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All the Time in the World · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
In The New Moonlight
Moondancer was never a mare to feel comfortable in her own skin. Even before she'd shut herself away from the world, and well after she'd emerged, being around other ponies was like standing on a stage with a white-hot spotlight shining upon her, regardless of who she was with, and when, and where, and why.

...Maybe not regardless. Her friends didn't make her feel that way. Minuette, Twinkleshine, and Lemonheart, they always brought something out of her. Twilight Sparkle and Spike, together, could turn anypony into a social butterfly.

But these ponies, sitting with her at a round table, spooning gelato into their mouths and chit-chatting quietly, weren't her friends. They were just... ponies. And she hadn't quite managed to feel at ease around those yet.

Glancing down at the five manuscripts between her hooves – one her own, four belonging to the others – Moondancer couldn't help but wonder just what she was even doing in their company for a second week in a row.

A mare's voice, rich and deep, rang out over the muttered conversations. "I think it's about time we got started – it might be a new moon, but we're still burning starlight, aren't we?"

The other ponies chuckled softly, and even Moondancer had to smile. Ferris Wheel wasn't one of the select few ponies who could bring Moondancer out of her shell, but she made a damn good effort.

The Moonlight Society had been meeting for years, and claimed a number of well-known local playwrights, poets, and novelists as alumni. Ferris Wheel, professor of literature at Canterlot University, was the workshop's current leader, and delighted in hosting its weekly meetings. Her fuzzy green sweater and fiery red mane made the pallor of her coat all the more intense by contrast, making her appear almost sickly, yet she wore a constant smile, and radiated a sense of compassion and warmth. Her bearing and demeanor might have put Moondancer at ease, were it only the two of them there.

The other ponies, Moondancer didn't know quite as well, beyond their names. On a surface level, though, she felt she understood them. Posey, the butter-coated pegasus to her left, wore thick-rimmed glasses, a baggy blue dress, and a floppy hat that concealed all but a few tufts of pink mane. By her appearance alone, Moondancer felt that they'd have a great deal in common, but she was kind, too, with a gentle wit and a soft voice that Moondancer sometimes strained to hear, even seated as close as she was.

Teaspoon, the unicorn to her right, was harder to read. He was fourteen, the youngest one there by a considerable margin, and had found his voice at an early age. The colt was fully conscious of how remarkable this made him, and was insufferable as a result.

Moondancer related – arrogance was the price of prodigy, after all. She wondered if he, too, would one day live alone in a dusty, musty, cobwebby old tenament.

That left Cinna and Aubergine, flanking Ferris Wheel on either side. Cinna, an earth pony, was slightly older, with soft features that might look hewn from granite if he could shed some of the dough on his body. He wore his long, scraggly mane in a messy bun, and his mouth in a state of flux between smugly smirking and contemptuously scowling. Aubergine was a playwright. He was old, tired, rail-thin, and neither said, nor did, much. He smacked his lips and stared at Ferris Wheel, and that was the limit of his contribution to the group.

As far as Moondancer knew, anyway. This was only her second week at the workshop. Perhaps he'd surprise her.

What little chatter six ponies could generate – four, if one didn't count the cadaverous Aubergine or Moondancer herself, which Moondancer certainly didn't – died down when Ferris Wheel spoke up. All eyes were on the older mare, and the five stacks of paper on the table in front of her. Orange light from overhead danced across the different manuscripts, highlighting the purple ink scribbled across their pages.

"First," said Ferris, "a big shout-out to Canterlot Carousel, for financing tonight's meeting. We wouldn't be able to rent out this space and chow down on this gelato if it weren't for their generous donation. If you go home tonight and step on your bathroom scale, and you're disgusted by what you see, then direct your complaints to Sassy Saddles and Rarity, not to me."

Moondancer smiled again. Posey and Teaspoon laughed. Posey's was a gentle, tinkly sound; Teaspoon's was boisterous, overdone, and went on far longer than was natural. Aubergine smacked his lips, which might have been laughter. Cinna looked between each of the ponies, his smirk flickering. Either he was trying not to scowl, or he was trying not to laugh.

"And, second," Ferris continued, beaming toward Moondancer. "Let's welcome back our newest attendee. We're happy to see you again, Moondancer. It's nice to know we didn't frighten you away after your inaugural meeting."

Moondancer's face reddened. She looked down. "I... um, you weren't..."

She trailed off, mumbling.

The seat to her left squeaked – Posey was leaning in. "Could you speak up, please?"

Moondancer raised her eyes to meet Posey's encouraging gaze.

"...You, uh, weren't quite that scary."

Posey giggled. Teaspoon huffed. Aubergine smacked his lips; Cinna rolled his eyes.

Ferris Wheel lifted a hoof and waved it, cat-style, at Moondancer. "Rawr."

Moondancer blinked, and tilted her head. "Um..."

"...What? Cats are scary." Ferris shrugged. "I think cats are scary."

"Perhaps you haven't met the right cats," Posey said. "I've known several pussycats that were just the sweetest."

