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Nightmare After Nightmare Night · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
#101 · 2
·
I have articipated.
#102 ·
· on Drowning
Stunning use of colors and the way our eyes move throughout the page is elegant. A nice little touch is the border. Well done. The apple wave is expertly done, but it contrasts badly with the half done pony face.

Just a little touch up on her face would do, maybe add a nose and more detail to the mouth. 🍎
#103 ·
·
Gonna finish off my slate of stories, and then I'll try to at least read the remainder of the entries.

We have a tiny ballot this time around, after all. :>
#104 · 2
· on Pumpkin Spice Season · >>Posh
Alright, I'm gonna say it: the sex education allegory came off terribly ham-fisted for me.

I'm also not seeing how this fits this round's prompt? That's not super important to many a reader but I thought I'd point it out.

I was excited at the beginning of this story, contrary to the criticisms that it's slow, because the idea of Starlight and Twilight deciding that the former should teach dark magic, even though she may not be comfortable with it, and the latter becoming very upset when it becomes clear that the course will involve hooves-on education—it's a great premise, Author. Simple and effective, and I only thought it was slow because this is a little more SoL than other stories. The premise arrived early enough, and I was happy to continue.

I enjoyed the little hints here and there that this was going to be similar to sex education, when Twilight starts to argue that no dark magic is the safest option. Because even at that point, it still makes sense in-world. But then Twilight decides she's going to have her own course with blackjack and hook just blackjack, and she starts using the term "abstinence-only" dark magic, which is excruciatingly on-the-nose. And the idea that you could only use dark magic when you meet that "super special nemesis"? I just couldn't at that point. I felt like I was staring you and your intentions right in the face when I read that, except it wasn't like I'd peeked behind the curtain—it was more like you had thrown it wide open and shouted, "GET IT?!"

Because the comparison is just not on, at that point. Sex isn't a crime. Sex isn't a danger to society and substantial amounts of citizens like dark magic is portrayed in Equestria. And dark magic isn't a normal part of every unicorn's lives. It just felt very forced.

What do you want this story to be, Author? Is it a comedic look at what dark magic education would be like in Equestria, and a conversation about whether or not the hooves-on approach is viable? Or is it comedic social commentary against abstinence-only sex education? This is getting very much into "this isn't your story, asshole" territory, but if you'll allow me to be an asshole for a second: I think the first route is much stronger. Because the second route needs that allegory to hold up, and it just doesn't.

If you do want to stick with the allegory, might I suggest using drugs instead of sex? Like dark magic, there's a chance any given student could encounter it, and unlike sex, drugs aren't a normal and healthy part of adulthood.

I find it weird that people are saying that the two plotlines aren't intersecting well, but even weirder is the fact that I agree! Because on surface level it seems like it should work, but it still feels out of nowhere at the end. Perhaps it's that pesky allegory again. If you're going that route, then it all should fit, and yet here's dark magic being portrayed as an addictive substance being spiked into people's drinks, hmmmmm…

It could also be that the connection comes in so late. The Starbuck's plotline feels kind of like a distraction throughout most of the story, with a lot of dedication given to it as opposed to it just biding its time and waiting to be the twist. But that's just an idea.

These are all just ideas.

Oh well. Despite all this, the writing style was essentially flawless, with only a few typos here and there that I could complain about. It all flowed extremely well and was, as has been pointed out, fun. And because of all that this will probably end up high on my slate. It's just the taste that's in my mouth now… Not super into it, you know?

But thanks for writing, and best of luck to you!
#105 ·
· on Taste Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
There's this issue even top tier artists perpetrate. That is, putting human shoulderblades and joints on ponies.
This one doesn't do that, and it makes me very happy!
Now, Pinkie's eye sockets are slightly misaligned, which would normally be a cause of concern, but hey. Pinkie Pie. Her inquisitive look still pulls through. I wonder if she'd be able to notice the Phoenix dust, should there be any in the brownie (and the feather poking out seems to indicate as much).
Nevertheless, it's a nice piece, and I wonder if actually writing the "Hmmm..." wouldn't have worked better for the overall style of the drawing.
I still liked it, though.
#106 ·
· on Just Family · >>Bachiavellian
I liked this one. A friendship lesson for the older folks! Yay. Except for missing rule lines and a few little typos, you brought us unique takes on a future Twilight, Spike, and the CMC which were fun and insightful. I like your use of metaphor, especially the wet sheets one that left me with an enormous grin. It might require a Teen tag if published elsewhere, though.

I am an advocate of writing a mystery into every story and I like how the future setting played out, especially the use and loss of the reading glasses. The dialog ran true.

The story was touching in the end, especially the nostalgia of Spike riding Twilight (no pun intended, but after the wet sheets and other lover allusions, what do you expect?).

I have a vague sense that the story would work better if you could trim a little over all and more from the beginning, making Twilight's growing upset at Spike's intrusion more concise, and in light of her being middle aged, slightly more obviously curmudgeonly (even if Twi has to say it introspectively).

Good work. Revise and publish.
#107 ·
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease · >>Samey90 >>Posh
Seriously cracked story. I could see where you were going with it, and it could have worked. And well. For me, it didn't. I think I have a partial handle on the why of it.

Unfortunate word choice. Small, little things have a big affect on the reader's perception. The best examples are in act 2. You named the guard Raven. This is a Halloween Nightmare Night story. Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven? Ravens are also omens of death and you used the word murder paragraphs before. I saw a raven for a number of paragraphs until my sense of verisimilitude cracked. I had to reread because I felt it was my duty to do so.

The murder in murder-candy was appropriate, but then Raven "nommed" a licorice stick? As in nom nom. Child-speak. This brings up the second ding: tone. Either it's adult or it's child-like; they don't mix in the narration, though it might pass in the dialogue.

But the tone fails seriously in act 2 and act 3 in reference to a guard being told seriously embarrassing dirt on Equestria's royalty. Royalty make their own rules and while it isn't highlighted in the series, Celestia has passed edicts and is an absolute ruler. This conversation made me squirm thinking at one point it's a realistic MLP interaction and at other points completely out of character. Should Raven have been in fear of her life? As act 2 ended with the dating comment and spit-take, I decided on taking it at innocent face value. Act 3, Pinkie describes what medieval absolute monarchs did to those who annoyed them (and in the Philomena episode, Fluttershy did talk about dungeons).

Can you see what I mean about tone? And word choice?

You can also see that what I've cited is attributable to one or two dozen total words. Fix this. You have a gem in the rough here and I'm sure you can make it sing.
#108 · 1
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease
One last thing.

If you are going to write in third person, you need to be especially cognizant of tense. Your first paragraph ended with a sentence that was in the past of the past and required two hads. This unfortunately set my expectations for the story.

I learned the hard way, always the hard way, if there is one thing you must do—must must must do—even in the face of hard deadlines, it is to make the first page read perfectly and to make the writing invisible.

