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Keep Pretending · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#501 · 2
· on The Party That Never Starts (For Me) · >>WritingSpirit
Villainy Ain't a Piece of Cake was a blind shot that missed

With respect, I disagree. Villainy was pretty great! I think it could bear some tuning and tweaking, but it’s got really good bones (as HGTV et. al. would say).
#502 · 3
· on Sweet on the Inside · >>Hap >>Pascoite
Here it goes!

I'm also not sure this is proper, but I'll say it anyway! First thanks goes to Pascoite for helping me edit! Without Pascoite, this fiction would be trashed- (trust me, major improvements!) This one is going into my re-write bin for later!

From the get-go, I knew I was playing a dangerous card by making a Changeling fic. I find those fictions to be very cliche and overused. Not to mention it would blend in with the crowd of similar stories in this round.

But, by far, this is the only idea that made it under the 750 word limit. All others overshot it.

Let's just say the “relation to a picture” constraint threw me for a loop, but now I've seen the other entries, it doesn't have to be complicated. Just be free, and go wherever the picture takes you.

Even if this story is not your cup of tea, Thanks for your comment!

Since you bring up grammar issues, I need to study it a bit more. The “SVO” structure (I believe) in the round before last (All The Time in the World), got me into trouble, so I had to mix it up. I overcompensated.

Also, first person is not my strong suit. For some strange reason, I tried to write this in third person, but it wanted to shift over to first person. Dangerous move, but it was worth the experience!

All in all, I'm glad you didn't quit before the [*hr]! Thanks for seeing the heart inside this piece!

In order to make this short, I cut out some of my excuses. I realize that the best way to do this is cut out the exposition and get to the good stuff: your help!

I haven't been very good at beginnings, even at the best of times. Thankfully, Pascoite told me that this would be better than the former opening line, which trust me, major improvement. But, then again, I need to watch my step with dubious word choices.
I missed an opportunity there.

Curse my ignorance, but what does “YMMV” stand for?

There are multiple things you have addressed, from the digression at the beginning to the plot convenience of the disguise failing. Most of which I'm on the lookout for- I've learned immensely from this round, especially from this comment. When in doubt, or when you get a sneaking suspicion or doubt, bring it out and solve it rather than have it ruin your fic.

Thanks again! I can't describe it without sounding a teensy bit mean to the others comments. Don't get me wrong, each has nuggets of wisdom that are priceless. Mind that- this is what I've been looking for! I've got a lot of improvement to do. The first draft and the final draft are very different from each other. But, I'm learning!

I'm sorry if my writing was cumbersome. I understand it's not the smoothest read. I'm working on solving that problem. I'm not out of the woods yet.

Thank you for reading!
#503 · 2
· on Sweet on the Inside
"Your mileage may vary"

It's a colloquialism to mean that the advice may or may not work for you.
#504 · 2
· on Cheerilee's Five
I usually am a big fan of stories with a sprawling concept and an acute attention to detail. Part of the fun for me in reading it is to dissect and extract the smallest pieces of information that's usually hidden between the lines, however grand or sparse they may be. It certainly improves my reading experience if the writer brings something more to the table than just the story at its surface.

This isn't that kind of story, but I still liked it a lot, and that's saying something.

I actually liked the choppy, fragmented structure in this story, even if it's done unintentionally. For me, it's a reflection of Cheerilee's plethora of shock, confusion, amazement, and slow-burning frustration. To basically distill all her encounters down to the smallest details that mattered to her and the comparison she inevitably makes to her day-to-day life I find hits home the disillusionment she feels.

There's still some small pieces of information that I think the story could do without ('And she? Stuffy, traditionalist, old mare.', the frequent callbacks to the sea, the whole bit about the Cherilee five being singers) that could otherwise give you more room to maneuver. I do think there are some threads in the story that were left unexplored as well, the most poignant one being Rarity. I'm drawing the assumption that Rarity was first mate of the Five, and that her 'betrayal' of sorts hit Cheerilee the hardest. Whatever it may be, it's an interesting choice to leave her out of the story yet seem essential to the equation at the same time.

As it is, I really enjoyed this story, and I'd fave it even if it's left alone in this state, though I suspect there's a lot more going on behind the scenes that you've intended to put in, yet cannot do so because of the word count. Either way, this one made me smile a lot and I can't wait to see what else is in store, should there be more.

Best of luck to you, fellow writer!
#505 · 3
· on A Trail of Sugar Blood
...Is it just me, or is Applejack not nearly as worked up about this as she should be? There's concern there, sure, but Pinkie's bleeding to death up there. You'd think she'd quit humoring Ponk and just apple-buck her out of that tree...

Whatever. I enjoyed it. I really did. It's a non-grimdark interpretation of a picture that struck me as pretty damn grimdark, so I appreciate you, author, for subverting the expected reading of the material. It's semi-squicky gallows comedy that reminds me, oddly, of Spin The Wheel, Get A Prize.

*squints suspiciously at guessing page*
#506 · 1
· on Sweet on the Inside
I don't normally pitch in on a conversation unless the author says I was involved with the process, because I consider that privileged information, but since PinoyPony has said so...

I happened to have a long stretch of a couple hours where nobody was asking for help, so I spent a lot longer on this than I normally would, and I thought it cleaned up nicely. There's only so much you can do in a day, of course, but it was a big improvement over where it started. There were further revisions made later on, so I hadn't seen the final version until now.

As Pinoy said, there was originally a different beginning. It wasn't just that the first line was different. It's that there were several paragraphs of unnecessary information at the beginning, so we chopped all that off and started with the line that had a better hook and actually had something vital going on.

That said, I didn't have any of the cognitive dissonance horizon did with it. It's very much a YMMV thing. The issue with "glaring" being intransitive didn't bother me at all. I've done that before, intentionally, and it can work, depending on the tone the story takes. Since we have a first-person narrator, I'm also inclined to forgive a fair amount of that in the name of character voicing. Same with the implication of whether this feels like an active structure for the character or Pinkie. I think it could work either way. It depends on how the character reacts to it. Yes, the choice made here is a passive reading, but at least it was consistent with what horizon noted about where the narrator's attention goes after that. It may not have been the best phrasing for it, but the mechanism of it didn't rub me the wrong way.

I do see a few minor grammatical issues in the first scene, but nothing too serious, and not a lot of them, so I'm not sure what the "rough spots" are in that regard.

My feel was that this would be kind of borderline, but I thought it would be good enough to make finals, at least. I'll be interested to see where it got ranked.
#507 · 1
· on Aftercare · >>WritingSpirit
Just from the title, I'm expecting something BDSM related.

her arid pants loud and clear.


1) Why is she wearing pants?

2) What is the purpose of wearing pants if they're clear?

3) The pants are loud? Made of cellophane or what?


I've not seen all of season 8 so the whole camera bit was confusing and didn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the story. I get that it's a nod to canon, but I feel it's unnecessary and just wastes words that could have been used to give us more of this delicious interaction.

I liked the love/hate relationship, the dependence and rejection of independence. Chrysalis as a resentful sub and Fancy as a reluctant dom.

Upon a second reading, I'm not sure that's accurate. There's a complex and interesting power dynamic here. Chrysalis seems to be topping from the bottom, but Fancy is still in many ways in charge of the relationship as a whole... yet still trying to help her become independent, even as she rejects his direction and his attempts to help.

This is good, and the majority of it is tightly written. I agree with the others that the opening could have been better, but it's still top tier for sure.
#508 · 1
· on The Party That Never Starts (For Me)
I think I should first concur with >>CoffeeMinion that Villainy was great, and probably my favorite of the four stories you've written for that didn't make the cut. It may not be as big of a miss as you would think, because I find that the interaction between the Cakes and Mane-iac does pose some rather interesting questions. Sure, they did remain unanswered, but I believe with a little work, you can probably flesh it out a lot more.

Now, onto this story in question.

From what I recall, I'll echo >>Bachiavellian's point in that the dialogue between Amethyst and Lyra was the first thing that stuck out to me. Many sections of it a little bit forced, as if they were being pushed to say the things that they were saying. Lyra elaborating that much on the six emotions, in particular, was a little strange to me, because it seemed that Lyra showed as much enthusiasm into the subject as Amethyst was when I'm certain that wasn't supposed to be the case.

Onto the concept in question, the contrast between introversion and extroversion coming to a head, as you've brought up in your comment, is definitely an interesting dynamic, even though it's been done quite a number of times before. Suffice to say, I can only recall films that do that well (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Her, the recently-released Eighth Grade) but it's a tried and true concept that still has a place today, even on a site like this. When you mentioned that, I can finally see what's exactly going on behind the scenes, but I think the problem I had with the story as a whole, however, comes from its implementation.

The scene seems to be fully dependent on the concept when it should be structured around it.

That's what I felt coming away from this story, unintended or otherwise, and I do think this extends to the problem I had with the dialogue as well. Starting off with the premise, there are some unanswered questions about it that my fellow writers before me have pointed out already, so I won't repeat them. I'll just add that the lack of stakes goes both ways as well, as it didn't seem to be progressing towards anything beyond the scene that was set up. Is there anything beyond this scene that you've provided us? What happens to Amethyst and Lyra beyond this point? The fact that I find myself scratching my head of how this scene came to be and where this scene would lead gives me that impression.

The characters seem to be molded too neatly into the concept as well. Yes, Amethyst is the pessimistic introvert, and Lyra the optimistic extrovert, but I feel there should be more to the characters than what we're given. There's definitely a vague sense of motivation as to why each character is doing what they're doing in this whole short scene, but the motivation I'm getting from them isn't... urgent.

Okay, I'm delving into stage-acting terminology here, so bear with me.

Put it simply, a good objective stems from transitive verbs. In a scene, each character has an objective that they're trying to achieve, and throughout the scene, they'll use any means necessary to achieve that singular objective, which one can separate into beats. The objective can be stated as such:

Twilight Sparkle is trying to dissuade Spike from leaving Ponyville.

Now, compare that objective used in the same context with this:

Twilight Sparkle is trying to convince Spike from leaving Ponyville.

You can notice that the sense of urgency isn't there in this case. The stakes didn't seem to matter as much when she's 'convincing' him not to leave as opposed to 'dissuading' him.

Suppose I apply the same mechanic to that story to our protagonist, Amethyst, this is my interpretation:

Amethyst Star is trying to ensure she isn't ruining the party.

First problem I can see is that it's not a transitive verb. Second, 'ensuring' is somewhat passive in comparison to most verbs, though there isn't really a fitting replacement I can think of considering how bare the scene itself really is. I can say that Lyra has a stronger objective than Amethyst, though not by a large margin, unfortunately.

You can see how it would pose a problem for a character-driven narrative story. The dynamic is there, no question, but I feel like more thought has been put into the whole introvert / extrovert idea than the relationship between the two, and that their relationship stems only from the concept and, as such, does not have any organic root in the scene that just feels out of place for some reason. In the end, the moments of connection and conflict between the characters in the story lacked weight, even despite possessing contrasting personalities.

I think it's nice that you have a neat concept going for it, though I wished more time was spent focused on making the story engaging rather than making sure it adhered to the concept down to its finest detail. Nevertheless, that's just the impression I get from reading the story.

Thanks for writing!
#509 · 3
· on Daring Do and The Heightened Sensibilities · >>Zaid Val'Roa
I'm not touching the 'Lol political correctness' thing because, look, I'm 100% sure it's just a joke and there's no real meaning behind it. I'm fairly sure the author didn't mean to, like, comment on the current state of language and the representation of minorities. They just saw that the picture had 'Daring Do and the Black Curse' as a title and went, heh. You can interpret that as racist if you want to. Hey there's a story there!

That said -- yeah, bit rude to the artist, mate. Unless you yourself are the artist? Otherwise, bro. Not that cool tbh.