Cinna emitted an ugly snort. "Maybe you should check your phrasing on that. You know. Sweet pussycats?"

Teaspoon chuckled. Aubergine smacked his lips. Posey and Ferris looked flatly at Cinna.

Moondancer spooned some gelato into her mouth.

Ferris cleared her throat. "Uh, yeah. A friendly reminder that innuendo, as a literary device, exists. Thank you, Cinna."

"You're welcome." Cinna leaned back in his seat. "I kinda worried I was the only one who got that at first."

"I got it!" Teaspoon chirped.

Cinna's lips flickered into a momentary scowl.

Ferris's warm smile seemed to fray a little. Her horn glowed as she reached for one of the stacks of paper, picking it up in a transparent white field, and thumping it against the table. "Moving on, if the rest of you don't mind, I'd like to start tonight's meeting with a look at Posey's Kakistocracy. Posey, do you object?"

Posey took a deep breath and drew herself up. She looked confident. She was quivering, though, and Moondancer wondered if any of the others could notice.

"Lay on, my friends."

Cinna edged forward in his seat, leering. "Is that an open invitation?"

A flicker of shadow from the chandelier transformed Ferris's smile into a grimace. "Cinna."

Cinna sucked his teeth and sat back, his smirk morphing into a scowl.

Clearing her throat again, Ferris began. "Let me start by complimenting your ambition. I can count on my horn the number of ponies I've known who've even tried to write an epic poem. Which, I mean, I have one horn..."

Ferris pointed at the spire on her forehead.

"...And the pony in question is me. In grad school. It was awful, and I regret even trying to write it. I have a lot of respect for anypony who manages to complete a verse of an epic, and you – you wrote at least a full canto. Props."

Cinna let out a soft, hissing breath. His lips moved subtly.

Annoyance spiked through Moondancer. She shot Cinna a glare, and clapped her hooves together in noisy applause. Posey's work deserved better than mealy-mouthed derision from Cinna, and she'd give the mare her due.

Her clapping was met with silence, however, so she trailed off, mumbled an apology that sounded as thick and awkward as she felt right then, and glanced down at her melting gelato.

Posey's hoof patted her shoulder, and Moondancer felt a bit of her shame lighten. "Thank you, dear. And thank you, Professor. That's very kind of you to say. I, um, I'm sensing a but, however."

"There is a but-however, you're right. But I want to hear from some of our other esteemed members before I get into it." Ferris gestured at the surly colt to Moondancer's right. "Teaspoon?"

Teaspoon leaned away from the table, tilting his chair so that it was propped up by its back legs. "Yeah, uh, I dunno. I kinda didn't read this one, sorry. No offense, Posey, but, like, poetry just isn't my thing. You know?"

Ferris slumped, and in so doing, looked as old as Aubergine. "Well... different strokes, and so forth. But, Teaspoon..."

"I know, Professor. I'm sorry." Teaspoon tilted back more in his chair, looking at nobody and nothing in particular. "But, like, I really don't know what I'd be able to say about it if I read it. I can't really critique poetry, you know? So, nothing I said would be very useful, and I wouldn't want to waste anypony's time by accident."

Ferris's smile was paper-thin and brittle. "Thank you for your consideration, Teaspoon."

"You're wel––"

Teaspoon was cut off as the angle at which his chair was leaned became untenable. He fell backward, yelping.

Moondancer caught his chair's backrest in a telekinetic grip, and held it steady. Ferris was as quick on the draw, and their auras mingled briefly, before the older mare withdrew. Gently, Moondancer eased the chair back into an upright position.

Ferris Wheel exhaled, and looked tiredly at Moondancer. "Good save. Now I'm doubly glad we didn't scare you off."

Moondancer blushed. "You would've gotten it if I hadn't been here."

"Yes, but I'm very, very old. Who knows if I'd have been able to hold him up as long." She winked at Moondancer, who shuffled her hooves awkwardly. "Teaspoon, thank you for your thoughts. Uh, don't lean back in your seat anymore. Okay?"

"...Kay."

"'Kay." Ferris looked to the stallion on her right. "Cinna, would you like to pick up where––"

Cinna immediately cut off the professor by thumping his foreleg on the table, leaning his weight against it, and smirking at Posey. "Yeah, so, I – like – first off, I wanna agree with Professor Wheel."

"'Ferris.' We've talked about this.."

"Yeah, Ferris. I agree with Ferris. It's pretty ambitious that you'd try something like this. I think you deserve a lot of credit just for making the effort. Definitely a gold star moment. I, actually, uh..."

Cinna lifted his copy of Posey's manuscript, on which he'd drawn a five-sided star in gold ink – the same gold ink that his other comments were written in. His smirk became a grin.

Posey blinked. Aubergine smacked his lips. Ferris pressed her hoof to her forehead, and tried to play it off by sweeping the hoof through her mane.

Moondancer wondered again what she was doing there.

Cinna set the paper back down, and folded his hooves upon it. "That said, I think you could've done a lot more with it. Like, a lot more. Reading through your canto, like, there's a lot of potential in there, but your verses – they're all really rigid and conventional. You're not really experimenting, or breaking into new territory. I feel like you could play around with rhyme, or meter, or style – or even, y'know, mix things up, shift between different modes of writing."

