some telegraphing that the moment-to-moment beats of each scene are important. The way that the story currently begins (a cold cut into a conversation with underlying tensions) really makes the reader prepare for something more conflict-driven, I think. Feel free to completely disregard this suggestion though; this is just what I would do; I'm sure you'd have different ideas on potential changes.

Anyways, I did really enjoy this story! Thank you for writing!
#14 · 2
· on The Mare of La Mane'cha · >>Bachiavellian
It's a well done version of The Man of La Mancha with appropriate edits and changes throughout. It's an enjoyable read. What errors there are within the text (the occasional missing word) feel more like they are due more to the limitations of the word count and not the author.
#15 · 1
· on A Little Help
I think that this a story with really solid bones. I also think that it's a story that needs more meat on those bones. The idea of a middle age/slightly older Berry Punch working various jobs, having some family stuff going on is appealing. Heck the characters in the story are appealingly written.

The issues for me is that the scenarios that present themselves in the story are rushed through. A little more time spent on each scene would help. Why doesn't Berry Punch want to write a review of her daughter's restaurant? I don't remember a reason. Why doesn't her daughter realize her mother had an alcohol problem? Did she grow up and think it was normal behavior or something? What's the real problem between Button and And Ruby and so on.

If that sort of stuff can get brought forth more you'll have a really really good story here. As it stands it's still enjoyable I just wish there were more.
#16 · 1
· on Night of a Thousand Stars · >>Bachiavellian
I had to read this story twice. If I'm being honest the first time I read it I got rather confused (honestly probably more of a me thing) with the first section of dialog and it soured me on it. However, I thought I was being unfair so I read it again. I'm glad I did because it really is a nice story. The descriptions are apt, the pacing is steady and the characters are enjoyable with a nice little lesson for Lily towards the end.

On a personal note I actually sort of felt bad for Jet Set I don't know if I'd wish a marriage to Upper Crust on anybody. Well, maybe Zephyr Breeze but I digress. I also kind of wish that Rarity had jabbed Upper Crust with a pin but that would have taken away from the story overall. Still if anybody deserve a pin in the rump ...

Again... I thought it was a nice story so kudos to you!
#17 · 1
· on The Mare of La Mane'cha

You're winning a lot of personal brownie points from me, because I like Man of La Mancha, and I love Celestia stories.. And I think your prose does a decent job of staying out of the way, although every now and then there is an occasional tense slip as you jump between present and past tense.

Your biggest issue is definitely the fact that it's pretty obvious you ran out of words really, really hard. Your first couple of scenes are about two thousand words each, contrasting with your last several that are barely 200 words each. It's really disappointing that the ending doesn't get as much development than the opening. Word count management really is an important part of the Writeoffs--admitedly less so in the short story rounds than in the minific rounds, but definitely still significant.

Thanks for writing!
#18 · 2
· on Night of a Thousand Stars
If I'm being honest the first time I read it I got rather confused (honestly probably more of a me thing) with the first section of dialog

