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True Colors · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
The Coat
The light of the evening streamed through the windows of the boutique, bathing ponequins and dresses in a warm aura. The doorbell jingled as the last customer left, while Rarity floated needles, threads, and notes back to their place.

From outside came the muffled sound of Ponyville getting ready for the evening, of promises of family dinners, of cups of tea, and of rest after a day of work and play.

She rubbed her eyes, yawned, surveyed the room and then trotted in the kitchen. Water plunged in the kettle, and a spark of magic ignited the herd as the bell of the shop sounded again.

Rarity groaned internally, then put on her professional smile number thirteen—I would so gladly help and would move mountains to do it, but the moment is unfavorable—and went back in the showroom. "Welcome to the Carousel Boutique. I'm sorry but—"

In the room stood the largest griffon Rarity had ever seen. Gray plumage ran down the back of his head, and bleached-out, blue fur hinted at a life under the open skies. Two massive saddlebags made of thick, oiled cloth hung over his sides. His beak was covered in scratches and chipped at the edges, and a crisscross of old scars marred his coat, with a particularly ugly one running over his left eye.

The Griffon's good eye fixated on her and he asked, "Good evening, are you miss Rarity?".

"Huh?" Rarity blinked, then said, "Ah, right. Please excuse my rudeness, but I didn't expect any more customers today. Yes, I am Rarity, how can I help you?"

He nodded. "Do you do repairs?"

"That depends. Is it one of my pieces?" If she had ever done something for a griffon it should have been memorable, but as she racked her mind trying to remember such an occasion she came up empty.

The Griffon shook his head. "It is not." He turned and reached for his saddlebags, then pulled out a package wrapped in brown paper and closed with a twine. He proffered the package to Rarity and said, "It was made by a Griffon."

Her curiosity piqued, Rarity grabbed it in her magic and floated it over. With a tug, she undid the node and unwrapped it. "I usually don't do repairs anymore, if not under very special circumstances." She unfurled the piece of clothing inside and floated up a large, anthracite coat. It was made of heavy wool, thickly weaved, and in a shape she didn't think she had seen before. Around the shoulders and the wing holes, the cloth was consumed from use and the lower borders were a bit frayed. A faint smell of sea came from it.

"I must say, that is an interesting design. I think I saw something similar, once, but I can't really remember where." Her glasses floated on her muzzle as she squinted and looked at one of the pockets. "I see that somepony already repaired it. Not perfect, but a decent job. Can't you bring it back to the tailor who made it?"

She continued to examine the coat, noticing more small fixes. A sewed snatch here, a hidden patch in the lining there. After a while, when no answer came forth from her guest, Rarity turned to the griffon.

He stood there, shoulders slightly sagged in, his eye looking on the floor.

"Are you alright, Mr...?"

He sighed, then looked up. "I'm fine, thank you. My name is Gerard, and no, I can't bring it back to the tailor who sewed it." He passed a claw over his head, straightening a couple of feathers. "Can you repair it?"

Rarity folded the coat. "Honestly, it doesn't seem to be damaged. There are the wear and tear of its age, but aside from that it is in good condition."

"Can you restore it to perfection, then?"

The folded coat landed on the brown wrapping paper. "Maybe, but it isn't something I usually do. It would require a lot of time and some research, I suppose, and I have to start my work on my fall collection. I can give you the contact of a couple of talented—"

"The price won't be an issue."

Rarity raised an eyebrow and looked to Gerard.

The Griffon stood there, massive, intimidating, a history of violence and trouble etched in his being, and with a pleading look in his eye. "It will be a gift for my daughter. Please."

The kettle whistled from the kitchen. Rarity looked at the coat, then back at Gerard. She removed her glasses, then smiled and said, "There seems to be a lot of things bound to this coat that are not immediately apparent. Why don't you sit down with me for some tea and tell me the whole story?"

Gerard sat at the table in the kitchen with a cup between his claws. The sweet smell of bergamot hung in the air, and the waning light of the sunset cast long shadows across the white surfaces of the room.

