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Learn for Life

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For Those That Yearn for Adventure: SweetAI Belle's "Noi and Bloo's Big Adventure" · 1:48am Nov 16th, 2017

Wait this is only 1,000 words long this isn't big at all what the he— Oh, hello! Trying to get back into the swing of things, I've chosen to look at the stories of someone I've had my eye on for a while, SweetAI Belle. This particular story caught my eye because of its brevity: 1,000 words, and worked to be exactly that after extending its original 100-word form. Let's explore one of the shortest adventures we will embark upon. Ladies and gentlemen, fillies and gentlecolts, this is

Noi and Bloo's Big Adventure
by SweetAI Belle
Year Published: 2015
Tags: Adventure
Word Count: 1,100 (yes, I know it's 1,096 according to FimFiction, but I don't follow da rules SweetAI Belle wrote the extended version with 1,000)

Noi had a quiet evening planned. Cleaning her room, some homework, and nothing too out of the ordinary for a Sunday afternoon.

Bloo, however, had much different ideas, and Noi wouldn't let down a friend, would she?

Preread by Elric of Melnipony

Will she let her friend down? What awaits Noi and Bloo on their big adventure? What will they find in the end? Will Noi clean her room and finish her homework? Read the story to find out!

Review Commences Now

A while back, there was a thread where palelordhiphis had posted the steps of a heroes journey and had a chart breaking down roughly how many words each section should be for different lengths of story.
I noticed that it went down to one hundred words, and just for fun, I decided to write a one hundred word story with exactly that number of words in each section. I did, and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I couldn't publish it, though. I put it in a blog, but that still bugged me.

—SweetAI Belle

I've bolded and colored the word thread, as it wasn't like that in the original story, in case you'd like to read a chart/explanation/theory(?) on the hero's journey. This story uses it, and the chart provided with word counts, to write the story. There are 12 total sections, and I'd like to look at each one and see what SweetAI Belle did with it.

Step 1: Ordinary World

Noi was a perfectly ordinary filly. She liked reading books and playing games as much as anypony else. She did like things to be neat and tidy, but didn't most ponies?

On this particular Sunday, Noi was busy cleaning up her room when there was a knock on her door. (50/1000)

Noi was an ordinary filly. (5/100)

*cough* Anyway, the 100-word version gets right to the point: there's nothing out of the ordinary about Noi, and now we can expect something out of the ordinary about her. It's the filly version of Phileas Fogg.

The 1,000-word version puts in a bit more nuance. Noi likes books and games as much as anypony else, which would be a nice way to establish a contrast between herself and Bloo, the more adventurous filly. Having her clean up her room is a nice scene-setter, a contrast between the orderliness of control and the unpredictability of adventure, for a tale such as this. I am split on the "but didn't most ponies" part. On the one hand, it is a nice quirk that may be perceived as normal for her, but is actually odd for somepony as young as her (in my experience, at least). On the other hand, it does sound like filler when I read it, simply because there isn't enough of an explanation. Saying she liked things to be tidy would've been enough; is that other part of the sentence necessary?

Or am I just nitpicking, like the persnickety bastard I usually am? Getting more positive, it has nice imagery in the brevity it has, not having any (or many) dead words in it, and it describes Noi right from the get-go. Which leads us into the next section.

Step 2: Call to Adventure

She opened it to find her best friend Bloo staring back at her. It seemed like Bloo was always up to some sort of mischief. Her packed saddlebags and the grin on her face said that she had something special planned for today.

"Let's go on an adventure!"

An adventure? (100/1,000)

"Let's go on an adventure!" (10/100)

How can you get more concise than that? Let's go on an adventure! Typical kids' stuff, and gets right into the swing of things.

The extended version adds a good contrast: Bloo's a mischief-maker, which will lead Noi into the unknown, and potentially into trouble. And she came prepared, too, with full saddlebags and essential excited grin, which feels necessary for a story about launching into adventure. I like the tone of the story, and the language it uses is both expressive and devoid of fat. If I were to get really nitpicky, I would say that "staring back" isn't really the right image here; though not technically wrong, it does conjure up an image that's contradictory to what's happening. Staring back, to me, implies that Noi was staring at her first. I think, "staring excitedly" or "staring right" would have been better, but that may just be me. Again, it's not technically wrong, and I don't think I've explained it well here.

It's still a well-written section, with great characterization and contrast.

Step 3: Refusal of the Call

Looking back towards her room, it was still going to take a while to finish. And didn't she have something else she was supposed to be doing?

