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Forbidden Knowledge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
#301 ·
· on Truth Unwanted
I really must echo the others. There's an idea here that's interesting, a possible horror bit, but it's very much a rough gem at the moment in need of much cutting and polishing to bring it to its full potential.
#302 ·
· on If, Amidst the Flames, a Pony
The meta-fiction-commentary part? Meh. That I am fully take or leave on, and more leaning towards leave; it was more annoying than anything bouncing around through that segment.

The part that interested me was the seeming meta-narrative linking the stories, which seemed to be along the lines of 'Equestria is a simulation in a higher-order reality, Celestia & Luna have penetrated the veil'; our two PoV ponies after all seem to be similar to our PoV humans who are rebels in thought if not fully in deed against this 'Council' governing things.

Basically I got, for lack of a better phrase, Less-Wrongian vibes out of this. I'm very curious to read the author's intent for the whole thing since it was going very much in the direction of big-picture-narratives about, well, us and the nature of our own existence.

And then there's the small voice in my mind wanting this to be something fantastic reaching out from beyond the veil.
#303 · 1
· on We Are All Made from Silence
The oddest thing in this is the sense of there being some greater entity at play here - in some ways an elder Thing, something of a primal, deep, Before time. Not malevolent, but strange and unknowable in many ways. That part of the story was at once enthralling and yet...disturbing, but a good kind of disturbing.

A nice character study of the two interacting, and insight into something deeper leaving me wanting to know more.
#304 ·
· on Trade
Like others, I really want a more concrete ending. I do agree with billymorph - it feels like it went the 'She gave it all up' route. If so...I don't know. Pinkie may be happier, but perhaps we should see disquiet from Twilight, then.
#305 ·
· on Standards and Practices
It's always weird when there's meta-narratives going on and this one is no exception. I mean, on one hand, sure, Luna is right - Equestria's continued commercial existence depends on it remaining kid-friendly.

On the other hand, if you keep going meta, well, there are an ever-growing number of Equestrias and a goodly number of them are very very much not family friendly. I mean some of them, well...

Some of them, y'know, it'd probably be better to live through some of the more unpleasant parts of WW2 than to be stuck in.

Dunno where I'm going with this comment. The Dream Warriors idea was fun, but I thiiink it'd work better if you make the 'Studio Executives' bit a little more buried ala Cabin in the Woods did.
#306 ·
· on Miracle
I liked it. It's a story that knows what it wants to be and do, and it does it well. I always appreciate a story like that.
Nice characterizations for both Sunset and Princess Celestia. Their exchange felt natural and managed to avoid feeling like talking-heads.
I enjoyed the rose blossom bit. Very heartwarming.
Not much else to say, I'm afraid. It's good, I enjoyed it, and it demonstrates your talent for writing.
Nicely done.
#307 ·
· on A Faint and Curious Voice · >>ZaidValRoa
Definitely cut all the stuff about her past that we already know. It's a reader turn-off; if you're reading this story, you know Twilight Sparkle, Celestia's student. Your first two paragraphs are fine, but after that you need to condense hard before we get to our 'now'.

Our unseen villain is very effective. Very creepy. Discord? Nightmare? I lean more towards the latter, since the last bit has Twilight speaking in the 'voice', suggesting she's no longer in control of her own body, and with Celestia being adamant about not telling her what happened? Yea. It seems likely some dreamlike entity was coming for her.

The other bits :
What was the shattered glass significance? If you are going to put this much focus on it in the story, it needs payoff. It didn't have payoff.
Foreshadow Celestia's coming, somehow, so it's less Deus Ex Machina. If it's the Nightmare, her showing up makes perfect sense, but you do need to build up with it, so when her arrival happens it feels fitting, instead of 'SUDDENLY SUNBUTT'

Still? One of the better entries I've read this competition.
#308 · 3
· on The Outer Dark
Were this a story of humans on Earth, I would have nearly no complaints. It fits Lovecraft in many, many ways. And yet.

And yet.

The thing here that jars it for me is that Twilight does all this...why?

And what she discovers is...what?

And why they are building a new town in the depths is...again, why?

In Lovecraft, the big theme is 'The universe is populated by vast things whose motives are utterly alien, and humanity is but a speck clinging to a toothpick in the ocean, awaiting the storm to buffet it away'

Yes, Lovecraft endings are often vague, but that fits the motif, that the universe is dark and unknowable and uncaring.

But here, why are we doing this? It feels more an exercise in evoking Lovecraft than having any commentary to make. It's painting a scenario, but it's not doing anything with that scenario. It's all medium, no message.

It's a good medium, don't get me wrong. But it needs motivations, at least passingly. It needs a further hint or two of WHY, at least passingly. Hints of HOW beyond 'Twilight tore a hole into the void and....'

She seems to be serving some new, unknown master. Hints of their agenda, hints of their anything, would help this immensely.
#309 · 1
· on The Outer Dark
This was remarkably well-written and did a good job of establishing a mood.
I didn't particularly like the "interruptions" that preceded the scene breaks in the story, such as the commentary on the bar. An exception to this, however, would be this line: "Oh. I believe this establishment is closing. Would you walk with me? Please? It… I’ve been alone too long." It really captures the speaker's feelings and fears in that moment. Still, most of the interruptions are just that. They mess with immersion. I understand it's to ground the story in reality and remind the reader that this a story being told to an observer, but I just find it disruptive.
The identity of the speaker is left unspecified for a large portion of the story, although enough clues along the way help make it apparent. My suggestion to you would be to place some clues earlier in the story. As it is, I initially imagined some faceless stand-in (a male one, at that) until it became clear that the speaker's identity actually was significant. While on the subject, some hinting towards the listener's identity would also be appreciated.
Lastly, I want to comment on the way the speaker speaks. It's too neat, considering the topic of discussion and the apparent state of the speaker. I refer back to the line I quoted previously. I feel more lines should be like that one. The doubt and indecision in her voice are tangible. Her manner of speech should reflect how she's feeling in that moment. To recollect and recount a frightening experience would likely lead to stammering, false-starts, and hanging-threads. It would make the piece more evocative and would enhance the reader's connection to the speaker.
Still, I liked it. I was engrossed in the tale and wanted to know what it was all leading to. While some questions are left unanswered, I'm not cheated without them. It was a satisfying read, and I'm glad I got to partake.
#310 ·
· on Buried
First the bad news, author: This is currently scoring near the bottom of my slate — not because it's bad, but because it's simply incomplete, and I have to judge based on the text as written. I'm 95% certain you ran out of time and submitted what you had at the deadline. If you did intend this as a complete submission, then let's talk after authors are revealed about why this is structurally unfinished.

The good: The prose here is clean, and I'm seeing signs of quality in the writing. The second scene, in particular, works in some unobtrusive narration about the setting that concretely establishes our timeline (Derpy's age and the statues of the Elements). Twilight's off-kilter behavior very effectively establishes your horror premise, and her polite offer of tea pegs the needle of the creepy meter. More like this, please. This would be trending toward Solid Strong if it closed its narrative arcs.

The fixable: As >>Foehn noted, Green Leaf is quite a tabula rasa here. While that can work — there are some benefits to an everyman protagonist, letting readers identify more with the character — the parts of his characterization that we are given have an outsized effect. So I'm going to talk about something nitpicky, because it stood out to me as a real missed opportunity.

When Green goes to Canterlot for Twilight's crystals, he literally finds them by asking a stranger on the street. I guess this works as a marker of his desperation?, but in the process it makes his quest almost a joke. If literally the first random stranger he asks knows where to find these super secret dangerous crystals, why does Twilight need his skills as a procurer? And for that matter, how does it make him smart or trustworthy? He comes across as the sort of junkie who wanders around asking strangers if they know where he can buy drugs, which — if you're trying to get your audience to identify with your hero — makes him look like an idiot. This should have been an opportunity to show us why he's good at what he does — working contacts, calling in favors — and if you wanted to make the point of him being in desperate straits, you could have shown him getting in trouble with said contacts or favor-givers. Similarly, having him ask those same strangers for where to hire a chariot just made me think, "He literally was just in one. Is he actually that stupid that he didn't arrange for a ride home?"

Also nitpicky, but possibly worth addressing: what's happened to Spike in this timeline?

Anyway, go finish this. I'm curious where the rest is going.

Tier: Needs Work
#311 ·
· on Starlight Glimmer and Sunset Shimmer Are Dead
I just want to point out my favorite part of this entry: when Lyra enters the bar and Sunset Shimmer simply carries on being the barkeeper, as if she owns the place. It may be she fell into her role as the helpful-but-unimportant barkeeper, but I like to think that comes after she serves the drink. Up until then, she was just tending the bar like it was her day job.
A nice and amusing entry, overall.
#312 ·
· on Not On the Outside
This made me giggle in a lot of places. Starswirl in this is a jerk, but a sort of enjoyable jerk. Far too many just make him an unlikeable hardass. This one is more...Discworld-ey, in a good way.

Everything else works quite well other than the sudden PTSD whiplash. Story could have benefited a lot, I think, from a hint or two of 'snow = bad bad bad' before the sudden scene, so that the meltdown is a little more signaled. Yea, we know she's got probable mental scarring, but we have no idea WHY until it pops up super fast.
#313 ·
· on The Trolls
I thought the trolls were charming in a way. And okay, they kind of remind me of internet trolls. You know, the jolly sort all out to drive someone to madness, but with a 'pip pip cheerio old bean' attitude about it.

There was a lot of humor in this too. Fun humor. My one suggestion to change, after Rainbow announces the yaks lost? Have more reaction from the ponies. Twilight's warning 'Starlight...' seems kind of...left-fieldy? Because to me it didn't seem like she was going into screw-up territory at all, but rather 'Welp, fuckit, everything else failed' - so some revision there one way or another would be good.

Maybe have the M6 prepping Rainbow Power or something. Or sending a CELESTIA LUNA HEEEELP flare up. I dunno!
#314 ·
· on The Locked Door
There's definitely a lot of tell-ey writing in here. 'The party was enjoyable, though it seemed to drag on forever.' ; 'It appeared that Twilight was attempting to distract her, and she could not let that happen.'

Statements like that, as opposed to 'Starlight passed the time in pleasant distraction, yet the book weighed on her mind. Every time she glanced at the time, however, what seemed hours had been mere minutes'. Same thing, a bit more peppy.

The other thing is, well - okay, this is a personal thing, but our book is just being a McGuffin here and it could be anything. An artifact, Celestia's left eyelash, whatever. Twilight being menacing for...why? Nothing sinister is going on, and...then suddenly everything is resolved, and...what forbidden knowledge? She hasn't learned anything forbidden, as far as I can tell.
#315 ·
· on Tell Her What She Means To You
There's a few bits of word confabulation - a 'I mean, I now that’s normally ' -> know instead of now, being the one I spotted...but overall, this was sweet and I wasn't expecting it to be literal.

Not sure how I feel about Twilight being oblivious here. It tugs at the heartstrings, but...I kind of want a...you know. It's time it came out, as it were. Breakfast would be a good time for that to come clean. Then again I'm always susceptible to Twilight Sparkle, secret royal.
#316 · 1
· on The Sparklator
Well uh, this was interesting.

I think, clearly, this piece is a critique of the brutal capitalist machine that rears workers from birth and addles their minds with false consciousness to serve as nothing but wheels for the vehicle of profit and oppression, oiling the machine with the blood of the proletariat—and Twilight feels guilty about her role in the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

Er.

This was odd. It started like that one episode and then transitioned into this dark territory. The newspaper snippets, the other snippets, and the ending did confuse me, but Billymorph explained it. Not sure how to feel about this one, but it definitely did not work for me.
#317 ·
· on Buried
I'd agree this is definitely incomplete. Suddenly, he is...dead, maybe. Zombified. Mind controlled. An ex pony. I don't know.

Twilight going insane after the M5 die is nothing new. Her going into 'resurrect them' is done a bunch, too - so another question is 'What do you have to say here?'. The 'story for just a story' has been told a few times, so you want an extra hook.
#318 ·
· on The Trolls
This one is just all-around solid, both in the tier sense and in the traditional sense, and I'll have to echo the "could definitely be an episode" comments above. It's currently second on my slate, but with that said, I do have some misgivings about it, so I'll speak up in hopes it helps your editing.

(Also, I'm curious how this came from the "Forbidden Knowledge" prompt, because this is the first story this round I'm having trouble making that connection.)

The downside of having such an episode-authentic story is that, just like in the episodes, Starlight Glimmer is something of a seventh wheel. She spends a lot of time doing nothing -- and this appears to be an intentional choice, because your epilogue hangs on it -- and then suddenly becomes the superstar who saves the day. While I can't deny that this is how she's been treated for most of the season, I don't think we need to feel constrained by the failings of the show when writing fanfic, and her complete woobishness made her time in the spotlight feel contrived to me. (Honestly, I'd probably feel that way even if I didn't consider her a hollow knock-off of Sunset Shimmer. She just needs more agency here.)

The other thing that leapt out at me is that this really needs to decide whether the Mane Six are actively working to sabotage the trolls or not. You build up to Applejack's food-cart decision like she's doing it on an impulse, and then the instant it's done, everypony swoops in and congratulates her like she pulled off the hardest part of their master plan. (Starlight questions her, only to directly be proven wrong when AJ's gift gets the trolls fighting: this is the sort of thing I'm talking about with her woobishness, where she apparently exists in the scene only to be the out-of-the-loop one.) Then again with Fluttershy. Given that their actions mess up the trolls like a laser-guided friendship-lesson missile, it certainly seems like this is coordinated -- and yet we see none of that coordination, and the actions are painted as individual whims that just happen to work out. I think it could be much stronger if you didn't try to have your cake and eat it too: either have the trolls' dissent be organic, to prove a point about friendship's strengths, or else go whole hog into the sabotage angle, making the sowing and repairing of dissent an example of applied friendshipology.

