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  • T The Terrifying Prospect of Swans in Love

    Lovers have their reasons. To Twilight Sparkle, the reasons she loves Celestia are perfectly obvious. And to Princess Celestia the reasons why she can't love Twilight back are equally obvious.
    10,638 words · 10,914 views  ·  1,425  ·  24 · sex
  • T The Lessons of Eternity

    It has been over 100 years since Celestia and Twilight's relationship collapsed, since they've seen or spoken to each other. But when Twilight appears in the royal palace, that century of silence will come to an end. Very, very politely.
    4,007 words · 8,013 views  ·  1,040  ·  19
  • E Twilight Sparkle vs The Equestrian Library Association

    To keep her job at the library, Twilight Sparkle must face her greatest challege, one which will push her very sanity to the breaking point. No, not the Cosmic Horror stirring in the dreamvoid between universes, worse: Library Patrons.
    19,680 words · 4,855 views  ·  503  ·  8
  • E In Search of Lost Friends (Who Aren't Actually Lost)

    Realizing her friends might someday move away, Twilight resolves to have AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE.
    20,836 words · 1,170 views  ·  79  ·  0
  • E The Party at the End of Forever

    There is a Party that is every party. One day, it wanted a friend.
    1,553 words · 473 views  ·  53  ·  0
  • E The Old Mare's Speech

    Mayor Mare's speech, in honor of Ponyville's 100th Anniversary, is perfect--sure to win her the empty seat on the Canterlot Council, and get her out of this hick town. There's just one problem: Granny Smith is giving her introduction.
    1,989 words · 459 views  ·  47  ·  0
  • T Mobile Steed Gunshy

    Friendship Century 0079. The Equestrian Federation flagship White Stable is pinned down in enemy territory. Their only hope: the prototype Mobile Steed, Gundam, and its pilot's incredible abilities. If she'd only stop crying.
    1,665 words · 395 views  ·  23  ·  3

Blog Posts42

  • 18w, 3d
    The Travels of A Hat

    So I guess I am going to San Diego Comic Con in about 10 days?  Just for Sunday (7/27), but still.  Any thoughts/suggestions/must see events or people anyone would like to suggest?  I've been too intimidated to even look at the programming because I've been told that the only way to get into any panel is to line up several hours in advance.  I should really change that.  Oh, and for that matter, anyone else going to be there?

    Story status update:  I've decided that part of my issue getting stuff written is jumping around between projects without seeing one thing through to completion. When I decided to finish TerrorSwans it only took a few weeks to do the necessary writing and editing despite having it cluttering up my head for almost 2 years.

    Unfortunately, I have projects that need my attention more than ELA.  In fact shortly after my last post about how I was going back to work on ELA I got handed a pretty cool writing opportunity that has/will absolutely consume a lot of time and energy if I'm going to do it well enough to actually take advantage of it AS an opportunity.  I'm not scrapping my intention to update ELA by the end of the summer though, because I hope to knock out some of this stuff over the next few weeks (even though travel disrupts the heck out of me and I've just been out of town for a week and a half and then I'm leaving again and then back for like a week and then leaving AGAIN).  However, I may need to borrow the literal definition of summer as ending in late September, not the "everyone goes back to school" end of summer.

    Random poll while I'm on the topic: given the choice, would people rather wait longer for me to release chapter 3 of ELA and have chapter 4 be about ready to go (so going up within a week of 3), or have me release chapter 3 as soon as I'm satisfied with it and just not do that awful resting on my laurels crap I do with completed chapters (but probably be waiting a bit longer anyway)?

    5 comments · 142 views
  • 22w, 4d
    Summer and the Curse of Chapter 2

    No, that's not the title of my new middle-grade novel (although maybe it should be, it's kind of a great title).

    I promised an explanation for why I've been so absent from FimFic since TerrorSwans went up, and this seemed like as good a time as any to finally give one.  It's not a terribly interesting story though, so to make brief of it:  basically the past few months have been a slog through the wonderful world of job hunting with absolutely no success, and I've been kind of bummed out and stressed over my finances.

    Before anyone worries:  I'm fine and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  But it has had an impact on my free time and mostly on my mood, which has had an impact on my writing.