"Different... modes." Posey's chin dipped.

Cinna nodded eagerly. "Yeah, like, remember last month, you brought in all those haikus? What if..." He glanced between the other ponies, and leaned further across the table toward Posey, who seemed to recoil.

"What if you tried writing a whole page... in haiku?"

When next she spoke, Posey's gentle voice was even gentler, and more airy, than usual. "You want me to write a page of an epic poem... in haiku."

Cinna bobbed his head. "Yeah! Just a page. Or, like, a canto, y'know. Whatever comes first. Mix it up!"

The only sound in the room was the smacking of Aubergine's lips, and the creaking in Teaspoon's chair as he leaned, experimentally, backward.

Moondancer seized his chair and held its front legs to the floor.

"I liked it a lot," she blurted.

The many pairs of eyes staring at her made her skin crawl just then. She tugged the collar of her sweater up her neck.

"I, um... I mean..."

"What did you like about it?"

For the second time that night, Moondancer met Posey's eyes.

"...Kakistocracy. The title. A government by the worst, right?" She shrugged her quaking shoulders. "It's, um... it's satirical. A critique of divine right. It's funny; it's really funny. The princess oversleeps, a-and forgets to raise the sun, and her daughter has to rule the kingdom by candlelight... b-because there's no..."

"No sunlight," Ferris Wheel supplied, nodding along.

Emboldened, Moondancer straightened in her seat. "I also liked the part where the daughter releases the patients at the asylum, and divides them between commoners and lords, and makes them the two parliament houses. It's the middle of the night while this is happening, so, it's, like... it's a pun. Lunacy, lunatics, running the country. It's..."

Moondancer chuckled.

"It made me laugh. The pun. The satire was really sharp. I appreciated it. It's really rare to read something critical of the government."

Ferris breathed a sigh that Moondancer read relief into. "Did anypony else read this as satire?"

Cinna and Teaspoon exchanged glances.

Ferris breathed a sigh that Moondancer believed negated the previous sigh. "Did anypony else read this at all?"

Teaspoon blushed and looked away.

Cinna shrugged. "Yeah, but I was paying attention to the poetry, not to the content. It might've been good satire, but the verse itself was mediocre, so I couldn't really get into it."

"I managed," Moondancer said, leveling a glare at him.

Aubergine smacked his lips.

Ferris, clearly no stranger to pupils who failed to do the reading, managed to maintain the bearing of an academic. "Okay, as a friendly reminder, we are all expected to read each other's work before meeting for workshop – even if you don't know what you can add to the discussion. You never know until you try, right?"

Looking at Posey, she continued. "For my part, I agree with Moondancer – the satire is a bit on the nose, but it's amusing nevertheless. Very witty. Cinna does have a point, however; the poetry itself could be cleaned up, straightened out a bit. Granted, I don't know that you need to insert haiku all willy-nilly..."

Posey giggled. "I think I see what you mean. This was a bit of an experiment for me. I'm glad that other ponies understood what I was getting at, but you're right – I'm not quite comfortable with long-form poetry yet, and I'm sure it shows."

"Oh, it totally does," Cinna said. "But at least you get that."

"...Thank you, Cinna, as always." Ferris floated over her copy of Posey's manuscript, as Cinna slid his across the table. Moondancer hoofed hers over.

"Yes, thank you, Cinna," said Posey. "And you too, Professor. Moondancer."

Moondancer nodded without looking up.

"Moving on, then." Ferris cleared her throat. "Cinna, since you were so... outspoken and insightful with your critique just now, perhaps you'd like to go next?"

"Ah, if it's all the same to you, Ferris," Cinna drawled. "I'd kind of like to go last. You know, you think about these workshops as, like. A meal? Posey can be the aperitif; you all, you're the main course. Me, I'm the dessert. You feel me, right? Posey? Moondance?"

Moondancer envisioned a party pinata shaped like a doughy, stubbly stallion. She wondered how much it'd cost to commission one from Pinkie Pie. Perhaps Minuette could get a discount from her; they seemed close enough.

"What a... tasteful metaphor," Ferris said diplomatically. "Well, instead––"

"Simile," Cinna interrupted. "See, I said 'like,' whereas metaphors––"

"Perhaps Moondancer wouldn't mind being our second subject of the night?" Ferris glanced between Teaspoon, Posey, and Aubergine. "Any objections? Moondancer, would you mind?"

Moondancer opened her mouth, and made a sound akin to a death rattle, which blended well with Aubergine's lip-smacking. Her telekinesis tugged at her collar; she resisted the impulse to pull her sweater over her head and hide from the spotlight now shining upon her.

Posey's chair squeaked. "Dear?"

Moondancer started, and looked at Posey. The pegasus was smiling gently, and covered Moondancer's hoof with her own.

"If you're nervous, then perhaps we'd best get it over with. It's not so bad – we'll be gentle, I promise."

