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3w, 3dDrink the Kool-Aid.6 comments · 49 views
Because why not, have some thoughts about Rainbow Rocks. I'm not going to structure it as a proper review because there's plenty of other people who will do that (or try and miss the mark by spending most of their words recapping the plot, which is like a review cardinal sin). Spoilers, obvs.
I like Equestria Girls. It does some things wrong but overall it could be a lot worse. One thing I think it does poorly is not cover familiar ground fast enough, both from a perspective of within the universe -- Twilight turns the clock back to zero with her friends and the section where she connects with their human counterparts is pretty loose in terms of knowing where things are going to go before they get there -- and from a meta perspective about being an alternate universe story, where it's fairly slow to establish first the base universe and then the ways the new one differs. Rainbow Rocks doesn't have that problem: it's very swift at setting up the new villains, the stakes, the focus. It all comes very quickly and smoothly so there can be more time spent on the important stuff, like the characters interacting with each other. This was another area where EQG falls a bit short; aside from Twilight and Spike (where the hell has that Spike been in the series, by the way? and even here, even though he doesn't have much to do, at least he doesn't embarrass himself every time he opens his mouth) there's not that much in the way of interpersonal... stuff, it's all mostly Twilight dealing with her princess thing. If you removed, for example, Rainbow Dash from the first film, what would change? RR comes back to the Twilight princess stuff -- although there's a little more meat there, too, after she's had a season to get comfortable with her role as Princess of Friendship -- but in a way that gets some proper interaction out of the rest of Mane 6 + Sunset, so big points for that. The ensemble episodes feel like they're rushed for time, but with 70+ minutes to use there's enough space to give everyone a little something to do and to touch on it as the film moves along.
The way that time works in the mirror universe is wonky to the point of it being intentionally wonky, I think. Film starts with the Dazzlings witnessing the Mane 6's friendship beam that stops demon!Sunset. They then show up at the school and begin meddling. Unless it's one hell of a long walk from wherever they were to CHS, that would mean that no time passed between the two films in the human world, while there was a whole season (however long that is -- I don't quite hold to the popular idea that each season = 1 year, but obviously some time went by) of stuff that happened with the ponies. And then to really hammer the thing home, the Dazzlings were banished by Starswirl the Bearded, who's most likely been dead for a millennium at least if Luna was able to recognise Twilight dressing up as him for Nightmare Night, and yet they're... well, alive and still teenage girls within the mirror. I have this idea that the mirror universe isn't a proper, fully-formed thing, that it draws on the main pony universe to give it some order. There is no graduate and go to college, because the little universe is all about the high school; it's blank once you go a couple of blocks away. The stinger at the end of RR undercuts this idea somewhat, but maybe a potential third film could be all about human!Twilight discovering and coming to terms with being a shadow of the real Twilight Sparkle.
I'm not a big fan of Rainbow at her worse moments -- not when she's meant to look bad, but more just little throw-away things like how she completely throws Pinkie under the bus when Cheese Sandwich shows up and is the shiny new party planner in town -- but her possessiveness and selfishness makes absolute sense for her in the context of being in a band. In fact, the whole band dynamic as mapped to the Humane 5 was perfect; I was even wondering just how Twilight was meant to fit in since she looked like she was the lead singer from the promo material, but she's not really a proper part of the band so that nicely solves that. When everyone's airing their grievances about what's been going wrong, that hit most of the points you'd expect to see in a band gets big/breaks up/gets back together narrative. I was hoping for a bit more music-related stuff, but I guess there was enough with Trixie pulling some Misfits-esque shenanigans to ensure that Jem... sorry, the Rainbooms didn't play. Mostly I think I'm bummed that Twilight didn't seem to have that Bowie-ish thing over her eye in her stage makeup; I was promised Ziggy Stardust dammit.
All the fandom shoutouts were great, because the majority of them weren't egregious. Background ponies get popular but there's a feedback loop with the show staff putting more nods towards characters the fandom likes, so they show up over and over, and then they're a running joke of the show even if you're not a heavily-enfranchised fan (Bulk Biceps would be the big example). So, like, Octavia talks, Vinyl Scratch saves the day with her convertible bass cannon, hey look there's Maud, that's all stuff that's on one level. And then there's Lyra and Bon Bon, who seemed like a half-step beyond all of that. Like... you can tell who's the butch and who's the femme in that relationship, you know? I mean, you can make all the jokes you want about how Rarity and Applejack fight so much, why don't they just kiss already, or that Trixie was just shoving Brad out of the way because she wants Twilight all to herself, but most sane fans know that when they see shipping fuel that it's mostly unintentional, and even if it isn't that it will never amount to anything. But if you're FiM staff and you're aware of the mountains of fan content we all generate -- and we know they are -- then they have to know what we think of Lyra and Bon Bon. It's like the one thing that shippers almost all universally agree on outside of canon established ships. So is it possible there was a covert nod to all of that, by having them not just sing a duet together but having them look like a lesbian power couple? Or am I just high on paint fumes or something?
I don't know which cringe moment was worse: Snips and Snails breaking it down like the worst tribute to Run DMC ever, the lyrics to Twilight's musical counterspell, or Twilight completely underestimating what it takes to fire off a friendship cannon. People who wonder where dorky Twilight went after she got her wings, she's here in spades. The little details that show how she never got completely used to a human body were great and subtle, and the pressure she puts on herself to come up with the right solution because she's a princess now and she's not allowed to fail was much stronger than any of the points during season 4 when that was an issue. And this is all with Twilight not even being the main character! She's treated like she is, like she's going to deus ex machina all over the place and fix things, which is a really clever way of obscuring for a little while that it's Sunset's story the whole way through; you also get a sense, seeing how Sunset lets herself fade into the background among the Mane 6, of how she might have turned away from friends while being Celestia's student. Sunset's very sympathetic and easily the best reformed villain -- white hat or black hat, Discord is still going to cause chaos whenever he's on screen, so there's not much change with him -- and I would be all on board for an Equestria Girls series that focuses on Sunset's continuing adventures at Canterlot High.