    However!  A great writer cannot let his emotions or money troubles stop him from creating!  And even I have a limit of like, four or five months of inactivity before shame compels me to do something about it (to be fair, non-pony projects got some attention in that time).

    On which note—enough depressing talk!  It's summer!  And it's time to do some clearing house, I think.  (Okay fine, that would normally be Spring.  I'm still a bit lethargic from the ENDLESS COLDTIMES)

    You may have noticed that I tend to take long (read: indefinite) hiatuses after the 2nd chapter of multi-part fics.  Without going into too much detail, it's partly because my work ethic stinks, and it's partly because I write using 4-act structure, with chapters roughly corresponding to acts, and act 3 is the nightmare rock against which writers smash themselves and drown.  Okay, mild exaggeration, but it IS the point at which you have to start exercising a lot of control and pulling all of your plot threads together to build up towards a climax, and it's the point at which any and all issues with your plotting and setup become painfully obvious if you haven't been very careful.  So it can be a little disheartening compared to the fun and freedom of the first two acts/chapters. (Also a very strong argument for writing a whole story before publishing so you can actually go back and edit if necessary)

    Nevertheless, it is Summer.  And I think of Twilight Sparkle vs the Equestrian Library Association as a “Summer” story—sort of the blockbuster of my fics.  And I don't just say that because Twilight explodes at the end.

    Not ready to make any promises yet, but the cranks of progress are turning again, and I am setting myself a goal to get something out before Summer's end.  I hope you'll all put up with my vagueness but uh... well, deadlines on other projects and the job hunt continue, and I can only fix so many issues with my life at a time.

    I hope to be back soon with good news.  Stay tuned and stay cool you crazy cats.

    5 comments · 173 views
  • 25w, 17h
    A Brief Notice on the Arrival of Lady Grey's Latest Work

    Gentle Readers,

    It is with great excitement than I write to inform you that our dear friend Lady Grey has once again chosen to grace us with her pen.  The subject of her latest discourse, a work with the charming title (suggested by yours truly) of A Good Librarian Can Find the Right Answer, is the relocation of a small-town librarian to the job of her dreams, at the Canterlot Royal Archive. However, upon her arrival, she soon finds herself occupied with much more than she bargained for!  "How delightfully unexpected!" you say?  Sayest I, then take a firm grip of thy hat, friend, for in comparison to what will be, the scenes here depicted are but a trifle.

    And let not the "incomplete" status concern you--friend though she is, I intend to hound Lady Grey like the proverbial Cerberus (that is to say, like a dog of Hades, multiplied by three) to ensure the timely continuance of this tale, the conclusion of which I await with as much eagerness as I am sure you now do as well.

    In this matter, and in others, I remain,

    Your Servant &c,

    Fedora Mask

    3 comments · 125 views
  • 26w, 4d
    Finalysis, Season 4 Edition

    Hey all, sorry to be so dead around here.  There are reasons, although they are not especially interesting—but I will describe them in a blog post to be made in a day or so.

    First, let's talk the season 4 pony finale!  Since, you know, the entire site hasn't been doing that for a whole week+ already.  Spoilers ahoy!

    So I have mixed feelings about this finale, or I suppose I should say I really liked it but with reservations.  I'll see if I can go in order—making this sort of a... deadblog?  Zombieblog?  (I should note: I binged to catch up for the finale because I was falling behind pretty severely for most of the second half of the show, which is one reason why I haven't been terribly active lately)

    I'm glad that the show chose to address that Twilight's life doesn't really seem to have changed since she was made a princess, but at the same time it's sort of re-raised all of the issues I had with the initial decision to princessify her.  Having decided that “Princess” is a title that can be earned/given, I do think it's good that the show remains firmly in the camp that “actually being a princess means that you have an extra large responsibility to the world,” rather than glamorize the royal perks and privileges.  But I maintain that if you make being a Princess all about having duties it kind of makes it difficult to have Twilight participate in the slice of life stuff that makes up like, 85% of the show.

    Moving on, I seriously expected whatever the foreign dignitaries were there to discuss would actually matter, but it turned out to never be mentioned again (maybe in Season 5? I would really like to see a trip to an actual different country, not just the South American jungle/frontiersville down the block).  Now I am given to suspect that the dignitaries were actually just popping in for a quick hello, and Luna, Celestia, and Cadence kept them over while they got their story straight about why Twilight wasn't allowed in the meeting (and practiced singing it in harmony).