Cinna snickered derisively. "Posey, I swear, your phrasing tonight––"

"You are not as clever as you think you are," Posey said sweetly, baring a pearly-white grin at Cinna.

Ferris, glancing quickly between Cinna and Posey, laughed. "Well, if we hadn't already frightened her away... Moondancer, I hope you know that our meetings aren't typically this... volatile."

"It's the gelato," said Teaspoon. He conjured a teaspoon of magical aura, and dug it into his bowl. "They put chemicals in it, or whatever."

"...Technically, that's true of, um... most foods," Moondancer mumbled. "It's all, you know, chemistry..."

Ferris raised an eyebrow at Moondancer. "If you'd prefer not to go just yet, we can always––"

"No," Moondancer blurted, looking levelly at Ferris Wheel.

Ferris tilted her head. "You'd prefer not to go, or...?"

"As in..." Moondancer squeezed her eyes shut. "I... I wanna do mine next."

The room fell silent – even Aubergine's lips, the constant underscoring to the conversation, stilled entirely. Moondancer's eyes remained shut, yet she could feel the others' gazes crawling over her.

Then she heard some paper shifting, and Ferris drawing in a breath. "Alright, then. We're staying in long form territory, but shifting from poetry to prose."

"The Lost and the Wretched," Moondancer muttered.

"...Uh, yes. That's the name of the piece." Ferris coughed. "Quite a title, too. Very evocative, very powerful. And, going by the tone of the excerpt you shared, it's a thesis statement for the book as a whole. Am I right?"

Moondancer could feel her skin trembling as she nodded.

Posey said, "I thought so, too. There's something very grim about the way that you write. Almost macabre."

"Yeah, it's like, real dark, and stuff," Cinna added. "But it's also really hard to understand what's going on in your piece. You know?"

"Cinna," Ferris began, patiently.

"In a moment," Cinna said, a touch snippily. "Look, Moondance, we all kinda brought short stories, you know? Except for Posey; she brought half of an unfinished poem."

"Cinna," Ferris repeated, less patiently.

"But you brought in a little piece of a novel. A novel. Without the rest of the book to inform this excerpt, it's really hard to follow what's going on. Take your protag, for instance – she spends like three pages whining and complaining about this injustice she's been dealing with, but we don't know what it is, and we don't know why she's been suffering, and we don't know why we should even care. You get me? She says how much it sucks to get ditched, and ignored, and whatever, but for all we know, she totally deserved it, because she's, like, super annoying? And stuff? See, without any context for the chapter, it's really hard to care about––"

"Cinna!" Ferris snapped.

"I'm being honest!" the stallion said defensively. "What, I'm supposed to hold back because she's new? Because she's shy? This is supposed to be a writing workshop, right? How are we supposed to help each other get better if we're not honest with each other about our work? And how can we work with her if she doesn't even know what's expected of her at a workshop? Posey, you were exactly like this too, weren't you? Tell her for me!"

Moondancer opened her eyes, finding them dewy, her vision blurry. She glared at Cinna over the rims of her glasses.

"Don't talk about me like I'm not here."

Cinna met her glare with a scowl. "Hey, if you've got something to say back, by all means. Say it. We're listening."

He straightened, folded his forehooves across his barrel, and glared down his nose at Moondancer. Ferris's pale, freckled face was redder than her hair. Teaspoon looked small; Posey, looked anxious.

Aubergine looked at Cinna.

"You are such a dick."

Teaspoon burst out laughing – it was high, boyish, and above all, real, not like his boisterous laughter from before. Posey tittered; Ferris struggled to maintain her composure. Aubergine glared at Cinna, who, red-faced, tried to stammer out a rebuttal.

Moondancer shoved away from the table abruptly, killing the laughter in the room.

Ferris, alarmed, look up at her. "Moondancer––"

"Thank you!" Moondancer said. She nodded, hurriedly, to Teaspoon and Aubergine and Ferris Wheel in turn. She almost nodded to Cinna, thought better of it, and turned to Posey instead. "Sincerely. For everything. But, um... I-I don't think..."

She squeezed her eyes shut, and sniffled.

"I don't think I belong here. Not right now, anyway."

There was a long pause, one which Ferris, speaking carefully, broke. "Perhaps you'll join us again sometime?"

"I... uh, I don't know. We'll see."

Moondancer caught her manuscript in a telekinetic grip, and hurried out the door, tugging the collar of her sweater over her head as she went.




There were few places where Moondancer felt comfortable in her own skin. The room atop the gelato shop might've been one such spot – it might still be someday. Tonight, it would be no refuge to her. So, instead, she sought the library.

It was locked for the night, but the steps outside were open to her, and it was better than hiding in her dusty, musty, cobwebby old tenament. Sitting on the cold, hard marble, she held her manuscript before her face, her glasses resting on the step beside her. She leafed through the pages, slowly, carefully, absorbing every line and every word. With perfect recall, she thought about where she was when she wrote every line – the emotions underpinning every word – the meaning of the composition as a whole. For a year, she'd sequestered herself away, doing little, accomplishing nothing, and whiling away her life.

