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Nightmare After Nightmare Night · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Just Family
“Hey, Twilight, check it out!” said Spike from downstairs, somewhere.

The little bubble of comfort and safety that Twilight had built up in her study warbled and threatened to collapse altogether. But it was okay! She would just ignore him. Spike knew that sometimes sound didn’t carry so well in the palace, with the crystal walls and all, so she could just say that she didn’t hear him.

Her eyes resumed their romantic liaison with the book in front of her, a recent publication of essays by Baltimare University’s most gifted minds.

… Well, recent, by her current standards. There was a time when Twilight measured the newness of an academic study by the number of hours between its virginal publication and the moment her lustful eyes had their wicked way with it. Nowadays, she was lucky if she could keep herself from falling more than a publication cycle behind with any given university’s major journals.

“Twilight! Where are you?” Spike’s voice echoed once again through the halls.

Steadfastly, Twilight denied the existence of any adolescent dragons in her castle. In fact, there was a good chance statistical chance that adolescent dragons didn’t exist at all, considering how draconic puberty only accounted for about 0.01% of a typical dragon’s natural lifespan, which fell well within the margin of error of several—

“I’ve got my Nightmare Night costume on! You wanna see?” came Spike’s voice, somewhere down and to the left of Twilight.

Oh Celestia, he was in the public portion of the library. Once he was done searching there, he’d be here next!

… But he was a fair bit bigger than he used to be, and he sometimes had trouble navigating the more narrow shelves. It’d buy her time. Sweet, succulent time alone with her book.

She shoved the journal back in her face and began to read an application of Hayto’s philosophy to modern financial ethics, with the desperation of a sleazy suitor whispering the phrase “Now, where were we?” into the ear of a beautiful and terrified mare even as an out-of-control kitchen fire spread to the highly flammable curtains of the otherwise extremely reputable Neightalian dining establishment they sat within.

“Twilight? Are you taking another nap?”

It just wasn’t fair! She spent all bucking day reading creative writing projects from her third year students! The full extent of most of their literary prowess was to remember to sign and date the top of their wide-ruled notebook paper!

Finally, the inevitable happened. The fancy Neightalian restaurant burned down, and Spike’s footsteps sounded just beyond Twilight’s study door.

“There you are!” he said, as the door squeaked opened and he stepped in. “Dude, check out my costume for this year.”

Twilight really didn’t like being called “dude”. It didn’t even make sense.

Lovingly, she mouthed the words “I’ll be back, I promise!” to the Hayto article, before closing the book and looking up from her desk. And then she saw the most utterly horrifying thing she had seen since Tirek.

“Do you like it?” said the monstrosity in front of her in Spike’s voice.

Twilight shut her eyes and took off her reading glasses. They did tend to blur things in the middle distance. She smiled peacefully, and opened her eyes again.

Yep, still terrifying.

In front of her stood, well, herself. It looked exactly like the purple alicorn that greeted Twilight in the mirror each morning. Except, of course, where it was unnaturally misshapen from the ordeal of fitting an entire Celestia-sized dragon inside of it. And, of course, how it’s mouth was stretched in an unending silent scream, like the dislocated jaw of an egg-swallowing snake, in order to let Spike’s own muzzle and eyes to poke through.

Some of the stitching was also a little rough at the joints.

“Are you dressed as me?” she said.

“Yeah!” said Spike. He smiled toothily from within the fake Twilight’s wailing mouth while he spun around. His wings poked out through the top where Twilight’s would have. “I did most of the sewing myself, and I can’t really see the back of it when I’ve got it on, so I’m not entirely sure how things look over there.”

Twilight breathed deeply to silence the internal screaming.

“It’s… Wow.”

“Thanks!” said Spike. “I’ve also got one for you! I was thinking we could do a matched set this year.”

From somewhere within the eldritch folds of the Twi-suit, Spike produced another purply-hued bundle of cloth. When he spread it out between his outstretched claws (which, Twilight noted, poked disturbingly out of the Twi-suit’s hooves), she saw that it was one of Spike himself, made to her size.