There's not a person in the fandom who didn't instantly think Sonata was adorable, right? I wish she'd gotten a scene where she could have told Adagio off, to show she's not all bad, just misguided, but I guess that's what fanfiction is for.
I'm not sure enough appreciation is given to the subtle differences Nicole Oliver gives to Princess and Principal Celestia, because while most of the other characters are straight ports, there's a little bit of difference between being the undying absolute authority of an entire nation and head babysitter of a bunch of goddamn teenagers, and that difference is there in her performance. Princess Celestia is wise, regal, warm; Principal Celestia is a little bit bored. Princess Celestia might be thinking a thousand other things about how to keep Equestria under control, but she's giving the main part of her attention to whoever she's speaking with; Principal Celestia is clearly trying to remember if she needs to pick up some milk on the way home from work. Also on the subject of differences between ponies and their human counterparts, I can take or leave classic Trixie, but there's something about the human version that makes her way funnier than she should be. If someone actually went through high school with the same kind of grandstanding she does, they'd have enormous titanium-alloy balls, which might have something to do with it. She seems like a bit of a dork, like a benign Gob Bluth, who the other students have gotten used to and just leave her to do her thing, which is mainly make outrageous statements in third-person.
This is a thing you won't see written many other places: I wish there was more Flash Sentry in Rainbow Rocks. He's there to hit the same beats at in the first film: Twilight likes him, they're awkward around each other, uhh, the end. It's a big missed opportunity, we could have heard his band play, there was potential to show him more hung up on Twilight, to give some actual weight to him rejecting her under the Dazzlings' spell and to give him some actual personality, because from the brief slivers we get he seems like a bit of a dork too, not the guitar-playing quarterback dudebro everyone feared he would be. So let him be a dork! And not a second generic male figure to fill a role in Twilight's life; she's already got the least interesting brother in the universe (#shotsfired), she doesn't deserve the least interesting potential boyfriend too.
Final thing: making reference to not just playing the musical saw but the theremin too? All kinds of perfect.
17w, 2dChoose Your Own Adventure.10 comments · 141 views
Hi. How's it going? I sort of came to the realisation the other day that I don't really know a lot about the people that are following me, and... well, that's bad, because it's a nice gesture, to want to be notified when a writer does something. I'm not all that great at the more social aspects of FIMFic, but the userbase seems overall more cool than uncool, so I should try to engage with it a little.
Anyway, I have a bunch of ideas for stuff to write next, but they're all jostling for attention (I'm led to understand this is a common problem), and I thought I'd try to kill two birds with one stone and get some feedback on what sounds interesting; I'd hear from some voices who like my stuff and I'd also then feel like I have some obligations to live up to. I don't want to hold a vote, or anything, because that always seemed... tacky, somehow, so I'll just lay out what's in my head and you can feel free to chime in on what should (or shouldn't, ever) exist.
- Something dark and experimental about Lyra and a lesser-known cryptid. Probably will end up being very non-linear. I know the point I want to make with this story and a lot of the themes I want to put in it, but I've been putting it off because apart from a nice interpretation of Lyra's cutie mark the story doesn't need to be told with ponies at all, to the point that I was thinking about purposely avoiding ponifying any of the real-world references.
- Twilight researching into the history of bat-ponies and uncovering the real reason you don't see them much (spoilers: it's genocide). Totally going to steal the story-within-a-story-within-a-story structure from "The Wind Through the Keyhole" and use some archaic (or a rough approximation thereof) language for most of it. I know most of the beats for the story, but I feel like most of it has probably been covered before by some 50,000+ -word epic.
- Clop comedy about Soarin and Derpy trying to have a first night together, but everything just keeps going wrong. This basically writes itself, I don't know why a) this hasn't been done before and b) why this ship isn't, like, a thing.
- (Friend)shipping Pinkie and Dash a year after the Cheese Sandwich episode, where Pinkie gives Rainbow a really quiet low-key birthday full of subtle sweet touching stuff as opposed to the usual explosions and fun fun fun. I'm usually rubbish at Pinkie's more emotional side, but I've been listening to the songs from that episode and I think I've got a pretty good handle on it. Plus, writing from Dash's perspective, whee.
- A spiritual re-write of my first story on this site, stripping off the junk and repackaging the good ideas. Like a sequel, but not really. I've written a bit of this, but it's raw as hell and needs a lot of polish.
- A thing where Sunset Shimmer plays D&D with Snips, Snails, and the Great and Powerful Trixie (which also is the name of her low-level illusionist character). Not sure how serious this will end up being (not very, I imagine). Not completely sure how to make it work, but should be worth it for writing Trixie as a LARP dork.
So that's the look of the crossroads I'm at. Any sound good? awful? like they need a bit more explanation? Please, tell me about it. If I can pick a direction to head into, I promise I'll try to stick with it, I'd just like a bit of a sounding board first.
20w, 2dWhat's in the box?!9 comments · 115 views
Oh, nothing special really, just 10k words of my horse porn. Or, it was, anyway -- I know it's in fashion to screenshot these things, but a) I'm lazy when it comes to trends like that, and b) it would be a pretty sad life to make up stuff like that, so.