This was the only thing she'd managed to accomplish when she had all the time in the world. And there wasn't a damned thing she could do with it. Because she couldn't even talk to anypony about it. Much less share it. Much less publish it.

What did that say about her?

Moondancer focused her aura on a tiny spot at the top of the manuscript. A tiny rip appeared at the top of the stack, in its center.

She took a deep breath. Her focus intensified.

"May I join––"

"WAGH!"

Moondancer, startled, leaped from her seat and scrambled backward, pulling the intact manuscript with her.

Posey, smiling softly, fluttered before her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

"You... you..." Fumbling for words, Moondancer jabbed a hoof toward Posey. "You are too quiet!"

"I've often been told." Posey lowered herself, and touched down upon the steps lightly. "May I join you?" she repeated.

Her heart rate settling, Moondancer nodded, and settled back onto her haunches. "Aren't you missing the workshop?"

"No, we ended shortly after you left. Professor Ferris Wheel felt that the conversation that night was no longer constructive. And she may or may not have threatened to geld Cinnabar. Which is also not particularly constructive, but I can understand her frustrations, at least."

Moondancer snorted. "So... what, you followed me here, or something? Library's clear across town from the shop."

"Goodness, no. I looked around for you, but you were already long gone." Posey bit her lip. "I, um... I had to ask around, do a bit of deduction. Consult with a close friend of mine, who's here in Canterlot, about where we thought you might be. Rarity's a much better detective than I am, you see."

"...Rarity?" Moondancer hoofed about for her glasses; she felt strangely naked without them. "As in, Element of Generosity Rarity?"

"And the founder of Carousel Boutique. Where everything is chique, unique, and... well, you know the rest, I'm sure." Posey giggled. "You see, Twilight and Pinkie told us all about your story. Your party. Both of them I mean – the good one, and the, um, the one that didn't go so well."

Her gaze darted toward the manuscript.

"...The one you wrote about, I mean. So, when Rarity and I thought back about what they said, we remembered that the library was one of your old haunts. After that––"

"How do you know Twilight? And Pinkie? And... Rarity's part of the same clique, too, come to think of it." Moondancer's gaze sharpened. "Who are you?"

With just a moment's hesitation, Posey doffed her glasses, swept off her hat, and shook out her long, luxurious pink mane.

"I'm Fluttershy. And it's lovely to meet you at last, Moondancer."

"...You're Fluttershy." Moondancer licked her lips. "Element of Kindness Fluttershy. Twilight's best friend Fluttershy."

"Mmhm."

"Of course you'd be friends with Pinkie and Rarity." Moondancer felt liable to swoon. "Feels like I should have known that."

"I'm relieved that you didn't, actually. And I would appreciate it if you wouldn't mention it to anypony. Pretty please."

Moondancer scoffed and folded her hooves. "Who am I gonna tell, huh? My many, many friends and acquaintances?"

"You're quite funny, you know that?"

"Perhaps I should try my horn at comedy, then. Move to Manehattan. Find a brick wall to stand in front of. Start spitting out jokes. Couldn't go worse than getting into the Moonlight Society." Moondancer looked closely at Fluttershy. "Speaking of... how did you...?"

"Join the Moonlight Society?" Fluttershy shrugged. "I used to model, years and years ago."

"You... were a model?"

"Mm, yes. It feels so long ago now." Fluttershy got a dreamy look on her face. "I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I was fairly popular, as models go. I'd visit big cities, or small cities, or remote mountain villages, and I'd have to dress up to avoid paparazzi. One night, while I was here in Canterlot, I ducked into a coffee shop, where Professor Ferris Wheel was holding a workshop. I got to listening, and they invited me to join in. Next week, I brought some haiku that I scribbled in my hotel room in between photo shoots... the rest is history. I try to make it in weekly, but I don't always have the luxury of traveling, even with Canterlot so close. But I made a point to come in this week, after you were in last week."

Moondancer glanced at the floppy hat that 'Posey' had worn. "And the disguise?"

"Oh... I suppose it just makes it easier to open up. I don't think that Fluttershy would ever be able to share her work with a group like that... but Posey can. Posey can do a lot of things that Fluttershy can't." She ruffled her wings. "I think you know what I mean."

Moondancer looked away from Fluttershy. Sniffling, she turned her gaze to the moonless night sky.

"I do. It's like Twilight would've told you; I was alone for a really long time." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "I forgot how to talk to other ponies. How to be around them. I stayed inside, and I read, and when I wasn't reading... I wrote this."

She fluttered the manuscript.

"I never showed it to anypony, of course. Not even Twilight. So, naturally, the first time I do, I... I screw it up." She laughed bitterly. "I thought I made something worthwhile. The only good thing to come out of that year. And it's good for, well... absolutely nothing. Because the pony who wrote it... she's not good for much, either."

She shook her head and looked at Fluttershy.

"I envy Posey. Posey can do a lot of things that Moondancer can't, too."

Fluttershy scooted closer to Moondancer. "I know how that feels. Freezing up when you're with the group. Even a friendly environment can be scary to share with, especially when it's with strangers."