"No, Bloo, I'm kinda busy right now. Can't it wait?"

Bloo blinked, as if the thought of Noi refusing hadn't occurred to her. (150/1,000)

"No, Bloo, I'm kinda busy." (15/100)

Kinda is a word that I don't really understand; it sticks out as not serving a purpose here. Still, the conciseness of everything is still strong here.

In the extended version, I liked the last sentence here, serving as the first moment of tension. She just refused her friend; now what's she going to do? There is a bunch of stuff that needs to be done as well; dropping everything at a moment's notice to go on an adventure is classic, and I applaud SweetAI Belle for keeping everything so simple.

Now for the criticism: "Can't it wait?" sounds odd coming from a foal. "Can it wait?" may sound more normal, but "Can't it wait?" doesn't seem to fit what's going on; it's too dismissive, or more fitting when a character's under a time constraint. "Maybe later, okay?" or "Some other time?" may've worked better. But on the other hand, maybe I just don't hear it, and it actually works after all.

Still, what is going on is still packed with significance, and the characterization is bold and vivid.

Step 4: Meeting the Mentor

"It'll be a lot of fun, though! And I can't go without you!" (:twilightsmile: D'aww!)


"You must," Twilight Sparkle said, stepping towards them. Noi looked at her, startled. Maybe she had teleported in? Of course, she was a princess. If Twilight wanted her to go, her room would have to wait. (200/1,000)

"You must," Twilight Sparkle said. (20/100)

"It's your destiny," said Twilight. The mentor doesn't have time for foolin' around, see, she's gotta get Noi on her adventure! She's the best expedient mentor.

The extended section is just cute. How'd Twilight get into her room? Who cares? She wants Noi to go on an adventure, and who's going to turn down the princess of friendship? What's consistent with the storytelling style is how Noi thought her room would have to wait; it's the moment where she's going to leave her comfort zone and go off on adventure. And Bloo gave her motivation, which is lmost always nice to have in a story (I say almost, in case there's an odd case where lack of motivation makes a story better).

Step 5: Crossing the Threshold

"Okay," the two of them said, Noi a bit more reluctantly than Bloo.

"But why do we have to go?" she asked, but Twilight was already gone. What a strange day this was already turning out to be.

Noi grabbed her saddlebags, and the two of them set off together. (250/1,000)

"Okay!" The two left together. (25/100)

And we're off!

Honestly, I can't think of any criticism for either part of this. The smaller version gets it going without any delay, and the extended version is able to give Noi a bit of mystery and suspense, and Bloo enthusiasm right by her side. Everything fits so well together: the characters, the characterization, the emotions, the actions, the setting, the stakes, and the mystery. We move away from Act I on a high note, and get into Act II.

Step 6: Tests, Allies, Enemies

It wasn't that long after the two of them [had] left that Noi realised what had been in the back of her mind to do today. She groaned.

"Oh no, I forgot my math homework!"

It wasn't like she hadn't started it, but it was due tomorrow, and she needed to finish it tonight. Would she be able to finish it in time?

Bloo shrugged. "I've got it."

What? "You've got it?" she repeated blankly.

"Remember we were studying together? You left it with me. It's in my bag. We can finish on the way back."

Oh. She had been planning on stopping by Bloo's to finish it.

"Yay!" she said, relieved, as that was kind of a difficult assignment. The two of them continued on. (375/1,000)

"Oh, no, I forgot my math homework!" Noi said.

"I got it."

"Yay!" (38/100)

Here's where I begin to question the chart provided. This doesn't seem like a long-enough time to devote to this. I'd think that this should take up the majority of the story, as this is the main journey being taken. The following sections are encountering the final enemy, and they're of an equal length to this, which I find baffling.

As is, this part of the story feels the most awkward (apart from one section, which I'll get to later). I think I understand what SweetAI Belle was going for, giving the responsible Noi a fitting internal conflict, and having Bloo prove her loyalty and friendship by having it for her. The language used (aside from a potentially-dead "kind of") is still really good in both sections, and I can appreciate its implication to this story: Noi's learning not to worry so much, and is enjoying the journey.

With that being said, there isn't much of an adventure to go on. No lands to cross, no creatures to deal with, no Scootaloos damsels that need saving, no riddles to solve, no perils to face. I know that the challenge was to write the trials in 1/8 of the adventure, and SweetAI Belle did as much as she could, but it feels lacking in the overall story. It's still nice, but it does feel lacking. That's why I question the length chosen for this part.

