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Titanium Dragon

TD writes and reviews pony fanfiction, and has a serious RariJack addiction. Send help and/or ponies.

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Read It Later Reviews #43 – My Flight, The Kidnapping of Twilight Velvet, Check Yourself Before You Tirek Yourself, Twilight Tries Not to Think, A Spoiled Diamond · 12:39am Mar 23rd, 2016

Today’s set of reviews is courtesy of Scribblefest and (in one case) the Royal Guard. I haven’t written reviews for every story I’ve read for Scribblefest, but I ended up writing reviews for several of them; note that if you are a Scribblefest competitor, my word on your story is not the final word. We’re presently doing the prelim-round judging, wherein three judges read each entry and nominate them for a category, and I am but one of nine judges involved.

Anyway, onto the reviews!

Today’s stories:

My Flight by Kris Overstreet
The Kidnapping of Twilight Velvet by Apple Bottoms
Check Yourself Before You Tirek Yourself by Present Perfect
Twilight Tries Not to Think by Flutterpriest
A Spoiled Diamond by RDCrystalheart

My Flight
by Kris Overstreet

Comedy, Slice of Life
4,096 words

Cherry Berry loves cherries- every pony knows it. Cherry Berry does all sorts of odd jobs around Ponyville- every pony knows that, too.

What not every pony knows is that Cherry Berry's passion is flying- quite unusual for an earth pony. She flies a balloon and a helicopter... and now she's working on something even better, with the help of other ponies and a lot of bits.

Inspired by the poem "High Flight" by John G. Magee, Jr.

Why I added it: Scribblefest!

Cherry Berry builds a biplane.

The story is, at its core, about Cherry Berry going around Ponyville collecting parts and help to get her airplane built, as well as doing odd jobs to raise bits to pay for the thing.

Alas, while I wanted to like this story a lot, it didn’t have that same sense of joy that I got from reading about the Wright brothers or other early aviators. There were a some individually (mildly) amusing scenes in the story, but taken as a whole, the story felt kind of erratic, and didn’t really feel like it was fully devoted to any one thing. It has some comedy in it, but it also seems to be trying to invoke some sense of invention and wonder, and the two just don’t end up blending very well. A lot of the jokes felt like things I’d seen before, and, as noted, I didn’t get the evocative sense of inventive wonder from it that I expect from stories about pioneering aviators.

The story is decently written, but it just didn’t really do anything for me as a unitary whole.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

The Kidnapping of Twilight Velvet
by Apple Bottoms
Adventure, Drama, Fluff
6,014 words

Twilight Velvet is enduring the unique pain of a mother saying goodbye to all of her children, left alone in a home too big for her. Imagine her surprise when she begins to find friendly notes and gifts left around the house for her by a loving husband. But - surprise! They are actually the bumbling attempts of the evil Changeling Queen Chrysalis to kidnap her and ransom her to Twilight Sparkle! But when things take a turn for the worse with the changelings, will Chrysalis and Twilight Velvet be able to work together to save a life?

Why I added it: It is a Scribblefest entry!

This story is tagged adventure and drama, but ultimately, it is a fluff piece. Long ago, some folks called these things WAFFs, short for Warm and Fuzzy Feelings.

This story starts out looking like a comedy – Twilight Velvet’s whole family is off to the various ends of Equestria, leaving her alone in her house. Alone, and vulnerable – at least in Queen Chryaslis’s eyes.

For Queen Chrysalis has a plan, you see:

1. Wait for all other ponies to leave the house.
Twilight Sparkle ✓
Wyrmling ✓
Twilight Sparkle’s father ✓
2. Break Twilight Sparkle’s mother’s spirit with threatening missives
3. Feed off of her fear
4. Frighten her with random noises, traps
5. When she is weakened from lack of sleep and fear, kidnap her and lay a trap for Twilight Sparkle!!!
6. Trade Twilight Sparkle’s mother’s life for the kingdom (mothers are very important in this society)
7. Rule Equestria as Queen!!!!!

As you can see, this is clearly the best plan ever, and Queen Chrysalis and her changelings are exactly as competent at leaving threatening notes as you’d expect from a bunch of ponies changelings who came up with such a great plan.

Unfortunately, their attempts at terrifying the unicorn with THREATENING NOTES and a DEADLY PLANT go poorly, and they are forced to escalate things with direct confrontation, which is disarmed by Twilight Velvet in the most motherly way possible.

While this story is very cute, the story itself feels a bit odd in places; in particular, the pacing of the second half of the story – Twilight Velvet’s confrontation with Chrysalis, combined with the fuzzy scenes which follow – are a bit compressed, with the characters seeming to make fairly large turns despite not having a lot of space in which to do so. I think they were running up against the contest word limit, but still, it somewhat diminished the impact of a lot of the emotional reveals and character development in the latter half of the piece.

Still, it succeeded in being a sort of warm-and-fuzzy feel good story, and if that is your sort of thing, you could certainly do worse than this story. But if you’re looking for something else – something less fuzzy and more substantive – the compression of the second half of this story might bother you.

Recommendation: Worth reading if you like fluff about moms.