Also, I love >>Miller Minus to death, but I disagree with:

But all that aside. If I look past the concept and the talking heads strategy, I see excellent dialogue. None of it is awkward or contrived or anything. It's a perfectly believable conversation, with even some fun quips, and with some more info about the body language of these two, it would be more engaging.

Sorry, author, but I think the dialogue is distinctly stilted, which is what got me out of the story. The most obvious, on-the-nose example of this is the fact that the characters keep repeating each other's names in ways that feel kind of awkward?

And like, I get why -- this is all-dialogue, so you do need to remind the readers who's talking. Problem is... Why not lose the talking heads, then? You legit lose more than you gain. The dialogue is awkward because of it, the lack of anything but the dialogue makes it feel stilted and unnatural, there's not enough quibble to really sell the thing as an interesting conversation per-se, and -- and I'm sorry that this happened cause, again, this was super probably an accident -- the topic and the way in which it's handled comes off as a bit... insensitive? Funnily enough?

So yeah, this didn't do it for me, Author. I feel kinda annoyed at myself for not really pointing out exactly why I find the dialogue stilted; it's a vague thing, and I'd need to really dig into this and find out the why. Don't really have enough time to come with specifics if I wanna read everything else in the little time I have -- but the names are a clear example.

My advice: lose the talking heads, maybe add some conflict (unno, regarding the use of pyramids or whatever), add some more description, make us care. The fact that both characters have the same voicing also makes it lose points IMO, because they really talk the same, and I have no idea what kind of character Red is. It's just a blank slate, and in a fic that's literally based on characters talking to each other, voicing is crucial.
#510 · 1
· on Her Eyes Contained Heaven · >>WritingSpirit
This might be a pinnacle example in how to pack maximum emotional impact into a minimal word count.

Concept-wise, it's not anything super stand-out, but the writing is excellent absent that, and the layers of pain and repeated line from the poet drive all the emotions home with pinpoint precision right into my left ventricle. That's my favorite ventricle, by the way, so good work. I really want cake now.
#511 · 2
· on Double Jeopardy
What Skywriter said. You took a well-done but kinda goofy picture and turned it into a treatise on character motivations and the consequences of power abuse. Just, hot damn. I don't really have much of anything to add beyond how impressed I am.

Actually... thinking on it a moment before hitting the post comment button, it is a bit curious that Nightmare Moon is the hostess/emcee, yet doesn't really do anything except file her hooves. This seems to take place during the S6finale, or possible the early stages of the Canterlot Invasion timeline, and now I'm wondering if the entire dream sequence wasn't a sub-subconscious pitch by Luna to keep them alive for a while longer for help to arrive. Hence, Nightmare Moon's presence, but not interaction: she's only extant enough to set the stage, not act.

But hey, that's just a theory—a fan theory.
#512 · 1
· on The Beast With Your Face · >>Skywriter
Echoing the above, I think a more reluctant Celestia ("I know it's not what you want, but we have to do a big show for the sake of city/national morale", or some such) would have fit, but otherwise I was on the train, first-class ticket in hand for this concept. Cady as the opposite of a Bridezilla—a Bridegekko, if you will—is a really cool concept that I've not seen before. Doesn't totally jive with canon, but that's okay sometimes for the sake of executing an interesting idea. The contrast between Chryssi getting everything she wants and Cadance getting nothing is a hard hitting parallel to real life, intended or not, and I appreciate that too.
#513 ·
· on In Caverns Deep at Night
This feels like an alternate take/subversion of another story from a few rounds ago that read almost identically, though bugger if I can remember the name of it. Which, I liked that other story's originality in style, so nice job replicating it (unintentionally or not).

As for the content itself, I find myself kind of totally baffled. It obviously starts off as a "Luna guides a wayward traveler" sort of thing, and the small changes along the way make it clear there's Changeling foolery afoot, but the whole thing still seems to take place in a legitimate dreamscape where Chryssi ought not to be, so I'm just like... okay how did that happen?

I'm a fan of mystery and not tipping your hand all the way to the reader, but I've been through this twice and if there are any clues as to why Chrysalis is in the dreamscape, or if it's not actually a dream, I have missed them entirely. But be not discouraged! There's good seed here.
#514 · 2
· on A Rebuttal
I don't know a lot about math, but I do know what makes me laugh wildly in the middle of Starbucks, and this was (very nearly) it. Not for lack of quality, I just have high self control. Snark aside, I did really giggle at this nonstop. It's so perfectly Twilight: We have a list, denial of reality based in strong emotion, excess testing, and pointing out really weird tidbits to support her point.

I love it.
#515 · 1
· on A Trail of Sugar Blood
“So y'all gonna bleed to death just to prove a point, huh.”

Okay, I haven't even read passed the first line, but holy cow I'm already rolling. We have voice, character, and conflict all played out in a dozen words. Absolutely lovely. This is text book 'how to make a good first line," in my opinion. Now, back to work.

Okay I want to quote all the really funny parts that made me laugh, but I'd just be reposting the entire bit down in the comments. Good work start to finish. Everything lands perfectly, and I will draw special attention to the fact that several of AJ's questions are not punctuated as such, indicating a dry tone for her rhetorical questioning.
#516 · 1
· on Help! My House Thinks It's a Castle!
A totally bonkers premise played completely straight by the characters inside. I expected Twi to show up to rationalize everything to death like normal, but even she took everything in total stride and tried to reason with a talking house having an identity crisis..

#517 · 3
· on Cheerilee's Five
This hurt my heart in a visceral way. I know Cheerilee's pain, and I hate it and I try not to think about it. So, good work capturing the rigors of growing up to be the boring one with nothing exciting or glamorous going on.
#518 · 2
Well, I might have to hang up my reviewin' horseshoes for this round and leave my voting up to the holdovers from my prelim slate. Got some promises to keep elsewhere as we head into October. :rainbowdetermined:

Best of luck, all!
#519 · 2
· on Help! My House Thinks It's a Castle!
This story started out cute, but...

Also ended up cute!

This was a great example of a story that didn't exceed its scope, yet excelled at what it did.

I have read the other comments, but I don't agree with either of the criticisms therein. It works fine as-is.
#520 · 1
· on The Gang Sells Hard Flower Arrangements

I'm sure this is funnier if you're into drug culture, but it landed kind of flat for me. I will echo the sentiment that this story was trying to shoehorn a real drug into Equestria, rather than letting poison joke be its usual punny self.

I enjoyed what character interaction there was between the flower girls. I would have liked to see more of that and less "tee-hee they're doing drugs."
#521 · 1
· on Double Jeopardy
My only complaint with this one is that it was easy to lose track of who was talking sometimes. This led me to believe that this was set in an alternate timeline wherein Starlight (and a cadre of friendship-laser-armed friends) had successfully brainwashed Twilight into becoming evil. Then, after getting an apologetic letter from Twilight promising to be more eviller, allowed her to move in to her castle.
#522 ·
· on
It's a shame that this didn't make finals. Despite my critique, it was easily in the top half of my slate.

The ending is trickier ... I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be at all redundant

For me, it wasn't about whether she can do it or not (which is obvious enough from the current last scene). It's about closure. It's about showing the last part of the emotional arc, from denial to fear to confrontation to growth. Right now it feels like it's skipping the denouement: it pulls back away just as we're about to get the payoff.

If you're concerned about redundancy, then maybe the solution is to make sure it isn't redundant. "Whether Twilight can do it or not" isn't the right question to answer, because as you point out, that's not new information. "How she and Celestia react" is. Pride, relief, embarrassment at taking so long, a sense that something important has been lost, a sense that something important has been gained? Right now we don't know.
#523 · 2
· on A Trail of Sugar Blood · >>Aragon
This was really funny. That said, it definitely dragged – once I got to the lollipop, I found myself skimming to find out what was really going on. It's a funny situation, what with Pinkie stubbornly keeping herself in mortal danger, but it stays that way without anything changing for too long.

In any other pony, the half-witted smile that made it to Pinkie’s face would have been terrifying. This was Pinkie, though, so it looked average at best. “I’m in danger.”

Well, looks like I'm not the only author with a Simpsons reference in their Writeoff entry anymore.
#524 · 4
Hey, authors! Just a heads-up that I've created this round's folder in the Writeoff Association FIMFiction group. If you edit and publish your story over there, add it to the Writeoff group so we can go see (and upvote) its final form!


* If your story is in the finals, DON'T PUBLISH TO FIMFIC YET! You'll break anonymity and get disqualified if you do. Once you can see your name on the Gallery page, however, you're good to go.

* The Writeoff group's story folders are locked to "Contributors" due to spam problems from outsiders. However, anyone who has ever entered even a single Writeoff qualifies for "Contributor" privileges to the group, and should be able to add stories to any folder. If you don't, tag me here or shoot me a FIMFiction PM and I'll fix that for you.
#525 ·
· on Daring Do and The Heightened Sensibilities · >>Zaid Val'Roa
If it's about the cover I know it's rough, I put it together in an afternoon.

Since this is now two people commenting on it... I would like to say that, as the artist behind the pic this fic is based on, I am in no way insulted nor even anything resembling that emotion. If it was meant to be rude? Well, try harder next time. If not, hey, no harm done.

In other news, I love this story. It does touch on some sketchy subjects, but I think it handles them well. The racism avoidance of the publisher being racist in-and-of itself. And I really think it says a bit about creative freedom, or rather, lack thereof. However, I concur, the dialogue coulda been done a bit better. Regardless, again, I do love this story.

Also, tbh, I think Obsidian(you spell it with a 'y'? Cause that's something else...) Curse woulda been a better title, nice job xD
#526 · 1
· on Love is the Answer
Respect to my friends and colleagues, but I liked the perspective trickery. I'm sort of under the impression that the first half of the story is Lyra's direct POV, while the latter (where the second person kicks in) is the product of Chryssi's brainwashing. Ie., the "you" portions are her commanding Lyra to think, feel, believe, and accept this new reality that she's feeding her.

Which is chilling, to me.

No, I dig it (and you, author).
#527 ·
· on Asymmetry
I'm a dummy and ended up tuning out ninety percent of the mathematical portions. While I found the ending, its implications, and the larger message appropriately chilling... I think most of the storytelling sailed over my head.

This is a soft abstain. I liked it, but I couldn't follow its contents well enough to judge it fairly as a whole product. I hope you forgive me, author, for weaseling out.
#528 ·
· on Keep on Training · >>Samey90
Incredibly cute and charming; you play well with the animal's perspective here. I don't think it goes quite far enough, however. I get that you're going for "supercilious cattitude, despite not actually knowing anything for real," and for the most part that's captured well. But I feel as if Opal comes across as a little too worldly and knowledgeable, for someone who doesn't even realize that she's in a fake cardboard train.

Play with the cat's perspective. The reader's privileged to information that Opal is incapable of grasping. Take that further.
#529 · 3
· on Letting Go · >>Trick_Question
I dunno. I called it from the beginning (not Mr Turnip specifically, but the twist in general) and the rest of the story just was a painfully long wait for the punchline that I knew was coming.

From the other readers' reactions, it seems to work well when the punchline is a surprise.
#530 · 1
· on A Rebuttal · >>QuillScratch
this fic could've been the same joke done 10 times in a row

...wasn't it?

It worked, and worked well.
#531 · 4
I'm gonna make a legitimate push to read and rank all the stories in the final round, but I don't know if I'll be able to comment on more an a handful. I'm sorry; I know participation has been down this month, and I, Posh, am Part Of The Problem.

Authors, please do forgive me. Even if I didn't say anything about yours, please believe me when I say I (most likely) read it, and (probably) love you.
#532 · 2
· on In Caverns Deep at Night
Author, I'd like to specifically point out one writing choice here that you might want to work on with editing:

Though you are trapped in a spider web, please relax,

Are you okay there, in that pit below?

Oh, now here is a problem. How shall you cross this chasm?

