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No Prompt! Have Fun! · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Tiny Planets
In the mountains, a city,
In the city, a mansion,
In the mansion, a school,
In the school, a hall,
In the hall…

… Witches!

There were twenty of them, twenty witches between eleven and twelve years of age, hunched at wooden desks arranged in a perfect square. It was night-time, wintertime: half past six on the twentieth of December, and the final exam before Christmas.

It was a very beautiful hall built for an especially beautiful mansion. The desks sat on a checkerboard floor beneath a ceiling lost halfway between the earth and the moon. Fixed to the walls were three dozen lanterns lit with flickering candles – enchanted candles, shining as brightly as electric lights.

Too brightly.

Sophie squinted at her paper. The letters danced across the page, and the air was thick with the worst kind of exam silence. She stole a glance at the clock.

“Sophie!” barked Mr Wormstrum from the head of the square. “Head down. Eyes on your work.”

Sophie’s stomach didn’t merely flip, but performed an entire routine which would have put top gymnasts to shame.

As it happened, Bernice, the year’s top gymnast, was sat to Sophie’s right and dashing off her answers with confident ease. To Sophie’s left was Alice Davis, top of the year-group – Maths, English, French, Art, Magical Theory, Potions, DT, PE, History… only in Performance Magic did Sophie best her, and even then, only just. She too scowled in concentration, her face an inch from her paper.

Whichever direction Sophie looked, her classmates were writing, and writing, and writing.

Top marks all around.

A-Plus, A-Star.


“Sophie Morgan! I won’t warn you again.”

With a gulp, Sophie forced herself to stare at her own work, at the first question printed near the top of the page. Describe three legal uses of animal transformation. Well, that was easy, even for a girl as uncertain of Magical Theory as herself. When rescue workers turn themselves into sniffer dogs; when performers transform for the stage and in movies; when doctors become mice for precision surgery.

Sophie saw the answers in her head. She could touch them. Feel them.

She couldn’t write them.

Her pen weighed too heavy in her hand, her forehead was too sweaty, her gaze too blurry, her insides raged with fire.

Scribble, scribble, went her classmates. Jot, jot, scrawl, scrawl.

Next question.

Describe, with examples, what Sophie’s parents will do to her when she fails her exams.

Sophie gasped and rubbed her eyes. When she looked again, the words had reformed themselves into a question on the proper use of Grand Mage Clancy’s Everlasting Fire. Yet the damage was done.

Describe, with examples.

Describe how they’ll disown her, disavow her, never speak to her again. A waste of a witch. A total washout. “To think of all the time we spent on you,” they’d say, “only to be beaten in every test by Alice Davis. We expected better from you, Sophie Morgan. We expected results.”

The scraping of her chair echoed in the hall. All eyes, for a moment, were drawn to her as she rose and said, “Sir? May I be excused for a moment?”

Mr Wormstrum frowned. “Absolutely not, Sophie. This is an exam, not a—”

“Sir, you don’t understand. I need to be excused.”

The silence thickened, silence dredged up from the deepest black of the ocean. Her heart pounded in the enormous quiet.

Describe, with examples, how much trouble Sophie Morgan is going to be in.

“Sit down, Sophie, and carry on with your work.”

“No! I… I…”

“Sir,” came a voice to Sophie’s right. It was Alice Davis, and her every word, every syllable, was proper and perfect. If the Oxford Dictionary could talk, it would have sounded like Alice. “Sir, I think Sophie needs a glass of water. She looks pale.”

“What Sophie needs, Alice, is to sit down and—”

“Nah, she’s right, sir,” Bernice added, and how Sophie wished she knew how to apply Viscount Henry’s Invisibility Theorem. “She don’t look too good. Ain’t that right, Soph? … Sophie?”

Sophie didn’t answer, she couldn’t, she just couldn’t – the hall rocked back and forth and her exam laughed at her, cackled, and the words writhed on the paper like black maggots, worms of ink. She couldn’t stay there. She couldn’t stay in that hall with the checkerboard floor, with that yawning ceiling that reached to the stars, and with nineteen other witches sat in enchanted candlelight, passing their exams, passing with ease.

“Sophie!” cried Mr Wormstrum. “Get back here!”

She ran across that floor, those tiles. She flew in the candlelight.


Out the door—

“Sophie Morgan!”

Through the corridors of the cold, old mansion. Little witch, alone. Little witch, miniature failure—


Without pausing, she bashed open the door into the western grounds: a vast field bordered on three sides by towering trees, through which glimmered the lights of the city, orange stars tangled in the branches. The field was white as the pages of her exam paper. Snow was falling. A chill wind blew, and a new strain of silence wrapped around her, snakelike – though not the toxic hush of the exam hall nor the granite-heavy stillness of teacher’s glare. No, this was a quiet painted in snowflakes, and coloured by the breath of the wind.

