Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

It Could Have Gone Better · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
Big Important Wizard
“It’s over this time, it’s truly over… I really botched it this time…”

She knocked more insistently this time. “Sunburst, are you in there? It’s Cherry Blossom. I just want to talk.”

This drew only silence from Sunburst's dorm room. Silence, and sniffles. Cherry offered some gentler knocks, just to let her friend know she was still there.

Finally, she heard hoofsteps approach from within. The door opened warily to reveal its occupant, worse for wear. “Oh, hello, Cherry,” Sunburst greeted halfheartedly. “W-what do you want to talk about?”

Cherry knew by now that the most merciful approach with Sunburst was to cut straight to the point. “They’re telling me you haven’t picked up your exam results to let them know whether you plan to stay in the program. If you don’t go see them by the end of the day," she warned softly, "they say they’re going to have to drop you.”

“Oh, that,” Sunburst said, staring at his hooves. “I… don’t think it matters, Cherry. The examination was awful, even worse than my usual. You weren’t there, but my entire class was. They saw me struggle just to light a candle, let alone conjure up a flame patronus.” Cherry could see her friend wince just from the memory. “At that moment I knew, my classmates knew, the proctors knew, I just don’t belong at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Even if I didn’t fail, and my grade is just barely hanging in there, it’s less painful to just face the music now.”

He might be right, Cherry thought, realistically. But he couldn’t let fear make a decision like this for him. She took a breath, and said, “When I didn’t think there was a chance for me to understand magical theory in my first year, you proved me wrong. There is a chance for you, too, Sunburst. If one day you pull through and become a full-fledged wizard, how will you think back on this moment?”

Sunburst winced again, and so did Cherry; it was cruel of her to guilt-trip him with his one true dream, but she could think of no other way.

“Just, promise you’ll come with me to get your grades? I can give you a moment.”

Reluctantly, painfully, Sunburst nodded his head.

Concerning the grades of the student by the name of Sunburst:

Final marks on the cumulative semester examination

Theory (written)—20/20
Theory (oral)—19/20
Practical (prepared)—5/20
Practical (improvised)—1/20


We regret to inform you that, despite your impressive theoretical knowledge of magic, your performance on this practical and all previous practicals has been, frankly, abysmal. As you are no doubt aware, CSGU is an elite and highly competitive institution, and unfortunately, there is not enough room in our classes to accommodate students who cannot perform even the most rudimentary spells. We hope you understand that such skills truly are an obvious prerequisite to calling oneself a wizard.

Effective next semester, you are no longer a student at CSGU, and you do not retain the option to continue your studies here.

We wish you luck in your future endeavors.

Cherry Blossom couldn't find Sunburst anywhere. Not in his (now empty) dorm room, not in the dining hall, not even under the tree behind the school that she knew had always been his private place.

She had waited outside Professor Feghoof's office while Sunburst received his grades. It had taken so long, however, that Cherry left for but a moment to get a drink of water. When she'd returned, the door was open, and the professor had had to give Cherry the bad news.

Frantic, she asked a nearby student if he had seen Sunburst. "Sorry, I haven't seen Sunburst since the final. Did something happen?"

It wasn't fair. Sunburst knew his magic better than anypony, even better than some of the professors.

She asked another. "Sunny? Ha, I hadn't seen his face for weeks, not since the practical. You shoulda seen it. But I saw him packing his bags by his room a little bit ago."

There was a place for him as a wizard, she knew it. Just not with all these narrow-minded, arrogant unicorns.

One more. "I thought he dropped out long ago. Never really seemed like wizard material."

"You're wrong!" Cherry shouted back, holding back tears. "He's going to change the world one day! He's only leaving because he's too good for this pretentious school!"

"Um, okay?"

Cherry apologized, trotted off to the tree behind the school, and wept.
« Prev   8   Next »
#1 · 2
· · >>No_Raisin >>Paracompact
"Aw, man."

That was what I said after finishing the story. It is quite depressing, and the only bright spot is that we know Sunburst is gonna be okay in a few years. Taking this story on its own, though, it's just left me down in the dumps. I almost failed university, and there was a period where I felt like dropping out just to spare myself the shame of doing so poorly. So it hits home, sure, but not in a way that I would describe as satisfying.

For some minor points: the perspective gets a little foggy in the middle there. Am I to assume that Cherry was given Sunburst's report? I assume not, but for a story that's otherwise grounded in Cherry's point of view, this seems a strange addition to the story. It's also brutal for a report card. They're not usually so incisively cruel even here on earth, and it's a lot less rosy here than it is in Equestria. As well, a professor shouldn't be giving any news about another student's future to a different student. There's ethics and stuff that restrict that.

