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Has That Always Been There? · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#301 · 1
· on Solving for Death
I much liked the more absurdist Equestria here where all the adults, at least, were rather dry-witted. The one piece that didn't work for me were Celestia's jokes about “Because what you’re trying to do is imaginary,” and the subsequent one with the same style. I may be foalish, but I didn't get them, which drags their quality down somewhat for me.

The ending felt somewhat rushed, too. I'd prefer to see Starlight's trippy journey instead of just seeing the results. But, still, decent o'erall.
#302 · 2
· on Friendship 101
Twilight Velvet's friendship speech was poignant, painful (in a good way), and hauntingly familiar at the 'Hey here's a kid happy to be in books over friendship', and I can easily see her being that earnest. I'll echo >>Zaid Val'Roa that we could use a little more selling on how Velvet can be so straight up blunt with Celestia. In fact, one would need to sell it more because it's the opposite of how Twilight Sparkle herself is; why do parent and child deviate so?

The only other bit I think that stumbles is that it's all Royal Guards. That, I feel, could use some diversifying - like, for example, what about maids or butlers or others likely to interact with Twilight as she grows up? Or whomever are going to form Twilight's extended social circle? Some guards work great for Shining, but it seems kind of like we're reflecting Celestia's own social circle here; I feel a young Raven or a younger Kibitz (or both), as examples, would also be brilliant to bring in.

But yea. I really really liked this one.
#303 ·
· on Welcome Home · >>Trick_Question >>Trick_Question
as someone who is TOTALLY into 2nd person experiments and meta-stories.... I think this completely failed.

I want to explain further, but I can't because of the Writeoff anonymity rules.
#304 ·
· on What You Wish For
I'll go against the grain and say that while the opening is a bit too long, it's not because it overstays its welcome but because I had to keep starting over to follow along with what was going on - and then re-read it again after the reveal just to have it all gel.

The ship itself I feel works well enough. Everything in it feels like it could naturally develop so I feel your plot is solid enough; the flounder part for me, as >>BlazzingInferno already noted is the story is far, far too tell-ey. We're always told exactly how ponies feel instead of letting imagery do the work. To grab from near the end:

If Spike’s words weren’t enough to wash away all of the fears and doubts that had sieged Starlight since the previous night, what he did afterwards filled her with pure, unabashed contentedness.

This is tell-ey. Show-ey would be more akin to
Spike's words helped to slow her hammering heartbeat, and for the first time in what seemed like hours, Starlight found herself breathing easily. What he did next transformed that comfortable stillness into a warm, full-body glow that stretched her lips into a wide, silly grin amidst giddy giggles.

In both cases we have 'Starlight is nervous, Spike comforts her than makes her happy', but one directly tells us this, and the other lets us pick it up from the narrative flow (Though the second half of mine may still be a little tell-ey, I'm unsure)

But I think if you can polish that out you'll have a fine gem.
#305 · 1
· on My Castle is Your Castle · >>Posh
Two small nitpicks : I think the implication is the Tree of Harmony itself was stolen (Though I agree with everything else, including the Cutie Marks, which kind of is a big deal never brought up here), and Twilight clearly knows homeopathy is bunk since she specifies 'It's not real science', though her reaction should probably be more visceral (And add in a comment about how she needs to create a pseudoscience section with clear labeling as to what pseudoscience is).

But I agree with much of everything else.

Anyhow, my thoughts:
1. Twilight is too OCD; so much so that I figured that was going to be what our story was about here at first, till the main conflict was introduced.
2. Twilight's rant is on point - but also should really emphasize more of the pain of losing her library Tree. She lost her home saving Equestria - including the crystal ponies - and they're asking her to lose it again, for reasons much less valid here. Doubly less valid given the throne room, and given her cutie mark is literally on the peak of the castle. One could easily argue that the palace was always meant for her.
3. Following on that, Cadance's reaction is too harsh and out of character for her.

Where I was expecting this to go after Cadance chewed her out was for the Crystal ponies to offer it to her as a gift, a 'Thank you for saving us from Sombra and all of Equestria and though it was ours we yield claim to it', which would probably have worked better.

She gets kicked out of her house so the Crystal Ponies can...yea, >>Posh outlines it. The ending is wholly unsatisfying here, and I'm not sold on this being a change for the better as everyone is trying to claim it is.

I kind of felt like this story is an allegory for the idea of reparations, in a way, or that's the vibe I got - we have characters whose near ancestors were wronged (Our chancellor is the closest to a 'survivor' we have, but even he was more suffering fallout than the direct robbery), and someone who has had indirect benefit from that even if she herself didn't do anything - but as the only one who can give anything back is being asked to do so.

But that's where it breaks down; in the real world one can make a credible argument that the same harms are still ongoing, and also that it is possible to try to make amends without literally kicking people out of house and home. Here, though - this feels more like asking Abraham Lincoln to give up the White House to freed slaves after winning the Civil War, except that would be more reasonable than the request at hoof here, since said freed slaves wouldn't have an entire empire to call home.

And yea. I think there's a good idea at core here, it just needs polish, as I seem to say a lot! Heh.
#306 · 4
· on My Castle is Your Castle · >>Syeekoh >>Morning Sun
>>Morning Sun
And yea. I think there's a good idea at core here, it just needs polish, as I seem to say a lot! Heh.

Personally, I think the story's fine in English.

I'll let myself out.
#307 · 3
· on Welcome Home · >>Syeekoh

you're in the wrong neighborhood, friend. D:<
#308 · 1
· on Welcome Home

Maybe you left that comment in Coffee's post.
#309 ·
· on My Castle is Your Castle · >>Morning Sun
#310 · 2
· · >>Morning Sun
I realize based on uphooves nopony cares but me, but I need to respond to this.

Using multiple tabs and going back-and-forth is inconvenient for me, especially on a mobile phone. Maybe it isn't for you, but it's very annoying for me. Even on my triple-monitor desktop machine I usually have a large number of tabs open at any given time, I have issues with opening multiple Chrome instances, and adding a dozen more tabs to the pool often makes a mess. Plus, I have to keep closing out tabs to move on, when all I want to do is read story after story without distraction. Going back and forth is also distracting.

On desktop I usually reserve three tabs: one on discussion, one on the gallery (for reference on word length so I know what to expect, since this is not given in the story thread), and one on the current story I'm reading. If I can manage to read all the stories, it's easiest for me to go from story to story through the gallery. So when I have enough time to read them all, that's exactly what I do. But sometimes I end up with a lot less time than I planned, and that's when this issue happens. On mobile this is an even larger issue.

I'm not asking you to agree with me personally. I'm providing a single data point which says, "I messed up this time and reviewed stories other than the ones selected for me, because I did not correctly guess how much time I would have available and doing it the way you suggest is more annoying for me".

I will not make the same mistake in the future, but I probably will stop reading stories on mobile entirely.
#311 · 1
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen · >>Posh
This, uh, this is a fantastic review that means I can just echo it and say 'I agree with everything here about how the story is excellently written and has a cool idea but never has a WOW moment that would make it a top winner'.

I found lots of it amusing. I found lots of decent humor, but few full-on giggles or laughs. I guess it didn't quite feel...roller-coastery enough, in that regard.

But my biggest complaint? I wanted to see GlassesMe|PrincessMe shenanigans. There is so much stuff that would seem FUN to read about hinted at, and by the end of the story that is what I wanted to be reading instead - which hurt the main story, because you gave me all these tantalizing hints that seemed cooler than 'Sunset is angsty about eyeball, which is her new secret friend'.

Tier : Solid, as Horizon would put it
#312 · 1
· on Deuteragonists
From the first paragraph, the prose tags this as a high-tier story. I've complained previously about authors who cram in adjectives and adverbs. Of course, these words aren't bad in themselves; the problem is in their indiscriminate use. Here, we see the opposite effect: Description applied economically to have a precise affect. The metaphor is odd enough to catch out attention, and gives an immediate overview that can be expanded upon in the details. And I love “the unnatural fluorescence of his pupils” again, the adjectives here are paired for maximum affect into an attention-getting combination, all applied to a small but important detail.

I've also talked about the importance of information management. Here we have the same careful drip-feed of information that I praised in Welcome Home. And the same sense of foreboding, for that matter. For as odd as Discord is, he's pretty familiar to us by this point. So a conversation between him and Cadence is almost cosy – but then the faint tension adds depth to the scene's emotional temper.

Notice how our first reveal comes about. It's no a cheeky, annoying aha-gotcha turnaround. It's hinted at from the very start. The author is our companion, not our opponent, guiding us slowly towards the realisation. Not a subtle technique, but a very effective one.

For this reason, though, I'm less enthusiastic about the next twist. It's telegraphed a little too heavily, provided with too shallow a red herring, and is kept away for a little too long. Again, I repeat myself: Coyness can quickly become annoying. Especially, in this case, when I had it twigged and Cadence was running around not knowing what was going on. I get she has emotional reasons that blind her, but it's still frustrating.

On the other hand, the causal sequence that led to involving Shining Armour felt a little too muddy. It smells a little bit of How do I move this thing forward?

But those are minor quibbles. As we progress, I'm more and more impressed by the technical skill here – the deft use of repetition, for example. And overall, just how clever this story is. Of course, it's all a sort of commentary of the nature of the show itself of course – and a sort of acknowledgement of how utterly fucking horrific it would be if real life actually did resemble fiction.

Then there's the end. Honestly? I like it. The conceit here – the horror of being the plaything of a reality-warper – isn't a new one. People are mentioning some Japanese magical girl in the reviews, evidently – but my mind went first to Undertale, then It's a Good Life. Point being, no marks for originality on that front. But the end is something else. It inverts the horror. Our prodeuteragonists are not merely playthings. They are, I suppose, pets. The life they lead under the care of an unwitting deity is maybe not so bad as we might suppose. Especially when she starts (as the show tells us) stepping aside to give the others a chance in the spotlight.

The innate horror of the idea stops this from being a chirpy ending. But neither is it a nihilistic one. Discord's observation – why fight against having your life and destiny fiddled with if it's better for you – is cynical but very much on point.
#313 · 1
· on So Be Prepared to Precede Me · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Concept is cool here, but it doesn't do anything with it. Like, to compare it to our other ScienceHeaven story here I've read in San Palomino - both have conscious beings going to science heaven, but the other is trying to use it as a backdrop to tell a story about relationships as best I can tell.

Here, we have him wake up and go 'Congrats, you have forever open to you, have fun!' and...that's the end. This is the setup for a story - but we have no conflict, nothing for him to want or desire or oppose, and without that we're just given a series of scenes leading nowhere.
#314 · 1
· on Bonding over Budweiser
I'll add:

A couple little nitpicks that I don't think anyone else has mentioned 'cause the basic story here is pretty fun. First, Celestia knows that this is an exercise, so why does she think, "Was it possible that those friends she’d made over cocktails had orchestrated this attack?" With this being the first joint training game between two newly allied powers, I would've thought that the humans planning the thing would've been very careful to include Celestia in every step of the process. But then I've never been in the military so I don't know how it's done.

Also? All those dragonfire messages popping in and out at the beginning makes me think there must be dragons involved somewhere. Maybe just a line or two about that?

#315 · 2
· on My Castle is Your Castle
#316 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
I can't speak to mobile but what I do on Desktop at least is just ctrlclick on the voting window to open whatever story is next then ctrl W gets me out nice and simple. On mobile, well - I really don't do WO reading there because screw typing comments on my phone, even with swipewriting! Maybe that'd help?
#317 · 3
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen
I'll also:

Bow to >>Not_A_Hat's terrific write-up. This is such a fine story, I just want that little extra "tying everything together" bit that other folks are mentioning.

#318 · 1
>>Morning Sun
I actually do most of my WO reading/reviewing on mobile, and while I'm not particularly bothered by it, I agree that it could probably offer a better experience for the kind of workflow TQ describes.
#319 ·
· on Welcome Home
Which means you wrote this. :trollestia: Either that or you're playing the guessing game in a very clever fashion.

(I haven't read it yet and won't have time until after the cut, so hopefully this one makes it through.)
#320 · 4
· · >>horizon
Hopefully this isn't premature, but I've probably read as many as I'm gonna before finals, so why not get some mashups going!!