Step 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

After they'd been walking for a while, something occurred to Noi. "Bloo, where are we going, anyways?"

Bloo stopped and rummaged through her saddlebag, her tongue sticking out, (Not specifically to this story,
I wonder if this little action indicates something about a character's personality...) and pulled out a piece of paper.

"I found this map! 'X' marks the spot, see?"

Peering at the paper, Noi could indeed see a big red 'X' marked there. [OH, I see what you did there, author!

"How long 'til we get there, then?"

"I think we're almost there, actually. Let's split up and look around for anything exciting."

The two fillies searched around the area until Noi heard Bloo call out. "Over here!"

Noi quickly tucked the neat-looking stick she'd been looking at under the strap on her saddlebag, and ran over to Bloo.

"Is that a cave ahead?"

"Yeah! Let's explore it!" (500/1,000)

"Is that a cave ahead?"

"Let's explore!"

They bravely went on inside. (50/100)

The short version still has a good amount of conciseness, and the extended version feels like an actual adventure (which makes me retract some of my earlier statement about the journey being lacking), but being the nitpicky person that I am, I do need to call one word into attention in the extended version. If Noi and Bloo are looking around a presumably non-linear area, and Bloo calls Noi over to a specific spot, then would it really be fitting to ask if what they're seeing is a cave ahead? It works in the small version, as there's no indication of how they're travelling, so there may actually be a cave ahead of their path. In the extended version, the place they're at isn't a straight road (I presume, if they're splitting up), so saying that a cave is ahead of them may be accurate, but it doesn't make sense in terms of what's happening.

Anyway, getting more positive, I really like the foreshadowing that happens in the extended part; SweetAI Belle put in a lot of care in crafting the extended version, and I appreciate it. I like the neat-looking stick as well, not just as a Chekhov's Gun (I really hope I'm using that correctly), but also just the imagery. It's not just a stick to use for later; it's interesting to Noi, so it's important to the adventure, and not just the plot.

Step 8: Supreme Ordeal

The two of them cautiously walked inside. The inside of the cave was pretty dark, but fortunately, Bloo had a flashlight. Any time they reached a corner, she'd poke the flashlight around, and they'd take a quick peek before going on.

The twisty dirt paths in the cave had claw marks along them, and all seemed rather sooty. Noi was getting more and more worried, but Bloo seemed oblivious, and she was hardly going to leave her friend behind.

Finally, looking around one bend, a big scowling dragon [A misplaced modifier] was looking straight back at them!


Bloo just stood there, petrified with fear.

Thinking fast, Noi pulled her stick from her back and whacked the dragon right between the eyes. It fell to the ground, motionless. (625/1,000)

"Roar!!!" a dragon bellowed from the cave. Noi poked it with a stick. (63/100)

The action picks up throughout the extended version, and things become exciting. The unexpected resolution is a nice touch, and I personally found it funny. It sticks with the theme of the hero's journey, and it switches roles for the characters: Bloo is no longer the one pressing forward, and Noi acts against her orderly ordinary ways. I especially like the tension built up with the claw marks and the sootiness, and how Noi wouldn't turn back so she could protect her friend.

The original version is straight to the point. There's a threat, and it's dealt with in a clever manner. Problem solved, BAM!

Step 9: The Reward

Wide-eyed, Bloo looked at Noi. "D'ya think it's dead?"

Still in shock at what she'd done, Noi went a little closer, and then spotted a whisp of smoke coming from one nostril.

"Just knocked out, I think. Let's check."

"Are you sure that's safe?"

Noi very much doubted it was, but she slowly walked right up to the dragon, and it just lay there. As she got closer, she could see a bump forming on its head, making her start feeling a little guilty.

It was laying on all sort of gems and gold and glittery, shiny objects, though, and some of them looked pretty neat.

"Come on, Bloo! We'll be fine."

Bloo reluctantly walked over, and they filled both of their saddlebags before leaving. (750/1,000)

Lots of shiny objects surrounded the unconscious dragon. They both filled their saddlebags. (76/100)

I like the role reversal here, though wonder if it's appropriate. Noi's the calmer one out of the two, I think, so shouldn't Bloo be the more adventurous one here? It conflicts with a later part as well:

"Was taking those things really right?"

It sticks out to me as odd, but the trepidation and excitement is all well and good. It feels like a fitting conclusion to this battle. You have to make sure you're safe before you can claim your treasure, or else you're going to get hurt. So I can get behind Noi being the one to check out the dragon here. Her feeling guilty is a nice touch of characterization, and fits in with the tone of the story.

