• Member Since 25th May, 2012
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Twilight is Magic

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  • 200 weeks
    Happy Changeling Day

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    0 comments · 192 views
  • 215 weeks
    What year is this, again?

    It's been six and a half years since I last laid eyes upon this account of mine.

    Six and a half years.

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    3 comments · 263 views
  • 555 weeks
    So where the hay have I been anyway?

    Unlikely though it may be, some of you might have noticed that I kinda vanished from FiMFiction there for a while. Do not be alarmed: I'm still alive. More or less, anyway.

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  • 566 weeks
    Random blog post #4: On alicorns and princesses, or Forget everything you knew

    (Disclaimer: This is not one of those whiner posts I am sure are going up everywhere like mushrooms in a temperate forest after a good rain. Neither it is a cheering-on post. I am hoping to retain the neutral middle ground. It is, however, brought about by the announcement for the S3 finale. Consider yourself spoiler-warned. And pardon the pretentious title—those are meant to grab attention,

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    5 comments · 604 views
  • 570 weeks
    The Holiday Cheer Post

    Hello everypony, it's TIM again! :twilightsmile: Well, there isn't too much variety here, with only me posting and all, but that's beside the point!

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    3 comments · 421 views

Surviving the Darkest Hour: the grand send-off article, making-of, inspirations and final judgement · 2:26pm Oct 20th, 2012

Helllloooooooo, everypony!

Just a few days agp, the final chapter of Darkest Hour has been uploaded! The story is now complete, and I am now free from Chrysalis's evil mind-controlling spell! :yay:Huzzah!!:yay:

To celebrate the occasion, I decided to make a long, long article dedicated to about everything related to the story: how I conceived it, how it came to be, what was it like writing it and what were the inspirations behind its many scenes and characters. Darkest Hour is the first true work of fiction I wrote, so this is also an account of a would-be writer's work on his first piece, and because of how important it is to me I'm keeping it detailed.

The end result is as long as a chapter of Darkest Hour itself. I'll be honest, I'm just writing this for myself, to get the story out of my system and do all the talking-about-it that didn't happen in the comments or other discussions. Nevertheless, if you are in the mood for a lengthy behind-the-scenes, what-the-hay-was-he-thinking article, head right down.

For your convenience, I'm separating it into more-or-less distinct parts. The first is the story of how the fic came to be, the second is the timeline/description of its making, the third is the descriptions of ideas and inspirations behind the things in the story and the fourth is the afterword and judgement I'm passing on the story (although this article itself is, in a way, one giant afterword).

A word of warning: there are spoilers in the paragraphs ahead, although I doubt somepony not of the brave few who made it through the story will read it anyway. I will be talking a while, as well, so if you're not interested in my ramblings or are just here because Twilight is magic (you know who you are! Head right to the end!), do scroll far, far, far down, past the buffalo.

Now, let us begin. :moustache:

1. Once upon a time: the beginnings of the story.

~Rarity, just before many a misadventure

Back in May, when I was rewatching the Season 2 finale for yet another time. I paid particular attention to the changelings, Queen Chrysalis and their takeover of Canterlot, complete with wall-climbing and divebombing. I found them fascinating: the first true evil minion army in FiM, a dramatic villain with quite a lot of flair and an interesting design, and the an impressive battle. After watching it with such a focus, I was left wondering: what are the changelings' tactics? What was happening in the streets of Canterlot when the Mane 6 were trying to reach the Elements and up until the changelings were banished? Most of all, where the hay did they all come from?

Sadly, the screentime they have in the episodes isn't long enough to provide the answers to any of these questions, and as a result, I could only speculate. My brain started to conjure up possible explanations and depictions of all sorts, and a general consensus among my thoughts was: I want to see more changelings. In particular, the idea of a sudden takeover seemed particularly interesting, but yet again, the one taking place in A Canterlot Wedding did not get nearly enough development for me to be satisfied with it.

One day, somewhere in the twenties of May, a much more particular idea struck me: Queen Chrysalis seemed to know what she was doing, planning-wise, the whole crippling overconfidence thing aside; what if this was not the first time she attempted to subjugate a city? What if there were other massed changeling attacks in the past? Castles stormed, ponies fighting back against overwhelming odds, with Chrysalis presiding over the entire thing as a deceptive sorceress? Can you say awesome?:rainbowdetermined2:

Needless to say, the idea stuck. Over the next couple of days, it lurked at the back of my mind, gathering details, and then leapt out on me on the morning of the third. I realized that I wanted to make a story about such an event.

