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Nightmare After Nightmare Night · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
All the Little Lies We Tell Ourselves
Applejack was drowning.

An ocean of apples bobbed all around her, the ruby red spheres rolling over her again and again as she struggled to keep her head above the surface. “Wait, y’all!” she gasped as she paddled furiously, “Wait!”

In the distance, her house continued to float away, easily drifting between the mountainous trees that rose out of the apples like mountains on the prairie. She could see Granny and Big Mac and Apple Bloom all sitting on the porch, but they didn’t seem to notice – or care – that she’d fallen overboard.

“Help!” she shouted, even as a towering wave of fruit rose above her and slammed down, driving her deep into the apples, deeper than she knew she’d ever be able to come back up from. Still, she flailed desperately against the crushing weight, sinking down to where the apples were no longer fruit, but instead a thick mashed mess that wrapped around her, entombing her in a sticky sweet sauce that filled her mouth and nose and…

...nearly fell out of bed as she jerked up and twisted about in an effort to escape the confines of imagined applesauce, lungs burning for air that she already had. “Dagnabbit,” she gasped, panting as she looked out her window to see a nearly full moon hanging high in the sky

She rubbed her eyes tiredly and slumped back down against her pillow, the panic slowly fading as good sense rushed in to handle it. It’d just been nothing more than another nightmare.




Yawning, Applejack struggled to focus as she lined herself up to give the mareigold tree behind her a good, solid buck. Despite her efforts, the tree still blurred into three distinct shapes again, forcing her to stop and give her head a good shake, the extras vanishing as she temporarily jostled her brain back to wakefulness.

She didn’t have time to be falling asleep on the job, what with a few acres left to harvest and Winter Wrap Up just around the corner.

Abandoning all pretense of careful preparation, she just went for her, tucking her legs and kicked with as much power as she could muster. Her hooves slammed home with a resounding crack and a painful shock ran up her legs and down her back even as the apples rained down around her. A lot of them landed in her carefully positioned baskets. A lot of them also bounced off the ground where they’d wait for her to scoop them up and toss them in with their brothers.

She winced a little as she settled back onto her back legs, a twinge of pain shooting straight through them. Hopefully she hadn’t twisted an ankle, because right now she needed that less than a hen needed horseshoes. Forcing herself to ignore it, she paced round the tree, dutifully picking up the each and every loose apples before she let herself sit down and take a minute to catch her breath.

What she needed was a helping hoof, but the fact of the matter was that everypony was busy right now. Rarity was in Manehattan, Rainbow Dash was out at a training camp, Twilight had her school to worry about, Pinkie was busy baking, and Fluttershy was working with some of the monsters from Tartarus. Even Big Mac and Apple Bloom had things to tend to that weren’t Sweet Apple Acres.

They’d been pitching in a helping hoof wherever they could of course, but Applejack wasn’t about to let Big Mac send Sugar Belle off to her big bake-off in Canterlot all alone, or let Apple Bloom miss out on her trip to Griffonstone..

But somepony had to make sure Sweet Apple Acres kept running, and she certainly wasn’t going to be the one that let it fail. Sure, it was a bit of work to manage alongside pitching in with friendship quests, helping Twilight out with her school, and saving Equestria every now and then, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle.

Even if it meant she had to do some mighty complicated arithmetic to find time to sleep and eat.

The rustle of wings, the crack of branches, and a startled yelp caught her attention as Ditzy Doo dropped through one of her trees, her mailbag catching on a tree limb and left her suspended awkwardly in the air just across the way from Applejack. “Heya!” she said, smiling as she waved a hoof.

“Well howdy, Ditzy!” she said, keeping the annoyance out of her voice and forcing the best smile she could manage as she pushed herself to her hooves. “What’s got you crashing into Sweet Apple Acres today?”

The pegasus smiled her lopsided smile and then dug her face into her bag, extracting a letter that must’ve been thicker than most of Twilight’s books. “Delivery!” she managed despite it being more than a mouthful.

“Oh.” Applejack’s expression softened just a bit. Had it already been that long? Time sure flew when you were bucking apples. “Well, thanks for taking the time to lug that all the way out here, sugarcube.” Leaning down – and ignoring the twinge in her legs – she grabbed one of the fruits from a basket and offered it up to her. “Want an apple?”