While I was writing stories for the Writer's Training Grounds, I was anxiously awaiting the prompt that would let me just let loose with some unashamedly fluffy shippy fluff, because for all the introspective navel-gazing and world-building I often end up writing, scenarios that involve ponies being adorable by cuddling (or wanting to cuddle) is where it's at. Not, I don't know, the standard template for shipping stories that spans many, many, many different fandoms of character A suddenly thinking character B is kinda cute (and maybe, at the same time, character B is having similar thoughts about character A), there's varying lengths of sexual tension and awkward situations, and then they kiss at the end -- I'm more interested in the little do-nothing moments that don't propel the plot along but give depth and texture to the relationship. There's a problem with really liking the do-nothing moments, though, and that is because of their very nature: they do nothing. They're just... cute fluff. I wrote two (very) short stories built around such moments (one's about Applejack walking home with a tipsy Fluttershy, the other's about a furious Bon Bon and a mellow Lyra), and they're both literally just long enough to meet the minimum wordcount for Fimfic. I grew another story out of wanting to write something where Twilight and Dash hang out in the library (#savetree, never forget), and it has the whole ghost story/mystery aspect that comes with it, but point zero was them talking about comics where the underlying subtext is they like each other and d'aww. So, in order to write lots of these cute little moments, I need to either a) divorce them completely from anything else and just let them stand on their own, which isn't very good, because as much as I like those two very short stories I know they're the literary equivalent of cotton candy, or b) have a whole other story to put them into, which is, like, effort, and stuff.
Or so I thought. We'll get back to this thread, but there's a separate thing I need a paragraph to set up.
Also some time during the WTG I started thinking about three-way relationships for some reason; there might have been a couple of AppleJackLight stories that featured for some contest or something? That was probably it. Anyway, the ones I looked at were neat, but... I dunno, there was a little too much justifying the polyamory for me, like from a real-world perspective. Which is great, and all, that you believe that, and more power to anyone who thinks that's the way to go, but with something that's so emotionally volatile I feel like I'd want to read about it through slightly less rosy glasses; see the bad parts as well as the good, that sort of thing. So I started thinking about slightly less rosy scenarios to put three of our favourite pony characters in -- nothing super-serious and dramatic or anything, but just something a step below "and then the three of them realised they were best OT3 and were totes in love forever", and I got stuck circling around the idea of the couple that brings in the third member for a one-night thing. There's a lot of interesting material there; you get an interesting dynamic to play with when you have an isosceles triangle instead of an equilateral one, all sorts of ideas to play with that you don't get in the "and then the three of them etc." scenario, and I wanted to write about it a little. But it would be a challenge, because the nature of the story demanded I write something I was very unskilled in: clop.
And here's where those two separate threads combine. I found something that, in a way, is wonderfully freeing. That thing that you need to form the framework to put all the little cute moments in? That can be sex. Not just the act itself but all the build-up and scene-setting and maneuvering your characters to the point they're going to jump each other, that can be your structure and it is so easy to insert little couple-y moments because (presumably) your characters are romantically inclined towards each other. You don't need a plot, you don't need a deeper commentary on anything, it can be a whole 10,000 words of cute interactions that just snowball out from one small premise. I've got literally no idea if When the Levee Breaks is any good at being sexy other than if people tell me it is -- seriously, if you ever needed to take the wind out of the sails of some fantasy for some reason, all you need to do is write it down and then edit it -- but all the cute parts, those are super-adorable even after reading them over a few dozen times looking for typos.
And that kinda makes me want to do it again.
23w, 1dFlawless victory.2 comments · 108 views
So, I did it. I managed to get something in for every week of the Writer's Training Grounds. Sometimes I wasn't especially inspired and sometimes I was pressed for time and sometimes (more often than not, I think) the stories didn't turn out that amazing, but I wrote consistently for a long period of time, and that was what I wanted out of the WTG. I was thinking, since I'm done with it now, that I'd take a look over the stuff I wrote, go over a bit what I felt worked, what didn't, what's good, what's bad, that sort of thing, a bit of a self-review to see if I've gotten better at anything along the way. I guess it's also a good way of picking out which of these entires are worth reading and which are worth sweeping quietly under the rug.
Let's go in chronological order, because that's easiest. I'll say something about the story, but also about the origins of the title and the choice of cover image, so maybe it might answer some questions like "why doesn't the title have much to do with the story?" and "what's the deal with all the pictures of trees?"
This one is kinda choppy, partially because it was the first piece of fiction I'd written in ages and partially because of the tiny word limit during the first week; there was a quick establishing scene in the beginning of a dark bat-pony-shaped shape in Applejack's orchard that got the axe due to trying to keep the wordcount under 1.5k (which is a very, very small number). I like that there's a whole little narrative in here, with a problem and an escalation and a solution, but it feels wicked rushed. Also, I'm not sure I do Discord much justice when I write him.
Song title: "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)" by The Andrews Sisters
This is one of two song titles I've truncated (the other being "Synchronicity II", which doesn't make much sense as a stand-alone story), because the full title lends some implications to Fluttershy and Discord's relationship in the story that I'd rather avoid (more on that in a later entry). Other than that, the song and story have little to do with each other.
Cover image: Apples apples apples. Apples grow on trees. This is about as straightforward as it gets.
2. True Colors
I really like how this one turned out. I usually hate how limiting first-person perspective is, but I managed to find a decent voice for Coco Pommel (who is best season 4 pony) to keep me interested long enough, plus a lot of the story is a bit of my Rarity headcanon that I'd been sitting on for a while. It's not super-apparent in the narrative, but I decided Coco was a lifelong Manehattenite, and so her perspective is a little different than Rarity's, who dreams of the high-class life but grew up in the sticks in Ponyville, despite the fact that they're a part of the same world. Coco also orders the same thing I do from Starbucks, although these days I usually drop the cream and junk on top.
Song title: "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper says "your true colours are beautiful like a rainbow", which fits pretty nicely for the first Rainbow Power key episode. Various bits and pieces of the song apply to Coco, just waiting for her time to shine.
Cover image: Trees growing from the sidewalk in an urbanised environment, for a story that takes place in the big city and about flourishing in an environment you shouldn't necessarily flourish in.
