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Returned From Sabbatical · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 4
· · >>Rao >>Heavy_Mole
It's 2023. Still writing horsefics, are you...?
#2 · 4
In my heart and mind more than anywhere else.
#3 · 4
· · >>Monokeras
I now have twins and sleep is basically a distant memory, but man, do I miss reading/writing horsefics...
#4 · 4
· · >>CoffeeMinion
I'm going to try to write something for this round!
#5 · 2
Griseus reporting in.
#6 · 4
Well, shazbot… I might just have to also!
#7 · 2
Congrats! And sorry for the double whammy, lol :)
#8 · 2
I prefer to think of it as 'horseliterature'.
#9 · 3
One fic submitted! I'm hoping to have another done before time is called, but we'll see...

EDIT: Two fics in!
#10 · 2
Okay, I am in.
#11 · 1
Fantastic! Ten fics, eight authors. It’s been a long time since we last tallied so many people! Heartwarming!
#12 · 1
· on The Wreck · >>Heavy_Mole
It’s been a long time since I last read a pony fic, and I’m afraid I’m not really up to snuff any more. It took me a bit of time to remember who Zecora was, and the context surrounding her.

That being said, I don’t really see the point of the story. I get the references to Asia (Aral Sea and its affluents, Samarkand, etc.) and to Nepalese/Tibetan monastery, but then I don’t see how that connects with the incident and the end of the story. It’s probably my being obtuse or out of touch with the show. Apologies for that.
#13 · 2
· on Happy Returns · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>GroaningGreyAgony

Well, I’m not sure I’m allowed to be as curt and brusque as in the old days of the full-fledged Writeoff, but here is a summary of what I think of that piece:

1. It’s not a pony story. It’s just a plain Sci-Fi flavoured story which you have dressed into a pony story for the sake of the round;
2. There is no story. Nothing happens, and it is obvious most of the text is simply padding – which is why you couldn't fill it up to the 750 words;
3. The twist at the end doesn’t save the 99.9% above. Without a real plot to twist on, it falls quite flat (‘and what of it?’). I would argue it even makes it worse, because the story now sounds like a meh feghoot. Without it, it could pass for a mildly interesting vignette. But with the ‘twist’ at the end, it can’t even be that.

We don’t really care for the protagonist, because we’re not familiar with her, nor have you space enough to develop her character. This is one of the best known problems with minifics: unless you opt for using well known figures, you end up having to present a background and tell a story, both of which cannot fit in 750 words.

So, yeah, you must have figured out I'm not really engaged with this one. Mind you, the writing is fine. It is just quite ‘meh’ iIMHO.
#14 · 2
· on Rhubarb Madness · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
This one is genuinely fun. Nicely written, the story is zany, but not too much to degenerate into slapstick, and the two protagonists play wonderfully off one another. I wish Twilight had a more witty line, though. Her cameo is quite bland. But well done! This will probably land atop my slate, or near it.

(Oh, and by the way, I love rhubarb pastry).
#15 · 2
· on EXCLUSIVE: Where Are the Rainbooms Now?
Nicely written!

The small scenes and the dialogue only form give the fic quite a lot of dynamism. There’s hardly a word lost, and no time to get bored. Generally speaking, I like the fics which exaggerates the traits of the characters (or even twist them completely). The story here is camped in a good way, because it underlines the funny bits about the characters while not going all the way down to pure, unsubtle caricature. The bit about Applejack is probably the weakest, because I don’t really grasp how this relates to her character (though it might be my misremembering the show). It’s funny, but not gross.

Overall, quite a pleasant read.
#16 · 1
· on The Wreck · >>Rao >>Heavy_Mole
I'm a sucker for philosophical odes dressed up as pony minifics, of which there are a surprising amount. And while this isn't my favorite of the genre, I'm a fan!

That said, I'm finding it difficult to articulate exactly what I'm a fan of... I like the premise, and I think that Zecora's takeaway at the end (valuing listening over responding lets you see the world in a different way) is pretty beautiful.

As I see it, there are two thematic conflicts presented in this story: That people listen to respond instead of listening to understand (Zecora's lesson), and that people become too blinded by their emotions to see situations logically (Maya's argument). The former conflict is much more interesting to me, but unfortunately I think that the Trixie/Starlight/Applejack conversation relates much more to the latter. So while I understand where Zecora is coming from, Maya's grousing about other ponies being stupid weakens Zecora's storyline.

Credit to you for writing so much rhyming dialogue! But you definitely need to work on the meter -- the rhyme always arrives eventually, but it often takes far too long.

(Additionally, the characters are a bit ruder to each other than they probably would be in canon... If you picked some other ponies, or just made them less vindictive, that won't be such an issue.)

The way I see it, you've got a great idea, and a fantastic kicker. But this story would benefit from a stronger thematic thruline and some cleaned up poetry.
#17 · 2
· on Fear and Rust · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>Rao
Okay, so this one's definitely one of my favorites from this round. The prose feels really good in that it gets the heck out of the way and lets the dialogue carry the piece. I think you've also selected great characters for a dialogue-heavy piece—AJ and Dash's effortless give-and-take dynamic really helps an otherwise mundane conversation feel like it's full of meaning.