One word. Just one word. The rest of the story proves your competence as an author. I'm certain you'll do better next time.
#109 · 1
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease · >>scifipony
>>scifipony
I'm pretty sure the author meant the canon character named Raven, though... Depending on the episode, she either works for Mayor Mare or Princess Celestia.
#110 · 1
· on A Daughter of Forest Green · >>scifipony
I can tell that you've spent a lot of time thinking about the worldbuilding elements, here. The little touches like Laurel's costume becoming a part of her were neat and clearly had a lot of thought put into them.

Personally, though, what made it difficult for me to enjoy the story as a whole was how the dialogue between Fluttershy and Laurel was constructed. Some of our other reviewers noted how the voices feel a little off point, and I find myself mostly agreeing with that sentiment. But what I think is a larger issue is the bulk of the actual sentences being exchanged between Flutts and Laurel are simple questions and factual responses. There's nothing really driving the conversations forward, outside of a vague mutual curiosity. As a result, I think it makes the objective/point/meaning of each exchange feel a little too obvious.

My biggest suggestion would be to give Laurel a concrete reason for interacting with pony culture and Fluttershy. Maybe instead of Laurel, have another timberwolf be mistaken for wood and taken by somepony, so Laurel goes looking for them. My point is, Laurel needs a good reason to want to have a meaningful discourse with ponies, since timberwolves in this world view ponies as monsters. Right now it just feels like Flutts and Laurel are interacting for the sake of interaction, which isn't quite good enough to serve as the vehicle for the world-building and character-building here.
#111 · 1
· on Safely Doomed
I got kind of lost when Wisteria and Rose showed up, to be honest. Taking their words at face value is well enough and they make sense in that regard, but the question is why are they showing up here, and why do they suddenly give Tavi the boot? They feel like a reference back to some grander thing, but without that prior knowledge I can't help but feel like I'm reading the mid-section of a wider anthology.

Which isn't to say the rest wasn't interesting. I was pulled along nicely start to finish, despite the confusion toward the end.
#112 ·
· on Safely Doomed
There's a lot of:

Good stuff here, Author, but it never quite congealed into a story for me. I always have trouble anyway with dreams in fiction--I so rarely remember my own, I don't really have much personal experience with how they're supposed to work--and since there isn't much to this except the dreaming, I'm left all at sea.

I'll also mention that, other than the line about spitting out the pen, there isn't a lot here to make me think of Pony. I kept having to concentrate not to see them as humans...

Mike
#113 ·
· on Just Family · >>Bachiavellian
I think the voices ring true here for the most part, which is always good with these character-based pieces. The jokes are definitely hit-or-miss for me, though, which is a bit of an issue in the first and second scenes, where the humor is supposed to be carrying a lot of the forward momentum.

But one thing that I really think could be improved on is the pacing. The other reviewers mention that the CMC's scene feels insubstantial, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that from a pacing perspective, it's oddly placed. This is supposed to be an epiphany scene, but it's coming in right after the scene that set the conflict in the first place. It feels like there needs to be more *stuff* here. Which is fine by me, as long as it gets us more great character interactions.

So I think that an expansion is pretty much a must. Take a look at your outline, and try to figure out which parts need more time to fully develop.
#114 ·
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease
>>Samey90
Could be, but still an unfortunate choice. The story didn't demand that specific character. Including it added implications and misdirections.

I too have used unfortunate name choices. The main character of my first published novel was Elle. I likened it to a southern US name. Besides being the name of a magazine, it was the French word for she. Yes, it was a feminist novel, but still. The editor changed it summarily to Ellia and I'm pretty sure I merited the lecture I just gave. Lessons learned the hard way, always the hard way.
#115 ·
· on Safely Doomed
I really dig the provocative tone that the first couple of scenes sets. It's not often you see an MLP fanfic take such an abrasive angle with its characters, so that's definitely a breath of fresh air. The stress of Octavia's breakdown comes through strongly and is well-permeated into each scene.

Unfortunately, though, I do have trouble with how the story carves out and delivers on its stakes. As an dumb exercise, try Ctrl+F'ing the word, "dream". Other than the first sentence (which did felt a little odd and jarring in my first read-through), the word only begins appearing at the end of the second scene, at the end of a conversation that started out being about something very different. And then "dream" appears with surprising frequency in almost every single scene until the end, which is amplified by the fact that the last several scenes have a very short word count.

I think this kind of illustrates the issue I had, with that we had a very slow burn start before introducing the primary conflict, and then we get twelve (12!) scenes that only take up about the same amount of wordcount as the first two. It starts becoming very hard to understand, and I didn't think the questions and conflicts raised in the first half were addressed.

I can't help but to think you must have ran out of time, which is a shame because it's abundantly clear that you have a very specific vision coming into this one. For me, as the story is right now, there's just not enough to really pay off in the way I suspect you intended.
#116 ·
· on Taste Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Yep. Good cover for that story; hope it's used. Got the attitude of The Pie in the story and the feather is a plus.
#117 · 1
· on Arts and Crafts
Yikes. In a good way. You got the Spike still needing some growing up vibe and Twilight's sense of the costume. I like it. Hope the author uses it as cover.
#118 ·
· on Drowning
Great Halloween theme there, buddy. I especially like the color choices and the frenetic strokes you produced to make it work. The volume and distance and a sense of heat and nightmarish despair. It would work well as the author's cover.
#119 ·
· on Pumpkin Spice Season
Okay. I've just read down to the first rule line. Don't know what how the rest will turn out, but I will give you a gold star for one of the best leading mysteries I've read in months, maybe years. I guess my mind was in the gutter, but like a deft mystery writer, you gave us plenty of clues and I should have deduced the mystery but failed. Then I got to that last line...

Bam!

Nicely done.
#120 ·
· on Fall Back · >>Baal Bunny
I'm going to concur with the esteemed >>Posh above with the ending being a blindside, but I will dissent in thinking it's a bad thing here. Through all the fluff and festivity, what we're ultimately seeing is Discord having learned to care about the population at large (at least one town, anyway), and going through what appears to be an actually somewhat taxing level of effort to put on one hell of a show, which shows an enormous degree of personal growth for him. I mean he made and kept a schedule, for crying out loud! I think this a natural end-state of his progression from villain, to annoying neutral, to villain relapse, to proper reformation.

I think the essence of what we have here is Discord having grown up, and everything is just building up to that moment on the hill where Twilight realizes it with the rest of us.

Now, my fellows above do note some points where things could be cleaner and more tidy in raw technical work, and those are certainly worth noting. But the core here I absolutely love, and I almost think much or any foreshadowing would stunt the impact of the end unless done in a very clever manner.