Welcome Home to Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen: Thrill to the experience of Sunset's coitus interruptus as you relive it from a host of different perspectives, including Sunset herself, Flash Sentry, and the Eyeball! Sadly, the final sequence--told from the perspective of Sunset's sink--is where the whole thing just goes down the drain.

Solving for Deuteragonists: Starlight Glimmer (and her fun fork) take a much more direct approach to dealing with Twilight's meddling.

Petunia and the Froggy!: When Petunia Paleo discovers a rare and long-thought-to-be-extinct Froggus orangus right in her own backyard, there is literally NO CONTAINING her enthusiastic reaction.

Noblesse Palomino: Science Heaven becomes Science Hell for a millennium's worth of gigolos whose mistress refuses to let her playthings go.

My Destiny Is Your Trap: Starlight wakes up from her hangover to discover that some cheesed-off crystal ponies have barricaded themselves in the Crystal Castle Playset and are holding Twilight's cutie mark hostage while demanding Twilight relinquish her claim to the castle. As the only other pony in the castle, Starlight precipitates a Die Hard-esque scenario that lets the crystal ponies know it's not she who's locked in with them; it's they who are locked in with her.
#321 · 2
· on Petunia and the Coelacanth · >>CoffeeMinion
This was super cute, and the others have gone on about how the ending kinda feels rushed. What I'd really like is for Petunia to flat out go 'No Twilight we will MAKE TIME' and have her be the one to involve Zecora, somehow.
#322 · 1
· on The Destiny Trap · >>AndrewRogue
I happen to have a soft spot for the good ol' Magic Shop of Horrors trope, and this story does a decent job with it.

Those early scenes really pulled me in. the mysterious shop, Trixie's characterization, the trick itself, they all felt really vivid, and made me want to keep going.

Unlike some of the other commenters, I don't have a problem with Blackstone nor her backstory early on. Mysterious ancient pony comes back, now tries to regain magic for nefarious purposes. I am fine with that premise, and the reason why is because at its core this story is really about Trixie and Starlight's relationship, them dealing with their past, and their prospects for the future.

Blackstone really is only there to set the events in motion, and I'm fine with her having a vague background as long as Trixie and Starlight's journey is entertaining enough to carry the rest of the story.

And it is!

For the first half of the story. Once they get to the Crystal Empire and set out to look for Blackstone, I feel the story starts to lose some steam. It really felt as though you wanted to wrap up the story and didn't get the time to flesh them out as much as the earlier scenes. The climax, especially, really comes and goes in a breeze. You gave us a very solid base, where we get into Trixie and Starlight's mind and get a a good taste of their thought processes. And yet, once we get to the final confrontation with Blackstone, things start to happen a bit too quickly.

Trixie is sacrificing her own destiny for Starlight's sake, and the story doesn't let us soak in this decision and its implications for her friendship with Starlight before Blackstone has a change of heart and everything gets tied nicely with a cute bow. Nevermind that we never get to actually see Blackstone's change of heart, or if she's just going to wait for another sucker out of whom she can suck a destiny. No, time to cut the story.

I mean, I can see, how that can be a result of time constraints, I've been in that situation before so, while I won't fault you for it, it still works against the overall quality of the story.

Author, if you take the time to extend this into a longer, better developed story, I'll be right there with an comment and a thumbs-up. Until then, I encourage you to keep your hopes up and keep improving.
#323 · 2
· on Noblesse Oblige
I'm biased since I like Sunhorse, but this has her feeling really weird-creepy to me. Like, strip away the varnish and it's 'Sunhorse has an incest kink born of unaddressed personal issues/trauma, and has spent 10 centuries indulging it', and the next question to me is 'What could possibly happen that in 10 centuries nopony at all has helped her move forward?'

I mean the obvious answer is somehow her rutting OG Blueblood, or failing to do so, had something to do with Luna being banished and so she's been recreating the situation as a sort of punishment-hatesex, except afterwards she's clearly shown as happy.

Really, I think, that's what would bring this together for me - if somehow this weren't her romping out of sexual desire, but some kind of twisted, perverse penance, where it feels good and she hates herself for it.
#324 ·
· on Bonding over Budweiser
I was set to bottom-slate this because I really, really hate 'Humans and ponies inexplicably go to war and humans murder Equestria' stories, and thankfully this subverted it in time, but let me echo the others that you'll want to shorten the initial fakeout and get to the 'twist' faster.

Your core story here is really 'Celestia wants to let her mane down', and everything else seems backdrop - so that's where the bulk of the telling should be, but it's not there yet. Still, there's bits of laughter here - like the prank on Luna it ends with - to make me think there's hope for it to be strengthened with editing work.
#325 · 1
· on Walk With Me, Twilight Sparkle · >>georg
I want to like this more than I do because hey, Celestia pieces, and Celestia-Twilight studies are fun.

The issue here is again we really don't have much of a conflict. "Celestia wants to tell Twilight about Nightmare Moon, and decides not to." That's the heart of the story here. So, then - what does Celestia want? She wants Luna back, and everything is in service to that. So I really think this would benefit more from twisting to be "Celestia wants Luna back and believes telling Twilight everything is the best course. Over the story, she comes to realize that this is wrong for some reason, and as a result takes the path we see in Episode 1'. However, we're still missing a conflict - something to drive the narrative. That, I'm less certain of what it should be. The obvious is 'Things that keep keeping her from telling Twilight'. Choosing a venue can be one, certainly, but there should be others - and each obstacle chips away at her confidence in her decision.

For example, rather than simply 'Gosh, Sunset was headstrong', why not have their walk take them somewhere that reminds Celestia of Sunset - and reminds Celestia that telling Sunset too much is part of what turned Sunset against her, leading her to wonder to remember the times she hasn't told Twilight the core of a lesson as part of teaching it itself, and how some of the strongest lessons MUST be learned firsthoof rather than imparted through books.

Things like that - let her decision arise from the narrative, rather than us being witness to her simply going through internal monologue until she changes her mind.
#326 ·
· on The Destiny Trap · >>AndrewRogue
>>Baal Bunny
Everything written about this story I agree with (Except for the Deuteragonists part but I'm not much of a fan of that one). Blackstone could use more fleshing out, the rest is great and golden.

Trixie's choice especially, which is simple and powerful and that final scene really sells it perfectly. Kudos - this was the last story to read them all and a perfect one to round it all out with.

Ooh, the big hole you exposed here is another thing that should be addressed, the 5-decade piece.
#327 · 1
· on Bonding over Budweiser
Judging by comments, this one seems likely to wash out in preliminaries. (Having read all the stories, I scored it 35% myself.) So it's important for me to get this word of encouragement in while I still can, author:

I am actively hoping I can read the finished version of this story on FIMFiction.

You're getting a lot of critique about your choice of genre. I can't condemn readers for that — Writeoff scoring is necessarily (and explicitly) a subjective process; personal enjoyment of a story is a completely legitimate factor — but it's important to draw a distinction between "this story scored low because it sucks" and "this story scored low because people were bouncing off of it". That's one reason I really appreciate that the Writeoffs have such a strong tradition of reviewing along with rating. Getting reasons for readers' reactions helps you figure out which problems are actionable and which can be chalked up to audience mismatches.

That said, I did score this low myself, so clearly I do perceive problems in it. In order from smallest to biggest:

1) Celestia's outright propositioning of the crude soldier broke me out of the story hard.

(Her character otherwise was great. The conversations with the other individual soldiers/medics are gold.)

2) The comments about the lengthy stretch before the reveal are worth listening to. You have a story here that's a lot deeper and cooler than the generic Humanity Fuck Yeah warfic you're subverting. You're kind of falling afoul of Poe's Law, though; I forced myself through the early story for Writeoff judging purposes, and I can't tell you the relief I felt when I realized that this wasn't what it appeared to be. However, for a HFY Equestria-invasion fic, I still can't deny that that first scene is vivid and creative and strongly done.

3) Most importantly — and this, by itself, is what kept this story out of my top five — the story as submitted simply feels fragmentary. You have the awkward opening run-up, several smashingly awesome scenes, and then the story faceplants to a halt before you ever actually reach the titular bonding. That last mini-scene doesn't really work on its own and certainly doesn't work to wrap the story up. The overall effect feels more like exposition than plot.

I strongly suspect you had more great ideas that got cut for time, and I want to see them.

Tier: Needs Work
#328 ·
· on A Nightmare in Love · >>Oroboro
This feels like a tonal misfire to me. The idea behind it is solid (for all that, like Posh, I'm not a huge fan of the homophobia in Equestria headcanons either) and I think it makes for an interesting premise, but the actual execution...

It feels a little too mean spirited. This particular take on Cadence is sort of obnoxious (it takes her snark just a little too far), which then, when put against the fairly sympathetic (and hard to really see in the wrong here) Sunburst, really makes her come off as an ass. Like, her approach to situation is stupidly aggressive, ham-fisted, and rather unsympathetic. I get that this could be character flaw (overly aggressive husband protection), but the fact that she comes out so cleanly is... unsatisfying. It really feels like she's the character in need of an arc in this story, but, instead, she's somehow our unchanging hero.

Ultimately, I think the story just needs to find a better balance between cheekiness and emotional core.

That said, the second momma line made me laugh way harder than expected.
#329 ·
· on Friendship 101
Solid waffy stuff. Not a lot to say here. Young Twilight's voice needs a little work, I think. As others have said, the conflict between Celestia and Velvet comes on a little too strong, but still. I dunno. It was fun.
#330 ·
· on What You Wish For
(Gonna bump our bottom two review-receivers up to six each before prelims end.)

Might as well make the complaint about the opening unanimous. Your punchline:

“I’m not giving you Atlantic Avenue,” he huffed as he sat back.

... is preceded by 799 words of buildup. Consider that minific Writeoffs give you 750 words for your whole story. You are starting your Writeoff entry with an entire minific's worth of shaggy-dog story. That's a tough stumble out of the gate.

This got my lowest non-Froggy score for the round — which is NOT to say that this is a bad story. Your dialogue is intermittently gold:

“Why keep so much change?” she asked.

“I want to delude myself into believing the amount of bills make up for how little money I actually have.”

And the back-and-forth during the first cooking scene, along with the cooking itself, are exactly the sort of beautiful detail that benefit not just romance stories but fics in general. Your eye for details is great and I want to encourage that.

(Mostly. Super nitpicky note here:)
Another groan escaped her as she finished pretending to fix up her bedsheets. A hot shower could probably help her clear her mind, or at the very least wake her up. If anything it would give her some time to think before she had to go out and face Spike.

Last night she had had no problem with acting coy and alluring as she rode on the coattails of the adrenaline rush her confession gave her, but once she was alone she couldn’t help but wonder why had she been so rash about it.

Starlight let the jet of cold water wash away her thoughts.

But the core problem here, the absolute story-killer for me that made this plummet down my slate despite the strong writing in the small, is simply this: you are writing a romance story in which the characters are getting together because of alien brainworms.

I can really do no better than referring you to the canonical posts on the subject, Chuckfinley's "Alien Shipping Syndrome Is A Terrible Thing" and bookplayer's 5 Tips for Avoiding Alien Shipping Syndrome. It's a pretty textbook diagnosis, and because the romance here feels to me like one extended cliche which turns its two protagonists into shmoopy cardboard cutouts, the core of your story falls totally flat. So my reading experience on the whole was much like the first 799 words: a giant tedious buildup to nothing, punctuated by moments of clever, sharp writing which just reminded me how much potential was going unfulfilled here.

Author, I know from those moments of awesome writing that you can sell this romance. Perhaps you didn't know you needed to, but you do — and you need to have it not be a surprise to the characters in love, too. Bookplayer's blog might help if you're dipping your toe into unfamiliar genre waters.

Tier: Misaimed
#331 · 2
· on Friendship 101
This is the other has-less-reviews-than-the-others story I want to bring up the numbers for, but I'm not sure that I actually have much to say. It's #3 out of my 18 votes, so clearly it worked for me pretty well.