Rarity put the cup down, then leaned on a hoof. "So, I gathered that this coat is really important for you, but it is also quite old. There's a rip under the right sleeve that has been repaired three times, and I didn't see any previous restoration attempts."

"True. The coat is almost as old as me, and I'm going for the sixties." He sniffed at the cup and smiled. "You are spoiling me. Is this a Zebrican Black Gold?"

"Oh, a connoisseur. Yes, it is. A friend of mine introduced me to it, and I never looked back." She sighed. "I admit that sometimes it's difficult to get it, the supply doesn't seem to be very stable."

"That really depends if the Elarian Grand-duchy is flexing its muscles on the eastern gate or not. They only treat the tea in Zebrica, ferment it in some secret way, but the raw materials come from the Tarillian Isles. If one has a taste for risk, it's a pretty profitable route."

"Well, that explains a bit, I think. I may have to ask Twilight where some of those places are, though. I admit my knowledge of the eastern hemisphere is sorely lacking." Rarity sipped her tea. "So, are you a merchant?"

Gerard raised his claws. "Oh, no, I'm nothing more than a humble sailor. I've been on that route just a couple of times when I was younger and more prone to take risks."

"And yet you come to me with something straight out of history and you ask to restore it to a pristine state, no matter the price." Rarity floated a plate of biscuits in the middle of the table. "Now, could you please tell me why this is so important for you?"

"It's important for my family, and it's a long story." Gerard looked to the side. "I really need it done."

Rarity took a biscuit. "Well, I am quite busy at the moment, but you made me curious." She smiled. "And I'm glad we are beyond the curt statement phase. Now, consider this story part of the price."

The Griffon sighed, then looked to the unicorn. "Very well. From a certain point of view, it's mostly a story about my father.

"My earliest memories are the smell of chalk and my father sitting at the kitchen table. Considering we lived in an aviary on the coast north of Griffonstone, one would think it should be fish and snow, but they are not. I think it's because chalk meant home.

"My father was one of the last griffon tailors this side of the Dragon's Land. He was proud of it, even while his profession became more and more meaningless with each passing year." He tipped with his claw against the cup. "He was a good griffon, you know? There were a lot of good griffins. They still are, but somehow we broke and we stopped caring.

Gerard looked up to Rarity, then clenched his beak. "I think you heard about how losing the Idol of Boreas made everything fall apart. Well, one of the things that we lost were tailors. Not suddenly, but in time. Clothing is not something essential for us. We are hardy, so we don't need much more than a scarf and some bags. There will be less cloth, and then there will be fewer griffons working with it, and... I think you see where this is going.

"Anyway, when I was but a little chick there was still some work for him. Griffons in our aviary brought him rags and he transformed them, made gloves or cloaks or hats. I remember him sitting there with his waistcoat, threads hanging from it like medals, a focused look in his eyes while he fixed a beret or sewed some saddle bags. He did everything like he had a commission from the King, no matter if all he would get just get a sack of flour from the miller.

"He took pride in what he did, no matter how humble it was. He cared even when those around him stopped."

Rarity poured some tea in her cup. "I can see it, and I think I understand. I count myself quite lucky that what I do is considered relevant here. But even if it wasn't"—she shuddered—"I think I would do it all the same. I suppose the coat was his, right?"

"It was." Gerard smiled. "I think he wanted it to be his masterwork, his legacy. And a memento. He worked on it for years. He had this cloth roll, thick, warm, you have seen the coat. Mother once told me that it was all he had left after he closed his shop in Griffonstone.

The coat floated over to the table and Rarity unfurled it. She put on her glasses and squinted at it.

"He once told me it was done like the ones the knights of the King and the nobles used. He told me how, when he was an apprentice, some great griffon or the other would come in his master's workshop for one. It was one of the few times his master was in a good mood, and how it also meant a couple of extra coins for the apprentices too. It also meant a couple of whacks more from the cane when they messed up. A stitch the thickness of a thread too far was enough to get beaten. When I think about how my father told the story, I'm pretty sure he resented him a bit even after all those years."

"Hitting somepony with a cane is unacceptable. No slight intended, but that sounds, ah, positively dreadful."