My only qualm is probably a bit of a personal one. I think you might have chosen to err on the side of being subtle with this story's theme/message, but I really think you could have been just a little more overt with it. I especially wished we could see Dash's reaction to that last line from AJ. We never really get a sense of how Dash is reacting to what AJ's saying: the last few times she does something in this fic, she's "scrunch[ing] her nose" or "waiting for Applejack to finish." The crux of the conflict of this story rests a lot on how much Dash agrees with with AJ's concerns, so it's a little funny to me that you've ended things where they did without telling us a little bit more about Dash's mindset. Normally, I'd chalk something like this up to the minific wordcount, but you've actually still got almost a hundred more words, so this must have been intentional.

Honestly though, spelling out your message with a neon sign might just kill the mood of a subtle piece like this, so I can definitely see why you went the route you did. Still, the story definitely engaged me from beginning to end and also left me wanting more, which in my book is a great metric for judging if a minific did its job.

Thanks for entering!
#18 · 1
· on Fear and Rust · >>Rao
I agree that the dialogue between Applejack and Rainbow Dash works very well. I've no problem with the way you expose the conflict here, which is pretty clear. It’s a good story, nice and cosy, even if it could’ve been made a little shorter. Certainly, dealing with age or the otherwise steady decrease of your abilities is a delicate subject, especially for people/ponies who have the lives built around their performance.

Nice entry, very different from the rest so far.
#19 · 2
· on Happy Returns · >>Monokeras >>GroaningGreyAgony
I'm mostly with Mono (>>Monokeras) on this one. This feels more like the beginning of a story, not a complete tale, since until those last few lines there isn't any sort of conflict or oddity to grab our interest. This story would benefit from starting later in the story, or at the very least, giving us some earlier hints that something is amiss -- amp up our suspense.

(And on a completely unrelated note, my god that first paragraph is loaded with adjectives. I get that you're trying to set the scene, but we don't need that much detail!)
#20 · 1
· on Rhubarb Madness · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I'm not a big fan of drug jokes, and cursing feels a bit too close to edgy for my tastes. But maybe that's why my favorite part of this piece was Twilight's "No Drugs, No Cussing" pledge. Twilight as a sheltered Christian youth group alumnus (combined with the Reagan-era propaganda) makes perfect sense.

To Mono's (>>Monokeras) point about Twilight not having much to do, that would be helped by cutting the intro a bit. We probably don't need to see Trixie entering and walking into the castle -- just start in the TV room, closer to the conflict's introduction.
#21 · 1
· on Fear and Rust · >>Rao
Really big fan of this one, but I'll have to echo Bachi (>>Bachiavellian) and say that it ends quite abruptly. But if anything, I think that the final line is too overt -- the piece has felt very subtle up to this point, so Applejack just straight up saying that she's scared Dash won't make it home upsets that a bit.

To me, the deep emotional core of this piece is that AJ is the one who's most scared here, not just Dash. The farther you can take that without blatantly giving away AJ's worries, the better.

On a more positive note, I love AJ and Dash's chemistry. They speak honestly, but lovingly.
#22 · 1
· on Welcome Home
I can always appreciate a bit of fun banter between Best Sisters. Their back and forth here comes across really smoothly, which is great considering that this makes up most of the raw word count of the story.

It is a little unfortunate for me that most of the jokes didn't quite land their mark. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the level of ridiculousness never really has the room to swell to an expected degree. I think we spend a lot of our word count before we even learn about the "presumed dead" situation, and then another big chunk goes into the sisters blaming each other in a way that feels really familiar for fics of this kind of subject.

The last joke of having big gaudy symbols made to commemorate princesses who aren't actually dead is a pretty great idea, but by then there's really not enough pure wordcount to elevate this idea to the emotional absurdity it needs for the joke to live up to its potential. The pacing constraints of minifics can be really brutal, and I think this story gets the worse end of the deal in many ways.

So while the story reads quite easily, courtesy of your great dialogue and prose, I did not engage with the jokes quite as much as I wanted to. I think I really want to like this piece a lot more than I did, so I'm curious to see how these jokes landed with other reviewers.

Also, I suck at writing, reading, and reviewing comedies. So take my uneducated opinions with a grain of salt.

Thank you for entering!
#23 · 2
· on Outdoor Reunion · >>Monokeras
I'm pretty sure this story set out to try to be the wildest, craziest entry of the bunch, and I'm pretty sure it succeeded. From almost the very first line all the way to the very end, this was a roller coaster that consistently slapped expectations in the face.

This definitely excels at being wacky, but I'm not sure how well that translates into humor for me. Unfortunately, the jokes didn't really land for me. There's something about these kinds of absurdist, surreal comedies that don't usually find purchase with me, and I'm still not sure if it's because I just personally don't jive with them or if they're objectively that much harder to pull off than other kinds of comedy. I think that when you throw any semblance of expectations or boundaries into the wind, it becomes harder to establish the escalating sense of ridiculousness that a lot of comedies are based around.