The Spike-suit looked up at her, with sad blank eyes, like the discarded skin of a dead fish. Twilight wasn’t even sure if or how griffons skinned fish before they ate them, but she still thought it was an apt metaphor.

“That looks…. Wow!” she said, once she remembered that Spike was waiting for her thoughts.

“I’m… sensing a bit of hesitation,” he said, raising an eyebrow.

Darn! When did he get so perceptive?

“Oh, did you already have plans?” he asked. He gestured punching the air. “Drat! I knew I should have asked you first, but I wanted it to be a surprise!”

“No, I don’t have plans. It’s just that…. Uh….” Twilight’s mind drew a blank as she looked at fishskin Spike’s gaping maw, where her head would presumably stick out from. “What I’m trying to say is…. that…”

Spike’s wings drooped.

“Oh, well, if it’s not your speed, then don’t worry about it.” He bundled up the Spike costume and stuffed it back into some kind of hidden pocket in the Twi-suit. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have sprung this on you like this.”

The ‘Bad Friend’ alarm sounded in Twilight’s head (with the flashing red lights and everything), and she scrambled to backtrack.

“No, wait, I mean—”

“It’s nothing!” Spike smiled and waved a claw dismissively. “It was a bit of a silly idea, and I let it run away with me.”

“But… You’ve definitely put a lot of work in this.”

“Don’t worry. We’ve still got a little while before Nightmare NIght, and I’m sure Rarity would jump at the chance to design something for my size again. Good practice for the Princesses, she says.”

Somehow, that only turned up the alarm bells further.

“Spike, I didn’t mean to make you upset.” said Twilight.

“I’m not upset!” insisted the gentledrake. He grinned again and made a shooing motion. “Go back to your book. I know you’ve been looking forward to it.”

With a nonchalant saunter (as much as one could saunter in a Princess costume), Spike stepped out the door and shut it behind him.

For a couple of moments, Twilight was a little dumbstruck. She did eventually find her spot in the Hayto essay again, but she found herself reading the same couple of sentences more than a few times and only half-realizing it. The fiery passion of a lover from just a few minutes prior was gone, turned into wet sheets and icy glares.

Then Twilight did discover the most awful thing that an introvert could imagine. That an awkward silence could still be built up even if there was nothing but a nerd and a book in a room.




“Okay,” said Spike. “I guess I’m a little upset.”

“Pssh! I knew it!” With a practiced throw, Scootaloo sent another dart soaring through the air. It arced beautifully. The slight spin that Scoot’s flick imparted on it kept its trajectory nice and tight as it joined its four siblings in a well-worn spot about a foot left of the dartboard.

thunk.

“Darn, not again.” said Scootaloo. She walked up to retrieve the darts.

“Scoots, don’t be mean,” said Sweetie Belle, scowling at her friend from her seat across from Spike. Next to her in the booth sat Apple Bloom, who was nursing a halfway-licked extra-large salt cube.

“Er’m nrt ‘eeing mean!” said Scootaloo as she pulled the darts out of the wall with her teeth. She spat them out (along with a fair bit of drywall) and made her way back to the throwing line. “I’m just saying, I knew it! Spike’s always a bit mopey when he’s trying hard not to be upset.”

thunk.

“Darn,” said Scoots.

“Am I really that predictable?” said Spike, fiddling with the mug of piping hot cider in his claws.

“There is nothing wrong with how you choose to express yourself, Spike,” said Sweetie, as she glowered at Scootaloo again.

“I don’t know,” said Spike. “I really shouldn’t care this much over a dumb set of costumes. But… well… I don’t know…”

thunk.

“Luna-darn it…”

“Sounds like there’s somethin’ more to it than just the costumes,” said Apple Bloom. “I mean, you’re a reasonable dragon. I reckon that if there’s something troublin’ you, there’s a good reason to it.”

“Well, I guess…” said Spike. He sipped his drink and tried to start again. “I mean…”

Across the table, Sweetie Belle eagerly leaned forward even more, eyes wide and her therapist-smile stretching from ear to ear. She nodded, encouragingly.

