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The Morning After · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
The leaves in the forest below shook gently, though there was no breeze flowing through the foothills of the Grand Serpent Mountains.

Scootaloo flew in wide circles above the trees. Warm thermals rose from the south-facing hills below, gently buoying her aloft. She could drift like this for hours. The forest may as well not have existed; she could live her entire life, she fancied, among the clouds and sun.

And yet… She let out a quiet breath and tucked her wings to dive. The world grew, and she pulled up just a few dozen meters above the high canopy. The mountains loomed to north, their snow-dusted peaks stabbing angrily at the heavens.

The trees whispered to her, quaking in the windless air. Treetips swayed to and fro, and branches swung like creaking pendulums. She frowned at the ceaseless motion, searching for a break.

There. A fallen tree left a gap, already closing as the hungry underbrush drank the sunlight. She plowed through the young leaves, tearing away creepers, beating at twigs, until she reached the ground beneath it all. She spat out a few leaves and pushed out of the clearing, into the forest, into the shadows of the dancing trees.

She didn’t feel it at first, the swaying. Without any visible horizon, the shifting earth simply felt uneasy to her, like she’d been flying for too long, for years, and forgotten what solid ground was like. But moments stretched into minutes, and the feeling remained, as of a boat on the ocean, bobbing in the swell and trough.

A particularly strong tremble shook her legs. Tiny stones danced around her hooves. The rustling leaves became a roar, and she closed her eyes to fight off a wave of nausea.

Nopony lived in the foothills of the Grand Serpent Mountains. It was a land of earthquakes, of ground that never stopped trembling. Nothing built by ponies could withstand the shaking; no crops survived the perpetual landslides and sinking earth. There was only the forest, always falling, always growing.

The forest and, allegedly, one pony. Scootaloo ignored her queasy stomach and tilted her muzzle up, sampling the air. Distantly, the ashen scent of a campfire caught her nose, and she began trotting toward it.

The treehouse was an improbable thing, suspended above the ground by ropes and wires and hope. The central platform was a rough collaboration of walls and windows, teetering on the edge of collapse, all above a smoldering firepit. Scootaloo stopped a safe distance away.

“Hey!” she shouted. “Hey!”

Something shifted inside the treehouse, followed by a startled squawk. The building tilted alarmingly. Scootaloo took a careful step back.

A window opened (or fell off, she couldn’t quite tell), and out peered a white unicorn with mossy eyes. Sweetie Belle stared down at her visitor, blinked, then scowled.

“What do you want?”

“Aren’t you a little old for treehouses?”

Sweetie snorted and vanished back inside. A moment later a rope flew out, followed by Sweetie, who shimmered down it like a monkey. She trotted up to Scootaloo, still scowling.

“I said, what do you want? Apple Bloom sent you, didn’t she?”

Scootaloo shrugged. “Yeah, maybe. Don’t tell me you’re still mad.”

Sweetie stomped a hoof. “I’m not mad. She’s just stupid!”

“Right.” Scootaloo leaned back, taking a moment to view the ramshackle house again. “So, uh, how’s life treating you out here?”

“Good. Really good! No stupid ponies, no stupid sisters, and especially no stupid Apple Bloom.” She sniffed. “I love it out here.”

“I can tell.” Scootaloo took a step forward and laid her wing across Sweetie’s back. The mare trembled, though whether it was due to the quaking ground or something else eluded her senses. “But, uh, the others kind of miss you.”

A tiny frown appeared on Sweetie’s lips. “So they say.”

“Yeah.” Scootaloo cleared her throat. “And Apple Bloom says she’s sorry.”

Sweetie Belle was silent. She stared at the shifting ground, where tiny grains of sand danced and crept over their hooves.

“Welp, that’s it, just wanted to say that.” Scootaloo pulled back and peered up at the trees for a gap. “Gonna get dark soon. Later!”

Sweetie blinked at her. “Wait, you’re just leaving?”

“Yeah.” Scootaloo ruffled her wings. “Unless, you know, you were thinking of coming.”

Sweetie gnawed at her lip. She glanced back at the treehouse, then at Scootaloo. Above them, the trees filled the air with their rustle.