Also, the name of the professor put me on high freaking alert. I'm really glad you didn't deliver on that one since it's an emotional story that would have been ruined by a pun, but it's a big distraction for any reader that knows what you're referencing.

But that's all minor. At the end of the day I may not rank this one too highly simply because it's left me sad, but hasn't challenged me or taught me anything. I'm simply sadder now than I was before.

Thanks for writing and good luck!
#2 · 2
I don't know how to feel about this one.

It's a sadfic, that's clear enough, and I like how it's just restrained enough that we don't get to see Sunburst's reaction after knowing his exam grade, but there are also some things that bug me here.

>>Miller Minus already made a few good points, positive and negative, all of which I agree with, but I want to add a couple more here.

The ending seems too on-the-nose, considering we know what eventually becomes of Sunburst, but I guess I can let it slide because it does feel like something a good friend of his would say.

The bigger problem, though, is that we don't learn anything about Sunburst that we didn't already know. We know he failed schooling because he couldn't pass the practical part, and we see that here, but there's nothing added to it.

Overall, I like this story, but I feel also like there could be so much more to it than what we got.

I'm feeling a light to decent 7 on this.
#3 · 4
· · >>Paracompact
She had waited outside Professor Feghoof's office while Sunburst received his grades.

This reaaaaally put me on edge. It was a serious fic up until that moment and it would have completely ruined it if you had acted upon it.

Just because you put the professor's name in there kind of put it down a notch. I’m all for references but in a fic this serious it shouldn’t be there.

Overall this story is pretty good but holy shit that grade card is a bitch. Nobody on earth puts ‘you are a big fat failure. Have a nice day :)’.

I do enjoy the parts with Cherry in it and having her cheer up sunburst. It was sweet... like cherries 🤔
#4 · 1
Given all that we know about Sunburst after this moment, Cherry Blossom feels like a loose end. I want to know what happened to her after this, what she did, where she went, if she ever heard about the fifth alicorn’s crystaller. That’s a good sign for how the story engaged me, but not for its self-containment.

Aside from that, others have covered the story’s strengths and weaknesses quite effectively at this point. Though I will say that I love the bitter irony in the title referring to a bit of Sunburst’s own dialogue. In all, a very good starting point for something bigger should you choose to pursue it.
#5 · 3
· · >>Paracompact
The names of supporting characters usually aren't very important, but naming one "Feghoof" is a dangerous game. It took me out of the story for a moment to wonder what the punchline was going to be. That's no good, and it's sad to see the rest of the story overshadowed by a throwaway detail like that.
#6 ·
Genre: Disappointment

Thoughts: Much of the story is spent showing or talking about Sunburst's implosion through the lens of a really interesting dynamic between Cherry and Sunburst. It's all very well executed, right down to the bummer ending; no that's not intrinsically satisfying, but it makes me want to read and know more about their friendship/relationship, and about where Sunburst goes from here. Props for the feels and the hook here. I only wish there was more.

I'm not going to ding this for incompleteness. I'd argue that it's already pretty complete. Sunburst is a good guy who struggles to reconcile the stuff happening inside and outside of his head, and the missed connection with Cherry at the end is endemic of it. Maybe she could be a good friend and emotional support through a devastating time, but he can't see it; he can't stick around to open himself up to it. He can't even face the grades he knows are coming without a nudge.

Argh, I can relate to more of this than I wish I could.

Tier: Strong
#7 ·
· · >>Anon Y Mous
So... I guess I'm the only one that doesn't get the "Professor Feghoof" thing...

Anyway, this was way too relatable, and I loved it. Nice job, author.
#8 ·
I think I saw the name Feghoof used in another story as an instructor in Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns in this same contest. Parallel thinking is parallel.
#9 · 1
It was one of the entries for the prompts this time. I kinda wanted it to go through but then we would only have comedy stories this time around :/

It was also talked about in the discord. It means that you make a story all to set up a pun at the end, like A Little Shortcut did. Its a comedy thing and was very out of left field. Its fine if you didn't get it (I had to look it up lol) ;)
#10 · 2
· · >>Paracompact
This story needs to decide whether it's about Sunburst or about Cherry. Currently it starts with one and ends with the other.

Don't name the guy Feghoof. I thought the story was going to be a feghoot, and it literally made me wince.
#11 ·
· · >>Paracompact
Yes, never do a pun on "Feghoot". Apart from the general panic it causes, the name strikes me as highly unlikely for a professor and took me out of the tale for a moment.