    Speaking of!  The song excited me and then actually bored me rather quickly.  I think it needed more musical variation.  I really liked the lyrics for the first verse when Twilight was singing but then it seemed a bit more forced after that—though I haven't given it another listen.  Luna singing was fabulous, though.  And I'm happy to have a Celestia song that isn't paradoxically really good and also an embodiment of everything that frustrated me about season 3.

    And then there's Tirek!  Best villain introduction since Discord?  I don't know, but once again McCarthy gave us a really threatening villain who pushed the story forward and the characters to the point of desperation, which is something she's good at (Sombra was a misstep in that he should have basically been faceless corruption like the thorns were in the S4 opener—I have no idea what the deal was with Sunset Shimmer though).  I confess I thought Tirek was way creepier when he was still in his cloak, and based on his initial growth spurt I had expected him to gain wings or creepy extra limbs or something, but I guess if you're reviving a Gen 1 villain you're going to be somewhat bound by 80s character designs (of which, SO MUCH MORE later).  It was definitely a cool nod to the show's history.

    The decision to send Discord after Tirek made a ton of sense and I'm glad that this episode decided to utilize him in a logical way.  I also really liked Tirek's attempt to seduce Discord to the dark side—but I really expected Discord to be playing him?  I mean Discord's flaw has basically always been pride, but this was more stupidity.  I guess my issue is actually with the scene where Tirek hands Discord his medallion and Discord takes this as a sign he can trust the scary power-hungry magic thief.  Clearly they needed the scene where Twilight still frees Discord despite his betrayal—and to be fair, if Discord was playing a long game that becomes more of a story about trusting Discord than about Twilight doing her duty.  Still I was kind of expecting him to hastily hide the window that revealed Twilight's existence to Tirek (alternatively—if Celestia's whole plan was reliant on Tirek not knowing Twilight existed, why did nobody smash that window before he showed up?).

    Speaking of which!  Great episode breaks are also something McCarthy does well in 2-parters, and “We have to get rid of our magic,” is totally on par with “I'm so sorry!” / “You will be.”  Also continuing the tradition of pony 2-parters being "a ton of setup" followed by "a ton of action," but it seems to work out pretty well here (as it usually does).

    To jump back for a second—I feel like the show sort of treated Discord reading the mane six's diary as a violation, but they were actually writing it with the understanding that other ponies would read it at some point.  It was not a bad way to bring the “Digimon Crest” episodes together and explicitly tie them to the box (which would have been a lot more mysterious if “rainbow power ponies” hadn't been advertised everywhere since about halfway through the season... oh well).  However, when you straight-up say how the other characters embody their elements, it really does draw your attention to the fact that “magic” is not actually a virtue, or even a personality trait, despite what the title of the show says (although I suppose that may be the point—Twilight actually chooses the “friendship” part of “friendship is magic” to fulfill her element).

    And then of course we get to the part where The Magic is Quadrupled as the memes would have it—which was a pretty badly needed tension breaker, considering just how dire things have gotten for our heroes.  It was also just a really funny set of scenes in general, which is good, because Twilight was not a dork nearly enough this season.  

    I feel like—as in the Crystal Empire eps—there's an issue where Celestia insists to Twilight that leaving her friends out of the loop is necessary, and Twilight goes along with it as if she hasn't learned by this point that she basically needs her friends to use anything like her full potential.  I could have used a scene where she decides to tell them what's going on—since I mean, Tirek was not going to randomly pick them to interrogate unless he already had a pretty good idea they were his biggest remaining threat, so I'm not sure why them knowing puts them at risk other than them wanting to protect Twilight, which they would anyway.  That, and Celestia's plan badly needed some sort of counterattack operation, because “we all lose our powers and Twilight goes into hiding” is not a long term solution.  Or a solution, full stop.  Maybe just an acknowledgment that Celestia was counting on Twilight to figure out a strategy?  It is sort of the logical extension of "Twilight, I need you and your friends to go do X and save Equestria," for Celestia to finally just go "Here, Twilight, have my powers and you figure it out."