This one is kinda... eh. I'm hesitant to call it comedy, because it's not especially funny, per se, it's more of, I don't know, a lampoon of classism, but it's not developed very much and sort of wanders off halfway through to fit the prompt, and then... idk, Trixie? I'm fascinated by this idea of racism in the MLP world, not as like the depressing kind of systemic oppressive racism that humans are pretty good at but just random individuals who, for whatever reason, have these ideas about superiority that not many others share; I came back to it at another time during the WTG and I don't think it's out of my system just yet. I dunno, there's something that's kinda funny about what kinds of stereotypes (and how true they may or may not be) that the different pony breeds have about each other, how non-pony races look at things, etc.. (I got quite a kick out of the Applejack being seconds away from slamming Trenderhoof with a "What do you mean, 'you ponies'?" later on in the season, by the way.)
Song title: "King of Wishful Thinking" by Go West
This is a silly song that has nothing to do with the subject of the story. The alternative title, taken from Aerosmith's "Eat the Rich" is closer in sentiment but not in tone. Hence, two options.
Cover image: A tree with one side alive and healthy and the other side sick and dying, representing the discrepancy in the family tree in the story.
4. If I Fell
Oh, do I have some things to say about second person perspective. The super-popular anonymous second-person narrator makes my teeth itch -- I understand what it's for, I just don't like it, having the central character in the story be a blank slate the reader can insert themselves into (and then insert themselves into the pony who is the subject of the story, hey-o). If anything, second person is more intimate, as it places no barriers between your and the narrator that can be there in first person. You should feel what that narrator feels like you're wearing a second skin; the blank slate usage is a bit of a waste.
About the actual story itself, Fluttershy's experience with flight is mine with driving; I wouldn't be able to forget that I was cruising along at speeds most animals aren't capable of in a ton of metal, with a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing at the same time, and I'd never be able to relax behind the wheel. I'm a little sad that this was the closest I got to writing shippy fluff, since the reason for the shipping in the story is just so Fluttershy has someone to bounce the question off of her; I like shippy fluff.
Song title: "If I Fell" by The Beatles
This is a love song about someone who has been hurt in the past, which feels like it fits well on Fluttershy. Also the obvious double-meaning.
Cover image: A tree as seen looking up from sitting among its roots, staring up at a clear sky.
This one did not come off at all. I think it's the worst story I put together for the WTG. Part of the problem comes from the narrator being a parody of a mediocre author instead of an obviously bad one, so it's not as in-your-face about the fact that the prose sucks, but moreso the issue is that I'm not very good at zany antics -- my sense of the bizarre leans less towards Tex Avery and more to Monty Python. I've seen the concept of Discord messing with the boundaries of the narrative put to much better use, and the novelty of the narrative messing back at him isn't enough to save this story.
That said, I totally legitimately ship DiscoPie. Seriously, wouldn't they be great together? Pinkie doesn't even seem like she really dislikes him that much, not compared to the other Mane Six (who, granted, have pretty real reasons to be mad at him for what he did to them in that maze), and she's all into the whole chocolate rain thing and they can totally go off an cause beautiful fourth-wall breaking chaos together and oh my god I suddenly understand how the Harry/Hermione shippers felt. Like, FlutterCord doesn't jibe with me at all, since they're so obviously just friends and I can't image it ever developing into anything more despite the continual reminders the show drops about them. I mean, not that that's not adorable in its own right, I just can't see any romance in it.
Song title: "! (The Song Formerly Known As)" by Regurgitator
This isn't what you would call a well-known song, but it fits the story by being extremely non-standard and meta by referring to itself as a song. The text is a a further level of being meta, as it's a dance song about someone who hates going to clubs.
Cover image: A surreal angle of tree branches, with a vertical skyline in the background.
This is weirdly popular and I'm not exactly sure why. I suspect it's down to Sunset Shimmer who, for as much as people bitch and moan about how awful EQG was, is pretty fertile ground as far as fanfiction goes. Bacon-ish mane design aside, she's got a bad attitude masking a sad past and an oh-so-exploitable character flaw: she's fanfiction dynamite, like Trixie if all her sad backstories were canon. I like how the structure works in this story, with it being purely internal input from Twilight and external from Sunset. They're reflections of each other, not quite the dark and the light but more the good and bad end, but Sunset's story isn't quite wrapped up yet; there might be a second chapter for her.
Song title: "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds
A title of two halves that only makes complete sense when you put both parts together, made famous by a film about high school. Completely perfect fit.
Cover image: A tree and its distorted reflection form a circle.
I wasn't a big fan of the prompt for this week, since how are you going to get two characters to switch roles/places/what-have-you and top Apple Jewel and I LOVE BEING COVERED IN MUD? So I just sort of tossed something together. The plot isn't very sensible and it ends on what I feel is a super-weak note, but I do like the interaction between the Mane Six, especially Twilight and Fluttershy having a little understanding about how damn oblivious Dash is being. I notice that I tend to shuffle Pinkie off to the sidelines if I don't have anything specific for her to do in a scene with the Mane Six, and I sort of find myself wishing that some of the writers of the show would do that sometimes too; Pinkie's got some of the best episodes when they're focused on her but some of the most annoying one-line contributions when she's out of the spotlight.
Song title: "Who Was in My Room Last Night?" by Butthole Surfers
This isn't quite the right song for the story, I don't think, but it does kind of fit the sloppy, thrown-together nature of the writing. I did sort of want to call it "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" but that's got all sorts of dark overtones to it and I'm pretty sure that song is actually called "In the Pines".
Cover image: The image of a tree forms in the wake of the destruction from a flood, invisible except from a certain angle.