It's hard to do dramatic monologue without breaking immersion, and this common trope is the reason why. You've got lines littered throughout the fic that paint the scene for the reader, but don't actually work with your conceit: that the narrator is speaking throughout to the protagonist. Whatever the merits of the rest of the story, there are readers who are going to keep getting broken out of their suspension of disbelief by this. (Like, uh, me.)

Describing a scene with speech alone takes a fine touch, but it ultimately goes back to the show/tell distinction. Telling the reader what's going on allows you to efficiently set the scene and move on; showing requires the reader to engage and creates immersion. Similarly, if you have someone As You Know, Bob the situation, you slam the context down in front of the reader and paint the picture quickly, but talking about the facts of the situation -- rather than giving the facts of the situation -- is what draws the reader in.

Are you okay there, in that pit below?

"Oh, dear! Are you alright? ... I apologize; I probably should have suggested you grab the web before you unstuck yourself. It'll be easier to climb back up here if you shift about three paces to your right. Don't favor that arm, though -- it's only as hurt as you convince yourself it is."

Note what you want to paint a picture of here. The physical surroundings aren't actually important -- except insofar as they drive the protagonist's struggles. So you don't need specifically to describe the physical surroundings, only how they force the hero to react. With the description above, the reader may picture a cliff instead of a pit (which is fine unless your story specifically requires a pit for a later plot beat) -- but I think the paragraph above is something I could believe I'm hearing from someone trying to guide another person through that situation. (If not, refine further: I'm writing this off the cuff.)

Ah, a dream traveller, are you? You bear the stink of certain magics that are used to enter the Astral Realms. Do not panic; preserve your strength! Though you are trapped in a spider web, please relax, I am not here to harm you, but to help. This form of dark blue and black is how I am accustomed to appear in the Lands of Dream.

The opening paragraph is a little trickier, and I'm going to dissect it at greater length, because it's got more goals to accomplish than just setting the scene immersively. You're also trying to set a hook and orient the reader from a cold start. (And disclaimer, again, that this is just a suggestion and I'm not infallible.)

Do not panic!

Please, traveller, do not panic. I am not here to harm you. You are just going to get yourself further entangled if you thrash about like that.

Stop. Breathe. Calm. Good.

Mine? Hardly -- I am no dreamspider. Why would you -- ah. Here. ... Is this better? I suppose that is the mixed blessing of being dark blue and black; others tend to project their assumptions into your shadows, especially when their fears already give the darkness teeth.

Please, stay your questions until we get you out of danger. We have plenty of time to free you before the spider returns -- but only if you focus and let me guide you ...

Now, this clocks in at far longer -- 112 words to your 66. (Again, tell has the benefit of efficiency, at least.) And, while it sets the same stuck-in-a-web scene, it's less informative overall. (I feel like Luna's colors are still wedged in awkwardly, and there's nothing grounding the protagonist yet.) But here's what you get in exchange for that tradeoff: the sense of urgency missing from the original scene.

The Protagonist is stuck in a dreamspider's web and a shadowy figure just appeared. I don't know about you, but in that situation I would be panicking pretty hard. Neither one of them is going to be thinking about how Luna (well, "Luna") senses the stink of astral magics on T.P., or really even banter about her coloration (as much as you need and want to get that established early). The two of them get a chance to catch their breath after the immediate crisis is resolved -- use that to answer questions. (This also gives you a chance to predict the reader's reaction: ask yourself what questions you'd be asking in that situation, and make a point of answering them. Nothing breaks a reader out of second person faster than saying, "Hey, that's not what I'd say/do." That's the other reason I suggest a tighter focus up front.)

If you're cold-opening with a problem, focus on that problem. Yes, you have to work facts about the situation in somehow -- and you have to work in enough context to get the reader started -- but if you lay out the problem and then stop to chat, you're setting your problem up as less important than the exposition you interrupt it for. Every fact you add which isn't directly relevant to solving the problem makes the problem look more distant and less interesting. I think you gain more from setting the hook hard here than you lose from having to cut 50 words (and work in a little more exposition) later.

Anyway, I hope I've given you something to think about with this. I do like the twist the story ends up using (though I have so many questions); I just think this could strongly benefit from dodging the common second-person and narrative/epistolary pitfalls. Immersion is precious no matter what type of story you're telling.

Tier: Almost There
#533 · 4
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5 · >>horizon
Gah hah hah.

So, as I've been saying over in the Discord Chat, this story is absolutely a reference to Jorge Luis Borges' Libro de los Seres Imaginarios, which I guess in English is translated to Book of Imaginary Beasts. It's a book I actually own twice, and it was the first Borges book I ever read. It scared the shit out of me as a kid.

I'm so sure that this is a reference to that book, not so much for the title -- which is, like, a dead giveaway -- but for the structure, too. This is actually a very well put-together homage to that book, because what Borges does is to create a sort of dictionary of mythological beasts, all of them weird as hell, and explain them and their characteristics based on old legends and what pieces of literature accross the globe have said about them.

It reads exactly like this story, which is why I liked it so much. The idea of random facts about the Air Rays (as well as the way they're told) was the entire point of this thing.

Okay, I'm being a little bit fuzzy here, because I don't know if I'm squeeing over the book or over the story. This is gonna be a bit long, but hey, the author went and wrote a fic about the one book I'd marry if it were legally possible. They sorta deserve it.

Look, the quality of this story is hard to read. On the one hand, if it's supposed to simply be a "translation" of Borges to Equestria, with a completely new imaginary beast, then the story is impeccable. Details about how Air Rays are voracious based on a single line Gryphons say is a very Borges thing to do. The style is brought perfectly well, and on that basis alone, this story would be a perfect ten from my completely and utterly unbiased point of view.

However, if we take this as a story, things change a little. The thing about that book is that Borges made up the concept and created an entire dictionary you can look at random to read about some imaginary animals you'd probably never heard of (there's literally an entry that's just "an animal dreamed by Kafka", go figure) and then chuckle and go back to your business. It's a great book, don't get me wrong, but it's a weird one, and it definitely benefits from multiple entries.

Because when you have an entirely original concept and you play it out like that, the book actually becomes something extremely rewarding for the reader, based on novelty and ability to lose yourself alone. It's a strange kind of worldbuilding, so to speak. But that isn't exactly translated to this minific entry, even if it really does a good job in imitating Borges' style.

First of all, because it really doesn't do anything... new? With that? It's just an entry. It's also the single most basic interpretation of the picture you can think of, which does not exactly add points -- you literally went and wrote a dictionary entry of the title of that picture and submitted it. Sure, you went and chose the single best dictionary ever written, but it's still kind of dry.

This doesn't tell a story, is the thing. The book told a story because it was a series of entries; one, by itself, just sorta happens on its own. I like how it paints Air Rays, I love everything about this minific, but I also understand that this is not actually a story, it's, as Bachiavellian said, a random collection of facts about Air Rays.

That's in the end what the story wanted to be, and I get that -- so in that regard, well-done, Author. If you told me you wanted to post this in fimfic as part of a bigger anthology of imaginary animals, I would beg you to tell me so I can participate and write one or two entries too. But as it stands, this kind of thing needs a narrative to work; the readers don't know what they're supposed to expect, and it's easy to think this is leading up to something.

So tl;dr: this is a great homage to Borges, but that's all it is, really. It doesn't really add anything to that idea, it doesn't tell a story with the format, it doesn't particularly benefit from being a ponyfic... It's just doing exactly the same thing Borges did in 1981, but it lacks one of the things that made that book special -- mainly, the fact that it was a dictionary, that it was a SERIES of entries that built on each other to create an entire catalogue of stories and books.

This, alone, in the end is nothing but random tidbits that add up to nothing and are left floating. I'm glad this wasn't on my slate, because I would have had a really difficult time rating it. My first instinct is to immediately place it first, but analyzing it on its own? I don't know, it's a tricky one.

Fucking props on the writing and on the imagination it took to write shit like the Air Ray dying of heartbreak after witnessing the filly feeding a windroc, though. Those details I loved; it's just that this doesn't work as a single minific.
#534 · 3
· on Pull Yourselves Together · >>R5h
I think the main thing with this story is that its execution is both its main point and its main setback, beause you have two options here: either risk breaking immersion by stating exactly what is going on, or be as natural as possible when writing the monologue and risk the reader not really getting what is going on.

Because this is a monologue in the end, really, just a stylistic one. For what is worth, I really like this approach -- I've seen many a dramatic monologue before, especially during minific rounds, and this one is adding something new to the table. The easy way out here would have been to simply have Daring Do/Yearling talk to herself and have that be the entire story, but this goes and play with the execution to give it some freshness.

I like that! It shows a desire to push this particular genre to new places, which is what it kinda needs, to be honest. Dramatic self-pity monologues are like peanut butter: by the seventh scoop, you can feel your windpipe crushing itself in self-defense. This story at least adds some jam.

(God, I hate peanut butter so much).

Anyway, yeah, that's the positive. I also appreciate that this lacks as-you-know-isms -- or rather, the ones it has are at least natural enough not to break immersion. Problem is that the story ends up being rather confusing because, yeah, that execution that I just praised prevents you from describing anything, Author, and I think the story suffers in the readability area because of it.

So what I got was that the entire first third is Yearling talking to herself after getting all the rejection letters. Then, she smashes the bottles of cider in a hissy fit and tries to fix the novel up, which is why she moves to the whiteboard. Everything in cursive is what she's writing down; everything not in cursive is still her inner monologue, or the metaphorical little devil sitting on her shoulder. Then she starts writing on the back of the rejection letters for the last third, and that's why she's suddenly writting four-line paragraphs. Through all this, she's just talking to herself, or letting her own depression/biggest fears/self-doubt trashtalk her and her work, while her more conscious self is actively trying to fix whatever problem she's facing.

That's what I understand, however. Note how apparently nobody else seems to think this -- unless I'm misreading her comment, >>Trick_Question interprets it as Daring Do literally writing everything on the whiteboard, and switching styles to reply to herself. Likewise, >>CoffeeMinion suspects that this might be a more literal split in personality and there's some magic artifact or whatever affecting Yearling/Daring Do.

All this shit to say -- it's kind of hard to know what's going on, which is ultimately the biggest problem with this story. I like it for what it is, and for what it's trying to be, but I also don't know how to fix the obvious problems.

The most obvious thing I'd do here would be to move this out of the minific restriction of 750 words, and then amplify it. Let it breathe, add some narration instead of having it be all internal monologue, and properly set the stage to clear up any confusion and clarify meaning. Fair's fair: trying to have Daring explain the situation to the reader more blatantly ("Oh, so you are writing the words on the whiteboard while talking to yourself, now? That is so weird", shit like that) would be so awkward you'd definitely lose more than you can gain.

But as it stays, it's undeniable this is a bit complicated to parse. So yeah, obvious advise is to actually turn this into a proper story without the dramatic monologue/epistolary form, and just have narration explain what's going on while Daring Do battles her demons.

Only, y'know, if you do that you sorta lose what makes this story special, which is its formatting. So I kinda wonder if that's the right choice? Because doing that defeats the purpose of trying to add novelty to the self-pitying monologue (I think I might be biased against that genre? I keep referring to it like that and it certainly sniffs of negative connotations, that name) and you just end up with a story where Daring Do goes through a crisis.

Also, this sort of thing is fine for a short story, but a long story might suffer from lack of content unless you double down on the style. That I'd like to see; a heavily-stylized 2k story that deals with something as simple as self-doubt and how trying to get shit done is a solution but it's hard to do it can be really interesting. It also sounds really hard, but hey, I'm just throwing a glove here, you pick it up if you want to.

Alternatively, add more shit to it so it fits a 1k-to-2k story structure a bit better. Don't fucking know what, though. I like the fact that she adds details about Daring Do's family -- which is also her own, by virtue of the book being autobiographical -- in such a cynic way. 'Add foreshadowing about the mother'. Maybe dwelling on that would create an interesting story: the way her parents affected her, the way she keeps using the things closest to her heart as two-dimensional characters for her books, the good ol' metaphor of the artist as a whore, selling themselves out for money, because what is art if not one's soul made physical? And what does it mean if you create art only to make a profit?