Sophie crouched against the wall.

She was alone.

She was astonishingly, breathtakingly alone, save for the thought of five generations of Morgans before her, looking down on her whilst shaking their heads and muttering, “Atrocious. Simply atrocious. Awful, abysmal, appalling. After all the money our family has donated to this school, and this is how you repay us?”

“I never even wanted to come here,” Sophie hissed to… her parents? Her grandparents, her great-great grandparents? The mansion, the snowfall, the stars in the trees?

Regardless, it was Mother who replied in her head. “You are a Morgan, Sophie, and Morgans keep cool under pressure. We are respectable. You running away reflects badly upon us all.”

“No it doesn’t. It has nothing to do with you guys.”

“On the contrary, it has everything to do with us. Failing here is just the beginning! Your results will define you, show the world who you truly are, and sculpt the path of your entire life. You should consider your next move very, very carefully, Sophie Morgan.”

Sophie bit her tongue to supress a sob. When she looked back up, she had only the winter’s breeze for company, mocking her for her skirt, her thin sweater and prim tidy shoes. Her socks were soaked. Her cheeks were wet – though not from the snowfall – and her nose ran bitterly. To call her hair messy was to say that the night a trifle cold, or that the wind was a bit nippy.

Despite all this, Sophie didn’t dare wander from her black corner in the western grounds of the mansion. Surely it was better to remain huddled in the dark then face Mr Wormstrum.

How clearly she saw him in her mind! How vividly she heard him! “Lazy, unexceptional, unfit to call herself a witch,” she imagined him saying to the headmistress. “Can’t even sit through a simple Magical Theory exam without bursting into tears. Expel her. Send her to Performance Magic school and be done with it.”

“Performance Magic?”
said Sophie’s mother, slinking into the conversation. It was easy to picture her curled lip, along with the faint look of disgust that would have soured her face. Sophie hugged her knees against her chest. “Mark my words, no daughter of mine will ever forge a career from Performance Magic of all things. The very idea of it! The cheek, the nerve! Scandalous.”

Sophie breathed deeply in and deeply out, and there was fire in her blood. Actual fire: concentrated magic fuelled by her anger, powered by her heart.

Who cared about some stupid Magical Theory exam? What use was it, who needed it? Not her. All her life, she had wanted to perform on stage. All her life, she had been denied this, from her cancelled ballet class when she had been four years old, all the way up to Father insisting that she sing in the choir in each and every nativity play. “Studies first, play later,” he always said, though sometimes mother would scowl at him and add, “No, Sophie, your father’s wrong. Study first and then study later. No time for play.”

Sophie clenched her knees tighter. She didn’t notice, but the magic burned stronger in her, and the snow began to melt around her toes…

Mother and Father didn’t understand, they didn’t get it, they couldn’t get it. They couldn’t grasp that performance wasn’t just play to her, but as essential as breathing, as important as food and drink and sleep! No play? It was like telling her to choose between living, or ripping out her beating heart from her chest. It was as simple as that, and that was the truth. Life was a stage. She was simply a performer in it.

Who else in her class – and the thought made smile a little – would have had the nerve to run out of an exam?

“You’re wrong, Mother,” she whispered fiercely, because it felt important to say it out loud. “My exams don’t tell me who I am. I already know who I am, and the path I’m going to take.”

Rage scorched through her bloodstream. She had… she had to do something, anything. Anything but just sit there waiting to be caught. Something to remind herself of who she was. Something to remind herself that she was worth more than an F in an exam.

So she reached down, and with the tip of her finger she drew a line in the snow. A line of fire.

Sophie’s eyes widened. There was magic she was good at and magic she was not: creating fresh flowing water came easily to her, for instance, as did making sunlight shine from her fingers, and conjuring up clouds of stardust, which would shimmer in the air for hours at a time. Primary school magic. Useful for performing – though of course, her usual audience consisted of her stuffed animals whilst locked in her bedroom. Otherwise, spells like these belonged firmly in the realm of four and five year olds learning how to control their powers, alongside their two times tables and how to write their own names. Baby magic.

Fire eluded her. Fire was magical energy in its purest form, the spark of new life drawn from deep within the heart of the witch or wizard casting it. Fire was the mark of a true master! So no kid’s parlour trick was this, but something even most grown-ups struggled with – Sophie had never been able to produce so much as a puff of smoke, yet here it was, as real as any mouse or teacup Alice Davis had ever conjured up in class. A snake of flame burning in the snow, fed by the rage of her own heart…

Sophie stood up, trembling. She hadn’t realised how hot she felt, how sweaty her jumper was. So although the wind blew chilly and the snow fell heavier, she yanked off the jumper, rolled up her shirt sleeves, then looked over the field.