There's a ton of little things in this story that I think went unnoticed. The first sentence of each "chapter" contains a colour, and the colours progress along the light spectrum from red to violet. In each segment, someone calls Sweetie Belle by a nickname, except in the last part where Vinyl uses her proper name. Both of these things allude to change, from Sweetie being a mouthpiece for that dumb band to being her own artist at the end. The song titles on her demo show up in the story and are all the chapter names, but they're ordered as they show up on her tape (this isn't super-obvious), and the first letter is also the colour spectrum sequence. There's also a symmetry to the chapters, where the first and last are set in tiny rooms and the coloured object is a pony's little personal affection (Fat Stacks' cigar and Vinyl's glasses), the second and sixth are set outside and the colour is the sky, the third and fifth have Sweetie's performances in them and the colour is the "opening" to the venue, and the fourth stands alone as being the transitional period in the middle, the colour of which is green while the scene is set in the greenroom.
But aside from hiding silly things in the story, I quite like this. I like Sweetie's bandmates and her idiot manager, how easy they were to establish in such little space. I like that the story has a proper narrative flow to it and isn't just a one-off scene. I liked poking fun at the titles of terrible pop songs (and a little bit also at the titles of deep and angry singer/songwriter material, too).
Song title: "Pearl" by Paula Cole
A song about personal growth and change. Pearls are also white, mostly, but reflect an array of different colours in the light, again alluding to the spectrum imagery.
Cover image: A tree packaged up in jars, referring both to the pre-packaged nature of industry music and the bite-sized segments of the story.
9. Them Bones
I'm not sure how comfortable I am insinuating Apple Bloom is a cold-blooded murderer -- my style of pony horror takes more from Stephen King and his array of supernatural beasties than Cupcakes-style "secretly, $CHARACTER was a sociopath all along" -- even if it was Diamond Tiara, aka worst pony now and forever, that she bumped off. I like the tone, sorta dark and foreboding in a non-concrete way, but making Apple Bloom seem scary makes me think of Deliverance for some reason.
Vaguely related, but does anyone know if there's fanart of Apple Bloom (or her sister) looking like Rosie the Riveter? I need this to exist. For personal reasons.
Song title: "Them Bones" by Alice In Chains
A violent thrashing song about how we all end up dead in the ground. Some of us earlier than others.
Cover image: The shadow of a tree falls across a graveyard wall.
This was the story that almost broke me. It was big and ambitious and because it involved the Mane Six going through separate adventures it pushed very close to the word and time limit, and I only barely got it finished. It was the only story in the WTG I went back after the fact and changed portions of. And I think it was worth it. I feel like I have a real problem making characters suffer -- some authors delight in it, me not so much, I really just want them all to be happy in the end -- and the idea for this was born out of figuring out what the worst possible scenario would be to throw each of the Mane Six in, what their lowest point would be, and how it could possibly end well for them, and I think I did a pretty decent job overall at putting these little ponies through the wringer. I like how disjointed the parallel stories are, that some of them are completely fabricated scenarios and some might be the future or alternative pasts, that they have completely different scales of time, that they're all completely separate and personalised hells.
That tree is from The Empire Strikes Back, by the way. It draws especially from the exchange between Luke and Yoda ("What's in there?" "Only what you take with you.").
Song title: "Rivers of Babylon" by Linda Ronstadt
Many artists have interpreted this passage of the Bible, but this is the version I'm most familiar with, a haunting vocal-only song about trying to remain true to one's self while homeless and lost.
Cover image: A naked tree blocks the light of the sun in winter, standing in for the block each character must surpass before they can emerge into the light.
I'm not proud of this one. Not because it's low-brow humour, but because it makes the characters do weird and illogical things for the sake of the laugh. Like, it's okay for a giggle, but Lyra pestering all the stallions in a 50-mile radius to knock up her girlfriend is some Peter Griffin-tier levels of insensitive cluelessness, and it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. One day, I'm sure I'll pen a clever sex comedy. It just wasn't the day I wrote this.
There's one really deep geek reference buried in this story that almost nobody will care about, though. I play Magic: the Gathering, and every so often card names work their way into my stories. I don't go out of my way to put them in, or anything, just if it fits I'll borrow the phrasing. You probably wouldn't notice even if you were familiar with a large number of the cards. Okay, so anyway, some of these cards are worth a fair bit of cash, the same way rare baseball cards fetch high dollar amounts. You might have heard of the Black Lotus being cited as the most expensive card, easily worth thousands of dollars depending on condition of the card, but there's a few rare printings and promotional cards that outrank a Black Lotus in terms of value. The rarest would probably be a very specific printing of Hurricane, normally a green card but misprinted with a blue background in a very limited set that was recalled for destruction at the last minute. Only a few blue Hurricanes made it out into circulation, and they're worth a hell of a lot to collectors. The canceled set didn't have a proper name, or if it did I don't remember it, but it's often referred to by its production codename (Edgar), or by the time of year it was planned for release, in the summer. Thus, when Lyra says "bang her like a barn door in a summer hurricane", it's possibly the most oblique reference to anything I will ever make in my whole life.
Song title: "Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo" by Bloodhound Gang
An entire song about euphemisms for intercourse. The line about put the you-know-what you-know-where is lifted from this song.
Cover image: A close-up of a flower from an apple tree. One could very easily consider flowers to be a tree's sexual organs.
Of all the characters that have had their tragic pasts played up for sympathy, Pinkie's is perhaps the most legitimate; her pre-cutie mark life is pretty damn sad. I mean, she loves her family and everything, but she doesn't fit in at all with them. Her name doesn't even belong to her, in this story. I like her voice here, sort of resigned to the fact that she's going to be farming rocks all her life because she doesn't really know much else, and how Maud is this shining light for her. Pinkie is so upbeat and positive and easy to see how she picks other ponies up, so I wanted to build a scenario where drab Maud could be that for Pinkamina.
Song title: "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan
It's mildly ironic that the lines "to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone" resonate more with Pinkie than Maud here.
Cover image: A still lake dominated by rocks, with two very small trees present.
