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Keep Pretending · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
Sweet on the Inside
I looked up from my menu to see a grin glaring me in the face.

“Oh horsefeathers!” I jumped. I didn't hear any approaching hoofsteps.

A handful of moms covered their foals’ ears. They were tucked close to them. Either keeping them safe or away from the wall of assorted treats. Probably both, since those colorful shapes would rot their teeth.

However, the pink mare in front of me didn't even flinch. Her mane was ratty, like cotton candy- clumpy and light as a cloud. The strong aroma wafting off her did smell like cotton candy though.

“Oh, it’s somepony’s special birthday today!” she exclaimed in a sing-song voice.

I blanched. Was it already today? It couldn’t be! Anonymity was scarce in Sugarcube Corner. Especially around her. She liked to greet everypony, even to the liberty of remembering their birthdays to the exact day.

She read my mind. “You can’t forget your own birthday, silly!” She yanked my hoof up like I’d won a hoof-wrestling match. “Let's sing for Incognito!”

Before I could protest, she led an off-key, bellowing choir of ponies through the happy birthday song. It felt funny—I was standing red-faced in front of a crowd. Never before I had want to bury my face so deep in my forelegs. But, I couldn't help but smile. It felt good to hear the cheer.

It felt like a milkshake on a hot day.

My first mistake was staying longer than expected. She wouldn't let me escape without finishing at least one speckled slice she set before me. Bad manners to treat something made with love and care as disposable.

When she gathered up the last dish on that table, she flashed a smile at me.

It was a little morbid to think of it, but considering the amount of sweetness in her, she’d be stuffed with it like a pinata.

I lost concentration. A flash of green and it was all over. My real hooves, appeared before her eyes. Trembling, I awaited the terrible fate or her screaming for anypony around to smack me with a broom.

If I was still wearing my disguise my cheeks would be rosy red.

Then… a lack of reaction—she didn't flinch.

“It's okay,” she said, waving her hooves to stop me from panicking. “It's okay.”

“How’d you—?”

“I thought I recognized you from Cranky’s wedding,” she cut in. She softly chuckled. “I'd bet those are very sweet for you, aren't they?”

It was true. Weddings had pure love so powerful, that it could put the unwary in a coma for over a week.

“I noticed you didn't even eat a slice of your cake.” She motioned to the plate still sitting at my table. “It's tells me one of two things: either you are on a diet, or you are—”

“I know, the latter,” I answered. I wanted to crawl under the table, but the sweet aroma coming off her was filling my quota for midnight snack. “Why haven't you screamed yet?”

“You're a customer. I'd never kick out a customer, unless they were rude.” Her smile shifted into a cheesy one. “Last time I checked, you were nice, which is another reason why I kept you around.”

I was speechless. The kindness and patience were suffocating.

“I'll keep this a secret.” She winked. “Can you help me with something?”

I raised an eyebrow. Maybe she was a changeling. I dismissed the thought. Nah, too weird. Changelings couldn't defy physics.

“You can get the plates at that table first.” She pointed a hoof towards a table in the corner.

As I took the dishes over to the sink for wash, I stared at my reflection in the display glass holding fresh baked bread. Then I glanced at the mare—she was wiping off the countertops, humming contentedly.

Me, without a disguise in public! Yet my blue eyes stared back at me from the glass, then hers.

“Still hungry?” she asked.

“No, just thinking,” I replied.

Maybe playing pretend wasn't the answer, maybe these ponies had something we didn't—

I've never experienced this much relaxation since the spa. Still, a little tension and mistrust—but there was something in her eyes, nothing malevolent. Friendly… maybe mischievous.

And for once, on my side, I stopped trying to be something that I wasn't.
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#1 · 1
· · >>horizon >>PinoyPony
Cards on the table, I'm usually not a fan of changeling stories just because I hopped onto the MLP train back when everyone was writing changeling fics. So, to be honest I felt like this story doesn't quite bring much to to the table that I haven't seen before. The "accepting somebody for who they are" theme is a strong and simple idea, which is suited well for a minific. But using a changeling to convey this point just feels overly familiar to me. I'm afraid that as a result, I was kind of tempted to skim and see if there was going to be another twist.

I realize that this is basically entirely personal preference, though, so I'll keep that in mind while scoring.
#2 · 1
· · >>horizon >>PinoyPony
Genre: Not a Changeling

Thoughts: I felt like this was a rough read up until the [ hr ] tag. It's not "bad" per se, it's just got some rough grammar and sentence structure. Plus we're getting introduced to an OC, double-plus that OC has a pretty big secret that affects what we learn about them and when. It doesn't really set a hook, and it feels like a lot of stuff is just happening out of nowhere.

I'm glad I held on through the break, though, because it gets really warm and heartfelt after that. I don't even know how to break it down in a critical/analytical fashion; it just feels right seeing Pinkie get friendly with the Cranky wedding changeling, and seeing them start to feel good about themselves and the world in response to Pinkie's friendship.

Tier: Almost There
#3 · 2
· · >>PinoyPony >>Pascoite
In my reviews I occasionally focus in hard on the opening lines, dissecting them with the fury of a master nitpicker, because making a good first impression is super crucial — tiny little things in the first paragraph that would barely register further down in a story have the capability to break me out of my reading before I even get started, and if I'm not engaged with the story, I'm going to be turning a much more judgmental eye on it from then on.

Here's an example of that happening:
a grin glaring me in the face

I didn't get further than a line in before I came down here to start writing my comment.

How does that phrase even work? Glare, first of all, isn't a transitive verb. Secondly, you've got an unfortunate overlap in meaning: while "glare" can refer to "shine with a strong or dazzling light", it also means "to stare in a fierce or angry way", so I'm getting hit with a lot of cognitive dissonance describing a smile that way. And the construction "___ing me in the face" implies that there is interaction with the narrator, modified by "in the face" showing where the interaction is occurring: so I keep wanting to parse that as the smile doing something rather than just being aggressively present.