    Anyway, Discord betrays the mane six and Tirek is big and his voice is more generic villain-boom and less scary, AND THEN—


    So I know much ink has been spilled on the subject but I'm really actually sad about that.  I mean I've written stuff from that tree's point of view!  This is like, even if Twilight wins in Twilight vs the ELA it is now officially a tragedy because she loses her home anyway (well, it would be if I was bothering to place that fic within the canon timeline).

    And the books! From "Trade Ya!"  She saved those books because she decided they were important reminders of how she had learned and grown!

    Anyway that brings me to another large hangup I have about the finale.  The fight scene that ensues between Twilight and Tirek is... well it's very spectacular but in some ways it felt to me like the kind of the thing the fandom would create and maybe the show shouldn't.  I don't mean that to disparage the fandom per se, but in its DBZ-ishness the fight felt a little wrong to me.  I thought about it for a while—it is more violent than ponies has ever been in the past, certainly.  I know that friendship lasers and exploding forcefields can be classified as a kind of violence, so perhaps pretending that ponies really maintained an anti-violence stance before this is disingenuous, but even if you look at something like A Canterlot Wedding, the fight there is very cartoony and silly and referencing The Powerpuff Girls.  This one was, as I said, more of a DBZ fight and trying to be very action-y and intense.  

    But what I think it really is, is it's the first time a hoof is raised in anger in the show by one of our heroes.  And I think it was earned, but I also think that violates something in the spirit of the show.  Obviously, I am not opposed to the idea in and of itself, because I'm writing like the angriest Twilight ever for Twilight vs the ELA, and she certainly has some heads to knock together before that story ends.  But I feel like it breaks the show's character to some extent to ever treat violence as something that person could enter into willingly, with the sort of borderline eagerness to inflict pain that comes with anger?  I suppose the finale maintains that using violence like that doesn't work, though I would note that in past instances the ponies have always lost violent confrontations and here Twilight fights Tirek to a standstill.  Anyway, that's what I mean by feeling like a fan production, because "what if the show had a different tone?" is one of those questions that fanworks can handily explore.

    Incidentally, I was sort of lost for an explanation as to why Tirek couldn't just steal Twilight's magic during that fight.  Sheer scale or something?  I mean any other time someone attacks him with magic it seems to basically fizzle and he just eats them, so why even a superpowered Twilight could actually inflict harm on him with magic was sort of lost on me.

    Sidenote: I think the show really missed an opportunity when Tirek ate Discord's magic and it behaved exactly like him eating any other magic source.  The episode made a big deal out of Discord's powers being different from anything ponies have—I mean it's like, the raw power of chaos that Tirek just munched on.  Even just making his powers more “chaotic” in nature (although I would have liked that to be the scheme—that Tirek couldn't control Discord's power and that made him vulnerable somehow).

    So then we get rainbow ponies and god those designs were painful and gaudy.  I think Rainbow Dash's was the most 80s you could possibly get without adding eyeliner.  I would like to reiterate that whoever is doing the concept designs for ponies lately needs some color coordination lessons.  They also stayed Rainbow-ified just slightly too long for my tastes but I am (as we all are) very grateful it was a powerup and not a permanent change.  I mean, considering that the animators used to forget AJ's freckles when she was running, I kind of assumed that nobody was chomping at the bit (to use an appropriate metaphor) to cover the mane six in tons of miniature cutie marks and other obnoxious detailing.  

    However, the element-keys were awesome and I look forward to blowing too much money on replicas of them at some future convention.

    The rainbow song was okay but mostly made me think of Skittles commercials. OH! But seriously they blew it by not having Twilight present to restore Celestia, Luna, and Cadence's powers.  That would have been so emotionally satisfying after all the time this finale spent discussing how Twilight fits in with the other alicorns.  (Also I could probably have found a way to shipping goggles Twilight restoring Celestia's power, just saying...)

    Incidentally, it would have been interesting if Tirek only stole “magic”-magic, i.e. he only preyed on unicorns or alicorns.  But that would have been a very different story.  More world-buildy and interested in societal consequences perhaps than “oh no an evil dude is conquering everything!”  Somebody write that and I'll put it in my read later list for like a year without actually reading it ('cause that's just how I roll).