13. White Rabbit
It took a long time, but something finally replaced Green Isn't Your Color as my favourite episode. Best CMC? With best Princess? Reenacting best Christmas story? With trippy symbolic dream sequences? For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils made all sorts of parts in my brain light up and promoted Sweetie Belle to best pony, so naturally I had to do something I like doing when writing for this prompt, which is dream sequences. Writing things that obviously aren't happening is fun and I jump at any chance I get to make it happen. I'm also pretty interested in the kinds of hallucinations people have during things like guided meditation, near-death experiences, vision quests, etc. -- whether these people are confronting a part of themselves, making contact with beings humans have called angels or spirits or aliens, or some weird amalgam of the two I don't know, but it is a recurring phenomena the world over and it's only really Western people (and lobbyists from alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies) to whom it's a completely foreign concept that altered states of mind are a tool for learning about one's self instead of a purely negative thing to be avoided at all costs. I'll also take any opportunity to include mysticism -- spells from the shaman class instead of wizard, to make a simple analogy -- in my writing.
Song title: "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane
In a rare occurrence, picking the song influenced events in the story instead of the other way around; references to Alice in Wonderland and especially Celestia being represented as a white rabbit come directly from this song about drugs being used to expand your mind.
Cover image: A dead tree grows on a barren surface under a sky full of stars, an obviously non-real image.
This was the story that made being part of the WTG completely worth it. I love this story, I had a complete blast writing it. I have no idea where the voice of the nameless narrator came from, but I could hear him loud and clear every time I sat down to write, and the whole tale just flowed painlessly out of me. Through that film project I was working on (and have since finished) I got more exposure than I'd ever had to Westerns, and while I didn't care too much for most of the ones that came out of Hollywood, I really dug Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy. Like, I got what people saw in this long-dead genre. I understood new things about one of my favourite book series (The Dark Tower) and one of my favourite video games (Fallout: New Vegas). It clicked why people ranked Clint Eastwood as one of the most legendary screen badasses of all time. And somewhere between then and writing this, it came to me out of the blue that Eastwood's character in the Dollars films was like Derpy Hooves, because they are both blonde and nobody uses their name, and if I were to ever write about this, I could totally call the story A Horse with No Name. So I guess I filed that idea away until there came a good time to use it, and then it came out more or less fully-formed, background characters and little asides and all.
Song title: "A Horse with No Name" by America
I have no idea what this song is about. I'm guessing it's symbolic of something.
Cover image: A Joshua tree, a staple of the Mojave desert.
15. You Learn
I don't write very much stuff that's directly personal, but this story is (and as such, is therefore beyond reproach from criticism). Just that week, I'd had it sink in after, I don't know, a decade and a half, just why I'd had such a generally hostile experience towards schooling -- to make a long story short, "gifted" does not mean "extremely intelligent in all fields" but rather "learns and thinks in weird, non-standard ways" -- and this was my response to getting a sort of epilogue to that whole chapter of my life. It's not a good story, but I feel it was a necessary one.
Song title: "You Learn" by Alanis Morissette
Jagged Little Pill was a big album for me through high school, to which I had a long and strange relationship. It seemed only fitting that I pay it some kind of tribute.
Cover image: A tree is boxed in on all sides within a school courtyard.
I couldn't make the prompts for this one work at all. I think I started writing a sot of romantic comedy where Soarin and Derpy meet at the Rainbow Falls Traders Exchange and they're trying to go on a date that day because, I dunno, Soarin had Wonderbolt commitments for three months afterwards or something, and they kept causing chaos all around them because they're both insufferable klutzes, then scrapped it and started something vaguely serious about Luna being all apprehensive about being around big crowds for her first time adjudicating the Exchange, scrapped that and wrote this silliness. It's not cohesive in its style of comedy and it's not especially funny and it really was just written to make myself meet the deadline. The only thing I really like about it is the image at the end of Celestia being all "screw this, I'm on vacation".
Song title: "Holidays in the Sun" by The Sex Pistols
I don't even really like The Sex Pistols all that much, this was just the most fitting title I grabbed around for. The Soarin/Derpy thing would have been called "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)", which is a title I still want to use.
Cover image: The sun being blocked by the canopy.
I wrote a fairly long blog post about this one already. the tl;dr version is that it's magnificently mediocre.
Song title: "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.
A pretty literal choice of song title: it'll be the end of the world if the Lich gets free, but it's Mac feelin' fine that prevents all that.
Cover image: A tree being engulfed by a parasite above an old temple. (That's apparently a picture of part of Angkor Wat, which probably isn't inhabited by the ghosts of old necromancers.)
Told you we'd get back to that racism eventually. I like this nameless griffon narrator, who hints at a culture of harsh nobility and castles on wind-swept mountains. I also liked setting up the pieces of the hotel room with the knowledge that I'd be breaking them all in the second half. I'd kinda like to trash a hotel room once in my life. Not a super-complicated story, but it is one with structure and I do like putting structure into these short pieces.
Song title: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk
The title obviously refers to the regimen of an athlete, but the repeated but altered lyrics tie in with the echoing structure of the story.
Cover image: A lonely tree on a cold lake, with misted mountains in the distance.
I have a tendency to write long flowing sentences a lot, and I wanted to write something where I'd keep things short instead. What started as my first attempt at writing Vinyl Scratch and Octavia together (and trying to make them feel different to other fandom odd couple Lyra and Bon Bon, and I'm not sure I really succeeded at that) in a hip and cool setting turned into this weird epic metal nonsense that kind of got away from me a little. Normally I plan out all my symbolism and allusions and what-have-you beforehand, but I think this sort of went off in a whole 'nother direction; I had originally meant to insinuate that Octavia also had sold her soul for the musical prowess that allowed her to beat the Devil at his own game, but I don't think that's quite what the story is. Is she some kind of righteous counterpart, Vinyl's holy protector? Or does love just conquer all? It's open to interpretation and I think I'll leave it that way. I like it.