Like I said before, I'm no big fan of my own ability to judge and review comedy, so all I can definitively say is that this one didn't quite hit for me. I wish I could go into the reasons more without simply spouting on about my personal tastes in comedy, but I hope this helps with understanding how my particular experience went.

Thank you for writing!
#24 · 3
· on Happy Returns · >>Rao
Isn’t that one of Kurt Vonnegut's famous ‘laws’ Horizon was so fond of? ‘Begin as close as possible to the end.’
#25 · 1
· on Welcome Home
It’s quite fun, but I regret, as does Bachi (well, I infer that reading between the lines of his review, but I might be wrong), that you didn't go the whole hog here. It’s whacky, but not as whacky as I wanted it to be.

Celestia and Luna materialised in the middle of the throne room. They were greeted by the ‘woh’ and ‘wah’ of a large assistance kept away from the dais by a thick ribbon stretching from wall to wall and supported by occasional gilded uprights.
‘Look, look mummy!’ a colt said in a high pitchy voice, ‘they just brought in two more statues of the old princesses!’
‘Shush,’ his mother said. ‘Don’t interrupt the guide.’
‘Last time I visited the museum,’ another pony whispered, ‘this wasn't part of the show. They must have added new routines.’
‘Those costumes are wonderful’, his wife replied. ‘They really look like the old princesses!’

Well, I hate to toot my own horn, this was more or less what I wrote a long time ago (was it the round ‘Princesses not Included’?).

The dialogue between the sisters is funny, there are several good things in it (such as the sunbathing lotion), but it takes too much space. You could’ve shortened it and make way for some other joke.

I don’t really get the last part about the symbols being engraved in the landscape. I don’t see the point, or how it relates to Pinkie Pie. That one fell flat for me.

Overall, not bad an idea, but not full-fledged either. You’re still midway of the ford, get it further into zany land and you’ll get my full support.
#26 · 2
· on Going Back to the Rest · >>Rao >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I'll have to open with the caveat that I have not seen even a minute of the Gen-5 stuff, so this story is serving as my introduction to Sunny Starscout and Queen Opaline Arcana. So, unfortunately, there's probably a lot of context that's just straight-up going over my head.

Now that being said, I really like the scale of the character conflict of this piece. While I can't really comment on Sunny or Opaline, Twilight has got some nice character beats, especially the bit with her casually muzzling a supervillain just because Twilight's such a goody-two-shoes for the rules that she doesn't want to get tempted into breaking causality. Great little moment.

I think what's holding this story back for me the most (outside of not knowing two-thirds of the cast :P) is the payoff and pacing. As soon as we know we're dealing with flash-forward time travel, there's really no more development of that premise. The only additional thing that happens at the end is the reversal of the situation, but by then your wordcount is so stretched that you only have 100 words to introduce, develop, and payoff on this element. This is absolutely breakneck IMO.

Maybe there's an additional piece of next-gen content that contextualizes this in a meaningful way. But just from my own perspective, I almost wish the story spent its time with just one time-travel and focused its resolution there.

But I think it's clear that you wanted to have the ending be a reflection of the opening from the very beginning of the writing process. I think I can see what you were going for, and I like a lot of the character moments, even if the whole thing didn't quite nail its overall payoff for me.

Thank you for writing!
#27 · 3
· on EXCLUSIVE: Where Are the Rainbooms Now?
I think I must have said this about a dozen times over the years, but normally I'm not a fan of cutting up a minific into many little scenes. But I really do think that this does make great use of its format to succinctly and quickly deliver its jokes. It's great that you don't waste any unneeded time and words with scene transitions or extraneous connective tissue. This is a sleek read that manages to fit in many more jokes than you'd think a minific can hold.

(*car salesman slaps roof of car*)

Now, this is the part of the review that I honestly did not look forward to writing. Because there's no way I can make it sound the slightest bit objective when I say that the jokes here felt more on the amusing side of the spectrum rather than laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe it's just because I've been reading ponyfics for more than ten years now, but a lot of the comedic beats and character deconstructions (especially Rainbow's) do feel familiar in a way that takes the edge off of the humor.

That's really the absolute worst I can say about this piece, though. In pretty much any other aspect I can think of, you've done a solid job I think, and I'm probably going to rate this one highly as a result.

Thank you for entering!
#28 · 2
· on Fear and Rust
I dig the look at an older, more mature AppleDash, here. Dash is still a bit cocky ("Come on. I'm me."), but not as full of herself. She lets AJ talk without exploding, which shows huge growth. AJ feels more... patient? Sensitive, maybe. Not beating around the bush, but not diving right to the point, either. Dialogue sits well; expressive without being too drawn out. Mostly avoided falling into "talking head syndrome" which is super easy to do in minific.

But maybe it could have been a little more drawn out. There's still some word count to spare here, as Bachi and Dubs noted, but that last line feels like the edge of "page 1" more than an intended ending. Let us turn to page 2!
#29 · 2
· on Paid Time Off
“Everypony needs time off from work to… um… decompress.”