Agreed with >>Corejo that the sudden reversal at the climax felt unearned.

That said, the trolls are really vivid characters here, and the use of the yaks was fun. This is sitting right at the TC border, held back by the flaws above.

Tier: Strong
#319 ·
· on Not So Sweet
Sorry to say, author, I bounced off of this one. It's currently at the bottom of my slate ... but not for lack of ambition. The idea here of linking Sweetie Drops and Sweetie Belle is honestly one of this round's most clever premises. Good on you! That sort of big thinking is going to take you far.

My biggest problem with the text was with its narrative style ... let me pull a random sample of text from the story:
Under the roof of the house assigned to us for our last few missions. Silver grew angry at me for ignoring him for the last couple of days. Which only made telling him so much harder. One night when we went to bed. I had turned my back from him as I laid my head into my pillow. Watching as the lights went out. Finally muttering those words to him in the still air of night.

I’m pregnant.

First of all, that bold/centered text is a no-no. When you play tricks with text formatting or placement, you're calling attention to those words in a way that breaks the flow of your story. Drop a paragraph of

strikethrough

in the middle of your text, and it becomes a visual blockage for your reader: you're basically breaking the fourth wall with your formatting, and short of something crazy happening in your story that justifies the formatting directly (like telepathy implanting thoughts in someone's head), it kinda comes across as not having faith in your text to carry itself. "I'm pregnant" in a line by itself is going to be a powerful statement whether or not you add formatting to it: don't sledgehammer your readers!

That rant aside, take a look at the sentence structure in the quoted text. Short and choppy. No punctuation but periods. Often replacing commas. Breaking up sentences into fragments. It reminds me -- not in a good way -- of Rorschach from Watchmen. The style is ungrammatical, abstract and alienating, which is not great if you're trying to get us to sympathize with your narrator. As >>Everyday also noted, the opening here really drags as well, playing really coy about the narrator's identity and situation for a long time while attempting to draw pathos from their tragedy (which we have no emotional connection to until we're able to understand it).

I was struggling with that throughout my reading, which was a major factor in my disconnect; in between that and the text formatting sledgehammering my melodrama buttons, I'm not sure this ever would have had much of a chance with me. Which is a shame, because as I said, I love your ideas. I do share some of the hesitation others have noted about the way this played out -- in particular, Chief adopting Sweetie is a straight-up backstab, the way this is presented (though I appreciate in the abstract how you worked him in as Rarity's dad) -- but your first editing step might need to be to take a deep breath and consider what the voicing here is adding to your story, and whether it might be worth rewriting in a more conventional and grammatical style. If you want some help with that, it might be worth asking in Writeoff chat.

Either way, keep it up. It's much harder to fix a story that's pretty words but an empty core than it is to fix an ambitious one like this which is surface-rough but rich in content. You've got something worth developing here.

Tier: Needs Work
#320 ·
·
Well, that's a slate plus one. Sadly, I'm crashing out and that's all I'll be able to do before finals start. Good luck to everyone.
#321 · 1
· on Pinkie Pie Saves Equestria And/Or Bakes A Cake
This is the last story on my slate, it's currently three in the morning, and I am tired, so this is going to be short.

I really liked this story. I had a few minor nitpicks, but I think they've been covered in other reviews. This story easily earns the top spot on my prelim slate.

...or at least it would if you hadn't committed the unforgivable offence of calling Derpy "Muffins." Derpy is her canon name, dang it.
(No, I'm not actually knocking it down for this, though I might have if I had a closer second place. That "Muffins" thing really pisses me off.)
#322 · 2
· on Only, Only, Only You · >>Morning Sun >>horizon
Whoah.

All y'all are giving me too much credit. 2000 words of poetry I might be able to write for a Writeoff, but in an eight-hour stretch on an all-nighter after a convention? I couldn't turn out this.

I hope it makes finals so I can give it the high ranking it deserves. The couplet >>Everyday cites is great, but there were a few others which were nearly as wonderful both in prosody and in meaning:

Nightshade-wound chrysanthemum


What darkened shadow hesitates?
The Night is come! The Night awaits!





>>Everyday
D'aww, thanks.

>>Morning Sun
I have a few entries in Pony Verse which rhyme: Lagniappe, and the insane iambic monometer of An Impromptu Private Composition Upon The Joyous Occasion Of My Return Gala (of which I am, perhaps justifiably, inveterately proud). In terms of rhyming poetry, though, I think Augie/Baal has lapped me several times, and I don't think Fable Scroll's double heroic crown The Sisters' Coronet will ever be surpassed.
#323 ·
· on Modern Farming Techniques of Earth Ponies
>>Morning Sun
Personally, I think this story is more of a Lawful Good sort of necromancy, where everyone involved expects and is perfectly okay with it. It's not the sort of thing that you see very often, but it does pop up occasionally. It's more of a "call upon the ancestors for aid" sort of thing.

I realize that the fact that necromancy apparently has a tendency to drive it's users to early deaths does somewhat undermine my point though.
#324 ·
· on The Trolls
Was expecting a Homestuck crossover, not exactly disappointed that it wasn't.

Of all the stories I've read so far for the write-off, I think this one best recaptures the tone and spirit of the show it's based off on. It is written with the intention to feel like an actual episode of My Little Pony, which I think the style and characterization largely succeeds, but encounters problems with pacing and construction of its scenes, and how those scenes logically transition from one another. I feel that this is primarily due to the author feeling rushed by time constraints, and thus the build up to the resolution and the resolution itself feel transparently railroaded into the story. However, also problematic is the back and forth shifting of narrative focus between the characters which often hinders the reader's ability to focus on the larger picture and takes away from the action that is supposed to be shown. Imagine that your narrative is a camera and you want to put the most important focus on the thoughts and ideas the reader is supposed to take away from the idea.

For example, the first competition runs two paragraphs, and has an important beat to it: the trolls begin hitting each other with rocks in order to win. I did not know that moment had an impact because the narrative didn't put any focus to its significance until it was referenced later by the trolls as a reason for their in-fighting. Ideally, when making a scene like that, you'd want to give those characters some reactions, some dialogue, and perhaps even a moment of contrast with the yaks in order to establish that this is causing some issues within the troll camp. It doesn't have to be a huge thing that plays all its cards at once, but the current progression of the scenes seems to be going from barely any issue with one another, to complete and utter resentment of one another. This is particularly grating because we have such a strong voice for the trolls as a unit (with their eloquence, patience, and politeness), it seems strange that they would break down so quickly, almost as if we're dealing with different trolls for the second act.

Additionally, the sub-plot with the mane6 and by extension Starlight Glimmer, are confusing how they work into story itself and seem tacked on to force the story towards its ultimate conclusion. After they show up in the initial confrontation, they spend most of their time twiddling their thumbs while the yaks and trolls go at it, not really accomplishing much, so when they end up being the focus of some scenes in the middle-point, it feels a bit out of place. Starlight Glimmer in this story feels particularly extraneous, which is unfortunate given that her relationship with Twilight becomes the focus of the story's resolution—a move I found fairly unconvincing and unnecessary given the premise of the story. Twilight certainly could give some sort of friendship lecture to Starlight Glimmer with a mild compliment to her for saying something, but Starlight Glimmer isn't the hero of this story and she's not pulling out the major victories, so it's really strange to have her be the focus of the ending as if she were the protagonist or something. If you want to make her the protagonist, then the narrative should be focused into third-person limited through her perspective for the entirety of the story instead of this undefined omniscient narrative we have currently.

The trolls' characterization is very suited and natural to the setting, and I often found myself amused by their antics and contrast between extreme politeness and hyper-violence. While I do adore the characterizations of the trolls, perhaps it would be wise to give the individual trolls more characteristics that make them stand out from one another? I enjoyed their dialogue, but I felt that the characters could all be the same troll, or rather, were the same troll three times. Adding some additional layers to the trolls I feel this would be particularly a good move on your part because it would make them seem less homogeneous a group and more prone to fighting among themselves than the yaks.

Overall, I liked this story. The trolls are truly the story's biggest strength, however, and its composition needs some heavy re-working in order to keep a natural, smooth progression of ideas without forcing or being too transparent with plot-points. Stream-lining this story in order to have the same punchy style as the show would definitely be in your favor. With some good restructuring and cleaning up, this has the potential to be a killer story.

Things to Consider:
-Maintaining focus on important details, focusing the camera closer to the characters in the narrative
-Reworking the perspective
-Giving Starlight Glimmer things to do, or at least, thoughts to have
-Giving more individual characterization to each troll
-Cutting extraneous interactions with the mane6 or more clearly communicate their overall game plan
-Focusing on one macro idea or moral instead of trying to juggle multiple subplots / have subplots be complementary
-More things for the mane 6 to do

Number 1 my second slate, congratulations.
#325 ·
· on Might Make Right · >>horizon
This story is scattered. The core idea was good, but it doesn’t quite feel coherent – instead, it feels like a lot of the scenes are almost incomplete, jumping from one to the next without full follow-through.

Knowing what I do about this story, I suspect it is a symptom of it being incomplete, and ultimately, no one’s emotional arc – not Ember’s, not Spike’s, not Twilight’s, not even Applejack or Celestia’s – got really followed through on. As a result, it never really touched me, as it was constantly jerking away and failing to actually deliver on any of the arcs or messages it seemed to promise.

Not sure how much you want me to beat the horse on reviewing this one, as I’m pretty sure you know that.
#326 ·
· on Return To Sender · >>Bremen
Everyone in Equestria tries to marry Twilight/Luna/Celestia in hopes of having an alicorn baby with them.

Twilight gets very frustrated.

This amused me, though I’m not quite sure why they cared so much about having an alicorn baby; wouldn’t marrying a princess be enough?

The biggest problem I had with this story was that I was only ever mildly amused by it; the ending line was funny, as was Zecora’s bit and Rainbow Dash never getting past the race, but frankly a lot of it was just a sort of mildly amusing harrying. Is that necessarily a bad thing? No, but it never really rose above for me.
#327 ·
· · >>Cassius
... over five hours since prelims ended, and only a few review posts and no story chatter? Is it Writeoff chat sucking the life out of the discussion thread, or is it the move from FIMFiction? Either way, ಠ_ಠ.

Either way, congratulations to our fifteen finalists, viewable in the gallery, and to their authors:
Anonymous
Baal Bunny
Bachiavellian
Bremen
Cold in Gardez
Corejo
Everyday
KitsuneRisu
Lucky_Dreams
Morning Sun
The Cyan Recluse
Titanium Dragon
Winston
billymorph
georg

It's semi-traditional for those whose anonymity has just been broken (by not making finals) to use this time to talk a little about what they were trying to do with their stories and respond to their reviews. Which, I guess, means I have some writing to do. <.<
#328 · 1
· on We Are All Made from Silence
The prose of this story had a very interesting texture to it. It wasn’t quite a children’s story, but in a way, it evoked those stories. But not in the sense of simplicity; it more evoked the feeling of reading such a story.

I liked the ideas behind this, and I liked the idea of Fluttershy guiding Scootaloo through silence.

That being said, I have to agree with >>Cassius WRT: Scootaloo’s sort of dark self, the personification of her inner fear, felt pretty clichéd.

Still, the story on the whole was quite nicely written, and was an enjoyable enough read and a different take on the idea of talking to someone about your problems, which is nice to see, as that is well-trodden ground but you managed to do something new with it.
#329 · 2
· · >>Everyday >>horizon
>>horizon

Personally, I'd like to see an elongated argument between horizon the reviewer and horizon the author.
#330 ·
· · >>horizon
>>Cassius
I second that.
#331 · 2
· on Might Make Right · >>Corejo >>TheCyanRecluse
Might Make Right - Retrospective

[img]http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/452/302/371.jpg[/img]

Well, I can't say I'm not disappointed. Bottom 50% (15 finalists, 31 entries) is a new low for me. On the heels of Harmony Needs Heroes' similar exile from finals, it's hard not to feel like I suck now, but there's a much simpler explanation: I just haven't had time to write at my usual quality level. My three most recent short-story entries were all written in less than a day, and as I've repeatedly mentioned, this was literally written during a single frenzied all-nighter at the tail end of a convention, with the first word typed at 9 p.m. Sunday night.

So this is a useful data point, and one I hope other authors here can take to heart. If you speedwrite an entry, it doesn't reflect the quality you're capable of. The magnitude of the effect is pretty startling: My medalist record with short stories I've spent three days on is 72% [8/11], and my finalist record with short stories I've spent less than 24 hours on is 33%!

The way to win Writeoffs is to act like you're here to win them: set aside the three writing days, carefully draft a cool idea, and give it the time it deserves.

Which I didn't. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But there was another major problem here too, on which pretty much everyone commented: the perspective shifting was a noble but failed experiment. My fake review noted what it was going for -- a sort of narrative circling-around of the central character Spike -- but the story wasn't really Spike-focused enough to carry his character arc through, and nobody else (except Twilight, kinda) has a fully developed arc. The story was thematically deep, I think, but that's not nearly enough to carry a story -- and thematic depth can have its own problems anyhow. This ended up too layered -- I'm pretty sure nobody who's not a mind-reader would have looked past all the surface mind-control stuff to pull the meditation on power out from the depths of this thing.

>>Obscure
"it's not terrible. It has potential" was hard to read, but totally fair. It's about how I feel about this. Though honestly, I'm probably going to end up abandoning this, because I could write something better in the time it would take to edit this into where it needs to be.