    And then Twilight and her friends got a LITERAL Hall of Friendship™ with like thrones and everything (it was even made of crystal!).  Does this mean that the entirety of Season 5 is going to be the mane six addressing bureaucratic friendship problems and basically the show will become The Wisdom of the Gnomes?  (I have to admit, my response to Twi being made princess was to figure she would be Princess of Friendship and have to like, settle friendship problems for everyone everywhere in Equestria including kids bickering like “SHE STOLE MY CRAYON” and it just being the most frustrating thing ever)

    Anyway as reluctant as I am about Twilight being officially moved over into “Princess with actual princessly duties” territory, I really appreciate that the show is essentially “upgrading” her friends in the same way, and making them part of her life as a princess.  Whatever they do with Season 5 it at least appears that they are not going to inherently separate what Twilight is doing from what everyone else does (though to be fair, Twilight does get all the plot episodes and not many of the slice of life episodes since about season 2).  I mean certainly the title “Twilight's Kingdom” was cause for concern that they might put Twilight on a shiny rainbow-colored bus and have her leave Ponyville and therefore not really participate in the normal goings on of her firends' lives, so it's a relief that she's staying.

    I'm still sad about the tree, and no number of built-in-defiance-of-permit-and-zoning-laws Halls of Friendship™ can really fill that gap.  However, I have a reasonable assumption that Twilight's new home will be the main subject of episode 3 of season 5, given the pattern established in the past (eps 1 & 2 are the big exciting opening, 3 addresses the new status quo, except in season 3 which was weird in general).  And I expect the result of that will either be somehow regrowing the library or her learning to move on.  I'd really like the former, but I'll be honest, the fact that the Hall of Friendship™ is clearly tree-themed probably means we're not getting that (though it is also thematic with the Tree of Harmony, so I won't rule it out entirely).

    Or maybe they never meant for Twilight to live there at all?  It does feel more like a courtroom/place of business than a residence, and you'd need to staff a “castle” with like, servants and guards and stuff, and that doesn't really feel like Twilight (that, and the mane six's homes are often explored in episodes, but "castles" in the show we have usually focused on their public meeting spaces, so they don't really feel home-y).  I guess we'll see—in a way, it's the same question we've been asking since Magical Mystery Cure: “So now that Twilight is a Princess, what's changed?”  Season 4 was kind of a prolonged non-answer to that question which has left Season 5 to actually answer it.  And so, naturally, we have an extra long hiatus!  

    But in the end, I quite liked the finale.  I think it's somewhere below “Princess Twilight” and “The Return of Harmony” but above “A Canterlot Wedding” and the pilot, which I group together 2-parters (with “The Crystal Empire” episodes below that and “Magical Mystery Cure” at the bottom).  The top tier being the “great” class, I think this makes “Twilight's Kingdom” the “quite good but not amazing” class.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go hug a fondly-remembered book to a tree.

    6 comments · 146 views
  • 39w, 1d
    What Makes a Good Story

    But first, a quote, from the musical 1776:

    Oh, Abigail! Abigail--I have such a desire to knock heads together.

    That's John Adams expressing his eternally-resonant frustration with Congress, but I can't help feeling similarly whenever I hear someone who aims to be an arbiter of good taste on this site talk about "what makes a good story."

    Before I get any further in, let me say that I don't write this post with the intention of ruffling feathers. I don't really want to call anybody out in particular or accuse them of mucking up the conversation about story quality--it's our conversation as a community, and we're all responsible for it. However, it's a pet peeve of mine, and it comes back up any time a new group or individual appears on the site and begins to weigh in on the issue of what defines the great stories from the dreck. In fact, many of these people actually hold more nuanced views of the subject than emerge in documents like the Royal Guard's Reviewing Omnibus, which, as the founders have pointed out, is not really meant as a prescription of "what makes a great story," but as a transparent set of guidelines for what they look for, and how to edit stories up to their standards.

    The problem is this: nobody really has a formula for what makes a great story. Obviously if it were possible to draw one up, the scene in Gulliver's Travels in which a scientist uses a word-randomizer to create books as a way of "democratizing" writing (so that anyone can write brilliantly without needing any special intelligence or knowledge of their topic) wouldn't be nearly so funny as it is. I mean, that parallel isn't perfect, but in general we humans find the notion that you can codify what makes art great to be pretty laughable.

