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It Could Have Gone Better · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
A Work in Progress
"Again."

Spike straightened in his high seat at Twilight's command. He'd slumped over the projector – a recent Golden Oak acquisition – having dozed off in the thirty-two seconds that it took for the film to loop again.

"Seriously, Twi?" he mumbled thickly as he rewound the footage. "We've watched this a thousand times."

"Six hundred and fifty five is hardly a thousand. There's no need to exaggerate so grossly." Twilight was seated beneath the projector, giving Spike a rare opportunity to be taller than her for a change. "Again."

Spike rolled his eyes. He clicked the projector, and grainy, sepia footage flickered upon the projector screen. Frame by frame, the same scene that Spike had seen six hundred and fifty five times before played out again.

Spike's eyelids fluttered shut.

Pinkie Pie pops out from behind the camera and mugs. She pans across the banquet pavilion. The Princess is eating and joking around with the diplomats under the awning. The rope snaps; everypony gasps; the footage cuts out—

"Stop."

Spike started. "But it's already—"

"Rewind it. To the last frame, just before the awning collapses."

Dutifully, Spike obeyed.

The screen froze on a tableau of visiting dignitaries, laughing at an expertly delivered bon mot from the Princess – as though she were capable of delivering any other kind – at the precise moment that the rope broke.

Twilight leaned forward. Her hoof slowly raised to point at the projector screen.

"You see that?"

Spike frowned as he tried to follow Twilight's hoof. "See what?"

Twilight thrust her hoof. "The rope. Right where the break occurs."

Spike peered closely, straining to see what Twilight saw. There was a black line, so thin and faint as to be almost invisible, curling across the rope, right at the point of separation.

"Someone cut the rope," Twilight braced her chin with her hoof in thought. "Tried to sabotage this luncheon by breaking the awning. But who? And why"

Spike hopped down from his seat and alighted beside Twilight. "Or, maybe it was just cheap rope. Doesn't mean there was any sabotage."

Twilight whirled on him. "Then how do you explain that?" She pointed at the black line again.

Spike looked back at Twilight flatly. "A hair on the lens? A scratch the film?"

Twilight flushed and fluffed her wings primly. "What's the likelihood of that occurring at my first diplomatic function as a princess? An accident just humiliating enough to damage our reputation – my reputation?"

"It wasn't humiliating. Everyone laughed it right off. And everything else went off without a hitch."

"Except for the great big hitch that Pinkie Pie caught on film!"

"It could have gone better, but it didn't go badly. Princess Celestia even said—"

"She can't speak openly about things like this, Spike; Canterlot's a viper's nest."

"Twi, you've been down this road enough times to know where it goes. Take a step back and relax. It was an accident. They happen. Someone botched putting up the awning, or bought the wrong kind of rope—"

"I put up the awning, Spike. I picked out the rope."

Spike growled. "Then you were distracted from micromanaging everything, and you made a mistake—"

"I don't make mistakes!"

Twilight stood at full height, wings spread, and stared down at Spike.

Spike, unimpressed, stared back. He'd been down this road with her, after all.

"I shouldn't make mistakes," Twilight's voice was softer, yet still strained. "I shouldn't. I'm a princess now, for pony's sake, not some sleepy-eyed schoolfilly who burns out. This should be beneath me."

"'Princesses are allowed to make mistakes.'" Spike rested a palm on Twilight's barrel, and her wings drooped. "She meant it when she said it. You're not flawless; you didn't lose your dents when you got your wings. You're still a pony – an awesome pony, but even awesome ponies screw things up now and then. Look at Rainbow."

Twilight pursed her lips. "Rainbow's not a princess."

"Thank goodness."

Twilight snorted, and looked toward the screen. She bit her lip.

"Sorry for snapping."

"It's okay. You're stressed. I get it" Spike dropped his hand and stepped away. "Let's get some hayburgers. My treat."

"...Go get us a table." Twilight's wings tightened against her body. "I'll be along in a few."

She turned her whole body to face the screen, baring her back to Spike.

As Spike stepped out the door, he heard the projector whir to life again. He sighed.

He'd be dining alone again tonight.
Pics
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#1 · 3
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
A very apt title. Twilight hasn’t fully grown into her wings even now. Back when she first got them? I can definitely seeing her go to such intense analytical lengths, though I’d see her leaning more towards “I made a mistake; I don’t deserve to be a princess” rather than “I’m a princess; I’m not allowed to make mistakes.” A fine but important distinction. Still, very well done.
#2 ·
·
Man, I ain't writing full reviews every single time. From now on, I'll try to get to the point.

Also, I should've said this earlier, but I do have biases and I'm makin' no pretence that I'll be able to see past them all (for instance, I might be more forgiving of a fic if it's horror-based or comedic than if it's a straight drama, I'll generally look at character more than plotting, and so on).

That said...

I like this one. It feels to me like "Lesson Zero" done right, where the focus is more on Spike snapping Twilight out of her funk than on Twilight's "amusing" shenanigans. Also, I can actually sympathize with Twilight's perfectionism here (attempted sabotage is a huge deal) and the constant, insecure rechecking is something I see all the time.The ambiguity early on over whether Twi is being hypersensitive or has actually detected something plays into that; for a while, I genuinely wasn't sure which way this was going to go, making it easier to appreciate where Twilight's coming from.