>>TitaniumDragon >>ZaidValRoa
Yeah, the plot fragmentation wasn't doing this any favors. I'd considered originally writing this in Spike's perspective the whole way through, which would have given this a lot more closure with his arc, but I didn't feel like I could get myself into his head well enough to write a proper Spike story in eight hours, so I took the choice that felt "safer" -- and ironically the much more experimental one -- leaping viewpoints to keep him "in frame" as it were. Turns out closing plot points and character arcs is hard, and even harder when you're leaping back and forth like that.

The Celestia scene, which is the most complete and the one I'm probably proudest of here, was written first, and so impacted by the deadline the least. This is not a coincidence.

>>Corejo
As Everyday said, the "(hug)" thing was the scepter overtaking Garble's thoughts, reflecting compulsion rather than action. Glad you found things to appreciate.

>>Everyday
Same: glad you found things to appreciate. Ironic that you and Corejo disagreed so hard on the magic descriptions. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

>>TheCyanRecluse
On the technical side, using lines to split between perspectives and blank lines to denote a passage of time in the same perspective is a bit.. clunky.

That choice was forced by official Writeoff style, which dictates [hr]s for major scene breaks and blank paragraphs for "soft" scene breaks. If this makes it to FIMFiction, individual perspectives will definitely be given their own chapters.

The ending really only makes sense in terms of the deeper theme my fake review explained: that this isn't about mind control, it's about the use of power. Celestia is definitely forcing peace here; it's not invading the other leader's brains here, but her little display is supposed to make it clear that she's running the show here. Very realpolitik. She reacts that way to Twilight's letter out of guilt, which probably could have used some more establishing -- because she reads it as Twilight calling her out on her "mistake" of using force to fix other people's problems. Which is kind of what the entire story is a meditation on.

Good luck in finals, all.

EDIT: Oh, and as to the title. It was a play on words between the phrase "Might Makes Right" and the sentence fragment using "might" in the "maybe" sense, trying to capture the ambiguity of the piece and its discussion of power.
#332 ·
·
>>Everyday >>Cassius
Feel free to write one. It would be funnier than mine.
#333 · 4
· on History Lesson
History Lesson: Post-Contest Analysis

Well, I certainly had fun writing this, and I hope you had fun reading it. (Well, as much fun as you can get from a gloom-and-doom alternate universe fic.) I'm already seeing improvement as an author, even though this is just my 5th writeoff. I appreciate the positive feedback, and I will learn and grow from the negative feedback.

>>Bachiavellian >>ZaidValRoa >>The_Letter_J

Word Limit: The story I wanted to tell turned out to be much larger in scope than the one I actually told. I've more than doubled my original 8K, and I'm still not done with tying up the plot and resolving the framing story.

Pacing: Pretty much everyone said things were happening too fast, or events came too quickly on the heels of the last. The most obvious case here would be the ending bit with Starlight. By adding on another 10-12K words, I now have room for a more gradual transitions.

Wasteland-iness: At the end, the fact that the armies of Chrysalis and Sombra were approaching each other was implied, but never explicitly stated. The battle between them was also not shown.

More Dragons: Admittedly, I needed a new way for Rarity to get her cutie mark, and I still wanted her to retain the generosity she has become known for. She already has gem-finding abilities, and being generous would require giving said gems away. What better beneficiaries than dragons? After that scene, I wanted to keep them around, and I knew I was going to have Rarity run an orphanage, but other than that, I didn't really have much use for them after Rarity got her cutie mark, and it showed. This is a problem which it looks like I will be able to fix late in the story.

Reactions: Rainbow Dash/Fluttershy, Celestia/Chrysalis, Spike/Sunburst, New Mane 6/Chrysalis, and Starlight/Twilight to name the major ones. You spoke and I listened. These have been fixed accordingly.

Cheerilee as Kindness: It was mentioned by >>horizon that my mane 6 now has one fewer pegasus. I was considering Derpy/Ditzy for the part based on her willingness to please Matilda in Ep. 100, but 1) muffins can't sing, and 2) what better character for the Element of Kindness than a mare who has to put up with a couple dozen colts and fillies day in and day out? Not to mention 3) Cheerilee was an actress in the play where Rarity was supposed to get her cutie mark, so it's likely they grew up knowing each other (which I intend to make mention of in the final version). (On a side note, an adult, normal-eyed Ditzy can be seen in the crowd during the play in Rarity's cutie mark flashback.)

Chrysalis/Celestia Scene: As mentioned above, I've fixed up some reactions involving Luna. I've also cleared up the issue of Chrysalis's motives for killing off the three Princesses, which was indirectly brought up by >>Morning Sun . I feel this was one of the weaker scenes overall, and I've done a major overhaul to get it to an acceptable state.

Angry Rainbow Dash: >>TheCyanRecluse brought up the fact that Rainbow Dash seemed extremely angry at the loss of Fluttershy. In the original unedited version, Twilight walks Spike and Starlight through the five-stage model of grief. (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) However, I decided to remove this refrence as it made the whole scene seem trivialized, and might come across as offensive and insensitive. I left in a line where Dash laments to her mother that she wishes there was some way to bring Fluttershy back, that is, to bargain. This is going to be dealt with more fully in the final version.



I do have plans to upload the final version to FimFiction, but this coming week is exam week here at my university, so the earliest I could do that would probably be the week after. Again, thank you for all the feedback. It means a lot that you would take the time to read and write reviews on my work.

Verdict: A step in the right direction for a fledgling author.
#334 ·
· · >>horizon
Not So Sweet By Remedyfortheheart (STOP! Before you continue play this (\^w^/) Huggable EMOJI BUTTON! while you read on!)

SO! The reveal! Ooooo! Now’s the time for a round robin review over the comments and reviews to my story.

First off thank you very much to those of you who took the time to read my story. It was wonderful writing it. The thought of this idea came back to me about a couple months ago and only now was I able to write this story out. I do however wanna say it wasn’t what I fully intended for the story to become. In fact I had so many ideas planned for this one particular idea that it should have spanned about 12,000-15,000 words, for this chapter alone! This was suppose to be multiple chapters featuring Bon Bon and Sweetie Belle. In fact the following has been cut due to contest limitations.

Scene 1 - Lyra and Bon Bon argue over Bon Bon’s choice to go see Sweetie Belle. This was suppose to take part before the initial intro. Was cut out to make room.

Scene 4 & 5 - Silverlin and Bon Bon’s relationship interpreted to show their strong bond. These two scenes were suppose to show more of the agency’s work in the makings. Was cut to keep half of the content within contest bounds.

Real Ending - Bon Bon was suppose to have a sunset scene with Sweetie Belle asking her about her cutie mark problem and thus the two were suppose to have a nice chat about life. Cut to make room for an actual conflict.

This was my script for this 1st chapter, but I never got around to placing it into my entry. After seeing the ridiculous amount I had typed out of mere enjoyment for writing it. I had to cut and slice off bits and pieces of the real thing to make sure it wasn’t automatically disqualified for overbearing amounts of content. There was even certain descriptions and long sentences that had to be cut, just to make sure this happened. So this would explain why it feels choppy or doesn’t explain much. Much cutting much doge! For me it was an error that pains my readers. The cutting was just a necessity to play the game. Shall we move on to individual comments?

>>ZaidValRoa

I’m so glad you enjoyed the ride! Tickets will continue to be available at your nearest heart stand! I could curtsy or bow in gratitude, but I prefer to continue writing for the purpose of entertaining you! I enjoy sharing the love, so thank you so much for sharing it back! Hugs for you!

>>Bremen

I so wished I could have shown you what I deleted and, sadly, didn’t save! I had easily more content to sway your decision and I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it like I intended it for you. The typos are small and thank you for looking pass it. An open mind means an open heart!

>>Dafaddah

Wow! So your comment scared me! Made me regret cutting everything I had and not saving the original. I had cut so much that it made certain explanations unclear. This made me sad and thus! Remy did his own review to clear that up! I hope you read it…

>>Remedyfortheheart

Stay sexy you!

>>Everyday

Editing got it! But everyone could use some editing. Let’s be honest here. My opening turned to be a fail since the original opening was cut. Adding content for both of Sweetie Drops’s relationships IE Silver Lining and Sweetie Belle put together with the conflict of Chief, would have dragged the story much longer than its limit was allowed to. I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to confuse you, sir. *Whimper* I’ll do better next time. Overall! I’m glad you loved it! I meant it to be impactful while still skimming on the sugar!

>>Horizon

Sir! In my belief, writing should be a precision tool meant to cut at the emotions and mindset of its readers! I wasn’t trying to force you to like it. Instead, of course, I was trying to get you to understand the story through its desired effect with what was left over. It feels like you were conflicted because it was choppy. Also my bad on the code play. I usually never implement it.It was something new for me to play with at the time. I just didn’t agree with you, that I was missing a core to my story. When in reality I had skinned it right down to its core. So badly in fact, that it didn’t hold well. From my standpoint, it didn’t make sense that my story became “bottom slate” for you. Not when there are other entries that actually have more trouble with these very same problems. Overall, your review just read like you enjoyed the story more so why vote it at the bottom of your list. I’ve seen some entries. So unless you got some godly ones that was handed to you for reading and voting, I didn’t really think it deserved that. Don’t get me wrong, your review made every bit of sense. It’s reasons and judgements just didn’t seem to abide by it. So I’m hoping you didn’t do the same thing I did when I cleaned my slate and went +1 over. So in that regards if it is true, that our competitive natures match. You honor me to the fullest!

So that’s four out of four readers who liked my story. Getting through the minor errors to just get a good read in, was my entire goal in this round. So my story did as I wanted it to through and through. Though it’s not in the state I currently want it to be. It needs to be bigger, better, and even more alluring! Like moi! Besides the point! Thank you all for reading it and I do hope I can get more reviews. So far I haven’t picked up on much to improve this round. I only gained insight on how the rounds work in accordance with its writers and rules. So please! If you’re reading this! Take my story for a spin, please! I’m begging you! Show me something to improve on.
Post by Remedyfortheheart deleted
#336 ·
· on Not So Sweet
>>Remedyfortheheart
From my standpoint, it didn’t make sense that my story became “bottom slate” for you. Not when there are other entries that actually have more trouble with these very same problems.

Okay, well, first of all, I'm not some infallible objective writing god. Sometimes I'll just like or dislike things for reasons that don't carry over to other people. If you have 4 out of 5 people saying that they enjoyed the story, and one who bottom-slates it, it's worth considering whether dealing with the thing that touched one person's nerve is worth making edits that might drag it down for the majority of your audience. One of your options, and possibly a good one, is to decide I'm full of crap here.

But as you say yourself, the story has flaws. That cutting process is going to introduce problems (and I hope that your big takeaway from this round is: always save a copy of the finished story BEFORE you make any cuts). People liking it doesn't mean that it couldn't be better. And it's inevitable that, when you have a story with flaws, those flaws are going to affect some readers more strongly than others. So in your shoes I would honestly stop and consider whether the problems I pointed out are going to cause issues with other readers as well, and if so, whether I might be the tip of an iceberg of reader criticism. Let's face it, 4 out of 5 readers really enjoying a story should have been enough to propel it into finals, so there's something here counterweighting that.

I tend to give good ideas more weight in my scoring than the average reviewer — but I also try to be more positive in my review than I otherwise would when I'm trying to encourage authors I scored low, so it can be difficult to assess review praise vs. score. More importantly here, I'm also more sensitive to pervasive language problems, I think, than the average scorer. I'm not talking about a few typos or tense problems -- I'm talking about issues that are consistent throughout the story. And that narration issue I focused on in my review was a major weight on my scoring. I literally just grabbed a paragraph at random and it was that heavily period-laden. Fragmentary speech. Which I can't read without being. Driven to distraction. It was an issue through the entire piece. So I stand by my review citing it as a problem for me, and I stand by my scoring based on my relative reaction to it against the other stories I read (which you can read -- everything I scored above yours is something I commented on).

I'll also note again the issues with the cold open which both Everyday and I commented on. It's 333 words before we even learn your narrator's gender, much less her name (1000 words in). A full 1/8 of your story is trying to draw drama from Sweetie Drops' predicament without even telling us who she is, and when I have to read through a thousand essentially wasted words, my first impression of the story craters hard. That's another easily editable problem which would have made a significant difference, but unfortunately, I can only judge based on the text I read.
#337 · 2
· · >>Remedyfortheheart
>>Remedyfortheheart
Can you make sure that when you're leaving a review (or a retrospective), you're posting it from the story's page rather than the general discussion thread? It's not clear which story this review is meant for.
#338 · 1
· on Modern Farming Techniques of Earth Ponies
It's a downer that both of my stories fell short.

>>horizon
There is a thing that happens when you have worked long and hard enough, where your brain starts pumping out endorphins like mad just to keep you on your feet. It is very giddy, wobbly and carefree.

>>The_Letter_J
The Rarity scene is essential to core theme of the story.
AJ having unnamed family members isn't a twist, so much as a thing you didn't know. To be a twist it has to change the nature of the story up to that point.

>>NightLord
AJ being a jackass to Carrot Top is supposed to be odd.
Having a scene where Applebloom gets to learn that the dead are really gone for ever and Istar having died blaming Applebloom for her demise will always blame her for that until the end of time is an interesting scene to be sure. If I was going to expand this into a novel size story I might include a scene like that, but this is a short story and as such cannot contain scenes that have nothing to do with the central theme.

>>Morning Sun
Listen... I cannot write "And this was an allegory for industrialization of modern farms and the relationship between large family farms and small subsistence family farms" at the end. That would be stupid.
But... I could acknowledge that none of my readers are likely to have considered how exactly Industrialization of the agricultural sector has radically changed the shape of the entire world forever. I could inject a series of metaphors comparing Applejack to an engine throughout the fic as an attempt to hammer the concept into the readers head.

>>TheCyanRecluse
Granny Smith is over 300 years old. That means she would have been over 120 when Gravenstein started the whole thing.
#339 ·
·
>>horizon
I'm the author for Not so Sweet.

