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  • E Old Habits

    It's Nova's first official day off, and he's decided to spend it in one place he knows he can relax: the Canterlot Bazaar. But when he has an unexpected encounter with a face from his past, can he face the pony he once was?  · Viking ZX
    19,698 words · 851 views  ·  165  ·  1  · 

Featured In11

More Stories6

  • T Why Me?

    It's been four days since Tirek, and Discord is finally feeling back to being his old self. Or is he?
    7,287 words · 3,368 views  ·  517  ·  8
  • T The Dusk Guard: Rise

    Steel Song is a lot of things. Earth pony. Uncle. Professional bodyguard. Retired. So when he receives a mysterious package from Princess Luna, he's understandably apprehensive. Things are never as they seem in Equestria...
    274,966 words · 3,552 views  ·  406  ·  6
  • E Old Habits

    It's Nova's first official day off, and he's decided to spend it in one place he knows he can relax: the Canterlot Bazaar. But when he has an unexpected encounter with a face from his past, can he face the pony he once was?
    19,698 words · 851 views  ·  165  ·  1
  • T Carry On

    Sometimes the hardest thing to do isn't completing the mission, it's coming home again. For Dusk Guard member Sky Bolt, the mission was a complete success. Everything went perfectly. So why can't she sleep?
    18,257 words · 1,133 views  ·  192  ·  2
  • E Hearth's Warming Cookies

    It's Hearth's Warming season and that means presents, caroling and—of course—making Hearth's Warming Cookies. But just what makes the cookies so important, anyway? Young Jammer Song is about to find out....
    7,054 words · 553 views  ·  95  ·  0
  • T Emoticon

    It's Steel Song's day off, and he's got plans. Plans of the relaxed sort. Plans that most definitely do not involve a strange, brown earth pony who acts like he's known Steel for years. And why is he running, anyway?
    10,199 words · 795 views  ·  143  ·  2

Blog Posts214

  • Monday
    Sick Day Post

    Well, I'm still sick. Which is kind of ... wow. Whatever this is, I've had it for just over a week now, which is ridiculously long. It kind of reminds me of Bronchitis, except not as nasty. Then again, the last time I had Bronchitis I happened to have Strep Throat at the same time, which led me to coughing so hard I blacked out.

    Yeah, that wasn't fun. Regardless, whatever I've got now is pretty stubborn, but it's not that bad. And thanks to some Nyquil I was finally able to get some good, solid sleep last night. But, I'm still sick. I'm not entirely better yet. And so today I'm putting off the weekly writing guide post. Sorry guys.

    But all is not lost! See, I actually need some new topics anyway. Right now I'm down to four:


    Killing Characters

    Developing Villains

    What was done right with Guardians of the Galaxy Hint, it's a lot.

    That last one will have spoiler issues, obviously. So if you somehow haven't seen Guardians yet (for shame!) then either skip that one when it arrives or be prepared to have one of the better movies out there this year spoiled.

    But that's only four current topics. Which means I need to expand my list once more. So if you've got something about writing you'd like to me to discuss at some point, post it in the comments! I'm now open for suggestions!

    And lastly, last week I mentioned to some of you that the newest chapter of Arad's "Mente Materia," a bonus chapter detailing the post-crossover story's aftereffects in-universe, probably seemed a bit familiar to most of you. And some of you immediately called it. I wrote it. It was a guest chapter. Arad and I worked out a few details it could and couldn't cover and then I put the chapter together. As for why it wasn't credited, well, Arad and I decided not to credit for a week or so, to see what kind of reaction was had—and to see what a few specific fans would say. Because there's been a few readers of Arad's stuff that wouldn't stop slamming my stuff every time it came up, complete with commentary about how terrible a writer I was compared to Arad and how he shouldn't be bothering promoting my stuff. So I suggested we pull a switcheroo and see if those few readers could put their money where their large mouths were. Plus, it'd be fun to write some fanfic not so tightly steeped in Dusk Guard lore (it was very relaxing to be able to not have to worry about my spiderweb for once).

    Anyway, end result? Those few readers couldn't tell the difference. Don't mess with authors, people. We've got tools at our disposal for striking back. :scootangel:

    Anyway, onto the week! It's time to bundle up and kick this cough OUT!

    5 comments · 49 views
  • Friday
    Sick Week

    So, what's new?

    Don't get sick, that's what. I managed to pick up a sore throat that messed up my voice and then turned into a cough that was not only keeping me up till the wee hours of the morning, it was giving me a nice headache and bit of grogginess that made work all but impossible for a day or two. So I'm about 12,000 words behind on my quota. I basically almost lost a week. Boo.

    On the plus side, a new Smash Brothers came out, and I did manage to use the sick time not only to do some worldbuilding for Shadow of an Empire, but to get the last bit of editing done for both for "Remembrance" and ... well, I'm still working on a title for Dawn's side story. Anyway, point is they're BOTH going up soon. All I need now are the covers. As soon as I get those, we'll have a release date. Which will be pretty cool, because I'll be releasing BOTH stories simultaneously, and then uploading the chapters according to a timetable. I'm trying something a little new since both of them take place at the same time. Maybe I can grab two feature box spots at once!