"Yeah, but you got over it."

"You heard what Cinnabar said. It was months before I felt comfortable enough to even bring in one poem; I contended myself with reading until then." She paused, and reached a comforting hoof toward Moondancer, who allowed it to rest on her withers.

"If you're wondering, I didn't do much better than you did during my first real workshop. I still get nervous when my work comes up, too. That feeling never goes away, I think. But the more you go through it... the easier it gets. Eventually, you reach a place where it barely even registers."

Moondancer lifted her glasses to wipe at her eyes. "Pos... er, Fluttershy..."

Fluttershy chuckled. "And, if you're wondering, you're also not the first pony to storm out of a meeting. I wasn't, either, if we're being honest. Trust me when I say that you're in good company."

"...Except for Cinna?"

"Except for Cinna." Fluttershy's mouth twisted. "Although I think tonight might be the last straw for him. Even if she doesn't geld him, I doubt Ferris will let him return next week."

"You'll have to tell me how it goes." Moondancer looked down, sighing. "I... I don't think I'm going back next week. Not really ready for that. Sharing with a group, I mean. Not yet, anyway. That might be a few years away."

"I see. That's... disappointing." Fluttershy was silent for a moment. "Well... how would you feel about sharing you work with an audience of one? Instead of a group? I quite liked your excerpt. Although, that might be because I understood it better than most – I knew more about you than the others..."

Moondancer smirked. "When you put it that way, it does sound a little creepy."

"Yes, just a skosh. I meant to come clean to you, sooner or later, I promise." Fluttershy withdrew her hoof. "But, um... as I was saying, you're welcome to visit Ponyville. We could talk about your novel over tea? Just as long as you don't tell Twilight that I wrote a satirical poem about the monarchy; she's quite defensive where the Princess is concerned."

A pinch of the selfsame anxiety that sabotaged her with the Moonlight Society threatened to rear its head. The impulse to run and hide at home resurfaced.

Moondancer battled it down, and caged it, and stood.

"Why wait until I visit? Pony Joe's is open all night." She smiled. "They know me there."

Fluttershy returned the smile, reaching for her hat and glasses. Then she paused, and giggled.

"What?" said Moondancer."

"They..." Fluttershy shook her head. "They know me there, too. No point in going incognito."

"Well, alright then." Moondancer extended her forehoof to Fluttershy. "No more hiding tonight."

Fluttershy linked her hoof with Moondancer's.

"No more."
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#1 ·
· · >>Samey90 >>Posh
Based on the show's portrayal I don't agree with the characterization of Moonie being mousey in personality (she's actually rather forceful and opinionated), but the story hinges on this trait so it can't really be changed.

I understand that you're trying to paint us the picture of what's going on inside Moondancer's head, but in the initial part of the story these descriptions feel very telly. You don't need to keep telling us that Moondancer feels uncomfortable when you can show us (which you also do), so I recommend trimming away as many of those forced value judgments as possible. There are a lot of them.

I felt like the descriptions of the characters were good, but a little too detailed. This had the benefit of making me feel uncomfortable in Moondancer's horseshoes, but it still felt like there was a little too much illustration and not enough forward action.

The twist felt unusual and unnecessary. I think it's well within character, but because Moondancer has no prior relationship with Fluttershy their dynamic doesn't add anything to the story that couldn't have been served without the twist, plus it seems a little strange that Fluttershy would travel to Canterlot for a poetry review circle.

Minor stuff:

"You are such a dick."


I think this needs to be on the same line as the previous paragraph, because I wasn't clear who was speaking (I thought it might be Moondancer snapping).

It's spelled 'chic', and her name is Lemon Hearts.
#2 ·
· · >>Posh
The start of this story dumps a lot of info and new characters on us, which gets a not confusing. It was hard to remember which name went with what character when they spoke up later. I had to scroll back up to go "is that the kid or the old guy?" Maybe give a little bit of description along with the dialog each time, so it blends in easier.

Beyond the confusion, this reads fairly cleanly, with consistent pacing. It didn't really hook me though as the story is basically the archetypal stage fright tale, and for the most part is rather linear and predictable. To the point where I was originally going to criticize Posey as being a Fluttershy clone, and thus pretty much interchangeable with Moondancer herself. That of was actually Fluttershy could be used to much greater effect. Instead, it feels like Posey could've done the same job with no twist needed.

All that said, the character descriptions are strong, and the interactions feel very realistic for a writer's group. I think I just wanted more of a payoff or to see something new in the archetype.
#3 · 2
· · >>Posh
>>Trick_Question
The twist felt unusual and unnecessary.

I wouldn't call it much of a twist. Once you know Posey is G1 equivalent of Fluttershy, you know the author is up to something.

This being said, I kinda liked this one. I felt it was a bit meta, but that's pretty much unavoidable if you write a story about a group of writers. I feel it's a decent setting for a more elaborate story, even if this plot is a bit lacking (and I like Moondancer anyway).
#4 · 1
· · >>Posh
Full disclosure, I had to stop a bit early on to laugh when I saw how meta it was getting. I dig it, don't get me wrong. Just took a moment to process and carry on.