The character interplay, the way Twilight's tics aren't blown out of proportion but are still clearly a bit extreme, the rapport between Spike and Twilight... I skew heavily towards character, and this had it. Top contender, as far as I'm concerned.

I suppose if I had to criticize it, I'd say I agree with >>FanOfMostEverything that the way Twilight explains her perfectionism isn't quite on target. The difference is that saying "being a schoolfilly is beneath me" implies a snobbish attitude towards schoolfillies which I can't imagine Twilight holding, whereas "being me, I'll probably screw up" feels more in-character (and is, frankly, more relatable). But in the broad sweep, we get the point.

On a minor technical point, I did notice missing elements here and there, like missing words or missing commas. Needed a smoother proofread to finish.

But ultimately, this is about Spike's reaction to Twilight, and he's where the fic shines, so kudos for his characterization. I always like seeing the poor kid as the voice of reason.
#3 ·
·
I might dial back on the severity here. Twilight's practically returning to Lesson Zero with this: 600 viewings? It's a little hard to swallow.

I also want a little more. This is a narrow character piece, but I'd prefer an arc of some sort. If Twilight isn't going to learn anything in this story, maybe Spike can.
#4 ·
·
On the one hand I feel like this is a pretty thorough character piece, considering the length, but on the other I get the feeling that there are contradictory elements at work here, regarding Twilight.

Let me explain.

Twilight is a neurotic, sometimes violently so, but the extent to which she has had these bouts of anxiety has lessened gradually since season 2, and nowadays she's somewhat well-adjusted.

I don't get that impression here.

This is basically Twilight circa season 2, except she's a princess, so at least the end of season 3. I'm not sure about the chronology of this entry, but I have to assume it takes place during season 4 or later since there's nothing indicating otherwise, and we know that Twilight has developed more as a character than the story is giving her credit for.

Spike, on the other hand, is pretty spot-on. There's a bit of snark in his voice, but ultimately he is very understanding of Twilight's plight and remains patient with her. Heck, the story could've almost been more about him instead of her.

Characterization is good on the whole, I would say, even though this is not the Twilight we are now familiar with.

The lesson at the end of it all is also good, even if the conflict is resolved too swiftly.

I'm feeling a decent to strong 7 on this.
#5 ·
·
With so many folks:

Commenting this round, I find I don't have a lot to say that hasn't already been said. Still, having read not quite half the entries so far, this one's at the top of my list, and I find myself wondering if old-style film projectors can actually do a "freeze frame" without the heat of the lightbulb setting the film on fire. I mean, that's what happens at the end of the film Rainbow shows at the beginning of "Hurricane Fluttershy," isn't it?

So yeah: I got nothing but obscure technical questions to offer... :)

Mike
#6 · 1
·
Really liked this piece. Aside from the occasional missing punctuation, I found this engaging and poignant—a great look at Twilight's headspace following her coronation.

That said, I'm not sure what point this piece is trying to make, if any, about Spike's role in Twilight's life. We get lines like:
Dutifully, Spike obeyed.

The language here calls to mind servitude, which feels like it should be focused on, not just accepted and ignored.
#7 ·
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Genre: Obsession

Thoughts: i came away from this with a feeling that something was amiss. It took a while to pin down where the feeling came from, but I think this line is at the root of it:

"She can't speak openly about things like this, Spike; Canterlot's a viper's nest."


I mean, overall this story seems to want to convey a sense of discomfort as Spike watches Twilight descend back into another obsessive episode, of which she's had plenty. Nothing wrong with that. But that line seems a bit out of place to me, as it either reflects a suddenly-introduced dark truth (in which case it bears more setup), or a much deeper depth of Twilight's obsessive paranoia than I might expect from her, especially after Lesson Zero.

...and yet, that's more of a personal objection (or a knock on your adherence to canon) rather than a real, substantive story critique. I think this might be one of those circumstances where the story isn't exactly my cup of tea but I can recognize its overall success at plot, structure, storytelling, etc.

Tier: Strong
#8 ·
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I very much liked this fic; in fact, I ranked it 7th out of 39th this round. It portrays very capably a tension characterized by "insecurities eating away at oneself," with an additional look into how it impacts Spike. Particularly, I like that this tension is simply thrust into the fore from the get-go, and ends without any significant resolution; this aptly gives the impression that these insecurities have been pernicious for a long time now, that Spike realizes this, and that Twilight is going to suffer from them for a while longer until she directly confronts them herself (Spike did all he could, but Twilight herself needs to see the light). This presentation is, in my opinion, superior to an alternative where the tension is gradually introduced, clearly climaxes, and is resolved (in positive or negative fashion) with a neat little bow, all in artificial manner.

As for critique, I might nitpick and say that the narration sometimes loses focus or wastes time on irrelevant things, e.g. "a recent Golden Oak acquisition," "giving Spike a rare opportunity to be taller than her for a change" (the comic relief also seems to be a defect here), "as though she were capable of delivering any other kind." I also agree with Coffee, that the "viper's nest" comment paints with slightly too dark a brush.

I might also wonder if the story could pack just a little more of a punch, by connecting Twilight's anxieties with something deeper (her new status as Princess is a good start). But as it stands, this story is still a very quality, sober portrait of Twilight's darker side.