The sun hung just over the horizon as Applejack finally made it back to the farmhouse, a slight limp making the trip take even longer than expected. Nothing she couldn’t tough out, of course, but it was going to make tomorrow a real chore. Still, if there was one thing Granny’d taught her, it’s that nothing fixed you up better than a good night’s sleep.

And nothing made you sleep better than doing some good, hard work.

Despite the care she took to not make much noise, Granny Smith still snorted and jerked upright in her rocking chair as Applejack entered the room, the sudden movement jostling the record player and bringing it to a sharp, scratching halt. “Huh? What? Applejack! was starting to think you weren’t coming back for supper at all!”

“Sorry ‘bout that, granny,” Applejack said, depositing her saddlebag by the stairs. “You know how it is, though. Those apples aren’t gonna harvest themselves!”

“That I do, dearie,” she agreed. “Sorry I can’t help you, but these old bones just aren’t what they used to be.” Her lips curled up into a smile as she learned forward, the chair creaking as it shifted with her. “Why, it’d probably take me two kicks to properly buck a tree nowadays!”

Applejack chuckled as she crossed back over to the couch. “Don’t you worry none about it. Even if Big Mac and Apple Bloom don’t got a lot of time to help this season, I’ll make sure we get her done.”

“Never been scared of a little hard work, have you?”

“Nosiree!” Even if she had to struggle to make it happen, Applejack’s smile was genuine. Because it was true: she wasn’t one to let a little hard work get in her way. And she knew if Granny Smith could she’d be right there bucking apples with her all day long.

“Still,” Granny said, pushing herself out of her chair. “You shouldn’t be working all the time. A mare like you ought to be having fun sometimes. Why, when I was your age, I couldn’t wait to get out of the orchard and go into town.” She beamed at Applejack as she shook her hips arthritically. “I can guarantee I was cutting a rug at every dance the town ever had! That’s how I met your grampa”

“I know, granny. I’ve seen the pictures.”

“Darn tootin’ you have!” Finally reaching her walker, she fell silent for a long moment as she stared into the distance, then turned to face Applejack. “I know its hard with the way things are right now, but still. You ought to think about finding a stallion of your own. Takes a family of Apples to run an orchard after all!” She cackled as she continued to push herself towards the kitchen. “‘Sides, I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of great grandfoals ‘fore I kick the bucket.”

Despite sharing the laugh, Applejack didn’t say anything. With the way things were going between Big Mac and Sugar Belle, she wouldn’t be surprised if the Apple family getting started getting a little bit bigger. But she… well.

“Now how about supper?” Granny asked, jerking her head towards the kitchen. “You must’ve worked worked up quite an appetite tackling those mareigolds all on your lonesome. Nothing a few bowls of my veggie stew won’t fix.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said, with barely a glance back at her waiting saddlebag.




Applejack managed to give Winona a good petting before she finally staggered over and collapsed into bed, the mild twinge in her back legs having blossomed into a constant, dull throb. Not that she minded. Being sore at the end of the day was just part and parcel of the Apple lifestyle. She’d been working hard and she had the aches to prove it.

Still, despite the near rockhoofian effort that the task required, she scooched forward and leaned over the side of the bed, rummaging through her saddlebag and tossing the letter back up onto the bed with her. The dull glow of the firefly lantern hanging above her illuminated the wild, loopy script who’s near weekly arrival that she’d really come to appreciate.

She hadn’t been trying to hide the letter from Granny. After all, with near two dozen of the things stuffed in a box – a darn big box – under her table, that’d be a lost cause. It just... wasn’t something she really wanted to talk with her about yet.

Besides, Granny obviously knew something was up. She could be sharper than a timberwolf’s teeth sometimes. That’s probably why she’d been talking about stallions earlier. After all, what sort of mare would be getting big old letters with fancy, loopy writing on the front if they weren’t from sort of admirer?

Yawning, she stretched herself out just enough to nose open the letter’s crinkled envelope, the flap popping with barely any effort as the paper stuffed inside to practically exploded out.