Except it was no longer a field.

It was the blank back page of a forgotten exam paper. It was a sheet from a sketch book, a canvas, a screen, an empty space yearning, oh begging to be filled. It was a void overflowing with possibilities, a hundred thousand of them, a million, a billion-trillion! The field was a stage, and most of all, it was hers. For one night and one night only – and Sophie felt it with her bones – it belonged to herself and to nobody else.

Describe, with examples, how much more fun it is to laugh and dance and dash through the snow, than be stuck inside failing an exam.

It wasn’t joy that burned through the young witch as she rushed across the field, laughing for the first time since summer. It wasn’t even relief, nor bliss, for with every jump and bound, her stomach churned with the terror that she might be expelled, and the thought of her parents sighing and shaking their heads. Already, she expected to find her bags packed and her bunk made. She pictured Mother and Father waiting in the Roles-Royce in front of the mansion. She imagined Mother tapping her foot, glancing at her watch.

Let them wait.

Let them fume in silence, because happy or not, scared, frightened, angry, fearful, Sophie had work to do and a whole world to make. A place where she wouldn’t waste time failing exams; where she had so many friends it became impossible to keep count; where her parents listened to her, understood her, respected the fires of her heart.

Scooping a fistful of snow, Sophie tossed it high above her head and froze it in place. It hung suspended in mid-air, held up by nothing whatsoever, a magical, floating snowball.

She grinned at it. Was it instinct that guided her? Somehow, she didn’t think so, for it felt… deeper. More complicated than primal, and more unexpected than simple instincts.

Ever since nursery, levitation had given her trouble. But as with the fire, it was as though that, really, she had always known how to do it, yet that it had never clicked into place before now. The knowledge had been buried under the weight of parent’s wishes, and beneath a flood of exams, and tests, and lessons, and the frowns of a dozen teachers telling her that she was doing everything wrong, wrong, wrong. “Not like that, Sophie Morgan, like this. Why don’t you listen for once? Why don’t you concentrate?”

But she had been listening. The problem was, sometimes, things moved too fast for her, and she wasn’t given the time to catch up.

Not tonight.

Tonight, the sky was cloudy but her mind was clear, and she knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

Closing her eyes, Sophie stood still and took a huge breath, and then flames rose from her fingertips, wrapping around the suspended snowball until it became a miniature sun burning in the night. To begin with, it was the size of her fist, and then her head; by the time she was done, it was larger than her whole body. The white field turned golden. The tumbling snowflakes were caught in the light of the tiny sun, so that they resembled fireflies blown about in the solar wind.

Sophie opened her eyes and laughed and beamed, and her smile was as bright as her makeshift star. “Hah!” she went, punching her fist in the air – a highly un-Morgan thing to do. “I did it!”

But she wasn’t finished yet, for like the rising swell of an orchestra, Sophie felt she was merely getting started. This performance had been building inside of her for… for months, ever since her arrival here. For years. Ever since the day she had realised that being a Morgan carried certain responsibilities, and with a dark galaxy of expectations.

Her worries melted away like the snow beneath her sun, leaving behind only laughter and dancing – for indeed, she was dancing, to the music of her heart, the rhythm of her joy. She tossed more snowballs in the air, two, four, six of them, and as the dance continued, each one became a tiny planet orbiting her sun, each a tiny gesture of defiance against the wishes of her parents. The one closest to the sun, she coated in rock, which she summoned from out of thin air. Another she blanketed in water and clouds, and the furthest one out became a stardust planet, cloaked in the sparkling magic she had always been so fond of conjuring.

However, it was the third planet, her Earth, to which she paid the most attention. First she covered the floating snowball in layer after layer of dirt, until for sheer size, the planet rivalled her sun – layer after layer, the dirt simply appeared with a wave of her hand, a flick of her wrist, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Next came grass, followed by mounds of earth like the smallest mountains in existence, and trickles of water to represent streams and rivers. Trees came next – trees the size of matchsticks, with leaves so small that Sophie would have needed a microscope to make them out individually. Then with a twirl of her feet and a laugh and a giggle, she formed ice caps that she could cover with the palm of her hand; clouds like clumps of wool; oceans like puddles; bright yellow deserts; brilliant rainforests; plains, savannahs, the tundra; and towards the poles, ribbons of vivid green and red and crimson billowing in the sky, the miniscule auroras of her teeny tiny Earth! And then—

“Sophie! What are you doing?!”

Sophie yelped, almost tripping over herself in the snow. Steadying herself, she saw both Alice and Bernice running through the snowfall.

