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The Twilight Zone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Quackers Goes to the Fair
This is Quackers. U>

Quackers is a duck. You can tell because of three things.

He has webbed feet. _

He has two wings. U

And he has a bill, which quacks all the time. >

“Quack! Quack!” says Quackers. U>

He says that a lot. That is why he is called Quackers.

This is Princess Celestia. \Ô/

Princess Celestia is a special kind of pony called an alicorn. You can tell because of three things.

She has four hooves. _

She has a round tummy with two wings. \/

And she has a horn on her head, which she uses to raise the sun. ✹

(Actually, her tummy is not that round. It’s just because of the way she’s drawn. And cake.)

Quackers liked Princess Celestia, because she always brought extra breadcrumbs whenever she visited his pond to feed all of his brothers and sisters. \____/

(Yes, that’s a pond.)

He wanted to be just like her and raise the sun every morning. ✹

But he could not. Because he was a duck. U>

Ducks could do all kinds of things alicorns could not. They could stand on their heads in the pond. They could poop on the grass. And they could quack.

“Quack! Quack!” went Quackers when Princess Celestia was around. \Ô/

He tried to teach her to quack. But it did not work. All she did was smile.

There was a little unicorn who liked to stand around the pond too. ô

She was a unicorn pony because she had four little hooves. _

And she had a round little tummy. o

But the horn on her head only made sparks. It did not raise the sun. ✹

She did quack, however.

“Quack! Quack!” went the little unicorn.

“Quack! Quack!” went Princess Celestia.

Not really. That was Quackers. Princess Celestia does not quack. \Ô/

Quackers liked the little unicorn pony, even though she never brought any bread crumbs. ô

One day when the sun was high in the sky, Quackers noticed something was missing.

There was no Princess Celestia. \Ô/

There was no little unicorn pony. ô

The pond felt very empty to Quackers. \____/

So he decided to go exploring. …U>

He waddled and he waddled until he came to a sign saying [Welcome To The Fair]

So Quackers went in. …U>

It certainly was a lot of fun. There were ponies everywhere, playing games and laughing.

Quackers wanted to have fun too. He saw a sign. [Ball Toss - 2 bits]

Quackers had two bits he had found while standing on his head in the pond. ɃɃ

He gave them to the pony running the game and got three balls in return. U>…

“Knock over the pins,” said the pony.

“Quack! Quack!” said Quackers. U>

First, Quackers tried to throw the ball with his wing. It just fell to the ground. U>..

Then, Quackers tried to kick the ball like a pony. It bounced a little, but fell to the ground too. U> .

Finally, Quackers decided to do what he did best.

He quacked at it.

Quack!” shouted Quackers.

The ball knocked over all of the pins.

Quackers was very happy. U>

“Quack!” he said.

The pony running the game did not seem very happy, but she gave Quackers a prize anyway.

It was a doll who looked just like Celestia. Only with a smaller tummy. \ô/

Quackers was very happy, and quacked all the way back to his pond. \____/

“Quack! Quack!”

When he got there, he found the little unicorn. ô

She was not happy. She had gone to the fair too, but had not won a prize. \ô/

Quackers knew the doll would get wet in his home. So he gave it to the little unicorn pony.

She was very happy. ô

Princess Celestia was happy too. She saw Quackers give the doll to the little pony. She admired the little doll with the little tummy, and said it was the greatest gift of all. \ô/

Now when Princess Celestia comes to the pond with bread crumbs, she brings the little unicorn pony, and they both feed Quackers and all of his brothers and sisters.

Afterwards, they all play in the grass with the little doll, and try not to step in the duck poop.

“Quack! Quack!” says Quackers. U>

“Quack! Quack!” says the little unicorn pony. ô

Princess Celestia does not quack. \Ô/

But she does smile more than ever.
« Prev   26   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>Ritsuko
This one's so simple.... it simply works. I can't dislike it.
#2 · 1
· · >>Ritsuko
Cute, funny, charming, and little typographical tricks. I like this one.
#3 · 4
· · >>georg
Having just reread The One Who Got Away, I’ll happily look at this as my plus one for this round. Let’s see why Ripple likes this series so much…

I have to appreciate the effort that went into making an illustrated children’s book in a purely textual medium, and the story itself is quite cute. My only complaint is that I’m not sure how it fits the prompt beyond the surreality of a duck performing a Thu’um, but it’s still a delightful read.
#4 · 2
·
>>FanOfMostEverything Yeah, somebody's following me. I might just steal this. ô is Best Unicorn. :)
#5 · 1
· · >>Ritsuko
Awww, it's cute. Not very Twilight Zone? I guess it technically has Twilight in it, is all. Still, cute!
#6 · 1
· · >>Ritsuko
This was weirdly idiosyncratic. I do think the quirkiness shown in trying something different was quite creative; and it did what it set out to do quite well. However, I think there's audience mismatch here since, well, it was like reading a storybook, and cute, but...that's it? I want to like this more than I do, and I think I don't quite like it as well as it ought to be liked.