Maybe it's that I'm used to reading such a variety of stories with different interpretations of characters (especially royalty) — seeing Celestia and Luna as everything from self-important gods to epic trollers — but it's rare for me to have a problem with the portrayals of how characters treat them and how they respond, as long as it makes internal sense within that story's universe. Clearly this is a universe in which Celestia's interpretation is more down-to-earth and approachable, and even regular ponies take advantage of that. (A view often shared by the show and comic canon, I should note.) It's kind of refreshing, honestly, to see a story about overbearing parents in which that parent activism is explicitly in the child's best interest, and things turn out well for everyone involved. Everyone's acting in good pony ways here and that makes for a satisfying read. The banter's good, Twilight Velvet is a clever and sympathetic protagonist, and this thoughtfully weaves in a lot of canon backstory. No real complaints, other than it seems a bit on the slight side as far as the larger arc goes, and I rated it below two longer and significantly more ambitious tales.

Tier: Top Contender
#332 · 2
· on Welcome Home · >>Syeekoh >>CoffeeMinion >>JudgeDeadd >>Posh
Welcome Home (Retrospective)

Disclaimer: this story was heavily influenced by the top-rated indie interactive fiction story of all time, Photopia. I think it contains enough originality that I don't need to credit the inspiration, but it's a similar idea with a different metaphysics behind it.

First off, thanks to all who left comments, including Haze for whatever the buck that was intended to mean:

>>Zaid Val'Roa >>Posh >>Scramblers and Shadows >>Feris >>Morning Sun >>AndrewRogue >>CoffeeMinion >>JudgeDeadd >>Haze

Anypony who knows me probably figured this was mine, more for the author-tract metaphysics than the severely depressing storyline.

Why did this suck? For one, I finished writing it when I was extremely tired and didn't have enough time to proofread and edit and reconsider things (especially the last two sections).

Stuff I know I did wrong:

* Beginning and especially end are waaaaaay too intrusive on the reader.

* Mac's role is a bit non-sequitur.

* Luna's section is too author-tracty and contains too much hoof-wavy exposition.

* The ending suggested I was making a meta-joke, which was not the intent.

* The middle of the story is bucking depressing, even for me.

Response to specific comments not already referenced above, that I didn't understand or didn't quite get much help from:

But the lead-ups to each section seem bulky.

I'm not sure how to do this in a more elegant manner. I want to illustrate the passing of consciousness from one state to the next smoothly, and that requires a short lead-up.

I think this story is very unfair to the reader.

I hope that if I weaken the appearance of metahumor in the beginning and ending, that will be enough that the story won't seem like a bait-and-switch or a joke at the reader's expense. Still, the shifting viewpoints is largely the point of the tale.

Second person is the writing equivalent of rubbing salt into an open wound for me.

Reader preferences aren't very useful critique. I know what your vote was, however, and I thank you for at least having the decency to rank me one step above Froggy!.

Ruby Pinch's perspective is hella confusing because I can't figure out who she is. Her age feels really ambiguous, and I kept being unsure whether she was a young or teen or tween or whatever filly.

The story explicitly states it's Pinchy's 15th birthday, and the fact that the Mane 6 and Starlight Glimmer have all ascended to alicorns implies that this takes place in a future timeline.

A statement is made earlier about the deaths not being defining, but the problems are the lives aren't that meaningful either.

I don't agree at all. I think this was a Slice of Life that illustrated the joys and pain and struggles that define life and its importance. I'm not sure why you think the lives of the characters illustrated aren't meaningful. If their lives weren't meaningful, then their deaths would not be as sad.

In retrospect, these parts are likely meant to be written from the viewpoint of a [fictional] Writeoff reader, not the actual real-world reader.

No, it's intended to be the real world reader. Obviously for a general audience it wouldn't refer to the Writeoff, and I tend to shorten and remove some meta from the beginning and end sections.

I want to explain further, but I can't because of the Writeoff anonymity rules.

Please do. I can only assume you meant that you knew who I was and your "totally failed" critique somehow depends on revealing the author—but I have no idea what this means.

What I already plan to fix:

* Soften the beginning and ending sections (especially the ending), but keep the theme.

* Make Mac's role in the story more relevant to Pinchy and Berry.

* Try to lessen the tractiness of Luna's section without removing the logic behind it.

Advice requested.

I'm waffling on a lot of issues here, and I really would like reader feedback on the following.

* Would the fixes above be sufficient to allow the story to shine?

* Do you think the opener/closer may work if the meta is pared back significantly (esp. in the closer)?

* What would you suggest be changed apart from the planned fixes?

* Should I abandon the meta entirely and make this a surprise happy ending where nopony dies? (This is not what I want to do, but I'm curious how many ponies want that kind of stuff.)

Thanks! :twilightsmile:
#333 · 1
· on Welcome Home · >>Trick_Question
Honestly what gave you away for me were the experimental anti-anxiety drugs Berry Punch was taking.
#334 · 1
· on Welcome Home · >>Syeekoh
I kind of made those up on the fly, to be honest. I don't take anti-anxiety meds because I don't deal with anxiety—just pain and depression.
#335 · 1
· on Welcome Home · >>Trick_Question
I think the proposed changes sound positive. I think taking away the deaths would be a mistake; they're a downer but they're vivid and strong and not every story needs to be wall-to-wall sunshine. The thing that could still need finesse is to balance the emotional wounds those deaths will inflict on the reader with the twist that it's just Luna spying into possible futures.
#336 · 1
· on Welcome Home
Well to me they felt like a you flourish, if you get what I'm saying.
#337 · 1
· on Welcome Home
I think this was a Slice of Life that illustrated the joys and pain and struggles that define life and its importance. I'm not sure why you think the lives of the characters illustrated aren't meaningful. If their lives weren't meaningful, then their deaths would not be as sad.

I agree. We are shown that Ruby Pinch is a promising mage with a lot of talent, Big Mac is altruistic and hard-working, and Berry Punch is making a genuine effort to turn her life around (and the bag of rubies might help with that a lot). This makes their deaths more tragic, because it's clear that these characters potentially had great things ahead of themselves, and were loved by those around them.

No, it's intended to be the real world reader.

Oh. Well that makes these sections a lot worse. I don't appreciate being told what opinion should I be having.

Would the fixes above be sufficient to allow the story to shine?

As I mentioned in my review, I liked this story a lot - and only the 'meta' parts felt like a major turn-off. As for the preachiness, I'll discuss this in a moment.
Anyway, my answer is yes, I feel that this story is close to being very good and the listed fixes should fully suffice.

Should I abandon the meta entirely and make this a surprise happy ending where nopony dies?

Please don't. I feel the tragedy is very good the way it is, and a happy ending would feel kind of like a copout. As for the meta parts... While I'm not satisfied with them, the story would feel incomplete if you started with the Ruby Pinch section and ended with the Luna section ("OK, so in this particular story the afterlife works this way... uh, so what?"). I'd keep the meta sections, keep the final moral, and just make them less obnoxious.


Now then, for come more comments:

You can feel the minds which merge with your own when you pick them up in states of altered consciousness or once consciousness can no longer be supported.

This sentence isn't fully clear. I understand the entire second half refers to the other minds: Luna picks them up when these minds are "in states of altered consciousness... etc." But on the first read, it looks like it refers to Luna instead (especially since in the scene she's just woken up from a sleep, so it's natural to associate the "altered consciousness" with her), and then the final part of the sentence is confusing because it seems to refer to Luna's death?... My suggestion is, rewrite this sentence to make it clear whose "consciousness" you're referring to.

Welcome home, you think to yourself, and you embrace the past.

Not 100% sure I understand what you mean by "embrace the past" here. Does it refer to Luna shaking off the foreign memories, and recollecting her own?

And now, here's what I feel makes the story feel "tracty":
You feel all the ponies within you, those who have become one another and then become you, and you know they are unlikely to leave soon. You know those three ponies must be happy to be a princess, because you are happy to be a princess, and they are you.

This is creepy, you see.
Losing your own independent identity, opinions, feelings, emotions, and fully becoming someone else -- this is downright scary to me. And it doesn't matter that my new "host" is a princess living in luxury, because I want to be me, thank you very much.
Except... the princess is trying to convince me that this is totally awesome. Since we don't get hints that Luna is meant to be anything other than a sympathetic, wise, good-hearted character, the conclusion is that the author wants me to accept her reasoning... something I vehemently disagree with.
This is what makes the story feel a little preachy.

Anyway, the story doesn't make it fully clear what's the nature of having one's mind merge with another.
Is it everypony's fate after death? You die, and your soul floats around until you wake up being someone else?
Or does the soul head to some sort of afterlife, and the part that merges with others is just some barely-conscious "fraction" that has "split off" from it (as mentioned near the end)? This would make the scenario more palatable, because the "me" still survives I guess.
#338 · 6
· on Froggy! · >>Trick_Question >>Trick_Question
Retrospective : Froggy

I'm sorry :(

If anyone wants to see it on fimfic, I'm looking to rework it as something oddball, like

Twilight zaps the frog with her spell, transfiguring it into an orange.





Spike walked up to the table, and looked at the frog-orange curiously.
"Huh, Twilight was here..." he muttered.



Fluttershy can communicate with every animal, but there's one she pretends not to hear...

"Twilight, you need to turn this orange back into a frog."

"Why's that Fluttershy?"

"It has the worst accent, and everything it says is depraved. He's worse than my Prench friend Pierre."

The frorange hopped over.
"Wie wie, mi amor. I can do things with my baugette that will have you screaming. Hon hon hon!"

"Aww, that little froggy looks so cute," Twilight said.

The frog hopped up on Fluttershy's shoulder and whispered into her ear.

"*Your little friend does not know the things I wish to do to your croissant. Remember, if you tell anyone, I will kill you and do unspeakable things to your body. Hon-hon-hon!"

With that, the frog leapt away to a nearby countertop, watching. Always watching.
Post by Trick_Question , deleted
#340 ·
· on Walk With Me, Twilight Sparkle · >>BlazzingInferno
Walk With Me, Twilight Sparkle - Yep, this one is mine. I really didn't expect to place very high because it's ground well trod by many before me, and an internal monologue to boot. The concept is still sound, and I may revisit it at a future date by adding virtual characters, such as Sunset Shimmer and Princess Luna who exist only in Celestia's mind (which will take more work.)

"You're breaking down, sister." Now the quiet hoofsteps to her side matched the silver shoes of Princess Luna, looking almost exactly the same way she had before their fight so long ago. Little swirls of disturbed nebulae in her flowing mane coiled in inky darkness, while the deep bags under her eyes could no longer be hidden by eyeshadow. "You're seeing things which do not exist. We have been consumed by the Nightmare and can no longer be saved. All of your work, all of your planning, and it will all be over tomorrow night."

You were right, my sister. I should have seen the signs. I should have been there for you. I shall not fail you again.

"The great Celestia, the infallible and wisest of all alicorns," whispered Nightmare Moon. The demon had smoothly slid into Luna's place without a sound, licking her sharp teeth and glaring with slitted eyes. "You thought to lock me away forever for what I did to your sister. How good it will feel to be free once again."

>>AndrewRogue Emotive fluff, yes. But important emotive fluff. It's a little like saying Citizen Kane could better be cut down to about five or ten minutes with the sled. :)

>>Morning Sun Good point, which is why I'm considering bringing in virtual characters.

>>KwirkyJ I will go so far as to say the MLP cartoon has never explained just *why* Celestia did not level with Twilight Sparkle during lunch anytime over their ten years or so of study. Seriously, one line. "By the way, the Mare in the Moon is really Nightmare Moon, who was my sister Luna a thousand years ago before she went nuts and tried to take over Equestria's heavens. Would you like another piece of cake?"

>>CoffeeMinion Not an axe. CONFLICT right from the beginning. As an example:

"Time grows short, Celestia." Nightmare Moon grinned out of the darkness that hid in the corners of the Night courtroom, bright white teeth glittering much the same as the phantom which had haunted Princess Celestia's dreams for far too many centuries.

Begone, delusion. You are naught but lies and falsehoods.

"More like guilt." The faint hiss of serpentine scales murmured through the room while Celestia attempted to ignore the truth caught in her own guilty conscious.

>>Posh 8 of 10, huh? Yea, I'm in a tie for first place in your scorecard! (a 19 way tie, but still...)