    Anyway, just a quick update. Trying not to cough up my lungs. Sound like I'm going through puberty again. Enjoying the new Smash brothers.

    Oh, and in case you missed it, the newest bonus chapter of Arad's "Mente Materia" is out, and it might seem a little ... familiar to you guys.

    8 comments · 46 views
  • 1w, 23h
    Being a Better Writer: Character Descriptions

    Late update today. I'm battling a sore throat, so I'm trying give myself the sleep I need to drive it back. My voice sounds weird right now.

    Anyway, today's topic inspired was by a bit of a firestorm I saw with regards to a story that someone had written. And while the firestorm in question will definitely not be the subject of today's post, nor do I wish to get into that as it is an entirely separate topic, today's topic will brush up against it for a brief moment.

    Today, I'm going to talk about character descriptions.

    Character descriptions are something that every new writer struggles with, and often many somewhat experienced writers as well. Because when we get right down to it, character descriptions fall into one of those writing areas where no one teaches you how to do it, and everyone assumes that it's fairly straightforward and to the point. "You shouldn't need to be taught about this," the public mindset seems to say. "How hard can it be? You just describe your character!"

    Well, as it turns out, and as most new writers discover when they put their pencil to paper for the first time, describing your characters is much more difficult than it appears. It's hard. Many writers, in a fit of panic (or without realizing it), will simply throw out a narrated description of basic looks—eye color, hair, figure, etc—and then just jump right into the story, without realizing how jarring and unappealing to the reader such a description is. Only upon going back do most of them realize how truly unappealing it is for a story to start off with "Bob was asian, five-foot-three-inches, with brown hair and brown eyes ... etc, etc." Only when they do realize how unappealing it is does the real panic set in, when they realize that they have no idea how to do any differently.

    Which is why I'm talking about this today. Because to many readers, how you describe a character can be a make-or-break point for the entire book. Young writers don't quite realize how important something as simple as a character description can be to the readers acceptance of a work. Plenty a time has been the moment when a reader has picked up a book, read only a few paragraphs, run across a poor character description, and put the book back on the shelf. Why? Because even if they don't consciously realize it, a poor character description is often an indicator of other problems with the book, be they weakness of story, poor attention to detail, or just in general a low quality read.

    Yikes. Suddenly the amount and care for detail you put into your character description takes on a whole new level of importance, doesn't it? It might not just be something that's a nice part of your work, it's something that the very reading of your work may hinge upon.

    Kind of makes it important to get right.

    So, where do you start? How do you go about making sure that your character description is going to be something that keeps your reader flipping through your pages? Well, to start, you're going to need to know a few things about your work.

    Perspective and Voice

    First of all, what perspective is your book going to be using? You need to decide this and acknowledge it in your introduction of the character. Because trust me, very few things will make your reader put a book away like a narrative that jumps to an entirely different style or out of character to introduce someone. If you're going to write in first-person limited, you cannot jump to third person omniscient to introduce your character and then back (especially if you stay in character, with one very specific case exemption). It's horridly jarring.

    In other words, keep your introduction in perspective. This might seem obvious, but then again, I've seen numerous novice stories where the writers have made just this mistake without even realizing it. So first person stories stay first person with their character descriptions, and third-person stories stay in third person. Omniscient stays omniscient, limited stays limited. More on this in a bit when we get to the how.

    But before that, we also need to discuss voice. Voice is make-or-break with character description, though it matters more if your perspective is first person, as it's much more apparent. What is voice? Voice is how the character talks, speaks, and acts, and combined with perspective, breaking voice can be incredibly jarring to the reader. Let me show you want I mean through an example. Here we're going with a first-person, omniscient, direct perspective (ie, the character is telling you a story) and I'm going to give him a voice. Now let's watch what happens when I break that voice.

    It was a cold morning that morning, like most mornings were back then. Cold. Dark. Wet as a piss-poor boot on a rainy day. I still don't know why I bothered to get out of bed that morning. Maybe I was tired of rolling my face into that mildewed pillow over and over again. Maybe I though it'd be worth thinking about going to work. Or maybe I just wanted a nice, stiff, hot cup of coffee. Although in all likelihood, I'd only get one of those things. The local coffee shop was a right pisser when it came down to it: always busy, always getting your order wrong, and never happy to see you unless you were some well dressed posh boot-licker with a stick shoved up his backside. And that wasn't me.

    I'm nothing ordinary. I look very normal. I'm five-foot-two inches; so short. I have dark hair, usually unkempt, and I'm not particularly fit. I have blue eyes, a larger nose, and a bit of stubble around my strong jawline. I'm a bit on the thin side, and I'm usually listening to a pair of headphones.

    Ow, that actually took some work to force myself to write. But did you catch how jarring that was? We start off with this very well-defined voice, things are going great and then POW! The voice is gone. Instead we have bland, everyman description. We could have cut those details straight out of a character file and simply changed the perspective and tense to match the prior paragraph.

    And all I really did was change the voice. With the voice gone, the character's unique attitudes and perspectives either vanished or became flat. Would the one telling the story in the first paragraph have used the phrase "pair of headphones" or "a larger nose?" Not at all! He would have said something like "My nose has always been a bit on a ugly side, sort of like a squashed Mr. Potato Head has taken up residence on my face." Or something like that.