Etcetera, etcetera. There's a lot of potential here, is what I'm saying. So I find it interesting, n so on.

Ultimately: I think this story is good! I honestly don't think you can do better than this in 750 words. On if this should be 750 words to start with, I can't say -- that's the author's thing to decide. Adding more words would imply, by necessity, adding more things, and that might destroy the simplicity of it all, which some might argue that is the story's main asset.

Tell a simple story in a novel way: there's value in that. So, unno.

This one isn't in my ballot, but if it were, it would probably be top half. I think? If anything, for the lack of as-you-know-isms, because Jesus Christ, fuck those.

Also, funnily enough, I think the structure of this story is the single most normal thing about it. Three arcs, clearly differenciated because there's a really big line break between all of them: internal struggle, battling it, and then defeating it. First it's just the monologue, then the whiteboard mumbojumbo, then writing on the back of the letters.

I'd say that's as traditional as you can get, and I appreciate how this is not just a rambling monologue, but an actual structured character arc with clear differenciation. I think you meant that the formatting is not that of a traditional story, rather.
#535 · 1
All right lads, do what you can... get 'em to 4! 5 if you can!
#536 · 1
· on Illusion Confusion · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
>>Dubs_Rewatcher I love you, but I have to disagree with your criticism.

In this story, Trixie's trying to distinguish her act from magic, which is (ironically) a much more common, run-of-the-mill sort of art in Equestria than her sleight-of-hand trickery nonsense. I think Trixie, particularly the iteration in this story, takes pride in the fact that she doesn't use real magic in her act, and to reduce it to something as mundane as the actual mystic arts sells her short.

That's what makes hear Great and Powerful. She doesn't need magic to be a magician. I have a similar headcanon.

With that bit of irony in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I'd argue that it overplays its hand by inserting cultist shenanigans; it was perfectly clever as a story about Trixie dealing with an overbearing fan, and even had the potential for a poignant moment of character growth. It leans hard into the absurd element by the end, however, and while I think it still comes together, it... I don't know; I can't help feeling like that wasn't the best call to make here, Author.

Thank you for entertaining me, regardless. :)
#537 · 1
· on The Dust Wraith
I can't say I know what this story is trying to say. I feel like there's a point here, but I can't tell if I'm missing it because I'm a dummy, or because the story -- in contrast with the one I just reviewed -- is underplaying its hand.

But even if I can't tell what it's trying to say, I recognize that it's saying it well. A very well done, kinetic piece, grounded in canon and highly evocative, with some haunting imagery.
#538 · 1
· on The Medal to Prove It
This story takes place over a year? Rainbow Dash and Applejack have been going through this particular bit of personal life baggage for a year?

...I think that's too much of a stretch. And I think it's harder to see, or appreciate, the character growth that Dashie's supposed to be undergoing. As a long-form story, maybe Dashie trying to hunt down and apologize to the guy she cheated out of a medal could work, if we could see the contrast between her current self and the person she used to be, or if she changed appreciably over the course of the story.

We don't get that, though. We can't. Snippets of a larger search that takes place over a year (which is still bind-moggling to me) are just not enough to convey what you're trying to convey.

I like the way this is written. I like the characters. I like how you write the characters. I'm just not sure it all comes together, author, I'm sorry.
#539 · 1
· on Trixie's Secret Admirer · >>Trick_Question
Starlight reached out and stroked Trixie's mane. "You only speak in third-pony when you're nervous," said Starlight, her eyes sad.

She must suffer from nonstop stage fright, then, because it's easier to count instances where Trixie isn't speaking in the third pony.

In contrast with the other Trixie story, "Help, I've Accidentally Started a Horse-Cult," this is a story that would have been better served by leaning into its absurd elements. Trixie becoming her own secret admirer is hilarious. Doing so to impress Glimmer is... actually pretty cute.

Wringing pathos out of it to the degree that you're doing? Not quite working out. I'm not sure the crying and the hugging is the route to take here.
#540 ·
· on Pinkie Pie Makes Limestone Smile · >>CoffeeMinion
I feel like this turns too quickly, from Limestone begrudgingly humoring Pinkie to spilling her guts to Pinkie, and undergoing a significant personal change at the end of the piece. The emotional beat feels unearned. The build-up is great, but the epiphany she reaches seems like it should come at the end of a long conversation, rather than the fast-paced exchange that we got.

I also cannot help but feel that the first paragraph is a tad overwritten for the space that you're working within.
#541 · 1
· on Illusion Confusion
#542 · 2
· on On the Proper Care of Trees
I wasn't at 100% that weekend. I know it sounds as an excuse, and it probably is, regardless of how it came to be, I didn't explore this to its fullest. Upon seeing the picture, I got the idea to have Twilight tend to the tree and describe it in an ambiguous way that would make the reader reminisce about Dash, only for the ending to confirm that it was Dash's grave.
I've never been all that great with subtletly or symbolism, but I hope some day I'll be able to pull it off.
Live and learn, I suppose.
#543 · 5
Woo! Congrats on the top two-fer, Aragon!
#544 · 3
· on The Beast With Your Face · >>Aragon
Most controversial? I'll take it!

Thanks to >>Rao, >>Bachiavellian, >>R5h, >>Haze for weighing in. The major repeating complaint for this one seems to be perceived OOC Celestia, and I will fully admit that my practically-unconscious-at-this-point headcanon for Oldest Princess may be getting in the way of peoples' enjoyment. This should probably be analyzed.

On the other hand, I will also fully admit that this is a story about my own wedding, not the actual Royal Wedding in canon, so discrepancies will exist.

It is always interesting to me what level of authorial distortion is judged acceptable for each individual character. You can write Twilight Velvet any way you like, even though she has a canon personality now, and no one bats an eye; but start presenting alternate versions of Fluttershy and you can almost hear the doors slamming shut. Perhaps it's just the fact that main characters have that much more screentime so you've got more time to develop hard opinions? I've been thinking it over quite a bit lately.
#545 ·
· on The Beast With Your Face · >>Skywriter
I think the issue (for me, at least) was less that Celestia was re-imagined as something different, or rather portrayed in an alternative way, and more that this difference that you're setting up doesn't really hold up long-term?

As in, the genre of exploring the hidden depths of a character or set of characters during a given scene is as old as fanfic itself, and taken as that, this story's good. But the problem is that we have seen more of Cadance after the wedding, and this interpretation of her relationship to Celestia/her own princesshood doesn't really... mesh well with that?

Like, I read this and I went oh hey, that's a cool reimagining of what Cadance was feeling when all this shit went down. But then you try to place this Cadance in the rest of the show -- that time she visited Twilight, the whole Crystal Empire thigamagig, how she's raising her daughter, etcetera -- and you don't get anything different. There's no sense of irony, or tragedy, or relief, or anything. Like, to give a shitty but easy example: if she spent the entire fic here going 'golly gee gosh I sure fucking hate children I hope Celestia doesn't force me to have one' we would think of Flurry Heart and go ah-hah, see, that puts everything under a new light.

But as it stands this one only works if Cadance's story, canonically, only goes all the way up to the wedding. As far as that goes, this reinterpretation is neat. But seeing how Cadance is ingrained in the mind of the reader as a character who, in the future, will certainly do a series of things that seemingly have nothing to do with this hidden depth you gave her -- it all ends in this kind of '...okay? So what?'-ish sorta feeling.

Story was well-written and stuff, but yeah,I think it was less OOC regarding Celestia alone and more a lack of perceived purpose to the alternative interpretation of the characters and relationships, when put in perspective. This doesn't feel like it's the same universe as the show, because we can't follow the logic trail that brings us to seasons 3 to 8. And because we're already feeling a modicum of disconnect because of that, Celestia sticks out harder (and is easier and more intuitive to point out as the 'main problem').

Or, uh, unno. My two cents. Been thinking a while why this story feels off, case you can't tell.
#546 ·
· on The Beast With Your Face · >>Aragon
I am flattered to at least have had it stick with you enough to mull over!
#547 ·
· on Double Jeopardy
Congrats on the medal finish! So glad this got some love in the finals.
#548 · 1
· on A Rebuttal · >>QuillScratch
Congrats on the medal finish!
#549 ·
· on The Beast With Your Face · >>BlueChameleonVI
It's a great story! It just kept bothering me why I wasn't liking it as much as I should, 'cause I dug the execution a lot but it kept nagging me. I was like, mulling over this while in the shower. Getting shampoo all over me eyes and shit, so focused I was.
#550 · 3
· on Letting Go
Letting Go
a retrospective

Much thanks to >>CoffeeMinion >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>horizon >>Hap for your advice and comments.

This was the better of the two stories I posted, and one I can probably put on Fimfiction without many changes. I need to clear up some things, first.

Horizon and Hap: this is not a comedy. Nothing in this story is humorous to me. The ending is even sadder for me because it reveals that Pinkie can't even let go of something trivial, and this is a big problem for her psychosocially. It's not intended to be a punchline, it's intended to be a punch to the gut.

I decided to write this story while looking at a pile of plushies in my room. It's always been difficult for me to get rid of a plush toy because my mind anthropomorphizes things to an unhealthy extent. I share a lot of personality qualities with Best Pony, and Party of One is a very personal story for me.

As I mentioned in my mock review (I rolled an 18 on random.org for reviewing this one), it also hits a painful nerve with me because my mother suffers from dementia and I am for the first time in my life confronted with the mortality of my parents, my two closest friends next to my husband.

Again, thanks for the advice and comments. I'll probably put this one up on Fimfiction soon. :pinkiesmile:
#551 ·
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>horizon >>CoffeeMinion
If I'd known that this was going to be completely ignored in the finals, I would rather have been eliminated early.


thanks for the feedback.
#552 · 2
· on Trixie's Secret Admirer · >>Haze >>Bachiavellian
Trixie's Secret Admirer
a retrospective

Thanks to >>Haze >>Bachiavellian >>Posh for your advice and comments.

This was the second of two stories I wrote, and I wrote it in haste. It suffers from a number of problems, in part because the story I had in mind isn't appropriate for a minific format. I need way more horse words to enter the drama territory I'd intended to.

First off, Haze and Bachiavellian: please explain why you think Starlight Glimmer knew about Trixie, because I don't see it and I need to understand why...

Trixie opened her eyes and looked at the box levitating in front of her. "What? I don't remember sending this."

"Sweet Celestia," said Starlight, her eyes widening. "It's you! You're your own secret admirer!"

It seems obvious to me that Trixie revealing she didn't send that gift to herself informs Starlight for the first time that she was her own secret admirer. That's why she curses and her eyes widen. Is that not clear? How could that not be clear? I don't get what is sending the wrong impression.

Anyway, the biggest problem with this story by far is the sheer amount of glurge at the end (as some of you noticed). It's too much of a stretch to have Starlight propose to Trixie at the resolution of the story, especially when they're still learning things about each other. I also think the emotions are overdone in the middle of the story, but this is partly due to the word constraint. As I mentioned in my mock-review (which on random.org I rolled... I don't remember but it was lower than the other story, maybe 12?), emotions seem to turn on a dime and this is because there isn't enough space to do it properly.

I might redo this one and post it someday, but it will probably be much longer than a minific.

Thanks again for the advice and comments! :trixieshiftright:
#553 · 2
· · >>PinoyPony >>RogerDodger
Notes to Roger

0) The guessing ranking isn't fair. Coffeeminion guessed 2 right and 4 wrong, and got a higher score than two authors who guessed 2 right and 1 wrong. At the very least, ties should be broken by inverse number of wrong guesses, shouldn't they? I'm thinking maybe the score should be "number right minus half number wrong" or something like that. Just an idea.

1) Could you please add the gizmo bar (bold, spoiler, etc.) to the edit post window?
#554 · 1
· on Trixie's Secret Admirer · >>Trick_Question
I admit I misread it, but I think it was this section:
Starlight sighed and pet Trixie's mane. "Then what about this gift? Does this frighten you?" she asked, producing a small, wrapped box from her saddlebags.