What sort of unAmerican idea is this? And Paid time off, to boot? Blasphemy.

I kid, of course.

Super cute. As a little bit of a workaholic myself, I double appreciate Starlight's insistence that Tempest take a break. Her "well now what" reaction is 100% on point. Summer break comes around and I turn into a sludge monster. The student reactions are great, too. Some genuine connection and emotion to nail home that Tempest is pretty a-okay after all. ;-)

Tempest knew that she wasn’t good with words. She swallowed and tried again.

If believably still a little unsure of herself.

I'm keeping a more keen eye out for little movement/action; little frowns, smiles, head nods, stroking of potted plants. Keeps the dialogue fresh and far away from ye olden talking heads. Good work. Makes me wish more of my students weren't absolute jerks.
#30 · 2
· on Happy Returns · >>GroaningGreyAgony
The prose here is great. Your scene-setting works very well, and you do a great job of being descriptive without being boring. Objectively speaking, this is our slowest-paced entry by far (just a few lines of dialogue and a couple of actions), but it certainly doesn't feel like it. And I think that's largely thanks to the strength of your technical, sentence-to-sentence structure-building.

I am going to have to say, however, that I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying. The story really centers itself around the twist alone, so IMO the reveal needs to be really well-supported with themes and set-up. But as things are, the twist really feels isolated from the rest of the story. There's not much in the preceding text that is recontextualized or given greater depth with the knowledge of the twist in mind.

And maybe this is a personal thing, but I've read so many character X is actually a changeling stories over the years that this premise alone just doesn't really spark the intrigue that it used to for me.

In summary, while I really like the technical construction of this piece, I'm not quite feeling sated with the overall payoff being offered.

Thanks for entering!
#31 · 1
· on Going Back to the Rest
I'm with >>Bachiavellian in that I'm behind on Gen 5. Give me a bit and I'll be back once I'm properly acquainted, I promise. Been meaning to watch it anyway. Just feels a bit like an affair, you know? Gen 4 treated me so well.
#32 · 1
· on Rhubarb Madness
I'm in total agreement with Dub's sentiment regarding Twilight being a "Just Say No!" evangelical. That may just well be the best joke in the entire contest. And it's always fun to see Trixie and Starlight being Chaotic Neutral idiots.

Well, stoner humor honestly isn't really my thing, so unfortunately a lot of the other gags didn't work their magic on me. I think the middle scene in particular is the weakest of the piece. I get that you're trying to describe a really dumb and ridiculous situation via deadpan, and I'm not entirely sure why, but it just didn't land for me. The story really lost a lot of momentum for me right there.

I don't think I do a great job of judging comedies, and I know that a lot of this is all subjective opinion. But it did feel to me like your most inspired material was in the set-up of the story, and the latter two scenes kinda felt almost perfunctory to me.

I hope this rambling drivel made even the slightest bit of sense.

Thank you for writing!
#33 · 2
· on Happy Returns · >>Rao >>GroaningGreyAgony
I think the premise is fine. The setting is precise and effective; the action, which is the conversation between the professors as well as the observations of the protagonist (in a story like this one), feels well-placed. It is the virtue of your writing.

I would qualify this story as “horror” rather than “science fiction”. It would fit right into a compilation like “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”. The point is the graphic image of the cocooned professor, not the bait-and-switch, which is a device leading to the image.

Also, the story did not strike me as being irrelevant to the world-building of the source fiction. It falls, like many fan fictions do, in the gray space between flanderization and being relatively fantastical. But that is the fun of the medium (if there is fun to be had).

I’m not too familiar with the clichés of the fandom’s secondary fiction, but I thought the ‘vacation’ aspect of the changeling underworld was clever.

Probably the most important action of the story is the hoof-pricking at the treacherous tack. The whole fear embedded into the situation as a whole is distilled in that moment. It is a great image. But here, it is passed over fairly quickly. My intuition is that your story lies there, whatever it is that will get folks on your side, is in the encounter with the tack.
#34 · 1
· on Welcome Home
I like this! It's not a gutbuster, but it's amusing.

My only complaints are that I wish you used names in the first sentence, and more vitally, I wish you told us early on how long they were gone. The Princesses returning to their throne room is normal -- the Princesses returning to their throne room after being missing for five years is immediately interesting.
#35 · 2
· on Paid Time Off
I really like this. Especially the ending. And I haven't even seen the movie!

But I think this piece has two issues, one having to do with the plot, and one having to do with the prose.

First, the plot. Tempest's emotional conflict in this piece is that she feels the constant need to prove her worth. She needs to keep working, or else she's got no reason to exist. Starlight's answer to this -- and the thing that clears up the conflict -- is Tempest's students saying how much they love her... for the work she does. Do you see how the resolution doesn't really match with the conflict?

Tempest needs a reason to live outside of work. I'm not sure this story gives her one.