Might as well add this since I wanted to post it. I've gotten some heavily good feedback. About 7-8 likes and that's almost a 100%. Of course I'm just being over confident. But, hey! Ya gotta give me something after being eliminated yeah?

Love you Horizon. Just telling you that I already know the problems. Your opinions are greatly appreciated. Just trying to be honest.
Post by Remedyfortheheart deleted
#341 ·
· on TrixGlam
This story beat me senseless with a meticulous weapon that I never thought would leave my cheeks being so hurt from the amount of smiling that this piece influences. We are given a clever little episodic moment between two redeemed characters in the show. Who, wouldn’t you know it, are up to some of their old tricks of sneaking behind other ponies backs. I had a blast reading this one and it would be top shelf for literally entertaining me. It did it’s job in a very professional way I must say of being a fic writer’s piece. We are not a group of professionals. We are not people who do reviews for a living. We are people who come together for a hobby for the means of entertaining one another through the art of writing and literacy. While at the same time geeking out and conversing in creatives fashions. Now before I continue with the review let me wipe this smile off my face. *chainsaw rev*

POSITIVES
-Comedy
The element in which this piece resides in is well represented and played out. You took creative turns to fool your audience into thinking one thing and then correct them on their little assumptions. It was watching a Looney Tunes Cartoon. Even if you aren’t watching it, it’ll brighten up the room with it’s aura. It was delightful in it’s funny scenes then still played out somewhat serious enough to continue it’s storyline. It’s a bit overdone with the jokes, but boy did it have me giggling like a filly throughout the whole piece! I loved it and adored it for it’s really gutsy approach to bond with it’s audience. This is a writer looking to make someone’s day with just words alone. It’s highly admirable. It may have already been said but I think you overdid it some. I found myself placing the read down just to breath and get the giggles out. This can distract from the story and especially when someone is trying to review your story SERIOUSLY! (You’ve stopped me short on reading it about a dozen times. Because I couldn’t stop giggling. And I was at work!) Other than it being distracting from the main plotline I see this being a very good angle for you.

-Material
Comedy is nothing without its material. You as the writer had planned and set up your jokes with what the characters had with them while still keeping in mind what they were doing and who exactly they were. Most writers would forget these details and jumps jump on the joke without keeping to mind what the reader had already placed in their heads. From the rope used for the climb to the bit coin that was suppose to be used for travelling back home. It played out just really well. You took your hand and shown us a four of a kind full of jokers! This was by far the most interesting and indepth comedy I have read so far in my life! Thank you so much for adding to the variety of this contest! This piece was a blast. You did so well on material for your comedic purpose that I have no words to say about negatives. I’m still laughing about it all.

NEGATIVES
-Ending
A ship. We get to the ending and find at royal shipping notebook meant to treat subjects like characters in a story. Which brings to mind the question of “What do Gods do in their spare time?” Well… you answered it. Lol! While this still hit like a strong joke. It was played out a bit far for me which overplayed the joke and the fact that it was suppose to be your biggest punchline while at the same time act as your ending just didn’t the bullseye there. Now an ending where it would involve Twilight, Celestia, Luna, and Cadence having watched the entire thing and begging for the two to continue with their adventure would have made way for more interaction between characters and would have given an ending worth mentioning leaving it in a notebook and just having us deal with that fact just seemed to blow over too quickly. The info reveal in the diary was a bad effect leaving a stale taste. Having a bit more content would have solved it. So I think writing out a part with both girls leaving and burning the book would have made my day.

“Let us never speak of this travesty, again.” Starlight mumbled watching the pages spark into growing flames.

“Trixie agrees.” Both Magician and former Mayor watch as the last glimpse of their waifu fanart had bursted into flames.

“So...wanna get something to eat?” The lavender mare blushed heavily waiting on a reply, as she stamped out the fire and ashes of the former book.

“Trixie demands burritos!”

-Transition
So we’re placed right on a cliff with falling rocks. Our two main characters already facing deathly perils while latched onto unreliable roping. That just happened to be there. Whoa? Slow down! How did this all happen again? Oh right….falling rock. Really how did this happen in the first place? It’s missing some logic as to why the journal is so important and that the reason these ponies are willing to die for it is because “gossip”. Wha-? Maybe adding a bit of an intro scene would have added some pads for the extreme thrill ride you meant to take us on. You need an opening act for concerts and grand shows. You need an opening song before an episode. And you need candy before you drive away in your creepy van with kid in tow! What?! I take my niece shopping with me. And my van is not CREEPY!

-Backstory
We know the backstories to both Trixie and Starlight. Problem being was you kept bringing it up. They were excellent details to add and had wonderful jokes! The nazi one just slayed me. Wish there was one for Trixie but you seemed to lean more on Starlight. Perhaps favoritism? If that’s the case make her the main character for this tale. Do not make it back and forth and leave Trixie as the side character for the means of giving Starlight something to interact with. You had extra info which was nice but just didn’t really matter too much in the story. The bit about the water or being OCD with Starlight just didn’t seem to have any importance with the plot. You need to give us something new. Which you don’t seem to have problems with. Reeling back time just to remind us can be rather annoying and would tend to ruin moods. Adding the extra info that is just not needed adds this mindless fluff that leaves a bland taste. This wasn’t a really big problem with a story, but still something that could be corrected to make your story more effective.
Glorious work! I cannot contain it! The shipping! The wonderful shipping! I seriously don’t think it’s needed but that was the author’s punchline so I will not blame him for his choice. I do however wanted it to hit me more in my gut like his other jokes did. Which I cannot contain! Just wow! I was really impressed on the effort placed to force me to smile and laugh and freak out everyone in the office that I was spilling my guts out. (Btw thanks for that. I now look insane.) This was a fun piece. Like how I think most entries should be. Meant to be read with a short life span for the moment to spend with writer and reader. We bonded and I couldn’t ask for more! You made me laugh and I hope that this review can give you something to be proud of. You deserve it.
#342 · 2
· on A Faint and Curious Voice · >>Remedyfortheheart
>>Everyday
>>Obscure
>>Cold in Gardez
>>Foehn
>>georg
>>Remedyfortheheart
>>Morning Sun

I want to start out by saying that I whole-heartedly appreciate all of your feedback. Seriously, it means a lot. This reply isn't me making excuses--though that's up to you to decide--, but rather an admission of guilt.

Participating in the writeoff was an amazing experience, and a grueling one at that. You see, I'm a terribly slow writer. As in, I'm lucky to write a couple hundred words every couple of days at best, so you can imagine the trials and tribulations I went through to write over 6k words in a weekend.

That being said, I want to address the major issues this story had.

The Ending

Starting with the biggest problem, I'll come out and say that the reason this ending feels blunt, uninspired, and somewhat abrupt, is because I only had less than five hours until the deadline, still had two scenes to write, and I was already falling asleep. So, my options were to either not submit an entry, or try to come up with a shorter, different ending to at least submit a presentable story.

I chose the latter, since I already opted out of submitting something for the past two writeoff events. So, yeah. My bad.

The original ending had Twilight starting to be taken over by the voice, but then her inner magic lashes out in a similar fashion to the way she lost control in The Cutie Mark Chronicles. The stream of raw magic would cause the voice to lose its grasp on her in a painful way, hence all the screaming. This is also why she's surrounded by white light as far as she can see. It was only after she sent the voice away, and has spent a while in the white void, that Celestia would come to calm her down. They'd talk about what happen, something something things better not known just yet, promise to keep her safe, bonding, bittersweet ending.

Out of all the things I had to cut short due to time constraints, this is my biggest regret, since not only is it unsatisfying, but it works against the theme of Twilight's hunger for knowledge bringing negative consequences.

So, yeah. Not the worst mistake I've made while panicking about meeting a deadline, but it's high on the list.

The Drawn-Out Build Up

Oh, dear...

I normally have a somewhat meandering and reflective narration style where I focus perhaps a bit too much on the inner workings of the character's mind, and it's very easy for me to get lost into it--somewhat evidenced by the fact that the previous sentence could probably be 60% shorter, I suppose. This is something that I normally try to beat back into shape during editing, which is something that I couldn't really do here since I just barely managed to submit this story on time. My bad, again.

Still, I'll at least make an attempt to defend what I wrote.

I've read a lot of horror, and what I enjoy the most is to be eased into the scary bits nice and slowly, letting the dread build up naturally. In what I now realise is basically doing a retelling of Twilight's backstory, I tried to set the tone for the story, alongside making a point about Twilight's insatiable hunger for knowledge.

I did get too enraptured in the story, which is why it kept going and going. I'm sure I can condense all that backstory into something more enjoyable and less draggy while still mantaining the atmosphere I wanted. Moving on...

The Shattered Glass

This is the second thing that had to go after the ending I originally planned. As I was writing, I planned to go back to the scene in the Royal Gardens and expand it a little bit, and connecting it to the events in the corridor of Stained Windows in a way that made sense. Sadly, it was either doing that and the ending I originally planned, or submitting a story at all.

Still, I accept the blame for leaving it as it is, since I feel they now come off as a series of disconnected scenes. I fully intend to rectify this, however. I've been doing a few rewrites to the scenes I mentioned, expanding upon the actual plot and atmosphere rather than in needless backstory, as well as some much needed narrative tightening, and hopefully it'll be more satisfying then.




Once again, thanks a lot for your feedback. It felt really good to get a story done in such a relatively short period of time after a long time of barely making progress.

I'll be sure to join the next events, FiM related or not.

Now, time to go back to editing.
#343 ·
· on A Faint and Curious Voice · >>ZaidValRoa
>>ZaidValRoa
I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! Actually I didn't... I really loved your story! The drastic details is something that often hard to do but is greatly appreciated for certain writing aspects! Oh wow! I'm so happy I got to return the favor without ever having known it! Good job on that story! no doubt with more time it'll be a prize winning one! I also wanna read the re-do version. Pretty please?
#344 ·
· on A Faint and Curious Voice · >>Remedyfortheheart
>>Remedyfortheheart
I also wanna read the re-do version. Pretty please?

Sure! I'll add it to the FiMFic group once it's up.
But only if I get to read the expanded version of Not So Sweet, as well.
#345 · 1
· on The First Adventure of Jiggery Pokery
>>horizon
Lovecraftian fics often have heroes that were big burly brawlers that never get into a fist fight. It's part of the "out of your element" aspect of the story.
Curiously I didn't add any red herrings at all. I get that it doesn't make a lot of sense without any explanation. But hey, archeology and lovecraft. I am double protected from having to explain any of it... Unless I include scenes where the archaeologists discuss things and get them wrong? Except they would get less wrong as time goes by and the madness sunk in...
Bones are generally moist from a freshly slaughtered animal. Most predators break bones open to get to the marrow and those that are unable to do so certainly clean the surface of the bone clean while picking away every scrap of meat. It's basically the difference between using your teeth and using a knife. Don't worry about not catching onto that point, Jiggery didn't either.

>>Dafaddah
>>ZaidValRoa
>>Everyday
>>Bachiavellian
I think I can solve the problem of too many short scenes by adding more short scenes. I mean slightly longer scenes detailing growing relationships between Jiggery and some of the Archaeologists. This would add texture to the story as then scenes wouldn't always end with "Duh Dun!" and also add some punch to the thing at the end.

>>Morning Sun
pst. It was humans.
#346 · 2
· on The Trolls
The Trolls

Okay, catching up on reviews from my prelim slate, we have another comedy! These aren’t very common in the Writeoff, and they’re difficult to craft in such short times, so comedies usually get the benefit of the doubt from me when judging.

(Incidentally, I had this one in second-place on my prelim slate. So, author, you’re doing something right.)

Pretty much straight off the bat we realize that this is a ‘subversion of expectations’ type comedy. Three horrid trolls emerge from the Everfree, then promptly introduce themselves as refined, distinguished gentlementrolls who are interested in a nice, civilized conquest.

Subverted expectations. Remember that for later.

It’s clear from the start that Starlight Glimmer is going to have some role in this story, though for the majority it seems she’s just a powerless observer, first of the Elements, then of the Yaks. Throughout the story we get a few hints as to how this is going to end (notably Fluttershy’s peacemaking efforts with the trolls), and then sure enough at the end Starlight gives a nice little speech about the value of friendship, and the trolls suddenly agree not to conquer Equestria.

I… I don’t know about that. I like stories where friendship manages to overcome odds and obstacles and lead to some sort of revival or happy resolution. And almost every story written by humans uses love in the same vein. But I enjoy those stories because friendship earns its victory. It’s not a speech about friendship that changes evil hearts, it’s the demonstration of friendship.

We get that – with Fluttershy and Applejack. Halfway through the story. But in the end it’s Starlight’s speech that somehow sways the trolls, even though Starlight herself has been something of a non-entity to this point.

And let’s go back for a moment to those subverted expectations. We got some dramatic ones very early, when the trolls turned out to be rather refined. We got the Yaks, showing up to help Equestria. But then nothing else. In fact, there isn’t any real comedy after that point – it’s just a regular show-style episode, which makes me wonder if I was wrong to consider it a comedy at all.

But if not a comedy, what? Aesop fable? Moral lesson? Slice-of-Life? I’m not certain.

Finally, a few technical points.

A few times, author, you lean on extremely visual techniques to drive home a point. For example, you end the section with the Yak’s first defeat on this rather dramatic note:

The Prince ground his teeth. “Yaks only getting started!” He yelled so fervently that his bangs parted, revealing the fire in his piercing, olive-green eyes.


And that would be awesome and striking… in an animated or drawn setting, like a comic book. In text, it looks like you’re just trying to describe to us how awesome this scene would be if it were actually animated. It’s especially problematic in comedies, but some jokes just don’t work in written form. We see this in bad stories about Pinkie Pie all the time, in which the author attempts to describe one of her visual gags from the show. It always falls flat, because there are some things visual mediums do better than text. Visual gags (or, in this case, the Yak’s bangs dramatically parting, revealing his fiery eyes) fall into that category.