The short version is much more to the point. It shows the reward, and the fillies indulge in it without any fat around it before scampering off into the sunset. That rounds out Act II, and brings us to the three parts of Act III.

Part 10: The Road Back

After they'd gotten safely away, Noi realised something was bothering her.

"Was taking those things really right? They were the dragon[']s, after all, and we were in its cave."

"I doubt it's going to complain to anyone, Noi."

"Yeah, but-"

"Besides, some things had other ponies' names on them. They were probably stolen."

"Well, alright, I guess.[,]" Noi said. "What about our homework, though?"

"You and homework!" Bloo sighed. Since there weren't many problems left, they stopped and finished it before heading back. (853/1,000)

The two fillies quickly headed back to Ponyville. (83/100)

Gotta be responsible with that homework, otherwise all of that gold would've been for naught.

...what am I even on about?

Anyway, this little section is alright, I think. It may be ludicrous to think about homework after fighting a dragon, but maybe this is just normal in Ponyville. Looking at the Hero's Journey, the link where the story introduction led to the blog, which led to it, I must say that it matches the description of it, but not entirely. I don't think homework completely matches the end of the journey, or at least the rest of the story. To better explain it, I need to show the next section.

Part 11: Resurrection

"We had plenty of time to finish our homework tonight, you know," Bloo grumbled, as they finally reached Ponyville’s outskirts.

"But now we've already finished it, so that time's ours to do whatever we want. That's why I don't put it off too long."

"That's quite right." They turned to find Miss Cheerilee behind them, smiling.

"Oh, um, hi, Miss Cheerilee," Bloo stammered. "We were just-"

"Just giving me your homework, I believe?"

Handing Miss Cheerilee their homework, they continued to Noi’s house. (916/1,000)

"Your homework's due!" They handed it to Cheerilee. (91/100)

The resurrection is where a final test, and a sacrifice, must be made. The final test is Noi and Bloo needing to finish their homework, but that was already done. Noi wanted to complete her homework and be responsible, and she already did that. Cheerilee taking it doesn't help with this part as much as I think it should. Maybe I'm not seeing how it fits in with The Resurrection, but I do think that making Bloo finish the homework with her before going through the gold and gems and whatnot would've been more consistent. I don't think it works with the original version, either.

With that being said, the characterization, language usage and moral at the end is still very nice. It's one part that works better in the extended version compared to the original; it's less abrupt and out-of-nowhere.

Part 12: Returning With The Elixir

Tired, the two lay down on Noi’s bed. Emptying their saddlebags, they heaped everything into one big pile and started figuring out what was somepony else's and what they wanted.

"I still wonder why Twilight wanted us to go, though," Noi said, dropping a necklace in her pile.

"I've got an idea about that," Bloo replied, holding up a circular purple pendant. Engraved on the outside was "Twilight Sparkle". [That foreshadowing came back. :yay:]

"Huh. Wonder what that's for?"

That, however, was a story for another day.

The End. (1,000/1,000)

Getting home, they divided their loot.

The End. (100/100)

This is a very good ending. Their elixir was the gold and gems, and they dealt with it like a pair of dragonslayers adventurers should.

The extended version adds a great resolution. Not only are they keeping things for themselves, but they're also helping other ponies. Twilight's pendant being a part of the loot makes the adventure make a lot more sense, and the ending continues the greatness of adventure: there's always more to discover. And it's just as tight as nearly everything else about this story.

After that observation, here's what I've come up with: "Noi and Bloo's Big Adventure" provides a tightly-written, pleasing-to-the-ears, fun adventure with both the original and extended version. I find it fascinating how much characterization, drama, and adventure is placed in each section, and though I think the strict adherence to the word count stifles it in a few ways, I think the challenge was well-met head on by SweetAI Belle, with the exception of the Resurrection. If she continues writing, I think she really needs to watch her use of "kinda" and "kind of," but the rest of the grammar is good; I especially notice her correct usage of lay vs. laid. Overall, I think this is a good read, and recommend it in its entirety, not just broken up like this.

In comparison's sake, the original version boils each section to its essence, while still providing a fun adventure. The extended version has some things missing that I think would've benefitted, but the extra explanations it offers conjure up a good amount of suspense as well.

And SweetAI Belle, if you've read this, I would like to say that I mean no discouragement or disrespect with my criticisms. This is just as much a tool to help me learn writing as it is a review of your work. I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.

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