Addendum: I thought about it some more waiting in line at In & Out trying not to pee my pants, and upon further review it feels like Discord's secondary goal really is proving himself to Twilight. She's the only one of the princesses who doesn't know the festival is coming (explicitly kept secret from her, no less), and he very intentionally prods her only to immediately turn around and show a kind gesture; not unlike picking at a bad memory to remind someone of the good that came out of it. In light of that, I stand by my notion that foreshadowing the somber end would be dangerous if handled improperly. It's a shock to her and it ought to stay a shock to us, too.
#121 ·
· on Pumpkin Spice Season
Well, I liked your story. It had a mess of typos, but I'll ignore that considering that everyone had to rush to finish their stories and it's the easiest thing to fix in revision.

As I did in my previous comment, I'll complement further here. You did a great job of leading the reader through the story, making the reader want to read on to figure out what will happen next. I liked how you portrayed Starlight, your protagonist. I think you got the aspects of her reformed self, especially when she first reports to Twilight, down pat. You handled her evil past convincingly, and what she learned from it. Starlight is a character I written about extensively, and you've given me insights I missed. Nice.

I really liked how you played up the first act revelation that was not sex-ed, but dark-magic-ed, into the remaining of the story with aplomb. In the first act, I was sure Twilight was suggesting a sex-ed class and I could believe that Starlight might be uh-hem experienced from all those years as alpha mare in Our Town. You took that sex-ed tension and comedy, packaged it, and utilized it commandingly through the rest of the story.

This is a message piece. Having a message in mind while writing a story is a great way to power yourself through the writing process. I've written about that here if you're interested. I think you wanted to make points about teaching children what they will probably learn unsupervised anyway, and you did that splendidly. Your message was blindingly obvious, but in this case ponies and dark magic worked as a great metaphor. Subtly was unneeded. Lesson taught. Lesson learned. So very MLP.

Two things struck me that I feel could use a little more polish.

The running joke of Starbucks in Equestria entertained me immensely. I really want a mocha. At no time did it distract from your story, rather it acted as a nice little vehicle to demonstrate the strains in the bonds for Twilight and Starlight's relationship. It served also to task Rarity for her dark magic experience, and introduced the MacGuffin of Sweetie Belle and her friends to further grind at Twilight's theories. It seems also that Pinkie ran into dark magic, too. While I get that, it feels... it's not tight enough. Her revelation just seems a bit out of left field. Foreshadowing anypony? Take it from one reader's perspective, it wasn't enough.

Starlight is your protagonist. Whilst the story is written in third person, it is really a first person story written in third person. Every part of the story focuses on Starlight's inner dialogue about how to teach sex dark-magic education. Well, not every part. When Twilight teaches her class, you change POV to Twilight. This badly breaks the tone, continuity, and pacing of your story. I recommend cutting the scene completely. There is enough follow up at the new-new-new-new Starbucks to fill in what happened. But, wait, there's another possibility! May I humbly suggest that as Starlight leaves her classroom after her first dark-magic lesson that she encounters Scoots and Bloom talking to Sweetie Belle about how lame Twilight's class was? It maintains POV and Apple Bloom's one to be able to quote chapter and verse, so you can get Twilight's best line to-boot.

I guess I should say it. The bedroom scene with Pinkie waking Starlight is a really weak tie-in with the Nightmare after Nightmare Night prompt... if you take the strictly. But, dagnabit, I don't care! With the Pumpkin Spice added, the mention of Nightmare Night in the story, and Pinkie getting tied into knots about it, it's plenty to me. A prompt is something to spark an idea to write, not a blueprint. Asked to vote on it, I say you pass.

Looking forward to the publication of the revised version.
#122 ·
·
Well. I finished the quota of stories for the preliminary. Not many stories this round, but they are all thoughtful and interesting and better as a whole than I've seen in previous prompts. Good job everyone!
#123 ·
· on Just Family · >>Bachiavellian
Bottom slated for costuming. I hate trying to figure out costumes on Halloween.

This was a rather sweet and enjoyable little story with a solid message that it generally manages to deliver on.

The big issue, as I see it, is that a lack of focus on the core conflict and who the protagonist is weakens that structure a bit. Fundamentally, this story (as written, at least) is really about Twilight growing more distant from Spike and walking that back. She's the one with the actual change and character arc. However, a not insignificant portion of this story is instead dedicated to a Spike scene that really mostly just serves to hammer home what we can already surmise (as well as add some extraneous flirting and such with Spike and Sweetie Belle). Basically, I think going out of Twilight's perspective is a bit of a waste here because it doesn't really add to anything while taking away space that could be further developed to exploring their separation and how Twilight really chooses to come around.

Speaking of that Spike scene, there are two more writing specific things I wanted to talk about regarding it.

1. Scene setting. When you're dealing with unfamiliar territory, you really do need to do something to establish it. I seriously have very little comprehension of where and how the CMC were set up.

2. Fantasy swearing. Fantasy swearing is always a very good case for reading out loud. If you think about most (at least English) swearing, there is a certain flow to it - an ease that stems from it being something designed to be, well, sworn. "God damn it" just rolls of the tongue super well. Even if we go way milder, "Gosh darn it" works similarly well (though the softer sounds in gosh soften the swear itself). All this to say Luna darn it and Cadence darn it do not actually flow that well due to the combination of sounds and the syllables involved. Try to imagine Scoots actually shouting it - it just rolls really weirdly.

Anyhow, all that is to say that the story still has a lot of heart and is rather sweet. It would just benefit from really drilling down into the core conflict and how Twilight handles it.
Thank you for writing!
#124 · 1
· on Starlight over the Bridge · >>Bachiavellian >>Miller Minus
Bottom of the slate for there being an occurrence at this bridge. I hate when that happens.

I kinda regret hitting this one at midnight, as I'm kinda struggling with what to say about it.

I'll second Bachiavellian's interpretation of events. The end was a little fuzzy and I thought that was what was going down, and seeing someone else suggest it was enough to confirm it for me.

Like a lot of stories this round, it is really successful at evoking the mood it wants to evoke. I do think the linked nature of the dreams is a bit unclear because of the way you break and and restart them. I was initially under the impression that these were separate nights (predicated upon the Bridge of Amnesia idea) since nothing really conveys that they are continuous, so that took my brain a bit to catch up with.

I'm struggling with how to read some of the imagery and I'd be curious to read a full author spiel at the end. I have some thoughts but I am tired so unsure. That said.

She stepped forward and placed a hoof on the banister. It was painted red, with little polished balls at the top. Tied around them were lilac ribbons, hanging in loops along the railing.


That sounds like a direct call to something and it is driving me nuts, so if nothing else, please confirm that that is a thing (or not) and lemme know what it is.

Yeah, that's all I got for the moment. Sorry author. I can try to come back to this with slightly more coherent thoughts later and see what else i can pull out, but wanted to get down the "I finished it on my slate" notation.

Thanks for writing!
#125 ·
· on Pumpkin Spice Season
It's 3:13 in the morning and I'm kind of reeling having just finished this. I'm still smiling though, so that's a high note. I think, of the two somewhat absurd how-do-these-threads-relate-style stories so far, this one nails the feeling. Though, there is one tiny thing that the story never brings up that really isn't important in the grand scheme but...