Finally, and almost incidentally, a bit of telly language slips through. This line stuck in my craw when I was reading it:

“And crushing things,” Tristan said.

“Though, not as much crushing,” Trenton amended.

Rarity and Fluttershy exchanged panicked looks. Neither outcome exactly qualified as desirable.


I get it, the “Neither outcome exactly qualified as desirable” is just a cutesy little authorial aside. But really, no shit? Come on, give your readers some credit.

Anyway, like I said, there’s a lot of good stuff here, and with a little revision the rougher parts can be smoothed over. That still leaves the problem of Starlight Glimmer’s central role in solving this problem through a rather easy bit of exposition, but I think a few little twists throughout might fix that as well.
#347 ·
· on A Faint and Curious Voice
>>ZaidValRoa
Deal. I'll need to work on it. Now.
#348 · 1
· on Applejack v. FBTwi · >>ZaidValRoa >>Baal Bunny >>TheCyanRecluse
>>Baal Bunny
>>ZaidValRoa
>>Remedyfortheheart
>>horizon
>>TheCyanRecluse

First things first: Of the people who read my story, how many of you realized that it was based on the whole Apple v FBI case that was happening a little while ago? Clearly ZaidValRoa and horizon did, but I'm not so sure about the rest of you. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I think that the people who know about the case are more qualified to give me accurate reviews. But on the other hand, I would have liked this story to be able to explain what happened and why it was a big deal to people who didn't know about it. But since those people probably didn't realise that I was trying to tell them about real life events, I doubt it was able to do that anyway.

I think that horizon got the major problem with this story exactly right: it wasn't really clear if it was supposed to be parody, satire, ponification, or just inspired by the case. My original intent was for it to be more of a parody ponification. But as I was planning and writing, I realized that I was having a very difficult time translating some of the real life issues into pony equivalents, especially since I wanted Applejack to take Apple's role in this.

Okay, so it's time to explain all the parallels and such so everyone can explain what I was up to.
Several months ago, there was a small shooting/terrorist attack in California. One of the terrorists was a government employee of some sort, and he had an iPhone 5C that he had been issued for his work. He also had a personal phone, which he completely destroyed before the shooting. His work phone, however, was not destroyed, and the FBI wanted to get inside it to see if there was any useful information on it.
This is where my story picks up. In real life, the FBI went to Apple and told them to make a custom operating system that would make it trivial for them to unlock the phone. In my story, Twilight went to AJ and told her to make lots of pies. In both cases, everyone knows that the government's demand won't really accomplish anything useful, except for setting a precedent, and Apple(jack) refuses, saying that the government can't place an unreasonable burden on them like that (which is true).
In real life, the FBI then said "Okay, then just give us your source code, and we'll write the new operating system ourselves." In my story, Twilight tells AJ to give her the recipe, and she'll get the pies made herself. In both cases, this is clearly a terrible idea, because it will only be a matter of time before the secret stuff gets out and the Apple company and family are screwed forever.
And now we bring up Blackberry. This part might have been confusing even to people (like horizon, apparently) who knew about the Apple v FBI case because it was a big news story, but don't actually pay much attention to most computer security news, because it's actually a completely separate, though somewhat related, story. Just a few weeks ago, it was revealed that the Canadian government has had what is essentially the master key to (almost) all Blackberry devices* for quite some time. And while we don't know this for certain, it's hard to believe that the Canadian government won't have shared with with the US government and their other allies, who in turn probably shared it with their allies, and so on. And it's also basically guaranteed that some hackers have gotten ahold of it somewhere in that process. This was just one more huge nail in Blackberry's coffin (though to be honest, that coffin was buried years ago). Obviously I changed this a bit for my story, but you should be able to see the similarities.
*Okay, only the ones that use Blackberry's encryption. It's possible to use your own encryption server, or something like that, which many big companies that give their employees Blackberries probably do. So they're safe, but everyone else is screwed.
Now back to the Apples. In real life, this case never actually made it to court, because the FBI pulled out at the last possible minute, so the whole thing ended up as more of a PR battle between the FBI and Apple. In my story, they technically didn't make it to a court either, and I toyed with the idea of Rarity representing the public, though she did end up acting more like a judge.
In real life, the FBI claimed that they could do what they were doing under the All Writs Act. In my story, Twilight used the All Reins Act, which is the exact same thing, but with a horse pun.
In real life, many people, including the judge who would have heard the case, pointed out that the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) specifically prohibits the FBI from doing what they were doing. In my story, the Cooking Assistance and Recipe Exposure Act (CAREA) serves the same purpose (and I couldn't think of a good horse pun to use for this one).
In real life, the FBI pulled out because they found some hackers who got them into the phone. (At least, that's the official reason. The fact that they knew they were going to lose the court case and that a large part of the public, including the entire tech industry, were on Apple's side.) They paid at least $1.3 million for the hack. In my story, Twilight accepted Rarity's decision, but still payed Flim and Flam 1,300 bits for the recipe (because I thought 1.3 million seemed a bit excessive for this).

And that's where my story ends. But in case you're curious, here's what happened next:
To absolutely no one's surprise, there was nothing useful on the phone. So in my story, Twilight would probably realize that the recipe was just a completely normal apple pie recipe (I actually like TheCyanRecluse's idea about it being the apples that are special here).
Neither the FBI is not likely to tell Apple what the hack way, and Twilight probably won't tell AJ where she got the recipe.
Finally, a draft of the "Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016" (formerly the "Burr-Feinstein Anti-Encryption Bill") has been released. Basically, it says that anyone who makes or distributes any sort of encryption software must be able to provide decrypted versions of anything they encrypt to any government in the United States that asks for it. This is, to put it mildly, absolutely moronic. I can't think of a decent pony comparison that would fit with my story (which is why I didn't include one, though I wanted to), but it would be sort of like if Twilight developed a mind-reading spell and tried to pass a law saying that any government official could force anyone to submit to the spell. But don't worry, there's definitely no chance that any unsavoury characters will get their hoofs on that spell. But even that doesn't cover the full stupidity of the real bill.
[/rant]

Anyway, thank you to everyone who read this story. My only regret is that many of you apparently didn't realize what I was going for.
#349 · 2
· · >>ZaidValRoa >>Remedyfortheheart >>The_Letter_J
First things first: Of the people who read my story, how many of you realized that it was based on the whole Apple v FBI case that was happening a little while ago? Clearly ZaidValRoa and horizon did, but I'm not so sure about the rest of you. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I think that the people who know about the case are more qualified to give me accurate reviews. But on the other hand, I would have liked this story to be able to explain what happened and why it was a big deal to people who didn't know about it. But since those people probably didn't realise that I was trying to tell them about real life events, I doubt it was able to do that anyway.


It's risky to assume that your audience will have foreknowledge of some sort in order to fully understand your story.
#350 · 1
· on Applejack v. FBTwi · >>The_Letter_J
>>The_Letter_J
>>Cold in Gardez
I agree with CiG.

That's not to say you have to go out of your way to make sure your audience understands you're drawing parallels to a real world event. You can still deliver an enjoyable story to people who may not know what happened between Apple and the FBI. I mean, what about the people who aren't aware of what happened? If you end up publishing this as it is on FiMFiction, will you put up a disclaimer telling people that this fic is meant to satirize an FBI case? WIll you put up all of what you said in the author's notes?

I really enjoyed your story, not just because it spoofed the FBI vs. Apple thing, but because it really was an entertaining story. Sure, it had some issues, but I don't think you should focus too much on getting people to understand that it's also about this other thing. You don't have to mirror all the incidents of the cracked phone case for the story to be fun, it should be able to stand on its own.

I like the whole government vs. freedom of the individual your story has going, and that's a good angle to play up, so don't get too hung up on that.
#351 · 2
· on Might Make Right
>>horizon
The devil's in the details, as they say. The magic bits added a touch of flavor to Celestia's character, both in bringing her down from an invincible all-powerful being and in raising her to that status. That might sound contradictory, but its great to see that you were able to establish a precedent for what's considered "master-level multitasking" when it comes to magic; give her the ability to do that master level stuff, because she is the sort that should be able to; but then reign her back in on the power meter by saying that even she struggles to a degree with it, via the migraine.

That's why I loved it: Teensie bit of worldbuilding and character building all in one tasty fruit rollup.
#352 · 2
· on Only, Only, Only You
I really enjoyed this. I'm not qualified to comment on poetry, so I'll simply note that the construction here seems balanced, and it flowed nicely as I recited it in my mind. A few turns of phrase, particularly the "Nightshade-wound chrysanthemum" that horizon notes, are delicious.

Poetry rarely does well in the Writeoff, which is regretful. Perhaps this will be the exception.
#353 · 1
· on Only, Only, Only You
>>horizon
Reading the last - I think it's good, I can appreciate the sheer level of craftsmanship that went into creating it, but even taking it slowly I struggled to follow along with Coronet, and it wasn't until someone explained it in comments that I understood what had been done with Pieces 1/16.

Whereas with this, I felt as if I was...taken with it. To me it is like Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - There is a narrative in here, one we can walk with, that the poetry then takes to greater heights, and that I do appreciate.

With Coronet, I feel like I'm struggling to decipher it piece by piece, and any individual one is always hard to get what it's trying to say - only 2 or 3 of them did I feel like I understood what it was trying to paint after reading it.
#354 · 2
· on Only, Only, Only You
And another thing at the end of this, too. It makes me feel deeply sad for Nightmare. Yes, she is different. Yes, her ways are 'wrong' by pony standards - and yet her want for completeness, of belonging, of purpose - that we can all understand.

She is spurned, but not through any true fault of her own, for she is but a victim of her own nature. In that,by the end of this, though I understand Luna's actions I cannot help but see in them a failing, for the one who needs her most in this moment is the one she's turned away.

Oh, no, they cannot be together in the same way - but a new meeting, perhaps, some way to let her become more. New. Transformed.

And if not that, then to find a way, at least, to give Nightmare rest, for to be cast amongst the heavens lost, dispirited, disembodied, alone - a silent voice for all time - what horror that must be. What bleakness. What loneliness.

And undeserved.
#355 ·
·
>>Cold in Gardez
I agree. Also using real time events from an economical standpoint? That involves business and terrorism? Interesting. I feel as if it just wouldn't fit in a world that cooperates more often than our own. Which is where it felt off. Like Cig you can't assume that audience is going to know. I'd love to share issues from my island pertaining to political aides and such, which we never get, but it'll end up being more confusing. Especially since half of us are actually not really residing in America.
#356 · 1
· on Applejack v. FBTwi · >>Remedyfortheheart >>The_Letter_J
>>The_Letter_J

For my part:

I missed the parallels to the San Bernardino iPhone case entirely.

That's always the problem when basing fiction on reality. Fiction has to make sense, but reality isn't constrained that way. :) Maybe here, you could have Twilight and Applejack take their case to the Mayor with Twilight asking for an emergency exemption from the Recipe Exposure Act? Something that'd make sense "in universe"...

Mike
#357 ·
· on Applejack v. FBTwi
>>Baal Bunny
Actually that would have been really nice and episodic. With rarity being on Twilight's side and,oh I don't, Pinkie Pie on AJ's? That actually sounds very fun to write!
#358 · 1
·
>>Bremen
"I have to wonder, is this the first story that was written knowing it would probably be outdated before the judging even ended?"

>>Nicktendonick

"That's running on the assumption that the episode ends with the three of them not friends. My gut tells me that whatever problems do happen, Equestria's sugarbowl nature will win out and they're gonna patch it up and be friends or on good terms by episode's end."
----------------------
Woot, for once, I called it. (apologies for the gloat, I don't know when I'll ever get the chance to do this again.)

As the author of TrixGlam, I'm honestly quite delighted with my results. People actually enjoyed my story. I suppose it means I'm improving, or at least, I can be funny.

I actually spent the week going over it and nearly doubled it in size. You can take this link here to TrixGlam 2.0. (It'll be up soon, pass is TrixGlam)

I wonder what you guys think of it, and also I do wonder in the terms of what ifs, how this version would have done in the writeoff compared to how I did.
#359 ·
· on Applejack v. FBTwi · >>The_Letter_J >>Cold in Gardez
>>The_Letter_J
Yeeeeahhh... I'm kinda embarrassed to admit that I totally missed the connection until I read someone else's review... At which point it became obvious. (I thought the title was kinda weird... ) I could have gone back and edited my review, but I decided to let it stand as a monument to my cluelessness. ;>

I'm also embarrassed because I was sorta, kinda, a little following the whole Apple case thing. Not to anywhere near the level of detail I'd have needed to get all those jokes, mind you, but still. I thought this was a bit of morality play on eminent domain or some such.. Which it also kinda works on...

Also, my take on the FBI vs Apple was focused on a different aspect that I never saw mentioned in the news... The FBI had physical access to the encrypted device! Aside from a one use cipher pad, there is no form of encryption that can protect you if your opponent has a physical copy of the data! Just yank out the memory chip, read it, and cycle through password combinations until it breaks! A program that 'erases' the data after four or five failed access attempts is meaningless if you control the hardware the data is on! Ugh!
#360 · 2
· on Might Make Right
>>horizon
Ahhhh.. I now see the underlying meaning of that last scene... Any why it was totally lost on me. Because I didn't really see a linkage between Celestia's actions, and Ember's.

Celestia is using her power (physical, cultural, magical, etc) to force two individuals/groups to behave in a manner she approved of. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, in my opinion. Everyone uses their power, their ability, to influence the world around them.