Trixie opened her eyes and looked at the box levitating in front of her. "What? I don't remember sending this."

"Sweet Celestia," said Starlight, her eyes widening. "It's you! You're your own secret admirer!"

in hindsight, the "eyes widening" should've made it clearer that she was completely surprised, but the first time I honestly thought the story was hinting that Starlight already knew/suspected. like bringing up that Trixie already knows the identity, and that Trixie is a bad liar. I think it's the pacing, rather than the words, that made me believe Starlight was trying to bait a confession out of Trixie the whole time, rather than a genuine concern for her safety.

It's also not stated why Starlight wrapped up her own gift at a point before she even knows how Trixie feels about the fanmail, so my first assumption is it was planned as part of the bait.

I can see this as a minific limitation problem like you pointed out, and it would've made more sense in multiple scenes where the characters get time to process what they've learned. I now feel guilty for completely misreading the fic as a comedy instead of a romance, but hopefully this helps.
#555 · 1
· on Pinkie Pie Makes Limestone Smile
Pinkie Something Something Limestone Retrospective

Thanks to >>Bachiavellian, >>horizon, and >>Posh for the feedback! Of course this story is all Dubs' fault in the end. He goaded me into writing about Limestone in the Discord chat, and at the time my other story ideas weren't quite panning out, so I figured, why not? The world can always use more crankiest pone. Also, many thanks to Zaid for the lovely Pinkie pic that could be interpreted so many different ways!

I actually thought I was doing pretty well with the amount of plot that I was trying to fit into 750 words, but I'm okay with the consensus that this needs more space and time for Limestone's surface to crack. My one real regret was having Limestone say "need help" instead of the original phrasing that I had there: "have needs." It's a subtle difference on the one hand, but at least IMO it would've been a lot less trite. I agonized about these two little words for an excessive amount of time before giving up and succumbing to sleep, and I've spent the interim wishing I'd left it the other way.

Plus, the title's dumb. :-p It just was literally the only thing I could think of at ungodly-o'clock in the morning when I went to hit submit.

Oh well. Thanks all, and see ya next Pony round!
#556 · 1
· on Trixie's Secret Admirer · >>Trick_Question >>horizon
What personally confused me was the 4th and 5th to last paragraphs. It seemed to me like Starlight had slipped her gift in along with the others, knowing how this convo would play out, especially since in the beginning, Starlight brought in her present along with the others without telling Trixie that one of them was from her. In hindsight, I can see that you hid this fact from Trixie so you could do the "It was yourself!" reveal. But even on my 2nd and 3rd reads, I assumed Starlight didn't tell Trixie that one gift was her own, because she was in on the whole thing the whole time and wanted to get Trixie to face her insecurities.

Take my feedback with a grain of salt, because I know I can be stupidly bad at picking up on the obvious, which is why I try to do multiple read-throughs before reviewing Writeoff entries. But I know I drop the ball a lot, still.
#557 ·
· on Trixie's Secret Admirer
>>Haze >>Bachiavellian

Clearly if you guys misread it, there was a problem, so thank you very much for the feedback! :twilightsmile:
#558 · 3
· on A Trail of Sugar Blood
Woo pulled out the hat trick. I officially own the Writeoff now. I'm the new Roger.


God FUCKING dammit, that meme reference was absolutely unintentional. I kept fiddling with that joke -- original was "Hahah, I'm going to die", but I thought it was a bit too dark for the Writeoff -- and I guess that I had the meme on the back of my head or something. I was absolutely not trying to reference anything, and it bothers me that I did so against my will. Mumble grumble.
#559 · 2
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>CoffeeMinion >>Posh >>Skywriter
Well. I mean. We only got about 30 comments total in the finals, a significant fraction of which were yours. (Thank you for that, by the way.) I had set aside last night to do more, but got pulled away from home on short notice, and since I'd already spoken up it wouldn't have helped you anyway.

I really hope that more people who have been silent about reviewing will consider paying forward the time investment that went into the feedback they received, and speak up about stories they read. I tend to write longer reviews which take longer to assemble, but still, at minimum, I try to make it a goal to write the same number of reviews that I receive. Instituting that as a rule would do more harm than good, but at the very least I'd like to see that become an unspoken community standard.
#560 · 1
· on Trixie's Secret Admirer
I misread it this way too. I don't have a good off-the-cuff suggestion for how to fix it, just wanted to third them.
#561 ·
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>Posh
Sorry man. I pushed myself pretty hard on feedback during the prelims, but by the time finals came along, stuff was just pulling me elsewhere.

I'll second this. Where all my reviewers at? I probably pushed myself a bit too hard during prelims, but it felt like the review situation just wasn't getting a lot of traction.
#562 · 7
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>MLPmatthewl419 >>BlueChameleonVI
I admit to being salty about the outcome here. This story received a tepid reception at best in the preliminary round, and generated all of zero buzz in the finals. It's hard to see why it made it at all, and I don't even have a decent sample of reviews to inform me of why it did. To be blunt, I feel irrelevant.

But I think I have a legitimate complaint here as well. Bear with me.


I don't think that we can mandate that participants review extensively. Time simply doesn't permit that in most cases. I'm also not sure we can, or should, as a community, expect people to do that as principle. I know most people this round didn't have the time for it; I know I certainly didn't. It really isn't fair to expect that from people, especially during a time of year where people, speaking generally, don't have the time to invest in slow, methodical horseword reviewing.

The problem isn't just a straight lack of participation in the review phase. It's that there's a lack of proportionality between authors, reviewers, and submissions. We had one person account for one third of all finalists disregard that I can't math, but relative to the number of finalists a fuckton nevertheless, in a contest with more than fifty entries overall. My ballot was stacked with submissions all written by the same person, while there were several stories which never even would have come to my attention if I hadn't gone out of my way to look into them -- and I bring that up as a reminder that not everybody is going to be in a position to do that. People will generally stop once they've finished reading the stories on their ballots. And that's normally fine, but we had too many entries for that to be a viable system this time around.

The high number of stories, combined with low turn-out in the review phase, and an RNG which both giveth and taketh away, means that a lot of people's stories, my own obviously included, flew under the radar. There were multiple (quality!) stories with three reviews, sitting at the bottom of the pile, by the last night of finals. In a contest with as much activity as this one typically sees in the writing phase, that should simply not happen in the reviewing phase.

If these issues are going to persist, then I think we need to seriously consider putting a cap on the number of submissions people can make.
#563 ·
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>Aragon >>Pascoite
OK, so now everyone knows. Blue Chameleon VI wrote a bucketload of fics, as usual. Ain't that typical, does it every time, and all that. And to get this out of the way: I'm not gonna lie, I kinda like that reputation. It's something, after all. Fame or notoriety, it's something.

But the more I do it, the more I realize it's going to put me on par with a spambot. Plus I imagine some people will be getting suspicious around this point. Yes, I do write that all in the allotted time, though heck knows how I'd go about proving that. So I'm just gonna say a couple of things, to make my position clear.

Yes, I do set out to write more than two fics per contest. It started with my second event here - before then, I submitted one entry alone, and it didn't final. That second time, though, I was lucky enough to submit three, all of which finalled, one of which won a medal. And then I wrote a load again, and did well, and I thought, say, perhaps I could get into the habit of doing this. Sort of a self-imposed challenge. Plus it gets more comments in faster, because it was the trickle of comments which frustrated me when I submitted just one entry at the start. And I figured the more experience I got, the faster the improvements were likely to be. It's not like I set out to become a multi-entry writing machine. It just sort of happened because of all the perks, so often that I got used to it and even enjoyed it.

Still, this isn't ALL I wanted to be, and I feel I should say something to reassure people I do have good intentions in all this, honest. With one or two exceptions, I don't submit entries for laughs. I do want medals. For this event, I sat down and read Pascoite's blog about flashfiction (see below)* and how to write it well. I took notes and incorporated it into my planning stage. Every fic I submitted, even the lowest ranked ones, had those principles in mind.

Because I genuinely want to be a great writer. Not just a prolific one. I'm genuinely trying to claim medals to prove as such, because if I can combine quantity with quality, well, that would really be something. At the same time, I've noticed my initial surprising performance, if anything, seems to be less in evidence lately. And there's no escaping that I look bad compared to many who nail it in one go.

Fair's fair, I'm not doing terribly. I mean, more than half made it to finals. That's not nothing. I don't want to demean anyone else's performance in the contest, and I'm almost certainly being overambitious. I just can't help but feel a little disappointed - and, if I'm brutally honest, a little guilty - to see a range from 48th to 8th and to remember I spent as much time on the losers as on the winners. And that people had to read both.

Not forgetting the overcrowding issue. Since I single-handedly raised the total from 43 to 52, I'm obliged to apologize to anyone who saw that and went "HOW MANY!? Forget this, I'm off!" I didn't set out to put you off, believe me.

That plus the whole possible "reputation as a spambot" thing worries me a little, so I just wanted to say this in case anyone had the wrong idea. Or rather the right idea, just not the whole one.

A genuine congratulations to the writers who knocked it out of the park, especially >>Aragon for such a fantastic double-whammy. Well-played, good sir! I salute your efforts and your results, wholeheartedly, and wonder how you did it.

* This blog, to be precise: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/827477/writing-advice-flash-fiction-and-no-i-dont-mean-stories-about-flash-sentry-though-i-suppose-they-could-be
#564 · 12
Personally, I’m fine with you submitting loads of entries. I just want to see you do more reviewing.
#565 · 12
· · >>Pascoite

I think the issue is less fearing that you're a spambot and more the fact that right now, the Writeoff is going through a clear unbalance when it comes to stories submitted v. stories reviewed.

This is perfectly natural: we all have busy lives, reviewing a story and commenting takes time, and sometimes it can be a bit of a drag. But ultimately, a lower activity in the reviewing phase of the Writeoff is bad for the authors. It means less criticism, and a much lesser feeling of accomplishment -- we write because we want to be reviewed, not for the sake of it. The Writeoff is both a competition and a workshop.

The issue here then is that if you submit nine stories, you're hogging what little activity the Writeoff is having. A couple reviewers -- me included! -- tried to focus on the stories with three or less comments because it's legitimately unfair to see how others hog more attention than you when there's no real reason for it. It's not an issue of quality; some of the 'ignored' stories were actually some of the best ones in this round.

Adding to this is the fact that the ballot of each writer is randomized. If you write nine stories, that's eight slots in that random ballot that you're taking from other authors who might have only submitted one; you're taking votes from them, views from them, comments from them... Admitting that you do this, in part, because you like having more notifications is only proof of this, really. Those notifications are comments that don't go to the other participants.

If you want to submit more than one entry, by all means do so -- but then pull your weight. In all honesty: submitting nine stories, and then reviewing none, is a dick move. You're hogging attention and spamming the writeoff without adding your weight later. You significantly make the round worse for the less lucky writers. Again: Posh is a great example.

I don't think flash fiction is the best way to learn how to write. I think it's a way to hon skills that you get through practicing with more traditional stories -- but that's beside the point. What I'm saying is, there is something to talk about when it comes to the topic of submitting such a large number of entries, but I don't think it's your possible reputation as a spambot.

In other words: pull your weight. Review at least as many stories as you submit. Otherwise, plain and simple, It's not fair to other writers who don't have the time to write more than one entry, or who like to polish what they send so that it's as perfect as possible, instead of sending a number of entries and hoping for the best. This is making the Writeoff palpably less enjoyable for some, and I've heard people talking about seriously considering leaving the Writeoff for this kind of stuff.

I can and will both understand and defend your desire to get better, but you can't do that at the cost of other user's experiences, man.
#566 · 3
· on Keep on Training
Fun fact: I started this fic with 18 minutes left on the clock and finished it two minutes before the deadline. I also typed it on my phone which made it slower, since I prefer to have a physical keyboard to write. Of course, it did better than the fic I spent most time on.