I think I'd actually agree with this. I mentioned that I got a bit thrown off by the cold cut into dialogue. Having two (and a half?) conversations going on at the same time is definitely a little disorienting the first time around. It might help if it gave us a little bit of concrete scene-setting before giving us the main back-and-forth between Fleur and Lilly. On my first read, I definitely thought I was missing something.
#19 · 1
Since I entered and not good at hiding if it's my story, not going to review 'em until after the votes are counted.
#20 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
You officially have competition in the art round now. :P
#21 · 2
Bring it on. ; )
#22 · 2
As I promised, I got art in for each story. And now... I am bushed.
#23 · 3
These pictures are great!
#24 · 1
· on The Pepless Drip
A glimpse of the frustration in the weary stimulant addict and the traitorous fluid that has had its only reason for existence extracted from it. 8.5 out of 10 glower points. Do carry on, Artist.
#25 · 2
· on Just Over the Next Hill
This is one of two illustrations in this round that are referencing the famous Picasso doodle of the Don and Sancho. 7 of 10 expressive scribble factor. Please continue to chase that windmill, Artist.
#26 · 1
· on Tilting Vantage
Here's the other Picasso reference, it even has a fake signature. The image has a certain power even when depeopled. 8 of 10 spaghetti factor. Never lay down your lance, Artist.
#27 · 1
· on Time Flies
I had one of these. I suspect shoopery is at play. 6 of 10 POW points. Tempus fugit, Artist.
#28 · 1
· on Macro- and Microcosm
A pretty carnival scene with night sky in full panoply. Neon effect with black background sets the mood nicely. 7 of 10 "Why won't they pay attention to MY night?!" points. Shine on, you crazy diamond Artist.
#29 · 2
· on People-Watching
Colorful and expressive bench scene. 9 of 10 someone-actually-drew-a-full-human-figure points. It's suggested to lessen the drawn lines in the face for a softer appearance. Please leaf onward, Artist!
#30 · 2
· on Night of a Thousand Stars
Not a fan or hater of the EQ Universe, though rather this have been ponies. This story is a nice slice of life bit that really didn't go too much anywhere. Did have a little bit of a conflict in the 3rd act and was wrapped up nice. Liked the characters except for Lilly. She was just okay. Did get the sense that she was a child, but not really who she was? Setting I didn't give a shit about. Not a fan of Disney world or rich people getting into the over priced stuff. Everything else screams professional done.
#31 · 2
· on The Most Important Beverage
“Bitch have you lost your freaking mind!” in Fluttershy's voice got a laugh out of me. Everything else? It's there and what not. Meaning I get that this is a crack fic and all. I don't care about coffee (don't drink it and never did). The meta question about how the school is run entertained me. Rainbow Dash? Makes an okay bookend, but I think she could have do something more "springy" to find her coffee.
#32 · 3
· on The Mare of La Mane'cha · >>Bachiavellian
I'm a fan of donkeys and mules. Bias as hell here. I voted this my fav story because it present the information in the story at a good pace that kept me hooked. The sort of twist at the end is clever and it makes the world building here is good enough. Also felt something for the characters and it was another reason why I picked this as the best. Excellent job on the whole thing.
#33 · 1
· on A Little Help
Wrote this and my heart wasn't fully into this story by the end. Considering I read at a college level but write at a 8th grade level, I don't hate this story. Happy that it was coherent at least. The criticism of this that this was bare bones, more tell than show and rushed are what I agree with. As for being contest material? Rate that I'm going, it'll be another two to three years before I'll get bronze without it being me just showing up. I'm okay with this.
#34 · 2
· on People-Watching
This is comic book quality. Not quite at indie better than main stream level, but certain has more going on than Marvel or DC at this point. Color are good and it feels like this was taken as a snap shot of an unsuspecting subject. Not "smile for the camera" type of setup. Like this a lot.
#35 · 1
· on Macro- and Microcosm
Like the chalk and board medium, or at least this tries to emulate it. That really long rectangle line around the carousel is weird though. The effort put into to this is good enough. Liking the colors and the line work. This really does leave me with the impression that Lilly created it.
#36 · 1
· on Time Flies
Wondering if there is a meta message or critique based on how well the story was written? Pretty sure the artist knows me well enough that I would like this a lot (or knows how easy going I pretend to be). Either way at the time of this post, not going to spoil it by asking too many questions. Yeah this photo shopped but I still like it a lot. Of course I would considering this is based off a story I wrote. Good job.
#37 · 1
· on Macro- and Microcosm
I really like the starry night sky background, the Ferris wheel, and the castle. They all feel super evocative in a way that meshes well with the relatively simplicity of the lines themselves. There are a few shapes, though, that I don't really understand, like the ovally red one near the foreground. Speaking of which, I do really like how simply and easily the piece conveys a sense of depth and perspective.

Thanks for drawing!
#38 · 1
· on Time Flies
A simple premise executed cleanly. I think the only thing I'd suggest altering would be the movement/swoosh lines. The fact that they're connected to the hoofmark itself made me think for a moment that we're seeing the whole hoof and the leg. Making it so that not all of the lines fully connect with the lines of the hoofprint might better convey that these are motion lines. Other than that, though, I've got nothing to criticize.

Thanks for drawing!
#39 · 1
· on Tilting Vantage
First off, thank you for doing art of my story!!