Song title: "Crossroads" by Cream
An unrecognisable cover of "Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson, blues artist who, as legend would have it, sold his soul to Satan at a crossroads at midnight for his skills at the guitar, and who was no doubt the inspiration for this recurring theme through music history.
Cover image: A super-literal image of a crossroads in the woods, because apparently it's really hard to find pictures of crossroads at night.
So, there you are. A summary of my however-many hundreds of horse words I wrote.
Now it's time to do some writing where I'm free to pick the subject matter. Feels good, man.
24w, 1dThe law of averages.6 comments · 131 views
I would have posted this sooner, but my laptop chose to self-terminate and I've been without access to something with a real keyboard. More on that in a bit.
So, I've been diligently posting entries for EqD's Writer's Training Grounds, and overall I can't complain how they've been received. People are mostly positive about my stuff and I get a fair number of views -- I know I don't have the followers to ever get anything auto-featured, and I'm pretty sure most of the people following me have sort of dropped out of the fandom, or at least the fanfiction part of it, as I accrued them over a year or so ago (although there's a couple of recurring names I recognise among comments and favourites). A couple of entries I really felt like I put a lot of effort into, to make them proper self-contained pieces of fiction and not just little experiments or writing exercises, but I would say on the whole there's been more experiments than real stories. That's okay, though, because the WTG is about honing your craft and not letting your writing weapon go rusty, and I do feel it's done exactly that for me. So that's good.
Now, I figured I would just sort of plod away on through the last couple of weeks, and then I'd use the time I spent on the WTG for working on some proper stories I've had milling about in my head but haven't managed to get the motivation to start on, and that there'd be a fairly modest amount of attention to whatever I posted. I was looking forward to the Inspiration Manifestation prompts from the episodes, because there should be some angle to work with dark magic in some way, which is fun. One of the prompts, the one about some other pony being afflicted by the spell, went out of its way to specify that it needn't be another unicorn that became infected, so I started thinking about how the power to create anything you wanted might show up in a non-magical pony, and got stuck on the idea that it might be a little bit funny if it just... didn't. That idea quickly grew into infecting Big Macintosh, who is able to resist the corrupting spell by being so even-keel. My working title for the story was "Everything Zen", but I wasn't so keen on how the song sat with the story -- the title was right for Mac's frame of mind and the tone was okay for the angry restless spirit, but there was something a little... off about it. So, at the last minute, the name switched in my head to what it is now -- people know that R.E.M. song enough to make reference to it, moreso than a b-side from a b-tier grunge band nobody really remembers anyway. And also at the last minute, the description changed to fit the new title. It was originally something plain about the dark spirit of the spell finding a new host, but again, to reflect the sort of irreverent nature of the title song, it switched to something a bit more lighthearted.
And then It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) stayed in the Popular Stories box for three or four days.
And I found out I didn't really want it there.
It's not a bad story. I like the way it bookends with opening by painting Equestria as dark beneath the surface and ending with making it seem a nice place still. I liked writing a formless evil presence. I like that the story has no dialogue in it. But it's also not really a good story, either -- it's very unambitious and I feel the segments in Big Mac's head are pretty pedestrian, and I'm sure I repeated a bunch of words because there's only so many ways to say "evil" and "dark". But it put together the magic formula of a catchy title -- it's a pretty good one even if you don't know the song -- plus a description with some popular keywords ("eldritch", "necromancer") that outlines exactly what is going to happen in the story. That's the part that bothers me the most, I think, because... well, let me pull up one of the reviews:
LIked the premise, but the delivery was a bit dull. I mean, we all knew what was going to happen from the story description. I wasn't expecting any suprises. This story does do what it claims to do. But the end result just didn't make a very compelling read.
I agree completely. The most interesting part of the story is the premise, and the Popular Stories/Feature Box is usually clogged with stories like this: an interesting idea with, at best, mediocre execution. That's kind of the way it has to be, when you have the general public determining what rises to the top, but I am always so sorely disappointed in stories that don't even attempt to be more than just a good idea. Granted, I'm also often disappointed in the "highly recommended" stories of various kinds, but that's because I have pretty high standards and I can at least see why most of these stories would get someone's stamp of approval -- I often ask of the ones that wander into being featured on their own exactly what this is doing here, and then remember that it has to be because of the cover image/description and that the story inside managed to be written at a not-godawful level.
To go off on a tangent a little bit, there was a period of time when the vernacular around me put "average" as something with a negative connotation, which at the time I was pretty opposed to since if it's average that means it's neither good or bad, doesn't it? I think now I was in the wrong about that one, because the greatest sin entertainment can commit is to be average. If something's good then it's good (nice tautology there), and if something's obviously bad then there's still a certain kind of trainwreck pleasure with ripping it apart, and it can often make an impression on you even if that impression is "This sucks!" -- when something is average it's forgettable, bland, interchangeable with everything else average. It doesn't stand out. It doesn't take risks. It's a three-camera sitcom with a laughtrack, it's a reality show around a cooking contest, it's a daytime movie about a woman who was in a bad relationship who now starts a good one. It's a lot of the stories on this site that get recognised and then fade away just as quickly, and now I've written one and it's bumped some better stories on my sidebar down and I have to keep seeing it and I just wanted to complain about it is all.
So what should you take away from this? Well, you cant take away that I'm being an insufferable hipster who wants their work to remain underground, or that it must be nice to be able to complain about something I wrote getting too much attention when you can't even get anyone to downvote your stuff. Those are valid reactions. But what I would like is for some of the people that came in with It's the End of the World... to go look at some of my other stuff, because it's better. At least, I think so. I like how White Rabbit and Rivers of Babylon turned out, and I had a good time writing A Horse with No Name and True Colors. If you liked It's the End of the World..., I'd be interested to know what you thought of the stories of mine that I like.