Please, rewrite that line from scratch. Consider flipping it around so that the narrator is the active presence and the smile the passive one: e.g. "I turned around into the glare of shining teeth" or some such. (I might also throw out 'glare' due to the overloading. YMMV.)

“Oh horsefeathers!” I jumped. I didn't hear any approaching hoofsteps.

I think you mean "hadn't heard". The implication is that there weren't any hoofsteps before the smile, correct?

A handful of moms covered their foals’ ears. They were tucked close to them. Either keeping them safe or away from the wall of assorted treats. Probably both, since those colorful shapes would rot their teeth.

However, the pink mare in front of me didn't even flinch …

You're opening with a smash cut into an aggressive smile. Run with that! It's disorienting to see an entire paragraph of digression into the narrator's surroundings before we even see what draws their attention. When there's something grabbing the attention of the narrator, let it be grabbed: fill that other stuff in later.


This does, fortunately, settle in as it goes along. (Though I'm really not certain what causes the narrator to lose concentration on their disguise; and the story seems to quite literally have its cake and eat it too on the topic of whether the narrator finishes their slice of cake.) Pinkie's indifference to the narrator's identity feels authentic, and while there's something to be said for the ground here being well-trodden, I'm more with >>CoffeeMinion than >>Bachiavellian on the emotions connecting.

Just get that opening under control, and give us more hook setting up how big the narrator's change of heart about their identity is. (If it even is a change of heart; you establish them as the changeling at Cranky's wedding, which means this isn't even the first time they've gone disguise-less, which dilutes the moral here.)

Tier: Keep Developing
#4 · 3
· · >>Hap >>Pascoite
Here it goes!

I'm also not sure this is proper, but I'll say it anyway! First thanks goes to Pascoite for helping me edit! Without Pascoite, this fiction would be trashed- (trust me, major improvements!) This one is going into my re-write bin for later!

From the get-go, I knew I was playing a dangerous card by making a Changeling fic. I find those fictions to be very cliche and overused. Not to mention it would blend in with the crowd of similar stories in this round.

But, by far, this is the only idea that made it under the 750 word limit. All others overshot it.

Let's just say the “relation to a picture” constraint threw me for a loop, but now I've seen the other entries, it doesn't have to be complicated. Just be free, and go wherever the picture takes you.

Even if this story is not your cup of tea, Thanks for your comment!

Since you bring up grammar issues, I need to study it a bit more. The “SVO” structure (I believe) in the round before last (All The Time in the World), got me into trouble, so I had to mix it up. I overcompensated.

Also, first person is not my strong suit. For some strange reason, I tried to write this in third person, but it wanted to shift over to first person. Dangerous move, but it was worth the experience!

All in all, I'm glad you didn't quit before the [*hr]! Thanks for seeing the heart inside this piece!

In order to make this short, I cut out some of my excuses. I realize that the best way to do this is cut out the exposition and get to the good stuff: your help!

I haven't been very good at beginnings, even at the best of times. Thankfully, Pascoite told me that this would be better than the former opening line, which trust me, major improvement. But, then again, I need to watch my step with dubious word choices.
I missed an opportunity there.

Curse my ignorance, but what does “YMMV” stand for?

There are multiple things you have addressed, from the digression at the beginning to the plot convenience of the disguise failing. Most of which I'm on the lookout for- I've learned immensely from this round, especially from this comment. When in doubt, or when you get a sneaking suspicion or doubt, bring it out and solve it rather than have it ruin your fic.

Thanks again! I can't describe it without sounding a teensy bit mean to the others comments. Don't get me wrong, each has nuggets of wisdom that are priceless. Mind that- this is what I've been looking for! I've got a lot of improvement to do. The first draft and the final draft are very different from each other. But, I'm learning!

I'm sorry if my writing was cumbersome. I understand it's not the smoothest read. I'm working on solving that problem. I'm not out of the woods yet.

Thank you for reading!
#5 · 2
"Your mileage may vary"

It's a colloquialism to mean that the advice may or may not work for you.
#6 · 1
I don't normally pitch in on a conversation unless the author says I was involved with the process, because I consider that privileged information, but since PinoyPony has said so...

I happened to have a long stretch of a couple hours where nobody was asking for help, so I spent a lot longer on this than I normally would, and I thought it cleaned up nicely. There's only so much you can do in a day, of course, but it was a big improvement over where it started. There were further revisions made later on, so I hadn't seen the final version until now.

As Pinoy said, there was originally a different beginning. It wasn't just that the first line was different. It's that there were several paragraphs of unnecessary information at the beginning, so we chopped all that off and started with the line that had a better hook and actually had something vital going on.

That said, I didn't have any of the cognitive dissonance horizon did with it. It's very much a YMMV thing. The issue with "glaring" being intransitive didn't bother me at all. I've done that before, intentionally, and it can work, depending on the tone the story takes. Since we have a first-person narrator, I'm also inclined to forgive a fair amount of that in the name of character voicing. Same with the implication of whether this feels like an active structure for the character or Pinkie. I think it could work either way. It depends on how the character reacts to it. Yes, the choice made here is a passive reading, but at least it was consistent with what horizon noted about where the narrator's attention goes after that. It may not have been the best phrasing for it, but the mechanism of it didn't rub me the wrong way.

I do see a few minor grammatical issues in the first scene, but nothing too serious, and not a lot of them, so I'm not sure what the "rough spots" are in that regard.

My feel was that this would be kind of borderline, but I thought it would be good enough to make finals, at least. I'll be interested to see where it got ranked.