Bad Horse

Joined April 2012
898 followers
96,537 story views
6h, 7m ago

Favourite sweet

  • The King of Carrot Flowers The so-called Slender Pony exists in the minds of most as a murderous beast. (Fluttershy-centric.) by ShadowBoxingKing 1,890 words · 1,172 views · 104 likes · 3 dislikes
  • Thou Goddess Scansion wakes up to find beautiful poems he doesn't remember writing. Is the lonely goddess of the night reaching out to him in the only way she can, or is he chasing shadows? by horizon 5,172 words · 1,985 views · 383 likes · 11 dislikes
  • A Canterlot Carol Dotted Line discovers the true meaning of Hearthwarming, mostly by accident. by GhostOfHeraclitus 6,461 words · 4,213 views · 603 likes · 5 dislikes
  • The Best Night Ever Grand Galloping Gala meets Groundhog Day time-loop by Capn_Chryssalid 53,935 words · 27,128 views · 3,101 likes · 44 dislikes
  • Princess Celestia Hates Tea Seriously, a lot. by Skywriter 8,536 words · 32,686 views · 3,146 likes · 44 dislikes

Favorite savory

  • Eternal Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle's bond is tested by miscommunication and guilt. by device heretic 159,827 words · 22,240 views · 2,245 likes · 55 dislikes
  • Biblical Monsters "Put your boots on," Adams said. "There's a biblical monster in my house." by Horse Voice 10,947 words · 10,255 views · 1,297 likes · 134 dislikes
  • 'Destiny' and Other Lies Told to Foals Twilight wakes in the middle of the night, haunted by a terrifying dream—one that's not so hard to see coming true. by Sunchaser 10,644 words · 3,498 views · 526 likes · 20 dislikes
  • The Arbitrage of Moments When you have so little, and another has so much, it’s easy to justify theft. The more precious the commodity, the easier it is to tell yourself you need it more than they do. And what is more precious than time? by GaPJaxie 12,168 words · 1,837 views · 240 likes · 9 dislikes
  • Kaleidoscope Somepony struggles to remember their childhood. But something's wrong... by TheVulpineHero1 3,085 words · 1,112 views · 182 likes · 3 dislikes

Featured on Equestria Daily

  • Moving On Celestia has taken on a new private student, and Twilight must find something to be other than the Faithful Student. But how? by Bad Horse 9,259 words · 2,745 views · 390 likes · 23 dislikes
  • Sisters Stories about two sisters who are best friends, and rulers of Equestria by Bad Horse 6,515 words · 12,733 views · 1,260 likes · 18 dislikes
  • Mortality Report Celestia writes a report to her queen about what she's learned from living among mortals. by Bad Horse 4,313 words · 15,302 views · 1,426 likes · 28 dislikes
  • Long Distance It's a long way from Canterlot to Ponyville, even for magic. by Bad Horse 3,704 words · 2,232 views · 144 likes · 5 dislikes
  • The Saga of Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade, Interior Design Alicorn Should the incredibly powerful new alicorn pursue his destiny? Or interior design? by Bad Horse 4,940 words · 9,679 views · 786 likes · 34 dislikes

Other stories I'm not entirely ashamed of

  • The Magician and the Detective Has Holmes met his match, in either sense, in the travelling showpony Trixie? by Bad Horse 14,685 words · 4,663 views · 289 likes · 9 dislikes
  • The Twilight Zone 15. The Quiet One (Luna): Some ponies express emotions differently. by Bad Horse 12,338 words · 3,305 views · 346 likes · 17 dislikes
  • Friends, With Occasional Magic The magic of friendship is showing people the good in themselves. Sometimes, with ponies. by Bad Horse 2,857 words · 599 views · 66 likes · 8 dislikes
  • Fluttershy's Night Out Fluttershy would like to be a tree. But she doesn't want to be an animal. by Bad Horse 5,337 words · 9,995 views · 387 likes · 15 dislikes
  • Twenty Minutes Would you risk your life to save a stranger? What if you could only save her for twenty minutes? by Bad Horse 3,344 words · 1,142 views · 100 likes · 4 dislikes