>>Zaid Val'Roa
So, what do you two think about expanding the character count (by delusions, admittedly, but still...)
#341 ·
· on Walk With Me, Twilight Sparkle · >>georg
I think that's a great idea, but I do agree it'll take some work to pull off effectively. You'll have to balance how.. for lack of a better term, crazy this makes Celestia seem. It could land anywhere from her being seriously delusional to masterfully predicting the reactions of others.

My favorite and upvote will be waiting :)
#342 · 3
· on Welcome Home · >>Trick_Question
* Would the fixes above be sufficient to allow the story to shine?

No. The only way this story will shine is if you burnish it with a rag for twelve hours every morning until it's bright enough to blind a man from fifty yards out.

* Do you think the opener/closer may work if the meta is pared back significantly (esp. in the closer)?

I'm not sure why you're talking about TNT's hit crime detective series, The Closer, staring Kira Sedgewick, but turning this into a crossover with that series would be a serious tonal misstep. And it would raise all kinds of questions, few of them good.

* What would you suggest be changed apart from the planned fixes?

1. Big McIntosh should be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine.

2. Whenever Big McIntosh is not in a scene, everypony should ask "where's Big McIntosh?

3. End with a pie fight.

* Should I abandon the meta entirely and make this a surprise happy ending where nopony dies? (This is not what I want to do, but I'm curious how many ponies want that kind of stuff.)

Yes, but in the most literal sense possible. Ie, the concept of death is forever abolished. Equestria's population spirals out of control. Everypony starves, but because no one can die, they don't starve to death. It's frustrating.
#343 · 2
· on Welcome Home
I can't uphoof this, but if it helps, I was just in an alternate reality where I did.
#344 ·
· on Welcome Home
Just to be specific: it isn't intended to be Luna spying into possible futures, but alternate futures that are very much real where the consciousnesses happen to merge with the more canonical Luna.
#345 ·
· on Bonding over Budweiser
Retrospective: Bonding over Budweiser

Hoo boy, there's so much. I think I'm gonna come back to this tomorrow.
#346 ·
· on Walk With Me, Twilight Sparkle
>>BlazzingInferno It's going to be *less* crazy Celestia than the story I plan on writing someday where she really *did* go off her coconut after banishing Luna, and for the last thousand years, there has been a quiet conspiracy of staff and royalty who have been faking Celestia being in full control of her facilities while she *really* is lost in this 60 IQ dreamworld of sorts, kinda Luna Lovegood style. Twilight Sparkle, Royal Keeper of sorts.
#347 · 2
· on Solving for Death
For all the humor you've thrown at us here, I expected a good laugh from the last line. I'd consider that revision priority one.

I'll echo what others have said about the POV shifts being jarring. This was a fun ride, but the tone felt too inconsistent for me. The more serious middle just seems to come out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly. In a way I wanted the confrontation with Celestia to be a more serious version of the one with Spike, where Starlight gets her night of work because Celestia considers it her special way of grieving... but then again I wouldn't touch the line with Celestia 'helping' with the spell; that was solid gold.

The happy ending felt a little too easily won. For the reader, that ten minutes goes by in a heartbeat. Why not milk it a little more and let Celestia zap her a couple more times at her request, all to the utter horror of Spike.
#348 · 1
· on Deuteragonists · >>BlazzingInferno
Masterful work as always, I-think-I-know-who. I want this to be longer, if only to feature you know who rather than just referring to her as an unspeakable byword; seeing the nature of the puppet master, be that naive or malicious, would be fantastic.

I'd also strongly advise having Cadence be immediately skeptical of Discord's calm manner in the beginning. It put me off immediately before I realized what's going on here, and honestly Discord is such a complex, oft-bungled character in the land of fanfic that I initially underestimated how good you actually are at writing every character here.

A stronger ending would be nice, too. Even if you intend to leave off in exactly this spot, which in and of itself is satisfying, they (Discord especially) could talk over their stances on the issue a little more.

I can't wait to read the revised version!
#349 · 1
· on Deuteragonists
I'd like to add that I'd gladly pre-read your next draft, on the off chance you think I could help in any fashion.
#350 ·
· on Friendship 101
I love Twilight Velvet in this. I wish we'd seen some more Twilight Sparkle, though. She and her problems are largely unseen by the reader, even if we all can buy into her having issues with friendship.

Twilight Velvet's little conference ended a little too quickly for me. It doesn't need to be twice the length or something, but a few more lines between the courteous bow and throwing herself across the desk would be apropos. Surely she's given this whole interview thorough consideration, and has more things to ask about what daughter's unique school experience will be like.

Seeing more of the party would be nice, too, particularly Celestia's interactions with Twilight. Why did she bring only guards and not some of the school or palace staff that Twilight will interact with regularly?
#351 · 2
· on A Nightmare in Love · >>Oroboro
This is an impressive adventure to weave in so few words; kudos for that.

I keep my complaints brief, since most of them have been covered by others already:

The character voices could use some touching up, which I say without reservation even though Cadence et all rarely appear on the show. Her saying "my bad" is perhaps the strongest example.

Her pleasant wittiness makes me question the story's tone. The actual conflict is so wonderfully dark and sinister, but it's buried in this web of jokes (funny ones to boot) and one-liners that make the overall story seem so unnaturally lighthearted.

The ending doesn't carry the emotional weight it needs to. This isn't a 'happy' ending, really. It's perhaps the healthiest option possible, but the characters aren't showing the inherent sadness in it. Maybe this could be rectified by showing the immediate aftermath when Sunburst wakes up in the presence of everyone else.
#352 · 1
· on A Nightmare in Love · >>Oroboro
The only problem:

I really had was Cadance's "action princess" moment. You could set it up, author, by having her think about how she needs to be calm and collected. Then she actually sees Shining Armor in the kitchen with Sunburst and is overcome with an uncontrollable jealous rage that surprises even her with its depth. That way, she gets to learn something about herself, too.

#353 · 1
· on Friendship 101
I quite like:

The idea of Twilight Velvet as "tiger mother," but we see by the end of her scene with Celestia that she really isn't. So I'd suggest heightening the contrast: make us think even stronger that she's a hard-nosed, driven parental unit at the opening, and make her meltdown in Celestia's office even deeper and more desperate.

I'd even go so far as to suggest changing the POV. Give us that first scene through the history professor's eyes and have what he sees of her there peg her in his mind and ours as more a drill sergeant than a mother. Have Celestia be our POV character for the second scene as Velvet slowly comes unglued so we finally see her as she really is, then switch us to Velvet for the last scene so we be right there in her head to feel how out-of-control she thinks her life has become, being the mother of a child prodigy. I'd also suggest that Celestia bring young Lyra, Lemon Hearts, Minuette, and Moondancer with her to the party as well as the guards.

Yeesh! I'm just fulla suggestions this morning! :O

#354 · 4
· on Froggy! · >>Monokeras
"It has the worst accent, and everything it says is depraved. He's worse than my Prench friend Pierre."

bonus points if you name it Monokeras

Post by CoffeeMinion , deleted
#356 · 2
· on A Nightmare in Love · >>Posh >>Oroboro
Okay let's try that again!

Genre: Could go a few different ways

Thoughts: I was pleased overall with this story. I think it has a very strong emotional core, and depending on where the author wants to take this, it might be the top entry in this Writeoff that I'd like to see tweaked and expanded for FimFiction. I was sufficiently touched by it that I've ended up rambling at length. Hopefully more than zero is useful.

As I read it, the story hinges on a clever and poignant subversion of our expectation that Cadance would be the more longed-for member of the royal couple (other than by Chrysalis, evidently), due to Shining possessing any number of positive qualities that make him attractive in his own right (including to Cadance herself). The story goes to great lengths to establish Cadance's desirability, notably via the "dick pics"--but here I feel it overplays its hand, because this makes the early section end up coming off as a comedy first, and with only comparatively minor grounding in seriousness. Even Shining's letter can be read somewhat humorously if the audience is primed to see it that way--which I contend it currently does. And so the tonal whiplash after that first scene is profound. It took several lines for me to shake the urge to interpret what I was reading through some kind of distended comedy-lens, because... well, it was so obviously a comedy before that, right?

The story has brief dips into comedy after that. For the most part, I thought they worked better, because they were more ephemeral. I think Cadance was generally on point through the middle section; people have objected to her action-princess moment, or for going after Sunburst too forcefully, but those are both things where I thought the text itself provided a reasonable explanation (she specifically asked if others could go instead, then agreed to do it even though she stated it wasn't her preference and others would be better at it; should we be surprised that her efforts didn't quite hit the mark?).

But then we get to the heart of things. The earlier silly comedy feels completely at odds with the tragedy that Sunburst presents to us. Sunburst comes across as an honorable person who has made difficult and selfless choices, and the fact that the story's conflict primarily comes from a supernatural empowerment of his inmost feelings is both tragic and deeply unfair to him. Now, I'm not proposing you change that; much of the story's impact comes by virtue of Sunburst remaining honorable by making still more difficult choices later on. And critically, he acts not entirely out of despair, but through the realization of his emotional limits in staying close to the royal family, and the desire to seek something healthier. His journey isn't over, and there's no guarantee he will find happiness, and so he emerges as a sad and noble figure.

That right there is what makes this story so powerful. But it's too easy to lose sight of that amid the comedy at the beginning and end… which to some extent echoes the themes of the central conflict, but which currently comes close to drowning it out through the difference in tone. I think especially in the opener, it would work better to de-emphasize the comedy and amp-up the drama, perhaps by moving it away from a cozy bedroom setting to Cadance’s study, and by having Sunburst himself deliver the mail--and hesitate, and add his own letter to the pile as a, “oops this one fell out” sort of thing. That would also let the revelation of the letter’s contents happen later in the scene, which would help that linger as the bigger influence on the tone of the scene. Now if you still want to end on something of a comedic note, I wonder if you could get away with moving Cadance’s joke about a threesome to the conclusion… though you’d want to follow it with a sufficiently bittersweet and poignant response from Shining, which could even be an opportunity to explore his character a little more.

I’m overlooking the question of whether the school kids would tease Sunburst or not. Frankly, having been a kid who was more than a little unusual (lol if only I could go back and tell myself I’d someday be a My Little Pony obsessionist), and having kids now who are similarly offbeat… my starting viewpoint is that a lot of kids are bastards, and that they will gleefully poke at any irregular aspect of anyone they can get away with doing it to. So I dunno, that wasn’t a stretch for me.

...so I guess I should wrap this ramble up and put this story in a tier. I see a big, painful, poignant heart to this story; I felt touched by it more than by just about anything else in this Writeoff. I also see issues with the current draft that keep it from being its best. And yet, I think it gets way more right than not.

Tier: Strong
#357 · 1
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen · >>Posh
Ah, Eldrich comedy done refreshingly right. This was just great. I only have a few suggestions that don’t appear to have been made already:
-Sunset’s explanation of what was going on when ‘it’ appeared was gorgeous, so much so that it was kind of out of place. It’s like she’s reciting a prepared speech, far removed from the emotion of actually thinking through what’s she’s saying. I’d say it’s okay as is if that sort of thing happened throughout the story for comedic effect, but it stood out to me the way things are now.
-Flash making an appearance, possibly just a traumatized look from across the street, would be great. I’m guessing he spent a week sleeping with the light on, and just thinking about girls, let alone Sunset, reminds him too much of his recurring nightmares.
-the robbers are throwaway characters, but it feels like a waste that we don’t get a better mental image of them, especially now that they’ve been scarred for life
-I’d like to see something else happen at the end, something more jarring than the coffee pot, something that says Sunset’s troubles aren’t quite over… maybe the eye is in Flash’s closet now :trollestia:
#358 · 1
· on A Nightmare in Love
>>CoffeeMinion Today I learned that CoffeeMinion is a dad.

Also this:

I think especially in the opener, it would work better to de-emphasize the comedy and amp-up the drama, perhaps by moving it away from a cozy bedroom setting to Cadance’s study, and by having Sunburst himself deliver the mail--and hesitate, and add his own letter to the pile as a, “oops this one fell out” sort of thing.

is brilliant. Good job for thinking of something brilliant, CoffeeDad.
#359 · 2
· on Petunia and the Coelacanth · >>CoffeeMinion
I really enjoyed this one. I do think there are some unfortunate tonal shifts, though. In the first few scenes I thought she was going to rope in half the ponies in town until, possibly by accident, she winds up achieving her dream or something equally good. It has that sort of children’s story aesthetic. I’m not saying her getting tripped up by genuine reality is a bad thing, it was just a bit of a jolt, something you could probably soften a bit for for the reader.