Twiggles has messed with the dank stuff before. More than once in just that episode. Also "Alicorn magic" is the same color effect and that's weird but I digress.

I laughed, I cried, my friend is a barista so I laughed again.
#126 ·
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease · >>scifipony >>scifipony
Yeah, I didn't think this'd rank.

Uuuuuuuhhhhhhh Retrospectuhhvjsjds

This is another entry in my long-running "coming up with a good idea, then not giving myself the time or space to write it out, and compromising in order to submit literally anything, because missing writeoff rounds makes me want to die" series. The original idea was supposed to be a comedy about Twilight solving the mystery of who fed Luna special brownies, running through a list of suspects until arriving at the real culprit (Old Man Thompson, who had been disguised as a monster all along).

When I realized that I'd shot myself in the foot, I decided to take a few scenes and ideas from my outline, isolate them, and add the Pinkie Pie material to give the illusion of a narrative connection. Minuette's scene was created wholecloth, while the conversation between Celestia and Raven was meant for Celestia and Twilight. I trusted myself to at least write semi-amusing character interactions, and it seems I pulled that off... adequately?

Regardless, I know that this isn't the story I wanted to write, and it's probably not what you all wanted to read. I'm interested in writing the original idea out, though. Will I? Probably not.

Some specific responses:

>>Bachiavellian
Overall, I have to say while this is definitely fun, it's a bit of a fun mess. The parts don't quite feel like they're fully aligned, and while I was entertained, in the end it's hard to get the sense that I consumed a cohesive work.


That's 'cuz you didn't. :twilightsheepish:

It's funny that you mention Minuette's characterization as a positive. I actually feel like I failed to capture her manic energy and bubbliness. She comes across, to me, as a less faithful version of the canon character than do liquid melodrama Rarity, and saliva creep Spike.

>>Rao
I also appreciate the Garmonbozia reference for no apparent reason. Properly Pinkie, perhaps.

Edit: Also the allusion to Super Stoner Luna being reminiscent of her guest spot as the Ghost of Hearth's Warming Future was neat.


The former was intentional. The latter was not. There's a comic bit where Pinkie says "oh my Garmonbozia" in response to something shocking, so it's not just me giving my own ego a soapy wank (this time).

I didn't even consider Hearth's Warming until you pointed it out.

>>AndrewRogue
Actually, I'm going to interrupt myself. The Rarity scene is fun. The Celestia scene is fun. The Pinkie scenes are not, really. This is the second time I this round I feel we've had a very understated Pinkie who is kind of limp and low energy, more a self-focused snarker than the expected bundle of frantic energy. And here that is particularly unfortunate because her scenes are supposed to serve as the throughline and I just find myself not caring in the least because, well, she doesn't really have the energy to carry them.


I think, if I could have this one back, I'd remedy this by turning her monologue into a dialogue between her and Gummy. Or, rather, a monologue directed at Gummy. I was trying to convey Pinkie's manic energy through the longer, more overwritten sentences that bounce between subjects and lines of thought frequently, but that's really the kind of thing that dialogue and action would work to convey more effectively.

>>scifipony I... do not know how to respond to any of this. Except to say that Raven was, indeed, intended to be the canon character, Raven. I'm treating her as a sort of confidante for Celestia, but she fills a role that would be better played by Twilight.

The story didn't demand that specific character. Including it added implications and misdirections.


There's a character named "Twilight Sparkle," too. I suppose I should omit her to avoid making people think of Bella and Edward?

Thanks also to >>Haze for the feedback, and to the artist of that image that... well, made me crack up for several seconds straight.
#127 · 1
· on All the Little Lies We Tell Ourselves · >>AndrewRogue
This... needed a pretty thorough proofreading pass.

It's a shame, because what's here is actually quite lovely. A nice Applejack, a nice Granny, an Autumn Whositz who I can't actually judge, given that I've never seen her episode...

I struggle to see the bigger picture here, though. Maybe I'm a dumb-dumb, but I couldn't quite grasp the message being conveyed about Applejack, tradition, and rejection from her family. Because Autumn's not a pony? I guess this is a show that's done racism before... because Applejack would be The Gay? Everyone in Ponyville is gay.

I understand Applejack's trepidation, but I don't see how it's connected to her dream, or its symbolism. And I think that's where I'm getting tripped up.
#128 · 1
· on Pumpkin Spice Season
Okay, this is funny. It's really funny. I'm gonna get that out of the way now.

It's also not working as a story.

The sex ed metaphor that the esteemed and honorable >>Miller Minus pointed out as ham-fisted isn't the problem. It's supposed to be. The story doesn't take that part of its subject matter seriously in the slightest, and that is okay! The problem is that the story ultimately isn't about that.

The larger problem is that the story isn't about anything.

You have two competing plotlines (not an A-plot and a B-plot, but two A-plots) that fail to intersect in any meaningful way, and as a result, your story doesn't develop either of them meaningfully. The comedic elements are nice; I readily admit that characters describing eldritch horrors in so matter-of-fact a manner is one of my favorite comic tropes. But what are they ultimately driving toward?

It's funny, but it doesn't signify anything.

Why is there Starbucks in Equestria?

The three foals looked at each other, then down at their empty notebooks. Finally, Snails raised his hand


he raised his whAT
#129 · 1
· on Safely Doomed
Yeah, this was unfinished, and I felt guilty for that all week. I'm sorry.
#130 ·
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease · >>Miller Minus
>>Posh
I... do not know how to respond to any of this. Except to say that Raven was, indeed, intended to be the canon character, Raven...


There's a character named "Twilight Sparkle," too.


Posh, I first want to point out...
You can also see that what I've cited is attributable to one or two dozen total words. Fix this. You have a gem in the rough here and I'm sure you can make it sing.
I would not give a critique or write such things if I didn't want you to (or think you could) succeed. And I get the deadline bit, too. My entry suffered for that, too, and I agree with every single point in every critique I've read about it so far. Okay, then.

You seem to be asking me how to respond. I will take the request on face value. (I suggest that you read my essay on critique.)

My answer: Respond to this as what one reader understood after reading what you wrote.

This usually means that you should keep any response to yourself (as it could sound defensive) and ask yourself, "Why did this reader see this and feel they needed to report it?" In this case, I can answer: the reader keyed on Nightmare Night equals Halloween and associated a Poe poem upon reading about a character named Raven and assuming (rightly or wrongly since this is fantasy and in Equestria this is reasonable) that Raven was literally a raven.

Having received that apparently startling critique, I'd ask myself was act 2 about Raven specifically?

Did the name matter? Is attachment to a name, or a line of prose, or even an idea worth confusing a reader? Maybe it is. As an author, that is 100% your choice. The thing I learned the hard way was that sometimes my choices do interfere with the message I want to pass to the reader or, in the real world, can lose you a book sale. Yep. You want readers (and your editors) to enjoy your work and to find your writing invisible. Judge every point of a critique not on how you feel, but on whether it assists you in your goal of enticing as many readers as possible to like your stories and to accurately soak in your philosophy.