Slowing, walking, then creeping…

Then gazing open-mouthed at the solar system in the western grounds, with its baby sun and six petite planets, and lovingly crafted Second Earth. It was Bernice who spoke first.

“Dude. Just… dude.

“It’s ingenious,” Alice gasped, reaching a hand towards Sophie’s sun. “It’s a subset of Grand Mage Clancy’s Everlasting Fire! Except somehow you’ve contained it to burn within the confines of… I’m guessing it’s a variation on the Standard Cambridge Spell Nexus? Sophie, dear, however did you do it?”

I did what now? Sophie wanted to ask. But she bit her tongue, for suddenly it dawned on her how thick the snow was, how cold the wind blew. She was freezing. She was dressed in a skirt and school shirt, and this was coldness like she had never known – to be tossed into the North Sea in nothing but pyjamas would have been warmer! Thank goodness for Bernice taking off her sweater and wrapping it around her chest.

And she was tired. Drained. Give her a blanket and pillow, and before having the chance to wish her goodnight, Sophie would have passed out, fast asleep.

But worst of all was the slimy creeping feeling winding around her insides, chocking her stomach, making her heart beat and thump until it was painful. Sophie gulped, unsure of whether she wanted an answer to her question. “Um… sh-shouldn’t you two be in the exam?”

“After the way Mr Wormstrum spoke to you?” said Bernice. She rolled her eyes. “Pur-leeease! Some things are more important than exams, Soph.”

“You mean you just walked out?!”

“In a word,” said Alice. “Mr Wormstrum was very reluctant to let us join the other teachers looking for you – they’re all over the place by the way. We won’t be alone for long, I shouldn’t wonder, not with that sun of yours shining. But then… well, it’s like Bernice said. I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

Sophie wrapped Bernice’s sweater around herself as tightly as possible. Though right then, she suspected that the winter wind had little to do with how cold she felt. “Aren’t you worried you’ll fail?”

Sophie almost missed it: for the briefest moment, Alice’s smile faltered, and such a wave of guilt and misery crashed into Sophie that her knees buckled, and she nearly collapsed in the snow again. Alice was worried. Top of the year-group, Year Seven’s genius in residence! Of course she was worried… yet here she was, standing in the snow on a freezing December night, all to help remind a girl she scarcely spoke to that she wasn’t alone, and that there was no shame in being a failure.

In three months, Sophie had made the barest effort to get to know her classmates. For three months, she had tried to keep up in class, whilst dreaming of a life beyond the walls of the mansion, where she could be anything she wanted.

Some things were more important than exams. Following her own path was one of those things.

What else was there?

Shivering, Sophie smiled at Alice Davis, and was strangely relieved when Alice Davis smiled back…

Bernice, meanwhile, was less concerned with the prospect of failure. “Are you saying that I should’ve stayed inside and missed this?” she said, gesturing at the solar system. “And you were dancing and everything, it was wicked, Soph! We already knew you were good at Performance Magic, but we’ve been sharing a dorm for months, now. Why didn’t you tell us you were this good?”

“I… I didn’t know…”

And that was the truth. She had buried it so deeply inside of herself that she hadn’t known what she was capable of, of what she could do, of how far she could push her imagination.

Bernice grabbed her left hand; Alice grabbed her right. And as the snow fell, the three witches shared a smile, even as the door to the grounds bashed open behind them. They heard teachers call their names. They giggled as they heard Mr Wormstrum cry, “Fire! Fire in the grounds! Sound the alarm!”

A few seconds later, the alarm rang, and Sophie, Alice, and Bernice turned around to face their fate.

Meanwhile, six miniature planets orbited a tiny star in a field by a school…

A school in a mansion…

A mansion in a city…

A city in the mountains…

They were still there when Sophie’s parents picked her up the next morning.

They were still there when she was allowed to return the following term, along with her two new friends and fresh hope blazing in her heart. Hope that, this year, she could choose her own path.
« Prev   12   Next »
#1 · 2
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
So, let’s do this:

12. Tiny Planets

Oh, a school of witches. This looks like a story for my daughter. :P

Is the setup of the hall that important?

the air was thick with the worst kind of exam silence. Nice touch

doctors become mice for precision surgery. What?

Disjointed sentences are a bit tedious to trudge through. It’s very choppy.

To call her hair messy was to say that the night a trifle cold, or that the wind was a bit nippy. Missing a word here, and well, I think there’s no need to rub it in further after all you already described. You might’ve a bit teensy-weensy overboard here.