Gerard shrugged. "It was a different time. And, well, Griffon culture may be a bit more physical than what ponies are used to. I think my father would agree with you, though. He respected his master, but I don't think he ever liked him."

Rarity looked up from the coat. "From what you tell me I think I would have liked to know him. I can also see the skill in what your father has done. This sewing is almost invisible, and this one here is perfect even after all these decades. Masterpiece is an honest assessment in my professional opinion."

"He would be honored by that. May I?" Gerard pointed at the teapot.

"Oh, certainly." An azure aura surrounded the pot and Rarity poured some tea for Gerard. "So the reason you want to restore it is that you want to give your daughter something from your father?"

"Well, not only that. My father taught me the craft, or at least the fundamentals of it, but I, myself, became a sailor. I was fourteen when I embarked, and I was young and stupid."

Rarity looked up to her guest. "Fourteen? That is quite young."

"The fall of Griffonstone was complete, by then. And even our little aviary felt it. We youngsters had seen the old ones struggle, and fight, and we saw things becoming miserable. We were also convinced that we could take on the world alone, that we didn't need anyone else and that we would never end up like the other losers. I dreamed of going out on the sea, and that I alone would become rich and come back to rub it into everyone's beak.

"So once I decided that, I embarked on the first merchant ship I could find and sailed for the Middle Sea, east of the Dragon's Land."

Gerard sipped his tea, then looked up and grinned. "Let me tell you, there's nothing like being on a ship during a storm to cure you of the notion that you can take on the world alone.

"I don't know how much you heard about the Middle Sea, but it's a place that opens one's mind. It will do it with a crowbar, if necessary, and it will pull out whatever you thought you knew and trample on it. There are Griffon cities there, and Minotaur enclaves, and Donkey reigns, and ports where you'll find every race that ever walked, or flew, or swam on this earth. And they'll laugh at you if you think you are the best thing after salted herring that ever graced them with his presence.

"They still fight a lot there. And then they drink together, and then they fight again. And when I returned home six years later I finally understood what my father talked about when he told me about Griffonstone of old."

"I'm not sure the Middle Sea sounds so enticing if you put it that way." Rarity floated the empty pot over to the kitchen counter. "You paint it as quite a savage place."

The griffon chuckled. "Oh, it is. It is also full of life and adventures and wonderful people. And it's where I met my wife."

"Oh, romanticism on the sea is something I can get behind." Rarity folded the coat again. "So, you returned to your home, and then?"

"I still hadn't met her, then. Anyway, I talked with my father and with my mother. That first time I stayed home only for a couple of weeks. I was a different Griffon than when I first left, but my thirst for adventure was the same, only less focused on becoming rich.

"I left again, for five years this time, and when I returned I came back with my Giselle. We married the summer after my return, and it was the first wedding in some years there." Gerard leaned on the table. "My father sewed Giselle's dress, did it with sails and nets. It was rough, and solid, and it smelled like the ocean, just like her. It was a wonderful day, she was beautiful, and the party, well, we hadn't much by then, but it was like aviary had returned to how I remembered it from my childhood. It didn't last, but it was a glimpse into what we once were.

"It was also the day my father gifted me his coat. He took me aside after our vows and then gave it to me. Said I reminded him of the good in us.

"After that, we embarked again, toured a bit the Celestial Sea, sailed for a while the Southern Luna Ocean. It was when we all still thought that the Night Princess was an old tale or a spirit coming to carry away sailors when their time had come."

Gerard closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "My father wasn't a sailor, so it was the North WInd that came for him. I… When we returned to the aviary he wasn't with us anymore. I wasn't even there for the funeral, and when mothers letter reached me it was four months too late."

With a flicker of magic, the lights in the kitchen turned on. Rarity sat down on Gerard's side and put a hoof on his shoulder. "My condolences. He seemed to be a great griffon."

Gerard shook his head. "He was old and had a life full of love, despite everything. His greatest regret was that he saw his art dying with him. My greatest regret is that he never met his grand chick."

"Your daughter, right? You said this was for her."