    While this may seem obvious, you'd probably be surprised how many new writers make this mistake, or worse, published writers. I've cringed at many a book (some of which were otherwise fine) where every time a new character came onto the scene the author would break perspective, character/narrator voice, or both when describing them. Crud, I've read one book (and this is a published, bestseller, more's the tragedy) where every new character completely broke perspective and voice, going from third-person limited to what was almost a direct, to-the-reader paragraph written by the author. It was bad. really bad. Then again, so was the rest of the book.

    So, keep perspective and voice in mind when it comes time to describe a character. Reread your descriptions later—out loud, if needed—to see if they flow with the rest of the story around it. If necessary, make changes. But of course, before you get started, here's something else to think about when it comes to character descriptions.

    Reason, Scene, and View

    Originally, view was going to be a different perspective form, but I figured that'd be too confusing. So we're going to go with Scene, View, and Reason. Because as important as perspective and voice is, there are other things to consider when introducing a character.

    Reason is the first thing you should consider. It's AMAZING how many authors mess this up, but let's think about this for a moment. Say your character is in a firefight. Things are exploding, the situation looks bleak—and suddenly a new character bursts onto the scene to save the day, midst gunfire and explosions. Now, how much reason at all does the main character have to give a detailed description of the character in question, considering they're trying not to die? Very little. And in such a scene, certain details are going to be much more important to the character than others.

    Even outside of limited perspective writing, don't make the mistake of thinking you can just drop all the details on the reader. Pacing (something I should do a post on later) is incredibly valuable. Dropping a full description of a character into the middle of a climactic scene? That pulls the reader out of the scene and ruins the pacing. So every time you think to describe a new character, don't hesitate to ask what reason you have for doing so in the first place, and what reason you have for writing the details that you do. Please, do not be the author who pulls us out of a story talking about the new female characters cup size and tight, slap-worthy behind. You'd better have a darn good reason for that aside from personal appeal.

    Even with your viewpoint character, you need reason. A lot of newbie writers just make the assumption that a character who's starring in the story should be described immediately, but that's not really true. How many of you wake up and then do a mental catalog of all your features? Maybe if you're a narcissist, or if you've got a reason to care about one particular aspect or feature for some reason, then yes, you'd think about it. But how many of you do a daily rundown?

    You don't. Reason. Sure, you can hand-wave it, but that pulls the reader out. Give your character a reason (such as the "looking in a mirror" character description trope. Or better yet, just let the description come naturally with the elements of the story.

    Now scene. I touched on that above, but I'll go a bit further here. Remember your scene and the context therein, not just with regards to emotion and events, but things in the room. It's a bit jarring for characters to react in random ways ith character descriptions that aren't contextually related to the scene around them. Use the scene to let your character's looks be known. For example, when Steel dunks his head in the water barrel at the beginning of Rise, the resulting splash and description of him cooling off also describes much of his body type and coloration, easing the reader into a natural picture of what he looked like (this was also something that a certain well-known fic site's pre-reader disliked to an incredible degree—they actually demanded I dump it and just start with a generic, straight description, one more reason I view them as about as competent as a bunch of kindergartners when it comes to fic work).

    Lastly, view. This is a subtext of voice, really. Basically, what it asks is that when you describe a character, make sure that you're doing it not just from the proper perspective, but with their view. What's important to the describer? What details would they notice that are both important to them and also useful to the reader? This can really flavor your book, your characters, and most often seems to become a stumbling point when a writer writes a gender aside from their own. I think we can all see where that goes.

    Point is, your character's viewpoints matter when describing someone. They might see things through a lens that isn't fully correct, or view motivations falsely. This is entirely fair, and we shouldn't be afraid to pull punches when this happens. Even if the reader disagrees with an observation a character makes, it tells them something about both characters.

    The Details Themselves

    All right, we've talked about everything else up to this point to set the stage. Now let's talk about the nitty-gritty specifics with all that other stuff in context.

    First of all, you don't need to describe everything. Remember the lessons above, but also take in this bit of wisdom: A perfectly visualized character often is not a perfectly described one. This is because like characters, we often remember and fixate on specific details rather than the whole. A mark of clever, experienced writing often is that when describing characters, the author will give you just enough specific details to get your attention, but let you fill in the rest of the details. Let us take Harry Potter, for instance. What specific details were we given about Snape? If you're like me and most readers, you remember that he was thin, gaunt perhaps, and that he had greasy hair and a greasy nose. JK Rowling didn't dump many other details (at least, not that I recall right away). She gave you just enough to envision him, and envision him you did.

    Stephen King is a master of this. Go ahead, reread one of his works and pay attention to the details he offers. They often aren't many, no more than three or four details that interestingly enough can paint a very broad picture. And yet when reading his books, readers praise the descriptive characters and how well they can envision them. Despite the fact that he's only giving you a few direct details.

    Tricky, tricky, Mr. King. You knew exactly what you were doing too. Giving the reader the details that were important to know or to visualize, and then letting all the other blanks just sort of fill themselves in.

    Perspective matters again here, as different characters will observe different things, and here's where we get to the elephant in the room: race.