Secondly, the prose issue. Specifically, this line doesn't work for me:

“What… do you want me to do while I’m on leave?” said Tempest. Her words felt clumsy in her own mouth. “If I don’t have work to do… I’ll be… useless. Worthless.”

A lot of the story hinges on this line, since it's where you lay bare Tempest's emotional conflict. But all the ellipses make it super overdramatic. Get rid of the visual stutters and trust us to hear the emotion in your words.
#36 · 2
· on Outdoor Reunion · >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
Well, I know exactly who wrote this one.

I'm gonna echo Bachi and say that the story's humor didn't click with me. The funniest part of the story was the concept of Luna coming back to Earth in a literal spaceship, not with magic.
#37 · 1
· on Going Back to the Rest
I echo everything that >>Bachiavellian said, including that I haven't seen any Gen 5 stuff.

That said, I loved Twilight's eyes individually twitching for each character.
#38 · 2
· on Paid Time Off · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
It’s a nice piece, but you could’ve easily substituted Rainbow Dash for your instructor. She’s really the same pony, just that for some reason you decided to translate the scene in another context. That reminds me of a former story, about which a lot ‘ink’ had flown, about Rainbow Dash as an instructor telling kids they would end up in the Wonderbolts whereas they had no chance to. Of course, this is different, but it illustrates that you had no need to look for an OC in this case: RD would've made a great candidate.

Or Cherilee, on a more mellow tone.

Otherwise, it’s a cute story, quite well written. Contrarily to Dubs, I don’t mind the overly dramatic dialogue. But… you took the prompt and twisted it. It’s ‘return from sabbatical’ not ‘depart for sabbatical’ :p
#39 · 1
· on Going Back to the Rest
I have not see Gen-5 too, so I’ll also wuss out of this one.
Being unfamiliar with the setup, I really did not connect with this one. It left me unconcerned, but that’s because I’m unable to relate with any character other than Twilight, which I found quite bland and lacklustre, to be honest.
#40 · 2
· on Paid Time Off
Tempest isn't an OC — she's the villain of the My Little Pony Movie, who in the end gets redeemed and becomes a good guy
#41 · 2
· on Outdoor Reunion · >>Monokeras
I laughed a bit right here:
Did you eat her up, as you used to before I left?’ She giggled.

I read it as literal cannibalism for a moment. Really sold the
‘Things have changed a little since her departure’
Luna's rocking big SWAG YOLO energy here, which is funny to see. And spaceships are rarely not cool, so points!

But, unfortunately, yeah the humor mostly didn't quite sit with me, over all. Celestia's obviously excited, but her childish glee is too exaggerated. Twilight by contrast seems too unbothered by all this nonsense after her initial reaction. There's that little moment at the end where it looks like she's thinking of exploring the ship, which yeah is absolutely up her alley, but then she just trots away.
Celestia rushed towards her, but a burst of Luna’s magic deflected her and she crashed a few feet beyond her target.
Did make me laugh though. Physical comedy is hard to do, but sometimes it's worth it.
#42 · 1
· on The Wreck · >>Heavy_Mole
Excellent work on the geography names. I don't always grasp their real world counterparts immediately as world geography was never my strong point, but well grafted portmanteaus make my noggin' tingle all the same. My only question is about "Emu Dar’ya." It's the only one named after a bird rather than any other ungulate animal. It doesn't take me out of the story at all, but it did stand out as an oddity among other finely crafted names.

The rhyming is all quite good, even if Maya stretches poetic credulity a little thin. But good golly, Applejack! I like to think I have a pretty decent handle on her voice most of the time, but I've never even thought how to do her in Zecora rhyme! And you nailed it without losing an ounce of her personality. Cider lakes! Love this for us.

Though one unintentionally funny bit:
not even that Celestia’s sun will rise tomorrow, if it rose a thousand times before.

With how often she's lost control of it, this isn't the reliable meter it would be in real life. Sure, it's only been like three times (Discord, Storm King, and when Twilight had her magic during the Tirek problem) but it's still weird that it happened that often. No 'Tia, you don't get credit for the 1,000 years of clockwork regularity prior to that!

As I see it, there are two thematic conflicts presented in this story: That people listen to respond instead of listening to understand (Zecora's lesson), and that people become too blinded by their emotions to see situations logically (Maya's argument).

Incidentally, Maya's argument here was gone over in s6e22, "Pony Point of View." Which, depending on when this is set, AJ should, hopefully, remember. Though in fairness, when cider is on the line, all bets are off.
#43 · 2
· on Happy Returns · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Number 5 specifically, if this random list I pulled up from Google is accurate.

Incidentally, #8 on the list relates perfectly to this story: "Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."

There's plenty of detail up front yes. I have a solid image of the campus, the weather, the season, but nothing of the actual plot until right at the end. Granted, re-reading it there are clues that something is different about our dear Dr. Learned Crooner and I am not one to scoff at subtle foreshadowing. She has to orient herself on the campus she's worked at long enough to actually earn a vacation, and Dr. Frettle does note that she seems too refreshed. The bit where she looks curiously at her own desk is interesting and noteworthy, but comes just a breath before the hard reveal, so it doesn't do much lifting for setup.

