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Keep Pretending · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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"I don't want to do it," Twilight says.

Celestia waits for her to continue.

They sit, side by side on Celestia's balcony, looking out at the streaked pre-dawn sky.

"It feels wrong somehow. Like I'm taking something away from you. Or replacing you"

Celestia wraps her wing around Twilight. "You're doing nothing of the sort." She needs more prodding than that, though. "I'm asking you to do this. Just to try it."

Twilight adjusts her wings. The sky remains dark. Twilight takes a measured breath. For the Princess. She lets her power flow, reaches out into the sky and across the Gulf and feels the sun. It sits below the horizon waiting for her. She touches it and pushes and—

Celestia's limp body lies before her. The feathers of her wing are blackened and burnt. Twilight cannot tell if she is breathing, especially through the tears running down her face.

—let go, recoiling both in mind and body. "I can't."

"What's wrong?"

"I-I tried, but I couldn't help but see you. Gone."

Celestia is already hugging her. But she hugs tighter. "Don't worry, Twilight," she said, "I like a good plan, and I have a lot of them. And me leaving is not in any of those, I promise you."

Celestia is patient, for all is right with the world. She will wait here, encouraging her friend for as long as it takes. Even though she supposes the roosters are getting impatient. "You have done this before," she offers.

To no avail: "That was different, with Tirek. That was an emergency, and you couldn't do it."

"Then don't you think you should know how to do it properly? for when there are emergencies in the future?" Twilight may no longer be her student, but Celestia is always ready to give one more lesson. Speaking of which, she thinks of a new angle.

"As it happens, I did see your sunrise during the Tirek incident. Would it help if I gave you a bad grade on that and asked you to redo it?"

That does get a chuckle out of Twilight. Celestia knows well that it is those small victories that pave the way to larger ones.

"Well, when you put it like that..."

It has been several minutes now. The frozenness of the sky is becoming more and more apparent, and a little bit discomforting. Celestia is impeccable in her routine, and delays such as this do not normally happen outside of disasters. Twilight herself has a vague feeling that she needs to fight somepony.

It's just a good thing the moon has already been lowered. As it is, far too many ponies are going to worry that Luna had a relapse.

That will be the price she pays for this stunt, Celestia thinks. Her court is sure to be full of ponies complaining and worse about the matter. But it will be worth it.

Twilight, meanwhile, has also thought of Nightmare Moon again. And when the pain of her memory fades, she finds in her mind a name for her fear, or part of it.

She speaks again, and Celestia listens. "I guess, I'm afraid of replacing you. If, like I was saying, something happened... Or... if I—turned."

"You won't," Celestia says. Her answer is instant and automatic, born of absolute faith. It is, however, time to needle a little harder.

"And this concern over replacing is new, anyway. I distinctly remember, on more than one occasion, walking in on you and your classmates reenacting Luna's and my lives. And you always played the part of me."

Twilight blushes. Like many, she feels (or feels like she should feel) a certain amount of embarrassment when events of her foal hood are brought up in conversation. She also sees Celestia's point.

The gradient of the sky still has not changed, though the eye adds tension.

It is time—long past time—to try again. Again she closes her eyes, again reaches, again touches, again is flooded with memory:

Sheets of paper with wingshapes scribbled on them are taped to her sides. She prances in front of Moondancer, looking as regal as a little filly can. "Be quiet," she says, "this is very complicated magic." She throws her head back and a paper sun rises (it is convenient that Lemonhearts' magic is just the right shade of yellow) shakily in the background.
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#1 · 1
· · >>axxuy
Well, that was nice.
I liked the interaction between Celestia and Twilight, specially how Celestia manages to get around Twilight's reservations. However, while filly Twilight's reenactment of the sunrise was cute as all hell, I have to wonder why does Celestia handwaves Twilight's vision of her possible death so easily. You'd think it'd be worth to dwell on that for a bit longer than just saying "nah, won't happen."
Also, the story presents Twilight fearing she's replacing Celestia, but also her fears of succumbing to a Nightmare state. While valid, I feel this splits the possible drama, and as a result doesn't dwell in either for as long as you could've, which leaves Twilight's worries feeling superficial and don't hit me with the same intensity it obviously hits her.
Still, it was an enjoyable read, and I liked the way it ended.
#2 · 2
This seems like it should have gone with the art Proud, if not as an only, then at least an also.

I'll echo Zaid's comments. This was a decent bit of drama with its cute moments, but could have used a little more focus.
#3 · 1
· · >>Fenton >>axxuy
Time to start off my fic reading! And here's a story that feels like it both gets some big things right and stumbles in some weighty ways.

It's got an excellent central conflict, which the dialogue and emotion sell well. (One subtle thing in its favor: I think the immediacy of present tense was a good choice.) Characterization feels natural. I really wanted to like this.

