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The Twilight Zone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
The Tirek Zone
Set in Starlight’s Tirekverse

Twilight Sparkle forced her unwilling body to rise into a sitting position. “Did Tirek… win?” She glanced beyond her cage, taking in all of Tartarus around her. The Princesses’ spire was off to the right, and Discord’s was to her left.

“Yes! And Discord betrayed us!” bawled Rainbow Dash as she cried in the corner.

“That good-for nothing traitor!” Rarity muttered with a snort.

“What in Equestria do ya think got into him? Why, turnin’ tail on your friends like that should be a crime against ponykind!” lamented Applejack as she placed the back of her hoof on her head.

Pinkie Pie grunted as she strained at the bars. “Could somepony give me a hoof here? These bars are stuck tighter than… molasses in a… pigpen—no wait, tighter than a… shoot. They’re stuck real tight!”

“I wish I could help cheer you all up. I’m sorry I’m not very good at it,” said Fluttershy as she glanced at the balloons on her flank. “At least not since, you know—”

“And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times,” Twilight said. “I’m sorry I can’t fix you all.”

I’m the one whose magic doesn’t work right,” blurted Rarity. “What’s your excuse, Miss Always-Good-With-Magic?”

“First, I was not always good with magic.”

“You’re Celestia’s private pupil! What do you mean, ‘not always good with magic’?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I only became Celestia’s pupil a year after I started at the school. You want to know what happened that first year? They almost made me retake magic kindergarten! If it weren’t for Dash’s Rainboom—”

“Please don’t pull me into this argument,” whimpered Rainbow. “I don’t like arguments.”

“Yes, Twilight, I know that whole story. The fact that I got mine late for my age makes it kind of hard for me to forget. I just thought, you know, I’d be keeping it!”

“I said I was sorry!”

“Words are cheap, Twilight! What did you do!

“I—I didn’t.”

“Well why not?”

“It wasn’t like I was mentally or emotionally stable! My assistant Owlowiscious wasn’t exactly much help. Besides, I’m a nervous wreck when it comes to things that are out of my control! You know that first year in magic kindergarten? I had a massive panic attack over the winter break when I got my grades back! I didn’t eat for three days straight!” she said as tears blurred her vision. “I’m not whole, Rarity! I’m—I’m broken! Broken and scared and useless—”

“And hurting,” interjected Applejack. “Yer breathin’ fast again, darlin’.”

Twilight stopped to realize that her breaths had become shallow and her heart was pounding. The whole world felt hostile towards her and she felt the urge to create some distance between her and the others. She spied an unoccupied corner and rose to her hooves. Her steps faltered, and her knees gave way just moments later.

“Careful, Twilight,” Pinkie said, catching Twilight just in time. “Don’t go hurting yourself, now.”

Fluttershy was beside her a moment later. “Please, Twilight, don’t be sad.”

“I—I don’t want to,” she stammered between breaths. “I just want—None of you are right—And the whole world is—”

“Just lie down, Twilight,” Pinkie instructed.

“See if you can’t go to sleep,” Fluttershy advised.

“Yes…. Sleep sounds… good.”

Twilight closed her eyes and surrendered to Fluttershy’s wing hug as her breaths began to come more easily.

Discord’s lonely days stretched into weeks, and weeks into months, each moment as uneventful as the last. Every so often, Rainbow Dash might call across the chasm to him, but he ignored her. When Fluttershy would call to him, he would flatten his ears and turn his back, not knowing what to feel towards her. But when Twilight would try to talk with him, he would shout back angrily at the unicorn who took Fluttershy as he knew her away from him.

It was immediately after one such shouting match that Discord suddenly felt a magical imbalance, as if more alicorn magic had appeared somewhere in the world. He instinctively glanced towards the spire holding the alicorns, but all three were accounted for. A moment later, the imbalance shifted again, and the alicorn magic vanished. Yet something previously unnoticed still remained. It appeared to his sixth sense as a tendril, a root sprung up from the Tree of Harmony. The alicorn might have spent mere seconds in his world, but that table remained.
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#1 ·
#2 · 3
I don't think you need the note at the beginning, personally. All the information you need to figure it out is in the story.

To me, this feels like the intro to a story about Discord figuring out how to fix his world, which is a pretty dang neat concept.
#3 · 1
I like this quite a lot! I feel like it is a bit odd that the first part is entirely Twilight's point of view, while the second is entirely Discord's. I wonder if it wouldn't work better to write the first part from an observing Discord rather than follow Twilight so closely.
#4 · 2
Why are their cutie marks switched? Wasn't that Magical Mystery Cure, not the Tirek episode? So is the implication that Twilight never fixed her friends, so she never became princess, so she didn't have the power to stop Tirek? That seems a bit convoluted to me.
#5 · 1
I'm not familiar with "Starlight's Tirekverse", so I'm not sure if I'd understand this story better if I were. (EDIT: Oh. I thought it was the name of some fanfic setting. Turns out, you referred to one of Starlight Glimmer's canon alternate timelines. Frankly, I don't think you even needed to name it specifically, seeing as Twilight's very first line establishes the setting.)

Anyway, this feels a bit... lacking. Ponies sit around and argue, and nothing really comes out of it. Their conversation is somewhat hard to follow, too; I felt like I was out of the loop, what with all the subtly different canon events. I'm also not sure what you meant by Twilight "taking Fluttershy away" from Discord.