If I were in your shoes, I would consider this as one reader's take on the name Raven, then wonder if naming the guard, for example, Lunette could have both prevented the Poe association and implied an attachment to Luna. The question is, would that break the plot?

Heck, I got that Celestia understood that Raven might adore Luna more than professionally and I didn't know who Raven was other than what you wrote in the story! Even the name Guardsalot would have worked—for me. I wrote an essay on attachment to ideas two weeks ago that you may wish to read.

PS: You don't have to answer this and I feel rude even asking, but when you were writing this story, you did associate Raven with the Poe poem, didn't you? If yes, why didn't that alarm you just a little bit?
#131 ·
· on A Daughter of Forest Green
>>Baal Bunny
>>AndrewRogue
>>Miller Minus
>>Bachiavellian
>>Posh
Thank you everypony for your critiques. All contain good points that I will contemplate thoroughly. None of them surprise me, but by the same token I should have internalized them by now. It's a gift to see them all written down.

Please allow me to address this one comment:
I also might recommend making Luna's guard/friend at the end a batpony since the Nightmare Night episode is the only time we've ever actually seen them, but even if you keep her as a pegasus, you could at least have Luna introduce her to Fluttershy after their little scuffle.

<embarrassed> You bring up a great point, one that I dinged fellow author Posh upon in this contest, so I'll mea culpa right now. I was attached to the idea that this entry in this contest had to stay in the canon of my published stories and, in service of that, you got to see me tie my prose into a pretzel to prevent having to name her. I'm calling bullshit on myself. No story or idea an author creates in any shape or form is immutable reality. In service of the story that I published here, I should have chosen an ersatz name to improve the story and I apologize for that. Later, nothing would have stopped me from publishing the the revised version with my character's real name, so why did I care so much that I broke the story here? This is a question I really need to think about, especially since I asked Posh to do the same.

You are probably curious about whose name I'm protecting...

This prompt made me think of an idea I had had long ago that I had recently thought might make a great ending to another story written from "Luna's guard/friend" point of view. I'd started that story but stalled out. This pegasus is the protagonist of Knight of Equestria: Certainty and I have completed four other stories from her POV awaiting publication due to minor rewrites. I could not reveal her name was Flopsy Mopsy (aka Songbird Serenade) because it could potentially have revealed my name in this contest.
#132 · 1
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease · >>scifipony
>>scifipony

Speaking of suggested reading.
#133 ·
· on Brush Thoroughly to Avoid Periodontal Disease
>>Miller Minus
Touché! I'll read it as my penance.
#134 · 3
· on Two Girls, One Corpse
Retrospective? What retrospective?

>>Miller Minus
Also, I totally whiffed on what the PTSD joke was supposed to mean. Moral fibre? What does that have to do with post-traumatic stress?

It's an actual WWII term for pilots who, due to stress, refused to fly.

It's quite intentionally gross, instead, which doesn't do you many favours.

Frankly, I didn't like the prompt so I decided to go with "let's write Sunset throwing up and see where it goes". It's still not as bad as it could be, since my first idea was to have Pinkie die of overdose and, unlike Fluttershy whom we barely see, that description would be rather graphic.

>>AndrewRogue
the cop and Lyra interludes don't really end up adding much

Eh, what'd be driving with the body in the trunk without the thrill of getting caught...

Pinkie on the other hand felt surprisingly understated and honestly a bit mean the way she snipes a couple times

Well, I'd be understated and mean too if I spent a night lying in cold water under the shower, not to mention the hangover... But also, as you can see above, Pinkie was supposed to be the corpse in this story. Since I changed my mind and she survived, I was kinda stuck with her and let me tell you, there's no other character I struggle with more than Pinkie (Fluttershy is a close second, hence why she's dead).

the Starlight bit goes by real fast given the way you paced earlier scenes

Running out of time, I'd say. I'm currently making rewrites on it.

>>Posh
In search of a starting point, I based the whole setting on my older story Springtime for Shimmer. For the love of God, don't read it. This one is rather tame in comparison.

>>Rao
Now as for the story itself, I think I agree that you don't quite lean hard enough into the absurdity with Fluttershy's suicide.

She kills herself because she witnessed Rainbow Dash punching Sunset during a discussion about proboscis monkeys. Frankly, I'm unsure how is that considered not absurd enough.
#135 · 4
·
Hey, folks — just a reminder that I've created a folder in the Writeoff Association FIMFiction group for this round's stories. Add it there if you publish to FIMFic — and, as usual, DON'T DO SO WHILE YOU'RE STILL ANONYMOUS HERE.

Posting to the FIMFic group requires "Contributor" permissions as an anti-spam measure, but everyone who has ever submitted a Writeoff story should be a "Contributor" to the group. PM me on FIMFic, or reply to me here, if that's not the case.
#136 ·
· on Starlight over the Bridge
>>AndrewRogue
The lilac ribbons are a callback to the beginning, where there were lilac ribbons in Starlight's wedding dress. I'm not aware of any other reference this is making, outside of serving as a bookending device. I think the author's intention is to hint that Starlight vaguely knew about her death even in the beginning.

To go on a bit of a tangent, the the other recurring elements serve a similar purpose. Like the chandelier being the ever-constant concious denial that Starlight has about her situation. When it shatters, it represents the irrevocability of her realization.

... I think. Feel free to call any/all of my bullshit when we're done, author.
#137 ·
· on Starlight over the Bridge · >>Miller Minus
Huh. (An expression of awe at being stunned at the same time.).

This reads like the Connie Willis novel Passage, with a very similar endpoint and examination of the phenomenon. You never state what the endpoint is or the real situation and I agree with your choice. This story is all show and no tell. You rely on your reader to fill in the context in which the action occurs. It's a mystery, complete with a massive red herring, and the reader is the sleuth. And if I am wrong, I don't care! In the tradition of La Mort de l'Auteur, I've my own interpretation and thank you for providing me what I needed to get there. When and if you post on FimFiction, maintain the mystery in your short and long description because I judge, like for the movie The Sixth Sense, spoilers would be fatal to this masterwork's likely success.

Really, the one thing that would make this better is recasting the language Starlight uses when frustrated. "Screwing with me," is not the way the canon character would put it. It threatened to throw me out of the story. A nitpick. Take it as the impression one reader had after having read your story. Making Starlight's deduction in act one come a few paragraphs sooner would probably hook readers that might find the situation initially too weird.

Publish.
#138 · 1
· on Arts and Crafts
Ya know, I can't tell if it looks sorta rushed on purpose or if it just was rushed. It's just... kinda weird. Unfortunately not my kinda art, but it is good, and I particularly enjoyed the fade to black in the corners, really solidifies the portrait feel.
#139 · 1
· on Fall Back · >>Baal Bunny
I think this is the most creative Discord story I've ever read, because of how his chaos here is just weird, and revels in how that can be fun. I'm tired of the common trope where Discord's merely trying to annoy everyone (or worse, where it's all an excuse for the author to be "meta" and show off how clever they are)

So even though I respect the concept so much, I wish I enjoyed this more, but it felt kind of exhausting to read. So much is happening and it takes us through the entire day of partying, I felt a little burned out....

but Twilight couldn't think of a single thing to say to herself except, "It's been a long day."