Also, making Opal a POV character was the first thing that came to my mind when I realised that I didn't want to just write a cute story, I wanted to put some spin on it. Obviously, I didn't have much time to develop the idea further, but I rolled with it anyway.
#567 · 3
· on Aftercare
>>Pearple_Prose, >>Haze, >>Bachiavellian, >>Rao, >>Posh, >>Hap

So this did better than I expected.

First of, just wanna say thanks to everyone for the comments! Really glad everyone enjoyed the banter between these two. Also special thanks to Zaid for the art. Good stuff, man.

So, like what Bachi said, the idea behind the camera was to give a sense of where Chrysalis was emotionally and also situationally. She had lost her entire hive and she's desperate to get it back, but she also needs to sate her hunger, so in this story, she turns to the one pony she knew would never deny her that.

The opening, I agree, could be a lot better. I think it turned out this way because, frankly, the relationship between Fancy and Chryssi I had intended for this story was a lot simpler, but as time went on, it became rather complicated to nail down that relationship of theirs properly without keeping it interesting in such a short span of time. In the end, the essence of the relationship was still there, but the change was still rather drastic, which is why I opened it as such to cede some information to the reader: it was meant to imply how Fancypants views Chrysalis in general, which I'll get into in a bit. Of course, it's still done with vagueness in mind, so yeah.

On that note, Fancypants.

The relationship between him and Chrysalis in this story is definitely complicated, mostly on Fancy's part. They do love each other and have been with each other for seven years, but at this stage, there's also a lot of dishonesty regarding their feelings of each other thanks to the circumstances, with the liquor being sort of a marker for their honesty. Chrysalis was a lot less subtle about admitting it. Fancypants, on the other hand, was much more careful, albeit he does slip up from time to time. His feelings for her, however, are much stronger than hers for him, which is where things start to seem sketchy for him.

From the opening, the context I gave was that Fancypants thought condescendingly little of the admiration other ponies had for him. The whole 'one too many admirers' and 'Few had the privilege. Fewer deserve it' was there to paint that. The idea that ponies would flock to him as if he were some sort of god disgusts him. However, it's also meant to serve as a connection to how he views Chrysalis, all via a single twist of a word:

They were all faces to him, all craving to be seen, to be recognized by name.

A face he'd recognize anywhere.

'Recognize', in this case, had its definition twisted to mean 'reverence'.

Basically, Fancypants loves her to an unsettling degree. Fancypants wants her to come back to him, wants her to feed on him and only him. Fancypants genuinely believes she won't kill him because he loves her just that much and no one else could ever do that. He would've forbidden anyone else to have sex with her because how dare they? In the end, he lets her have the camera because he suspected, deep down, that she was going to fail, and once she did, she'll come back to him by her own will, as if it was meant to be. The final lines of each scene (“Don’t worry. I’ll be with you soon.” and “I’ll always be here if you need me.”) was honestly what I intended to be the hook of the story.

Of course, there's another layer to this, which might open up to why he was acting contradictorily.

Fancypants loves Fleur, but not Queen Chrysalis.

Fleur was the Chrysalis he fell in love with. The Fleur he took in seven years ago was the pony he loved. That was why he refuses to address or even view her as Chrysalis. There was a point of time where Chrysalis wasn't hell-bent on world domination, that she was satisfied with what she had, but once she invaded Canterlot, it was a point of no return. Nevertheless, Fancy remains determined on trying to bring Fleur back, albeit really carefully ('you should walk around town, get a new hobby', 'I have friends who’ve asked you where you’ve gone, Fleur' and Because you’re better than that) for fear of losing her love entirely. He believes that, in the end, Fleur will return to him after all her efforts are in vain.

As for Chrysalis? Fortunately (or unfortunately), she's innocent in all of this. She still loves Fancy, but she doesn't want to admit it, and that's it.

I guess in the end, there's supposed to be a moral about the magnitudes of evil and what will be considered acceptable and such, but I'm not intelligent enough to go there.

Again, thanks for reading!
#568 · 5
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>Rocket Lawn Chair >>horizon >>CoffeeMinion
I'll try and do better in the future. Honestly it's less a question of pulling one's own weight for me and more a massive, crippling inability to muster up the sense of self-importance needed to express an opinion.
#569 · 1
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>CoffeeMinion
With ya on that one. Personally, I feel I lack the credentials to provide useful feedback when my own writing is full of holes. On further reflection, though, I know I'd want to hear from anybody regardless of their skill, so my hangup is kind of irrational.
#570 · 2
· on Crash · >>Icenrose >>Fenton
Thank you for all your comments.

This is exactly what I was going for, yeah. But in the end, I seemed to have missed the mark. More on that below.

I felt there is indeed a lot of unexplained (in the story) distance between the confident and loyal Dash that we know from the show, and the broken down and fraudulent Dash in the second part of the story. But, with a little bit of creative license, I don't see why it should be unbelievable. We saw the ridiculous lengths that Dash went to in the earlier seasons just to cover up the fact that she liked Daring Do, in part including compulsive denial. And that was over a dumb little book, the enjoyment of which would constitute at most a slightly embarrassing blemish to her pride. When it came to something that (in her and most other ponies' eyes) would dismantle the most powerful engine for her pride—that is, her flying ability—I can see how she might lock up permanently in a state of denial, especially when she has had next to no experience dealing with letting others down in that regard.

Granted, I would have liked to actually explore these ramifications and justifications in the story rather than leave them implicit, but a short story has to leave details out. I suppose I didn't leave the right ones out.


Most of my reply to Fenton can relate to what you said about "her voicing drifting out of character" in the second part. Though, I admit I don't understand why you find it odd that the second part is filled with internal monologue. After all, the first part is written from the perspective of the interviewer, who knows nothing about Dash's inner thoughts, whereas the second part is written from Dash's perspective whilst meditating alone.

Again, thank you all greatly for your feedback, but in light of how poorly this fic actually placed, I think I have to accuse you guys of offering me pity compliments. After the fact, I don't know whether to interpret your input as genuinely contradictory to those who voted down my story, or as merely trying to say "this story is trite and forgettable" in a more polite way. If I just keep getting mild comments that "maybe this element feels off to me" but my writing still suffers from easily identifiable weaknesses, well, I'm never going to get better.
#571 ·
· on Shrine to a False Dashity
If these issues are going to persist, then I think we need to seriously consider putting a cap on the number of submissions people can make.

I'd... honestly agree here. I mean, in the mid-prelims (cause that's when I had the time) I went through as many low-comment fics as I could, but... none of them were on my slate. Which made me sad. So a cap could be great here.

Or perhaps the solution is to just completely change out the fics on your finals' slate in bigger rounds. Then you're reading different stories... actually, I kinda like this idea more.
#572 · 8
· on Shrine to a False Dashity · >>Skywriter
I totally get that. And I'd like to respond with a few words an essay about how to review, not because I necessarily think you need it, but because my experience is that a lot of people are silently scared to have opinions, and I want to offer a way of thinking about that which might help in general.

Which is:
Your experience of the story is always valid and useful.

It does require the expenditure of Ego Points (sometimes a pretty massive one!) to diagnose story problems, and to prescribe fixes. But that's not what you need to do to review — and that's also not always going to be helpful! If you actually do understand what the author is going for, and you show them where they went wrong and offer a course correction, that can be amazing feedback — so it's a skill worth trying to develop — but fundamentally, what we as authors want to know is exactly the thing that every single reader, no matter their experience or their hesitation, is best able to provide.

Namely: We wrote a story. Is it coming across in the way that we expect, or are readers getting hung up on things in our blind spots?

The way to answer that question is just to see what the experiences of readers are — and that simply requires telling us your experiences!

"This story hooked me at first, but I got thrown by the way Celestia loved pies in the second scene, and I never really reconnected." "I was extremely confused right up until robot Flurry Heart's arrival, but when we hit the bloody violence after that, I gave up on trying to understand and had fun." "The mystery was engaging, but the reveal was underwhelming. How does the shotgun wedding of Equestria Girls Applejack and pony Tirek tell us who the murderer is?"

The hardest step in editing is to ask the right questions. It's not how to fix scene A or line B. It's which scenes need fixing to get the story firing on all cylinders. The mere act of saying where the story did and didn't work for you is the most valuable possible feedback, and also the easiest.

And I'll repeat the big takeaway again: Your experience of the story is always valid and useful.

When you diagnose what's wrong with a story, you can be wrong. (If I say that robot Flurry Heart's appearance isn't dramatic enough, but the story's actually a comedy, my advice is probably useless.) When you offer fixes, you can be doubly wrong — because you might be wrong about whether that improves it, and wrong about what the problem is. But when you react to the story, you are telling the author how a reader reacted, no more or no less. You CANNOT be wrong. You are simply drawing their attention to the spots which caught yours.

Maybe your reaction won't be the same as other readers'. Maybe you're an outlier. But it's still valid! You are a reader who reacted in a certain way, and that means there exist other readers who will do the same. If three people say "Robot Flurry Heart was great!" and you say "Robot Flurry Heart's Jamaican accent turned me off", that's incredibly valuable, because it's adding data points to say that maybe there are still things to be tweaked around the edges, to pick up the minority of readers cuing off of the things you reacted to. Even if the ratio is 10 to 1, it's still good to say, because you might be picking up something genuinely worth fixing that everyone glossed over, or maybe the author's willing to let it stand and lose a few folks at the edges. But with that data, you're giving them the tools to decide.

Maybe you're literally misinterpreting the story. It's still valid! We have a great example of that just upthread: look at the last few comments to Trixie's Secret Admirer. Several readers misinterpreted a story because of unintended implications of an action that should have been totally clear with a little thought. But the misinterpretation was widespread enough that it's worth the author's time to rewrite it to prevent that from going awry. Reading it wrong still helps the author.

Maybe you're working on two hours' sleep, and blew right past the dialogue tag where the critical climactic line was said by Celestia instead of Tirek, and mistakenly thinking it was Tirek completely upended the themes of sisterhood which made the story work, and so you hated a story that you should have loved. You're … okay, maybe you're a little wrong. But it's still worth saying! Talking about your experience of the story gives other readers a chance to say "Uh, wasn't that Celestia's line?" and then you get to reassess and re-review. Reviewing isn't a completely ego-less activity. But that way at least you get to update your voting while it still makes a difference!

Yes, super top-tier reviewing — the sort where you go beyond that and deeply analyze and give concrete suggestions — is hard and error-prone; I've fucked up several times in large ways while trying to be prescriptive, and I've probably caused some lasting damage. The fears of giving bad advice are not invalid. But — and this is a BIG but — you can very safely have 90% of the effect just by saying what did and didn't work for you. And even if you're intimidated by reviewing, reacting is much less challenging than it seems.
#573 ·
· on Crash
Sorry, I should clarify - I thought it was odd in the second part that it cuts from narration and RD whispering to herself to nothing but internal monologue, eschewing narration entirely. It felt jarring to switch from one to the other without any other narration or outside details to break it up a bit before ending the story.
#574 · 2
· on Shrine to a False Dashity
>>Rocket Lawn Chair
The thing that's cemented the Writeoff's place in my heart has been the workshop aspect of it. I have few illusions about my skill as a reviewer, but I've also been on the receiving end of reviews both fair and foul, and I think that having a greater diversity of views seems to be almost more helpful than a smaller amount of super-"good" feedback.

There are extremes at both ends where that breaks down, of course. Obviously there are a few truly excellent reviewers who we all can try to learn from and emulate. But I think people come here to hear what others think, and there are only so many horizon reviews to go around. :-p

But with all that said, I'd encourage you guys just to get stuck in with trying to share whatever you've got next time. Who knows; you might make an observation that helps point someone toward a key improvement that they can make to their story!