Finally, she smiled and sighed. “Let me grab some things.”
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#1 · 1
The nature scenes are is beautifully written, but the story doesn't really seem to go anywhere; we never learn what is Sweetie Belle sulking about, and then she abruptly changes her mind and decides to go back home, without any clear reason.

Also, even though they're implied to be adults (at least adult enough to be too old for treehouses, and adult enough to wander the wilderness on their own), Sweetie's attitude and dialogue seems really childlike.
#2 · 2
Wonderful descriptions, the scenes were vibrant and alive. I kinda feel envious.

The story itself seems to be a snippet of something larger, and while I like it when things are simply implied, in this case we missed really too much to make sense of everything, or even to understand the change that happened in the characters.

Ok, I crave for more now, but leaving me with the knowledge I can't have it is a bit cruel.
#3 · 2
The purple prose of this fic really kept it from completing itself. I share some of the same questions as Judge Deadd like: why is Sweetie upset? How old are the CMC? Old enough to be independent, but still young enough to talk like children (teenagers, I guess). Why does Sweetie change her mind so quickly? I would say this story suffers from the word limit, but that'd be wrong. This story suffers from what the author does within the word limit. This story could be everything it's supposed to, I imagine, if the author didn't waste time with the opening and describing the pretty trees and the leaves in Scootaloo's mouth and whatnot. And I feel for the author because if you click on my name you'll see my first writeoff entry. And I think there are a few paralells between the two.

>Unneccesary or unneccesarily drawn out opening scene
>Too much focus on description (just this is good description, mine wasn't)
>Sudden resolution of the problem at the very end

The biggest difference between this story and my story is you can tell one author is skilled and one author is me.

In future minifics, be very careful in choosing what's important. And what you can throw away. It's really hard sometimes to scrap the beautiful description (especially as good as yours is), but it's vital to do so, so when the fic is over the reader has a completed story. This, unfortunately, falls a peg short.

I liked the concept. The writing--specifically the description--is beautiful. This story would benefit from a bigger word-limit but I feel like with a few revisions this one could make the finals with a 750 word count.


Scootaloo flew

I didn't know this was a comedy fic :V


That was mean...

I'm sorry...

Good work.
#4 · 3
This feels kinda super padded.

While I understand the enticement of purple prose, it's sometimes a self-destructive impulse in the context of the writeoff. If you absolutely must do it, you'll need to hone that prose carefully and slip plot details in with your descriptions. As it is, bits like: "Warm thermals rose from the south-facing hills below" aren't pulling their weight for the amount of words they use. If people know what thermals are, they know they rise. And if she's flying, then of course the hills are below. And is it important they're south-facing?

Point is, while the first 2/3 of this story is pretty, it's not doing much in the way of plot. And that leaves your character interaction, while nice, kinda stranded on the backend without a lot to support it. As such, it mostly comes off as simple and plain. It's not bad, but it's really not much at all. You do hit the voicing of the characters very well in that short space, though.

I dunno. This is doing all the things it does fairly well. But I think it's just not doing enough in the amount of space it has.
#5 ·
*opens mouth to offer criticism*

*sees everyone else has said it already*

*shuts mouth and mumbles threats of retribution under breath*

May I just add that, while the imagery in Scootaloo's highly improbable flight sequence is lovely for the most part, you have a few instances of unusual language that carries connotations you might not have intended. I don't know why the snowy mountains are personified as angry. The forest is supposed to be pretty and serene, and yet, whoop! Angry mountains. What are they angry about? Are they angry at Sweetie Belle? How long before Sweetie Belle gets into a tiff with the mountains and storms off to build a treehouse in a different forest?
#6 · 1
I agree this sounds padded. Some quirks I noted:

Warm thermals rose
: pleonasm. Did you ever see a cold thermal?
among the clouds and sun
: sounds unbalanced – “among clouds and sun” or “among the clouds and the sun” perhaps?
: Treetops, I suppose
pushed out of the clearing
: you describe her almost slinking through a shaft in the vegetation, yet you use the word “clearing” that suggests a wide open glade.
A moment later a rope flew out, followed by Sweetie, who shimmered down it like a monkey.
: I suppose it’s “shimmied” you were looking for, here.