Here, I'll have to make a digression. For years, I've been rather fond of making up various stories in my head for the purposes of entertaining myself and exercising my own imagination, and I rather enjoy doing that. If allowed to stay idle, my mind is likely to come up with an idea and develop it, just for fun. However, there were only a few cases when I put something thus developed to writing, and they never went anywhere far or even reached completion because I grew dissatisfied with them.

The factor that changed this is ponies. FiM and bronydom's peculiar atmosphere seems to encourage creativity and self-expression, at least in me. For the first time, I didn't just want to make up a few ideas, but to create a full story and share it with others. I realized that I actually wanted to do such a thing for quite a while, but never found an audience to present a story to. And finally, here it was.
Digression over.:twilightsheepish:

With the decision firmly in my head, I started to develop this core idea into something that could become a story. First came a simple question: where could such a changeling attack have taken place? Equestria is the only country we currently know of, and an event like that anywhere near the show's days would have precluded the surprise at the changelings' appearance in Canterlot. However, it wasn't always the case--as Hearth's Warming Eve showed.

There was my answer! It was a perfect match: the Pre-Classical era, the end of which Hearth's Warming Eve probably depicts, was a very long time ago, and many events that transpired then could have been forgotten or nearly so. It had ponies (duh!), and a kind that was more militant and used to hardship than what we see in the harmonious Equestrian present, which is perfect for a story that involves quite a bit of conflict and fighting. And of course, it had castles, or at the very least, one--the seat of power of the Unicorn tribe.

The question of a protagonist for the story also resolved itself automatically: who is the one unicorn everypony thinks about when they hear 'Pre-Classical era'? Star Swirl the Bearded, the pony Gandalf/Merlin/bigwig magic guy, of course!

With the setting thus established, I began to flesh it out. Here is another important point: I do very much love detailed descriptions, so fleshing the world of the story out was a source of great fun to me. Eventually this came back to bite me in the flank, but more on that in the next points. Regardless, in another couple days I felt that I was ready to begin writing the story in earnest, and so got to work.

The plot really wrote itself: in the Pre-Classical era, with much less love to go around than in modern Equestria, changelings struggle to survive and attempt to take its meager supply under control. However, the Windigo-aided, hatred-filled winter did not seem to be a good place and time for changelings to have enough strength to fight anything. Thus, the temporal whereabouts of the story became clearer: years before the events of Hearth's Warming Eve, before the Windigoes started affecting the pony tribes so strongly. My initial impression was that it had been going on for a while, and so the story had to take place a while before HWE, and the legendary figures shown in that episode, such as Clover the Clever or Princess Platinum, hadn't been born yet. Star Swirl the Bearded, who was already eminent by the time of the leaders' expedition if Clover's words are any evidence, was still young.

There was one remaining snag in the plan: how can the Chrysalis attacking Canterlot in the show be the same one that assaulted the Unicorn tribe eons before? Such a long life span would be nothing short of immortality. Then it came to me: what if there was a reason behind the naming of the Canterlot Archives section that stores time spells after Star Swirl the Bearded? What if he was a master of time magic? A spell that threw Chrysalis out of their time and deposited her farther ahead could do the trick! But magic of this caliber would have to be very difficult to cast, and if Star Swirl was young then, how could he manage it without being too overpowered? Why, he'd have had help, an artifact or a magical phenomenon, and that event could probably awaken his interest in time magic that, ages later, caused the association of it with his name!

And pretty much the next day, I suddenly came across The Final Quest of Star Swirl the Bearded, by JohnPerry. At first I went : a Star Swirl story I didn't know about going on just as I get the idea for one? I read the chapters of the story that were already up, and found that the last one ended with the appearance of a changeling.

My brain immediately sounded the alarm. What if John was going to turn them into a completely different bunch from what I had in mind? Granted, I didn't have much, but some essential things like leadership and numbers were important. Immediately I felt the need to contact him, but for more than just a clarification of his plans: I noticed that he was responsible for pre-reading several fics I'd read, and thought of asking him to help me in that matter. In addition, instead of having competing versions and descriptions of the same characters and places, I decided to also ask him to cooperate with me in this, mainly by way of him writing ahead and myself making sure I don't contradict the Quest.