(EDIT: ack, ninja'd by horizon)
#575 · 2
· on Crash · >>Fenton
I think I have to accuse you guys of offering me pity compliments

I would urge you to try keeping some perspective on that story placement. There are four hundred authors in the FIM scoreboard, and even where your entry landed, you placed ahead of entries by three authors in the top 15. (Including the only entry by a multiple-time medalist and professional author.)

Everyone in the Writeoffs turns in stories in which — even if the story as a whole is weaker than the finalists/winners — there's something to like. And an overall good impression from a reader doesn't guarantee that you're on top of their slate. If they like everything on it, they have to make hard choices about which ones they like more.

Could readers be offering more critical feedback? Maybe. I agree that that's how we improve. But "mild comments that maybe this element feels off to me" are still critiques; at minimum they're alerting you to the sections of the story which do feel off, and you can use that as an opportunity to ask for clarification afterward, or run those elements past an editor for a second opinion.

And just for another data point — a few rounds back, Paint it Black scored 26th out of 36 — that's a ranking of 29%, basically identical to this entry's. I posted it more or less unedited to FIMFiction, where it's got a vote ratio of 171:4.

It's fair to ask reviewers to be more aggressive about a story's faults, but a low ranking doesn't automatically mean something's trash.
#576 · 2
· on Shrine to a False Dashity
Okay, so I don't want this post-contest review to come off as an act of pity (even though pity definitely played a part in this, but don't take my word for anything, I'm no psychologist) and the last thing I want for this story is to become the poster-boy/girl/attack helicopter for the current situation, but I did have some insight on this story that perhaps became easier to pinpoint than before the contest ended.

First off, the story gets straight to the point. Part of me was happy that it did, but at the same time, another part of it was simply confused that the scene was resolved so easily. As the contest went on, some of my fellow authors started pointing out the things that I wondered about this story, but quickly realized that it wasn't exactly the thing bothering me in my case. It took me a while (too long of a while, in fact) before I started grasping at just what my issue with this story really is.

The story seems set up with only a single conclusion to progress towards to.

Okay, I'm aware of how stupid that statement is, but I think with many of the other stories here, there were moments in the story where, had the characters made a different decision, we get a different conclusion. I honestly can't imagine a part in the story where should anyone make a different decision without going out of character, the story would end up in a different place. It's impressive, in a way, because everything seems to be neatly and perfectly built to that conclusion, but at the same time, it left me feeling like it should've been a lot less rigid in that aspect.

I can't really say if that's the reason why there's little talk about, but I can honestly say it's my personal reason for why I'm finding it so hard to figure out something to say about this, especially as I'm being particularly nitpicky with my above reason. I do hope, however, that others bring their insight into why this story's good. In my case, the characterization is perfect, the dialogue is an ace, the situation is absurd but handles itself perfectly, the writing, in general, is great. My gripe? Perhaps it was too perfect.

Onto the topic of reviewing and talking about the stories on the site itself, there's definitely more that can be— no, has to be done. I definitely need to review more often myself and I hope my fellow writers would do the same.

Hope it didn't get to you as badly as I imagined it did. Can't imagine the WriteOff without you around, bud.
#577 · 2
· on A Rebuttal · >>Hap
The Top Five Things Quill Has Wanted To Say About This Story All Week And Hasn't Been Able To
By Quill Scratch

1. Probably the most important thing to mention is that this story is a huge loveletter to a fanfic that has been my guilty pleasure for almost a decade now: The List, a HarryxHermione rom-com that is fully responsible for getting me into rom-coms as a teenager. Is it good? Eh. Is it something I still come back and re-read fondly every other year? Hell yes. I definitely recommend giving it a read over for fun, because it's cute and fluffy and contrived and full of denial.

2. So this is somehow a lesson I still haven't learned, but: living up to things you admire, even things that aren't that great, is hard. This entry was a conglomeration, tonally, of the openings of chapters one and four of The List, with a dash of chapter three thrown in for good measure. And... well, it's really hard to write something genuinely original and funny with that kind of expectation weighing on me. As a result, I loathe the punchline to this story: I spent a solid hour on point ten, and nothing I did made it work at all as I wanted it to. It packs barely any of the punch I wanted it to, and I feel the expectations I was holding for myself really got in the way there. (I do like the other nine bits though >.>)

3. (>>UndomeTinwe) Let's talk standard deviation! More importantly, let's talk about picking numbers in fiction. In all honesty, I 100% stand behind your criticism here, because I did the exact same thing with that one episode of Doctor Who where the moon was an egg: when you know stuff about a field, people saying things that are extraordinarily far off the mark, numbers-wise, is jarring and frustrating. So why did I go with three? Simple: I'm trying to cater to two very different audiences, because I also want the joke to be funny to people who have no idea what standard deviation is. The first draft of that point used two instead of three (and I wanted an integer because I expressly didn't want a tone of extreme precision and nitpicking here), and it just didn't feel big enough to be funny? It's a genuinely difficult problem, to balance accuracy and truthfulness with something that is artistically sound (I think you did a great job of that in Asymmetry, by the way); I resolved it by googling "number of standard deviations for an outlier" and the first result said three so I figured that could be funny for anyone trying to do some research.

4. (>>Haze & >>Hap) When are two jokes the same joke? It's a really interesting question, and for me while writing this it was one I was constantly grappling with (because let's face it, if every point on this list was using exactly the same kind of framing for its humour I don't think this entry would be nearly as effective as it turned out to be.) And yet I knew that I had to keep coming back to at least one theme a few times: partly to tie the piece together, structurally, but also to give the effect of Twilight obsessing on someone's off-handed comment, as I was determined that this piece should be interpreted as an overreaction and wanted to sell that as hard as I could. I guess the real question is whether or not this piece is really one joke or ten jokes, and I'm honestly convinced the only answer to that is "both". The long and the short of it is that this sort of thing is much harder to write than I'd first thought, though that doesn't say a huge amount.

5. (>>Monokeras) Monokeras is a Guessing Wizard because I wouldn't have guessed me for this piece.

And, uh, this one wasn't exactly in the plan:

6. (>>Skywriter)
Congrats on the medal finish!

Thank you so much to everyone who read, commented, and/or voted on this entry! I can't quite believe the first time I've medalled in the writeoff was with a listicle of all things, but I'll take it? And hey, I beat horizon, so that's another thing off the bucket list. So many congratulations to everyone who took part this round: you're all wonderful, amazing people who make wonderful, amazing stories. Keep being awesome!
#578 ·
· · >>Anon Y Mous >>Trick_Question
Heh, sorry, I'm not Roger. I'm just asking a pertinent question.

Does guessing wrong lower your score?
#579 · 1
Nope! Guessing wrong doesn’t.

(If it did I’d be in the triple digit negatives by now lmao.)

It only count if you get it right. ;)
#580 · 1
· on Crash · >>horizon
I may not have made myself clear enough, though I don't know how I could have, so let's try to put it in other words.

When I say that I can't buy the premise, it means that you didn't do enough to sell me the idea (and I insist on the fact that it's selling the idea to me and only me). And I can't totally blame you since you don't really have words to spare.

However, what you did with your premise is quite good, as I said. And that made you gained some points for me. I try my hardest to rank story first according to their "objective" qualities, and secondly according to my likings.

I don't really remember where I put yours (and since we can't see our votes at the moment, I can't screen it for you), but if you really want it, I can send it to you once it is back.

a low ranking doesn't automatically mean something's trash.

True indeed, however I'm often confused on how the ranking and voting system works. Does having more people ranking your entry makes it gain more points? Or is it the opposite?

I've seen a lot of great entries not passing the prelims before, but usually I could guess why they didn't. This time, I got the feeling that there are several of them; Paracompact isn't the only one surprised by how his entry was ranked. Even I commented on how low CoffeeMinion's entry placed.
#581 · 2
· on Pull Yourselves Together · >>Trick_Question
First of all, thank you all for commenting! While I wish I'd done somewhat better, I can be happy with how well I did do in this round, and with having made it to the finals.

Kinda like what Aragon said, I disagree with your assessment that this story was not traditionally "structured". It does indeed have three acts and each one ends when the main character makes some choice. But yes, the formatting is unconventional.

I'm not sure if you think there should have been some sort of magic item causing this dissociation, or if you're glad there wasn't: your comment kind of says both things. But nah; while I can understand wondering whether something more fantastical was going on, ultimately it's just AK Yearling/Daring Do writing on a page (or whiteboard or rejection letter) and doubting herself.

I see what you're getting at - lack of clarity was probably this story's weakest link, despite my best intentions. However, I'm not sure why bullet points or dashes would have been clearer than italics. After all, there's no particular reason why Daring would use bullet points any more than she'd use italics, right?

I'm glad you liked it!

Hoo boy, this comment is longer than my whole story!

I'm glad you appreciated the three act structure, because I felt it was important for the story to have some forward direction - some sort of progression, even as self-contained and microcosmic as it was. It's just a shame that your peanut butter opinions are so terrible.

As for the clarity... I'm afraid I honestly don't know what I'd have done. And I also don't know how to expand it - in fact, I'm not sold on the idea that it needs to be expanded into something that can be posted to FiMFic, or even that I could. I appreciate your suggestions, though - they seem like workable ideas for such an expansion!

Once again, thank you all for your feedback!
#582 ·
· on A Trail of Sugar Blood
I loled. Review done.

Okay, okay, I'll get into the nitty-gritty, geez.

So, this story is funny. I gotta say, I'm always up for a funny story, especially ones whose humor don't rely on references that are required for the jokes to land, so kudos. There are some lines that, by itself, shouldn't be funny, but the situation makes it so, my favorite of them being 'Pinkie made a bloody sad face'.

I think if there's perhaps something I wanna see more of, it's probably into why Pinkie Pie seems hell-bent on doing this. Perhaps there's an opportunity on giving the story something to strike us in the heart by amid all the absurdity, or perhaps the absurdity could be amplified, like Pinkie misinterpreting an offhand statement from Apple Bloom or something that ultimately lead to this. If Pinkie had such an important point to make, I do wanna see the leaps and bounds her logic took to attain it.

Nevertheless, good stuff! Glad to see this win!
#583 · 1
· on Her Eyes Contained Heaven
Alright, I'm falling in line with everyone else here.

Like >>Rao said, concept is simple, but hey, if it works, it works! And boy, does this concept work. The characters really shine through, the premise made sense, the flow and structure was brilliant... seriously, I don't really have anything bad to say without it looking like nitpicking.

Which is why I shall now nitpick.

I'm with TQ in that you shouldn't mention the age. It's a shortcut, sure, but I think the behavior of Luna itself already gives proper context on how old they were without needing a mention.

Also, this:

Heaven in her eyes. Ears perked up. Tail wagging.

Considering the title, I think there'd be a greater emotional effect if 'Heaven in her eyes' was placed last in the trifecta.

Nitpicking done. All in all, lovely story! Well-deserving of the second place!
#584 · 1
It doesn't, which is what I am pointing out.
#585 ·
· on Pull Yourselves Together
Nopony writes in italics, ever. That's why it doesn't look like the italics are being written on the board.
#586 · 1
· on The Dust Wraith
Ooh, time paradox! To answer >>horizon regarding the ending, I think it's this universe's way of correcting the timeline, a la Project Almanac and some Doctor Who episodes.

This had my Austraeoh vibes tingling the moment the first scene break occurred. I would say though, as much as I enjoyed the forlorn scenery and the callbacks to that episode, I do want to look into the mind of the Starlight Glimmer that's traveling across all these timelines. How does it affect her? Why does she not want to stay? In fact, why was she making this journey in the first place? Granted, obvious reasons are obvious, but I feel like there's potentially something more interesting there that could be toyed with.

I also found myself wondering that if this Starlight Glimmer isn't the one from the canonical Equestria, then how could she have known about everything that occurred in all the other timelines? Especially since the timeline kinda sees almost everything turned to dust? Perhaps the same force driving that knowledge was the same one that ultimately drove her to meet her parallel self in the final dimension? I don't really know, but I'm reading this as if Glimmy's the one experiencing all this and it isn't told by a third person narrator. If that's the case, you can burn this section of the comment as an offering to the GlimGlam Gods.