Ember, on the other hand, is mind controlling individuals. Which, in my mind, is a whole different ball of wax. As mentioned above, everyone uses their power and abilities to influence the world around them, trying to alter it to their liking... But we have rules and ethics to channel that desire into positive directions. (Though individuals, cultures, and nations may disagree on the specifics of those rules.) Applying power with no ethical constraints is generally (in my opinion) a very bad idea.

And personally, one of my major constraints is that you don't mess with other people's minds. Theft is bad, and theft of free will is by and large the worst.

So a comparison between Spike and Ember using mind control on individuals, and Celestia influencing groups by demonstrating her power and ability just totally fell through for me. What Celestia was doing was, in my mind, an understandable, reasonable, and largely acceptable action. Unlike Ember's use of mind control.

The rest of the story held together fine for me, as a demonstration of how power can corrupt and that sometimes there really is no good choice, just two evils you must pick between.

And hey, if it makes you feel any better, you were ranked third on my ballot. And I really had trouble deciding on the ranking of the top few stories on my ballot. :)
#361 ·
· on Pinkie Pie Saves Equestria And/Or Bakes A Cake · >>billymorph
I've been looking forward to this one. Let's see what we got.
"Be sensible or face the consequences!”

Story of my life, right here. It's only been a few sentences, and you already have me smiling like a goofball. This is quite promising.
"[...] and a very petulant bowl of petunias." Nice.
"Travelling by mirror is always weird." It took me just a moment to recognize it, but nice callback to Green Isn't Your Color.
Oh, the reference is more apparent as one continues reading. Oh, well. Still, nice callback.
I quite enjoy how the fact Pinkie Pie "makes" something has its own rules and logic to it, rather than just being something she does on a whim. That's a nice touch.
She will always be Derpy to me. Still, calling her "Muffins" let you make another joke, so it's forgivable.
When all is said and done, I very much enjoyed this. The jokes and gags were funny and almost always hit their mark. Like others have noted, the middle drags a bit and Twilight criticizing Pinkie gets redundant, but those are minor issues that are easily fixed. Many writers have and will say that writing from Pinkie Pie's perspective--and writing Pinkie Pie, in general--can be difficult, but you've done it well here.
I'm glad I got to read this. Thank you for writing.
#362 ·
· on Only, Only, Only You
Okay, first entry on my finalist slate!

God knows that I'm not a big poetry person, so I'm not sure if I'm the best-qualified to critique this. On the other hand, I can't deny that this was pretty fun to read. You've done a great job setting up a tangible structure, which made the handful of deviations far more meaningful and memorable. Well done with that!

As for the content of the poem itself, I have to admit that I didn't get much more than the basic gist on my first read-through. Like a previous reviewer mentioned, I found this kind of information-sparse, which made it a little difficult to keep in mind what was going on in the long run.

One other thing is that the verses themselves tend to be a bit on the abstract side. The imagery that you do have certainly pops, but most of the couplets deal exclusively with describing emotions, motivations, thoughts, and the like. Personally, I find this kind of language difficult to be emotionally evocative with; it comes across to me as the poetic equivalent of "telling" rather than "showing." I mean, I definitely got a sense of what Nightmare is feeling, but I didn't really feel those feelings myself.

All in all, I think this was a pretty excellent entry, overall. I'm afraid I can't really give much in terms of suggestions (since I've never really tried my hand at poetry, myself), but I do hope that my observations were useful. I'm rating this one pretty highly for now.
#363 ·
· on Trade
You've got a really intriguing concept and a strong premise on top of it. And as a whole, everyone's voicing was done very well. This definitely kept me interested from beginning to end.

In terms of weaknesses, I'm not usually awfully bothered by this sort of thing, but the perspective shifts in the beginning and the end were a bit off-putting. Mostly because they seem to only be done to obscure plot-critical info—we start off in Twilight's perspective to make Pinkie's actions seem odd/strange, switch to Pinkie for the meat of the story, then switch back to Twilight to keep the ending vague. It feels a bit frustrating to be yanked from one character to another, especially when, as a direct result, we are kept finding answers to plot-related questions. That being said, I'm not entirely sure myself how to preserve the open-ended aspect of the ending while keeping it in Pinkie's perspective, so I'm not going to dock you too many points for that.

There's also a minor pacing hiccup towards the end of Pinkie's visit. You spend quite a bit of time with Pinkie as she debates what the right choice is, even as you also make it clear that she's "already made up [her] mind." It's not an incredibly big deal, but a couple hundred words of hemming and hawing is going to be noticeable, especially during the climax of your story. You might want to clean it up just a little.

Still, this is definitely a solid story, overall. It kept me engaged throughout, which is probably the single most important point by which I judge stories. Nice work!
#364 · 1
· on Trade
Hmm. This story kind of needs to decide on a perspective. For the most part, it seems to want to be from Twilight's, but occasionally it hops to Pinkie's before jumping back. Not a major issue, though, and it's pretty easy to fix. It becomes more stable once they separate, of course.
Shopkeeper was interesting, though his dialogue and word choice occasionally struck me as odd. Perhaps it's just more of that alien, not-quite-right air about him, though.
You use effective imagery when describing the settings, which is always nice. I wish Pinkie's recollection of her memories of Twilight were as vivid, though. We're given general ideas about what each item represents, but I'd want a precise understanding. It'd help the reader connect with Pinkie Pie more and make us more sympathetic to her plight. If we can see the moment Pinkie started falling for her--see Pinkie doing the things she does for her and why--our connection to the story could run so much deeper.
A lot of the back-and-forth between Pinkie and Shopkeeper felt like the story was talking in circles, especially consider they both acknowledge that Pinkie knows what she's decided to do. I understand it's meant to illustrate she hesitation and unease, but it gets repetitive. I would suggest trimmer those parts down a bit.
I like this. You demonstrate an effective grasp of scene-setting. Definitely a valuable skill. Characterizations were solid. I'd wish for a more clear end, but I think we can glean what we need to from what's there. I feel compelled to mention the odd usage of "person" and "people" throughout the story, though.
In all, nice work.
#365 · 3
· on Completely Safe in the Reference Section
I'm really, really jealous of your prose. It's so effortless to read, but it's also filled with moments that chisel images into your brain. And there are also some truly brilliant turns of phrases scattered around, too.

Honestly, I find myself at a lack of things to critique. Likely because this was probably written by someone a league or two above me. If I absolutely had to lodge a complaint, I'd mention how the scene with Applejack talking with Twilight felt pretty redundant to me. It mostly just restated Twi's beliefs regarding how to handle sensitive books without really adding any new jokes or plot development. The "Lotta stuff about apples" joke was pretty solid, but I'm not sure if it alone justifies about 800 words of what feels like rehashing the premise of the conflict. It's a minor hit, but it does take some momentum out of the pacing, somewhat.

Still, like I said, I really enjoyed this one. It made me laugh out loud plenty of times, and that alone justifies any minor pacing issues that may or may not be entirely from my own pedantic reading. I'm scoring this one really highly.
#366 ·
· on Not On the Outside
I'm with horizon on this one. Your grasp of comedy is strong in the early bits (the jar's sentience amd dialogue was particularly hilarious), and your writing itself is one to admire, but the balancing act of comedy amd serious could have been handled better. I particularly felt distanced from Dawn's problem because it was too vague what happened. I gathered that she lost her family to the wendigoes when they went looking for other lost family members, but the follow through was incomplete. You took a valiant risk leaving implication to so few words, but I think it would have done better had her ptsd been drawn out and more of a conclusion to it given. I don't have ptsd, so I don't know how true to life this presentation of it is, but take that as a statement that it isnt a clear picture of it, I guess.
#367 · 2
· on Thou Shalt Not Eat Of The Tree
I had this on my prelim ballot and I ended up giving it my top ranking, simply because of its elegant construction and easygoing narrative. I had a smile throughout.

But now that I'm judging in the finals and I'm forced to find things to criticize, I realize I have a few items. First, this story doesn't really do much, I'm afraid. That is, it doesn't really accomplish anything. It just takes the biblical creation story, adds ponies, and... well, there is no step three. Creation story + ponies. That's it.

It does offer a meditation on knowledge and doubt, but honestly there's been quite a lot of that in theological circles for the past few thousand years and I'm not sure the ponies add much to the formula. Still, for all that it's a simple formula, it works well, and was fun to read.

On an incidental note -- I got strong 'Rarity' vibes from the unicorn, but that might just be because I'm primed to see Rarity whenever there is snooty, delicate unicorn. On the other hand, I got no such similar vibes from 'Pony,' but at the end the pear joke makes me wonder if she's supposed to be Applejack. If you revise this, author, I think you need to make that part either more explicit, or less so.

Finally, echoing billymorph, why no pegasi? Run out of time?
#368 ·
· on Applejack v. FBTwi · >>Cold in Gardez >>TheCyanRecluse
>>Cold in Gardez
Yes, I am very much aware of the perils of entering a story that requires some foreknowledge into these competitions. I still think that the best story I've written was the MasterChef crossover I wrote for the Out of Time contest, but it was really hurt by the fact that only about two other people had ever seen MasterChef. I was hoping that that wouldn't be an issue this time, because the Apple v FBI thing definitely got a lot more attention.
I was counting on at least the Americans and anyone who pays attention to technology news around here having heard at least a bit about the Apple v FBI case. And based on some of the comments here, it seems that the problem wasn't so much that people didn't know about the case as it was that they didn't draw the connection. I'm not really sure how I could have made it clearer though. I thought that just the title would have made it pretty obvious, but I suppose not.

>>ZaidValRoa
If I put this up on fimfiction, I would probably say that this story is a satire of the Apple v FBI case in the description. But I currently have no plans to do anything else with this story, so it's not too important.
Should I do something like this in the future, I will try harder to make the story still enjoyable for the people who have no idea what I'm talking about.

>>Baal Bunny
You just reminded me that I forgot to talk about the Blackberries and the Recipe Exposure Act in my first post.
I did notice that little inconsistency you mentioned while I was writing, but I forgot to put in an explanation. I was going to say that the Recipe Exposure Act was relatively new and didn't exist back when the Blackberries were having their problems. But I forgot to include that, so I smacked my head a bit when you pointed it out.

>>TheCyanRecluse
Well, do you have any idea how I could have made the connection more obvious?
Also, you're not entirely correct. In general, you're right, but the iPhone was constructed in such a way to stop that from happening. I don't remember all of the details exactly, but it should suffice to say that they couldn't do that. That's why they wanted Apple to write some custom firmware that would take away all of the delays and automatic erasing. I know there was some talk of just copying everything elsewhere and just reloading the copy whenever you fail enough times for it to erase the data, but I believe there was some reason why they couldn't do that.
And really, pretty much everyone agrees that a large part of the reason why the FBI was doing all of this was to set a precedent, and they couldn't do that if there was an easy solution.
#369 ·
· on Only, Only, Only You
I perhaps am not the best person to judge poetry: I know just enough about writing poetry in order to be familiar with how it is supposed to written—just enough to get by—which incidentally is just enough to be potentially wrong in my advice. While I am not a particular stickler for meter and form, I (and several other people) have noticed that the poem sort of exists in some sort of pseudo-meter, bouncing between seven syllable lines and tetrameter without any clear reason other than potential error on the part of the author. Likewise, the syllabic structure follows no clear pattern. Of course meter and form are just tools with which to write poetry and not necessarily, but it seems to me that a poem that is as heavily adherent to a particular organizational method (two line couplets) should utilize a more formalized and uniform meter rather than having a free meter. Just my opinion. Write it in trochaic tetrameter if you want a challenge, author.

One aspect about poetry I love very much is that it is a very efficient story-telling method. A whole slew of emotions and feelings can be conveyed with only a few lines or stanzas, and typically these passages are very rich, dense content. As I've said about most write-off pieces, this also can be trimmed down, but I think it is important for this story in particular in order to avoid bogging down the reader with stanzas that repeat the same information conveyed to the reader previously (dramatic repetition excluded). Additionally, I think that cutting down will encourage you to engage in more artistry with your language and imagery, which for some passages is very strong (a personal favorite of mine: "What's an eclipse with half a moon?"), but others is more plain and functional rather than aesthetically interesting. Occasionally these phrases end up a bit clunky and take me out of the piece, either due to the aforementioned reason, or simply because the vocabulary is a bit unwieldy.

Examples:

A thousand years of bottled rage
Can be so easily assuaged,


I fall before you, supplicant.
Renew with me our covenant


I do not feel the brush of fur;
I feel but stone so undemure,


One you “loved” was stunted, shunned
Rebuked by sunlight so rotund


etc.

The premise and execution of this poem is emotional and enough to keep the reader interested in spite of these faults, however, and I found myself quite liking the piece conceptually. The contrast of Nightmare Moon's love for Luna in conjunction for her desire for destruction, piled on top the fact that she clearly doesn't understand she's doing anything wrong, is an interesting look at the character and adds a dimension of vulnerability you wouldn't expect to see from Nightmare Moon. It's a neat look at a character that is otherwise one-dimensional in their villainy—something that I greatly enjoy seeing when I read fan fiction of any time. I think perhaps expanding (NOT MAKING LONGER, I MEAN REFINING) the idea that NM transitions from these feelings of great longing, rage, and sadness would further cement her as a tragic villain that doesn't understand why her love, and by extension, the world, is punishing her.

Thoughts to Consider:
-Being more efficient and cutting down on length—alternatively introduce additional ideas instead of repeating old ones
-Committing to more formal method of writing
-Rewriting/Deleting lines that are clunky or too on the nose without an interesting imagery to offer
-Adding more creative descriptive imagery and less literal narration
-Refining NM's voice
-Giving self handshake

This is rated high on my slate.
#370 ·
· on Return To Sender · >>Cassius >>Bremen
I don't have much to add, here. This reminds me a bit of the old Pepé Le Pew cartoon character. It's funny, but then you realize the joke is predicated on aggressive sexual propositioning, stalking, and basically a complete lack of female agency.