Autumn Blaze wrote letters just the way she talked: like there’d been a fire sale on words and she’d bought them by the barrelful. Page after page was covered in her frilly script, sentences running into each other as she jumped from thought to though without regard for what’d come previous, words taken up entire lines and stuff whenever she got excited about something, and punctuation showing up wherever she liked.

Twilight’d probably have gone round the bend trying to read it, but it was definitely Applejack’s speed.

Hey Applejack!

I’m so, so, so bummed out you didn’t have a chance to write last week, but I know you have to be REALLY busy lately with the harvest and everything so no worries at all. At least I hope no worries and that nothing else has gone on like a new evil threatening Equestria or anything! Let me know when you have time!

Anyway, things have been going SUPER!! well in the village lately. Well, mostly super! Good at least.

Okay.

You know how some things aren’t great but they’re still good even if they’re a little bad? Well, it’s like that! I mean, nokirin’s set the village on fire lately and that’s good! But not everything is that good. They’re all still getting used to all the chatting and the feelings and the FEELING feelings all over again, so there’s a bit of friction. And friction makes fire, right?!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Nirik jokes, right? Rain Shine is NOT AT ALL ABSOLUTELY NOT a fan.

OH! My plays are still TOTALLY silent though. Mostly because I really think it adds to the ambience and really lets the actors stretch. Also writing dialogue is hard. Also a lot of words are still being pronounced wrong.

TOTAL SIDETRACK. I got the apples you sent and they were DE-LIC-IOUS!!EXCLAMATIONPOINT! You should send me a whole TREE next. I mean, I don’t know if an apple tree can even grow out here and it’d be so sad if it died, but could you imagine how great it’d be to have apples out here? You could teach me all about how to grow them and there’d be a whole bunch of them and I’d have apples whenever I wanted!


Applejack smiled as she read through page after page of words, Autumn Blaze’s voice echoing in her mind. She’d must’ve left quite the impression, because Autumn Blaze’d sent her first letter just a bit after they’d left the Peaks of Peril. Applejack had written back and here they were. Still writing back and forth.

Usually.

...and I’m still spending a lot of time out on my peak with Silhouette Gloom and everyone else because, well, I guess I still talk a bit too much for everykirin.

I mean, it’s not like I NEVER EVER EVER go back to the village or anything. I mean, my couch is still down there! But I also spend a lot of time up here.

Tangent! I was hoping maybe, maybe, maaaaaaaaybe you’d want to come back and visit sometime? Or – idea – maybe I could come and visit you? I mean, I would LOVE! to see Ponyville. Love, love, love. You make it sound so amazing with everypony living in harmony and working together like you’re all part of some perfect circle. And the school sounds AMAZING. Maybe we should send some kirin to attend? Hint, hint?

Whoops! Looks like I’m running out paper so I guess that means I should stop writing, huh? Good luck with the harvest! We’re all rooting for you!

-Autumn Blaze

P.S. Send more apples.


Applejack stared at the last page, the firefly light dancing over it. That’d be the third time and Autumn Blaze had asked her to come one down again or invite her on up. And it wasn’t that Applejack didn’t want to take another trip to the Peaks of Peril or have Autumn Blaze come to Ponyville.

She was just busy. Very busy. Unfathomably busy. That was all.

Finding time to reply to this letter was going to be hard enough, nevermind any sort of vacation. That sort of thing was for ponies not worrying about the family apple orchard.




Applejack walked between the crowds of ponies gathered round Sweet Apple Acres, waving and welcoming everypony to the reunion, making sure they knew about the refreshments on the tables, and letting them know roundabouts when things were planned.

Nopony seemed to be paying attention though.

“Hey, y’all got cotton in your ears?” she asked as she approached Fiddlesticks and her kin.

“‘Scuse me?” the pony asked, turning sharply on her.

“I been trying to tell y’all—”

“This party’s for Apples only,” she interrupted, snorting as she looked Applejack up and down. “Get lost.”

Applejack blinked. Then blinked again, grabbing Fiddlesticks as she tried to turn back around. “Have you lost your mind, coz?”

To her surprise, Fiddlesticks slapped her hoof away. “I’m not your ‘coz,’” she spit as she turned away and trotted back towards the group.