“It’s been a while since I feel like Twilight and I did something together.” Spike scratched his chin. “Well, I guess we did do pretty much everything together, before she was a princess, or a teacher, or a principal and all. Sometimes I feel like… we’re just not as close as we used to be.”

“Oh, I see,” said Sweetie. She nodded with the serene understanding that only a professional could have. “Have you thought about your future much, Spike? Do you feel like you’re in control of your life?”

Spike balked a little. “Um…. I guess I am? I think my future seems pretty good. But I guess sometimes I wish things were the way they used to be. You know?”

“Oh, I do understand, Spike,” said Sweetie, smiling sweetly. “Why don’t you do a thought experiment with me? Can you imagine the pony—er, dragon—that you think you’ll be in ten years? How is he different from you now? How is he different from you ten years ago when you were—”

“Land’s sake, Sweetie, are you goin’ through the Destiny Checklist with him?” interrupted Apple Bloom. “Spike ain’t a client.”

“But—But I can help!”

Her professional confidence gone, Sweetie tried to hide behind one of her hooves. It was pretty cute, Spike thought.

“Spike doesn’t need that kinda help, Sweets,” said Scootaloo between throws. “What he needs is a little (thunk)—Darn!—a little straight-talking.”

“I find myself agreeing with Scootaloo’s diag-naw-sis.” Apple Bloom bit down on her salt cube and chewed thoughtfully. “Ya think Twilight knows how much this is bugging ya?”

“She probably has a bit of an idea,” admitted Spike, “but I don’t want her to worry about it.”

Apple Bloom shrugged. “That’s your call, but I’m pretty sure Twi’s the understandin’ type,” she said.

“That’s exactly the problem,” said Spike. “She’s running herself ragged for everypony else. The last thing I want to do is to make her run herself ragged for me!

“Why not?” asked Scoots as she—thunk!—missed horribly again.

“We… we’re special.” Spike fidgeted with the mug again. “I mean, we’ve been there for each other since I was an egg. I don’t want to end up being just another one of Twilight’s friendship problems…”

“You’re not,” said Sweetie Belle. This time, her smile wasn’t confident; it was soft. “You’ll never be just another problem to Twilight.”

“Thanks,” said Spike. He smiled, but he was careful not to show teeth, because they were in public and sometimes ponies didn’t like that.

Wistfully, he began tapping a claw on the tabletop.

“I just… well I guess I had this silly idea. I mean, there’s a bunch of things that Twi and I used to do together that we don’t do anymore.”

Sweetie’s therapist-grin began to come back.

“Yes..?” she asked, leaning forward in her seat again.

“I mean…” said Spike.

He debated whether or not to tell this next part. Because even in his head, it sounded a little dumb, and probably more than a little weird. Finally, his mouth just started working on its own a little.

“I had this idea, where while we were wearing those costumes of each other, we could—”

thunk!

“Darn it aaaaaall!” Scootaloo stomped in place with all four hooves.

Sweetie shot Scoots a look that could set a forest on fire, but the damage was already done. Spike shook his head and downed the last of his cider.

“Ah well, forget it,” he said.

“You don’t need to tell us anything yain’t comfortable with,” said Apple Bloom, despite Sweetie’s pleading looks. “But I’m glad you could git what you could off yer chest with us.”

Spike nodded, contentedly.

“Thank you, guys,” he said. He stretched in his seat, and started to pick himself up. “Well, it’s getting late. I think I need to head back.”

“So do we,” said Apple Bloom. “We’ve got work in the morning.”

“On Nightmare Night day?” asked Spike as he stepped out of the booth. He stretched his wings, which ached from being cramped. “That ought to be illegal!”

“Tell that to Scoots; she’s the one that sets the office schedule,” said Apple Bloom.

“Ya’ll are just unappreciative,” said Scootaloo. “I’m giving us—darn!—a week off for Hearth’s Warming.”

Spike laughed and started making his way out.

“See ya, girls,” he said with a wave. But he made a point to find Sweetie with his eyes. “Good bye, Sweetie Belle!”

Flustered, Sweetie, muttered something that sounded like a farewell, while Apple Bloom chuckled, knowingly.