Is that too harsh a metric to judge a comedy by? Probably. But then, it's probably also the reason Pepé Le Pew cartoons don't air anymore.

I think I'll have to N/A this one on my slate. Sorry, author. Just not the kind of comedy that works for me.
#371 ·
· on Miracle
I'm afraid I have to agree with Obscure, here. Bland and safe.

It was well written, though, and I smiled at it. I'm a sucker for redemption stories. I like to think that people can redeem themselves of past mistakes.

But, yeah, there's no ambition here. There doesn't need to be for a story to be enjoyable – but it's what I look for when I'm ranking a story as a work of art.
#372 · 1
· on Growing The Future
I feel like GaPJaxie's Modern Medicine told this same story, but frankly it managed to explore the moral and ethical issues surrounding a potential cure for death better. This story leaves a lot of questions unanswered – or, rather, it doesn't bother to ask them:

- Why didn't Granny just go by herself to Flower Power, get the cure, come back to the hospital, and give it to Apple Bloom when no one was looking? She's been dosing her relative's tea with it for years, after all.

- If it's possible to grow Life Blossom without killing anyone, why hasn't anyone just told this to Celestia? Surely they could convince her to make sure the seed stock wasn't raided by nobles/guards/whomever. A thousand researchers working to breed Life Blossom could easily do better than one stallion out in the woods.

- If Life Blossom is so intent on saving the world, why is he wasting blossoms on Granny Smith?

- What happens the next time someone Twilight Sparkle loves gets sick? Do they truck back to Flower Power and ask for another dose?

Modern Medicine at least addressed the problems that came with the immortality solution. This story leaves a lot hanging.

BB notes that GaPJaxie is sometimes accused of using straw men in his stories; that his characters are more like cardboard cutouts than actual people. I've never agreed with this particular criticism, and in Modern Medicine I thought his rendition of the elder Twilight Sparkle, in particular, was deeply nuanced. The arguments the characters made might be set pieces, yes, but the characters themselves were fully realized.

And this story does have fully realized characters, too. I won't dock it for that. But in the end I'm left thinking to myself, "I've already read this story, and it was better the last time."

Edit: Coming back to this, I forgot to mention something important. While I think this story drops the ball in places, it drops the ball because it tried to do something difficult. It tackled a hard topic that's sure to get people thinking and arguing (my own post proves this). And, as I said elsewhere, I like stories that try to be ambitious. So, whatever else its failings, this story gets credit for that (and a boost on my slate).
#373 ·
· on Applejack v. FBTwi · >>TheCyanRecluse
>>The_Letter_J

I was counting on at least the Americans and anyone who pays attention to technology news around here having heard at least a bit about the Apple v FBI case.


I think Stephen King said it: "Love your readers, but never trust them."

And really, pretty much everyone agrees that a large part of the reason why the FBI was doing all of this was to set a precedent, and they couldn't do that if there was an easy solution.


That's a rather definitive statement to make. I don't want to turn this into an argument about the FBI or this particular case, but be aware that what you feel is a statement of fact may seem to others to be a statement of opinion, unless you can firmly back it up with evidence.

>>TheCyanRecluse

What you're referring to is NAND mirroring (and it was mentioned extensively in tech journalism circles), and the FBI stated that the didn't believe it would work in this case. Certainly, there are ways to protect against it, and in the later versions of the iPhone it's widely believed Apple has managed to do so.
#374 · 3
·
I've finished my way-too-late-to-compete Writeoff entry and published it on Fimfiction.

Enjoy!




Colors

A young Twilight Sparkle uncovers a secret from the distant past, and confronts Princess Celestia about it.
#375 · 1
· on Return To Sender
>>Cold in Gardez

I feel inclined to defend Pepe Le Pew. I don't feel the show ceases to be comedic simply because the comedy comes from a situation in real-life that would be considered disturbing. Context and execution is the key to all comedy. Pepe isn't written with the intention that he is the right when he pursues Penelope Pussycat, it just uses it as a medium for comedic interactions. The Kanker sisters did the same shtick in Ed Edd N Eddy, and I hardly ever hear anyone throwing out the same complaint.

Something something, George Carlin skit, something something.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Yk1VoPkldE

I'll come back and review this in a bit .
#376 ·
· on The Trolls
Last review on my slate!

Well, you've certainly managed to really capture the feel of an episode. The pacing, structure, and characters all really feel true to the show, as does the moral. I have to mention how easy it was to get into the groove with this one--nothing really distracted me or bothered me. It was a smooth read from start to finish.

The comedy was a little bit hit-or-miss for me, though. A couple of the jokes made me chuckle, but there were also some moments that felt like it was going through the motions of telling a joke. Honestly, though, I'm no expert at writing comedy, so I'm not entirely sure what made them work or fail. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that something a lot of the flat jokes had in common is predictability. For instance, the trolls' response to Fluts and Rares asking them for peace feels a bit cliche, with the whole abruptly cutting off laughter to deliver a deadpan line. On the other hand, the jingle-writing joke landed a chuckle from me. It really comes out of left field, but it appropriately plays off Prince Rutherford's intensity of character.

In the end, I'm pretty sure this piece did everything it set out to do, which was to leave me mildly amused. In that regard, it's a really strong entry. It might need a little bit of polish to make it really stand out, but for now it's going to be comfortably slotted in the upper half of my slate.
#377 ·
· on The Outer Dark
Very nice:

The structure tripped me up a little, though. I mean, if you're gonna end the story with Rainbow Dash, you need to start the story with Rainbow Dash. Have her sitting in that bar not sure if she wants to stay or go. You can still keep Rarity's whole narrative--plenty of Lovecraft stories have the main character sitting there listening to someone else tell a story--and you can even have her wearing her hood over her face so we're not sure who it is for a while like you do here. But I'd strongly advocate for having Rainbow be the main POV character right from the beginning.

Mike
#378 · 1
· on Tell Her What She Means To You · >>Everyday
>>Everyday

I'm not entirely sure what Princess Celestia meant about replacing eyes.


It's actually a joke some relatives of mine used to say. Celestia says that Twilight got her mother's eyes, so it's only logical that Twilight's mom had to get new ones after giving her pair to Twilight. :P



...And since this is going to bump the review count, here are some quick thoughts on the story:

I really liked this one. It's a concept I've seen before, but I have to say that something about Twilight's nervousness in the first 1/3 of the story really felt genuine, and helped sell the rest of the story to me. Everyone's voices are on point, which makes a dialogue-heavy piece like this very easy to read.

One of my only issues with this story is that like all pieces like this, it kind of passes an idiot-ball to Twilight. When it's clear to the reader that [spoiler]Celestia is Twi's mom[/i] it should likewise be clear to Twilight, who receives all of the same information. Also, the piece as a whole kinda just skirts the surface of the premise without really going into the implied emotional depths involved with a character self-conflict like this. Both of these problems kind of arise from having Twilight as the POV character, while also keeping her in the dark. Personally, I think putting the story in Celestia's POV might have served these purposes a bit better, but I definitely understand what you're trying to do by keeping the camera on Twilight.

Anyways, this one's going towards the top of my slate. Great stuff!
#379 ·
· on Return To Sender
The word that comes to mind when I think of this story is restrained. It starts with a fun, silly premise that is presumably set-up to be a comedy, but ends up being so tame and fast-paced in its execution that it comes across as being played straight with minor interludes of comedy permeating the story occasionally. There needs to be more development in these scenes so you can establish the rhythm and progression of the comedy—a build-up to a pay off, or a series of increasingly ridiculous antics that culminates in a punch-line—in order to get the big laughs. For example, the scenes with Trixie, Zecora, and Blueblood, are all very brief and predicated on the strength of one comedic situation that doesn't really build up (except in the case of Zecora, but even that can be expanded further). Scenes in general seem more functional for explaining the progression of the plot rather than containing any comedic beats to them (i.e. the Rarity, Luna, and Rainbow Dash conversations) and because they're so short and contained to explaining that particular element of the story, the scene transitions seem rushed and disjointed. Some scenes have more comedic potential than others, so I would recommend to the author to omit the least necessary and less humorous scenes in favor of further developing the humor in other scenes (in my opinion, the Zecora scene is the best of the story, although the last line is funny as well).

The story in general along with the conclusion, is rushed. This is a story that could use a good amount of expanding, provided it expands in a matter that injects more humor and development as opposed to attempting to tack on additional plot points. A lot of the dialogue in this story is function for the purposes of establishing some information, and I would think it suit this story well for there to be a little more room for the characters to emote and have fun reactions to one another, play off of each other a little more—flesh out the story with more description. What I feel is lacking in this story is a true sense of light-hearted fun in the narrative, bits and pieces of it poke through, but I imagine the author put more priority on getting the story finished and having all of the necessary plot points for the write off than including those niceties, which is generally fine, unless you're writing a comedy.

The narrative needs more room to breathe between the dialogue pieces, and it would greatly serve the author to include more description, particularly if it described more wacky situations for the reader to imagine. The story as is suffers from a bit of a talking heads problem, where the scene is simply two characters talking back and forth with one another, describing what they have to do and how they're going to do it, instead of doing it or what's going on in the background of scene instead of just showing it to the reader. An example of this would be the paragraph in which Luna talks about ponies bombarding them with gifts and harassing them at social events or Rarity speaking about the Duke of Trottingham. There's a sense that this gift-giving scene should have been shown along with the Blueblood scene beforehand.

This story has the potential to be a gut-buster, it just needs more refinement.

Things to Consider:
-Injecting more comedic moments
-Developing scenes further / add additional scenes in order to smooth out pacing and build up jokes
-Adding more description / additional content to the narrative between dialogue
-Hacking off scenes that contribute little aside from exposition and incorporate their ideas into existing scenes
-Elongating the build-up to the conclusion and expanding the conclusion itself so it does not feel abrupt or rushed.
-Giving characters more things to do aside from talk with one another
#380 · 1
· · >>Cassius
Well, we're closing in on the end of finals, and nobody's started up mashups — so it's time for me to bring back my favorite variant!

The rule here is simple: Add, subtract, or change one single letter in an entry's title (punctuation changes are free), and humorously reframe the story accordingly.




Writeoff-By-Ones: Not Letting This Thread Die Edition

Hot On The Outside: When Star Swirl assigns Clover the Clever to combat training, she instantly crushes on her smokin' babe of an instructor, Glowing Dawn — only to learn that falling in love with your cruel tyrant of a drill sergeant has worked out well for exactly zero ponies in the history of ever.

Burned: Green Leaf's career as a magical item procurer for Princess Twilight is abruptly cut short when his trip to steal a Dragonspark Gem runs afoul of its draconic owner.

The Sharklator: Twilight invents a machine that prints out a card whenever a brony decides MLP's latest episode "jumped the shark". A week later, Slice of Life airs, and Equestria drowns in a sea of paper.

The Otter Dark: A deranged Rarity reports on her investigation of Ponyville after it becomes a warped dimension of insanity due to one of her friends' twisted mad-science experiments. Rainbow Dash listens to her tale, and then gently suggests that maybe Fluttershy starting a mustelid breeding program wasn't that scary.

Only, Only, Only IOU: When the Nightmare is unable to claim Luna's soul after their return from a thousand years of banishment, the spirit of darkness gives up and dumps the whole matter in the hooves of a debt collector.

Tirade: Pinkie — who is unhappy with the Shopkeeper after she belatedly discovers that Twilight might have returned her affections after all — calls the corporate offices of Faust & Monkey's Paw, LLC and unleashes a rant that curls the ears of every customer service rep on the planet.

Thou Shalt Not Eat Of The T-Rex: Pony and Unicorn fail to convince Adam and Eve to follow God's rules in the Garden of Eden, and that's why dinosaurs are extinct.
#381 ·
· on Tell Her What She Means To You
>>Bachiavellian
Oh... Okay. Wow, now I just feel silly.
Thank you for clearing that up.
#382 · 4
·
>>horizon

Twice Paid, For a Tie: After realizing her bank account has been charged twice for a purchase at the GAP, Twilight Sparkle fakes her own death and goes off the grid to escape the corporate banking system, encouraging the rest of the main six to do the same.

Standards Rand Practices : A crossover with Atlas Shrugged that features Luna trying to convince Cadance of the virtues of overthrowing Celestia and starting a new objectivist utopia through a series of increasingly nonsensical dreams.

The Rolls : A race of trolls come to Equestria to invite its best cooks to challenge them on an episode of Iron Chef. Not to be outdone in the realm of televised cuisine, Prince Rutherford and his team of elite yak chefs decide to make the world's most delicious bread-roll.

Return to Gender : After a modelling spell goes haywire, Twilight Sparkle suddenly finds herself the most handsome stallion in Equestria. Suddenly, every mare in Equestria wants her and won't leave her alone. After learning the curse can't be dispelled, only transferred, Twilight sticks Cadance with it.

We Are Alf, Made From Silence : After Rainbow Dash has to go to the hospital for ingesting too many cats, Fluttershy attempts to explain to Scootaloo what it truly means to be an Alf cosplayer. Will Scootaloo fend off her evil inner-Alf and purify her Alf-cosplay before the upcoming convention?
#383 · 1
· on The Outer Dark
I think I need to disagree with the consensus here and say that I appreciated the story more when you had an intrusive narrator. I mean, yes, you've got Rarity rambling in ways that distract from the narrative — which didn't bother me as much, because they establish character and set tone in her reluctance to continue — but I think that section does two big things right:

1. Provides the story with a strong voice.
The guards surrounding the Valley of Shadow were the easiest part, ironically. Princess Celestia picked her finest guards, and yet still they too are only mortal. That place takes its toll on even the strongest wills. Have you ever watched acid do its work? I have. I once saw an artist work at etching, and marveled at what acid could do to an otherwise strong material.