    Unfortunately, race (in America) has become a sort of screwed up version of "The game." Basically, if you mention it, everyone loses.

    Uh-oh. It's sad, but true. There is literally no good way to tackle this that will please everyone. In a country where you can be publicly blasted for "not being (insert race here) enough" and race and culture have become so hopelessly intertwined as to be indistinguishable to most people, character race is basically an open invitation for an absolute crap-storm of rage to descend on your work.

    And nobody wants that. So how do you dodge it?

    First, never—and I mean never—unless you have a very character-specific point to raise, begin a character description with "they were -insert race here-." Seriously, do not. That is the path of the crap-storm, because the moment you use any sort of racial identifier, anyone who at all has any baggage attached to whatever identifying word you used will unzip it and set up shop. And every word thereafter will be, unfortunately, picked through by that entire baggage set's personal handlers, who will interrogate everything you write to look for "problems."

    Yeah, seeing the issue here? Don't use racial terms.

    Do you even need to? Well, actually ... No. No you don't. First of all, culture and "race" are two distinct things but slammed together in the modern world climate. And you don't need to directly address either in order to describe a character.

    Think back to what I said about Stephen King's writing, or Rowling. Drop the details people need. You don't have to say "I'm Hawaiian." You can have a character mention that they grew up in Laie, Hawaii. Or you can observe that they have tanned, tough skin.

    Truth is, you can dodge a lot of the controversy just by giving the important details. Maybe hair color. Or the tint of their skin. And none of these are declarative statements of race. It's tricky, but in the modern climate, it's something you just have to deal with.


    In conclusion, when describing characters, think about perspective and voice. Then bring that into play with the reasons, the scene, and the view of the character. Then, lastly, consider which details are important. Do this, paint the scene, and walk away with a character description so natural it'll seem like your reader really knows them.

    Good luck! See you all next week!

    12 comments · 170 views
  • 1w, 4d
    Whoa. Correia Takes the SJW Movement to Task

    I know, I've been quiet lately. I've been trying to finish up the first draft of Colony (which is in the final act now, finally), and that's kept me pretty busy. Hunter's story is getting its editing pass this weekend (so ... tomorrow, actually, dang) and will start going up not long after I work out the cover details.

    Anyway, before I get back to work, I just wanted to share a link. This link, specifically. It's from Larry Correia's blog, and it's sort of a summation, a "why I do this," of sorts. And it tackles, of all things, the SJW insanity and how it's been hurting writing.

    Thing is, I feel he makes some incredibly good point. Correia's been fighting this fight for a while, and he's never been shy to point how foolish an opponent's arguments are. With this post, he summed up just about everything distubing that's been permeating the writing culture, and in a very blunt, to the point sort of way.

    Warning: It IS blunt. But sometimes bluntness is needed, and in this case, I happen to think Correia is entirely correct.

    I'd prefer not to kick off a firestorm of controversy in the comments, and with this one, that's a possibility. So in the event you want to weigh in on this, remember the rules of my comment threads, please: No cursing. Be considerate and well-spoken. Don't resort to nastiness, bile, or any of the other typical, less-astute methods of conversation seen around the internet.

    Anyway, I need to get back to work! This book needs to get done!

    13 comments · 191 views
  • 2w, 1d
    Being a Better Writer: Character Versus Plot

    Character Versus Plot: What's Driving Your Story?

    Today we're going to talk about a lesser-considered aspect of storytelling and writing. I've bandied about with a few different introductions to the concept and summarily discarded all of them, so instead I'm just going to jump right in and tackle things.

    Effectively—and understand that I am for the purposes of today's concept, grossly simplifying—every story out there, written, told, or seen, rides a sliding scale into one of two categories: They're either a character-driven piece or a plot-driven piece. That's it. These are your options, and understanding which your story is going to be, as well as more importantly, how to achieve this, will play a part in determining the success of your work.

    Okay, some of you are nodding, some of you are confused, a few are wondering where I'm going with this. So let's look into this one a little more deeply.

    We'll start with the underlying concept behind these two options: All stories are driven by something. Now, when I say that a story is driven by something, I don't mean the antagonist, or the inciting incident, or even the growth of the character. What I'm referring to by driven is the events or actions by which the story is pulled forward.

    Bilbo leaving Frodo the ring, for example, is something that pulls the story forward. Harry receiving a letter from Hogwarts. Vin being noticed by Kelsier. A story is, in it's purest, simplified form, a collection of events. But something inside the story must happen in order for these events to occur. Cause and effect.

    What I'm discussing today is the method by which the story moves forward. Is it character-derived, or plot-derived?

    I see a few of you are still scratching your heads. The simplest, easiest way to describe this idea is to ask what causes the story to continue forward. Is it the characters? Or is it some force outside of the characters? Is the story moving forward because of my characters actions and choices, or is it moving forward because it needed to move forward so something happened?

    Both types of story exist (and, as one would expect, most stories are a blend of both, weighted in one direction or the other). Thriller novels, for example, tend to be driven more often by their plots than by their characters. Events that move the story forward are "Acts of God" or other higher powers which exist for the sole purpose of dragging the characters along from scene to scene. The writer wants a car chase to happen? So he funnels the story towards that end, placing the characters in a situation where there is only one possible answer—car chase.