Very Bilbo-esque of me, it seems.
#7 ·
· · >>Haze
>>Haze
Simple? infantile oversimplification
>>GroaningGreyAgony
I don't miund the tricks, but when they fail, they tend to bring the story down.
>>SPark
If you can follow the story all the way down to Twilight is cute, I guess?
>>Morning Sun
I think I can agree with that. The story book is tor toddlers, not bronies and pegasisters.
#8 · 5
·
>>Ritsuko
The story book is tor toddlers, not bronies and pegasisters.


In the Twilight Zone....... pony fanfic authors write children's picture books instead of YA novels!
*spooky music*
#9 · 1
·
This was fucking adorable. I love the creativity of the "illustrated text."
#10 · 1
·
This feels more like a gimmick with a very basic story wrapped around it. I'm unclear as to how it follows the prompt just as it's not clear that the little unicorn is Twilight Sparkle. The assumption is that it is, but it could also be Sunset Shimmer or any number of pupils Princess Celestia might have taken under her wing over the many years she done what she's done.

It just doesn't work for me.
#11 ·
·
This story left me a little cold at first, but after reading it again I found it endearing.
Only the references to duck poop were rather jarring in what's otherwise a perfectly adorable story.

“Quack! Quack!” went the little unicorn.

“Quack! Quack!” went Princess Celestia.

Not really. That was Quackers. Princess Celestia does not quack. \Ô/

cutest :3
#12 · 3
·
This is the only good story the Writeoff has ever produced
#13 ·
·
That was original in a way.

The first sentences were really surprising. I was thinking 'ooookaaayyy, another author who tries to troll' but then I understood what kind of story I was going to read.

That was great, funny and cute, the kind of silly stories that could fit in children's literature.
#14 · 3
·
Well obviously Celestia doesn't quack, she honks :P

Observe
#15 · 1
·
This is a story about quack doctors delivering quack remedies.
What, I got it wrong?

Nice little piece of work, very endearing, but, you know, I'm kinda perverse, so I prefer children stories where the alicorn eats the duck at the end. You know, foie gras and stuff.
#16 ·
·
It was a doll who looked just like Celestia. Only with a smaller tummy.

What is the fascination with tummies?
#17 · 3
· · >>Crafty >>RogerDodger
I'm afraid this entry left me quite cold. It blatantly ignores the prompt, and eschews complexity in both prose and narrative in the pursuit of its gimmick. Now, don't get me wrong, I love me a good gimmick, but a bit of emoji art isn't enough of one to sell me on this. Nothing is done with the art aspect, it's just there at the ends of lines. No hidden jokes or messages or subversions, no attempts to add to the story through multiple emojis, they're just there.

Similarly, "it's children's lit, it's simple on purpose!" is not a great excuse for entering See Spot Run in a writing competition. Good children's lit is very difficult to write, because it needs to follow strict rules in form and content depending on its targeted reading level and culture. Evaluated in that light, this is far too long. Its vocabulary is closer to prereading (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon) than early reading (Dr. Seuss), so the target word count should really be less than 400, pushing the low side of the minific limit rather than the high. It should also center around a single character and idea, or two characters at most, whereas this follows three characters and two settings and doesn't move between them very well. The main moral lesson, sharing the doll with the unicorn, is barely mentioned rather than being a focal point.

Celestia... well, Celestia in general doesn't really have anything to do with Quackers or the main narrative, she's really only here to indulge the art gimmick. But as long as we're here, I'll also note that she is surely more than capable of quacking and/or pooping on the grass if she desired to do so.

And, finally, what I've been dancing around and trying to find a tactful way to say is that the concept here is essentially the same as the DQ'd "Just a Test": an attempt to circumvent the restrictions of the minific format by writing a completely different form that just happens to technically meet the explicit requirements. Judging it against other entries here wouldn't be fair to either side. Combining that and the lack of prompt use, I'd disqualify this if it was up to me, and I'm afraid it'll be bottoming my slate.