"Yes, it's for her. We had her pretty late. Giselle and I have been around for quite some time before we decided to settle down and nest. Or better, she settled down. Me, I'm still sailing, even if now I'm a boatswain. I think the sea is too encrusted in my feathers to stop, but I try to be home more often, and not to be away for years at an end." He reached out to the coat and took it in his claws. "I always brought this coat with me. We saw both marvels and some pretty rough times. The stitches and the repairs, those are mine. I even lost it once, in Herenchol, and found it six months later in a pawn shop some two thousand miles away."

"And now you want to pass it on." Rarity smiled. "But with such a rich history, why do you want to undo all the things you have lived through with it? From what you told me, there is a soo much in it, even if the little fixes you have done are less than perfect."

Gerard stared down. "Because my daughter is more like my father. My gift to her will be something else, something that's me through and through. But this coat, this is the essence of him, of what he built and what he saw. Me, I came to understand him, and I learned to shake off some of the stupid things Griffons came to believe. And yet I'm still an offspring of my time.. But she, oh, she's cut from a wholly different cloth." He snickered.

"I think we may be familiar enough for me to tell you that that was awful." Rarity passed a hoof on the cloth. "Well, then you only have to tell me why I should do it. I'm honored that you came to me, but I'm not the only seamstress in Equestria."

"Oh, well, that is because my daughter told me about you." Gerard looked to Rarity. "You should have met her a while ago, and I think she is a good friend with your sister. When Gabrielle came visiting us she told us so much, she was so happy. She's how Griffins should be, not how we were for decades. That's why I want the coat to be perfect. I want her to have what my father made when he thought of the great Griffins of the past. Because she is exactly like them and she deserves it."

The moon was high in the sky and all the lights in the sewing room were on.

Rarity looked down on the coat laying open in front of her. She passed a hoof over some of the original, almost invisible stitches. It truly was a testimony to craft and love.

The fall collection could wait.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
If I had to describe this story in one word, it would be: "Warm." It's not exceptionally complicated, nor did it ever really surprise me, but it did give me a solid case of the warm-and-fuzzies, and I get the impression that that's what it's supposed to do. The little bits of world-building serve well to space it out, the framing device is effective, and while you do see it pretty much all coming from the beginning, it doesn't overstay its welcome.

In short, it was enjoyable. An effective realization of a traditional storytelling concept.
#2 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
As good as this is, I found it a little on the boring and hard to read side. However, it clearly shows exceptional writing skills.

So I'm at a loss for what to say other than "Thank you for contributing."
#3 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion >>Zaid Val'Roa >>MLPmatthewl419 >>QuillScratch >>horizon >>Orbiting_kettle
This is a lovely Chapter 1.

It took me a little while to spin up from the understated opening, but once the hook of your premise sets, it's pretty compelling, and this does an excellent job of bringing Gerard to life (and showing off the core generosity of Rarity, and slipping in neat little details like the tea they both discuss). So I'm rather favorably inclined to what's here, and I certainly would be curious to read more of it.

It is, however, a lovely Chapter 1, and for Writeoff judging purposes I am forced to evaluate it based on how the existing text works as a standalone, complete story. In terms of three-act structure (which certainly isn't the only way to write stories, but is a good default framework unless you're doing something structurally unusual), this basically feels like it ends with the inciting event: Rarity is confronted with the backstory of the coat and makes the decision to accept the job, creating a situation where her life is about to be altered; and you stop right as your story is getting started.

Now, it's possible that your goal was to write this as a much more limited arc: framing her decision as the climax, and having the story turn on her making that choice. But if that's the case, then the story has some big structural stumbles.

First of all, it seems like a foregone conclusion from the time she invites him in for tea that she's not going to say no; she spends way too much time getting invested in his story to build up any tension over whether she might refuse or not. There's no compelling reason for her to say no, either; she offers the abstract observation that she needs to start working on her fall line, but Gerard's very next line points out that he can potentially compensate her enough to make that irrelevant. What is she sacrificing by saying yes? Basically, nothing. If you are trying to center your conflict around her decision, there needs to be conflict: a tradeoff or a sacrifice that she's forced to make.

