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Mar
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On Writing · 7:33pm Mar 21st, 2015

art by Icekatze

One of the most common things I am asked for, both in private messages and in interviews, is what advice on writing that I can give. I have a set of suggestions that I always give, and it occurred to me that I should also offer this advice on my blog, and maybe expand on some of the suggestions a little. These will be familiar to those of you who have read some of my past interviews, but I hope newer readers find them helpful.

First, I want to give a shout-out to all of the continuing Fallout: Equestria projects. I'm seeing so many labors of love, and the work being done on them is simply amazing! I'll be sprinkling a few recent highlights through the blog. :pinkiehappy: And I even hear that the third episode of the radioplay is nearing completion!

Meanwhile, there is an amazing project going on to create a radioplay-style audiobook of Fallout: Equestria, featuring the readings of Scorch Mechanic, the voice acting of a host of talent, and audio work by Mike Hall and (Heroes audiobook legend) Equestria Narrator! They've just finished Chapter Nine, so check it out!

Here's my advice for aspiring writers:

First: I find that it is important to take some time to plot out major themes, events and other important notes you want in that story. (This applies as much to individual chapters as to the story as a whole.) Think of it as similar to playing “connect the dots” -- not only should you have a good idea of what the final picture will be, but you should also jot down on a notepad all the “dots” you want to be sure to include. Then, when you start writing, begin at the first “dot” and work your way towards the second.

Personally, I find it’s just as important to not have everything plotted out before you start writing. By playing “connect the dots”, you give yourself room for inspiration and creativity while you are actually writing. (For me, if I knew everything I was going to write before I started typing, I would get bored. By only knowing the key points to each chapter, the story becomes an adventure for me as well.)

Second: Start writing. Regularly. The hardest part of writing is actually beginning. Once you've started, I've found, the words come more easily. But putting down that first sentence, or even just the title, can be the most daunting part of a day's work. Particularly for new writers, it is a great idea to commit yourself to writing a little bit each day. Even if it is just a few paragraphs. You should do this even if what you are writing isn't your story. Perhaps keep writing journal, and jot down anything from creative ideas to thoughts of the day. Whatever it takes to not fall out of practice. Keep writing, even if you don't like what you have written -- your writing will improve. The more you write, the better you will become at it.

Third: Write about something you love. You will find writing a lot more fulfilling, and a lot easier to continue, if you are writing about something you enjoy or care about.

Fourth: Read. Find authors whose works you enjoy and read them. Occasionally pause to think about what made writing work for you. We learn how to write through reading as we absorb techniques that appeal to us or that strike us as effective. The more exposure you give yourself to the writings of different authors, the larger a toolbox you will develop for your own writing.

The latest song by the Wasteland Wailers...

...for the Fallout: Equestria game by The Overmare Studios

Fifth: Be familiar with some of the pitfalls that writers, particularly new ones, fall prey to and make it a point to avoid them. For example: know what a self-insert character is and what a Mary Sue character is and put effort into making sure your characters aren’t either of those.

A self-insert character is any character that is a substitute for the writer in the story. Self-insertion happens when writers, overtly or through an avatar, write themselves into a tale. Examples include M. Night Shyamalan's self-played author in Lady in the Water, or Stephen King's self-insertion late in the Dark Tower series. Usually, self-insertion is a method of wish-fulfillment, and is particularly seen in bad "human in equestria" stories. If the character you are writing is you, or how you imagine you would be in the world or circumstances, or how you would like to be, then rethink your story. Self-insertion is never a good idea for a novice writer, and is rarely done well even by professionals.

Defining a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu when male) is harder. I haven't seen a universally agreed-on definition. And "you'll know one when you see one" is a horrible guideline. Especially since it has become pervasive on the internet for people to mislabel any character they do not like or that they personally consider "overrated" as a Mary Sue. However, when properly used, Mary Sue refers to a specific sort of "super character" who is designed to be wonderful, awesome and/or loved by the readers. Like a self-insert, a Mary Sue often serves as wish-fulfillment (and, in fact, many self-insertion avatars are written as Mary Sues), but this is not always the case. Rather, a Mary Sue is an idealized character -- usually the best at anything she tries, universally liked or loved by everyone but the bad guys (and sometimes, even by them too), and the center of attention. And, as a result, is generally insufferable. [Edit: Perhaps the best definition of a Mary Sue is a character who is never truly challenged by the opponents, events or circumstances that attempt to impede her. Mary Sue doesn't have to strive to succeed.]