    Stories that focus more on character, however, take a different route. Rather than plot-based forces pulling the story forward, these are stories in which the characters choices are what move things along. Rather than outside occurrences forcing a character to engage in a car chase, this will be a story where the character is given valid options and then chooses to engage in the car chase.

    Now, I'm certain a lot of you are simply nodding and thinking to yourselves "Well of course, that makes sense." And yes, it does. But now we need to consider this question: Which one are you writing?

    Because to tell the truth, while your works will undoubtedly have both aspects included in them, each story you write is going to gravitate towards one type or the other, and understanding and acknowledging this in advance will make your work much easier.

    For example, take my work on Colony. Colony is a much less character driven work than my last few stories, and it took me a while to realize it (downside of pantsing the story). Much of the major events that control the story are driven not by the characters choices (with a few exceptions), but rather by outside, plot-driven forces. None of the character's ever wanted to go to the colony world of Pisces, for example. Instead, they're press ganged into it by a powerful megacorportation who, while offering them a substantial monetary reward for carrying out their task, really doesn't give them much in the way of a choice. The other options are so unappealing that it's very clear to the characters and the reader that the only recourse is to accept the job and head for Pisces.

    There are other events like this in Colony. But for Colony as a story, that's all right, because the focus isn't the character driven elements, it's how the characters react to being thrown into these situation, and the situations themselves.

    Another example of a plot driving: Everyone's favorite, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry never chooses to be a wizard and start receiving letters from Hogwarts. The letters simply start arriving one day. And then, characters with power outside of Harry's control determine the reaction (taking the letters away, nailing the letterbox shut, and fleeing to a cabin on an island). Much of the driving force of The Sorcerer's Stone for the first "act," in fact, is not character based at all. Harry is pretty much dragged along up until the setting has been introduced, at which point he starts making conscious choices of his own (befriending Ron, for instance, or helping take down a troll).

    Come to think of it, The Sorcerer's Stone is probably a pretty good example of the two types and how to juggle them, as the first half of the story is mostly Harry being dragged from point to point, while only after he acclimates to the new setting does he really start making choices that move the story forward.

    Knowing which particular style your story is going to serve as the primary driving force of your story before you start will do wonders for how your story turns out. For instance, if you want to write a deep, character focused drama with introspective characters coming to grips with their own lives ... and then create a story that is entirely driven by the plot and not by that character, the entire theme and objective of your work will be weakened. Likewise, if you want to write a rollicking action story that never stops, but choose to have much of the story driven by the characters, you're putting a lot of weight on those characters to make the choices that will continually keep the action-ball rolling. Sure, it can be done, but it's not easy, especially if those characters start trying to make decisions that would pull away the action-adventure focus.

    What does this mean for you? Well, that you need to make a choice before you get too far into any work about exactly which driving force you want to be in control of your story, and then think ahead to how that's going to change your story. Can you count on your characters to make certain decisions to move the story in the right direction? Or will you need an exterior force, a plot moment, to take control and move things forward? How will it change your story to have such a force interacting with your characters? Will it put the reader's focus in the wrong area? Will it detract from the theme or moral of your work? A story in which the theme or moral is that we always have a choice, for example, would be rendered ironic by a story in which everything was driven entirely by the plot rather than the characters.

    Conscious acknowledgment of what drives our story can be a powerful tool in forming a strong narrative and focus for the reader. For example, look at the storyline of Bioshock. One of Bioshock's greatest storytelling powers was it's insistence that the character was the one making the decisions, that the character was driving the story. Only when you reached the twist did you learn that everything the character had gone through was in fact, not a character decision, but the plot dragging the character along and convincing him that their choices were their own when they were not. Bioshock's creators built up a powerful narrative based on what observers perceived was a character-driven story, and then brutally tore that construct away at a critical moment while showing the player how willing they had been to believe that it was all character rather than something orchestrated by others. Bioshock ended up being recommended in Time magazine partially because of how well its story juggled these two concepts.

    But that's pretty advanced use of such a tool, so don't expect to do something like that right away. In fact, don't expect to need to. What you should expect is to understand what drives the story of your own works. When you sit down at a keyboard or with a pen, ask yourself: What is going to drive this story? Are my characters subject to the whims of the plot? Do they choose their own path? How will this affect the story I have in mind? Will it make it less exciting? More exciting? Should I consider changing my focus between the two in order to strengthen an aspect or theme of my work?

    As with many things, either of these alone will not make or break your work. However, a firm understanding of how they work and what they can do for you will, with time, be part of the polish that grants your work an extra shine of quality.

    Good luck with your writing, and I'll see you all next week.

    12 comments · 196 views
  • ...

This story is a sequel to Carry On

When a monk has learned all he can learn, he is sent forth on a pilgrimage. A search for knowledge, guided only by a single question, never to return home unless they find an answer. Sabra has been searching for three years, and at long last, he may have found his answer.

It may just not be the answer he expects.

Updated Saturdays

Second of the Side Stories to The Dusk Guard: Rise. Familiarity with Rise is not required per se, but recommended.

Side Stories so far:

Carry On

The Definition of Strength

Old Habits


The Saga has a TV Tropes page!