Index librorum prohibitorum

  • ExperienceCelestia is thousands of years old, and has experienced almost everything the world has to offer. But there's one ordinary thing she's never experienced.1,275 words ·3,526 views ·590 likes ·12 dislikes
  • MomentsPractice makes perfect. And Princess Twilight wants everything to be perfect. Especially the end of the world.8,326 words ·1,999 views ·347 likes ·25 dislikes
  • Happy EndingAfter seeing the destiny of the son he is to have with Rarity, Blueblood tries to change the future for the better.3,827 words ·2,230 views ·201 likes ·20 dislikes
  • All the Pretty Pony Princesses...or, "Magical Mystery Cure" if it had been written by Joss Whedon.1,926 words ·871 views ·67 likes ·20 dislikes
  • Alicorn CiderBig Mac is a farmer, always has been a farmer, and always will be a farmer... right?2,256 words ·5,533 views ·292 likes ·19 dislikes
  • Long DistanceIt's a long way from Canterlot to Ponyville, even for magic.3,704 words ·2,232 views ·144 likes ·5 dislikes
  • Moving OnCelestia has taken on a new private student, and Twilight must find something to be other than the Faithful Student. But how?9,259 words ·2,745 views ·390 likes ·23 dislikes
  • The Corpse BrideFluttershy's love has kept Equestria safe from Discord ... till death do them part. But what happens after that?2,764 words ·3,027 views ·185 likes ·13 dislikes
  • TrustCelestia teaches Trixie a lesson about trust.2,353 words ·2,515 views ·179 likes ·11 dislikes
  • Fluttershy's Night OutFluttershy would like to be a tree. But she doesn't want to be an animal.5,337 words ·9,995 views ·387 likes ·15 dislikes
  • Mortality ReportCelestia writes a report to her queen about what she's learned from living among mortals.4,313 words ·15,302 views ·1,426 likes ·28 dislikes
  • Burning Man Brony: Fear and Loathing of EquestriaOne brony finds himself with the help of a bag of mushrooms and some ponies. He doesn't like what he finds.9,568 words ·2,131 views ·87 likes ·7 dislikes
  • SistersStories about two sisters who are best friends, and rulers of Equestria6,515 words ·12,733 views ·1,260 likes ·18 dislikes
  • The Saga of Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade, Interior Design AlicornShould the incredibly powerful new alicorn pursue his destiny? Or interior design?4,940 words ·9,679 views ·786 likes ·34 dislikes
  • Twenty MinutesWould you risk your life to save a stranger? What if you could only save her for twenty minutes?3,344 words ·1,142 views ·100 likes ·4 dislikes
Apr
24th
2014

Aspects of the Novel

E.M. Forster, 1927

(Tagged to the story "Experience" because I use it as an example at the end.)

E.M. Forster, author of A Passage to India, A Room with a View, and Howards End, wrote a book about novels. It isn't a how-to book, but you could use it as one. This isn't for the beginning writer; it tackles questions such as "What is the purpose of the novel?" and "What is the relationship between character and plot?" Forster attacked these questions using his skills as a novelist, illustrating abstract ideas with concrete metaphors and poetic language. I haven't finished it, but I can already tell it's going to go on my short list of "books writers should read". There's a neat summary of chapters 2-5 here, and I'd guess the rest is summarized somewhere nearby in web-space. Forster's writing is so good that it's a shame to read just an outline, though.

He has two chapters on characters. The first of them presents a theory about characters that amounts to a theory about the purpose of the novel. Forster doesn't see the novel and the play as alternative ways of telling a story. The distinctive thing about the novel, he says, is that the author can tell us what characters think and why they do things, and so we understand them better than we understand people, even ourselves, in real life. The purpose of the novel is to show (or pretend) that people make sense:

They are people whose secret lives are visible or might be visible: we are people whose secret lives are invisible.  And that is why novels, even when they are about wicked people, can solace us; they suggest a more comprehensible and thus more manageable human race, they give us the illusion of perspicacity and of power.

He contrasts this with plays and movies, which he finds comparatively vulgar spectacles of incompletely-realized characters who are pushed around by a story-line that does not aspire to the level of a plot, but is merely a chronologically-ordered spectacle pulling the viewer along with "What next?" He argues in other chapters that most people want only an endless string of events that pique and then satisfy their curiosity, while a novel requires memory and thought, and so appeals to only a few:

A plot cannot be told to a gaping audience of cave-men or to a tyrannical sultan [a reference to 1001 Nights] or to their modern descendant the movie-public. They can only be kept awake by "and then—and then—" They can only supply curiosity. But a plot demands intelligence and memory also.

Curiosity is one of the lowest of the human faculties.... The man who begins by asking you how many brothers and sisters you have is never a sympathetic character, and if you meet him in a year's time he will probably ask you how many brothers and sisters you have, his mouth again sagging open, his eyes still bulging from his head.

Aristotle said that all emotion in a drama must be expressed through action. This brings us back to our old chestnut, "Show, Don't Tell," which also comes from Aristotle. We've had arguments over "show, don't tell." The greatest counterexample in drama is Shakespeare, who expresses most emotion in his dramas through dialogue, or even monologue. You could find many other counter-examples, like Death of a Salesman; you could point impishly to Waiting for Godot, in which emotion is expressed through inaction. Yesterday I saw A Raisin in the Sun, which is a good play but given to Shakespearian-length monologues, and so seems fake to ears more used to Tarantino.