“Catch ya next time, pardner,” she called out as Spike left the salt bar.

thunk

“Cadance-darn it, this makes no sense!” Scoots fumed. She looked around the mostly-empty bar for a minute, and then made up her mind. “Does somepony have a hammer and nails? I’m moving this friggin dart board."





When Spike had left the castle, it took Twilight only a little while to find the Twilight and Spike costumes.

She felt kind of bad for snooping through Spike’s room. But, she told herself, if it was for a good cause, it wasn’t really snooping. It was friendship-rummaging!

A couple of questionably-hidden magazine stashes later, Twilight found herself peering at the Twi-suit’s soulless eyes, and she really had to shudder again. The uncanny effect was still there, even when nobody was in it.

“I don’t know why you’re so important to Spike,” she admitted.

Twi-suit only stared at her questioningly, with a permanently open mouth and askewly sewn button eyes.

“But you are important to him,” she said. “So, you’re important to me, too.”

Holding the two costumes closely, she closed her eyes and lit her horn. A flash of magic engulfed her, and she disappeared, leaving only her reading glasses, which clattered to the floor.




There was a little storage closet next to the public library that Twilight kept empty and locked from the inside. She called it her landing room.

It was a straightforward concept: if there was a room of known dimensions that she always knew would be empty, it’d simplify her teleportation formula by quite a bit to teleport directly there each time she had to jump to the castle. It was efficient, and Twilight was nothing if not a mare of efficiencies.

Late that night, she flashed into the landing room, with two heavy coat bags in tow. Unlocking the door with a key on a peg, she opened it and walked out to the sight of Spike just around the corner, waiting.

“Buh!” she recoiled in surprise. “How did you…?”

“You left your glasses behind, again. They were on my floor.” he said.

Twilight’s hoof instinctively went to her forehead, where her readers usually were, only to find them predictably absent.

Spike chuckled and held them out in the tip of a claw. Embarrassed, Twilight took them in her hornglow and placed them back on top of her head.

“Spike, I’m sorry about earlier today,” she said. “I shouldn’t have made you feel like I was shooting you down. Even if I was a little… confused by it.”

“No worries, Twilight.” Spike said. “I think I was being a little insecure about the whole thing myself. I actually just had a talk with the Crusaders about this.”


“Oh? Did Sweetie have any good advice?” Twilight smiled.

“Er, yeah she did.” Spike rubbed the back of his head while grinning a grin that showed teeth. “They all did. And I think the most important part of it, was, that I want you to know that I’m always going to be on your team. You’re important to me.”

“Thanks, you big lunk,” giggled Twilight, as she drew him in for a one-armed hug that was only a little bit awkward. “You’re important to me too.”

The coat bags in Twilight’s grip rustled, and she smacked an open forehoof on her forehead.

“Oh! Yeah! Let me show you,” she said, opening the bags. “Well, I just wanted to clean up some of the stitching, and Rarity ended up helping me retouch them both.”

Out of the bags came Twi-suit and Spike-suit, both wearing dopey smiles now. Their eyes were aligned, their back legs weren’t terribly misshapen, and they would probably not make foals want to scream at first sight anymore. Probably.

“It’s… It’s great, Twilight!” Spike gently took the Twilight costume in his hands. “Does this mean, you think you’ll…?”

“Yeah, let’s do it!” said Twilight. “I’ll be you, and you’ll be me this year.”

Spike smiled toothily again.

“I was also… Well I was thinking about doing a little something to go along with the costumes, if it’s fine with you.”

“I’m all ears,” said Twilight. “Lay it on me.”




“Nightmare Night!” Chanted schoolfoals, for the upteenth time. “What a fright! Give us something sweet to bite!”

Twilight threw some candy down at the foals, and giggled at the looks she got from the parents.

“Golly, I hope that’s enough for you all!” she said, in the raspiest, lowest voice she could manage.

“By my calculations,” said Spike in a falsetto, “each schoolchild should receive an average of three point six-six repeating pieces of candy per visit for the optimal sweets distribution rate. Make a note, Spike!”