Despite all this, Sophie didn’t dare: “didn’t dare” or “durstn't”? :P

…and the thought made smile a little…: another missing ‘her’

Okay. It’s a bit tricky to review. I’d say it’s a nice take on the emotive part of every teenager, and maybe every adult that keeps being revolted. And, yes, sometimes you can pull off things you’ve always thought you wouldn’t be able to accomplish, just because of the rage you feel inside of you. However, the way you contrast things is sometimes confusing: you say her thoughts are clear, but at the same time you say the opposite. She acts instinctively, but it all seems part of a rationale. That left me a bit confused. And you keep rambling on the hate she feels for her family, even after we’ve gotten the point very clearly. Also, the staff is really slow at finding her—and I would expect a witch to be able to cast some sort of lock spell to avoid Sophie running away in the first place (or another type of spell to find her).

Overall, it’s a maybe slightly too stretched, but very intimate story. I don’t know if you wanted to let some of your frustrations seep into it, but it somehow looks like you did. And, well, you’re probably English, so that narrows pretty well the guessing range.

I’m sorry I can’t get more specific on the narrative side. I wish someone more skilful than me will review your story, Bradel, for example.
#2 · 2
· · >>Bradel >>Lucky_Dreams
I think this story may have a few flaws in that there's some repetition in the narrative, and some of the reactions feel over the top (particularly before you give the background on family/Performance Magic that helps explain and rationalize Sophie's behavior a lot better). But this story ultimately succeeds for me in making me feel some genuine joy at Sophie's achievements, and that's a really great accomplishment. I think I ultimately enjoyed this story more than some of the highly polished literary fiction style stories also in the writeoff, because you capture some heart and emotion with the setting. (and make me interested in more)

The one thing I would lose is the ending, particularly the last couple of sentences. Sophie is your star. Stick close to her and her experience and this day, and your lasting impression will be more poignant.
#3 · 4
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
It led in with an unusual hook with pleasant shades of whimsy, though one that didn’t seem particularly connected to the story.

So, running out on a test was cringeworthy for me. I had some trouble empathizing; my fortune at being someone who generally tests well, I suppose. Then that WHACK was rather jarring - I kept wanting to read it as her running into something, rather than slamming a door open.

Once she got out into the field though, the story was engrossing. I loved the detail there, and her energy was infectious. If there were mechanical issues, I read over them.

I dug the narrative voice on this one. Irreverent, ebullient, a little bit poetic; it complemented the story well. There were a couple times where I felt it went too far (the stomach routine comes to mind), but those were the exception, rather than the rule.

I also liked the use of repetition; how you echoed and twisted the exam themes into later parts of the story.

Unfortunately, it was weaker once the focus moved off of Sophie. Her classmates felt shallow; granted they didn’t have much time, but they still seemed rather similar to each other. Beyond that, while this story showed a really fun scene, I never got much of the sense of it being a part of a larger, living and breathing world.

In general, though, this story was firing on all cylinders for me, and I quite enjoyed it.
#4 · 3
· · >>Bradel >>Lucky_Dreams
There's a lot:

To like here--I especially like how the opening leads us in. But once I got in, I found myself anticipating every step the story was going to take. I'll even admit to skipping lines and even paragraphs sometimes just so I could get to the next story beat that I knew was coming up.

The writing's very pretty, but it's a story that's been told many, many times. We don't need so much of it devoted to the disapproval of the authority figures in her life, for instance: less is more in that sort of situation, I've found, and it starts getting a little repetitious. Come up with something that makes Sophie's situation unique, something about the problem here that can only apply to this character in this place, and focus on that. If you were to ask for my advice, that is... :)

#5 · 3
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
I'm using horizon's HORSE rating system, which you can learn more about here.

12 – Tiny Planets

I like the start. As of the exclamation point, though, I have to say I'm really hoping for some Terry Pratchett type fun here.

This moves at a really good clip through the first couple pages. Breezy text, wonderful to read.

Sorry, Author, but I'm not going to have a whole lot of comments on this one. That's what you get for being entertaining. That said, I feel like the bit about fire as advanced magic could use a little foreshadowing. You're having an event happen and then you're telling us after the fact why it's important instead of building that in on the front end so that we can recognize when Sophie creates fire that this is a really big deal. The moment should have a lot of emotional impact, the way you've got it set up—but you're having to backfill that impact with a post-hoc explanation, which bleeds the feeling dry.

Thoroughly enjoyable throughout—though part of me feels like the quality of the writing is almost a crutch here, because I'm really not sure what to think about the conflict in this story. Sophie feels beaten down by the weight of expectations, so she abandons her exam and... discovers that she's always had the power to make her dreams come true? I remember people mentioning in the comments on "Just Do It" that the conflict seemed to resolve without any real struggle or learning of lessons. I feel like that's perhaps even truer here than there. Honestly, this is a wonderful read and I really enjoyed it. But I can't get over feeling like it's sort of thematically hollow once you scratch past the surface.