"This is 100% Approved by Twilight's Library!"

Added to Twilight's Library 1/21/2014

Featured on Canterlot's Finest

Special Thanks to Sonorus, Jorlem, Sinister Voice, Templar22, Bronze Aegis and JinShu for their help pre-reading, editing and getting a summary together.

Art by dpjohnson22

First Published
4th Jan 2014
Last Modified
25th Jan 2014
#1 · 46w, 3d ago · 1 · · Part 1 ·

Haven't read the other stories just yet, but enjoyed the first chapter of this regardless.

It gives an oriental feel to the main character, as well as a decent bit of back-story.

Also, nice title pic :twilightsmile:

#2 · 46w, 3d ago · 1 · · Part 1 ·

And I haven't read this story yet, but I'm adding it to my Kindle to read just as soon as I'm done rereading Sanderson's The Way of Kings—gotta get ready for the next book in the series this March, after all.  (...I'll probably reread it again once or twice before then, too, I'm embarrassed to admit.)

Expect a happy gold star and a green thumb in the next day or two as soon as I do read it, though.  I'm entirely too neurotic to just pass them out pell-mell and without due diligence, but at this point I'm fairly certain most any story you post will get them out of me, anyway.  

#3 · 45w, 2d ago · 1 · · Part 2 ·

Just had the chance to sit down and read the latest chapter.  This is coming along splendidly, no complaints. I am curious with how this will all play out for Sabra, normally I'd have  a prediction or two by now, but currently everything is up in the air for me no idea on how this will play out. Going just of of the two side stories, and not Rise, I like how you made each story have views from a different character, and how they all seem to fit together.

Keep up the good work! ^^

[Edit]: Also, sorry if I sound weird when you read this, it's 4:19 in the morning here, and my mind is mush XD

#4 · 45w, 2d ago · · · Part 2 ·


I had a lot of fun worldcrafting the country that Sabra hails from, and one of the reasons I looked forward to this story so much was being able to finally show a bit more of it. The Plainslands are a definite part of his character, and I enjoy every chance I get to offer a bit more of them.

Since you liked the art, don't forget to check out the page of DJohnson22, who made it for me!


Oh man, I need to reread The Way of Kings before then myself!


I'm glad that Sabra's musings are keeping you in the air on what's going to occur! Also, it's good to hear that you find his viewpoint so distinct. I worked pretty hard at giving him his own voice and making his own experiences different from Sky Bolt's and the other members, and it's good to hear that all that work and revision has paid off!

#5 · 44w, 2d ago · 1 · · Part 3 ·

Just wanted to say, this was great.

#7 · 44w, 6h ago · · · Part 3 ·


Yahoo! Thank you!



#8 · 43w, 3h ago · · · Part 1 ·

An error I found:

I promise the next model will do a big better and letting out heat and—”

Should probably be:

" I promise the next model will do a bit better at letting out heat and—”

A super-powered Sabra? Interesting...

Intriguing story so far; I look forward to more.


#9 · 43w, 2h ago · · · Finale ·


Thanks for spotting that, glad I could fix it. :twilightblush:

And I'm glad you enjoyed the story. There's a lot coming with the Dusk Guard, so keep an eye out! There are still four side stories to come before the next chapter in the series rolls out in earnest!

#10 · 36w, 4d ago · 2 · · Finale ·

I know that OC stories get less readers than others, and I know this is the second side story after a trilogy, further weeding out possible viewers. But this truly deserves a much higher rating than it has. You pulled off the deep introspection wonderfully, and I very much like that you didn't take the easy out of having him find his answer. I especially enjoyed your rendition of the princesses, and your choice of their answers. I like this one as much as Rises, and maybe even a little more.

I also REALLY like that you have the Elements of Harmony as aspects of Magic. Having them be emotions might be stretching the definition slightly, but I always did feel like if the Elements were so powerful, they shouldn't just be limited to the ponies that embody them. Kudos for working that into your lore.

#11 · 36w, 4d ago · · · Finale ·

>>4079032 :twilightblush: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much, and I'm really glad all the time and effort I put into Sabra and the Princesses paid off. I've had such a journey writing the Dusk Guard from the humble start to where it is now, and I'm glad that all that work is paying off with a story that others are enjoying so much. I look forward to keeping this journey rolling (between pumping out my published stuff) and one day, we'll see the end. Where it's all heading, I won't say, but I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the ride. :pinkiesmile:

#12 · 35w, 6d ago · · · Part 1 ·

Definitely a different tone than in Bolt's story.  I like it.

I liked 'Tia's answer, and I'm guessing we'll hear Lulu's later. As good as it might be, sometimes life is a burden. It will be hard at times, but make it through and you be stronger because of it. Some would say life is a curse, where everything goes wrong time after time. For these, friends are a definite must. They can help a person get through where one might stumble and fall alone.

Helmets not currently covering the ears? Will definitely need some help with circuitry here. And a superZebra? Nice.

#13 · 35w, 6d ago · · · Part 2 ·

And here's Lulu's turn. Wow. I mean, having artception is a bit mindblowing, and all of this parallels the night sky.

Also... DERPY!!!!!!!!! *squee*

"difficult trial"     Tell me what it is, please? You can't just leave it at that.