Between the foals, her students, and the Ponyville old-timers who had been around since Spike was little, most everypony thought that their skit was a hoot.

“I hope there’s gonna be some left for me!” grumped ‘Spike’ from atop ‘Twilight’s’ back.

The foals giggled and dispersed once the candy was divided up.

Spike began trotting down the street, making his way to the newer residential areas where a lot of young families were living now. Atop his back, Twilight teetered and tottered. It was probably in the ballpark of three decades since she last had a pony-back ride, and it was not like riding a bicycle.

Up ahead, a group of foals were gathered at the little cottage that the Crusaders rented as office space.

“Nightmare Night! What a Fright!”

“Yeah, yeah, give you something sweet to bite. Sure, kiddos.”

Scootaloo yawned through her windigo mask as she hoofed over a pile of candy that was probably a bit too much for the five or six foals at her door. Not that they minded at all, those sugar-addicted little beasts.

“Hey Scoots!” called Twilight in her Spike impression. At this point, she had all four hooves wrapped around Spike’s middle, clinging on for dear life. “How’s it hanging?”

It took Scootaloo a moment to blink away her sleepiness before she laughed. Poking her head back inside, she called out.

“Sweetie! Blooms! Come check this out! Twilight’s riding Spike!”

“I don’t see what’s so funny,” rumbled ‘Twilight’. “It’s simply the most efficient way to travel, given our relative body weights and average strides per meter.”

“Oh!” said Scootaloo, smirking. “You’ve got her down good!”

From a window, Sweetie Belle poked her head out, wearing a tricorne and an eyepatch.

“Hi, Spike!” She waved.

“Hey Swee—” Spike began in falsetto, before catching himself with a gurgle. “Hi, Sweetie Belle!” He managed in his regular voice.

Twilight rolled her eyes and decided to bail him out.

“We’ve got a few more stops tonight,” she said in her Spike voice. “But we’ll be back in a few!”

“Sounds good!” said Sweetie.

“I’ll probably be passed out,” Scootaloo confessed. “Blooms was right. Next year I’m scheduling the day off.”

“We’ll catch you later!” said Spike, as he sauntered down the road, as much as one could saunter in a Princess costume.

Twilight sighed and settled back down into the little divot in Spike’s back, where his hips met his tail.

“You know, Spike,” she said in her normal voice, “I could definitely get used to being carried around everywhere.”

“It’s the best,” chuckled the dragon. “I really miss it, sometimes.”

For a couple of minutes, the Twilight was silent as she felt the bounce of Spike’s steps and heard the plodding of his feet on the ground down below.

“Spike,” she said, after a while. “Do you think it’d be odd if… we asked Rarity to make up some kind of riding saddle?”

Spike cocked his head to the side. “I mean, if you want to do this again next year, then sure! But it might be a little odd, two years in a row.”

“No,” said Twilight. “I meant a saddle not just for Nightmare Night.”

“Oh!” From the sound of his voice, Twilight could tell Spike was smiling. “That miiiiiight be a little weird, I guess. But not too weird.”

“I’ll be honest, I think I really missed this,” said Twilight. “I missed walking down the streets with you, and I miss talking to you while we walked.”

“Yeah, me too,” said Spike.

Twilight was kind of overwhelmed at the moment, and words kind of just started pouring out of her mouth.

“You’re family to me, Spike,” she said. “And we should really make sure that we don’t drift apart.”

“Thank you, Twilight.” Spike’s fangs poked out of his smile again. “You’re the best mom a dragon could have.”

Twilight laughed, and it nearly knocked her off her perch.

“Ew, no, stop!”

“Sister, then?”

“That’s… also not quite right.”

“Hatcher?”

“That’d make you my… hatch-ee?”

“Your spawn.”

“Haha, no!!”

“Your thrall!”

“Haha. Just… family, Spike. Let's leave it at that. Just family.”


Pics
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#1 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
Hmm, I'd say it's more of a nightmare before Nightmare Night, but well. Also, there are several technical flaws, like confusing "it's" and "its" or places where the author got a better idea but forgot to delete the old one:

In fact, there was a good chance statistical chance
#2 · 1
· · >>MLPmatthewl419 >>Bachiavellian
This is a very cute and well-executed slice of life fic, but I do have some reservations about it that I'd like to talk about.