Starting after her, Applejack jerked to a sudden stop as her back hoof refused to move. “What the in Celestia’s name?” she asked, turning, her jaw dropping as she saw the vines curled around her leg. As she pulled, they seemed to crawl further up, wrapping round her fetlock and moving towards her flank, pulling tighter with every passing second.

Bracing herself, she tried to pull even harder. As if responding to her efforts, the vines pulled back, dragging her leg deep into the soft soil. “Hey!” she shouted, looking at the clusters of ponies all around her. “Somepony! Help!”

Nopony moved. Applejack scrabbled desperately at the ground as she felt her other leg start to pull in as well. Thrashing with every ounce of strength she could muster, she caught sight of her friends and family walking down the path, sending a swell of hope through her. She waved a hoof desperately, allowing her entire back half to be pulled under. “Everypony! A bunch of overgrown daisies’ve got me!”

“Running an orchard takes a family,” Granny Smith said, nodding as she continued walking. “Without one, why, you might as well be trying to go up a creek without a paddle.”

“Granny! Big Mac! Apple Bloom! Girls!” Applejack bellowed as she was pulled deeper and deeper into the ground. The trees of Sweet Apple Acres seemed to tower over her, their leaves turning brown and piling up all around her, leaving nothing but the bare skeletons. “Help!”

“Tradition, right?” Twilight agreed. “I mean, that’s what the reunion’s all about, isn’t it?”

“Darn tootin’!”

Hooves thundered around her head as they passed over her. “Please!” she managed before she was tugged beneath the surface, the world going dark as the soil covered her. She could feel the vines continuing to climb her body, completely immobilizing her down here in the dark where there was nothing.

Especially not air.

Her lungs burned as she struggled to move, knowing that it was pointless. Bright spots filled started to fill her vision as she fought the urge to gasp in the soil around her and then…

Applejack felt the tingle of magic wrap around her body and tear her out of the ground, the vines tearing away as she burst free of the soil, landing roughly in one of the piles of dead leaves. Her chest heaved as she sucked in the apple-scented air and stared up at the starry sky above her.

Sweet Apple Acres had gone silent. Everypony was gone. It was just her, the skeletal trees that had been her family’s legacy, and the moon shining high above.

“I am sorry I have come to aid you so late, Applejack. This time of the year there are so many dreams to tend and it appears I fear I have let yours be for far too long.”

“Huh?” she asked, tilting her head back and finding herself almost muzzle to muzzle with Princess Luna. “What in tarnation is going on here?”

“Is it not obvious?” Luna’s smile was gentle. “You are having a nightmare.”

“Oh.” Applejack rolled over, coughing up a little more dirt as she found her hooves. “Well, that makes sense then. I thought it was a bit weird that nopony seemed to care that a bunch of rabid rhododendron were dragging me underground!”

“Indeed it was.”

Applejack cleared her throat as the two of them stood facing each other. “So, uh. You’re gonna make my nightmares go away? Because it’d be a whole heck of a lot easier to do all my work with a good night’s sleep behind me.”

Luna shook her head. “No.”

“What? I thought that’s what you did. If you can’t get rid of my nightmares, then what good are you?”

Luna raised an eyebrow at her.

“No offense meant, Princess. I just thought you, you know,” she raised the hoof to her forehead and waved it about. “You could magic all them nightmares away.”

“No. I cannot just,” Luna raised a hoof to her horn and waved it around a bit, “to get rid of nightmares. My magic might be able to banish this one dream, but then it or some other will simply be waiting for you the next time you go to sleep. And the time after. And the time after that.”

Many, many sleepless nights came back to Applejack all at once. “Well then what in the hay am I supposed to do?”

“You must face the source of your foul dreams.” Luna stretched out a wing and pressed it against her shoulder. “That is the only true way to end your nightmares.

“Well how’m I supposed to do that?” Applejack asked. “There ain’t nothing bothering me right now except for these dreams.”

“Truly?”

“Definitely.” Applejack thumped her chest. “Element of Honesty, remember?”

“True,” Luna conceded, stepping past Applejack as she looked around. “There is a commonality to all your dreams though.”