HORSE: ▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉
TIER: Almost There
#6 · 2
Reading through the responses of other commenters, I find myself disagreeing a little bit with many of them—though honestly I think I'm wrong and they're right. The bits of repetition (like the constant appearance of her mother) didn't bother me a whole lot, though I think that's because the writing was doing so much work pulling me through the story. I liked a lot of the family expectations background, but I think >>Baal Bunny is right that you could probably pull back from it a bit as the story goes on and use different context to flesh out the world and story better, instead of going to the same well so often.

Similarly, >>Ferd Threstle's comments on over the top reactions didn't really hit me, but again I suspect this may be a product of the writing pulling me through so well. I think you managed to write a story that's pretty awesomely targeted at my weak spot (clean, transparent prose), to the point where you really got me to skip past things I mightn't have liked. That's pretty awesome, honestly—to be able to do that for part of your audience. But I think it's probably worth listening to folks who don't seem to have gotten quite so engaged so you can see where you're missing them as well, and try to turn this into a thing that's going to give everyone the sort of ride it gave me.
#7 · 3
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
I know I'm a bit late to the party, but although I don't have a story of my own in the running, I wanted to leave some reviews anyway. Let's get going.

I like the way the point of view zoomed in, and the "Witches" came at just the right spot to deliver some sort of hook, even without an immediate conflict in sight.

There are a few hiccups like:

As it happened, Bernice, the year’s top gymnast, was sat to Sophie’s right and dashing off her answers with confident ease.

... where you stumbled into the passive voice (just shifting the 'was' to infront of 'dashing' would get rid of that), or

Sophie breathed deeply in and deeply out

... but other than that, the writing was evocative and enjoyable to read.

The close POV to the protagonist was a great tool to make this angsty teenager relatable, but there was at least one instance where you stumbled out of this by adding some 'without her noticing'. I'd personally have avoided POV shifts like that throughout the piece.

I agree with Bradel that the justification-after-the-fact with the fire was a detriment to the story. It seemed forced and the lengthy explanation robbed the scene of much of its momentum.

As for the stories message, I like the anti-authoritarian vibe, but I fear I can't really agree with the "Power of Passion" as it is portrayed. In the story, getting in touch with her passion for performance magic turns her into some kind of savant and gives her superior powers -- I've seen this happen more than once in stories, and what it does is lead people to believe that when they find their passion in live, they're going to be good at it, and that if they're not good from the get-go, it can't be their passion.

The more my life advances and the more things I try, the more I've come to think that passion is the only thing that can keep one from throwing in the towel, and putting in the necessary work to get good, but there's nothing truly magical about it.
#8 · 1
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
starts with a bang!

but that bang fades off gradually. it was enjoyable throughout, but as the story unfolded it seemed like it missed many opportunities to do something inventive or poignant. not a total deal-breaker; I kept reading thanks to the excellent writing quality carrying the story on its back.

Sophie might be coming back, but my imagination won't.

Maybe that sounds too harsh. I liked it, but I won't remember it. but if the story could match the strength of this writing, who knows what might happen.....
#9 · 1
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
Out of my collection, this one topped the list at an A+. One of the marks of a good story is the way it can gallop across the page and entrance you into reading faster and faster until you hit the end like a brick. There may have been technical flaws in it which I missed, but missing them while reading is an indicator of how tight the story held me. Nice play on the POV character being based on 'Sophia' (Greek for 'Wisdom') by the way.
#10 · 2
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
This has an excellent opening, and the descriptions are beautiful throughout.

I think this: "December night, all to help remind a girl she scarcely spoke to that she wasn’t alone, and that there was no shame in being a failure." was the core of the story? And it's not a bad one. However, everything here seems to come in very linearly, with little interleaving and callback; it doesn't support itself nearly as well as it might. I don't know if that makes a whole lot of sense, but... I'm not sure I have a better way to say it. A touch of recursion or foreshadowing is what I think would make the most improvement here, I guess.

At the very least, introducing her fears and pressures more strongly before we get to dancing letters would keep me from concluding this is going to be a story about dyslexia in spellcasting.
#11 · 3
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
Do you believe in magic? In a young girl’s heart? This story made me believe it. It’s a great spinoff to the usual wizard and witches scenes we’ve come to known *COUGH* HARRY POTTER! This story features a much smaller prestigious school meant as a means for young casters to learn how to handle magic. While at the same time acts like a normal middle school that teaches the basics of modern society. We find ourselves within the mind of a troubled student. Contemplating her difficulties on her life choices and her current path towards growing up. It is a touching little piece that should light a spark in your heart. Believe in the magic that will set you free. And no I’m not sorry.

