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Lie Me a River · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Build Me A Bridge
At these parties, what Applejack hated most was the lying.

"Charmed, ah'm sure."

It was more than just pleasantries, those bits of social shorthand that, under inspection, become nonsense. 'I'm fine' or 'have a good day' are mostly reflexive anyways, barely meant.

"Been well myself. And y'all?"

It wasn't even particularly egregious or offensive. On the whole it was mild. But it was so pervasive.

"You don't say?"

It was petty self-aggrandizement or rumor-mongering, boasting, character assassination with subtle jokes - and delivered oh so carefully. That was the worst part, really; how she had to actually pay attention. If she allowed her eyes to glaze over and simply nodded along, who knew what she might agree with?

"Ah'll be certain to ask her about that."

It wasn't random, after all, nor was it mindless. Each half-truth, white lie, fib, came from ponies who were stirring the pot, working the crowd, trying to ooze their way up the social ladder. Usually by stepping on anypony 'beneath them'.

"'Scuse me, I think Ah see my friend…"

So she would smile and nod and eat the snacks that were almost - but not quite - tiny enough she could ignore that they were over-salted and under-crafted, and excuse herself at the first possible moment to enjoy what she loved most about these parties:

Rarity's smile.

"Oh there you are darling, I was looking all over for you!"

Her friend took to each crowded ballroom or shaded lawn or gently swaying airship like, (as much as she would hate the expression,) a pig to mud. She was completely in her element, wallowing in pleasantry and polite fiction, scoffing at rumors or cutting through boasts with a keen wit. And somehow, despite fitting in perfectly, she was beautiful without being stained.

It was probably that smile.

"You simply must meet him, Applejack, he writes the most hilarious articles—"

It appeared at each greeting or parting, brilliant and ephemeral as a shooting star. Rarity smiled at everypony, regardless of station, or costume, or even how pleasant their company was; a brief glimpse of pure happiness, shining through the ritual and pomp, an irrepressible truth.

"Oh, there's Fleur! Come along, we'll say hi!"

It was almost reason enough to come to these parties, seeing that flickering smile illuminate her friend from the tilt of her ears to the tap of her hooves.

"Oh dear, it is getting late!"

Almost. And sometimes, after the small talk wound down, the buffet was cleared, the guests were trickling out, and the two of them were yawning their way back to a homebound train over the cobblestones and under the gaslamps, Rarity would say

"What a lovely evening. Did you have fun?"


Applejack's feet would be hurting from fancy shoes on marble, her stomach protesting overly rich food, her memory relentlessly replaying some stupid thing she said, and home and bed looming large in her mind...

But she would bite down her retort. And instead of letting the evening die, she would say

"Ah had a wonderful time."

Then there would be one last smile, just for her, to carry home in her heart.

And she would think that, maybe, a few small lies now and then were tolerable.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
This story was charming! It lacked enough substance to really grab me, but I enjoyed what was here and it certainly made me smile. Will be somewhere close to the middle of my slate I think.
#2 · 2
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Very engaging piece. I like the way it explores the nuance of Applejack's experience at these events. I think that was a wise choice to focus on in a minific round, because that's where these tiny stories seem to shine - examining the little things to figure out why they're so important.

Still, I can't help thinking it might have been more true to Applejack's character for her claiming to have had a wonderful time to be the truth, though. It would avoid Applejack having to lie. Another advantage would be that it would heighten the intensity of Applejack's emotions for Rarity if Rarity having enjoyed herself was all it took for Applejack to honestly feel that it really was a wonderful evening.

But that's the author's call, not mine, and I enjoyed the execution either way. So good job.
#3 · 2
· · >>Not_A_Hat
This jumped to the top of my current slate very quickly. It's fast paced and short, yet I feel like AJ's frustration and subsequent joy from the party comes across crystal clear and perfectly believably. There's just a hint of minty shipping to make it all go down smooth.

Well played.
#4 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
I hate to play the comparison game, but I read this back-to-back with Changed. They're similar, conceptually, in that they're mostly romantic introspection, but this one uses a narrative, a story, a sequence of events, to contextualize the protagonist's emotional journey.

And that's really what I'm looking for in a piece that's primarily about a character (or characters') internal development.

The fact that it's damn lovely helps, too.
#5 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Very nice:

The only thing that left me a little leery was the narrative voice. It might just be because I'm a POV nut, but when we're sitting very firmly inside Applejack's head and phrases like "those bits of social shorthand that, under inspection, become nonsense" and "petty self-aggrandizement" keep popping up, it makes me itchy. Where are they coming from? Does AJ's inner voice talk with the Manehattan accent she adopted when she was living with the Oranges?

Like I said, it's probably just me...

#6 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Build me a bridge - retrospective

So this story idea came to me pretty quickly; I saw the prompt and thought "what pony would make a good character in a story about lies? Applejack. What sort of lie would it make sense for Applejack to tell? A lie that showed how much she loved somepony. Who's most likely to put her in a situation where she would lie? Rarity."

Anyways, that was enough to frame up the story for me. The structure just kinda happened. I wrote it in a few hours at the library, then edited it heavily when I got home.

It's rare that I get a workable idea so clearly or so early. It wasn't quite as nice as when you feel really inspired, with the words just flowing onto the page, but it was nice to have something concrete to work from, without having to struggle for who's doing what and what's going on.


Thanks for all the kind words, guys. I don't enter the writeoff in expectation of compliments, but they sure are nice to get. :)


Thanks for the feedback! So, I did think about this while I was writing, and what I intended was that, when Applejack tells Rarity she had a wonderful time, it was a lie - but when Rarity smiles back, it makes her evening, and tips the balance over to it being true.

I guess that didn't come across super strongly, but yeah. I kinda wanted a duality thing going on. By being said, the lie becomes the truth, shades of gray sort of thing.

>>Baal Bunny

Thanks for the criticism! I gotta admit, I didn't consider the tone of her narration when writing. I was careful to add AJ's quirks to her spoken lines, because I wanted it to be immediately clear who was talking, but I guess I just figured third-person was a 'distant' enough narrator it would be alright. Maybe I made it too personal for that.

On the other hand, I do find writing in her voice to be somewhat tiresome... I'm not sure how well I would have done even if I did try. Still, I definitely should have considered it.

Thanks to everyone who read and voted, and congrats to dear, sweet Posh and GroaningGreyAgony on their medals!

I'm glad I entered this round (and not just because I did well - every time I write, I wonder why I don't write more...) and I hope to see you all next time.
#7 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat

It occurs to me:

That you could add another level to the whole "truth vs. white lies" thing by having this formal sort of narrative be Applejack's actual internal voice. We saw in "Cutie Mark Chronicles" that she spoke quite eruditely when she was living in Manehattan with the Oranges: maybe she's kept that up in her inner thoughts even after resuming her countryfied way of speaking.

Or maybe I just think about ponies too much... :)

#8 ·
>>Baal Bunny

Huh. That's a pretty good idea, and it wouldn't take more than a few lines to set up...

If I revisit this, I'll be sure to consider that. Thanks for the suggestion. :)