"Twenty-five hours," the other her muttered, and Twilight had to giggle.


In a story like this, I'm reminded of some of the early holiday episodes in MLP and how it uses a character's development story to carry us through all the events. Winter Wrap-Up and Luna Eclipsed are partly about Twilight/Luna learning about the holiday, but also an arc about them trying to fit in with the community.

Maybe that's more rewriting than the author really wants to do, so here's an opposite example: that MLP comics story where Big Mac is trying to find some nails. It's hardly an arc at all, but that simple quest helps anchor the reader's attention when there's so much going on in the background, including a carnival and a parade and a dance party.

I didn't read this in the prelims, so I missed the chance to draw something based on it. Now I wish I did, because there's a lot of fun imagery here. That's the rules, I guess.
#140 · 2
· on All the Little Lies We Tell Ourselves · >>AndrewRogue
Bottom slate for the inclusion of applesauce. My daughter is obsessed with the stuff and it is so goddamn messy.

This is a fairly cute bit of quasi-shipping fluff and I was really disappointed it didn't actually deliver me more of that. Or more kirin.

On the subject of setup in a story, a good friend and a rather wise man once told me...

setup is unimportant
courage wolf meme background


...and I think that is particularly true in short stories. You want to establish stakes and conflict early so that you can spend the majority of your word count dealing with them rather than faffing about, especially when said things are almost purely character driven rather than based on any sort of external factors. In late, out early: the way of the writer.

Here there are, what, four scenes before we really have a chance of understanding what the core conflict is? And even then, you're sot of leaning on implications and still fuzzing it up with other elements. Lead with the hook. AJ is crushing on a kirin and feels conflicted because she's a traditionalist farm pony and this doesn't mesh with what she thinks that means for her. Boom. Then explore it. You really ought to be starting as close to Granny Smith going "Maybe you ought find a nice Stallion" and AJ going "Mmmm, but I'm kinda wondering if I've got a thing for scales" as possible, then expanding on that, rather than doing this weird sort of farm life is hard fakeout lead-in?

The lack of exploration is a big problem. Like, the majority of this story should have been the stuff with Luna, where we're given the opportunity to really dig into AJ's fears and desires and why they all exist. Which in turn gives us more time for AJ to work herself through them with Luna acting as a guide. Which would address my other big complaint which is that AJ turns the corner on this one pretty quick.

Like I said, this is cute and I like a lot of the ideas that are being presented here. I just don't think you properly allocate your word count to it. If you shifted the priorities here, established the conflict right off, and then focused on the post-Luna arrival stuff, I think you'd have an adorable and solid bit of shipfic (crushfic?) here.
#141 · 2
· on Pinkamena’s Bellyache · >>scifipony
>>scifipony, >>Bachiavellian, >>Miller Minus, >>Samey90, >>Rao

No Bellyaching

This was easily the most fun-to-write idea I had while going into this round (sans another I am holding back on for a better time.) Pinkie seemed like a natural target for Pink Elephants, Heffalumps, Woozles, and Geezenstacks, and taking it poetically, I tried to be as playful as possible while still straddling the horse of sense. These efforts are not to everyone’s taste, but I am glad that some of you were amused. Thank you for your comments!
#142 ·
· on Drowning
Is that Mt. Fuji in the background? :)
The scribbly style works in favor of the impressionistic nature of this piece. The negative space forming a fist-of-god aimed at AJ’s head may or may not be intentional, but once seen can’t be unseen. A nice reference to the story and a good piece in its own right.
Upper tier, but in this round, something is going to have to go lower…
#143 ·
· on Taste Test
You’ve firmly pinned down Pinkie to the degree that she’s pinnable. Caption noted, ahem. She’s a bit derp eyed, but she’s also a bit Derpy. The brownie approacheth edibility.
Upper tier, but in this round, something is going to have to go lower…
#144 · 1
· on Arts and Crafts
This has a suitably creepy appearance. I confess I was thrown off a bit by Spike’s jaw; since mainly the green part is visible, it tricked me into thinking that another character than Spike was meant. Showing more of his upper lip would solve this problem.
Upper tier, but in this round, something is going to have to go lower…
#145 ·
· on Pinkamena’s Bellyache
>>GroaningGreyAgony
You are welcome. You have a gift, so figure out how to use it.
#146 ·
· on Drowning
I like that there's no black or white here. The colored outlines on colored objects with a colored background really gives the whole thing a dreamlike, smudged feeling, for lack of my ability to come up with a better term. It's also a cool bit of perspective play that you've framed the shot so that Applejack appears upright while the house is the one that's tilted.Really cool stuff!
#147 ·
· on Taste Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I really like the over-exaggerated expression that Pinkie's got. For me, it calls out memories of Looney Tunes and Calvin and Hobbes.The texturing you did on her mane looks cool as well. Is that a digital blur on a physical drawing? I don't have an eye for this kind of thing, but it's cool, regardless.

The one thing that I thought was a little out of place was the text, which is kind of a bold contrast with Pinkie both in terms of color and visual appearance (sharp angles vs overlapping curves).
#148 · 1
· on Arts and Crafts
I think it was an inspired choice to draw (paint? I don't know digital art terminology!) this on a black background. It definitely helps with giving the piece a sense of character and mood. I also liked that you used subtly different shades of purple for Spike and the costume, which helped the contrast pop a little more.

I have to admit I was a little confused by the outlining, at first. There are distinct lines separating Spike's chin and neck from the wing behind him, but there is no such line for his chest and belly, which made it kind of hard to immediately pick up his silhouette at first. But nitpick aside, I still think this is a solid piece!
#149 · 1
· on Pumpkin Spice Season
Bottom slate for making me think too hard about Starbucks. I mean, it is okay and enjoyable sometimes (even as someone who is not fond of coffee), but this is just too much.

So I tried to avoid reading other comments before reviewing stories this round, but I was having a bit of trouble with this one so I broke that rule and I think it helped a bit. The story is a cute and amusing read that honestly kinda breezes by given its actual word count which is always a solid testament to having managed to engage. Where I think the problem comes from (and why some people bounced off the way they did) is that the story fails to actually establish tonally what it is until shockingly late.

See, while the story is definitely lighthearted and a bit jokey from the get-go, I think it is still very possible (and even probable) to take it as just the lighter side of "serious" (that is to say something effectively in tone-ish with a standard episode of pone) until about here...

“Oh. Oh. No.” Twilight shook her head. “No, that’s… no. Starlight, this is supposed to be an abstinence-based dark magic course. The only safe dark magic is no dark magic.”


...and you only have absolute 100% confirmation here...