To my great joy, his response was affirmative. The changelings were not going to play a major part in his piece, but he even decided to do a minor shout-out to my (then-future) story, which thus became a loosely-affiliated prequel.

And so, the work on Darkest Hour began.

2. The long road: a timeline of the writing process

I must create!
~Rarity, an instant before stepping into a tub of water

The time of continuous writing was upon me. At first, I was tentative, afraid of overloading the potential readers and making them bored (which, in retrospect, was inevitable). It caused me to cut back on characterization and the number of characters involved. Overall, as you can see, I was looking out for the wrong sort of thing. A month went by, in which I managed to get to roughly where Chapter 5 is now.

In regards to pre-reading, I believe I was doing something entirely wrong--I asked JohnPerry to look through the unfinished versions. In fact, while saying 'pre-reading', I was thinking of more than the actual hunting-down of mistakes. What I needed apart from that was an all-around helpful advisor who I could run ideas by to determine whether they're plausible, and I believe this not to be part of a pre-reader's duties.

And yet, JohnPerry helped me out with that as well and continued to valiantly bear with me, for which I am forever grateful. His aid came at a pivotal point, when I was just learning to actually write, and helped me avoid many of the worst pitfalls that I could've become a victim of. Believe me, however bad Darkest Hour is now, it would've been much worse if not for him. Obi-John Kenobi is a good teacher.

In truth, I was not following any particular style, and this was another of my mistakes. I did not have any technique to speak of. Mostly I just wrote from my head, only cutting the more unwieldy sentences down to size and trying to keep everything and everypony plausible. What I was doing was writing out my thoughts, and not a finely styled text.

Time went on, and so did the progression on the story. Around the middle of July, I went on a vacation that spanned the rest of the month, which, just as I'd hoped, turned out to be a perfect place to write. The entirery of Chapters 8 and 9 and the majority of the epilogue were written there, and the storyline was concluded shortly after I returned home.

Why didn't I post any of the chapters when they were first completed, or start uploading the story when I finished the last, then? Because from the very beginning I knew that the first version was going to be nothing but a complete and utter failure:raritydespair:. As I wrote my way through, my vision of the story improved, and so when I went back to look through everything, the parts written at the start fell far short of my expectations in all ways except one—that it was bad. And so, the rewrites began.

Half of August went by in rather sporadic attempts at rewording and remaking several parts of the story, but the going was slow. My motivation began to flag, and seeing problems in multiple spots of the story, I was trying to fix them all at once. You can imagine how well that went. By the time the week before EFNW rolled in, I finally realised that writing a story of such length is rather hard without submitting its earlier parts for reading and criticism by the viewers, because I could have been going in a completely wrong direction that this criticism could save me from.

And so, this much more logical way finally broke through to my mind's eye. I went right back to the beginning, which I'd already rewritten nearly word by word by that point, and ran a final check of it. I threw together a header image using one of the ideas I had that could be done with my meager picture editing skills, Paint.NET and some time. I created the entry for the story on FiMfiction, combined the two and sent it in.

Thus did Darkest Hour's journey across the vast gulfs of FiMfiction begin.

Oh, this is simply taking forever!
~Princess Platinum, after five minutes of walking

The first chapter was quickly approved and went up, to my great pride and joy. JohnPerry mentioned it in a special blogpost, which helped attract the story's first and most loyal readers, who stuck with me until the end and who I'll thank personally at the end of this great wall of memory. They quickly found the first and most damaging mistake I'd committed while writing the story, but at the time it didn't seem like such a big issue to me, and would have required a great amount of work to fix. And so, heedless, I continued on.

The second chapter was a whole different affair from the first, and also set the tone for the rest of the work I had to do on this story. It hadn't been truly rewritten before, and so a far cry from any presentable shape, and I needed to make changes and additions to bring it up to date with my newer vision of the fic. Things were reworded, rewritten and even completely reimagined to better suit the story. In the end, what I had on my hooves was a whole different chapter, with the only true remnant of the original being its structure.

The process repeated itself on a greater scale with Chapter Three. I was completely dissatisfied with the original version of the battle, and so made a brand new one using the new and refined ideas I'd developed since I wrote that part. Starting with that chapter, not a single word from the originals remained in the final versions of the chapters—everything from Chapter 4 until the very end of the epilogue has been written anew, often using the first version only as a loose basis. Considering that parts of them had been rewritten already, such as the first half of the epilogue, it means that some places in the story have been written thrice.