Let us look at two characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle. Rainbow Dash is a top-notch athlete, an ultra-fast flier who is the only pony to have performed the sonic rainboom, and even has her own in-universe fan club. However, Rainbow Dash has been saddled with glaring personality flaws, probably the greatest being her arrogance. The show has proven willing to make her unlikable at times. She's lazy and not especially bright. Finally, she rarely takes center stage; she is part of an ensemble cast and is definitely not portrayed as the star of the show. Rainbow Dash is a specialist, and effectively peerless in her area of expertise. But she is not a Mary Sue.

Twilight Sparkle is the hoof-picked pupil of Celestia. She is a unicorn whose Special Talent is magic, allowing her to cast pretty much any spell the story might call for. When she comes to town, everyone wants to be her friend. While she occasionally falls down, it's more common to see her excel, often without trying. ("Since when does Twilight Sparkle ever fail?" sings Rainbow Dash as her friends celebrate her general amazingness.) Twilight Sparkle is the star of the show, the center of every group portrait, and now she's a princess with her own mini-kingdom. [Edit: While there are a few episodes where she has been challenged, throughout most of the series] Twilight Sparkle functions as a Mary Sue. And while she is an adorkable Mary Sue that we all (or at least most of us) love, she's still an example of what you want to avoid in a character of your own. Especially when writing fanfiction.

I usually recommend running a character idea through one or two of the Mary Sue litmus tests available on the internet. However, there is a difficulty with this when writing adventure stories. A majority of adventure stories, especially those in the Fallout: Equestria universe, use the classic model of the hero's journey. A character in such a story is going to evolve and gain power or capability over the course of the story in such a way that the character would score radically differently on such a litmus test depending on when in the story you took measure of the character. At the finale of the three-act structure, the character often will have grown and developed into someone who could easily fail a Mary Sue litmus test... and that is appropriate because, by the end of the journey, they have fought and earned their place as a epic character. By the same measure, a character at the beginning of the hero's journey will be the only the faintest shadow of her potential, and it would be just as ineffective to try to judge whether the character is a Mary Sue based on that version of her.

The latest page of the Fallout: Equestria comic by the immensely talented MajorBrons

Sixth: If possible, find friends or other supportive individuals who will critique your work. This can easily be the hardest suggestion to follow, however. Don't be dismayed or dissuaded from writing if you can't find the response you are looking for. Continue to write; continue to improve.

Welcome and listen to helpful feedback. Quality feedback and criticism are invaluable tools for helping you improve. But likewise, learn to ignore harmful feedback. You must learn to separate good critics from bad ones. Artists crave feedback, but you have a responsibility -- to yourself, your art and your fans -- to try to improve. And that includes both listening to good advice and avoiding bad advice that will do your work harm. (If you are interested in more detail on this bit of advice, look to my earlier blog Regarding Criticism.)

I hope some of you find some of this useful. :twilightsmile: However, these are by no means the only or even most important advice you can receive. So here are some links to some more great writing advice:

An Introductory Guide to Fanfiction: Writing by the Bronyshow
Pony Writing Guide by Cereal Velocity (Now apparently with a part four that I haven't read yet!) :pinkiegasp:

Finally, a video that I think every new writer, especially every Fallout: Equestria side story writer, should take the time to watch:

Report Kkat · 3,464 views · Story: Fallout: Equestria ·
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Comments ( 30 )

Thanks for the post, I'm unsurprised you get so many messages on this. I always have a problem with the initial planning bit, I just hate writing out my thoughts, preferring to keep them in my head, which never goes well. That, and well, I hardly ever actually develop a story to the point where that's relevant.

...the video makes it completely worth to know how to write a story even better (or atleast average)

I remember when I asked you a question like that long ago. While I have grown quite a bit since then, this guide is still quite useful for developing writers like myself and others. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this up, and I hope that things are going well for you. :twilightsmile:

This is really great advice. Definitely helpful!