This was something I could totally dig into the story and just bathe in it. The scene work and the quality of how the scenery was thought out fit so well in my head. Maybe a certain movie is to blame for it, but everything in my head popped out vividly. Even with the description on the planets at the ending or the way the magic seemed to look like when casted. It’s a beautifully thought out world. From the classrooms to the snowy fields. It gave just enough insight to experience what the characters had experienced while taking in these scenes. My main problem though, is that it felt like it came from somewhere already. Like we’ve seen it all before. Almost a little too easily to trust it completely. And the descriptions just seemed to not feel right to go along with the wonderful atmosphere.

This story was so easy to just dive into and lose yourself. While I’m not a bit fan of magic stories (LAIR! You watch MLP!). This story was just so well done on it’s immersion that I came to love the whole idea of this story. In the end we see a burst of skill and talent come from the heart of a young child. To create a wonderful effect of magic in a creative display. It doesn’t deal too much with the magic in the story, but along the lines of it’s dramatic relationships with parents, teachers, and fellow students. You get a sense of sympathy for Sophie as we’ve all come to experience classes going through big tests and having to go through things in life that we feel like wasn’t intended for us. It used basic simple means in the events to connect with it’s audience. This story read like a wooden match for me. Lit up with a small spark of the tip and suddenly turning into a burning flame at the end as things escalated to a grand display of magic. What did turn the captivation off, and quite often. Was the strange details not adding up properly. We have a proper setting, world, character choice, and background. What we didn’t get was a good explanation of these details. As they moved about in the story from the intro to Sophie’s fears coming alive or her running away and feeling the cold air more comforting than the stuffy classroom. The environment was place accordingly. But the intial reactions and feelings felt like a foul ball here.

I’m sorry but the one thing making my face scrunch up was the way the writer tries to put things in detail. I love detail, but relating a dreaded deadly snake to the loving cold embrace of a freedom filled snowbank just didn’t fit. I would have used “Winter’s chilling arms” or “icy veil” And this is just one example. Another is Sophie’s paperwork laughing at her but also resembling ink worms? Was it a face or did the letters come alive to scatter along her desk in resistance to her efforts? These, and others, just didn’t fit together and at times just immediately broke the immersion factor of your story. Which it’s easy to fall in love with it and get lost in this magical world. I think just taking a bit more time to look over a bit of your interpretation of things would benefit you greatly.

-Minor Characters
To tell you the truth. I could barely grasp the minor characters at all in the story. They’re mentioned and make one or two lines before being completely cut off in the story. Sophie’s friends feel like they really didn’t have an impact at all. Mr. Wrumstrum must also be a horrible teacher to not be able to catch one little girl. It’s also very strange how everyone in the end flocked to her as if on queue. Why did it take the teachers so long to find Sophie? Most teachers would have followed the student and brought them back in class or ended up having a buddy escort her out. What about Sophie’s parents? I wanted to get to know them more. What were their motives? Why did they always want to be hurtful in their own senses. Even Harry’s family had a reason to hate him, judging him to be something unholy and dangerous to mankind due to being a wizard. Where was the reasoning behind these characters actions? Alice had little to no reason to join Sophie and the other girl felt barely like a friend.

I need to point this out. Some of the actions make no sense. Again as with the teachers leaving Sophie for what felt like 30 minutes. The whole school searching for her and some physics in the story. Like I said the characters supporting Sophie seem to only torment her and then right one queue end up just being there. This needs to be more realistic to be entertaining. It just doesn’t feel natural for people to act this way in accordance to one character. Sophie felt catered to in this story, forcing the entire spotlight on her. Minor characters can make an even greater effect if you include them in the show as well. Keep that in mind. Another thing peeving me is the way Sophie just grew magic talent out of thin air, literally! The size of the mini-sun’s fire should have been way more intense to handle and I didn’t seem to feel it. The weight of having to use such complex spells didn’t have a strain on Sophie. Leaving nothing but a chill from the end of it all? Also the dancing just didn’t seem to come into my head. How was she dancing? Was she dancing along with the globes? Did she dabble her fingers across each one twirling her arms around in curls to augment these planets? I just didn’t feel the ending. I read it and understood it. Therefore logically I knew the lesson. It just didn’t seem to stick with what it felt like it was missing.

This story is one for the books. It was classy without being complex. It was touching without having to have a major relationship. It reminds us what we need to do for ourselves. That we should continue doing what we love, no matter what people say or think. Much like how we continue to write and love MLP. Forget the ones who choose to hate and waste their own time and energy. Spend yours on something that makes you smile and makes life better for “you” not for them. It’s all we can do. And this story signifies these things in a 10-15 minute read, without having to hide it behind some weird ending or some cliffhanger. I loved this one and I know this writer with continue to get better. Bravo!
#12 · 2
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
A young witch flees from the crushing pressure of her exam to go out and do some Performance Magic in a snowstorm.