Also, if you intended her decision to be the climax, since you ended on it there's no denouement: no sense of resolution where we see the outcome of her choice. Again, this isn't strictly necessary — I'm far too fond of leaving the denouement hanging myself, to emphasize the choice over the fallout — but if you do that you have to really double down on making the choice a meaningful one, and force the reader to confront whether it was the right choice or not.

So, despite what's here being good, this is going to end up drifting down my slate. Take heart, author: I'd love to read more if you keep going from here (or rework the conflict to have Rarity make a meaningful choice — such as, Gerard can't afford to pay her and she needs the money from this year's line, but saying no means turning down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and making baby gryphons cry). So get to work and get this one to FIMFiction!

Tier: Needs Work [1]

EDIT: Tier upped to Almost There

[1] General request for feedback, to everyone reading this: Do you think there's a need for me to add an "Incomplete" tier for my Writeoff judging, for situations like this where "Needs Work" is simply a commentary on the story not standing alone? (I can't really tier it higher because I'm trying to indicate my assessment of the story as it stands now, as a standalone experience.) Or does "Needs Work" feel like it covers that? If you had written this, would having "Needs Work" at the end of my comment of encouragement motivate you to pick the pen back up, or would it make you feel like you'd rather ditch this and work on something else?
#4 ·
· · >>Not_A_Hat >>MLPmatthewl419 >>horizon
How about "Keep Developing" as a catch-all for both cases?

(Either way, I'm probably long overdue to stop mooching off your tiers and go my own way. I'm grateful for your tolerance thus far. The tiers have been a really helpful way to think about categorizing stories when providing feedback, but I never meant to camp out on your coattails for so long...)

++grr, how do you get size tags to work on here?++
#5 · 2
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Hmm, a nice little character piece.

This isn't particularly moving, in my opinion, but it's thoroughly pleasant. There are a few odd bits; did you type this on something with autocorrect, by any chance? (Herd -> heat? Node -> knot?) Calling the coat 'anthracite' was rather strange to me, but maybe that's a style? I don't think I've seen that used for color...

Anyways. The characters were pleasant and well-realized, the prose was fairly clean and transparent. The backstory was interesting enough, even if I didn't find it particularly compelling, and the whole thing was sorta low-level warm-and-fuzzy. I liked it! I just didn't find it particularly moving.

Very nice, even if it didn't knock my socks off.

>>CoffeeMinion Size tags take a number, like the 'font size' you'd see in a word processor. Numbers too large or small don't seem to work, though; I'm pretty sure you can do at least 12 - 22, but the range might be a bit wider.


#6 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
Oh, my gosh, that was so nice. I'm not even sure why this resonated so much with me, but it did. You had me hooked and reading with a smile all the way

Let's talk about the rough, now. While I like Gerard's backstory, as >>horizon said, Rarity leaves much to be desired. What's there is good, but it's not enough. Granted, she wasn't the focus of the story , but more involvement and higher stakes, or even a stronger realisation for her at the end could make this pack a bigger punch.
#7 · 1
I'm gonna agree with >>CoffeeMinion, and say you should completely replace "Needs Work" with "Keep Developing." It covers a couple more instances and generally sounds better.
#8 ·
· · >>QuillScratch >>CoffeeMinion
Either way, I'm probably long overdue to stop mooching off your tiers and go my own way. I'm grateful for your tolerance thus far

Just as a note on that: I've made both the HORSE system and the tier system freely available under Creative Commons. I want other people to use the system if they find it useful!
#9 ·
· · >>horizon >>Orbiting_kettle
Personally I just like yelling HORSE at people.

Actually I use HORSE these days mostly for my own benefit: it helps me to think about how different elements of a story's composition stack up and that in turn helps me think more clearly about what I can learn from any given story. I hope the authors whose fics I'm using it for find it as helpful as I do!