Thanks for the post. About Mary Sues, a good point I've heard is that the reader should always think a Mary Sue is right, and anyone who disagrees with them in the story is usually portrayed as in the wrong. It's a much wider definition, but it works well if you want to make flawed characters and a more layered story.

Six is definitely the point of yours I champion the most. Talking to others is a fantastic way to flesh out ideas, and even having them bounce innocent, non-critical questions off of you will make you consider things about your universe that you hadn't even thought of.

After I posted my first ever chapter, I had a deluge of commenters asking me random questions like "How many years have passed since the show?", which by itself sent me into a huge spiral of "this is the Equestria's history since the season ended", "Equestria's relationships with its neighbors is at that point", and "this is the kind of technology Equestria has now". So much of that sudden world-building began informing decisions, generating new plot points, and giving birth to entire characters as early as the very next chapter, even though I hadn't stopped to think about it until I read my comments.

Criticism is the most valuable thing you can have. Ever.

For years, people in entertainment spent millions of dollars trying to figure out what audiences wanted. Now the viewers tell you for free. It's foolish to throw that away because it might hurt your feelings.
--Burnie Burns, RoosterTeeth.com

P.S. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Twilight Sparkle is (or has become, as of late) a Mary Sue. Her character used to be very relatable in how she struggled with social scenarios, and she used to have this incredibly abrasive dry wit that, coupled with a very aloof "holier-than-thou" attitude, made her utterly lovable and yet incredibly flawed at the same time. Now she has waves of confidence, makes few to no mistakes, and her only real flaw is that she has to stop and think a bit before inevitably reaching the correct conclusion, or that each moment she faces is met with some degree of self-doubt that she almost trivially overcomes by "trying harder" or by applying the Magic of Friendship™ (which is less a social concept and mostly just a giant rainbow laser these days). Honestly, she feels like a stand-in for Princess Celestia, only somehow with even less joviality than even Celestia had. Bugs the crap out of me.

I find that it is important to take some time to plot out major themes, events and other important notes you want in that story.

What were the major themes you wanted (or ended up with) in Fallout: Equestria?

I find that the easiest way to prevent yourself from making your main character a Mary Sue is to first separate themselves from yourself. Give them opinions that you don't agree with. Give them flaws that, while you can sympathize with, you don't necessarily have. And while we're on flaws, if we're going to "fix" them at any point, keep the development slow. It is exceedingly rare for real people to have an epiphany, and then immediately do all they can to fix it. People have doubts and in-built habits from having to compensate for their flaws.
And then, while it's not necessarily an imperative, it would really help beginning writers to then go out of their way to show that they do have strengths and good virtues to them as well. Show the audience your character, then show them their flaws, show them their problem, and then show them how they overcome it while being on the slow path to being a better person.

Also, compliments to Ice. I mean, I didn't even think that look would ever work, but there we are.

2897380 Welp I'm off to get that comment framed...

Well said.

Many self-inserts focus more on making the main character, them the center of attention. Such as only them being all powerful. Some writers prefer to make it seem like it's them with their own personality, and they end up not being center of attention.

I actually know most of these methods and you are right about the beging of each story. Hard to write. To me, the title is everything. Just come up with something catchy and you let the readers know that you are in for something good. I do my best to get creative with the names of chapters.

Another important thing is dividing stories. If you have to many story that you plan on writing in your list, think about it. Think about the plot of each story and if they are reader friendly. Not only should you write about what you enjoy, but hears hope they enjoy it to.

For OCs, the best thing to do is to not go directly into back story. Back story is an important thing for each character. It's best to share their story throughout.

Another thing is don't post the story immediately. Before you post another chapter, reread it. Not once, but many times. You can even make a mistake on purpose to make Grammar Nazis mad. I prefer you don't troll though.

Final advice, make it visionary. Before you start writing, play those chapters in your head many many times to get an idea on what's going to happen. Just going in all yolo is risky. By catching the images in your head you feel, "Okay, I can do this." Another important thing is take your time. If you want to improve, try to write a one-shot under an hour.

Hope any of this is usful.

And for certain fans of Fallout: Equestria, I may have a surprise for you soon.:pinkiecrazy:

I'm not a major fanboy, but I love your story so far Kkat.:heart:

Comment posted by Muggonny deleted Mar 22nd, 2015

Hey there, thank you for taking the time to blog about this stuff, it really did help me.