Detracting first of all from some of the above: I did okay keeping the characters straight. Their personalities are sufficiently different that even if I forget their names exactly somewhere down the line, I know there's: youngun, asshole, professor boss lady, oldman lipsmack, yellow quiet, and hermit crab. Easy. And Teaspoon shrinks in front of an angry authority figure exactly like I'd expect, so good job on that.

Anyway, I think you struck a very sensitive vein for newbies in any creative field. When I posted my first story on Fimfic, I ignored the notices for hours, maybe days, because I was so nervous about finally putting something I made out into the public eye. I feel Moondancer's pain. If I didn't have the shield of internet anonymity, I may have not started writing again at all. And if I did, I certainly wouldn't have shared it. So she gets big praise from me for being courageous enough to sit in a room full of strangers face to face and have her life's work-to-date torn to shreds.

I kind of suspected that Posey was Fluttershy. The coloration, the demure personality, the baggy clothing that hides all of her features. So not a huge twist for me in that regard, even ignoring Samey90's catch about the G1 version. It is a bit strange that she'd be doing this, of all things, but the backstory is believable enough that I'm on board still. And I think if anypony is going to understand Moondancer's public anxiety, it's going to be her. She's been there, she's suffered, and she's worked through it one day at a time.

:thumbs up:
#5 ·
· · >>Posh
Writing something that gets a reader into a story is a hook. That would be your unexpected (some would say "incestuous") choice of a writers workshop. I'm not saying that's bad, but understand that in writing to an expected audience brings benefits and responsibilities.

The responsibility (yours) is to keep your reader interested enough to finish the story. I really wanted to figuratively throw the book down a number of times—and that would have been a shame. The words boring and tortuous come to mind, but please bear with me; I'm being honest, hopefully in a way Cinna was not.

I can safely assert most of your audience has attended a workshop; indeed, this forum serves as one—and all of us recognize the cast of characters, both annoyingly smug Cinna and Moondancer with her highly personal autobiography disguised as a novel. Again, not bad. My stomach aches with the remembered emotions you raised!

But that is my point.

Much of the workshop scene is unnecessary wasteful exposition. Even non-writer readers through having seen a few popular movies would pick up immediately on the dynamics or gut-wrenching nerves you depicted in excruciating detail (in a way, a lot like the reply I am writing now). Your work, which in the end was quite heart-warming, would benefit from radical concision. Telegraph to the reader immediately Moondancer's nerves.. Don't bother introducing the secondary characters until they speak. Their dialog, beautifully written albeit excessive, speaks strongly for the each of them. Just highlight the one character who's required for foreshadowing. I'd start by red-lining most of the setup and maybe start with Cinna's (nicely done) blistering remarks to Moondancer, followed by the reactions of the host and Posey, then have Moondancer run out in tears. I know you can do this based on the second part of the story for which I have nary a quibble. No wasted prose there!

Yeah. Ellipsis and lack of concussion is my personal curse, so it is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. I need to review my faults constantly. And then, what are workshops for?
#6 ·
· · >>Posh
Altogether, I very much liked this fic. Stories about psychological conflict portrayed in a dramatic but realistic fashion are right up my alley, and I'm a fan of Moonlight, too. I would have to agree with Trick_Question, however, that her character in this could be improved by bringing her closer in alignment with her (albeit reformed) canonically misanthropic personality from the show, or at least differentiating her beyond "shy girl." I still think she came across very organically, though.

As for the other characters, I think there's even more potential left untapped, and that was for me a great disappointment. I was looking forward to seeing Teaspoon's, Ferris's, and Cinna's stories, giving them their moment in the spotlight, but instead I'm left with a great sense of lacking regarding their characters. You really did set them up at the beginning quite wonderfully, but in a way that teased at future possibilities or explanations for them (Teaspoon in particular). Mind, I don't think this would've fully solved the sense of irrelevance the characters besides Moondancer, Posey, and Cinna are saddled with; the best cure for that, I think, would be to give them their own aspirations, insecurities, and growth like Moondancer had, but that of course demands a much larger story to be told.

(I would much appreciate reading one or more sequel stories to this one, where Moondancer returns to the Moonlight Society, and arcs of the other characters are explored. Do let me know if you expand on this!)

I thought it was brilliant, the way you included the (not so?) subtle insinuation that Cinna was a buffoon talking out of his expertise by suggesting that Posey write a page of an epic poem in haiku. "Yeah! Just a page. Or, like, a canto, y'know. Whatever comes first. Mix it up!" It's a good set-up for the unreasonable confrontation he has next with Moondancer.

The choreography was well written, but seemed a bit inefficient at times. For example, what was the point of all those words spent describing Teaspoon almost falling backward out of his chair? Is it really necessary to pad the time between dialogue like this:

Cinna edged forward in his seat, leering. "Is that an open invitation?"

A flicker of shadow from the chandelier transformed Ferris's smile into a grimace. "Cinna."