I’ve got two minor issues with Zecora’s appearance. First, her presence is unexplained. Her saying that so-and-so told her about Petunia's dream would suffice. Second, I don’t buy her chastisement of Petunia’s parents. They gave a non-committal answer for one single reason; the other reasons came from other ponies. They just don’t factor into the story enough to be on the receiving end of a moral lesson. Why not end in Petunia’s perspective? She’s the one who, as Zecora said, learned something pivotal. That also would let you return to the child-like, anything-is-possible tone from the beginning.
#360 · 3
· · >>Syeekoh >>BlazzingInferno >>CoffeeMinion
Finished all stories in the finalist pool, but what with wife being in labor and all, I don't think I have the energy to comment on them. Will try if I end up with time. Apologies to the authors.
#361 · 2
· · >>AndrewRogue
Look man, you do you.

I don't think anyone is going to hold the arrival of your new child against you.

Congratulations, btw. :)
#362 · 2
I figure as much. But still. I consider the writeoff to be a form of workshopping and I dislike shirking those duties, even under somewhat extraordinary circumstances. <_<
#363 · 1
#364 · 3
· · >>CoffeeMinion >>Syeekoh
is anyone here not a dad?!
#365 · 2
· · >>Posh
Congratulations! May your child be healthy and a good sleeper!!

Geez, did you miss that in the site rules?! :trollestia:
#366 · 1
...slowly raises hand.
#367 · 2
I didn't get a chance to join in on mashups back in prelims, but let's keep the tradition alive with another round! I don't want us non-dads to get left out of the action, after all.

Connections You Wish For — Stone Cutter and Golden Ring witness Spike and Starlight Glimmer's first fight, after Starlight purchases Spike an expensive gemstone necklace and Spike mistakes it for a gourmet snack.

A Nightmare in Twilight Sparkle — Despite the decade of careful coaching Celestia gave Twilight, things get awkward when she's sorting through her reams of fanmail one Best Princess Day: she realizes there's a scroll in Twilight's hornwriting addressed to Luna.

The Meaning of Friendship 101 — Rarity's getting sick of Sweetie Belle destroying Carousel Boutique in her Cutie Mark Crusades. She takes a trip to Canterlot to put a little "pressure" on Celestia, and Sweetie wakes up with a mark she has absolutely no idea how to interpret.

Bonding over Budweiser and I Can't Think of a Title — As a prank, Discord sends anthro-Celestia to an alternate dimension where actual humans and non-anthro ponies are fighting a war exercise. Both sides freak out and shoot her.
#368 · 3
· · >>Morning Sun
And this one kinda got away from me, so enjoy a Never The Final Word-esque mashup! I'm going to have to cross my fingers and hope both source stories get published so I can add it to my collection …

So Be Prepared To Precede San Palomino

Luna's departure from the Eternal Dream was one of the happiest days of Celestia's long life — but a tiny misgiving gnawed at Celestia, and she lay awake for several hours trying to work it loose.

"So, sister," Celestia said the next morning, after she'd coaxed her sister through a bowl of broth, a hot bath, and gratuitous amounts of rest. "There's one thing I don't understand about your decision to return to physical reality." She'd agonized for hours more over the wording of that sentence, and had made a point of including "physical" as a concession to Luna, as bitter as the taste was of acknowledging any reality to the dream utopia that had stolen so many of her little ponies.

"Mmm," Luna grunted through her still-raw throat.

Celestia still hadn't figured out how to put her next question delicately, but she was committed now, so she took a sip of tea and went for broke. "You're the mare who made the Eternal Dream possible. You're its living, beating heart. Shouldn't it, well, have halted without you and woken up every single inhabitant?"

Luna laughed — a raspy cackle that immediately turned into a cough that left her doubled over on the floor. Celestia bolted to her side, holding her until her shakes subsided.

"It halts without Luna," Luna whispered.

"… I don't understand."

Inside the Eternal Dream, Luna woke up to the calm, ethereal smile of the Nightmare.

She sat up, smiling back. "Thou hast returned! Art thou ready to help Us gain vengeance on Our sister, and correct ponykind's callous shunning of Our beautiful night?"

"About that," the Nightmare said, studying an insubstantial hoof. "The first Summer Sun celebration isn't actually tomorrow. It was one thousand, six hundred and twelve years and four months ago."

Luna opened and closed her mouth, and sat down heavily.

"Technically speaking, I'm not even the Nightmare," the shadow-horse said, and her form shimmered and flowed into one much more like Luna's own, but black of coat and wearing Luna's old war-armor. "Call me 'Nightmare Moon'. I'm you, a thousand years later. Present Us suggested that form would be the most comfortable way to break the news to you."

"We must have lost," Luna said, head hanging low. "We can envision no possible scenario in which Our future self would conjure up such phantoms had Our coup against Celestia succeeded."

Nightmare Moon's smile split open into a fangy grin. "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"

"The bad. We fail to see any manner in which this could worsen."

Nightmare Moon nodded. "You're right. We lost — and were banished to the moon for a thousand years."

Luna winced. "… We stand corrected."

"The good news," Nightmare Moon said — drawing back the curtains to reveal a balcony with several more Lunas, who were basking in the enthusiastic cheers of ponies as far as the eye could see — "is that we basically won anyway."

Luna's jaw dropped. Her eyes bugged out.

"Present Luna's taking a bit of a sabbatical from ruling the Eternal Dream," Nightmare Moon said, "and she thought her younger selves might enjoy running paradise for a while …"
#369 · 3
· · >>CoffeeMinion
>>CoffeeMinion I'd best get on that, then. Surely, there's not a woman in the world who wouldn't want to father my child after I tell them about all my mad horsepoints.

Anyway, I do love me a good mash-up, and I have a desperate, emotional drive to belong and be accepted, so...

The Deuteragonist Trap: Starlight Glimmer and Trixie fall prey to the machinations of Blackstone, who plans to steal all cutie marks everywhere and use their magic to challenge a greater threat than even Sombra: the Melancholy of Twaluhi Sparklemiya.

Welcome Home Froggy! Princess Luna dreams, and in doing so, inhabits the body of the same frog in three alternate realities. One of them is French!

Solving for Friendship 101 in Love: Princess Celestia accidentally kills Twilight Sparkle during an impromptu lesson disguised as a cutecenera. Twilight Velvet demands that she violate the laws of nature themselves in order to bring back her daughter, and secures her compliance after using the same relish fork that killed Twilight to do terrible things to the monarch's eye sockets.

Shining Armor, meanwhile, gets peer pressured into drinking Guardbrau, the Royal Guard's homebrewed lager, and passes out upstairs after three sips. The Guards, giggling, draw penises and lewd remarks on his face and send him to Cadance's house as a Hearts and Hooves Day gift.

Petunia and the Eye That Floats Unblinking: Petunia Paleo wakes up from her drug-induced hallucination and finds her parents cowering in the kitchen, terrified by a floating eyeball that appeared there suddenly with no explanation. She is ecstatic. Princess Twilight is merely very, very exasperated. She gives careful consideration to the journal connecting hers and Sunset Shimmer's realities, and instead hits the Guardbrau.
#370 ·
· on Friendship 101
This worked quite well for me. A bit light, perhaps, but sweet and pleasant.
#371 ·
· on Noblesse Oblige · >>Posh
Sordid, but moderately compelling. Some really awkward phrasing, there was.

The AN turned me off; if you're following the rules, you don't need to tell us, and if you're not sure if you're following the rules, you still don't need to tell us; talk to Roger.

I think the compass-rose cutie mark was tipping your hand rather too hard.
#372 · 1
· on Noblesse Oblige · >>Syeekoh
>>Not_A_Hat Two things about this story that occurred to me after reading it, and your review reminded me of one of them.

1. "Compass rose" appears in multiple stories this round, if I'm not mistaken.

2. With the way Blueblood is characterized here, this could seamlessly be inserted into the same canon as horizon's "Prince Blueblood and the Mysterious Case of the Bonky-Noggin" from back in October.
#373 · 3
· on Noblesse Oblige
horizon's Blueblood fetish is not entirely unknown.
#374 ·
· on A Nightmare in Love · >>Oroboro
Clever concepts, but seemed really narrate-y to me. Might want to re-work the pacing a touch.

Definitely worth reading, though.
#375 ·
· on San Palomino · >>Morning Sun
I applaud you for tackling a topic with real potential. However, the actions of the Princesses here seemed more childish than wise, and that always bugs me - probably more than it should.

I found myself skimming this halfway through, and at the end my response basically boiled down to 'what's all this about then'? The deviance from cannon is extreme and never justified, and the phrasing grated at times; near repetition, seemingly dropped words, and ideas I thought contradictory that were forced together. (Sea-scented breeze rising from the desert?)

A good effort, but failed to engage me for various reasons. I may not be in your audience though.

Also, I swear I've seen Nottlynga in a fic somewhere.
#376 · 5
· · >>Posh >>BlazzingInferno
And because I finished voting on my slate, here's a mash or two...

Oblige the Noble Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen
Flash is an exhibitionist. Celestia is an voyeur. Sunset never agreed to this.

Deuteragonists 101
"Moooom, Twily's warping reality again!"

Solving for the Colecanth
Petunia is a curious child with Big Dreams and a love of fossils. Starlight Glimmer has a scary smile, but knows how to bring things back to life - as long as you have magic, drugs, and one of those little two-prong fun forks.

The A San Destiny Night Palomino Trap Mare in Love
Celestia visits a magical dream dimension looking for her sister, only to have her magic stolen and be forced into acting as Shining Armor by a group of rebel stallions who worship Sunburst - but are mares in real life.

...yeah, that last one's a bit...
#377 ·
...yeah, that last one's a bit...

#378 ·
I would probably read all of these…
#379 · 2
I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up to see the count wind down.

Congratulations, AndrewRogue, on a well-earned victory. But I hope you realize that I will have to devour you and consume your gold medal powers in order to achieve my perfect form.

#380 · 1
Congrats to winners and so forth! Now to do my retrospective!
#381 · 1
Do I have to do a retrospective?

But it's SO EARLY

You guys probably aren't getting a retrospective until after my story is uploaded onto fimfic because I worked it over thanks to your wonderful advice.
#382 · 3
· on San Palomino
Right, so! I had a huge retrospective typed up. And like a genius I put it in Notepad, and lost it, so this is all off the top of the head! So!

San Palomino Retrospective
Everyone who says this is from Black Mirror is like, 100% correct. San Junipero shot up to one of my top episodes of television ever when I saw it, and I instantly wanted to write a pony story with the concept.

Also, if you haven't seen San Junipero, and have Netflix, go find it now - Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 4. Everything below here is going to spoil bunches of ideas in the show, but seeing as the core of San Junipero isn't really about the technology that won't hurt you much even if you know the 'twist' going in.

Anyhow, after seeing it, I'd been mulling ideas for weeks. Equestria added a delightful wrinkle in that it had natural immortals, so any story I did was going to involve them in some way because that's a big part of what makes the scenario different from Earth. And, well, instead of doing it with science, I already had a good in-show justification from Magic Sheep - a mass shared dreamspace. And who would that center around? Luna, of course - she'd be the creator or core of the Dream, somehow, or at least critical to its existence.

The first was born from that idea of natural immortals. 'Celestia, alone, maintaining the world while everypony else is in Science Heaven', not that Science Heaven was what I called it at the time. That by itself got discarded because, well, there was no conflict, although I did and still do think there's ideas to play with in the idea of Immortal consigned to a lonely immortality because she's what allows the mortals to experience the same eternity otherwise denied them.

The second, more born from the episode, was that the world itself in-show is our 'Sim' - and it was created to house Luna, who in the 'Real' world, was critically injured ages ago. That may still be fun too, but I never got past half-formed ideas like 'Her thousand years on the moon were really a dreaming coma before the system was invented', and 'The Nightmare is a representation of her broken psyche being mended, and the EoH are basically the science-magic finally knitting her mind back together'. And, well, yea, again, I had no actual story, just ideas.