I'd like to raise another more specific question... One that it related to my fledgling writer activity.

How do you know if you're suited to write? I am fighting a weird hurdle at the moment. I have ideas aplenty, but not enough skill to make them a reality... And most importantly my process of writing grounded to a halt because somehow I made it feel like work, a chore if you will.

I seem to enjoy crafting stories and characters more than actually writing them, I am a very passionate storyteller... But when I do write anything, most of which I've been told is above average, my excitement fizzles out. English isn't my first language, I'm sure you can deduce that by my poor grammar, and most of what I end up doing is checking every barely written paragraph for faults.

I know I can't try to do everything, between writing and drawing... should I just settle for one of the two?

Two things that came to mind reading this:

Having a hero who tends to be highly idealized is, in fact, a thing. They're called Ideal Heroes and they can be made to work as well as flawed heroes, imo. It just takes practice.

Instead of fighting over the term "Mary Sue", I think it's just better to get down the question behind that term: is this character an entertaining one to watch? If a character is so cheesy I can never take them as seriously as the story needs me to, or if there's never any tension in any conflicts they're involved in, or if they're an abrasively goody two shoes, then I could care less what they're called. I just don't want to watch them anymore.

All that said, thanks for the column. Always good to see your new stuff.

hi hi

It is kind of funny, there are so many different talents out there, and someone who is good at one will oftentimes not be good at another, but there is a lot of advice that works for almost all of them, in regards to improving.

Point Number two is great. Start writing, or start doing whatever it is. It is not just good advice for writing, but for almost anything that requires skill. There's no secret technique to getting better at sports but training and practice, and there's really no secret trick to getting better at writing or art without putting in some effort and doing the work. That may sound tough, and it can be, but if you keep practicing, you will continue to improve.

Of course there's always more to it than that. Some workouts are better than others, but since I am not a particularly successful creator myself, I'll stick to relaying the advice of others.

Neil Gaiman's advice to starting authors.

Stephen Mccranie's advice on motivation

Camila Vielmond, Talent is a Lie


On the topic of Rainbow Dash, it is interesting to hear Rainbow Dash being considered lazy. It turns out that resting really is very important to top-tier athletes. Having grown up in a family of athletes, I always considered Rainbow Dash's napping to be one of the ways they got her character right. Perhaps it is also a clever outgrowth of taking something that is necessary for her athleticism and turning it up a little and making it a character flaw.

“Sleep is huge in my sport. Recovery is the limiting factor, not my ability to run hard. I typically sleep about eight to nine hours a night but then I make sure to schedule 90 minute ‘business meetings’–aka naps–into my day for an afternoon rest.”

— Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall

As for Twilight Sparkle, her transformation from a sort of Everymare into a Mary Sue was really hard on me. Episodes like Winter Wrap Up were amongst my favorites, because I related to her, and the struggles she went through.

Friendship is not a hero's journey, although it can certainly come along for the ride. Friendship is an everyday kind of thing that you don't have to be a grand master to enjoy. I think that even in a hero's journey, a character can become a Mary Sue if their progression of improvement significantly outpaces the progression of danger and difficulty. If expectation doesn't match reality, it can feel contrived. Of course different people have different expectations, but that's just one of the areas where getting good feedback and criticism can help.

"Glory is impossible without a mighty opponent."

- Mitsuharu Hadeishi, Wasteland of Flint

Excellent tips and writing points! :twilightsmile:

Read that and did get some more out of it, great and helpful tips. I was one of those that asked a while ago :twilightsheepish: and I apologize if it was ever a bother.

Thanks to you and others, I have my story going now. It's not posted, but I have several chapters done and a 60+ ongoing master scene document. :twilightsmile:

I disagree: it is quite easy to define what a Mary Sue is. A Mary Sue is a character who is never actually challenged. Such concerns as power levels and how much the rest of the characters like them are not intrinsically relevant to whether a character is a Mary Sue; they just happen to be common tools by which a Mary Sue will breeze through combat or social conflicts. So for example, a character could be invulnerable, able to kill anybody with a thought, and capable of mind-controlling entire cities to adore her, but often fight not to instinctively use these powers, and (if properly written) not be a Mary Sue. She doesn't need to ever face an external conflict of any consequence so long as her internal conflict adequately challenges her. Conversely, you could argue that I'm fairly Mary-Sue-ish at times, not because I'm particularly exceptional, but simply because I ask very little out of life and am thus able to get it without any trouble in general.