This had some nice writing to it but the frame story here was very much something I’ve seen before. This story is meant to evoke wonder and joy, but frankly, I’ve been here before. I’ve seen this thing before.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but it is just the same story I’ve seen many times with a new skin put over it. Here and there I can see the metal bits of the frame poking out, familiar and sturdy as ever.
#13 · 1
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
12 – Tiny Planets

This is pretty well-written, in a bouncy kids' book sort of way, but that's all that can be said for it. It's another one of those empty stories: Girl in magic theory exam sucks at magic theory, but it's okay because she's good at performance magic. Yay! But … so what?

The main character is a two-dimensional vehicle for the message of follow your dreams. The supporting cast are less than that. They line up under one of two labels: Mean Adults and Supportive Peers. The world consists of the magic school and very little else. The author gifts the character with everything she really wanted in the first place, without making her struggle for it. And, well, that's it.
#14 · 2
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
Add me to the chorus, author, of readers finding this story pretty and vivid but ultimately hollow. I guess it's that Sophie's victory feels unearned — we pick up her tale just in time to learn that she's terrible at theory before she flees class and demonstrates talent that has the theory-savvy kids dropping their jaws. I'm not sure I can buy that it was being pushed to her breaking point that somehow unlocked these amazing skills in her, or that she can do things that the other characters react to as being so far outside the boundaries of established magical rules. I know that using this term opens a giant can of worms, but that sort of amazing power out of nowhere feels to me like Mary Sue-ism.

It's possible that this might have started too close to the end. Laying down the groundwork for the way that she's clearly got talent but is struggling to express it within the boundaries set out for her parents might make that discovery in the snow feel more natural That might also let you deepen the interplay between Sophie and her fellow students, which feels sort of undefined right now: clearly Alice at least is already sticking up for her, but Sophie's internal monologue just paints her as a sort of distant Sunset Shimmer-like queen bee, and I was hoping to see more of their relationship before the big turn of the climax.

This definitely could be in TC territory with a wider focus, or less deus ex machina in the character arc. It's worth reading even now as a string of moments, and that scene in the snow is certainly as vivid as all get-out, but right now it doesn't live up to its full potential. Middle slate, and read my rating as "Top Contender with big flaws holding it back".

Tier: Solid
#15 · 1
· · >>Lucky_Dreams
I love this story so much. Seriously. Your prose is just... I usually detest the overuse of exclamation points in narration, y'know? But here, it just worked so damn well! This is amazing!

Top of my slate!
#16 · 3
>>Monokeras >>Ferd Threstle >>Ratlab >>Baal Bunny >>Bradel >>wYvern >>Haze >>georg >>Not_A_Hat >>Remedyfortheheart >>TitaniumDragon >>Scramblers and Shadows >>horizon >>Dubs_Rewatcher

Thank you to everyone for such brilliant reviews! I swear, the feedback on this website is second to none.

This was something which dates back from around September 2014 or something? It was supposed to be for a collaboration with Wanderer D which unfortunately never made past a few private messages on fimfiction (though to be clear, the idea is 100% my own). It then spent the next year-and-a-half or so in limbo, in that I liked the basic concept enough that I didn’t forget about it, but at the same time, I wasn’t taken enough with it that I could ever be bothered to actually sit down and develop it beyond the initial spark.

Then that prompt happened, and I was like… well. Let’s get it done once and for all.

And I’m glad that I did, if mainly because Sophie came as a complete surprise to me. I went into this having absolutely no idea whatsoever of her backstory or sort of character she was (which I think was the main reason that the plotline ended up feeling both disjointed and on-rails at the exact same time? Sorry everyone. It did cross my mind as I was writing it, and I completely agree with all the comments that brought it up. It’s one million percent understandable why some of you weren’t so keen on this -_-). And I assumed that once this story was done then that’d be it for her, but darn it, I haven’t enjoyed writing about a new character so much in ages! Even if she does need work done to make her more distinct and original. I’ve been coming up with ideas for her ever since finishing this, so I don’t think this’ll be the last of Sophie.

As for what happens next with this particular story? I’m not entirely certain yet to be honest. But I’m very tempted to rework it as fanfiction – I’ve had so much wonderful advice that it’d be a shame to see it go to waste.

Oh yeah, and congrats to Dubs_Rewatcher, Cold in Gardez, and Baal Bunny. In fact, congratulations to all of the finalists, and even most of the stories that didn’t make it past the prelims. I know it’s already been said, but this was such a strong round.