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Just Like Old Times · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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An Apple Asunder
Granny Smith finally let her posture slump after turning the corner and reaching the relative isolation of her family’s kitchen. She began a heavy sigh, but caught herself and held her breath, praying that young Big Mac in the living room wouldn’t have noticed, occupied as he was with homework. Instead, she let her breath out slowly, and took the occasion to stretch her stiff left foreleg. She didn’t feel her age most of the time, but then she’d never had to hold baby Apple Bloom as much as she had the previous two weeks—

Since the accident.

She shook her head to ward away the pain that came with thoughts of Bright Mac and Buttercup, and set her mind to thinking on what kind of dinner she could pull together in a hurry. She plodded toward the pantry, seemingly half in a daze from the fatigue of having to keep the family running all day, and staying up half the night with Apple Bloom.

A faint sniffle intruded into her reverie.

Granny Smith turned to see Applejack seated at the table and wiping her eyes, doubtlessly trying to put on a brave face. “Aw, AJ,” Granny said, changing course. “I’m here, and I love ya ta bits.”

Applejack nodded, and met Granny’s eyes with a solemnity that would’ve looked more at home on an old farmhoof than a child of not yet twelve. “I know, Granny. I… I know you’re here. I guess I was just thinkin’ about somepony else.”

A glance at the table before her revealed several sheets of lined paper—some crumpled—and a pencil. “Yer pen-pal from a few summers back? What was her name—”

“Rara,” Applejack said quickly. “Or ‘Coloratura.’ Anymore, she signs it that way sometimes.”

“Well, I’ll leave ya to your writing if ya want,” Granny said, nodding. “Sharin’ troubles with a friend can help your heart at times like these.”

Applejack’s frown deepened. “Honestly, I ain’t sure if I oughtta write her.”

Granny blinked away a feeling of surprise. “Come again?”

“It ain’t that I don’t want to, I just…” Applejack gestured at the paper. “I’ve been thinkin’ for a while that somethin’s funny with the way we write each other. It started out bein’ monthly, but for a while now she hasn’t always kept up her end.”

“I reckon that’s how ponies get sometimes, though,” Granny said. “Usually one friend’s a bit chattier than another. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.”

Applejack shook her head. “I know, Granny, but I don’t think she even thinks about writing until she’s got a few o’my letters lyin’ around. And I don’t think she reads ‘em anymore… she only talks about herself, and still hasn’t answered some questions I had a while back.”

“That’s city livin’ for ya,” Granny said. “All so fast-paced that nopony’s got time ta do the simple things. But I reckon it ain’t personal—“

“I know it ain’t, Granny,” Applejack said, punctuating her words with a hoof-clop on the table. “Not like it used to be personal. I mean I hate to say this, but I put things to the test a few months back. I hadn’t gotten back a letter from her in a while, so instead of doin’ my monthly one, I just stopped. I figured if she cared, she’d notice, and she’d read some of ‘em and maybe start replyin’ to me.”

“But she didn’t,” Granny said, frowning.

Applejack nodded. “And now I have the biggest thing in all the world that I could write someone about, and I… I don’t think I could bear it if she didn’t say a word about it. But then I don’t know if it’s exactly fair to make her say anythin’, with how she’s been quiet for so long. I thought we were friends, but right now I just feel like I’d be dumpin’ all my troubles on a perfect stranger. Were we really friends?”

“Oh, sugarcube... ya were. And it might be y'still are, or that ya could be.”

“I s'pose.” Applejack stood and started gathering the sheets of paper. “Reckon I might think about it in my room, if that’s all right.”

Granny held her tongue, put forward a brave face, and nodded.

She felt sure that she heard Applejack let out another sniffle once she exited the kitchen. But with a sigh and a head-shake, Granny turned back toward the pantry.

Close friendship sounded wonderful, but somepony needed to get dinner started before hunger overshadowed all their other pain.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Fenton >>Pascoite >>CoffeeMinion
This story feels incomplete, but I like the core of it. A solid idea, a solid emotional core, a solid reason for Coloratura and Applejack to fall out of touch – just sort of drifting apart, eventually ending with Applejack stopping writing entirely after her parents die, because she doesn’t want to dump on the other filly who she isn’t even sure cares anymore.

The problem is that this is told from Granny Smith’s perspective, and the end seems to imply that Granny Smith has no friends, either – and indeed, that’s sort of where I thought it was going to go, something about Granny Smith and her lack of friends as an adult. And… it didn’t really end up going anywhere with that. It seems to be about Applejack.

Why is this told from the point of view of Granny Smith and not Applejack? If it is supposed to be about Applejack’s problem, might the emotional impact be greater from Applejack’s perspective?
#2 ·
· · >>Pascoite >>CoffeeMinion
I'll disagree here with >>TitaniumDragon about this story and its POV. Since this is Minific, we don't really have time to dwell on characters and emotions, we need to go straight to the point.
With that in mind, I believe that it's harder to empathize with children facing loss, because their emotions are harder to grasp, since they don't have a good grasp on them themselves. Thus, it requires time and word to understand who is the child, what is his character and how we can extrapolate a possible behavior from all of this.
With an adult, it's easier, especially with an adult in a situation like Granny Smith's. She is the only adult left to take care of three children of various ages. Thus, we expect the character to have or not have trouble handling the situation.
Besides, the emotionnal impact that can come from a story told from this POV is not lessen, because we can only imagine what the child is experiencing. Without a clear description, our imagination fills the blank, which makes it more efficient for me.