By this test, then, is Twilight a Mary Sue? You bring up Dash asking, "Since when does Twilight Sparkle ever fail?" but she almost did. She screwed up the critical research into how to protect the Crystal Empire, and had her luck been poor she would not have learned this until far too late. Figuring out where the Crystal Heart would have been hidden was by no means trivial. She was nearly turned stopped by one of Sombra's traps, and was unable to escape another. And while it wasn't always obvious, she also had an ongoing internal conflict between her desire to save the Empire and her desire to pass the test as given, which could easily have lead her into a situation where it was too late to succeed in either goal.
She is quite magically powerful, yes, but under stress her repertoire of spells shrinks considerably, and on the rare occasions she faces a challenge that is to be solved by magic, it is suitably difficult. More often she faces social challenges, and while she is likable, she's not so likable that she makes ponies forget what they want, and she doesn't know that much about influencing ponies.

However, Rainbow Dash has been saddled with glaring personality flaws, probably the greatest being her arrogance.

What arrogance? Rainbow Dash is a proven standard of awesomeness. :rainbowdetermined2:

2899009

My one big gripe with the show is that sometimes there is a very noticeable difference in various writing qualities depending on who wrote the episode. I agree with you that for the most part Twilight is not a Mary Sue character. But, Magical Mystery Cure was not a character development episode. The grand accomplishment bit that was the second half of the episode was proceeded by... half an episode's worth of something that could basically have been a standard friendship lesson episode if it was fleshed out more. (I can't complain [much] about the music or general animation quality, just the writing.) I don't mind Twilight becoming an Alicorn, or being a Princess and doing Princessy things, but I've been pretty disappointed with how it was handled most of the time.

2899009

So Twilight Sparkle succeeds even by failing, and that is supposed to be proof that she's not a Mary Sue?

I always figured that Rainbow wasn't exactly arrogant, but rather the opposite. In my mind, Rainbow is someone who regularily struggle with self-confidence, and this usually manifests with her acting out to get attention.

It comes across as arrogance on the surface, but I think episodes like Mare Do Well and Sonic Rainboom highlight the fact that she's actually full of occasionally crippling self-doubt.

Other than that, excellent post as always kkat.

First: Erhmurgod u watch Extra Credits.

Second: The top image. Couldn't but think: pinpin' dat bitch. ;-)

Borg #23 · Mar 23rd, 2015 · · 1 ·

2899712 Twilight comes close to failing, as a character facing a significant challenge is wont to do. If she did not come close to failing, it would demonstrate she was not challenged. Then she would be a Mary Sue.

Please don't disagree with me in a way that makes me think you weren't actually paying attention at all. I get kind of irritable in the last couple weeks before a new season, and I'm trying to maintain a merely moderate level of rudeness.

2901156

Ok, first of all, the definition of a Mary Sue as being a character who is never actually challenged is a narrow definition that is not universally accepted. In fact, the character for whom the trope is named (Lieutenant Mary Sue, from A Trekkie's Tale, 1974) dies in the end and is mourned by all. Many Mary Sues make tragic pasts or superficial difficulties a highlight of their characters, such as being hated by their peers because of their beauty. (Now, it is fine to use one's own narrow definition for something when trying to make clear cut argument, but saying that someone else is wrong for using another widely accepted definition is not a very strong semantic argument.)

Anyways, back to Twilight in The Crystal Empire. Twilight fails her test. Princess Celestia tells Twilight, "...In the end, it must be you and you alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the Empire." - Princess Celestia

Admittedly that is a word salad, and the justification for such a demand was never even remotely addressed, but for Twilight Sparkle, the intent was made explicitly clear by Spike and Twilight later.
"You can't. I have to retrieve the Crystal Heart by myself. " - Twilight
"You have to get out of there, Twilight! You have to be the one who brings the Heart to Princess Cadance! If you don't, you'll fail Celestia's test!" - Spike

So Twilight fails Celestia's test and Spike ends up saving the Crystal Empire. Princess Celestia's inexplicable, seemingly contrived demand that Twilight pass the test on her own forms the core challenge for Twilight Sparkle during the two episodes. ((Cadence is the one concerned with maintaining the shield that keeps Sombra out, and Twilight's friends' attempts to distract the Crystal Ponies from realizing Sombra is back ends up being useless, because they all realize that when they see him in the final moments, but still manage to project their special magic anyways.))