So I got to talking to CiG since he wasn't participating, and he honed rapidly in on 'What is the conflict, and what do ponies want?', and from there I got what I needed.

San Palomino takes place far, far in the future of Equestria - in my mind we're talking 10,000 or more years from the In-show era. Somewhere in Twilight's lifetime, she, working with Luna, created the Eternal Dream as a way to save ponies - in Twilight's case, probably a way to keep her friends around. But that's way way back in the past and doesn't really come into play here.

Fast forward century on century, and more and more ponies are brought into the Dream, and ponies in the 'real' world begin joining earlier in life because, well, why risk death from accident and miss out on forever? Why stay trapped in the real world when the Dream allows you to experience so much more? And the end result is that for a long, long time, Equestria has been fading. By the time the story begins, all that's left, at least all that's left for certain, is the Monastery that Celestia dwells in with the Seraphs.

The Monastery is built into San Palomino mountain, which is where everything was created way back when; that's why In-World Twilight dwells within her version of it, because the laboratory that started it all was hers. In the ages since, the only pony who goes into the deep areas is usually Celestia, save perhaps the rare adventurous filly or colt.

The Seraphs who dwell within, then, are a quasi-religious monastic order that formed out of a combination of luddites, the Royal Guard, and ponies who prefer mortality to eternity; in the age since they all blended together and now basically venerate Celestia as a holy figure. How they see her varies pony to pony, but she's generally seen as a not-quite-deity; more like a living Buddha. On her part, she gently discourages this, but - well, is also lonely, with everypony she knows in the Eternal Dream, and so has in a way come to value the devotion because it helps keep her feeling needed.

And that brings us to the major conflict in-story : Why is she out and Luna in? That's two-fold; there's the answer I wrote based on and the answer I'm revising to include in the Fimfic version.

For the Writeoff? Luna is always in because in the Dream she finally has the love & respect she always wanted, and as the Princess of Dreams, in there she is the Greater Light, so to speak. She sees no real value in the real world anymore and believes those ponies who refuse eternity are foolish and ultimately it is not up to her to try to force them to see reason. In that regard, she wants Celestia in because, well, she wants her sister. She sees no reason to stay outside and endure again and again the pain of loss as ponies die; why not have forever, with those you love?

Celestia, meanwhile - her reasoning at first was that, well, Equestria ain't a safe place. SOMEONE with power had to stay outside and make sure everyone in the Dream wasn't vulnerable, say, Tirek breaking free again, or some previously unknown threat. Additionally, someone has to maintain the cycle of Sun & Moon and she takes that burden on herself. Finally, as the Seraphs slowly evolved, she kind of feels a connection to their veneration of her - even if she doesn't really want it, she respects it, and stays with them because she forms their rock; she doesn't want to leave the ponies in the real world to fend for themselves, not when they are dwelling in a desert and all that remains is a small community of two thousand or so centered around Monastery and Village.

And then their fight, the rift grown over centuries, is one of values. Luna being more hotheaded, she could never really stop trying to get Celestia to enter the Dream permanently, and what began as gentle disagreement grew into arguments grew into a rift grew to the point where Celestia only enters 4 days a year, on the Solstices and Equinoxes, and has grown to somewhat agree with the Seraphs that there is something not-quite-right about the Dream, that there is some value in striving for something where you actually can fail, and where that failure has real teeth, and so on. And when story takes place, they are hurting badly, but neither is willing to admit she's wrong, neither is willing to say sorry first, and neither really even knows how to relate to her sister any longer because they are so far apart now.

Unfortunately, I didn't find a way to work any of this backstory in well; I hinted at it, but never spelled it out, and even if I had, it still leaves 'Why did Luna suddenly come out?'

And that is the weakest part, because due to time constraints I cut out like, a major bit of middle-scene, which was where Luna entered play; the original was a planned 'Luna forces her way into a Twilight-Celestia meeting, Luna & Tia have a huge shouting match, Tia leaves feeling lonely and horrible, Luna finally feels truly bad and realizes Celestia matters more to her than winning a dumb fight.'

Which, y'know, gives the finale its power.

And then Redfern and Lightfeather sort of waltzed into existence out of nowhere, and I realized that they had a greater role to play as I was writing them, but again lacked the time for their major contribution - namely that rather than have Luna realize things herself, Redfern & Lightfeather were going to go inside seeking her and essentially serve as the catalyst to get Luna to be willing to take the first steps towards mending things. Celestia, after all, has always been willing to go in - but when has Luna been willing to come out? Celestia is willing to admit the Dream has much of value, but Luna is rejecting automatically the real world and thus dismissing what her sister finds precious about it.

Except, well, there wasn't time to put all that in.

But even then I still felt there was a piece missing. Namely, like, why is every alicorn but Celestia always, always in there? Why Discord? Why do none of them ever come out? Twilight should be willing to, after all.

It turns out solving for that answer also helps make the fight between Luna & Celestia work much better. In the revised version, the alicorns (and Discord) are the actual energy sources maintaining the dream. They don't leave because, well, they can't - not for a significant length of time, because that would put strain on the others and eventually parts would fail and ponies might be lost forever because the source of magic keeping the crystal that holds their essence energized would be lost.

Twilight could leave for a time, and likely does - but not often; no more than a few hours every ...year, decade, some long time interval. Cadance doesn't because Shining & Flurry are inside. Flurry doesn't because she's young enough when she joins in to have no real attachment to the real world. Discord doesn't because in here he can totally cause insane amounts of Chaos and everypony around him LIKES it.

And Luna doesn't because she's the core of it all, and her leaving would cause the greatest strain on the system. As in, like, if the others ALL left, Luna could hold it together, alone, for a while. If she leaves, the others are going to be exhausted fairly fast.

But oh, there's more, because I have thought a TON on this. The Dreamborn was something I added in kind of whimsically - Luna created the Tantabus, after all, so why wouldn't it be possible for ponies to be born in the Eternal Dream? They would have no physical form - they would be pure Dreaming essence, but in there that wouldn't matter, and in some ways would be an advantage as they require no physical anchor, whereas ponies who were born in reality had their essence stored in the crystals that are stored in the hundreds of vault floors in the Mountain.

Then, last, was the bit that alicorns grow in power, over time, but slowly; the Dream as it is expands, but not nearly so fast as the populace would now like. Many, many ponies wish to have children, but they can't because there isn't spare capacity for it; the waiting list to have one child is on the order of centuries or more, because the Princesses inside won't aid in it unless they are certain it will not cause harm to the fabric of the Dream.

And thus, the conflict : Luna wants Celestia to give up the real world because Celestia represents a massive opportunity for expansion. She would allow all the ponies wanting children to be able to do so; she would allow the creation of many new Spheres, where a Sphere is basically a place & tech level; Rainbow & Rarity's movie, for example, takes place in a high-tech future Sphere, while Twilight's San Palomino keeps itself mostly around a high-magic show-era general level, but with some exceptions like the movie theater that's way bigger on the inside (Hence why Celestia & Twilight could see a private movie with 0 issue).

Luna sees Celestia as being selfish in refusing to help out.

Meanwhile, Celestia stays out because she is still attached to the real world, and whereas Luna is advocating more of a 'Greatest Good for Greatest Number' view, Celestia refuses to abandon those who value her so much already. The old world may be fading away, but...it's all she's ever known, and she just can't embrace the Dream like Luna could.

There's lots of other bits - she's happy Luna has found the respect she desired, but some part of her is hurt because Luna is now the most-loved Princess, so Luna's happiness is bittersweet in that. Celestia is also less prone to change; things like that.

Basically, the goal is 'Give them both solid reasons for why they believe the way they do', because the resolution in the end is 'Sometimes, people disagree with one another not because one side is right or wrong, but because they have different values - and love & family matter more than winning & getting them to admit their beliefs are wrong.'

Especially in today's political climate where our unwillingness to constructively disagree is causing so much bile & toxins to spill through society.

So yea. The new goal is to get all that into the story which will likely double the length or more, but make it much stronger for it.

And then I may well play around in the sphere more because I have loooaaads of ideas - like, say, what happens when 100,000 years down the line and Celestia has finally joined in, something breaks and one of them is forced to leave to fix it? What happens when San Palomino is a near-forgotten myth to the few ponies who remain in the distant corners of the world? Like there's this image of mine of a resolute young mare setting out to seek San Palomino and the legendary Sisters said to dwell there to ask them to save her village from some sickness threatening to wipe them out, and all the possibilities that presents.

Right! Now to reply to specific comments.
#383 ·
· on San Palomino
And now replies!

>>Zaid Val'Roa
Hopefully all the stuff above shows how I'm planning to address the weakness in the ending!

Darn right!

Let's talk about the historical arguments between Celestia and the other ponies. Those arguments are the most important element in the story because they define the entire conflict upon which the narrative and characterizations are based. Yet we never get to see or hear any of the rationale! There are tiny little hints about reproduction and religion, but the audience gets no details about any of this. We never see any foals in the monastery, we never learn details about the religion, and most salient, we never learn what Celestia herself believes.

All true, although the only real argument in play is between Sun & Moon; everything else is in some ways in the orbit of that argument, but all that got left out for lack of time/wordcount.

Not developing the foundation of a story is a cheap way to get around the difficult process of structuring the background details and history in order to make sense of everything. Nothing in the story suggests the author has determined any of the princesses' rationale behind their decisions.

Oh, no, I had extensive thought into that...just, well, I hate being explicit and being like SHE THINKS X CAUSE Y and so string it out more. And even in final version it's going to go on for a while before any clear exposition occurs.

I noticed this right at the beginning of the story, when you kept Celestia's identity a secret until the fifth paragraph. There's no reason for that. Celestia isn't visiting a place we wouldn't expect her to be (from the audience's perspective). She's in a library. Having her disguised is fine, but hiding her identity from the reader is not. You're withholding basic information from your audience in order to create a false atmosphere of suspense.

Less that and more an interesting hook, and one I'm revealing quickly enough that I don't feel bad about making them wonder what's going on for those first couple minutes.

I didn't sense the suggested 'romance' between the OC side character and the main character. If that information is intended to be part of the payoff, you need to develop those characters more than you did.

What romance? There's no romance at play with Redfern or Lightfeather. Redfern sees Celestia as basically a goddess, while Lightfeather is older and wiser and has great respect for her but has come to see her as just an old, wounded pony. No crushes or snuggly kissytimes at play here.

Also, you didn't develop the science enough to make it seem consistent. I wasn't clear on whether all of the ponies/characters needed vats, or if it was only Twilight and Luna in vats because they were powering the device. Clearly, mortal ponies have to ditch the body, so they're not in a vat, but the hints provided are insufficient to determine that conclusively. Consequently, it doesn't make much sense that a mortal pony could go for a brief visit. How would they accomplish that? Probably 'visitor vats' or something, but there's a lot here lacking clarity.

That whole giant area Celestia walks through full of crystals is the other ponies. The vats are for alicorns only and are kind of a shelter cocoon / nutrient bath / energy tap for them, or something like that. Mortal ponies (And Celestia) can enter using focusing crystals which create a temporary bridge into the Dream, but I didn't have time to put that segment in showing them being used and seem to have forgotten to have inserted one where Celestia wakes up

I have a hard time imagining Discord in a vat. That doesn't make any sense to me. He shouldn't need one.

Quite true, which is why he's way off in what remains of Canterlot, sleeping on the pedestal that he was turned to stone on ages ago; it's sort of an amusing joke to him to have his real body effectively a statue where he once literally was a garden decoration - it's called out in the very same line that has the 'doors' showing various chambers for the Alicorns.

Equestria has more than ponies in it, and all life requires the Sun in order to survive. There's no indication of whether other sapient races, like yaks and gryphons and dragons have joined Twilight, and certainly dragons aren't there based on the description of the location. Even if Equestria only has animals left in it, Celestia would have a clear moral imperative to keep raising the Sun. I can't see anypony at all arguing against that. These are things that need to be thought out.