Anyway, back to that laptop. I ordered a replacement as soon as possible, but there was of course no guarantees on it arriving in time for me to complete the next WTG entry (it did and I did, and it's up now), so I wrote a reserve story to have in my back pocket just in case I ran out of time. I wrote this on a 10" tablet on and off when I had a minute, and it is completely terrible in many ways and would have remained completely terrible even if I cleaned up the formatting/spelling mistakes that come with typing with one finger at a time with a super-limited cursor. I was going to just trash it when I submitted Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, but then I thought, why not tack it on the end here? If you feel like I've been a self-important tool for this whole blog post (and really, what are blogs about if not being a self-important tool), then here's something you can point and laugh at. Enjoy.
'I Was in the House When the House Burned Down'
It was a perfectly ordinary day for Spike the dragon. He wasn't stuck performing some menial task at the library that would take him all day to complete (but would take Twilight Sparkle all of thirty seconds with her magic); contrary to what many ponies thought, he wasn't some kind of indentured servant, slave to Twilight's beck and call. True, he did cook for her, but he liked to cook and, try as he mihht, he couldn't eat all of his specialty dish--a towering stack of cheese, beans, guacamole, chili sauce, and tortila chips he had dubbed Mt. Kilimanacho--on his own. Twilight's level of cooking experience was limited to sandwiches and breakfast cereal, and she didn't always rembember to bother with making even something so simple when she was deep into a magical research project, so Spike ended up making most of the meals. Similarly, Twilight was not the best at picking up after herself when she was in study mode, but Spike was more than willing to reshelve the trail of books she left in her wake. He was a neat dragon, and liked to make things tidy and orderly. He reckoned that Twilight wouldn't even dust or take out the garbage for weeks if she was really busy.
Twilight was a bit of a slob about some things, really.
Anyway, today Spike was doing none of those things. He was alone at the library with a pile of Awesome Foursome comics, reading one while hanging his head upside down off the edge of the couch. The Pony Torch, one of the members of the Awesome Foursome, had just set a gang of this issue's villain's underlings on fire, accompanied by his trademark catchphrase: "It's burnin' time!"
"Wish I could do that," Spike mumbled to himself, thinking back to Twilight bringing a harsh reality check to his attempts at pyrokinesis in the Crystal Empire. "Set fire to jerks and have a cool catchphrase. That's the dream." He kicked his clawed feet in the air, and intoned: "It's burnin' time!"
The comic burst into flames.
ImmediatelySpike dropped the flaming pages, and sprang to his feet to stomp out the fire. Being a dragon came with certain privilidges, and an immunity to basically all forms of extreme heat was one of them; pony hooves weren't as suited to quelling fires. As he stomped on the smouldering ashes, the first thought that went through his mind was how to explain away a scorch mark on the bedroom floor to Twilight.
The second was that he had just done something awesome and he wanted to know if he could do it again.
He turned his attention to the closest object, which happened to be Twilight's bed. There was no way he could actually set stuff on fire just by thinking about it... right?
He tried a cautious, "It's burnin' time?" and was rewarded with Twilight's bed becoming a blazing inferno.
"Awesome!" Spike exclaimed, the fire reflected in his eyes.
A sensible reaction might have been to put the fire out, or even to marvel at the unexplainable phenomenon that just happened, knowing salvaging the bed was impossible. What Spike did, which was the exact opposite of sensible, was to light up more things. He burned his comic books, the curtains, the stairs to the loft, the books, the bookshelves, the stove, that weird box from the weird tree that Twilight still hadn't opened. Spike burned it all, whooping and hollering, "It's burnin' time! It's burnin' time!"
It was at that moment that Twilight arrived home.
"I can explain!" Spike yelped, while trying, unsuccesfully, to block the burning bust by standing in front of it.
"Oh, you don't need to do that," Twilight said, seeming unconcerned with the conflagration around her.
"I... I don't?"
"Of course not!" Twilight beamed at him. "This fire is wonderful! It's probably the most impressive fire in Equestria."
"Do you mean it?" Spike asked.
"Of course! But, let's fly out of here before there's nothing left to burn."
"But Twilight," Spike said, confused, "I can't fly."
"Yes you can," Twilight said as she took to the air, "you've alwsys been able to fly."
Spike rose into the air just by thinking about it. He didn't even need a catch phrase. He flew so fast he wuickly left Twilight behind. Theburning library grew smaller until it was the size of a candle burning on a birthday cake. But the cake was huge and made of chocolate, and covered with gemstones. Spike swam through the icing and swallowed an emerald the size of his fist.
He staggered to the spomgeh shore, where a crowd was waiting to congratulate him on being the youngest dragon to swim across a chocolate cake. "You win!" an official-looking pony said as he pushed to the head of the crowd.
"I didn't even know it was a race," Spike said. "What do I win?"
"A date," came a breathy voice from somewherd above him, "with me."
Rarity descended from the skies, a holy aura surrounding her. Spike took her in a fierce and passionate embrace, and the crowd applauded. It is at this point you become convinced that this is a dream, as the recent events have reeked of pure wish fulfillment on the part of Spike. It is a dream, but it does not belong to the little dragon. All this really happened to Spike, as he became permanently awesome by unlocking the full potential of his brain. So awesome, in fact, that he pops in to your dreams to let you know about it.
It is you who is asleep and dreaming.
And you're going to wake up with your brain unlocked, and be just as awesome at everything as Spike.
Here we go.
You wake up in the town square in Ponyville. Your first thought is indescribible immense joy as you take in the bright and familiar sights around you.
Your second thoughts are of indescribable immense pain as you are beaten to death by a mob of ponies fearing the strange gangly fleshy beast that just appeared out of nowhere.
You wake up in your real bed, covered in sweat. It turns out the whole thing was a dream, including the fake-out ending. You go to lie back down, when a voice stops you.
"Bad dream?" asks Lyra Heartstings, your pony waifu. She licks the back of your neck.
"No, just weird," you reply. "I'll tell you about it over breakfast."
...Or is it?