In the end Twilight simply disregards Celestia's demand and does what she would have done in the first place, and thus through her superficial self-sacrifice, the day is saved.

I'd say that Mary Sue is a character that the story world bends over to accommodate. That characters all like her even when she does nothing that makes her likeable, she outwits bad guys because they suddenly become very stupid when the plot says so and she is good at things for the sole purpose of being impressive -- often to the point where the author lists her talents without actually demonstrating them in action.

Twilight Sparkle isn't really a Mary Sue most of the time. There are episodes where she is, but for the most part she avoids the pitfalls. When she is being insufferable, it's because she's supposed be for the sake of the story or the humour, not because the episode writer couldn't make her likeable, and the other characters react to her appropriately.

2901215 I had forgotten that Celestia's motivations aren't obvious to everybody. Do you think she was testing Twilight's magical power or research skills? Research is Twilight's life, and she'd already saved Equestria three times by then. But it was always on Celestia's orders, albeit sometimes on orders that weren't explicitly given (except for bringing Cadance out of the caves, but she knew at that point that there was an important piece of information that Celestia was missing). What good is a princess who is merely a tool wielded by the other princesses? If Twilight is to be a worthy princess, she must prove that she can act on her own if necessary. The whole point was to give her a test she would need to fail in order to save the Crystal Empire, in order for her to prove that she would choose to do what was necessary rather than just blindly doing what she was told to do. So, like Celestia said, Twilight passed the real test.
Granted, I don't know that I agree with the stakes of this test, but then I don't have the millennium of manipulation experience that she does.

It's fine for you to dispute my definition of Mary Sue, but in order to do that, you have to actually dispute my definition. If I start by giving a definition, and you make no comment on that definition when you reply, you are implicitly accepting the definition. But I'll point out that a crushing defeat is no more a challenge than a crushing victory. When a Mary Sue is hated for her beauty or something like that, as a rule all she does about it is whine. There is never a fight against this issue, or against a tragic past, or any other such "conflict." It's just a bad thing that keeps happening unopposed, on the mistaken belief that a mixture of unopposed victories and unopposed defeats balances out into an actual conflict. And when you're a fictional character, dying a tragic death and being mourned by all is a victory; Doylistly speaking you're going to die anyway once there are no more words, and dying of the story being over is hardly a glorious way to go.

2905487

If I start by giving a definition, and you make no comment on that definition when you reply, you are implicitly accepting the definition.

No. This is a false assumption. It is absolutely, unequivocally wrong. In that first reply I made, I asked a one sentence question seeking clarification, and made no claim one way or another.

It would be like one person saying to another, "I am allowed to punch you in the face and take your wallet." Then when the other person says. "Are you high or something?" The first person replies. "You did not explicitly dispute my claim, therefore you have given me implicit approval."

As for the definition itself. You are right that a crushing defeat is no more challenging than a crushing victory, but as you said yourself:

"She doesn't need to ever face an external conflict of any consequence so long as her internal conflict adequately challenges her."

Characters "whining," about their tragic nature are inherently challenged internally, and as you said, there does not need to be an external fight against that. Adequate then becomes a matter of opinion, as this debate suggests, people have different opinions on Twilight Sparkle, and that's ok.

In the term's original formulation, being a Mary Sue wasn't just the nature of Lieutenant Mary Sue herself, but the way the author wrote the other characters interacting with her. It is like Eugene Delacroix famously said: "I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will."

I would wager that one can write an enjoyable story containing a Mary Sue, provided the author surrounds her with characters that react appropriately. Oftentimes a Mary Sue character stems from the author's belief that being exceptional and special is what makes people loved, appreciated, and respected, and by extension that being normal makes people unlovable, unappreciated, and not respected. (If you like joke-a-day comics and pop culture references, the Ensign Sue Trilogy does a good job covering some of the motivations behind the phenomenon. While revolving around a Mary Sue itself.)