    In large part, the reason is that art is a subjective experience. To a person who has seen a hundred films noir, an "average" film noir, one that doesn't stand out from the crowd, is filed away as mediocre. To someone who had only ever seen slapstick comedies, it would be revolutionary. And that's just the most obvious way in which subjectivity plays a role in any person's appreciation of art. Because what makes any piece of art, even a pony fanfic, great is as unique as the person who created it and as specific as the person who enjoys it.

    Of course there are ways to combat that subjectivity--having a diverse group of people whose opinions are weighed against each other, for instance, or making sure that you are educated about the background a given story is coming out of, so that you can see if it's unique amongst its peers. There are also people who try to train themselves to see beyond their personal taste into whether even a story they dislike still possesses that spark of greatness--to see whether it might be great to other people.

    That's an incredibly difficult skill--and, I'd wager, one many people never even feel the urge to develop.

    Which brings us to my old boss. I was fortunate to attend Kenyon College (which I say not to brag, but because I'll be fascinated if anyone's even heard of it), home to one of the oldest and more prestigious literary journals in the US, The Kenyon Review. The Review offered students at the college a great and fairly unique opportunity: to, as undergrads, work for the journal as associates. Most of the work involved reading what are called "slush pile" submissions--stories, poems, and nonfiction pieces that authors submitted without having any previous relationship to the journal (i.e. having already been published in it) or being asked by an editor specifically to contribute something. We associates read these submissions and had a choice between eliminating them from the pile and passing them up to the actual editors of the journal for more rigorous consideration.

    Obviously, with limited printing space and a prestigious name, the Review got WAY more submissions than it would ever have room to print, so most things had to be thrown out. And this wasn't too difficult: it turns out that if you ever want to feel good about your writing, one of the best ways is to look at the stuff that would-be professional authors think is their best work. We got stories with plots and characters thinner than the paper they weren't going to be printed on (the whole thing is done online these days), stories which didn't follow submission guidelines, with spelling and grammatical errors... Really, the decision to throw out many of the things we read was not a hard one.

    But then, sometimes, out of the slush, you got a story that was totally okay. And, sitting in a pile of slush, okay looks pretty darn good. So what do you do with that?

    The head editor of the magazine had a simple rule for us--there were three things a story should demonstrate in order to be considered: Delight, Surprise, and Mastery. That was it. And yet, if you really thought about it, it covered almost everything.

    By delight, he meant that a story must provide pleasure in reading--whether the pleasure of catharsis (the Review is a "serious" literary journal, so it was not exactly big on "happy" stories), or of reading great prose. Whether it was the joy of feeling like you could step outside yourself and into the characters or the sinking realization that the ugliness in a story might reflect an ugliness in your own life. The stories we wanted to print were the kinds of stories that affected you deeply, that, when you read them, provoked those emotions that are why we read in the first place.

    By surprise, he meant that a story must somehow feel fresh. It can't be a predictable tale with predictable characters in predictable prose. Something had to shake up our sense of where things were going--something had to feel like it had never been done before, even if there are only [insert some number between 2 and 25, or 600-odd if you're the fairytale classification system] plots in the world.

    And by mastery, he meant that the story had to feel like the writer was always in control. It had to know what expectations in created in you and play them appropriately. It had to convince you that the people and places you were reading about were real--or, if they were not real, that they spoke to reality all the same. As you read, you had to feel like the author wasn't lucking into things. The author had to sell themselves to you through their words, to make you trust them (or deliberately make you mistrust them).

    Those criteria were greatly useful in weeding out stories that were merely "okay." And, in fact, in my whole time as an associate, I only passed up a few stories, and never one that was chosen for publication (which was a rare honor, actually--I don't think I knew anyone who picked a winner).

    Nevertheless, this is a criteria that the editor of the journal created, AS someone who needed to go through huge numbers of stories and find the few that were really special. It was an attempt to create some very simple principles that let college students think about the stories they were reading, to give us guidance in figuring out what made a story important or powerful. It was an attempt to counter the bias of personal taste.

    And what makes this style of judging great is how broad it is. We didn't talk about character, or setting, or dialogue, or prose style. When we talked about a what made a good story, we talked about the effect it had on us as readers. That immeasurable quality that ultimately defines whether we love or hate or are indifferent to a story.

    That's what people read for.

    More to the point, that's also what people write for. I don't add details to Equestrian society (...ever... but if I did it wouldn't be) so that people will be impressed with my imagination; I don't write jokes or metaphors so that people will think I'm clever. I write so that people will laugh, or cry, or stop and think. (Although if I come out of it looking clever I'm not complaining...)