Twilight shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. That’s not how I was raised, it’s not what Celestia taught me, and it’s not what I’m going to teach in my school. Dark magic should only be practiced between a pony and their arch-nemesis, not just casually whenever you want!”


...that this is actually a full-blown zany comedy and not just you being a bit tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. And given this is like, 1/3 of the way into your story, that's a bit too late for the reader to realize "oh, I'm not supposed to be taking this seriously." In retrospect you do attempt to do some marking, but I think its all too soft a touch. You need to hit the level "between a pony and their arch-nemesis" positioning clearly and early so that the reader is keyed into the fact that this is a pure comedy and they can better adjust their expectations.

Because I think this speaks to the issue that a lot of people seemed to have with the ending. I see why you're using that as the ending, but the problem, as I see it, is that due to both the issues with early tone setting AND the length of the fic, people are expecting a stronger resolution to the Twilight/Starlight conflict than "Oh, well, dark magic is cool in coffee." Structurally that SHOULD work, but yeah, I think there's just too much build-up and set-up for the conflict (with it being a lot of words and presented somewhat seriously) for it to be satisfying as presnted. You need to streamline what came before it and probably punch it up a bit on your end.

So yeah, I think that really covers it. Again, it is quite amusing (though I do wonder about the core Starbucks joke - I was amused but I feel like the Starbucks are everywhere thing died a while ago), I just think it is very important to properly signpost at the beginning of a story to make sure expectations are established and carried throughout. You don't want to jar the reader unless that is specifically your intent.

Thanks for writing!
#150 · 1
· on Starlight over the Bridge
>>Samey90
>>Bachiavellian
>>Baal Bunny
>>Anon Y Mous
>>AndrewRogue
>>scifipony

Finals don't count, right?

If all I could take away from this experience was that this story is a mess and is hard to follow, then I'd call this a success. And I can even take away more than that! Thanks a billion for your thoughts.

The "miracle" I referred to before the round started had to do with a scene of exposition that felt so clunky that I couldn't even write it, let alone fit it in. The "miracle" was that I realized I could get by without it and lop off some work. And I mean "get by" very literally in this case.

In terms of what this story was about... Let's just say you will all receive an explanation over my dead body.

I'll revisit this and post to fimfiction at some point. But for now, congrats to our medallists and their faces that are so attractive it defies science, and I'll see everyone next round!
#151 · 2
· on Fall Back
>>Bachiavellian
>>scifipony
>>Posh
>>AndrewRogue
>>Rao
>>Haze

Thanks, folks:

And congrats to our other medalists. This is only the second medal I've gotten in a Ponyfic round, the last one being a silver in the second Writeoff I ever entered four years ago this month. So I'm looking forward to my next medal in 2022!

As for the story, I'm thinking the throughline should be Twilight's continued suspicions of Discord, but those suspicions need to change as the story goes along till the end when she has the conversation with herself and decides that she's being too suspicious. The heart of the story needs to be about Twilight's relationship with Discord. That can even lead to a title drop: she realizes when talking with herself that she tends to "fall back" into her old patterns of behavior around him. She needs to accept that he's a different person now and needs to adjust her thinking to reflect this.

That could bring the immortality stuff in earlier, too, by tying her feelings about Discord in with her feelings about being a princess. At the beginning, she feels that she's doing what a princess needs to do when she's suspicious of a known miscreant like Discord--protecting the citizenry and all that...

Or something. Rewrite City, at any rate, and I'm the mayor. And Haze, can I commission you to do a cover image for this when I post it to Fimfiction?