Ahahaha. My comment on how life can be a burder definitely ties into what Luna's saying here. To be truly defeated is to give up and stop trying.

Took him a couple of tries, but he's finally getting it down. Wonder what other enchants Bolt's got in mind.

And more shipping.

#14 · 35w, 6d ago · · · Part 3 ·

LY is apparently going to be a major element for the team. Wonder if any of the others will be focused on.

The note on Nova entering the captain's room is hilarious.  

Sabra is redefining where home is. Now to shipping the two.

#15 · 35w, 6d ago · · · Finale ·

Master Sage eh? I bet Zecora's one too, except Mythical status as opposed to Legendary.

Tron lines sound cool, but might want to find a way to make it appear only on a HUD if you want to indicate usage. Otherwise it might be detrimental for stealth.

Wibbly-Wobbly... Doctor!

I actually like OC storys, long as they're written well. Allows more creative freedom with the characters without people saying "That's not how X or Y behaves". Those kind of stories also can be well written, but established characters usually have guidelines on how to write them.

#16 · 35w, 2h ago · · · Finale ·


Naw, she's a shaman, like the one that Sky and Sabra met at the diplomatic dinner. Or the one that was in on Sabra's council. Different societal area.

#17 · 30w, 1d ago · · · Finale ·


So far all three shamens have been female and all sage masters have been male is this purposeful?

A separation similar nuns and priests or just a coincidence

#18 · 30w, 1d ago · · · Finale ·


Ooh, good question! Actually, all shamans must be female, but a master sage can be male or female.  Sages are students of the monastery, while a shaman is a specific "job" that traditionally has been held only by mares. It's a position that is a bit like a matriarch. There's usually one for a village or collection of villages, more in a city, and trained by apprenticeship.

Which doesn't mean that a stallion can't have the same training. A stallion can train under a shaman as an apprentice, and will be trained in the art of potions-making, but can't ever be known as a "shaman." Instead, they're a doctor, or an herbalist, or whatever career they choose to take their skills to. But the title "shaman" is specifically held for mares who take the respected office among the zebra.

#19 · 29w, 4d ago · 2 · · Part 3 ·

This whole story of the Dusk guard is all excellent, but I think Sabra's story in particular is truly exceptional in how complexly philosophical it is, not just his search for the meaning of life, but all the ways he comes to view things like home and belonging.

#20 · 28w, 1d ago · 1 · · Part 1 ·

It's amazing seeing what the world looks like behind Sabra's eyes. It's a good reminder, too, that even someone who looks whole and collected from the outside can still be confused and trying to make sense of the world from within.

I also liked the contrast between Sabra's living conditions and Sky Bolt's, and look forward to seeing how that sort of thing influences their interactions.

#21 · 28w, 1d ago · 1 · · Part 2 ·

Luna's speech on the meaning of life was beautiful. And how you wove it into the rest of the chapter was great, particularly when you had Sky Bolt echo part of it.

Another achievement of yours: Whenever these characters smile, I'm smiling along with them.

#22 · 28w, 6h ago · 1 · · Finale ·


Wait, so you're telling me you aren't usually this deep and introspective? That's almost as hard to believe as your saying you don't actually fight magical killer robots for a living!

#23 · 27w, 4d ago · · · Finale ·

I'm glad Sabra got his chance to shine a little brighter. He's a real great character, and its great to see that in evidence here. The little touches like his homesickness and his struggle with the finer points of Equestrian/English/Basic helped show that he's more than just a "butt-whoopin' Zebra warrior."

Though he is that. :raritywink:

I liked the more philosophical tone of this story. I've realized fairly recently that an emotional conflict can be just as interesting and fun to read as a physical conflict. This story had weight and, even if it's been partially resolved, that weight's going to continue to be a big part of Sabra. It's gonna be awesome. :pinkiehappy:

Also, I've given in and finally decided to root for Sabra and Sky Bolt's relationship. They're too cute. I've held off on actually investing my emotions into them because I know that something terrible is going to happen. This slow build up is most certainly building up to something. :unsuresweetie:

#24 · 27w, 4d ago · · · Finale ·


You have no idea how much of a relief that was to hear. Writing Sabra was probably the toughest challenge I've had writing the Dusk Guard so far, and probably will stay that way.

I loved every minute of it, thought. And I'm glad you did to. He's quickly become a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons past "I'm awesome and cool about it."


It's amazing seeing what the world looks like behind Sabra's eyes. It's a good reminder, too, that even someone who looks whole and collected from the outside can still be confused and trying to make sense of the world from within.

Still waters run deep.

Luna's speech on the meaning of life was beautiful. And how you wove it into the rest of the chapter was great, particularly when you had Sky Bolt echo part of it.

Another achievement of yours: Whenever these characters smile, I'm smiling along with them.

I believe that good writing shouldn't just be good, it should inspire as well (yeah, there's totally a blog post coming on that).

And if I'm leaving smiles behind, so much the better! :pinkiehappy:


I'm glad Sabra got his chance to shine a little brighter. He's a real great character, and its great to see that in evidence here. The little touches like his homesickness and his struggle with the finer points of Equestrian/English/Basic helped show that he's more than just a "butt-whoopin' Zebra warrior."