Applejack was ready for that one. She might not be much for literature, but hang around Twilight long enough and you picked things up. Like metaphors. “If you’re thinking I’m working too hard, then I’m gonna stop you right there, Princess. There ain’t nothing wrong with a bit of hard work, and there definitely ain’t nothing wrong with feeling a bit overwhelmed by work. And it ain’t like I’m pretending I can get everything done all by my lonesome. I already learned that lesson.”

“You did indeed.”

The simple statement practically cut the ground out from under Applejack. “That’s not what you were thinking?”

“No. That’s not what I was thinking.” Luna made a noise in her throat. “Though I do suspect it’s related.”

“Well then what?” Applejack demanded.

“Did you not just say that there is not anything wrong with a bit of hard work?” Luna said, her smile a lot less gentle than it had been. “Come, Applejack, let us walk.”

Thinking better of getting too smart with the Princess, Applejack fell into step behind her, walking down the rows of the orchard the skeletal tree limbs reaching towards her. One managed to catch on the brim of her hat sparking blue magic sent it reeling back. Applejack couldn’t quite suppress a shudder. “So, uh, where we headed to, Princess?”

“This is your dream. Why don’t you tell me?”

Applejack frowned. The Princess Luna Apple Bloom had told her had visited her dreams certainly sounded a lot more useful than this one. “Well, I dunno. We’re already at Sweet Apple Acres.”

The soil underhoof seemed to harden as they continued on, the bones of trees giving way to rocky outcroppings and solid stone far quicker than should be possible. There ought to have been another few acres worth of trees, not a big ol’ mountain slope. She thought twice about asking about it, though. After all, they were in a dream, right? Things didn’t have to make sense.

As they crested another rise, Applejack’s breath caught in her throat. The view that greeted her was the sort poets’d spend hundreds of words trying to describe when there really weren’t no better description than “pretty” to be had. A brilliant rainbow hanging over the greenest valley Applejack had seen, with the blue sky stretching for mile and miles all around.

A view she recognized.

Glancing left confirmed her suspicions, with Autumn Blaze’s ramshackle shack standing perched near the edge. Though it looked a lot less ramshackle than it had when they’d been there. There was even a small cluster of apple trees nearly fenced off to one side. And sitting on the upper balcony looking out over the view was Autumn Blaze… and Applejack herself.

Applejack could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as Applejack – the one on the balcony, that was – leaned into the kirin, nuzzling against the side of her muzzle. “No way!” she said, shaking her head as she started to turn away. “This ain’t the sort of thing I dream about.”

“It isn’t?” Luna asked.

“It ain’t. No way, no how. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself, peeping on ponies like this!” As she stepped, however, the ground gave way, the long drop to the forest below being arrested only by the firm grip of Luna’s magic. As the rocks fell, they became apples and vanished into the green below.

“Sometimes dreams are the way we tell ourselves the truths we hide from ourselves,” Luna said as the ground beneath her gave way and she plummeted, carrying Applejack with her. Apples and rocks fell around them as they both dropped, the shack disappearing into darkness far above, but Luna didn’t even bother to unfurl her wings.

Before the shout could even finish forming in Applejack’s throat, they were standing back in Sweet Apple Acres. But gone were the bare trees they’d left previous. No, the orchard was in full bloom as the sun shone brightly over head.

It took a second for Applejack’s heart to slow down enough to manage speaking without squeaking. “Now see, this is more like it.”

“Truly?”

“Truly, or my name ain’t Applejack.” Words she regretted the instant she caught sight of herself under a nearby tree, instructing Autumn Blaze on the finer points of apple bucking. At least that’s what she was doing before she tackled the kirin to the ground, laughing as they rolled in the dirt. “Well now that just ain’t fair!”

“The truth seldom is.”

“Now you stop that!” Applejack demanded. “This ain’t the truth. It’s all just a dream or something, right? I ain’t… I just…” her words died in her throat as she tried to find some way to explain herself that made sense. The laughter of her dreamself made that more challenging than it ought have been. “Look, how could I be in love with somepony… somecreature I barely know?”

“Have you not heard of love at first sight?” To her surprise, Luna smiled and dropped a wing over her back. “Do not answer. It is just a joke. My real question is thus: must it be love?”