It seems a lot of people were more moved by this story than I was. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a sweet enough tale, and the idea is solid and emotive... but I really wasn't all that sold on the way in which that idea was conveyed. I found this entry fairly inconsistent in terms of quality of prose: I'd get through a fantastic couple of paragraphs, before being slammed with an awkward construction or a word out of place in a phrase that didn't quite feel natural (and in a story with as much dialogue as this one, natural language is super important!) All in all, I found that quite jarring, and it made it difficult to keep myself immersed in this one.

That said, I'm going to have to fundamentally disagree with >>horizon's main criticism of this story. I don't buy that Rarity's decision is meant to be a climax: it is the denouement (the climax, so far as I'm concerned, is right before the hr break. The entire story builds up to that moment where the final threads are sewn together, and that paragraph is effectively the moment that the whole request makes sense*—both to Rarity and the reader. Is it a bit forced? Sure, most of the fic is. But it's definitely a climax for this story's arc.) And with that approach to understanding the story's structure, I think this makes for a very well-packaged standalone story.

All in all, while I admire the idea and structure of this piece, the actual story as is isn't quite working for me. I'd love to see this edited, though, because I think that the idea and story behind this piece deserve to shine. For now, though, I think you're going to need to Keep Developing this one.


*ok so little bit of confusion-clearing here: yes, I know that denouement is defined to be the moment that everything is tied up neatly after a climax, and here I am describing a moment in which everything is tied up neatly as a climax. I think the reason this feels climactic here is that the driving force of this story is the reader's (and Rarity's) desire to fully understand Gerard's request and so, naturally, the moment in which we do is the moment of climax: the final short scene, therefore, acts as the resolution of the less important question "Will Rarity say yes or no?", tying up that loose end. The inclusion of the final sentence hints at how this is a denouement, because by bringing up the very reason that Rarity had earlier been so reluctant to take on such a workload and stating outright that it is no longer a concern, the author ties the resolution of that tension back into the very thing that caused it. And that, ultimately, is why I fundamentally disagree with horizon on this story's structure.

*mic drop*
#10 · 1
Well then, that's different! ^^

Tier: Awesomesauce
#11 ·
· · >>QuillScratch
I think the reason this feels climactic here is that the driving force of this story is the reader's (and Rarity's) desire to fully understand Gerard's request and so, naturally, the moment in which we do is the moment of climax: the final short scene, therefore, acts as the resolution of the less important question "Will Rarity say yes or no?"

I disagree, which I think is behind why we have such different readings on the story's intended arc.

First of all, if learning that Gerard's daughter is Gabby is the climax, then that piece of information must be a revelation which answers a question the story proposes; or recontextualizes information the story presented in another context. The climax is the story's most significant turning point or moment of resolution, that which everything has been building up toward.

So if that revelation was intended to be a climax … it comes off as really anticlimactic to me, which gets back to my argument about the story having structural problems.

> the driving force of this story is the reader's (and Rarity's) desire to fully understand Gerard's request

But we do understand Gerard's request — right from the beginning. The first scene gives us the line: "It will be a gift for my daughter. Please."

What we don't understand is:
1) Why it's so important to Gerard that he's willing to spend a fortune on it;
2) Why he chose Rarity.

#1 turns primarily on the identity of the cloak's creator; the final revelation doesn't actually clarify or recontextualize that question (except for maybe in the very minor sense that "She's how Griffins should be". BUT this isn't even new information: we're told well earlier "Because my daughter is more like my father", which provides the same emotional inflection.)

#2 certainly hinges centrally on the final revelation. However, the reason that is important is because it impacts Rarity's decision, and therefore her character arc. I've covered my feelings on that in the earlier comment.

(As a standalone revelation? My reaction to it was a mild "Okay," and moving on to see how that affected her choice. I mean, Gerard spends the entirety of the story talking about his history and his father; the identity of his daughter, and the link to canon that creates, has no thematic impact on that, except as discussed above.)