I threw a lot of work into this piece partially because I'd given him such a short stick in "Rise." I knew how complex his character was, but readers didn't. That and I hadn't scratched the surface of his personality yet. It was actually one of the reasons I set out to write the side stories: I wanted to give them each their moments, so that everyone could reach the level of attention that Steel and Nova got (that, and I didn't want to go cold while I wrote a few more books before the sequel). Honestly, I love the entire team, but Sabra's always going to be a little unique thanks to his position, and his challenges (like that question).

Also, I've given in and finally decided to root for Sabra and Sky Bolt's relationship. They're too cute. I've held off on actually investing my emotions into them because I know that something terrible is going to happen. This slow build up is most certainly building up to something.

Hey, I root for them too! As far as what the future holds, you'll just have to keep reading. :raritywink:

#25 · 27w, 4d ago · 1 · · Finale ·


I threw a lot of work into this piece partially because I'd given him such a short stick in "Rise." I knew how complex his character was, but readers didn't. That and I hadn't scratched the surface of his personality yet.

That work shows! I'm hoping we get to see inside his head some more in the future. Maybe he'll have more plot-relevant thoughts in the next book? :scootangel:

Hey, I root for them too! As far as what the future holds, you'll just have to keep reading. :raritywink:

What I'm reading at the moment is that you took the trouble to keep my bold emphasis on "terrible" in the quote. This does not bode well for the zebra or the pegasus. :trollestia:

#26 · 26w, 6d ago · 1 · · Finale ·

hmm it sure has been interesting to see inside Sabra. your narration around tgis character has been always quite original, but his inner scape is an step forward

But I still want to see more avout him and his romance :)

#27 · 26w, 1d ago · 1 · · Finale ·

Why are we here, what's life all about?

Is God really real, or is there some doubt?

Well tonight we're going to sort it all out

For tonight it's the meaning of life

What's the point of all this hoax?

Is it the chicken and the egg time, are we just yolks?

Or perhaps we're just one of God's little jokes

Well ca c'est the meaning of life

Is life just a game where we make up the rules

While we're searching for something to say

Or are we just simply spiralling coils

Of self-replicating DNA?

In this life, what is our fate?

Is there Heaven and Hell? Do we reincarnate?

Is mankind evolving or is it too late?

Well tonight here's the meaning of life

For millions this life is a sad vale of tears

Sitting round with real nothing to say

While scientists say, "We're just simply spiralling coils

Of self-replicating DNA"

So just why, why are we here?

And just what, what, what, what do we fear?

Well ce soir, for a change, it will all be made clear

For this is the meaning of life

C'est le sens de la vie

This is the meaning of life

#28 · 23w, 1d ago · · · Finale ·


What I'm reading at the moment is that you took the trouble to keep my bold emphasis on "terrible" in the quote. This does not bode well for the zebra or the pegasus.

Keep guessing! :pinkiehappy:


But I still want to see more avout him and his romance :)

We will. :pinkiesmile:


Will he ever find it? He's gotten some dang good answers already, what could he be looking for?

#29 · 16w, 5d ago · 1 · · Finale ·

I'm not even going to second guess this: The Definition of Strength was one of the most difficult things to write that I've written in the last year. Perhaps ever

Well you did a masterful job with it all here. A great look into Sabra. I have to admit as well the philosophy student in me let out more than a couple loud squees at different points. I really enjoyed the answers you put together from the two princesses especially.  Not only were they spectacular answers and great deliveries, but each of their answers also payed very well into their characters and past experiences.

Also just like you did in Rise I really like the way you are weaving the emotional components not only into the magic, but also into the character's experience of that magic. I also think the choice of Loyalty being the driving emotion of the strength enchantment is an inspired choice. It is an emotion that can drive so many actions, and also drive one to abilities possibly far beyond what they could achieve otherwise.  

The story with Sabra's quest, the armor, and his relationship with Sky Bolt were also very neatly woven together. I also really liked the looks into Sabra's homeland and past and really look forward to more.

#30 · 14w, 5d ago · · · Finale ·

so sabra is the element of loyalty. well, at least an equivalent of it. :rainbowdetermined2: sabra is my fav pony/zebra so this was even more interesting than usual. i like how the tone of the saga completely changes based on which character's viewpoint we're looking at. i also like how sabra has minor problems expressing himself in equestrian sometimes. both the princesses' answers were very well thought out. i applaud u for that. sabra's realization about where his home was is very nice, too. giving us a look at sabra's background was really nice as well.

so therefore my rating is :yay: :rainbowkiss: :rainbowkiss: :rainbowkiss: :twilightsmile: :moustache: :moustache: 8.7/10 man, my ratings are high for this saga. oh well, it deserves it. :ajsmug:

#31 · 12w, 5d ago · 1 · · Finale ·

Man, I can't even imagine how hard it was to write from Sabra's POV.  Between the foreign culture, language barrier, adorable crush, and what would already have been a pretty turbulent mess of figuring out his place in the world even given none of those...I mean that's pretty ambitious, but damn if it didn't work.

#32 · 3w, 5d ago · · · Part 3 ·

I loved Nova's entry and also Steel's response.

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