    Setting, character, plot, strong dialogue, powerful prose that's free from cliche... these aren't actually the END of a story but the TOOLS you use. The end of a piece of art is to connect with an audience. Somehow, in some way. And it's hard to do that without those things: if your prose is clunky and your characters feel flat and your setting is boring and lifeless, yeah, most people don't get sucked in--they won't feel anything but boredom or annoyance. But when we talk about these things as if they are the checklist that make stories special, I think we run the risk of forgetting that what attaches us to stories is the mental and emotional experience of delving into them. The sensation of reading words and thoughts that we would never think--or of finding things we HAVE thought suddenly given life in a way we wouldn't expect.

    In a way, it's an incredibly high standard. And it's harder to aim for than "my dialogue should be revealing character AND advancing plot at the same time in order to be really effective." But it's the standard that matters in the end, in a way that technical proficiency just doesn't. And I don't say this as someone who thinks ponyfic or even media content in general needs to aspire to HIGH ART. I think making someone shoot milk out their nose is as valid a goal as making someone contemplate the transience of life. I love craft. I think craft is important to talk about.

    But craft for its own sake is a distraction--and the more prescriptive you are about it, the more you discourage people from breaking the rules. In the end, it's the experience you're giving your audience that a writer needs to think about, and it's the experience that you have AS an audience that a reader ought to care about. The rules, such as they are, are just guideposts along the way to thinking about that--and while many of them are useful, I think our conversation lacks that final piece, that they are only a means to an end.

    I guess what I'm really saying is I think we need two separate conversations. We need to talk about how stories are put together and how they create great characters and moments and such, yes. But we also need to talk about what makes stories powerful, what makes them stick, how they make us feel and why that makes us love them.

    And maybe to start, it would help to think a little about delight, surprise, and mastery.

    So what are your thoughts? Anyone think I'm totally wrong here? Want to step in and defend the way people on the site define good stories (again, I don't mean to pick on The Royal Guard in particular. They're doing a pretty cool thing, I just don't really like the setup of their reviewing guidelines, and it's reflective of a bigger issue I have)? There's certainly a case to be made that a lot of writers on this site are at a stage in their journey where it might be more important for them to learn just the rules as opposed to the reasons underlying the rules... but I've never been a fan of handing down rules without explaining them thoroughly, heh.

    Anyway, I look forward to comments from the couple of you who didn't get bored and quit 2 paragraphs into this post!

    21 comments · 243 views
  • ...

Sheriff B. T. Book is a straight-laced, by-the-book kind of cop--for years he's protected Ponyville from litter, noise violations, and several of Pinkie's more insane theme parties.  All he really wants is a little appreciation for his hard work, and maybe to save the town from certain doom, just once.  

His grandfather, the famous sheriff Hard Country, is dead.  But he got better.  And now he's raring to get back to kicking criminals in the face and running away from things just before they explode.

Only problem is, there aren't any criminals or explosions in today's Ponyville.  Or so one would think.  But Hard isn't the only ghost who's up and walking, and when his old nemesis comes back to settle an extra-old score, grandfather and grandson will have to put aside their differences and work together, or else Ponyville might just be destroyed.

Well, to be honest, Ponyville is probably going to be destroyed anyway.  Things do tend to explode when Hard's around.  But when the good guys are blowing up your town, there's just one thing you have to remember:

It's exploding with love.

Written for the League of Equestrian Gentlecolts Ghost OC Prompt thing.  Also in loving memory of the short-lived 2010 buddy cop show "The Good Guys."

First Published
1st Nov 2012
Last Modified
1st Nov 2012
#1 · 107w, 3d ago · · ·

Heh, nice! I was afraid I was the only one that did one of these!

So Hard Country is some type of John Wayne character? That's cool!

Some very amusing bits here such as how seriously Book takes his job (for all the good it does him) in a town that doesn't exactly rank high on the criminal level. Monsters, 1,000 year old enemies to pony kind and Pinkie Pie on the other hoof...

Looking forward to seeing more of this!