I would like to applaud the author's ambition, though, and make clear that I intend no offense or slight to them with all this! It's clear they had good intentions and put quite a bit of effort into writing this! Thank for make! Sorry for to be dreamcrushing!
#18 ·
· · >>Ranmilia
>>Ranmilia You bring up an interesting point about prompt-appropriateness.

I really enjoyed this fic, its one of my favorites of the writeoff, but does it have anything to do prompt? Probably not. Should that be grounds for disqualification? I cannot say. The site rules do state though:

For rules that have a degree of ambiguity—in particular, genre and prompt rules—enforcement at the fringes is done by voters.


This seems to imply that there is no way to "disqualify" a story other than rating it low. And it seems, most people are not going to do that.

So, with the rules as currently written, Quackers quacks ahead.
#19 · 3
· · >>Crafty >>Xepher
>>Crafty
I do see that, and that is why I felt I had to advocate for scoring Quackers low, rather than abstaining or keeping my thoughts on it to myself (which I was very tempted to do.) This isn't really "at the fringes," even its fans seem in agreement that there's nothing of the prompt here.

The issue here is not with following rules for the sake of rules, but consideration to all the other writers who put themselves through extra effort trying to follow them. Many other entrants discarded good ideas they wanted to write but didn't fit the prompt, and wrote more difficult and less polished concepts instead in order to fit it. That's not hypothetical, it's very clear that this happened just from reading the comments thread or talking to folks in Discord.

The same thing applies with people stressing themselves to write a complete traditional prose fiction piece in 400-750 words. It's a very challenging format! And, yeah, because it's challenging, I know it's really tempting to try and find a way to subvert it by doing something nonstandard... but going too far off the rails is not cool to the people sweating to stay on them, y'know?

I'd feel pretty darn bad if I tossed out a bunch of good ideas because they didn't fit the prompt, and busted my brain writing a prose mini, only to have it lose to someone who ignored the restrictions everyone else thought they were under. (Not that I, personally, am in any danger of this happening. My own entry is not very good.. though in part because I spent a couple hours thinking about the prompt to start off.)

Still, as you say, people are free to vote however they want. Just tossing my view on it out there for thought.
#20 · 2
·
>>Ranmilia
Your concerns are both valid and well argued. I guess we will have the answer after the prelims.

Maybe it would be worthwhile to bring this discussion to the Discord chat and see what people there think. I would imagine that a clarification on the rules is also possible (for future writeoffs).

PS I think that you are right, and the fic is not prompt-appropriate. But it's also the one that brought me the most joy. I can't bring myself to score it lowest.
#21 · 2
·
>>Ranmilia
Just a Test wasn't DQ'd for experimenting with the writing form. People experiment all the time, especially in minifics. It's totally allowed.

I'd feel pretty darn bad if I tossed out a bunch of good ideas because they didn't fit the prompt, and busted my brain writing a prose mini, only to have it lose to someone who ignored the restrictions everyone else thought they were under.


This concern has been raised before. "When do I dock for prompt relevance, if at all, and by how much?" is a sort of long-standing debate. Current solution is you make your own judgement, and everyone else makes theirs.

Reality is that stories with no if any prompt relevance don't actually do that well. Case in point: You bottom ranking this one on those grounds.

The other side of this argument is stories that have a prompt connection that people missed getting docked unduly.
#22 ·
· · >>Ranmilia
>>Ranmilia
You make a good point, and I have to agree here. The prompt-relevance isn't there for me either. Beyond just it being "unfair" to others that may have skipped easier ideas, I actually have a larger concern. If a story doesn't clearly match the prompt, is there any way at all we can know it wasn't written well in advance of the contest? Now, I'm in no way suggesting the author here "cheated" or intentionally did anything at all wrong, but I'm saying that I feel if we (as a group) routinely allow fics that don't match the prompt, then it may encourage someone to eventually cheat in that way.

Having said that, I'm NOT advocating for any rules changes or anything. I think the way it is now, "vote your preference" should be plenty to keep such a potential problem in check.



Moving onto the actual story. First, it is cute, and sounds like a proper children's story, so it's not bad on that count, but a children's story doesn't really stand up in a writing contest against the rest of the entries.

The typographic tricks just don't work for me either. Maybe it's the font I'm using or some such, but webbed feet is just an underscore, and Quackers is just a U with a greater-than symbol. If that looks like a duck to someone, then I am not that someone. Beyond that, I really dislike typographic tricks as story. We already had one that was DQed this round (though not for that specific cause), and there seems to be at least one more in every write off.