Check Yourself Before You Tirek Yourself
by Present Perfect

Comedy, Random
2,594 words

It's the wrestling-mania event of the century! Everything is at stake! Two muscled titans enter the ring, vying for the Equestrian Belt, but only one will leave!

Will it be the Mad Minotaur of Minos, Iron Will?

Or the True Terror of Tartarus, Tirek?

Let's get ready to rumble!

Why I added it: How could I pass up on a pun that bad?

There are really two ways that a story with a title like that can go: it can either be hilariously stupid, or just stupid.

This story definitely has an audience, but it isn’t for me. This is one of those “intentional badfic” kind of stories, where the story is deliberately stupid, and is written in the hopes of crossing the line twice, so that it is “so bad it’s good”. Some folks might find that this story actually managed to accomplish this feat, but for me, it often felt like it either didn’t go far enough, or maybe went too far and crossed the line three times back into bad. Some of it is glorious – it has perhaps the single greatest saidism I’ve ever seen in a badfic – but a lot of it ends up feeling a lot like Rainbow Dash writing a bad fanfic. Which, well, it pretty much is, but the problem is that it often ends up feeling a bit too authentically bad, instead of crossing the line twice.

Obviously, it is hard to actually write a “crosses the line twice” story, but this story felt like it alternated between “actually funny” and “actually bad”, and unfortunately some of the stuff (like the epic fighting scene) probably ended up going on too long. Some parts of it actually ended up authentically funny, and, well, Rainbow Dash telling stories badly is intrinsically humorous, but in the end I’m not really sure that this crossed the finish line for me.

Recommendation: If you like intentional badfics, I suspect you’ll appreciate this more than I did.

Twilight Tries Not to Think
by Flutterpriest

Sad, Slice of Life
3,794 words

Lists are a simple way to keep yourself productive. If the list is detailed enough, you don't have to even think. The movements become mechanical. Automatic. Which might just be exactly what she needs right now. Anything to not have to think.

Why I added it: Scribblefest!

Twilight is depressed, and uses lists to make herself seem like she’s actually doing things and keeping herself busy, when she’s actually struggling to feel much of anything about anything. She doesn’t feel like anything can fill her up and lend meaning to her life, but she doesn’t want to bother anyone else with it. And she doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time by asking for help.

As a story about depression, this is actually quite decent. Twilight’s struggle to keep herself busy so that she doesn’t end up thinking about what a failure she is, and her search for something – anything – to make her feel better, so long as it isn’t realistically likely to help her (such as asking her friend for help, but sort of hoping that she’d notice) is all too realistic when it comes to depressed people. Twilight’s use of lists to organize her life and to try and lend her structure and meaning works well in conjunction with her depressed state, as does her subliminal desire for help but dislike of actually wanting any.

The biggest thing holding this story back was a lack of editing – the story contained several typos, as well as a number of tense and word errors. While no one error was all that bad, as I went through the story I kept noticing them, and they distracted me just enough so that I got to the next one still slightly distracted, and was distracted again. This made it hard to really feel immersed in the story.

I also have to admit that I felt a little bit put off by Twilight not really trying to do anything obviously either princess or magic-related – Twilight is the Princess of Friendship, and loves magic, but both were pretty noticeably absent from her schedule. While to some extent, this makes sense given her desire towards self-isolation here, squirrelling herself away from the world because she was hurting and didn’t want to bother anypony else with it, it was mentioned that she went and played with some fillies in the park for a bit, which seemed a bit random considering she didn’t seem to do anything “job-related” but still did end up around another pony.

In the end, I was left feeling somewhat ambivalent about the story. The core of the story was pretty good, and the idea of Twilight trying to use lists to stave off depression was a strong one, but the various textual errors and a slight niggling feeling of offness about Twilight’s tasks ended up making it hard for me to really embrace it whole-heartedly.

Recommendation: A decent story about depression, but held back by textual errors which are likely to be distracting to some people.

A Spoiled Diamond
by RDCrystalheart

Drama, Slice of Life
2,754 words

Diamond Tiara never knew what true friendship was, because she was raised in a completely different environment than other fillies and colts her age.

So how does she react to going to a totally different school in a totally different part of Equestria? And more importantly, how does her mother react?

Why I added it: Scribblefest!

This is the story of how Diamond Tiara came to live in Ponyville, why she disliked Apple Bloom, and how she became friends with Silver Spoon (and so distant from her parents).

Unfortunately, it didn’t really do a whole lot for me. The story tries to be descriptive, but a lot of the descriptions end up feeling pretty flat. On the whole, the story does quite a bit of telling rather than showing, in particular in its description of Diamond Tiara and Spoiled Rich. This isn’t terribly evocative, and the story doesn’t go much of anywhere interesting with it. Moreover, it is often muddled; if Diamond Tiara resents her mothers, why does she emulate her? Some of her actions make sense in that context, but others don’t, and it just feels like the whole thing sort of struggles to come together as a coherent whole.

Now, I’m going to talk about something in particular that this story does as an example, not to pick on the author, but to illustrate a point.