That argument is part of the division between them, yes. I have ways I'm bandying about as to Luna's proposed solution to it that lets her not be concerned; I may edit things to have her still raising the Moon from within the Dream to indicate that it can happen even if she is asleep.

You seem to be implying that the conflict is what ended up causing Equestria to fall apart, but based on what I just wrote, it seems unlikely that this even started unless Equestria was already post-apocalyptic. If that's the case, there are no indications about what happened.

Nah, it never fell apart; merely dwindled and faded away for reasons outline in my previous comment, but basically because over centuries more & more ponies entered the Dream without ever having children and so the population cratered till the only ones left are the Seraphs and whatever scattered distant communities that have forgotten the Princesses & Equestria entirely.

The need for maintenance seems to require outside materials (Luna needs a lot of help to function when she exits the vat), so the idea that Celestia shouldn't be where she makes even less sense.

Another part of their conflict; Luna wants to automate all of this and largely has done so, Celestia doesn't trust it not to ever break down and so another reason she stays out is to ensure nothing breaks without them realizing, so that it can be fixed before something truly bad happens.

See above comment; in short 'Blame Twilight; she finally had her eyes opened that her relationship with Celestia is more important than winning; only Twilight can even possibly leave the Dream, so for the others its simply necessity to dwell in there; the Dreamborn are literally Dreaming Essence akin to the Tantabus, but much more advanced & actually sapient; and yes, if I can work it in'

Hopefully final version addresses all the lack of lore I couldn't work in but had planned out!

Junipero is the starting point, but not the ending; Science Heaven is fun but in the end its about relationships, just, well - yea, didnt get to go into that as fully as I wanted.

The title is staying the same because even if you've seen San Junipero it won't be at all obvious till you realize what's up. The San Palomino desert is on the actual map of Equestria; also, while there are similar themes explored here and the general conceit of Science Heaven is common to both, that's about where the similarities end.

Read above giant comment by me, but watch the episode first you uncultured swine, as you so eloquently put it =^. .^=

This is also super helpful and you double-win for picking up on Luna's catalyst for coming out which I think most people missed. But yea, really useful feedback, thank you!

It's less 'deviates from canon' and more 'Set in the far far future'. And Nottlynga is taken from The 99 Nectars of Princess Luna. Sadly, NoeCarrier dropped off the face of the internet a year ago as far as I can tell and I don't think that story will ever finish, but Nottlynga is a beautiful sounding word, so I incorporated it into this because I like it more than 'Batpony'.
#384 ·
I quite liked this, thanks! And also was amused in that you kind of seized on the whole 'Luna is needed to maintain the dream' which is my going-forward big part of why they are in conflict.
#385 · 1
· · >>Posh
At last I can break my silence: "Petunia and the Eye That Floats Unblinking" is a bloody hilarious idea and I want to maybe steal it. Looks like you wrote the Eye one... that cool?
#386 ·
>>CoffeeMinion My cover's blown,

Knock yourself out! But do me a favor and lemme get Eye posted before you do. Also credit me. Also I want fifty bucks.
#387 · 2
· on A Nightmare in Love
>>Zaid Val'Roa >>Morning Sun >>Feris >>Trick_Question >>Syeekoh >>bloons3 >>Posh >>KwirkyJ >>AndrewRogue >>BlazzingInferno >>Baal Bunny >>CoffeeMinion >>Not_A_Hat

A Nightmare In Love

Thanks for reading, everyone! I really appreciate your feedback.

This story is the third in my series of writeoff fics vaguely inspired by one of the plot arcs from the anime Bakemonogatari.

I already have a pretty solid idea of what I need to do for revisions. Expand the ending, expand the dream sequence. Twist the dial on Cadance more towards Empathetic and away from Snarky. Adjust the tone of the opener a bit.

The implications of societal discrimination against homosexuality was actually somewhat unintentional. I was mostly going for what CoffeeMinion said, where kids are dicks and will zero in on anything different about someone, especially someone who is insecure about that something. I'll probably just change it to them making fun of him for being scrawny and a shitty wizard to boot.

Thanks again. Expect to see this story up on fimfiction in the next week or two.
#388 · 3
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen · >>Not_A_Hat >>Syeekoh
First of all, my gratitude and fondest wishes to everyone who read and upvoted this oddball. To be honest, I'm surprised it got the silver; despite the positive reviews and my own (admittedly self-indulgent) attempts at generating buzz, it seems like it sailed under the radar, ending the finals as the least reviewed story out of all of them. I was expecting it to place somewhere in the middle.

On a related note, nobody correctly guessed that I wrote this. On the one hand, given how much I obsessed over all the telltale quirks in my writing style when prepping the Writeoff draft, it's nice to know that I can produce something with that level of anonymity.

On the other, it makes me sad. I wish I had flourishes that people recognized. :(

But enough of my insecurity. Let's retrospect.

The concept of the story comes from, of all things, a tweet. The full title was going to be The Eye That Floats Unblinking, Silent & Untethered from Time, in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen, but that was too long for the Writeoff. I'm considering using it for FiMfiction, though.

Anyway, I hit on it shortly after rejecting all my other ideas as either terrible or unfeasible, and while I tried to convince myself that I couldn't stretch that joke out into a full-length short story, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was either that or Fluttershy Has A Penis. Problem was that I had zero familiarity with the EqG films. I handwrote an outline, because sometimes you just wanna roll old school, and started typing up a second one (my goal was to plot out the story in greater detail than I did the last short story I submitted for a Writeoff, to hopefully avoid some of the plotting/structural problems that story faced), before realizing that I didn't know Sunnybuns at all and had no idea how to effectively capture her character or her voice.

On my editor's advice, I marathoned the last three movies over New Year's Eve, neglecting the first one since Sunset's character is so drastically different in that one versus Rainbow Rocks and onward, and closed out 2016 by writing a more detailed outline. This left me about a day to actually write the story, which I did in about seven hours total over the course of the day, including a frantic five-hour rush to meet the deadline. I didn't proofread it as meticulously as I could have, so I'm really surprised that it came out with so few mistakes in spelling and grammar.

Although it has some issues editing, to be sure. It was well over the 8k limit, and a lot of detail regarding setting and character placement got cut (since most of the comedy was tied up in the dialogue, and I wanted to preserve that as much as possible), and I didn't have enough time to edit the story to properly reflect those cuts. Sad, but all told, it turned out better than expected.

I guess I should respond to feedback now. That seems like the thing that people do in these.

I do think it could benefit from a little tuning-up. The first big scene break was a proverbial shot of cold water on my proverbial face, because it had been going at full comedic tilt, then it suddenly just stopped. I also think some of the feels-y moments aren't getting enough oxygen here (especially a theme of jealousy that shows up) because the comedy is so strong.

>>Zaid Val'Roa
Right now this feels like a comedy with a dramatic scene, and a better balanced tone would do wonders for the story.

Take this as a suggestion, but the theme of Sunset's jealousy of Starlight could be brought up a bit more rather than just one mention at the end to tie the story together. The scene where she moisturizes Eyeball is nice, but perhaps it could be expanded a bit further by having Sunset reach an epiphany about herself while talking with Eyeball and that makes her get closer to it, which in turn would give the scene at the end where she looks back at her experience with fondness a bit more deotg

Both of these are excellent points, especially Zaid's sage remark of "deotg." I couldn't agree more.

Seriously though, both of you identified jealousy as a main theme in the story, and something that needs more development. I agree; I think that's what the story is/should be about. The Eye itself is ancillary, despite being in the title and the source of the story's main conflict (actually, one criticism I have for myself is that the Eye does just enough to qualify as more than a living prop, but is otherwise mostly a nonfactor). The focus of the story is instead on Sunnybuns and her insecurities regarding her place in Twilight's life, with the Eyeball itself as an outside factor that sort of brings that insecurity out into the open and forces she and Twilight to confront it.

>>Not_A_Hat provided me with a very, very thorough blueprint of how to go about revising, and what to keep in mind as I do. I'm grateful for this, but - BUT - there is one deviation I'm planning to make from it.

One last small consideration. As far as I can tell, this story is mostly about Sunset Shimmer. Since it seems to be written third-person-limited, it might be worth switching the first two scenes from a close perspective on Twilight to a close perspective on Sunset; I don't think you'd lose much, and it would be marginally clearer from the get-go who the story is about.

My idea was actually to go in the opposite direction, and expand the amount of time we spend in Twilight's perspective. The more I re-read this, the more appropriate it seemed for her to have some time for self-reflection about Sunset and her feelings re: Glimglam. It would amount to an added scene in the middle of the story (something which would also address >>KwirkyJ's desire for more horse-science AND >>Morning Sun's request for more Princess Twi/BiTwi antics), and a slightly rewritten ending - all told, not a drastic change, but enough to add a little more drama and emotion to balance out the wacky tone.

I'm also planning to break this up into chapters. With the revisions, it'd go something like this:

Chapter One
1. Princess Twi visits apartment, sees Eyeball

2. Explanation of the Eyeball

Chapter Two
3. New scene. Princess Twi is at BiTwi's house, crunching numbers and doing horse-science. BiTwi comes home and they engage in selfcest comedy. Princess Twi has a conversation with an appropriately acerbic and sarcastic Spike about how her friendship with Starlight affects Sunset, which ends with her comparing it to the way she feels about Starlight palling around with Trixie. This would also tie it in with another story I'm writing that centers on Starlight and Trixie, as well as a larger continuity in which I set all my non-METUL GEER related horsewords.

4. Revised/expanded squeegee scene. Sunset's more amicable toward the Eyeball, and it's clear that there's a bit of a weird friendship between the two of them. The scene would end with Sunset saying something to the effect of "hey maybe we don't need to send you back right away; you're a good listener," and a reaction from the Eye which would indicate displeasure. This would give context to its decision to eat the two robbers: it wants to do something that would force Sunset into sending it home. The Eye, I want to make clear, is perfectly benign, as far as eldritch abominations go. It just doesn't want to stay in Sunset's kitchen forever.

5. Robber scene. Not much change here. Names will be given to the characters and some dialogue that got cut will get reinserted. But it's basically the same.

Chapter Three

6. Sunset and Princess Twi meet at Sugarcube Corner. Princess Twi gives a rambling speech apologizing to Sunset for hurting her feelings inadvertently (echoing Sunset's sex-soliloquy at the start of the story), and the rest of the scene proceeds much as it did before.

7. Sending the Eyeball back. Again, much the same as before, but with some dialogue reinserted.

8. Girls go home; Princess Twi stays behind to crash at Sunset's place. A few changes to the way it's written and structured, but it's still mostly the same. My goal is for the rest of the story to better justify the "d'aww" moment between them at the end.


Sunset finds the fixed coffee maker and she and Twilight converse about it.

>>BlazzingInferno Gonna respond to some of your hyphens individually:

-Flash making an appearance, possibly just a traumatized look from across the street, would be great. I’m guessing he spent a week sleeping with the light on, and just thinking about girls, let alone Sunset, reminds him too much of his recurring nightmares.

This is a good suggestion, and I'm down to put it in. I'm just not sure where, exactly, it'd go, but if something strikes me...

I dunno; worse case scenario, I'll just have BiTwi mention that Flash was found hiding in a broom closet at school, or something.

-the robbers are throwaway characters, but it feels like a waste that we don’t get a better mental image of them, especially now that they’ve been scarred for life

I plan to do a little bit more with them. They're actually supposed to be EqG versions of some OCs that I'm already using in other stories. Tryhard got a name because I haven't published the one with him in it, but his sister's supposed to be Killjoy, of Royal Guard fame. I omitted a lot of that because A. time/space constraints, and B. I didn't want them to give away my authorship just in case someone here decided to peruse my other stuff.

They'll get a bit more face time in the final draft.

Thank you again to everyone who read, responded, and/or helped it get as far as it did! :)
#389 · 2
· on Noblesse Oblige
Thanks, folks, for the 4th place:

And congrats to our winners!

"Noblesse Oblige" as presented here is about two-thirds of the first chapter of a three chapter piece that I've been thinking about for a couple months. I didn't have time during the writing weekend to finish the middle section, so I abandoned it and jumped straight to the final section so I'd at least have a semi-complete story to show y'all. I've been working on the middle section while the contest's been going on, and I'm hoping it'll address at least some of the concerns folks brought up.