But, even if I were to accept the narrow definition, for the sake of argument, it still falls flat in the case of The Crystal Empire Part 1 and 2. Before I explain my reasoning, I would like to make the disclaimer that I don't think it is wrong to enjoy the episodes, I am only saying that they do not make a good counter example for Twilight being written as a Mary Sue. Obviously she can be written without being made a Mary Sue, if the writer makes some effort, but I don't think these episodes are good examples.

There are two basic possibilities. Twilight Sparkle was wrong about the nature of Celestia's test, when she says that letting Spike get the heart will cause her to fail, or she was correct.

If she was correct, then she did indeed fail the test, but was given a passing grade anyways by her teacher. Usually passing a test and getting a passing grade correlate strongly, but they are not exactly the same thing.

Imagine a teacher tells her student to write an essay describing how the orbit of Mercury helped support Einstein's theory of relativity. The student works really hard, but as the deadline looms, she gets her friend to write the essay, then gives her teacher a long, passionate speech about cooperation and the human condition. The teacher is so moved by those beautiful words that she decides to give the student a passing grade anyway.

If she was incorrect, and Celestia's true test was something else, then Twilight passed the test without even trying. Twilight Sparkle explicitly states that the test is for her and her alone to bring Cadence the Crystal Heart, and if she was wrong about that, then she didn't actually know the true nature of the test either. She can't make a conscious effort to do reach a goal that she does not know exists, and only passed the test accidentally, while she was trying to do something else.

(( As an aside, if we can trust what the characters are saying in the episode, which I'm not sure we can, the moral of the story was supposed to be about self-sacrifice. "Far better that I have a student who understands the meaning of self-sacrifice than one who only looks out for her own best interests." - Celestia ))

As an aspiring writer myself, I have happened to just read 'On Writing' by Stephen King - and I recognised a quote from that very same book hidden in here somewhere. So, was the title intentional?


Also... Congratulations. You are one big hit - you wrote a legend, and I would love to see 'The Book Of Littlepip' in real bookstores one day, if the average man out there would give it a chance. It certainly has the capability, but I'm betting you've heard this before.

So, good job.

Very good job.

On your comments about Twilight being a Mary Sue:

It is my opinion that she does indeed have flaws (for example, she's afraid of failure), and it is shown repeatedly that she cannot solve the episodes' problems on her own (she tries in The Crystal Empire and has to have Spike bail her out multiple times, and without the letters she would never have snapped out of being Discorded). She often doesn't quite understand how other ponies think, like in Testing, Testing 123 wherein she really fails to present her lesson in a way that Dash can understand. Also, look at Winter Wrap Up- she unambiguously sucks at anything that doesn't relate to magic or organization. She has troubles dealing with unexpected things, like in Look Before You Sleep when she straight out doesn't notice Rarity and Applejack's feud, and when a tree crashes through her window she's useless because she has to go look in the book to see if trees crashing through windows are an ordinary part of a sleepover instead of solving the problem. In the beginning, she utterly discounts friendship until the very end. And while she has moved past some of these flaws, that is a sign of character development, something that is usually a good thing.

I'm not attempting to push my beliefs on you and I'm sorry if it comes out looking that way. I'm just trying to present an alternate point of view on the issue.

I started writing Fallout Equestria: Brotherhood nearly three years ago. At the time I wasn't sure how serious I was about writing. All I understood was that I simply needed to do it, regardless. The amount of helpful information not only you provided, but that is readily available online is astounding. Why I never researched or looked into during my beginning moments is one of my biggest regrets.

Though, despite this, I've managed to learn a great deal about the craft over the years. As we speak I'm finishing this three-year long venture right now. (I'm on the last five scenes of my final chapter.) Though there is a lot I could have done, had I the knowledge I do now, I'm happy to have gotten myself into writing.

I know understand fully how it works, and how to plot out a story and how to edit. Along with the careful skill of drafting clear concise descriptions. And to think it's because of your story that inspired me to find what it is I truly love. Of all the things I've done in my life, there's nothing I love more than writing. I'll never forget what your story did for me Kkat, or what it's done to ignite the spark of inspiration in the community as a whole.

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