It would be interesting to know why Sweetie had left for such a forlorn place, and why she suddenly accepts to change her mind and come back. As such, you lose precious space to describe the surroundings, but you leave the plot aside, and it’s sorely missing at the end.
#7 · 1
Flying Scootaloo. You immediately have my interest and a generous share of goodwill.

Beautiful prose, but as others have said, you left yourself very little room for actual story. What there is is rushed as a result. Still, definitely an expansion to look forward to, especially if you plump out the backstory of just what happened that drove Sweetie out here.
#8 · 2
The Great

Very, very neat world construction. I know this is short thing to say, but it really is super excellent. The Great Serpent Mountains sound rad.

The Rough

Unfortunately, that neat world construction comes at the cost of the remainder of the story. Writing Excuses loves to talk about the MICE quotient, and I think this is a good time to bring it up. The way this story is structured, it seems to promise us a story about the mountains (a milieu story), but then swerves and delivers something else entirely (an event story, Sweetie Belle has gone away and Scootaloo brings her back).

This isn't to say you can't be descriptive and write interesting places into your stories! It is just that, in these circumstances, you bury the lead way too deep. I'm 531 words deep by the time the actual core of the story is laid out.
#9 · 1
...she fancied...

Not needed, partly because you're getting too technical about her headspace, and partly because it's true: she's a pegasus pony. They can (and do) live in the clouds.

This needs some proofing, but I suspect it just fell to time constraints.

The narration about what the GSF is comes too late. Does Scootaloo understand this fact, or doesn't she? If she does, it should be introduced earlier, because you're leading the readers to think she's confused. If she doesn't, it should be introduced later, because you're artificially adding dramatic irony.

Okay, I've finished the story, so here are my thoughts.

The GSF is an interesting idea, but it's too adventure-ish to fit the mood of the story. It would be fine to show her hiding in a desolate place, but this is going way too far. The treehouse also seems completely impossible, and the pony living it in is one of the last ponies I'd expect to find roughing it in a place like this, much less with these incredible survival skills.

So I think the GSF ends up being a total distraction from the story. You spend more time describing that location than you do anything else, and the story isn't about the location. It is about isolation, but you don't need to be this creative with something that's incidental to the story. A place like this needs to be saved for an adventure story of some sort.

Because you spend so many horse words with descriptions and the GSF information, there isn't much story to be had here. We find out somepony had a falling out with somepony else, and that's the entire story. We never see what went wrong. We don't learn why the key character changes her mind based on virtually no information, especially after she went to this much trouble to get away from it all—which makes her decision seem unrealistic. We only hear about what happened third-hoof from the character who isn't the center of the story, and no details are provided. And that character (Scoots) is the protagonist when the story isn't even about her. You even spend time in Scootaloo's head with her dreaming about the clouds. It's bizarre when it turns out she has so little to do with the story.

You need to put a story in here somewhere. If you'd made the key character somepony like Twilight, who has the ability to survive in extreme situations, and you'd described what the falling out was about, then the story would make more sense and the setting would be justified (she's trying as hard as she possibly can to go into isolation). That would at least be a step in the right direction, but you'd still need more story than description.
#10 · 2
Lovely writing, and it mostly works for me. Where it falls short is the main conflict. We need to get hints at Scootaloo's mission early on, so we don't think this is just sightseeing. The descriptions are also "purple prose" as some have said. I think that's acceptable, with a few exceptions where you made the scenery into red herrings. For example, mountains stab angrily into the sky, but they aren't important. The weird clues about leaves quaking in windless air were absolutely fascinating, as at first I thought you were just describing things poorly. Instead, you have this fascinating world-building piece... that goes nowhere and does nothing for the story.

Lastly, the resolution is just a little too quick given the way the dialog goes. Instead, maybe show Sweetie as more mature, already understanding what this means, instead of asking. Connect it to the setting as well. Ex:

"So?" Sweetie said, curtly.

"Apple Bloom says she's sorry. We all miss you, you know."

Sweetie sighed. "I guess it is about time I let it go, isn't it?"

Scootaloo nodded.

"Give me a few minutes to pack, okay?"

"Of course." Scootaloo turned at looked at the wobbling house, realizing that a pony could always build anew, even on shaky foundations."

Anyway, this one really stuck out to me, but I wanted it to be more than it was I fear. Definitely will look for any expansion of this in the future though!