Oh my stars, this drips with style.

(I'm not sure it's Rarity's style -- you may want to pick through this section with an eye toward the language and metaphors she would use; for example, in the quoted paragraph, it seems natural to me that her first thought would be some sort of clothing-based metaphor, maybe something about running clothes through the wash too many times? ... And I do have to ding this a bit for feeling to me like it shoehorns Rarity somewhat awkwardly into this Lovecraftian protagonist role, but the good news is that you've got that style down cold.)

2. Unobtrusive scene-setting.
Quiet, please. Don’t react so—you’ll worry the other patrons. In fact, here, let me pay in advance. For what? Why, for the drinks.

It may seem like a bit of a low bar to say "you've managed to tell us they're in a bar without an exposition dump", but to be honest I can't remember the last monologue story I read that had this light of a touch. These are all things I feel like I could actually overhear — other than that "For what? Why" (and that's easy to fix with a three-word edit) — rather than rhetorical questions asked for the benefit of the audience. The story's not consistent about this expositional smoothness, but it didn't trigger me like most monologues do, so you're most of the way there.

The monologue also brings a remarkable immediacy to the story. In contrast, when we shift to the distant third-person about Rainbow Dash, we get sections like this:
Rainbow hesitated, torn between fleeing the obviously troubled mare in front of her and trying to help, but Rarity ended her indecision by holding a hoof up.

Augh no no no. D: This sort of sledgehammer telling would be bad anywhere, but it's such a stark contrast to the graceful dance of showing in the first section that it feels like an entirely different story.

It's primarily that voicing shift that is dragging this down from Top Contender, because this executes really well on its Lovecraft theme and tone before it deflates at the end. More firmly establishing Rarity's voice (and Dash's identity) and then keeping that voice consistent is going to be your major editing challenge in the first section. I'm honestly not sure what to suggest to bring the second section in line — I mean, you're telling a story you can't quite tell from Rarity's POV.

... Maybe stepping back from Rarity's narration to Twilight's narration at the end? Rewriting the entire thing so it's a monologue from her, watching the scene, and then following her new target?

On the whole, though, good job here.

Tier: Strong
#384 ·
· on The Outer Dark
Hm, if he hadn't already reviewed this story, I'd have been tempted to accuse Cynewulf of writing it. It reminds me in some ways of his Memento Mori.

This story shares a lot, stylistically, with A Faint and Curious Voice. The narrative style – first person, relayed directly, as though we're listening to a story told around a campfire – reminds me of late 19th and early 20th century stories. Lovecraft and Poe are exemplars of this type, and they made frequent use of the 'story told by a stranger' device that's used here (though not really a stranger, as it were).

I'm not sure how I feel about the change in perspective at the end. It really becomes a different story at that point. I think you could have ended the story quite easily at that point, and nothing would have been lost.
#385 ·
· on Trade · >>Everyday
Echoing what Bachi said, the perspective shifts were pretty off-putting. If you're going with third-person omniscient, then clearly be omniscient. If you're going with third-person limited, then choose a POV character and stick to her.

I liked the overall vibe this story has. A few lines, in particular, struck me with their concreteness and attention to detail (the cake-spinner that Pinkie ruined trying to make a vase, for instance). And I wasn't overly bothered by the inconclusive ending.

Everyday mentioned that the Shopkeeper and Pinkie dialogue often felt circular, and I agree. I know Pinkie is somewhat scattershot, but reading her that way can be annoying if done too much.

Finally, I might have missed it the other side of the trade. Pinkie clearly gave up some knowledge (her love of Twilight, we're left to assume). But this story is about trades. What did she gain? I may have to read through this again to see what I missed.
#386 · 2
· on Completely Safe in the Reference Section
“Well.” Twilight paused for a moment. “Not in this universe. But maybe unicorns in other universes do?”

“Maybe unicorns in other universes like ectoplasm. Then they wouldn’t want to make it less messy.”

Twilight frowned. “Now you’re just being pedantic.”

“No, I’m ridiculing your appeal to an untestable hypothesis by proposing another, even sillier hypothesis.” Spike removed the mixing bowl from the mixer and carried it over to the refrigerator to let the dough ferment.

Twilight’s frown flipped over into a small smile, and walked up behind him and nuzzled the top of his head. “I taught you well, Spike.”

“Aw, thanks.” He ducked and blushed, but then wrapped his little arms around her chest in a hug.


. . .

(takes off helmet)

Alright, author, I appreciate that you rescued me from the Shoals of Unfunny Comedy and spotted for me as I dodged through the skies of Flung Brick Jokes. I suppose we can team up to make it through the Writeoff Judging Cave, me with my top-slate vote and you with your story. B-but don't think this makes us friends!

... And how did you ponies get in here?

Tier: Top Contender
#387 · 1
· on Completely Safe in the Reference Section
>>Everyday
Sweet stars, I missed the aardvark/locust thing. This story just keeps getting better.

This is how to write comedy, y'all — make it work on multiple levels. The aardvark traps were amusing on their own, just on the grounds of being so random as to be whimsical, but then the locust thing happens and suddenly the jaws of the greater punchline snap shut.

How to write comedy, hell, this is a master class in how to write. We see plenty of stories with surface but no depth, and the occasional story with depth but no surface (like mine this round), but write a story this layered yet accessible and you're gonna medal.
#388 ·
· on Trade · >>Cold in Gardez
>>Cold in Gardez
But this story is about trades. What did she gain?


I believe the point was to gain the recipe for Twilight's favorite cake.

“I got exactly what I wanted, Twilight! A beautiful new recipe for your super-secret birthday! It’s your favouritest cake ever!"
#389 ·
· on Trade
>>Everyday

Well, there we go. I must've overlooked that line.
#390 ·
·
Hm, if he hadn't already reviewed this story, I'd have been tempted to accuse Cynewulf of writing it. It reminds me in some ways of his Memento Mori.


I once again feel the urge to profusely apologize for my youthful scribblings.

And what this one is obviously yours. It has Twilight and also Rainbow. That's like being double Gardez
#391 ·
· on Trade
There are a lot of unnecessary paragraph breaks sprinkled throughout this piece, particularly early on.

I like the character of the Shopkeeper quite a bit - or I should say, I liked the character from this point forward:

“Cor, that’s really her, isn’t it,” The Shopkeeper said.

“Yeah!” Pinkie reaffirmed.

Oi, Princess!” The Shopkeeper yelled down through the window. “Cooee! Oi! Quit runnin’ about, there!


Up until this point, I had the impression that something was significantly off with Shopkeeper, as though he wasn't entirely human pony, a la G-Man from Half-Life. After this line, though, Shopkeeper turns into Cal Lightman from Lie To Me - a lovely voice to have in my head, mind, and I liked the depth that association lent to the character (especially considering the nature of the shop).

I guess my point is that I didn't really get the Londoner accent from Shopkeeper until he started barking out the window at Twilight - prior to that, I thought his dialogue was just stilted and awkward for awkwardness's sake. You may want to consider throwing in a "cor blimey" or something earlier on to help stick the voice you're shooting for.

All that said, I think it's pretty obvious what you were shooting for with the ending, but I think you contradict yourself as well:

“Right,” The Shopkeeper said, shaking the forms about. “So, what knowledge are you going to take with you?”

“I’m taking nothing,” Pinkie replied.


If Pinkie Pie is taking nothing with her, where is the cake recipe coming from?

Overall, I liked this story, Writer. With some more spit-shine and elbow grease, this could be a very poignant tale indeed.

Final Thought: Nobody Remembers Lie To Me, Do They?
#392 · 1
· on Not On the Outside
Another nice one:

But it stops rather than ends. When I'm writing something, I have this five-act structure that I always use--Aristotle first wrote about it back in 300 BC or so, but the ancient Greek playwrights had been using it for at least a hundred years before that. You can look up the details in any writing book or website, but for me, this story as currently written ends at the conclusion of Act 3. This is the climax, the point where Clover comes to understand Dawn and decides she has to help her. We then need an Act 4, an Act 5, and maybe even an epilogue to wrap things up.

What's here is terrific. But this is barely three-fifths of the story.

Mike
#393 ·
·
Finished reading all the finalists, and I think I'm done fiddling with my slate. For those of you who might be interested, my top scorers this month are:

Completely Safe in the Reference Section
Tell Her What She Means to You
Pinkie Pie Saves Equestria And/Or Bakes a Cake

Lotsa comedies at the top, which is new for me. :P
#394 ·
· on Applejack v. FBTwi
>>The_Letter_J
Hmmmmm... Ways to make the connection more obvious.... Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Maybe... Have readers who aren't as completely oblivious as myself? O.o Really, I have no suggestions, and no idea how I missed the friggin obvious! DOH!

>>Cold in Gardez
I'm not particularly familiar with cutting edge computer hardware, and I'm not sure what NAND mirroring is.... But I'm familiar with physics... If you physically have the device, then the encrypted data is stored on it in some format. Whether it's a thin magnetic platter, solid state memory, or future holographic crystal. Right? And we have companies and organizations that can recover data from a drives or devices that have more or less been dropped into a blender... while on fire. Unless IPhones now contain a tiny anti-tampering thermite charge (which would be totally awesome and convince me to switch from my Samsung Galaxy) it should be possible to pull out whatever chunk of the phone has that data, and then read the ones and zeroes off of it.... Shouldn't it? O.o

Which is why the whole thing struck me from first to last as a massive government ever reach, and a threadbare excuse for more government power.

Annnndd... Probably getting a LITTLE off topic as far as reviewing Horizon's story.... Sorry! :)
#395 · 1
· on Trade
I loved this story, except for the first part. I kept felling that both Pinkie and Twilight were "off" somehow. I agree with Remedyfortheheart that you should just skip the intro. It does nothing important for the story other that make the reader uneasy- at least that how it affected me.

Otherwise, brilliant OC, but you should make Shopkeeper's accent obvious a bit earlier.
#396 ·
· on Thou Shalt Not Eat Of The Tree
Just like a soufflé, this story is lite, fluffy, and tender where it has to be, and crispy/flaky where it needs it. Nothing happened here, and nothing had to! I just love the way you characterized Pony and Unicorn. Adam was hoot as well, seeking out the undisclosed agenda behind God verbally disclosed agenda, until at last everyone has a slice of apple pear pie while figuring out whether they're happier having eaten pie and lost than never, ever, having had pie in the first place, and the Illuminati are revealed as being orange mongers all.
#397 ·
· on Completely Safe in the Reference Section
Twilight smiled. “Oh, Applejack. I didn’t become a librarian yesterday. We have ways to make sure nopony steals our books.”

Ve haf vays to make shure nopony shteals our books...

iced tea from the pitched Spike brought into the library

I guess Spike pitched it all the way froom the kitchen...

Enough with the jokes. This was sweet, inexorable, whimsicle and profound, all in equal measure. Great dialogue. Wonderful characterization. Real emotions.

As the dyslectic pirate said: this here is a CiG, ahrrr!

(Okay, I hadn't yet had enough with the jokes.)
#398 · 1
· on Growing The Future
Second to last to read. There's definitely a strong need for an edit pass on this. The strongest part is the end, in particular Granny's point that Twilight's going to kick this problem's ass.

Really, much of the rest of the story felt like filler to me to get to that final conflict - that once Twi realizes what's going on, she's going to fully commit.

So my advice is to take that and run with it; drive more of the conflict around her slow realization of magnitude and shift in attitude to determination to see his research completed. It'll make the stronger story, especially since so much of the beginning is just them walking and talking and getting AB somewhere - but that doesn't really contribute to the main conflict, just adds filler material.
#399 ·
· on Twice Paid, For a Lie
I think this is the last story I need to review, and wow, it tried to bite off a lot, here. So, a sequel to someone else's story - I know Lost Cities has done that before, I'm not sure what else has though I bet others have tried.

Strengths : Stuff I thought is a mistake at first turns out to be intentional, such as this :
She turned away, lifting the basket to the cart. She placed it with greater care in the rear half, where every basket therein still lay laden with fruit -> The sack thumped into an empty basket in the back of the cart and she started to hitch herself up.


Odd things like the wall 'bending' is another example. Those, I very much liked. The opening conversation with Pinkie works very well for me too, because it tells me as a reader 'Hey, there's more going on here than is apparent at first glance'. If it had just gone straight to her 'killing' AJ, it would falter hard, because the reader has no reason to accept there's more than meets the eye.

However, the bad :
The last scene with Luna has a lot of exposition dump. That should be reworked. Rainbow's whole chase scenario should be polished up too; sometimes it felt more tell-ey to me. Lastly, sell why the 'killing' is necessary.

Still, I think this has a lot going for it, and with work and revision can be really good.
#400 · 3
· on Completely Safe in the Reference Section · >>horizon
I hate to be the one guy that didn't really like it, but I think this story didn't work for me.

I think it may just be my brain not being able to neatly categorize it; it plays out too straight to really come off as a silly/absurd story, but the characters feel too off to take it as a normal comedy. Several of the characters act extremely out of character here, and the story uses little tricks to avoid confronting that; we never see Rainbow Dash explain what she was thinking, for instance, and when the other ponies acting out of character comes up the conversation always changes on to a tangent rather than actually talk about it. Which would work great if the entire story were absurd, but some of the characters were trying to be serious about it so that kind of verbal sidestepping just felt off to me.

The voicing seemed off to me as well. Has Spike ever called Twilight "Sis" before, or Applejack called her "Princess"? It's just a tiny thing, but that and some other lines didn't feel quite right to me.

In the end, I kind of feel guilty for not liking it; I've certainly loved plenty of absurd stories where the ponies were far more out of character than this one, but I guess the fact that this wasn't a completely absurd story made it feel more jarring.