Another minor issue is that you use the phrase "this time" three times in the first three sentences. It's distracting. Variation is a virtue if you don't want to sound like a beginner trying to rehearse a learned bit of speech. It happens elsewhere too (hint: try looking for the word "just"). It's probably just oversight - heck, I've done stuff like this myself - but I need to point it out.

Nitpicks over. Now, getting to the meat of the story:

The first major scene feels like it's overexplaining things a tad. Each character is explaining things the other either doesn't know about or clearly needs reminding of, but I do think you could chop up a few overlong sentences to make them tidier. This is important, because your characters need a strong voice. Credit where it's due; Sunburst's anxieties and Cherry's heartfelt support are valid conflicts sold well. It's just that they're blank slates to me otherwise, so the scenario feels a little bland. What makes them stand out? What makes them them? For me, it's giving the characters quirks and styles of their own (think of the variety of behaviours shown by the Main Six ponies, by way of example, and how each one would approach this kind of drama) that makes a work shine. This is simply polished, and even then, not particularly expertly. But it's a decent start, so fair play.

The report in the second scene reads extremely inconsistently. You capture and mimic the language of academia well in some places (how the first main sentence starts), but then fumble a catch in others (no sentence in academia should end with "frankly, abysmal"; the individual words may be in the ballpark of high-falutin scholarly dialect, but the flippant way they're used here sure as sugar ain't). It's plenty crushing enough just as a dry academic "we regret to inform you"; piling on salt in the wound is counterproductive because it breaks that plausible language use and even comes across as comedically inept as a result.

The best bit is in the third scene, as Cherry's increasingly frantic attempts to find Sunburst draw out the less commendable side of her loyalty. At least, I'm assuming you meant to convey that she was blinded by her loyalty, and not that the story really agrees with her. This is especially because that report clearly established how compromised Sunburst's magical talents are, at least at present. Either way, I do like how this scene drew out that response from the patient wait to the moment of panic to the students' reactions (neat way to convey other POVs into this, by the way), all the way to her final breakdown. The previous sections were roughly polished and decent, but this was where the fic started to shine for me.

I suppose canonicity is an issue - where does Cherry fit into the whole Starlight-Sunburst backstory, and why does she just disappear? - but it's not a terrible issue. A bigger issue is that Cherry is too obviously a satellite character, seemingly only existing in relation to Sunburst, but with no mind of her own. That reduces her appeal as an OC to me. I know you're hindered by the word limit, but some suggestion that she has a life outside of supporting Sunburst would go a long way to making her a compelling character.

I'll grant this fic a mid-tier status, but that's a good effort in my book. I'd mostly recommend just adding some more polish. See if you can use the flavour and directorial cleverness of the last scene to bring out the shine in the other two.
#12 · 2
· · >>Monokeras >>Anon Y Mous
>>Miller Minus
>>Anon Y Mous

Before saying anything more, I need to answer the burning question: Why for the love of all that is equestrian did you name him Feghoof?? Alas, it was ignorance, and a desire to be "cute": I knew that one of the rejected prompts this round was "The Adventures of Ferdinand Feghoof," and I thought, "Huh, that's a fun name. Imma make a little reference to it. Surely that won't utterly and irreversibly ruin the reading experience for multiple people!"

I had no idea what a feghoot was. Had I known, I wouldn't have touched it with a twenty-foot pole. Trust me, the only thing more painful than looking it up after my entry was already locked in, was receiving multiple complaints about it, and not being able to respond to any of them. "Wait, guys, I'm not that kind of idiot, I'm just this kind of idiot!" Live and learn.

Aside from that, you all made some valid observations about weaknesses in this story. Regarding the "overly harsh" report card, though, I think some of you guys are a little too familiar with the sterile, stoic respectfulness of the modern US (which is, admittedly, where I hail from). I was particularly inspired by historical geniuses who nonetheless failed to impress their teachers, leading to documents containing foot-in-mouth put-downs like, "This boy has no talent and no future." Even in the present day, my French friend in prépa relates how teachers will tell him bluntly, "Tu as eu ton brevet dans une poche surprise ou quoi?" ("Did you get your high school diploma in a Christmas cracker or what?") Such things would of course scar me for life, hence my inclusion of the harsh language on Sunburst's report.

[To wit, a remark on famous mathematician Evariste Galois by his literature teacher: "This is the only student who has answered me poorly, he knows absolutely nothing. I was told that this student has an extraordinary capacity for mathematics. This astonishes me greatly, for, after his examination, I believed him to have but little intelligence."]
#13 ·
Galois’s teacher was right. Electing to die in a a duel at 20 is not really a sign of the highest intelligence. :P
#14 · 4
"Wait, guys, I'm not that kind of idiot, I'm just this kind of idiot!" Live and learn.

This sentence is the embodiment of the writeoff