But Forster ignores all this and cedes the point: "Show, Don't Tell," and the rest of Aristotle, is good for plays but bad for the novel. (He would perhaps say the telling plays listed above should have been novels. A literary realist certainly finds a stink of unreality about them, but on the other hand, the demand for realism in our artificial spectacles is a modern dogma.) Forster believes some stories should be plays or movies, and some should be novels, but none should be both:

The plot, instead of finding human beings more or less cut to its requirements, as they are in the drama, finds them enormous, shadowy and intractable, and three-quarters hidden like an iceberg. In vain it points out to these unwieldy creatures the advantages of the triple process of complication, crisis, and solution so persuasively expounded by Aristotle. A few of them rise and comply, and a novel which ought to have been a play is the result.

This leads to a surprising conclusion: Novels must tell, and not merely show. Showing is fine, but doesn't enable an author to describe a character hyper-realistically, in more detail than is possible in life, and so a story that can be only shown, should be, as a play or a movie.

I don't agree entirely. I think, first, that most things can be shown, given enough length. The novel doesn't give us a qualitatively new way of looking at people so much as it makes it possible to condense a character, through telling, so that more can be said in fewer words. Today's movie-makers have tricks Forster never saw in 1927 that let them convey a surprising depth of character visually. Forster's contrast of drama with novels is so stark that it would make it impossible to make a movie from a novel, or a novel from a movie, since he says a novel requires a completely different kind of plot. When he wrote, there were no good movies made from books AFAIK, but today he'd have to say that Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Apocalypse Now, and all the critically-praised movies made from his own books, were bad.

The movies are different from the books. Apocalypse Now takes the themes of Heart of Darkness and expresses them in spectacle (surfing under artillery fire, choppers with loudspeakers blasting "Flight of the Valkyrie"). The sequence of events is entirely different, yet the plot is the same. A movie has to take a different route, but might end up at the same place.

Second, even when you're showing, not telling, words can focus more precisely and nimbly than a camera. My recent story "Experience" had to be completely shown, not told, yet it would have been difficult in a movie. A movie could show a sunrise photo-realistically, but couldn't as easily romanticize it, and couldn't direct the viewer's attitude through word choice. Did Mirkwood and Moria seem more threatening in the book, or in the movie?

Later, Forster argues that the requirement to bring things to a conclusion might possibly also not be needed in a novel, and ruins most novels because the characters are too much alive for the writer to rein them in at the conclusion. He didn't know how to do without it. He described a recent French novel which had different subplots that resolved independently, in a very self-conscious, meta-fiction way that he didn't say was a general solution, but at least showed the thing could be done. This foreshadows the contemporary literary short story, which is not allowed to have a conclusion, but comes to a kind of resting place instead.

Bad Horse · 139 views · Edited 14h, 13m ago · Report · Story: Experience

I'm not misunderstood. I'm just bad.

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Don't hesitate to comment on my stories! If you see something you like, or don't like, or have an idea how to make it better, say so. If you don't comment because you come in thru EqD or Spacebattles & haven't ever bothered to make a fimfiction account--stop that! It's pretty damn selfish. Make an account. It takes about thirty seconds.

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It needs evaluation, so let the games begin

A heinous crime, a show of force

A murder would be nice of course

Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse --

He’s Bad!

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So make the Bad Horse gleeful or he’ll make you his mare...

You’re saddled up, there’s no recourse

It’s Hi-Ho Silver

Signed, Bad Horse

(See "Bad Prose" by Sordid Euphemism.)

If you know of any brony groups or events around Washington DC, let me know.  I based my avatar on a drawing by kim1486.

Evil League of Evil official business

#1125479 · 12h, 25m ago · · ·

Your essays on writing frequently teach me new things, and I think they make my own (non-pony) writing better.

Thank you.

:twilightsmile:

#1099930 · 1w, 4d ago · · ·

Pppppppppfffffffffffffftttttttttt

#1089429 · 2w, 4d ago · 3 · ·

I think you need a glossary for your blogs (or something like what bookplayer has on her author page). Seriously. Every once in a while I try to search something up that I recall you writing about, but it's an arduous search, both because of how many of them there are and especially when so many of your blogs are interesting enough that I sometimes re-read them just for the hell of it.

#1084477 · 3w, 1h ago · · ·

I was very pleased to see your RCL recommendation make the Equestria Daily headlines. The Magician and the Detective is an excellent piece, though I er... well, it's a couple of years old. I should really read it again. I recall I'd liked it, at least. Back then, you intimidated me too much for me to actually make any comment, dare you responded. I still battle that sort of crippling paralysis, honestly. I don't mix well with water, hum.

Do keep up the wonderfully reflective blogs - they're a bonafide treat.

:twilightblush:

#1084377 · 3w, 3h ago · · ·

Hey yo BH congrats on snagging a spot in the Royal Canterlot Library with The Magician and the Detective! :twilightsmile:

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