Relating this back to Vonnegut's Rule #5 (thank you Monokeras), starting us off right in her office with paragraphs 8-10 then having Dr. Fettle come in gets us right into some intrigue. We'd already know that our imposter's disguise isn't infallible, and the conversation with Dr. Fettle would clue us in that her mannerisms aren't perfect, either.

But you seem quite cheerful, as if you're just setting out on vacation[...]
is much more fun to read when we know that he's entirely too correct. What's that literary term again, where the audience knows something the characters don't? Dramatic irony?

I'll also second >>Heavy_Mole in that "Changeling on vacation" isn't a take on "X is a Changeling" I think I've seen before, so gold star there.
#44 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I have arted just a little bit.
#45 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Now review my story
#46 · 1
Tsss… Such egotism :) :p
#47 · 2
· on Rhubarb Madness
A worthwhile commentary on the effectiveness of D.A.R.E.
#48 · 1
· on Fear and Rust · >>Rao
Some of the guys (gals?) have been discussing the fault of withholding information from the reader with regard to the “Happy Returns” story, but I think that is better applied here. I think you nail the tone of the characters pretty well; but all the time while I am reading, I find myself trying to piece together the context of their conversation. Only toward the end do I learn a critical piece of information—that Rainbow Dash has been recovering from a bad injury. Without this, the dialogue, which is intended to convey the emotional subtext of that event, feels soupy.

Your story is not that bad things happen to people. Your story—at least, your most interesting theme—is that hesitating fear can be more insidious and more dreadful than paralyzing fear. That’s plausible and something people can relate to, and would make a great fic with AJ and RD. You’re not too far.
#49 · 1
· on Welcome Home · >>Rao
Didn’t the princesses retire? Wasn’t there a ceremony and all that? My knowledge of show canon after about season five is foggy, but something here is jarring.

To me, this reads like two vignettes. Nothing which happens in the second part comments upon or expands the first. It could be really funny that Twilight thought her mentors had suddenly died, canon notwithstanding. Maybe they have headstones in the garden where they picnic. Maybe Celestia and Luna bicker over who has the better grave, and Twilight has to placate them. As it is, for me, it’s missing a through-line.
#50 · 2
· on Paid Time Off
Those poor kids!
#51 · 1
· on Paid Time Off
You know me, I like my Tempest stories. She's the best thing to come out of the movie by far, so you get all of my love for writing about her.

Now that being said, I think that while your dialogue does an admirable on a line-by-line level, things start to get a little fuzzy in the big-picture view. Gonna second Dubs' comment that your themes were kinda weak, especially given the fact that this is supposed to be a thoughtful and introspective piece. Motifs are kinda important in stories like this.

I also can see what you're going for in the last scene, but it did end up feeling a bit cheesy to me. I can't help but feel like there could be a less overt hammer-to-the-face way to teach Tempest this lesson.

But I liked the last line. :P

Thank you for entering!
#52 · 1
· on The Wreck · >>Heavy_Mole
This is definitely one of my favorites this round. The message feels good for the length of a minific, and the high-level stylized narration is evocative and makes the world-building feel important. Overall, I really like the mood this one, which I think is the biggest success of the story.

Now, I do have to admit that it took me several re-reads to feel like I grasped what was going on. This is a story that demands fair bit of effort and attention from its reader, between the poetry-dialogue and the elusive, metaphor-laden ending.I have to say after my first read, I was more or less entirely convinced that I had missed the point of the story entirely. Upon re-reads, I've become fairly confident that I didn't actually miss that much at all on my first read, but that impression still lingered for some time.

I think this may have to do a little with the way you've structured the piece as a whole. We start with a high-level, slow-burn narrative that spans at least a year. Then we immediately dive into a heated argument, which kind of made me feel like this would be the climax or central conflict of the story, Then we leave this argument and enter into a slow, mysterious conversation that does not feel like it's the direct or natural consequence of the events of the prior two scenes.

This definitely bucks the typical structure of a short story, and while I think this was probably the right move, I did still get a bit of a hang-up at each scene transition. Maybe this would be something that a larger wordcount would fix—I'm not sure.

Anyways, I'm being really nitpicky and long-winded precisely because I like this piece so much and I really enjoy getting into how and why it ticks. Like I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favorite stories this round, and I'm scoring it highly on my slate.

Thank you for writing!
#53 · 1
· on Rhubarb Madness
My new Stand, [Little Miss Lawful Good]!

This pleases Rao. Glimmy and Trixie are easy to slip into a comedic scene, and I was smiling pretty well most of the way through here. I will not publicly address how much weed I did or did not smoke in my youth, or acknowledge the very difficult time I had climbing down from a tree house once in said youth, but I will say that I have a soft spot of some stoner comedies.

We lean on the obvious tropes here, but they got me going all the same. The string of drool, the stomach covered in chip crumbs, a random very convincing stallion selling you some mysteriously good stuff which surprisingly lives up to the hype. Then getting busted by the mom type after one yard catches fire down the street which had nothing to do with us I swear.