But it's got two central issues sticking in my craw:

1) The previously mentioned "lack of focus" on Celestia abruptly hoofwaving Twilight's concerns about Nightmare Moon away. It's a great point to bring up, because it's an extremely legitimate potential problem — but that same plausibility which makes it worth bringing up also means that Celestia's dismissal of it in a single sentence looks irresponsible. I mean, isn't that blind confidence exactly what led to Nightmare Moon the last time?

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Unpack it later, without the wordcount limitation, and treat that concern with the same care and respect as the rest of the story. That might also help you bring it to 1000 for FIMFiction without unnatural padding.

2) The ending doesn't sit well with me. It's a perfectly natural progression from the story so far … but it veers away at the last minute from the problems you've focused on all story, and doesn't end on a note of resolution to those problems. (We don't even see the sun rise. The cutaway scene implies it, but the first cutaway scene implied a death that didn't happen.)

I think maybe this ended a sentence or two too early. It doesn't need much to bring resolution to the main theme, but it shouldn't leave it hanging and dissonant.

Slightly more nitpicky:
"I distinctly remember, on more than one occasion, walking in on you and your classmates reenacting Luna's and my lives. And you always played the part of me."

Nobody knew about Luna when Twilight was a filly with classmates.

This is so close to being solid, and the fixes won't be hard. I look forward to seeing the final product.

Tier: Almost There (on the edge of Strong)
#4 · 1
It's difficult to do third-pony omniscient. We're seeing into both Celestia's and Twilight's thoughts in the same paragraphs, which is awkward. I think it would be cleaner if we only get to see Twilight's thoughts in those two small sections that reveal them directly.

That's all I have to recommend.
#5 ·
· · >>axxuy
After reading everything and wasting a lot of hours, maybe it's time to review. I heard it can help.

So, since a lot has already been covered by >>horizon, I'll simply give my two cents on this part
Or... if I—turned.

Why would Twilight turn evil? (It's what is implied here, right?)
Luna became NM because no friendship. Since Twi has lot of friends, is the Princess of Friendship and so on, I don't see how this could be 'an extremely legitimate potential problem', like horizon said.

As for the rest, you have something quite good, even though I found myself wondering at the end if it wasn't all part from the play (but since Tirek is mentionned, meh)
#6 ·
· · >>axxuy
We discussed your story on Radio Writeoff! If you'd like to listen, find a link here!

Your story was discussed third.
#7 · 1
· · >>axxuy
This story came in very high on my slate. There's some awkwardness in how it is told, but the story itself is very good. I think the third-pony omniscient approach in present tense is tricky and that degree of difficulty may have played against you, but I'm still surprised it didn't pass the cut.
#8 · 1
· · >>horizon
Here we go, the good entry that was written in a fraction of the time of the bad one. I like how this turned out, even if there is plenty of room for improvement (when isn't there?).

First order of business: one impression I got from some of the comments was that I didn't make it clear enough that the stuff in the first scene break is supposed to be a flashback to the season 4 opener, when Twilight has a vision of Celestia and Nightmare Moon fighting, i.e this scene.

>>Zaid Val'Roa
Focus it is, then. I suppose I'll narrow it to just Twilight's POV, and make her worries more coherent. A fear of replacing Celestia and a fear of becoming another Nightmare Moon do not need to be very different.

The ending is trickier. I debated giving the complete ending, with Twilight raising the sun, and there are enough words left even here to do it, but... I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be at all redundant. I haven't seen anyone express any doubt at what happens after the second flashback, after all.

It's not that Twilight turning evil is actually likely to happen, it's Twilight worrying about turning evil. For me, that seems like a very Twilight thing to do.

Thank you for discussing it! It was very fun to hear you analyzing my story. I'm definitely going to give that another listen or two while I figure out how to edit this thing.

Thank you kindly. Best of luck in the finals.

To wrap up I just want to say that I had a lot of fun with the title. The first titles that came to mind were things like "Sunrise" and "Up," which work, but are just too generic. I like how the arrow feels on there in contrast.
#9 ·
It's a shame that this didn't make finals. Despite my critique, it was easily in the top half of my slate.

The ending is trickier ... I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be at all redundant

For me, it wasn't about whether she can do it or not (which is obvious enough from the current last scene). It's about closure. It's about showing the last part of the emotional arc, from denial to fear to confrontation to growth. Right now it feels like it's skipping the denouement: it pulls back away just as we're about to get the payoff.

If you're concerned about redundancy, then maybe the solution is to make sure it isn't redundant. "Whether Twilight can do it or not" isn't the right question to answer, because as you point out, that's not new information. "How she and Celestia react" is. Pride, relief, embarrassment at taking so long, a sense that something important has been lost, a sense that something important has been gained? Right now we don't know.