Applejack stared past the princess, not quite able to meet her gaze. “Well, no, but… what if it was? I mean, I like Autumn Blaze. But what I did more than just like her? What if I did want to go fix up her ol’ shack and live up there on top of that mountain with her? What then?” The trees around her began to wither and wilt, shriveled apples dropping from their branches and piling up all around them. “Everypony is counting on me to make sure Sweet Apple Acres keeps going, now more than ever. I just…”

Luna chuckled.

“What’s so gosh darn funny?” Applejack grumbled.

“I thought you said you weren’t pretending you could do everything on your lonesome.”

“That ain’t the same thing!”

“It is not?” Luna asked. “You make it seem as if Sweet Apple Acres would fall to ruin were you not here.”

Applejack grit her teeth, wondering when the Princess of dreams was actually supposed to start helping. “Look, Princess. It ain’t that simple. I love Sweet Apple Acres. I love my family. I don’t want anything to change that.”

“Sometimes things must change if we are to be happy,” Luna said, her voice soft and quiet in the still air. “Sometimes those changes will bring us great joy. And something they will bring pain and heartache. Sometimes they will bring us both. But if we let that uncertainty rule us, well… we might start to resent the very thing we think we want while we let what we truly desire pass us by. Do you understand?”

Applejack fell silent as thoughts of her mother and father floated to the surface in her mind. Of how what they did bucked tradition. How her mother lost her heritage, but gained another. How Granny decided her son’s happiness was the thing that mattered most. All around her, the orchard began to fade into nothingness. “I… ‘spose.”

“I believe you do.”




Applejack yawned and stretched as she opened her eyes, the distant crowing of the rooster telling her what the light coming in from her window had already let her know: it was morning.

Rolling out of bed – and only wincing ever so slightly as her legs hit the ground – she could already smell the sweet scent of oatcakes in the air. Apparently Granny’d gotten up even earlier. So she washed her face, combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and stopped in the doorway right before she headed down.

Leaning towards the stairs, she raised her voice so she’d be heard over the skillet, “Granny, I’ve got something I need to take care of before I come down, aight?”

“Aight, dearie,” came the faint reply.

Trotting over to her table, Applejack grabbed the quill she’d borrowed from Twilight, pulled out a sheet of paper and set to work.

Hey sugarcube,

Sorry I didn’t write back before. Things’ve been pretty darn busy around here and I’ve also had a lot on my mind. But I was thinking that maybe making my way back out there after the harvest’d be a good way to get my strength back.

And if you were up for it, maybe you’d want to come on back with me and get a tour of Ponyville?
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#1 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue
Very fun:

Like AJ, I could totally hear Autumn Blaze's voice in the letter section. But I wondered about the stakes. The story seemed to present AJ's choice as very "either/or": either she can stay at Sweet Apple Acres, or she can go off and be with Autumn Blaze. She spends the whole story torn between the two--the dominant image is of Pear Butter leaving her family to join the Apples--but in the end, it looks to me like AJ chooses to try both. Now, if Luna had suggested the idea to her--Autumn's already shows that she's willing to buck her own people, as it were--that would help, but right now, it seems to come out of nowhere.

Mike
#2 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue
Yes.

Perhaps that ought to be enough of a critique, but I'll go further, glossing over typos and minor early concision issues enough time to revise you'd obviously fix.

The voices. Smack dab on. You got AJ perfectly without tiring the reader. And Autumn Breeze. I'd bet you turned closed captioning on for her episode, but regardless I heard her sing-song excited dulcet tones in every word... done in the form of a letter! Like dialect in dialog, getting a voice in a letter while making it still seem a letter... Give yourself a pat on the back.

Really, the whole story sings. And in this I include the plot.

Yes, mare-shipping is a MLP trope, but you did the yeoman's work here and I will point it out. Not only do you foreshadow the relationship thing starting with family help to run a farm and escalating to grandfoals, you capture AJ's uneasiness of being attached and zoom from her assumption of a stallion (and foals) to all the things unstated (and issues that would be important in your human reader's society) that a relationship with a mare might cause. Kudos for AJ bringing up the four letter word, love, and not Luna. You sidestepped the deus ex machina trap buddy. Nicely done. Really.