Actually, the setting is the most interesting and potentially promising part of the story. Instead of having the characters angst aloud for the entire story, you could describe their lives in Tartarus, write about what's been happening in Equestria, describe their daily relationships with each other, etc.
#6 · 3
I should warn you, if this doesn’t involve Tirek stealing Rod Serling’s narrator powers, I’m going to be disappointed. ;)

Oof. That was a very rough way to introduce the setting. Frankly, you didn’t need it at all. Trust the story and your readers a little more in the future. (In fact, for a moment, I also thought you were referring to some AU I wasn't familiar with.)

As for the story itself, it’s certainly an interesting concept, but you do very little with it. By the time anything actually happens, the story’s over. Plus, the idea of the Mane Six getting together and more or less recapitulating their normal roles feels like something of a wasted opportunity. An offshoot timeline means a chance for a whole new cast to step forward into the spotlight (and fail, given how this is the Tirek Triumphant timeline, but the point stands.)

Basically, this was a case of misprioritization. The interesting bits were with Discord and what he might do with the Cutie Map, but you overemphasized the past rather than the future. I hope this serves as a learning experience for a revised version of the story and your future efforts.
#7 · 1
This mostly left me confused. The intro line sounded like the name of a particular fan 'verse. Then I thought, okay, one of the alternate realities from the S5 finale. But all the ponies sounded wrong, and it wasn't until I re-read it that I noticed their marks were switched. Now it feels like it's piling one alternate-universe on top of another.

I think the actual "what's going on?" problem isn't helped by the fact that this is basically a six way conversation. That's difficult at the best of times, but a nightmare in such a short format. Ditto the setting. It opens with Twilight in "her" cage. Yet, later, we see clearly all the mane 6 are in the same cage. It's been long enough since I saw the episode that I don't recall which it was, so this was all just fuzzy when reading here.

Bottom line, I think there's a strong idea here, of what that other world looked like. But as a standalone story, it's not doing more than saying "Hey, how sad would they all be in that other universe?"
#8 · 1
The biggest issue I have is that Twilight mentions the rainboom is the reason she became Celestia's student, but in this timeline, the rainboom didn't happen. Thus the six of them probably never would have met up.

Second, the introduction is not necessary. The setting is made clear in the rest of the story.

Third, the first half of the story is boring. I would have much rather had Discord be the main focus for all of it.

#9 ·
The Tirek Zone

And right off the bat, we've got another AU. "Starlight's Tirekverse" to be precise. Is that like, the one from the show?

I hate simply rehashing everything that everyone else says, but that's the danger of arriving late to the party, I guess. The dialogue was confusing at first, and besides that, there's a lot going on here. I think you're trying to say that without the Rainboom, someone or several someones screwed up the timeline AND that Twilight couldn't switch her friends' cutie marks back. But then you go on to mention the Rainboom. I'm not against the Rainboom happening at the wrong time; I've done that myself in my near-complete story about one of the "bad timelines" (which started in Writeoff, I might add). I'm not sure the minific rounds are the right venue for trying to tackle something this complex. What you ended up with is a bunch of rapid-fire, one-off hints to how the timeline fell, and I'm not sure I'm piecing them together correctly.

After character re-introductions and an argument, we get a big block of backstory that didn't really go anywhere. But after that, we get to Discord. That last scene, and really the concept as a whole, has a bit of potential, so I advise you to clean it up and try again. Regrettably, I must score this story for what it is, not what it could have been.

“Yer breathin’ fast again, darlin’.”

Applejack just said "darling." That's not at all unsettling...
#10 ·
...Oh! Oh, Starlight's Tirekverse! I get it now. I think.

Not that knowing that helps one way or another.

I was sure this would be a comedy, but it gets surprisingly somber at the end, and I'm not sure what to make of that. Feels like two halves of a story that don't gel together.
#11 ·
Ok, I first wrote some specific scene critiques here, but then realized that wasn't the way to go because really everything doesn't fit. This just doesn't work as a standalone story. From the first line's warning, I conjecture that the author realizes that too, and that it went something like this: "That prompt makes me want to write something in this canonical AU that the show briefly portrayed. Let's set up all the things I need to show what's going on, let's make sure the Mane Six all get lines, and the emotional beat I want to hit is bringing in Discord and tying it together with the alicorn magic, and... oops I"m out of words and time, polish a bit and submit!" Something like that, yeah? Noble ambitions and an outline of things to accomplish, but it just didn't come together in practice.

I guess the most useful thing I can offer here is to scale back what you're trying to do and think about the format and length constraints in a writeoff first and foremost. There's no way you're going to be able to cover six, seven, technically up to eight or ten different characters, establish an AU setting (even if it is one from canon) and have multiple scenes of action in a minific. Ain't gonna happen, even for the world's greatest genius of word economy.

The way* to make this work is to pare it down. Take the outline and figure out one or two vital points, the core beats you absolutely want to hit, and give yourself a plan for a beginning, middle, and end that introduce, develop, and give closure to those concepts. Don't worry about worldbuilding in the initial plan. Write your core scenes, and then look at what you have and figure out what the reader can simply infer from dialogue and description you were going to include anyway. If you still need more setup in order to make X point make sense, then put that setup in as early and as lightly as you can. Be as minimalist as you can, and then go fire up the word counter, and... probably see that you're still over 750, but you'll be in a much better spot to proceed. For example, I think you could get a full mini out of just the Discord scenes at the end, if you fully outline what it is you want to accomplish and convey in them!

So, yeah, this attempt trainwrecked, but that's okay. I like that you aimed high. Hope to see you keep at writing!

*Implicit in all writing style recommendations: "The Way" is not necessarily the only way or the best way, just a way this commentator would recommend. Beware of Amway, Safeway and Ghostway.