... Where were we? Right, story. Good stuff, 10/10 nostalgia points and one dare to be stupid music video.
#54 · 1
· on Welcome Home · >>Monokeras
There was much ado about their retirement, yes. Which is a bit of a cop out on Luna's part since she was AFK for 1,000 years but that's a fic for another day.

Anyway! The bombast of a minor miscommunication spiraling into such a catastrophic issue is a solid idea. Very "for want of a nail the kingdom was lost," but not a drama. But my suspension of disbelief is quickly shaken. No note, sure. But certainly Twilight would have had Spike try to send a letter. Failing that, Celestia and Luna gallivanting about the country for so long would have made it into the news, or at least reached back to Canterlot by word of mouth.

However! Based on the shirt "Where is Wall Drug" it could be that they were completely out of country. Wall Drug is a real tourist attraction in North Dakota, adjacent to Badlands National Park. If they were out past the Badlands in Equestria, that means the most likely place they were vacationing is Somnambula, which is definitely a ways out there and far removed from common gossip. And that explains Luna's need for extra sunblock and sunglasses.

QED suckers! Or maybe fanfic authors are just very good and reading meaning into details that might not have been there at all.

Also we've had two stories now with Luna in sunglasses and I think I really dig the imagery it gives off. Good work to both of those authors for stumbling onto my new hype button. Where were we?

Right. So, likelihood of them dropping off the map completely aside, them popping back up to everyone's astonishment is feels a little understated. They're all shocked, clearly, but neither the staff or Twilight actually do much with that shock until Twily pops off. Seeing them pop back up like this sounds akin to seeing a ghost or such, which I think would inspire at least a little fear with the shock.

Turning Mount Canter into essentially a giant nightlight is a funny bit of imagery, even if it feels under set up for the reveal. Imagining the HOA reactions has me going though.
#55 · 1
· on Welcome Home · >>Rao
QED? That’s Quantum Electro Dynamics?
#56 · 1
· on EXCLUSIVE: Where Are the Rainbooms Now?
Alright I think I found my comedy winner for the round. I was wondering after Rainbow's first section how you'd fit in so many interviews of that length, but the chopped up scenes and lengths felt great. Every beat hit exactly how it should, and everyone felt believably in character for a post-high school setting.

I thought it'd be hard to beat Scribble's email being immediately bounced by Twilight's filter, but AJ being in a Ska band and Dash being attention starved are hard contenders.

Funny and punchy with one extra joke to send us off. I give it five out of five unsmoked backwards cigarettes.
#57 · 1
· on Going Back to the Rest
Okay didn't have time to hit the movie. Ironically, I was too busy spending time with my young nieces. They've all seen it but I hate spoilers and, you know. 3/5/7 year olds don't understand the concept of "no I don't want you to tell me everything that's about to happen I will literally die--no not literally please stop crying." Though that plays nicely into the story's theme, so I'll call that a win.

I dig this, even lacking some possible context! I sort of wish I hadn't backed away when seeing Sunny's name there. "We're gonna have a history together" make fantastic bookend lines. I absolutely adore Twilight being calm, composed, and not falling for any time traveling paradox nonsense.
“Been there and done that? Know that I have, ”
Excellent display of well earned confidence. She just nopes out without trying to change things, which is exactly the right thing to do in 9/10 time travel movies.

Strong contender for Gold, in my opinion.
#58 · 1
· on Welcome Home
Yes, but not this time. Although knowing how photons interact with standard matter would certainly help keep the giant lights on.
#59 · 1
· on Outdoor Reunion · >>Dubs_Rewatcher

So Dubs, how did you guess me? :)
#60 · 2
· on Outdoor Reunion
The first giveaway was using single quote marks in place of regular quotation marks

The second giveaway was that this is exactly 100% your style of humor 😉
#61 · 2
· on Outdoor Reunion
So, there’s nothing much to say about this piece. It was a lot of fun for me to write, and as the famous Stereopony, I didn’t expect it to fare well, so I’m pretty unfazed by its ranking, lol :) I’m just happy you found at least one or two lines funny, and thanks Rao for finding more than that :) I’ll try and complete it to reach the 1000 words mark and post it on FIM, just, you know, to fly a kite.

Great job guys, I love you all :)
#62 · 2
· on The Wreck
Thanks for your input everyone. And thanks to GroaningGrey for the story art! Congrats, Rao.

I wanted to write a funny story where Zecora was somehow annoyed that everyone was speaking in rhyme, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work. So then I had the idea of incorporating the rhymes as a sort of magical real or symbolic element, and this is what came out.

I also didn't intend for it to be "poem-like". The rhyming by the cider cart is modeled after the way Zecora speaks in the show; the rhymes that occur between Maya and Zecora have a different mood. In part, I wanted Zecora to "rhyme", but not in the same way the ponies with "strange accents" were just doing.