So I think your analysis here is wrong, at least wrt whether that revelation is (or can be) a climax. The idea that this is primarily about Gerard rather than Rarity would put the story on stronger footing, but I stand by my earlier comment.
#12 ·
· · >>horizon
On reading your response, and re-reading the ending of the story, I think I ought to amend my statement of what is the climax: not strictly that last paragraph (oh god why did I say that that's so wrong), but more the last few paragraphs as a whole (particularly, as you note, the third-to-last paragraph, where the revelation that his daughter is more like his father than him comes in. I think when I wrote my review I was thinking of that paragraph and kinda forgot about the two that came after it >.>) But yeah, I think our disagreement comes down to whether Rarity is the main character of this story or a stand-in for the reader in a story all about Gerard, and I will happily agree that if you try to read an arc for Rarity into this story at all it falls somewhat flat on its face. It would be really interesting to see if that could be included, because that would definitely make this a more rounded story, but I don't think it's something that the story needs to stand alone.
#13 · 1
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
This is a simple enough story, but you've woven something meaningful into it in a way that feels genuine. I found myself more intrigued and invested in the story within a story told by Gerard, like he's really the main character and Rarity's POV is just setting up his tale. I don't see anything wrong with that (if that was indeed the intent) but I agree with other reviewers that Rarity's character could be polished to a matching shine.

The story really pulled me in around the time Gerard started talking about his travels and about Giselle. The paragraph about the wedding and how it restored their home to something of its former glory was the most moving section for me. I would love to see more like that earlier in the story, but I'm afraid I don't have much specific advice in that regard. I do think some flow and mechanics-focused editing throughout would help to tighten it up.

I can see how Gerard views his daughter as a living legacy to his own father, and to Griffonstone that was. That connection is why the coat is so important, but it does seem rather understated, taking place mostly at the end. I know the narrative sort of naturally flows that way, but it could perhaps benefit from earlier/more direct glimpses at Gerard's ideas about it.
#14 · 1
>>horizon (cc: >>QuillScratch)

On further reflection, upgrading my tier -- because while I still think this story would benefit from centering its main arc around Rarity's decision and giving her some sacrifice to make, I think it could be made to work with only Gerard's arc (i.e., the way it is now) with a lot less editing than I originally thought.

Namely: throw your full focus on Gerard by eliminating Rarity's arc from the beginning.

Don't tell us she accepts the job in your last three paragraphs -- have her accept up front! (You can still have "tell me why it's important" as part of the price; he's just paying along the way instead of up front.) And get the "why me" question out of the way, too: since, as noted, his daughter's identity has basically nothing to do with the importance of the coat itself, there's no reason to hold back on that revelation, and having Rarity know who it's for is an easy way to get her to buy in early. Stripping those away as dangling plot points forces the reader to focus in on the question you actually spend the story answering: why he's willing to spend a fortune on it.

If you still want to add a Rarity arc in after those changes, I can think of an easy one: have her decide not to charge him for the coat after she's put in weeks worth of work. There's your sacrifice, showing a major character choice driven by what she learns about how important it is.
#15 · 1
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
So I chatted a bit with GaPJaxie about this one. I think we're mostly in agreement.

It's a nice story. It's heartwarming. It's... pretty soft.

If you had to categorize me as a writer, I think "structuralist" would be a good term. I recognize that stories come in all shapes and sizes, but there are some elements that I think most good stories have:

- A protagonist
- A conflict
- Tension
- A narrative arc driven by the protagonist's choices and actions
- A climax in which the protagonist does something, i.e. makes a sacrifice, a significant moral choice, takes a risk, etc, that resolves the conflict

This is a very conventional, structural approach to storytelling. It's absolutely not the only way to write a story – a lot of the 20th Century's greatest authors and works completely avoid it (e.g. Joyce's Ulysses, T.S. Elliot's The Wasteland, etc). I've written stories myself that violate most of these requirements (Lost Cities, which turned out to be one of my better stories). So they're absolutely not a requirement.

But if you're writing what feels like a traditional story, I'm going to look for those elements. And if some of them are missing, I'm going to think, "It feels like something is missing here."

This story has all of these elements in some for or another. But let's examine the conflict for a moment. As best I can figure, it's something like this:

"Rarity must choose between spending her time and effort on a heartwarming gift for an elderly griffin, or working on her fall fashion line."