Mike
#152 · 1
· on All the Little Lies We Tell Ourselves
Congrats to everyone, and extra congrats to the lovely Baal and CiG. And a bonus congrats to Miller who I'm pretty sure I robbed of a medal.

~~~

What a pitiful face. This is reality.
Didn’t you choose this for yourself?
If you just indulge yourself in “dreams”, your dreams will never come true.
Welcome to a monochrome world!

Like so many things, this story started with a song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmOeqLHwn5g

I have tried to write a story roughly based on this song twice now, and both times I have failed magnificently. Though, at least this time around I managed to keep the story about dreams. But yeah, this story went through a few mutations as I ran into roadblocks and time shrank.

The first version actually involved a dream-creature known as Monochrome (ho, ho, ho) who was slowly infiltrating the dreams of Ponyville, leaving a select few (including AJ and a visiting Autumn Blaze) to try and stop his insidious consumption of the dreams of everypony and maybe figure out they were crushing on each other. I was struggling to really figure out how to fit the necessary build into the given space though, so I narrowed the scope to Monochrome explicitly haunting AJ.

Of course, that ran into some other issues that, after some conversation, was resolved by realizing that my narrative throughline just didn't work. At this point, of course, it was Sunday evening, I'd kept moving some minor scenes around, redoing the opening, etc, so I just needed to condense it and get it done. Which is what I did. AJ maybe wants Autumn Blaze and this worries her. Boom.

Honestly, my review is pretty accurate to my own thoughts. If I was going to rewrite this, I'd basically delete the first two scenes, expand/redo the scene at home, probably keep the letter, then go straight into the dream which would become something more than call and response, as we really get into it what's going on with AJ. Another option that has been suggested to me is to pivot this and make it a more Luna oriented story with her being much more proactive in her attempts to help AJ. Or, you know, scrap this idea all together and just let Autumn Blaze come visit and deal with it that way. :p

>>Baal Bunny
Yeah. The resolution is pretty weak. The idea is that there is some manner of exclusivity to it. AJ can't leave the farm. Autumn Blaze might not like the farm. Her kin might not accept her dating a kirin mare. She can't have foals without some hoops and even then, etc, etc. Basically the core of things is the pull between AJ's view of her "traditional" life and how Autumn pushes against that. And yeah, I don't really manage to arrive at a satisfactory answer.

>>scifipony
Thankies. A key consideration here was not that AJ is deeply, madly, crazy in love with Autumn. But she does feel something and is afraid of what could mean.

>>Miller Minus
It's a bit of a consequence of writing tighter 3rd person (whatever that word is for where the characters thoughts are native part of the narration), but you are probably right that I overdo it here, 'sepcially since there is so much naval gazing time. And yeah, per my own review, definitely agreed re: establishing stakes.

Also correct on the subject of establishing the romantic/crushing feelings in the body of the fic. I did give this thought (it makes a fair amount of sense that they'd mesh well: Autumn Blaze is clearly a very earnest, industrious, and hard-working pony with her head in the clouds, while Applejack is a supportive, patient, and probably in need of someone to push her to do new things sometimes). But yeah, definitely something that needs to be better written in. I just want to defend I thought some about this at least. << >>

>>Bachiavellian
It is always nice when the criticisms are consistent. Good sign on what needs to be fixed.

>>Posh
Bet you feel silly having me proof for you after seeing how inaccurate I am sometimes!

Yeah, the primary tension is in that Applejack is someone who is highly traditional and is feeling particularly pressured by that. She can't ever leave SAA, a romance with a non-pony would be weird (this last season was p. heavy on the pony racism anyway so clearly is a thing!), and not (easily) being able to have foals is another thing. Its a lot. The important thing is she doesn't necessarily hate it or want it to go away, just that, in this time, she feels smothered by it.

>>AndrewRogue
Oh post writing me, you're so much smarter than writing me.
#153 · 2
· on Just Family
Jensen had never held a gun before. And now, he was on crowd control duty.

The handgun was a lot heavier than he would have thought, and it was all glistening black steel. It had a hammer that Jensen had cocked when he was fidgeting with it back in the van, and he didn't know how to un-cock it, or if he should uncock it. It was just one more thing that made him feel as though he were just as nervous as the hostages he was supposed to be watching, his heart slamming in his chest and his throat dry.

"Shut the hell up!" came a voice from the room behind Jensen. It sounded like Big Jeff, putting the screws on whoever was back there. "Shut the hell up, and open the safe!"

It's just a job, he told himself. It's just a job, and nobody's going to die.

He scanned the cowering bystanders for what felt like the twentieth time. All were shaking, most were crying.

It's just a job. Nobody's going to—

"You shouldn't be doing this," said a deep voice, in a quiet but confident tone.

Jensen nearly pulled the trigger right there without thinking. He swung around towards the sound, and raised the gun in two hands that he could not hold still. There, in the jewelry store lobby, a superhuman figure stood poised, about six inches off the ground. The blue cape behind billowed in the air from the motion of his flight.

Shit! He wasn't supposed to be here! He was supposed to be in fucking New York right now!

Jensen opened his mouth to scream—to warn Big Jeff and Maurice—but the hero spoke first.

"Don't," he said, and Jensen didn't.

The man's steely brown eyes were carving themselves into Jensen's soul. Even though this was the first time Jensen saw the big blue boy scout in person, those eyes looked at him as though the two of them were family. Jensen felt his resolve rapidly crumbling.

"I want you to think about the choices you've made up until this point," came the hero's stern, relentless voice. Every syllable sledgehammered against Jensen's eardrums, without mercy.

Jensen tried to block it out. He tried to scream or run. But he couldn't. He knew that this was part of what the hero did; it was his ability, his power, or something.

"Think about your decisions. Think about what led you here. And reconsider what you are about to do."

The words drove into Jensen's brain like nails. He dropped the gun, and it clattered across the marble floor. Guilt overwhelmed him, and all he could do was struggle not to vomit.

The superhero knew Jensen was finished. Floating through the air, he made his way to the back, where Big Jeff and Maurice were. Only a few minutes later, both of Jensen's friends walked out of the room, their guns gone and tears streaming down their face. Both of them, it looked like, had done some serious thinking about their past.

This seemed to break the spell that many of the hostages were under. Most of them bolted for the door immediately, some of them got on their knees and cried out in joy. But one, a girl who looked no older than nineteen or twenty, was still curled up with her hands around her head next to one of the display cases.

The hero landed on the ground, his feet making barely a patter. The powerful, muscular figure approached the crying girl, and offered his hand. After a moment, the girl took it.

"Never fear," said the hero. "Retrospective Man is here!"




Retrospective: Just Family

So, can ya'll tell that I wrote this without an outline?

Like I said earlier, I kind of just word-vomited this out on Sunday of the writing period. I only had a vague idea where I was going, and I think it shows. What's especially evident is the fact that I took a break after the first scene before writing the rest. Even reading it the day after, there's a big tonal gap between the first scene and the rest of the story, IMO. So, yeah, this is probably not the Writeoff piece that I'm the most proud of...

>>Samey90
Honestly, for me writing a Nightmare Night story at all was already a huge hurdle, given how specific the prompt was and how pathetic I am at coming up with story ideas. I probably wouldn't have picked this prompt if I were dictator of the Writeoff, but it got me out of my comfort zone, so good for it. :P Thanks for your comment!

>>Miller Minus
See, this is what I mean when I say my sense of humor is weird in every review of a comedy I do. Because I honestly thought the dartboard joke was great, and only after you mentioned it did I realize that it miiiiiiight be a little tiring for the reader. Regarding Twilight's scene, yeah, I did just have a very different idea of the story going in than I did by the time I finished. Originally, this was going to be a straight comedy, with a snarky twist, but I guess I kinda just lost that tone. But no, you're right, it was never supposed to be dark/creepy. Appreciate your perspective!

>>MLPmatthewl419
I definitely agree with what you're saying about the piece being disappointing. It never builds its stakes, and it never really comes together either. And yeah, I fumbled around with the third person voicing a lot. I'm trying to step away from the super-invisible prose that I usually do, and I think I had a bit of success with that a while ago with my minific, Wake. But it was probably a swing and a miss this time around. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

>>scifipony
I'm glad you liked the glasses bit, because I spent a straight up stupid amount of time planning it. Like, it was one of the two or three images I got lodged in my mind after I came up with the setting, so I kinda had to just stick it in there somewhere. The idea of Twilight not used to needing to take her glasses with her when she teleports was just too cute to me to pass up. :)

Glad you liked the humor, and I do agree that Twilight's voicing can use work in the first bits to make her sound a little less like a bitch. Thank you for your review!

>>Bachiavellian
You are a liar and a fraud. Begone with thee!

>>AndrewRogue
I feel like this is the third pony Writeoff in a row or something for me to get a negative comment on how I handle pony swears. So really, at this point I'm just going to sob into my box of Quaker Oatmeal Squares (Cinnamon flavor, of course) and admit that I just can't figure this out.

You're definitely right that the core conflict does not get nearly enough development as it needs. That's what I get for thinking I can get away with not actually having a plan when writing, ha. Thank you very much for your thoughts!




And as a post-script, I really suck at guessing. I normally don't even try, just because I'm always wrong, but I thought this would be my best shot, since 4 stories with 4 authors is literally as small as it gets. But yeah, the actual authors for pretty much every story turned out to be my second guesses. :P

Anyways, I'll (maybe) see ya'll at the next one of these!
#154 · 1
· on Taste Test
>>Zaid Val'Roa, >>scifipony, >>Bachiavellian

Thanks for the not entirely unexpected medal, and also for the Most Controversial award!

As stated in chat, this was a hasty yet tasty piece done almost at the last minute. Any anatomical infelicities are due to this and are entirely not my fault, not at all, nope.

The texturing you did on her mane looks cool as well. Is that a digital blur on a physical drawing?


Here’s the original sketch, done in medium charcoal pencil on sketching paper. I opened it in Photoshop, adjusted the lines to make them darker, then made a simple palette of Pinkie’s colors and mostly did color overlays on the sketch, then shaded and highlighted with a fuzzy brush. I sometimes selected darker or lighter colors by eye and sometimes cheaped out and used the dodge and burn tools. In my haste, I missed a few areas, such as the occasional gray spots on her body.

Thanks again, and see you all next round!