Look, I work in IT, I grok web design and programming. I've made entire graphical logos with nothing but CSS. I appreciate the skill/creativity required to do stuff like that. But technical trickery is not the same as story telling. I'm here to compete on that skill, not on who has the best understanding of BBcode tags or unicode characters. So when I see "stories" reach for anything more elaborate than bold or italics, I start to cringe.

Apologies, Author, as I don't need to rant here in this space. A few small text icons at the end of some lines isn't a big deal really, it just reminded me of a larger trend I dislike.
#23 · 2
· · >>QuillScratch
You know. Actually. Hold on. Hold. The. Phone. Let's... let's... let's check that prompt list out again. I remembered something.

Something Coffee_Minion can read to his kids (16)


Ah. Okay. That makes what happened here much more clear. Someone was like "Hey, that prompt that didn't win really inspired me, I'll write something for that anyway and submit it, like a bonus for people." Yeah, I get it now. Not sure how I feel about doing that, it still shouldn't win against the actual prompt, but I was definitely too harsh in saying that someone randomly decided to write whatever. Sincere apologies about tha- a - a-...

Oh.
Oh. My. God.

It is the Twilight Zone.
It's the Twilight Zone of Writeoff, where a different prompt won.

I... I don't even know for sure if the author intended that, or if they were just submitting an alt prompt for fun. But they certainly could have intended it. It seems not completely implausible, and that's enough to get past my "rawr ignored the prompt get out"...

>>Xepher is still right about the typographic tricks, and I still stand by a pretty harsh assessment for children's lit vs regular writing, and people really ought to submit something resembling "standard format" prose fiction so entries can actually be critiqued well and ranked against each other fairly. But I guess I have to walk back my biggest objection here and give this an actual rank (a bit above trainwreck tier, "kind of did what it wanted to do, if not well in some respects") because wow, that's so crazy it might actually be a thing.
#24 ·
· · >>georg
>>Ranmilia
One thing I brought up in the podcast (which should be edited and posted at some point in the next few hours!) is that this story felt more like it was meant to be someone reading a picture book to their kids than an actual picture book. Thank you for pointing out that connection to the Coffee_Minion prompt—that really builds a stronger case for my reading than my points about the narrative voice did!
#25 · 1
· · >>Pascoite >>FanOfMostEverything >>QuillScratch
How in the actual fuck did this not make it to the finals?
#26 · 3
· · >>georg
A friend sent me a link to possible cover art for Quackers. Posting it here for the record.
#27 · 2
· · >>FanOfMostEverything
Oh, gods. Look at the comments. Now I need to make a response to all of them. This is going to take more work than Quackers took to write (20 minutes with giggle breaks, and 20 minutes to get the little ASCII characters lined up.)

>>GroaningGreyAgony Thanks, and I'll keep it in mind, but I've got an eight year old (really) drawing a Quackers cover. I actually had *no* idea Quackers was a G1 Twinkle-Eyed Pony, who had a narrative voice VERY much like I used.
(Wiki entry for Quackers)
#28 · 4
· · >>FanOfMostEverything >>QuillScratch
Huh. I loved this story. And I don't give a rat's ass about prompt relevance. As far as I care, it's an honor system, and I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt.

>>Corejo Seconded.
#29 ·
· · >>QuillScratch
>>QuillScratch Did you, um... (shyly scuffs a foot under the table) read it out loud in the podcast, perhaps?
#30 ·
· · >>QuillScratch
Oh. Oh! >>georg, I am so sorry; I accidentally left this out of my personal honorable mentions. I thought it was in the finals. I somehow missed its absence on the new slate.

>>Corejo >>Pascoite
Thirded.
#31 · 1
·
>>georg
Maaaaayyyybeeeeeeee...

>>Corejo >>Pascoite >>FanOfMostEverything
Fourthed? Fourthded? Quatered? Whatever the right word is >.>
#32 ·
· · >>georg
So, just felt I needed to clarify my view here. Previously, I went off on a rant about "typographical tricks" and this story really isn't relying on that, so please ignore those bits. I still stand by the fact that it's not really hitting the prompt to me though.

That said, I really did find this story cute, and in the appropriate contest (e.g. had "A story CoffeeMinion can read to his kids" won), this would've been near the top of my slate, as I honestly giggled at some of the silliness here and think it would be great to read to some of my younger cousins. For what it sets out to do, this story works great. However, it just doesn't play in the same league sport as stories about Twilight turning her parents into barely sentient dreaming cacti, Celestia returning her horn to the Lady of the Lake, or Applejack being cursed to kill with a word.
#33 ·
·
>>Xepher Yes, but it's a very cute duck. U>