In the end, this conflict is resolved by Rarity choosing to work on the gift. That's... pretty expected, isn't it? I mean, she's the element of Generosity. Did any readers really expect this story to end with her saying "Sorry, I've got better things to work on. Best of luck!"

No. None of us expected that. Every single reader knew the moment Rarity pulled out that coat what was going to happen. Unless you wrote Rarity exceptionally out of character, there's no way she couldn't have helped. It would be like writing a story where the main conflict is "Will Applejack decide to sell the farm and move to a studio apartment in Manehattan to pursue her dreams of becoming an investment banker?"

A conflict is only as good as the uncertainty it puts in the reader's mind. Yes, we know most stories have happy endings, but the reason we keep reading is because there's always that nagging uncertainty that the hero will lose. Or we see them in such a difficult situation that we don't understand how they will eventually win, even if we know that they will.

No one who read the Harry Potter series honestly thought Voldemort would win in the end, but we kept reading it because we had to see how Harry would overcome the tremendous odds in front of him. We had to know how he would defeat the antagonist.

I'd love to see a version of this story where the reader had just as much uncertainty about Rarity. Maybe she really needs the fall fashion line to be a success (the whole "Money is no object" line from Gerard badly undercuts this source of tension). Maybe she's concerned her reputation will be damaged if she spends weeks working on some simple griffin coat rather than beautiful pony dresses. Maybe the coat's not for Gabby -- it's for Gilda, and Rarity can't stand Gilda.

This was a short story. You had almost 5,000 more words you could've used. Their absence is telling.

Edit: This is still near the top of my slate. Upper half, at least.
#16 · 3
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Let me start by thanking every one of you who read the story and commented on it. Feedback of any kind is always a wonderful thing, and one of the reasons I love the Write-off.

Now let's talk about my entry this round.

The most debated point seemed to be Rarity's role in this story, as her character arc was non-existent, which leads to an unsatisfactory read if seen as her story. The thing is, this wasn't her story if not tangentially.

I can't deny that there is a problem here. Even if she wasn't the protagonist, she deserved a meaningful conflict of her own, and the lack of it was one of the major weak points of this story. I intend to add it in the revised version that I will publish.

What this story was was a tale about griffins, both in the larger sense of their civilization and culture as in the specific regarding Gerard's Relationship with his past and his future. Here I need to rework his tale a bit to make the delivery of important information (who made the coat, why it was important, who his daughter is) more organic and better timed. As it stands it works mostly, but that is clearly not enough.

Warm-and-fuzzies was one of the intended effects, and I'm glad I made you feel that.

I hope that improving the timing of the delivered information and the rhythm of the narration will solve the boredom issue, which is one of the mortal sins of writing IMHO.

Aside from adding a more meaningful conflict, I will probably have to make clear from the beginning whose story this is. I get the impression that I built up some expectations that I then betrayed, and not in an interesting way.

THe weird words were brainfarts on my side. Used the wrong language and all that. Regarding the color, I was actually convinced it was widely used as a word for dark gray.

>>Zaid Val'Roa
I'm glad it resonated with you, even with all the rough edges and the structural weaknesses.

If you have time I would love to talk with you about which sentences sounded strange or broke you out of the flow of the dialog.

You are right that I will have to reshuffle things a bit to make the gradual reveal more meaningful.

>>Cold in Gardez
As I said before, I will have to work a lot to avoid building wrong expectations, mostly regarding whom this story is about. I will still have to add some meaningful stakes for Rarity, but I have then to make it clear that this is about Gerard. His stakes and the conflict have to be tightened too, obviously.

And that's it. I thank you all again for the comments and the suggestions, and they helped me quite a lot in seeing what I have to work on to make this better. Having a week in which I can only read comments and criticism without answering to them did wonders for me.
#17 · 2
>>Orbiting_kettle You know, I just googled 'anthracite coat' and got all sorts of results for dark gray colored coats.

So it's entirely possible that it is a widely used word for the color, at least in the fashion industry. And in that sense, it would be perfectly normal for Rarity to see it as 'anthracite'. Sure, it reads weird to me, but maybe it's the sort of weird you should keep, instead of removing.