I feel I learned something here, and that is a high compliment.
#3 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue
This is a very strong entry, Author, but I do have some notes. As has been mentioned you did great with AJ and AB's voices, and the writing style here shows a high level of competence (despite the typos) that you don't normally get when EVERYBODY'S RUSHING TO MEET THE DEADLINE AHHHH--

So that's great!

But my number one concern is that you're leaning very, very heavy on the tell-y narration here, and at times it just isn't necessary. See, I like to watch characters' actions and dialogue so that I can interpret what they're feeling on my own. Often when I was reading this story, I felt like I wasn't given that chance, because you would go on to give me the internal workings of AJ's thoughts, and what she's going to do next, and why she's been acting strange... but I don't need to be spoonfed all this stuff. You're already good at natural, free-flowing prose and you have good enough dialogue and actions for us to sort out the story for ourselves. It's just more fun that way.

Another concern was that I think the conflict takes a little long to introduce itself. I mean, it's begging to be there, since this is a big decision AJ would have to make (or would she? see Baal's suggestions). I get that she's diving headfirst into her work in order to avoid the issue at hoof, but you've gone so far in that direction I thought that her being overworked was the actual conflict. I had this critique for another story this round, but it's best to introduce that conflict and its accompanying stakes as early as you can, because otherwise we'll draw the wrong conclusions before we get there.

For the record, I had no idea what the problem was until after the scene where AJ reads the letter, which is just over the halfway point of your story. So basically I'm spending the first half of the story wondering what's happening.

If I might make a suggestion, Granny's remark about meeting a stallion and starting a family feels like it has a lot more weight than you give it here. It could be much stronger if it came earlier, and AJ could be reacting a lot more severely to it (internally and/or externally). That, coupled with a passing thought of what Autumn Blaze has been up to lately (or something), and suddenly it'll all be crystal clear, and we can see it evolve from there. And you won't have to flatly explain anything to us, either.

Lastly, I'll hit you with the big concern I get with most fimfiction romances, which is, Why? Why these two? Love is great, but it is not completely sight-based as Luna implies. What does Applejack mean to Autumn Blaze? Apples, it looks like? That isn't really enough to make someone think, "I've found the one for me."

And what does Autumn Blaze mean to Applejack? I have no idea, from this story, except to fulfill the role as a love interest. I wanted to see what the connection was for AJ. And hoping for a chance to tackle each other down a hill is not having a connection.

There's a lot of ways people make connections (usually referred to as 'chemistry'), and it's such a crucial ingredient in romance. But I'm just not seeing it here. Perhaps if you ask yourself, Why these two? then it might become clearer.

But that's all I've got. I think this would be well received on fimfiction after another editing pass for those typos. Thanks for writing and best of luck to you, friendo!
#4 · 2
· · >>AndrewRogue
Some of our other reviewers mentioned the strength of the voices here, and I just wanted to echo that thought. And I also really want to give kudos for making Autumn Blaze's letter read like a letter. Epistolary fiction is really easy to get wrong, but you made that section a real highlight.

In terms of critique, I would say that the stakes in the dream sequences before Luna intervenes feel really low. I mean, it's not just the fact that we know it's a dream, it's also that the driving conflict,mortal peril doesn't really mean much in a dream. I think the dreams would have felt stronger if you framed Applejack's desperation in some other way.

Also, I really thought that the hints about Granny Smith and the Apple Clan expecting Applejack to have kids would play a bigger role. It seemed like you were setting up an internal conflict between Applejack's desire to be with Autumn and her love for her family, which I thought was a really interesting angle. But in the end, the conflict is settled by Applejack learning to embrace her feelings. It just doesn't feel quite as substantial as what it seemed to be at first.

In the end, I do think that there's some very solid writing, voices, and construction here. But the ending does leave me feeling a little unsatisfied, maybe because you've made me want to see Applejack actually interacting with Autumn, instead of just the first bit of her letter. Maybe a new flash-forward scene with Autumn and Applejack talking to the Apple family would help tie up the lingering threads? I don't know, I'm just spitballing. :P

I think the fact that I desperately want more of this story is a sign that you've nailed a lot of things. I just wish that the conflict felt a little more resolved.
#5 · 1
· · >>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.
#6 · 2
· · >>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.
#7 · 1
·
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.