However, and despite what I've said, I still think you took the easy way. I don't blame you for that, and fortunately, you quickly erased my fear of a trope story about Pear Butter and Bright Mac's death and instead, you chose to focus on AJ trying to deal with this AND her friend who is becoming distant.
But, because there's always a butt to make things funnier, I think you took too long to jump on the conflict, which is AJ and Rara's friendship. Too many words are spent to establish a premice and they are a bit misleading, as I said.
#3 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion
This is strangely dark and... "appropriately" practical. I feels real, in the way the scene plays out. At the same time, it's not much of a story. It's a question with no answer, which... maybe that's enough. I think it'd be stronger though with more focus on family OR on friendship. AJ alone in her room debating with herself, OR Granny maybe showing how many ponies are nearby that obviously do care. Straddling that line feels like a weaker—though perhaps more realistic—take.
#4 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Nice quiet character piece. I really liked this. It feels like a departure from canon. Yes, they did eventually stop writing to each other, but the "mostly talks about herself" bit seems to be leading up to how she behaved as The Countess, yet in the episode, that change in her personality caught Applejack completely by surprise. It could use a tweak to get around that, and honestly, I'm not sure how you'd go about doing it. It might just end up having to be one of those smallish AU moments that you can get away with in stories at times.

I don't have a lot to say about this one. It's not that ambitious, but you don't have to write a blockbuster to generate a poignant moment, and this one does. It's rightly low-key, showing how the characters cope with what shouldn't be a low-key thing, at least not internally, but of course real people try to keep their composure. I like Granny's last line as a way to illustrate that, but I do think it could be tweaked some, as it makes her sound kind of callous. I mean, this is her son she's being dismissive of.

I expect this will finish pretty high from the quality and realism, but suffer a bit from it not being dramatic. As for me, I think you made the right choice, and despite its understatedness, I think it's memorable. It spent too long at the beginning for my taste, saying the same thing about Apple Bloom a couple of times. I do like this juxtaposition of what children versus adults are concerned about in this situation, and I'm going to agree with >>Fenton that using Granny as the perspective character is fine. It depends on whose conflict you want to show. Applejack's is a little more straightforward, and it's unresolved, which is what >>TitaniumDragon said, but saying you should have used AJ's perspective but complaining that her arc is incomplete... well, I think that right there justifies the use of Granny's viewpoint. Her arc is resolved even though the outcome isn't. She has to keep on keeping on, for everyone else's sake, while AJ gets the luxury of worrying about a distant friend.
#5 ·
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Genre: Applebuse

Thoughts: Agh, this is brutal. Poor Applejack. Like seriously Author, how can you kick a poor filly like this when she's down? You monster.

I kid, I kid. :-p Seriously though, this just drives a knife straight into the feels. I feel like the setup could be shorter, though... or maybe it's about as long as necessary to accomplish its goals, but in a minific contest, you don't really have the wordcount to burn on things like that. Also I think the ending could be more satisfying, though I'll defer to others for specific suggestions... but right now G-Smith pretty much just shrugs off this emotionally devastating little moment and gets on with things like nothing happened. I mean not quite but basically. It's not bad at all but I bet it could be tuned-up into something more satisfying.

Tier: Strong
#6 · 1
On tonight's very special episode of Doing Hurtful Things To Your Waifu Theatre, it's:

A Retrospective Asunder

Mai self-review (>>CoffeeMinion) pretty much sums up what I think this needs: a better/stronger resolution. I feel like this mostly worked at 750 words, as I tried to pick an idea that would truly fit within that limit and I only had to do a slight bit of sentence-jockeying to stay inside it. With that said, I'm pretty sure that rehydrating those few awkward sentences, plus adding a more fit conclusion, can get this up to 1000 without it feeling bloated.

(Oops, hit "post" before I was done...)
#7 · 2
...continuing with fresh post so people get noted...

I can see how a better wrap-up would make Granny's perspective pay off more. Thanks for commenting!

I agree that it's currently heavy on setup. Having more words on FimFiction to flesh the later bits out should help. Having a long description on FimFiction to help establish the context should also help.

I'm glad that this felt realistic. It's based loosely on a real experience I recently had with a now-former friend. It sucks because this sort of thing leaves lots of room for doubt about the friendship that came before. But in the context of this story, I think your thoughts about what Granny can offer are pretty apt; the Apple family is clearly pretty large, sprawling, and supportive, if not fully concentrated in or around Ponyville.

I've gotta say, it's awesome hearing this from you in a proverbial blind taste-test. ^^