The occasional humdinger sentence is meant to reveal young Blueblood's character--and I didn't realize till after the writing deadline had passed that we only hear his real name, Polaris, in the middle section that I'd removed. I've added some lines to his backstory to make it clear that extravagant language use is very important to his idea of what makes a true gentlecolt. And the middle section has one of his paramours saying that he's the only pony she knows who talks with semi-colons...

Anyway, I've been down with stomach flu the past two days, but I'm hoping to get chapter one, "What 'Nephew' Really Means," posted by next week. Then it'll be chapter two, "What 'Prince' Really Means," which starts with Celestia shouting at him for the way he treated Rarity at the Grand Galloping Gala, goes on to explore how Celestia's Blueblood obsession is indeed connected to her guilt over Luna's banishment and how Luna's return is somehow messing her up even more, and concludes with Our Blueblood realizing that he's got to find Luna a consort in order to get Celestia back on the path to healing. And the third chapter, "What 'Blueblood' Really Means," will be all about him trying and failing to find a consort for the new princess Twilight.

#390 · 2
Congratulations to AndrewRogue for an inaugural Writeoff medal (a gold no less!), and to Posh for completing a full set! Good job to everyone in general this round; I read all 18 fellow competitors, and even stories at the bottom of my slate had solid prose and enjoyable moments. There's absolutely no dishonor in a low score against this kind of competition. That also makes my bronze all the more meaningful.

I'm also amused by the fact that I've now scored four consecutive bronzes, along with four of my last five MLP entries being bronze. I seem to have inherited Cold in Gardez's silver curse, except one step down.

(Less humbly: This round also marks the tenth in a row that I've scored something other than a ribbon -- nine medals, plus Death By Dawn's Most Controversial -- which is a Writeoff record I don't think is going to be challenged any time soon. ^.^)

I'm heading off to a convention in about an hour, so I don't have the time right now for a retrospective on Deuteragonists. I would, however, like to note that I have never actually seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, though I was aware of its existence. I pretty much stole the fundamental concept and tried to take that in its own direction.

The feedback on my story was great, and I'm trying to take that into account with editing, though now that the round is over Time Enough For Love goes back to the top of the priority list.
#391 · 1
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen
>>Posh It's not that I think there's a problem with having multiple perspectives in one story, but that I think the first scene should be from the perspective of the person who gets the dramatic arc. Since basically everything else in the current version was Sunset, switching the second scene made sense then because why have just one scene with a different POV? But still, I think it's worth starting yourself off on the right foot. If it begins with Twilight's POV, people will think 'this is a story about Twilight', which, if it turns out to actually be a story about Sunset, is a bit misleading.

Well, if you're planning to give them equal dramatic weight, then I guess the point's moot.
#392 · 2
· · >>Posh >>BlazzingInferno
Well. That's the second most exciting thing to happen to me this week. :p

Serious congrats to everyone. I'd like to do the ol' breakdown of the story, but I don't have the energy tonight. Maybe tomorrow.
#393 ·
>>AndrewRogue What's the f - oh, right. The dad thing.

Carry on.
#394 · 2
Pfft, tomorrow? Sleep, buddy. Sleep while you can, whenever you can. The next month or so is going to blur together.
#395 · 1
· on Friendship 101
Friendship 101 Retrospective
Thanks for your comments, everyone! Most Controversial, huh? I'm surprised this flat out didn't work for so many of you; it sounded like such an innocuous concept to me. Then again, I scored Top Contender picks from Horizon and CoffeeMinion, and that’s a definite honor.

With only a couple hours of writing time to put towards this thing, I wanted to do something short and self-contained, something I knew I could properly flesh out in such limited time. I still didn't get a chance to edit it, alas.

Anyway, I’m going to expand the conversation and the party, and add at least one other scene. I’m not planning on Twilight Velvet being a meat-eating, jugular-hungry tiger mom though, she just has some practiced negotiating skills that she’ll gladly bring home from the office… but she might have met her match.

I’m not sure when I’ll have this finished and posted, but hopefully before February hits… Pony is strictly a weekend project until I can finish some some original fiction stuff.
#396 ·
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen · >>Posh
I'll have you know that as soon as I linked the story to a friend on Skype, the very first thing they said is "I've read the comic that that title is based off of."

That led to some sleuthing where we found the original tweet.
#397 · 2
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen · >>Syeekoh
>>Syeekoh Y-you linked watashi no story-desu to a friend-kun on Skype-sama?

*blushes* uwu, d-did they like it desuka?
#398 ·
· on San Palomino
Unfortunately I don't have the time to comment on the story extensively, but I'd want to say I liked it a lot. It took me two re-reads to fully understand everything, and even now I'm not sure if I fully "get it", but I love the premise and the scenery, and the writing was really good as well. The story has an interesting atmosphere to it, a combination of the outer world's somber melancholy with the quiet, paradisal contentment of those asleep. Makes me think of tastefully muted colors and quiet piano.

One thing that's bugging me: These two sentences, which are missing the 'the' articles:

and mare passed into the waiting passage as wall shut behind her.

Once more, cowled Princess joined the throng headed to the library only to duck in secret passage and make her way into Twilight’s sanctum.

I assume you did it on purpose, to make it feel more poetic... but to me, these sentences sound gratingly awkward and pretentious.
#399 ·
· on The Eye That Floats Unblinking in Sunset Shimmer's Kitchen
They thought it was pretty funny, but that the high point was Sunset's sink comment.
#400 · 1
· on The Destiny Trap
As many of you guessed, I straight ran out of time. No review, no edits, no nothing. Not even a true ending, honestly. Ending as written was slammed in because I was out of energy and wanted to sleep. Not to say it's not the shape I'm looking for, but it was obviously pretty abbreviated. I wasn't too happy because I could see a couple gaping plotholes staring back at me (though the shop age still slipped by me - good catch) and my first drafts are notoriously messy.

All told, this story was kind of emblematic of my process as a discovery writer. I started with a concept (cute friend/ship story where Trixie or Starlight accidentally got turned into an earth pony) and just typed until it worked.

But wait! Starlight wasn't an earth pony. She was just a magicless, blank flank unicorn. Well, you see, I was really betting on Earthbound being the prompt chosen. Cheaty me. That said, the idea was flexible enough to fit a lot of the possible prompts, so I wasn't too hurt when it proved I guessed wrong.

I'd already been pushing with the idea of the source of the transformation being a magic thingy, so swapping over to the "spooooooooooky shop that's always been there... OR HAS IT?" was an easy cheat. Oddly ended up being kinda critical to the story structure though.

So, I was kinda torn and initially wrote the opening and had actually been geared for it to be Starlight giving Trixie a gift that rendered her magic-less. I even wrote the opening scene from that side. But as I was smashing my keyboard and contemplating who would be responsible, it just made more sense for it to be the other way around.

Blackstone didn't actually start as a crystal pony. I named the shop by digging into some classic magicians and thought Blackstone worked great as a pony name without changes. Then it dawned on me that it made a great Crystal Pony name (particular with the emblem) and, using a little bastardization of Sombra's backstroy, it made a fair amount of sense for a crystal pony to be kinda leery of magic ponies using, thus, that's how I rolled.

I kinda forget where the idea for the Destiny Trap trick came from. I know it ended up being a thematic tie into Blackstone's motivation (ponies don't change).

Showmareship is another case of just arriving at logical conclusions. The simple fact was I was writing the scene with Sunburst and realized "oh bugger, neither Starlight nor Trixie is actually doing anything to solve the problem here. This sucks."

Conveniently, the highly unorthodox (and honestly hella inefficient) plot Blackstone conducted, did actually kind of set her up as a very arrogant and showy pony. Not only did she use a thematic trick to mess with Starlight (and even steal her cutie mark), she literally took another pony who fell under her "bad pony" umbrella who was Starlight's friend and used her to carry it out. That's some serious investment in style. So, this allowed Trixie to pull some (admittedly specious) reasoning out and suddenly contribute.

The cave needs a little more work, because boy is that one an even bigger pull.

Anyway, the end is... yeah. The core idea was thus: Sombra was a shifty pony that was allowed to remain in the Crystal Empire despite some arguably bad things he did. It looked like maybe he was turning good, but then he twists and enslaves the whole Crystal Empire. So, Blackstone and the ponies who were part of the organization learned a harsh lesson re: redemption. Maybe it is a great thing to angle for. But when you're dealing with very powerful ponies, redemption alone is not safe. Ponies have cutie marks, which implies a certain solidity to their destiny, so the idea of a pony being able to backslide is basically built into their own mythology. You can never really change. Maybe she's made different and better choices, but to Blackstone, Starlight is still the same pony she always has been, and her talent with magic is scary.

(Also, It kinda failed to come up, but the core idea is that more than just Blackstone herself remains, and they've quietly been rebuilding power as they prepare to try and counterbalance Twilight's approach, starting with one of the most obvious threats: Starlight. So yeah. There's a network.)

Trixie actually giving up her magic and her destiny does heavily challenge that, because despite it still just being a "better choice" it is SUCH a contrary to her nature (as perceived by Blackstone) choice, that she has to reevaluate her beliefs. Is that enough? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... I need to think on that. I kinda suspect more needs to happen to really sell it.

If anyone has feedback on that point, I would honestly appreciate it. Again, kinda the issue of being a discovery writer. I had an ending in mind (Trixie gives up her stuff, happy ending!), but not really the whole of it. Heck, maybe it needs a lot more or to be different.

Oh. And we totally ignore that Blackstone - a very dangerous pony in her own right - gets totally left alone in the end.

>>CoffeeMinion Another problem I have since I don't outline. Much like The Flame, The Fox, and The Frozen Blade, the first scene is often me writing myself into the story, thus it tends to be pretty easy to cut (or at least pare down massively) on an edit. That said, I think there is some value to it, but it should probably be a little more vehicle to really sell Blackstone and offer possibly a bit more insight into who she is.

That said, if I keep it, I might want to consider making it a flashback that takes place after the opening scene so we reach the actual conflict sooner.

>>Baal Bunny Yeah. I was debating a village connection, but I'm not sure I like it. I think Blackstone being a "moral" villain is better for her characterization. That said, it isn't outside my consideration. But yeah, a little more info not all dumped by Sunburst would probably be good.

>>BlazzingInferno Hey, it's almost like there is a unilateral agreement that just ending the story because I'm tired is probably a bad idea. >_>

But yeah. I also wavered a bit on the emotional fronts because I was trying to figure out whose story this was. It ended up sort of walking the line between the two of them, but it does cost a little bit of intensity in this version.

And yeah, figuring out when to drop first person for Trixie to maximize impact is always a trick. You might be right here.

>>JudgeDeadd Yeah, as I talked about, the showmareship was a bottom of the 9th idea, so it definitely would help to build it out a bit better.

I'll also have to double-check the perspective. I slip sometimes when doing that.

>>Not_A_Hat Yep. On top of everything else, it is a bit of lampshading. Still, probably wouldn't hurt to sell it just a little better, right?

As for the rest, does the commentary above (re: unrevealed motivations) sell it a bit better?

>>Trick_Question Thank you kindly, though I do think I agree that, particularly given I'm using a sort of bastardized origin for Sombra, I think a little clarification on Blackstone wouldn't hurt.

>>Posh Given how often I type Manehattan (it features prominently in Equestria Exiled), I'm surprised I actually made that "typo."

You are definitely right. I wavered on whose story this really was. I think focusing a little bit more there (or, at least, acknowledging it is going to be both and thus focusing tighter on both of their specific conflicts) would help things out. And particularly given a key point of this is their relationship and the interplay of their parts in this story, I think that's probably the right path.

Also good call on that amazingly blatant plothole I missed on the shop age.

>>Zaid Val'Roa I'm pretty good at doing one specific thing wrong enough that nearly everyone agrees. :p

>>Morning Sun Repeat my statements to Baal Bunny here as well! :p

And seriously, thanks to everyone who commented, read, and helped me snap up my very first medal. To be honest, I was kind of super frustrated with this story when I posted it (running out of time really left me sour), so all this was honestly really uplifting to read.

(Oh, and if anyone is interested in beta reading when I get around to revising, please lemme know. I'm low on readers these days.)