I actually kinda did have the feeling that I might see a take on Picasso's Don Quixote, and I have to say that this is really neat! I actually had to look up the original because I couldn't tell at a glance whether this was an entirely new drawing (which it is!) or if it was an edit of the original. In any case, you did a great job of evoking the piece in question. To my entirely untrained eye, this also looks like it could have been a physical piece using a felt-point marker? if so, that's doubly impressive, since you lacked the ability to Ctrl-Z (my personal favorite drawing technique :P).

Thanks for entering!
#40 · 2
· on Just Over the Next Hill
And again, it really makes it happy to see art of my entry, so that you so much for drawing!! :)

Another piece inspired by the Picasso, I think, though this one is definitely more liberal with its interpretation. I really like your lines/shading/crosshatching(?), especially around the two characters themselves. It really gives the sense of expressive details in the negative space, despite the simplicity. Overall, just really good, I think.

Thank you for drawing!
#41 · 1
· on The Pepless Drip
I love the expression here and how disheveled she looks. The perspective work on the teacup also feels super nice to me, as does the expressiveness in the curve of her wing. Now, I think the only thing I'd like to note kinda threw me off was the shape of her mane, which for some reason didn't click to me as Rainbow Dash's until a couple of moments of looking, which meant I had a bit of trouble recognizing her at first. But really, other than that nitpick I think this works really well. Every time I've tried to draw ponies, I really can't get their faces to emote right, so I'm impressed with what you were able to accomplish here.

Thanks for entering!
#42 · 1
· on People-Watching
I think my favorite part of this piece is her pose and figure. Both look natural to me, despite the shortcuts that the piece takes by hiding her waist. The shading also looks pretty good, with just a couple of exceptions (like the inside of her skirt). I think the part that could have definitely used the most work is her hair, which just doesn't quite have enough detail or movement in it to really mesh well with the rest of the piece. But I think everything else more or less does its job.

Thanks for drawing!
#43 · 2
· on The Mare of La Mane'cha
I'm glad people seemed to enjoy this one!

This was an idea that has been banging around in my head for more than two years now, so it felt good to finally get it out of my brain and make it real. The central twist of Dulcinea (Lestie) eventually becoming Princess Celestia was something that was always part of the brainstorming for this piece (because I CANNOT stop writing about Celestia). A lot of the other smaller details (like the names Donkey Oaty [Don Quixote] and Sir Vantage [Cervantes]) I also came up with pretty early on, but the general bulk of the story didn't exist until I outlined it on the first day of writing. It was super fun to do, especially since I haven't done any creative writing since my last Writeoff entry two years ago.

... And yes, I ran out of words so, so, SO fucking hard on this one. I budgeted about 1K words per scene, and I knew that I had completely ruined that plan within a few hundred words of the first scene. Well, this isn't the first writeoff that I've desperately wished for more words, and it probably won't be the last. :P

>>Anonymous Potato
I can’t speak Scottish, so I have no idea whether your execution should be applauded or demanded.

I should be taken to the back room and shot for the crimes that I've committed against Scots. If you want to see a really good integration of Scots into a pony story, check out Carabas's Palaververse! Really cool worldbuilding with many sapient species, including raiding warflocks of large, sentient corvid birds who speak Scots. I tried to imitate/ape it as much as I could, but I certainly didn't do a good job, IMO.

Secondly, the ending caught me completely off guard. Don’t know if it’s going to do that with everyone, but personally, I was blown away.

That makes me a very happy person to read. Thank you for leaving your thoughts, and I'm glad you liked it!!

Happy you liked it! And yeah, in terms of editing, this definitely needed another spot-check or three. I actually removed about 200 words (most of which in a single deleted paragraph) to get me back under the word count, but if I had been aware of how many missing words (and un-spaced periods) that were still left in the text, I think I might have cried, haha.

I'm a fan of donkeys and mules. Bias as hell here.

Ha! I get to recommend the hell out of Carabas's Palaververse for the second time in one post! Seriously, it has a really cool take on donkey magic and worldbuilding, and I even stole the name for the donkey nation (Asinia) from there. Check it out if you haven't!

Also felt something for the characters and it was another reason why I picked this as the best. Excellent job on the whole thing.

Thank you so much for the kind words! I'm super glad that you liked it!