The idea is: Zecora goes to a distant philosophical school which pushes the outer limits of reasoned argumentation, and comes home and sees a parallel in her neighbors who are having an argument over cider. Her pet frog makes the case for the futility of civilized order--the titular 'wreck'--using what she might have learned at the school. But she found something in the practice there, rather than the words themselves that might have been used there.
#63 · 2
· on EXCLUSIVE: Where Are the Rainbooms Now?
Wow, the journalist wrote the journalism story. What a surprise.

Last year, I wrote a Writeoff-esque minific with this OC, Scribble Dee. When I came up with the idea of visiting the Rainbooms a few years after they'd broken up, I know that I had to bring her back.

Originally, Rarity and Twilight were gonna have their own scenes... but in planning, I quickly realized that I'd have to cut some of the Rainbooms out to make this fit the wordcount. And since I couldn't think of anything fun for them to do, they got axed.

I'm glad that people liked the fast pace. I'd love to post this on FiMFiction without adding anything, but they need 1000 words, so... I'll find something to add.

Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing!
#64 · 2
· on Rhubarb Madness
When considering the prompt, my first thought was: If Twilight left Starlight and Trixie alone at her castle for the day, what sort of nonsense would they get up to?

Then I remembered that 12 years ago, all the way back in Season One, I read a fic where someone used rhubarb as an in-universe substitute for weed, and how I've always wanted to write a fic with that. Perfect opportunity!

Thanks to everyone for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed the D.A.R.E. jokes, which is one of my favorite topics to parody.

Fuck you
#65 · 3
· on Fear and Rust
Normally, I'd chalk something like this up to the minific wordcount, but you've actually still got almost a hundred more words, so this must have been intentional.

Very intentional, but only to beat the timer. I spent literally the last ~90 seconds before the submissions closed cobbling together something that resembled a half palatable closing line.
it's a little funny to me that you've ended things where they did without telling us a little bit more about Dash's mindset.

That was going to be in the next ~hundred words, but procrastination is a deeply ingrained habit... Even though I had the rough idea from the day the prompt was chosen.

I'm very happy to hear that the general opinion is that I nailed down Dash and AJ's dialogue. I felt pretty good about it as I was getting it down, which either turns out very well or very poorly once it hits other eyes.

Certainly, dealing with age or the otherwise steady decrease of your abilities is a delicate subject, especially for people/ponies who have the lives built around their performance.

It sure is, I say, as my right shoulder creaks and groans more with each passing month. And that's why I thought AJ and Dash worked perfectly for this idea. They're both built for physical aptitude and were always competitive with each other, but AJ grew up with Granny Smith. She knows what old age and bodily wear and tear can do up close and I think that gives her a very different perspective than Dash on the matter—even if that specific clash of ideas didn't make it in [yet].

To me, the deep emotional core of this piece is that AJ is the one who's most scared here, not just Dash. The farther you can take that without blatantly giving away AJ's worries, the better.

Noted and agreed. Damn cobbled together final line. My original mental outline was to give Rainbow a chance at the mic before swinging back around to AJ's actual concern. Which, spoiler, wasn't meant to be Dash goin' and gettin' herself killed.

Fair rebuke! Some more context for the injury further toward the opening would give the whole piece context from the get go, and possibly set up an expectation swerve about AJ's deeper concern which I hinted at in my reply to Dubs. Thank you for swining Vonnegut right back at me :)

Damn cobbled together final lines.
#66 · 1
· on Zecora Explorer · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Didn't understand the story well, but I do like this picture.
#67 · 2
· on Zecora Explorer · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This is really neat. The white on black gives it a chalky look, even though I think the strokes are from a white pencil of some kind?

It took me a second to notice all the words hidden in the objects they name. "Mill" hidden in the fan blades of the wind mill were particularly sneaky. Then another few seconds to realize they rhyme, which makes entirely too much sense given the story's focus on Zecora. Cloud, plowed; oak, smoke; hill, mill; ridge, bridge.

I keep looking back at Zecora wondering if her name is on her somewhere, but then I'm not sure what you'd rhyme with Zecora in the scene ;)

Very well done. OH and the black and white style is zebra colors. Double points!
#68 · 1
· on Happy Returns
>>Monokeras, >>Dubs_Rewatcher, >>Bachiavellian, >>Heavy_Mole, >>Rao


Gratz to the medalists!

I just couldn't get a compelling idea for this round. The best I managed at the 11th hour was to contemplate the inversion; what if coming back to work was like going on vacation instead? I judged that this conceit could be milked for at least 400 words, and so here we are. Thanks for the crits and likes!
#69 · 1
· on Zecora Explorer · >>Rao
>>Griseus, >>Rao

Rhyme Scene

This is white and gray pencil on black paper. It's a good thing that I am the main contributor to the art rounds at present or this might be the sort of tell that puts me at a disadvantage.

I won't assert that this precisely illustrates the story, but it did put me in mind of how the world might appear to a person like Zecora, so I ran with that. The hardest part was coming up with landscape rhymes.
#70 · 2
· on Zecora Explorer
Also thinking on it a little while later, Zecora's rhyme is in the title :)
Or close enough at least. It's good enough for Dora.