#2 · 107w, 3d ago · · ·

I've never seen anyone write particles quite like you. This was honestly the highlight of the chapter for me. Great job of showing instead of telling the reader what's happening, and setting the tone of the character all in one stroke. Hard Country is so bad-ass he pulls his individual particles back together in defiance of all logic, because screw logic.

Nice cameo with Shaggy too.

I'll be watching for more of this. Keep going, you've got a solid idea and a great intro.

#3 · 107w, 3d ago · · ·

This has tickled my fancy

#4 · 107w, 3d ago · · ·

Whoops, I forgot to snag first post.  Ah well.  Thanks to everyone who's read so far.  Despite its relative shortness this thing was the product of like, a solid month of dithering, whining, replanning, and false-starts, only for most of the replanning to get thrown out and most of the initial false-starts to be what actually made it into the fic.  I guess the lesson is to trust your instincts.  So my instincts tell me, anyway.  I'm not convinced.

Also I would recommend (for later chapters more than this one, perhaps?) busting out the 80s-est soundtrack you've got.  Alternatively, The Good Guys' Opening theme "Slink (A Hymn)" is fun.  Also seriously, The Good Guys.  Bradley Whitford as a perpetually-stuck-in-the-80s cop with a terribad mustache.  It's hilarious.

>>1541747  Huzzah for actually bothering to do the League prompts!  I'll be sure to check out yours shortly.

And it's funny, I never really thought "John Wayne" when coming up with Hard, probably because he's going to be rather more ridiculous.  But I was thinking "cowboy," so John Wayne was probably in the back of my head somewhere, looking stern.

>>1543769 Ain't nobody write particles like I write particles.  It's because I spent 2 years studying Japanese.  [/linguistics joke oh god how nerdy am I anyway]

>>1543954 That's what I'm here for.  Well, that and dithering.  And, apparently, really obscure language humor.

I'm actually a little sad I didn't get to reply to the spam note that I had earlier.  I'm not sure what I would have said, but I'm sure it would have been devastatingly witty.

#5 · 107w, 2d ago · · ·

This is really very funny. The particles were definitely the most badass particles I have ever read about.

#6 · 107w, 2d ago · · ·

Awesome job, and I can't wait to see what happens with Charon. Hope he's as big of a jerk as he is in RT's and my stories.:pinkiehappy:

#7 · 104w, 5d ago · · ·

I'll admit, I was chuckling throughout the entire chapter. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of humor!

That jaywalking joke, though... you should be ashamed of yourself. :ajbemused:

#8 · 104w, 3d ago · · ·

>>1646898 " should be ashamed of yourself."

Every day.

Or am I? :moustache:

#9 · 97w, 3d ago · · ·

Yes! I recognized The Good Guys' logo the instant I saw the header. Talk about a show too good to last...

Well, if this fic is inspired by that, I have to read this.

EDIT: Of course, when I read "ONE DAY EARLIER", I could hear the revolver cylinder spinning.

#10 · 97w, 3d ago · · ·

No idea what this is based on, don't care.


Will be watching for more.

#11 · 97w, 3d ago · · ·

Congrats on getting into EQD!

#12 · 97w, 3d ago · · ·

Oh, my sides, this is eye-wateringly funny! :moustache:

#13 · 97w, 2d ago · · ·

I definitely like this premise. Though, in all honestly I think it would have been better without the flash-forward opening.

Still, gonna be watching this one.

#14 · 96w, 6d ago · · ·

Somepony gonna call the Ghostbusters?  :trollestia:

#15 · 85w, 4d ago · · ·


Though, in all honestly I think it would have been better without the flash-forward opening.

I guess you never watched The Good Guys, then.

#16 · 85w, 4d ago · · ·


Nope. Never did. I'm just giving my opinion as if this were another fic.

#17 · 85w, 4d ago · · ·

>>2368224 >>2367170  Wait, The Good Guys did that too?

I was just trying to start my fic with a bang.

The vase on the counter exploded . . .

Oh god I'm so sorry...

((In all seriousness I was just going for the style imitation and to give some context to where the fic was headed in terms of action/comedy.  It did actually strike me as an arresting beginning, too.  But maybe from a plotting standpoint it was a little bit forced.  The problem is to really get into an epically ironic "dramatic open," which are the best ones that TGG did, you'd have to know the characters, whereas this segment had to vaguely introduce them.  Anyway, it was an experiment.))

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