Cinna sucked his teeth and sat back, his smirk morphing into a scowl.

Clearing her throat again, Ferris began.


just to fully showcase another one of Cinna's perverted jokes? These actions read mellifluously, but I can't help but think they're just well-written filler.
#7 · 3
· · >>Trick_Question >>Trick_Question
In The Retrospective Light

retrograde?

So, this was not actually the story that I set out to write, first of all. It's two scene from my original outline, and its message and characterization are different from that story's.

The idea I started with was Moondancer trying to get her novel published, and being shot down repeatedly; reasons would have varied, but the common thread would be that it wasn't as good as she thought it was. Moondancer was a stronger, more assertive character in the outline, too, and her arc reflected this. Rather than being a generic wallflower who was afraid of sharing, she was the kind of writer who was self-confident to a fault, and unwilling to accept that there was anything wrong with her (thinly autobiographical) novel.

The tie-in to the prompt was this: During that time she spent alone, she had all the time in the world, and did nothing of value with it -- except write her book, which she considered the one saving grace from that era of her life. And even that turns out to be, in her own mind, worthless, since she can't get it published, and nopony even likes it. What does that say about her?

Problem was, the story was structured in such a way that it essentially started over with every new scene. The first person she approached was Twilight, the second was Twilight Velvet, the third was the writing group. Each time, a new character(s) for Moondancer to interact with was introduced, the book was reintroduced, and the conversations she had with each of them followed a similar pattern. That, plus a shrinking timeframe within which to work, led me to cut the first two thirds of the story, and focus on developing the final scene.

Clearly, with mixed results.

>>Rao picked up on a meta-aspect to this story that was... semi-intentional? As did Dubs, I was shopping the idea around to him. Incidentally, having never attended a real writing workshop, outside of college creative writing classes, his advice was essential to helping me nail down some of the particulars; the happiest moment of my life was when he read Ferris Wheel's dialogue and said "yup, that's a writing workshop." Then he gave me tendies. :3

But back to my point: While I kind of expected people to read this as writeoff meta, I didn't necessarily intend for it to be writeoff meta. None of the characters or their attitudes are supposed to reflect anything in particular about the writeoff, which I generally think is a more positive environment than the Moonlight Society's, which seems to foster lots and lots of douchebags.

Obviously, however, I based Cinnabar on that fucker Not_A_Hat. D:<

Kidding. The side characters were actually, in some cases, based on IRL people. Aubergine and Teaspoon aren't, but Cinna is supposed to reflect a guy from my girlfriend's grad cohort, and Ferris Wheel is directly patterned after one of my favorite professors in college on whom I had a crush. Criticism of them not being developed enough is valid; I feel >>Paracompact's pain, in particular. I had wanted to give each of them their own time in the spotlight, but, time constraints...

(Speaking of, Para, I see your point about the padding between lines of dialogue; that's an old crutch of mine. Although I defend to the death the lengthy descriptions of Teaspoon falling backward in his chair. Face me with sword in hand, thou fiend)

To >>Trick_Question and >>Xepher, I'd like to clarify that Posey being Fluttershy is... not actually supposed to be much of a twist. I'm a little surprised that it ended up being one; I wanted to telegraph, as early as possible, that Posey was Incognitoshy. As >>Samey90 and Rao mention, "Posey" was the G1 equivalent of Flutterbutter, and Faust has said that Fluttershy's original name was Posey, before copyright issues forced a change. The real mystery/twist was supposed to be what the fuck she was doing there in the first place.

...Which I think people felt was explained and justified very thinly.

I might go back to this story; I might not. If I do, I might try playing with the original outline and selling my first concept, returning to Moondancer's characterization as an overconfident, insecure, inexperienced young writer -- still an archetype, but a different archetype. Closer to the "fourteen year old fanfic writer who can't take criticism" model than the "Fluttershy still pees a little when people look directly at her.

>>scifipony
Writing something that gets a reader into a story is a hook. That would be your unexpected (some would say "incestuous") choice of a writers workshop. I'm not saying that's bad, but understand that in writing to an expected audience brings benefits and responsibilities.

The responsibility (yours) is to keep your reader interested enough to finish the story. I really wanted to figuratively throw the book down a number of times—and that would have been a shame. The words boring and tortuous come to mind, but please bear with me; I'm being honest, hopefully in a way Cinna was not.


You're also being unnecessarily condescending.

Nevertheless, your point about the lack of brevity is well taken. I think if I'd paced myself better when writing this, given myself more time to work, I could've/would've/should've revised the paragraphs of expository description, integrated them alongside the dialogue more effectively.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who read and reviewed; I didn't expect this to make finals, but I'm pleasantly surprised that it did. I'm glad it struck a chord with so many. ^^
#8 · 1
·
>>Posh
Fluttershy still pees a little when people look directly at her.


hot
#9 ·
·
>>Posh
You're also being unnecessarily condescending.


The problem with text is emotion doesn't come across clearly. I don't think scifipony is trying to be condescending here. It's hard to criticize with honesty without sending that impression.