Neat story. Needs some more expanding upon imho, but I liked what I got.
#587 · 8
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5 · >>WritingSpirit >>CoffeeMinion >>Pascoite >>horizon
Boar Guest's "Book of Retrospective", Epilogue

I honestly wasn't expecting this to make finals. Especially when >>horizon happened, and I found myself a paragraph from the end and with five minutes to clean it up before I scrambled into uniform. Those comments about it not really ending? Yeah. It didn't.

I am amazingly glad for >>Aragon's comment, however, because if I were trying to review it, I cannot think of a thing there I would disagree with. Like, not a single line. (Except for the bit about Borges scaring the shit out of me when I read it as a kid — because it scared the shit out of me when I read it as an adult on acid.)

This was, in fact, meant to start and end as an imitation of Borges. As Aragon (and >>Bachiavellian and >>MLPmatthewl419) note, though, that's the pitfall here: the majesty of Borges' work was in the greater format unfolding as you read through. It's very hard to excerpt. And that's why this did better than I expected: as fun as the worldbuilding is here, I agree, it's just a fragment —

If you told me you wanted to post this in fimfic as part of a bigger anthology of imaginary animals, I would beg you to tell me so I can participate


. . . :D

With the benefit of a few hours' discussion, I am happy to report that Aragón and I have bounced enough ideas back and forth to charge forward with a joint anthology project. THIS IS GONNA HAPPEN! WE ARE GONNA FIND OTHER AUTHORS WHO LOVE THE IDEA AS MUCH AS WE DO, AND MAKE A FULL ENCYCLOPEDIA HAPPEN.

Keep an eye on our FIMFiction blogs, and start thinking of awesome mythological creature ideas! Once we build the framework, we're gonna post a call for submissions, most likely in the next couple days.

And thank you all for reading and reviewing (cc: >>Samey90)!
#588 · 3
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5 · >>horizon >>horizon
Me upon learning this is actually happening.

I'm up for writing some, especially with the backlog of monsters in my head. I'm definitely not used to Borges' style though, so I might need some help on that front.

Can't wait!
#589 · 1
· on Confrontation · >>CoffeeMinion
Thanks for reviewing guys! I'm so so glad that >>MLPmatthewl419 picked up on all of the details that I put in there! I really appreciate it.

>>Zaid Val'Roa

This comment almost made me choke on my chocolate milk when I first saw it. I applaud you.

Thanks for calling this a strong contender. Surprisingly this was my least favorite out of the four I did. :/ rip

Thanks for liking the stylized horns ;) and you are right that putting that moon/sun right up front does overshadow the rest of my piece. ;;;)

Do people not like stylized things? Please don't take offense to this, its not just you, its been a lot of people in past competitions. I do understand that most of the time my style is a dead giveaway, but its really hard for me to change it, so instead I say "eff it" and submit some art. Do you want it exactly like the show or just less... cute/thin?

It was an incredibly rough picture lol. Those lines ain't got no ruler to them. They're wavy boys.
#590 · 1
· on A Not So Secret · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This was my favorite artwork out of the four. Sorry I haven't gotten around to reviewing. School and all, y'know?

Thanks for the strong contender review bro.

The medium was colored pencils but I like your interpretation of it being made of crayons. Also, thanks for noticing my caption. I was admittedly a little too proud of it.

Although my art was very stylized, the hindlegs were a little bit too small. I lined it with black and just didn't give one diddly darn.

You can draw that! I believe in you!!

paper in the background was the white point.

I don't entirely understand what that means. The paper was white but it turned out yellowish thanks to the dim lighting of my dad's house.
#591 · 3
· on Shrine to a False Dashity
Thank you for your words.

You do realize you just invented like five really amazing story ideas in your hypothetical examples, I hope.
#592 · 1
· on Confrontation
>>Anon Y Mous
I’m sorry if my comment came off as a put-down. I think it’s cool when people put their own spin on Pony. I guess the one recurring pet peeve I have is with unicorn horns that stray greatly from show style. I don’t know why but they just bug me for some reason. I guess I hadn’t really put that together until your comment got me to introspect about that, though. Now that I’m more cognizant of that, I might be able to compensate better for that bias when looking at future pieces.
#593 · 1
· on A Not So Secret
>>Anon Y Mous
I mean that the image should be color corrected with an image editing tool, and that the correction software can be told that the paper should be the whitest part of the image. Hap is working on a tutorial that should help.
#594 · 2
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5 · >>horizon

Y’know what, man? Now I’m even gladder that I took that random photo while I was standing in line to see Judas Priest.

That was a great show, this story was massively entertaining, and the prospect of more?

#595 · 2
· on Crash
I'm often confused on how the ranking and voting system works. Does having more people ranking your entry makes it gain more points? Or is it the opposite?

The "Ranking" — the percentage shown next to each story on your Writeoff user page — is just a number between 0% and 100% based on which place your work got in the final listing. 1st place gets 100%. Last place gets 0%. The remaining entries are equally spaced between them, so if there are 5 entries, going from 1st to 5th --> 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 0%.

It's kiiiiind of related to your score. At a first approximation, it's the percentage of "available points" that round which you scored. (Look at the score for first place, and you should be close to X% of that.) If I remember correctly, though, scores degrade non-linearly; and also multiple entries get assigned a penalty so that they can go negative if low-ranked enough.

Still, ranking is useful in that a story ranking 29% means it did better than 29% of all other entries.
#596 · 1
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5
I'm definitely not used to Borges' style though

I encourage you to pick up a copy! A good alternate title for it is "Approximately 100 Mythological Creatures You Mostly Haven't Heard Of, And Why They're Super Badass"; it was published in the 1950s and so many creative people have read it that even some of its more obscure monsters have leaked into the popular consciousness. (Oh hey look here's a well-known song by a famous band that's directly based on a Borges entry.) Even talking only about things relevant to MLP, hippogriffs, minotaurs, phoenixes, sphinxes, manticores, dragons, and unicorns have entries, and all cite really obscure mythology from ancient sources for a glimpse of those creatures as you've never seen them.

And of course I don't support pirating books — not even of authors who will never see another cent of royalties because they've been dead for 22 years. But if you were to want to do something so scurrilous, googling the phrase "borges book of imaginary beings pdf" without the quotes would have a high probability of turning up the full work on the first link. So don't do that.
#597 · 3
· on Daring Do and The Heightened Sensibilities
>>Miller Minus
Boy, is my face red.

I'm not sure which is worse: that I came up with this, that I actually went through with it, that I did such a piss poor job, or that this somehow made it to the finals. Therefore, I'll choose to be ashamed by all four.

Originally, this was going to be just few lines of dialogue as a joke I would post as a comment to the picture in question before leaving actual criticism. Then it got longer and I said, what the hell, I may as well submit it as a story. Then the metoclopramide ran its course, leaving me out of the loop for the next day, so I didn't have the chance to give the criticism that set the whole thing in motion. And yes, the one mention of the artwork in the story did come off more mean spirited than I intended. Sorry about that, roughness aside, I did like the idea behind the art.

Anyway, enough beating around the bush. Let's get to point, why I did what I did here. Well, I won't bore you with real life stuff, so let's just say that around the time I perpetrated this, I was a bit... sensitive.

Chalk it up to poor choice of ideas to explore, or poor execution. I am not happy with the final product, in several ways. That being said, while it would be easy to just wash my hands and move on, I think I can actually salvage this with some narrative tightening, some polish, and a few precise snips of racist overtones.

See you around in the next round, and thanks for the level headed criticism, everyone. This is why I love all of you.
#598 · 1
· on A Rebuttal
Well, difficult or not, you made it look easy. Great work!
#599 · 2
There's precedent for someone entering a lot of stories. The very first one of these we had (which was hosted by someone else, and so isn't on this site, and in fact the anthology of entries seems to have been deleted from FiMFiction), I made 9 entries. I did 2 to 4 plenty of times, and in my last hurrah for regular participation, I entered 6. Then there was the one time sharpspark entered what, like 25? Or maybe they had a co-conspirator. Still, there were a ton of entries from just one or two people.

Sharpspark got some of the same criticism that time, but they did bring up an interesting point: the more entries there are, the more entries make the finals. Sure, if sharpspark claimed a lot of the finals spots, it'd push other authors out, and it's possible to write a lot of solid entries. But it's more likely that they'd end up more or less scattered around, and that's what happened: sharpspark didn't claim any more finals spots proportionally than with fewer entries, and the result was that one more of the other authors' stories got into finals than if sharpspark hadn't entered at all. So sometimes it actually is more inclusive.

On reviewing... eh, yeah, there's kind of a karmic balance in doing a lot of reviewing if you're going to get a lot of reviewing, but that can't be enforced, and I wouldn't want to anyway, because people certainly might not have the time or confidence to review. Personally, I don't really care if you don't contribute reviews, though I will cop to one of the effects someone else pointed out: inflating the overall story count can push potential reviewers away. I would have chimed in on reviews if there were fewer stories, but yours weren't what pushed it over my threshold. Even without yours, there would have been too many for the time I could commit.

Another thing is that it's really hard to predict what people will like. The times I did more than 2 entries, I kind of went for multiple genres. You kind of have to. If you write 6 sad shipping stories, they start to run together, and it brings them down collectively. It's hard for readers to rank them against each other, and when they're not distinctive, they tend to fall down ballots. Not memorable isn't the same thing as not good, but when you have more than a dozen stories to rate, it can be pretty tough to mentally separate those.

So it helps to diversify, but even then, you only have so many genres to cover. And some genres just don't do well. Some have the deck stacked against them more than others. Comedies tend not to do as well, since taste in humor is more subjective than taste in many other things. Random stories, heavy doses of violence, and poetry are also examples of what can be inherently polarizing, and even well-executed ones can suffer in voting.

As someone else pointed out, voting results here don't necessarily predict how well a general audience will receive it. I have plenty of stories that finished well down the ballot but got lots of views and good vote ratios when I posted them to FiMFic. There are lots of good authors who frequent this place, and things that finish down in the 25th percentile are often still very workable stories. Controversy tends to play better here, actually, but it's still not immune. If you want to do a grittier take on Celestia, some people will still call that OOC automatically (and yes, I know it's not as simple an issue as that makes it sound).

I've been in the same boat, where I put in multiple stories, and the one I thought for sure would do best ends up way down the list. A lot of people have. Maybe the story just doesn't resonate with the particular readers who voted on it. Maybe you were too close to the source and couldn't see that the story didn't communicate what you wanted it to. Maybe it's just bad luck.

>>Aragon said something that's kind of true, and I'm hoping it just didn't come across quite right. And that is that flash fiction isn't the best place to learn to write. I mean... you have to add a lot of qualifiers before that becomes true. It does teach you valuable skills that are applicable in longer fiction. Flash fiction is the best place to learn to write if what you want to write is flash fiction (and there are plenty of professionals who specialize in that). Other than that, it's just... different. There's cross-pollination that happens, of course, but if I'd said, "Romance novels aren't the best place to learn to write," not as many people would immediately agree, yet I think that's just as true. There are lessons to be learned from long-form romance that can benefit many other kinds of writing, but you learn those other kinds by doing them. So I don't think it's fair to say that about flash fiction, since it's just as true to say it about any category. Writing in a category helps you learn to write that category, and there will be some side effects that bleed into other categories. But the best way to learn writing X is by writing X, and it's not really fair to blame Y for that. If you want to specialize, do. If you want to write a wide variety of things, do. Just make sure you're getting the writing experience that will correlate with and reinforce that.
#600 · 2
· on Boar Guest's "Book of Fanciful Beasts", Chapter 5 · >>horizon
I normally don't like these kinds of contributory collaborative efforts, and I've only ever participated in one, but I already have an idea for this...