Author, I think your style in this story was clever and quick and to the point, and I was, for the most part, a fan. But I have to talk about your comedy. For my money, in comedies, the only reason a joke should be being used again is to evolve it, either by progressing it further, recontextualizing it, or something like that.

Scootaloo misses that goddamn dart board seven times, and virtually nothing changes about how it happens. It's kinda funny the first time, and the repetition kinda works on the second, but that's all you've got. At least for me.

But when we get to the end, and she says, Screw it, let's just move the freaking thing? Boom, that joke just evolved, and it's funny again. Now imagine if she did that earlier in the scene. And then she missed it again, landing a dart right where the board used to be. Now it's evolved a second time, and the joke is even in a nice group of three. Jokes work great when they're told three times(evolving twice) and some writers manage to keep a joke running through like ten evolutions, but seven repeats of the same joke in a row is a cardinal sin of comedy in my books.

But don't worry, the effect on the story is minor here—it's more of a missed opportunity than an actual hang-up.

Oh, and one other time you do this is with Twilight's relationship with her book. This is a little better from a comedy perspective, because it's at least progressing a little bit with how it's told, but DUDE. I know she likes books and all but the descriptions went way, way too far for me. I thought you were legitimately going to go some dark sexual-obsession-with-books theme with how much you were leaning on it. It contrasts pretty grossly with the G-rated remainder of the story, and I would recommend scaling it way back. Or even removing it entirely, since it's been done to death before.

Now, for an actual hang-up for this story? I'm not entirely sure what the cutie mark crusaders contribute to the story here. I think if we follow Twilight the entire time and cut them out completely, the character arcs for Spike and Twi effectively play out the same, since Twilight is the one who sets up the last scene by agreeing to wear the costume. Hell, Spike didn't even fully open up to the crusaders, but to Twilight!

And I should be clear: I'm not saying cut out the CMC; they're great. I'm just saying if they're gonna be in there they should probably affect the plot more. Because right now, looking back on that second scene, my scissor senses are tingling.

But that's all from me. Best of luck in the shakedown and thanks for entering!
#3 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
I will say, simply, this was a little... disappointing? Lackluster? Just not quite where it should have been.

Now, >>Miller Minus happened to cover a lot. Except for the darts, I really liked how you did the darts.

I mean, the... core, I guess... here is one I've seen before. Twilight and Spike haven't spent time together in awhile, one of them tries to do something, it fails initially, then works out in the end. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with this. In fact, I really think this is a good central story to build around. I've seen it pulled off masterfully and very poorly. This one... falls between.

It is good. Remember that. It just could be a whole lot better. The whole Twilight-book descriptions here are really out there. Toning them down a bit would be an amazing thing to do. The CMC scene does feel kinda pointless unless we see a change in Twilight too. Or at least something that shows she's actually kinda busy and just decided to have priorities. Actually, on the CMC note, you switch POVs a lot. You start out with Twilight as the focus, then Spike, then Twilight... then both? It feels a little weird.

And then in that last scene, I was finding it really hard to actually stay interested in reading it. I'm not sure what's up, but despite multiple readings, I still haven't been able to read everything there.

Finally, I also noted a couple instances of this:
Twilight really didn’t like being called “dude”. It didn’t even make sense.
Now, I'm not gonna say something dumb like 'show don't tell,' cause that doesn't help you. First sentence, you really should have included some form of action from Twilight. Something as simple as "Twilight grimaced. She really..." would have helped tremendously. Or, hay, "Twilight did not like being called 'dude.' " would have worked beautifully.
As for the second sentence, um, duh? Like, in my honest opinion, that's just plain irrelevant. The point is she hates it. We know it doesn't make sense. <-- This is specific to that particular example though.

One more time though, THIS IS GOOD. I just focused on the negative so it can become better. Because I really want to see it be the best it can.
#4 ·
· · >>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.
#5 ·
· · >>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.
#6 ·
· · >>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!
#7 · 2
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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!