There are some folks who suggest that adjectives are bad. This is incorrect, but it touches on an important point – overuse of describer-type words (of which adjectives are a subset) can result in very awkward sentences. This story gives a fairly good example:

A small baby-pink filly emerged from the bottom of the tall staircase that resided at the heart of the lukewarm room. She looked up, and into the turquoise blue eyes of her mother, and gave her a small smile.

Diamond Tiara walked downstairs and smiled at her mother. Now, taking 39 words to describe what you can say in 9 words isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does slow your story down. Here, however, we’re getting an infodump – we’re having the writer rapidly throw in a bunch of descriptions which don’t really matter a whole lot, but which bulk up the writing.

Now, that’s not to say that describing your surroundings aren’t important; knowing where things are happening, and what it is like to be where the story takes place, can be a good way to pull someone into a story. Here, though, a great deal is being thrown at the reader, and a lot of it just doesn’t matter all that much. Using “small baby-pink filly” is awkward; it is two modifiers, and while you can pull it off, the fact that she’s baby-pink is pretty irrelevant. A small filly would suffice for Diamond Tiara; emphasizing her smallness here is potentially appropriate to represent her lack of power compared to her parents, but the fact that she’s baby-pink seems largely irrelevant, and just adds on two words (including the unusual construction baby-pink) for no particularly good reason.

Likewise, the description of her mother’s eyes as turquoise blue is meh. Why does that matter? If you want to be evocative, give us a description which summons emotion. Why is her eye color important here? The description should instead emphasize Diamond Tiara’s relationship with her mother, or her mother’s internal character (comparing her eyes to storm-tossed waves might reflect her emotional turmoil, for instance, or might emphasize being “far from shore” in an emotional sense).

Lukewarm is also a weak descriptor here. If you’re going to try and be emotionally evocative, using a word which is more meaningful to the point which is being made here would work a lot better.

The rest of it – the tall staircase, the heart of the room – these things don’t end up really mattering at all. Using an excess of description on the environment pulls away from the things which are really important; if you’re going to describe a room, do it in a way that helps either add character (telling us something about Diamond Tiara/Filthy Rich/Spoiled Rich), reinforces emotion (the character’s perspective bleeding over into their description of the room can help to show their mindset to the reader), or advance the plot (if the environment is in some way important to the story, that needs to be shown to the reader). Here, emphasizing reasons why Diamond Tiara might want a new environment to live in might be useful for reinforcing her decision to agree with her father to move to Ponyville.

Another thing worth noting is that the story sort of struggles tonally; presenting Diamond Tiara as being powerless in the face of her mother would likely reinforce her feelings of resentment for her, and so having Filthy and Spoiled agree on moving to Ponyville over Diamond Tiara’s protests would be more powerful for her character here than giving her agency in the decision. If the purpose of the story is instead to show Diamond Tiara being spiteful, then she needs to be given more agency elsewhere to hit back at her mother in a sort of backhanded way. Instead, the story ends up feeling like it isn’t really coherent, as it seems to be at odds with itself in terms of any message it is trying to deliver.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

My Flight by Kris Overstreet
Not Recommended

The Kidnapping of Twilight Velvet by Apple Bottoms
Worth Reading

Check Yourself Before You Tirek Yourself by Present Perfect
Not Recommended

Twilight Tries Not to Think by Flutterpriest
Not Recommended

A Spoiled Diamond by RDCrystalheart
Not Recommended

And there we go, a standard set of TD hating everything reviews :V

Okay, not quite everything, and not hating, but still. I’m sure many of you are having flashbacks to the bad old days.

I’ve got six more Scribblefest entries to get through this evening, so expect more reviews at some point this week, most likely.

Number of stories still listed as Read It Sooner: 122

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later: 432

Number of stories listed as Read It Eventually: 1876

Comments ( 9 )

Thanks for the review! You're right, the second half was unfortunately compressed due to the word limit I ran into, oops!! I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of it! :raritywink:

I haven't read "Twilight Tries Not To Think", but your description reminds me a lot of JawJoe's "I Feel Fantastic!"

Author Interviewer

I literally have no idea why I submitted that story. :B

Did you at least get the central joke? I think it goes over most people's heads, probably because no one but me cares.

I've submitted basically everything of mine but Crepes to the group, so...

Besides, it meant that I read it. :V

And, uh, maybe? Not sure.

The saidism joke was pretty much the best thing in it to me. Best bad saidism ever.

Author Interviewer

The central joke is the answer to "Why did Tirek turn into a dinosaur?" <.<

Is it a reference to Walk the Dinosaur?

I honestly had no clue why that happened.

Author Interviewer

Much like with the great linguistic tragedy of "Tartauros" in season two, all throughout Twilight's Kingdom, Tara Strong was saying "Tee-rek" instead of "Tirrik". So when you throw him into the Mirror Pool, one Tee-rek becomes two Tee-reks. Or one T-Rex! Also they're totally featherless predators. :V

Okay, that's actually a pretty terrible pun. I did get that it was the mirror pool, but I didn't get why it made him into a dinosaur.

Author Interviewer

I figured if anyone would appreciate a terrible pun, it's you. :B

Of course, now I realize how I could have telegraphed that pun a little more. Oh well, hindsight.

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