What dissatisfied me the most were my initial descriptions: they were clunky and unwieldy, delivered in overly long sentences and frankly a pain to read. If you survived my revised descriptions, you can understand just how immeasurably terrible those were. In fact, not just the descriptions, but the majority of the original versions was written in this sort of lack-of-style, to boot. I have no idea how did JohnPerry get through them alive.

(If you got to this part, you have cartloads of patience. Post the word 'chimicherrychangelings' somewhere in your comment to show your dauntless explorer's spirit!)

The rewrites and updates continued to sail smoothly on until the period between Chapters 6 and 7. At a point around the posting of Chapter 3, I submitted Darkest Hour to EqD. As you might expect, it received a rejection. The 'grammatical mistakes' cited in the rejection were, frankly, either nothing or rather debatable, but the first point presented in the letter was, as I later understood, the exact same thing first pointed out to me by my readers—that the fic is much too slow.

Although my mind had no trouble with that, seeing as I didn't really expect to succeed, I couldn't quite control the emotional response. That was the first true blow to my morale since I started uploading the story to FiMfiction. For a few days, I had to stop and regroup, and only then continue writing.

The final stages of the story's writing process were, in a way, similar to what is going on in those chapters in the story itself—an uphill struggle. This was mostly because I finally realised that Darkest Hour's failings are inherent in how it is written, and that correcting them would require a complete recreation of the story nearly from the ground up. Needless to say, after four months spent making it, I wasn't exactly inclined to spend two more for what would only be a marginal gain, seeing as stories of its kind are not that popular anyway.

All of this weighed me down and sapped my will to continue. By the time I reached Chapter 10, I had very little of it left. I became convinced that my story is utter drivel, and as you can guess, it did not help my spirits. Nevertheless, I had one motivating factor that could not be taken away like that: I needed to finish the story so as not to let my readers down. After uploading Chapter 10, this was the one remaining driving force that I had left, and it still took nearly a week for it to bring me into gear to rewrite the epilogue and complete the story at last.

3. Full spectrum descriptions: thoughts and inspirations behind Darkest Hour

This wasn't a mess! It was organized chaos!
~Rarity, being Rarity

This is what the timeline of the story's creation looks like. Now, I'll skip to something potentially less boring: the things that influenced or inspired me to write things the way I did. Of course, it would be kind of hard to write a ponyfic without ponies, so there's them, but there were many other ideas in my head that caused the scenes and characters present in the fic to be the way they are now. Below, I'll talk a bit about all of them. Skip straight past the wall of text for the final judgement if you're not interested.

First of all, there are the overcast sky and the ever-present rain that span the entire story but the epilogue. Of course, it's partially symbolic of the threat the Unicorn tribe and all of ponykind are under, but it also helps create an oppressive atmosphere that gives that threat a fitting backdrop to unfold against. The clearing of the sky in the end is, similarly, showing that the crisis has been resolved (although, as the stinger at the end shows, not for all that long).

The slow way the starting chapters of the fic are was also meant to serve that end—to create such an atmosphere and impress it upon the reader. I guess that measure proved a bit too successful. Next time, I'll keep to the non-pacing-related devices.

My vision of a younger Star Swirl was inspired by an image of a typical wizard's apprentice, amalgamated from quite a few examples present in about every medium. He's bright, talented and possesses a spark of adventurous spirit that lets him stand and fight the way he does instead of running and cowering. He can also be thoughtful, but when the call to arms is sounded, he is able to answer. I was keeping in mind the legendary figure he eventually became, and so tried to make a plausible version of who he was back at the start of that legend. JohnPerry's Final Quest vision of him bears similarity with Gandalf, which is only fitting, seeing as that story is a ponification of The Hobbit; my younger Star Swirl has everything he needs to become that pony, which helps to establish a link between the stories.

Queen Chrysalis, the main antagonist, was made in as much accordance with the canon image we have of her as I could manage. There is still woefully little, however; it provides the basics of her personality, demanour and motivations, but little else. Therefore, I had to invent much of what goes on behind those gigantic green eyes. My version of her has a craving for power and control as well as the pleasure of consuming love, as well a half-instinctive, half-conscious drive to provide for her changeling minions, and her actions stem from these core ideas. She is not a 'Mwahahaha, I'm so evil!' sort of villain, nor is she completely heartless—she's fundamentally cruel and unkind, but her villainy has a constructive side to it. While she does not care much for the ponies other than as a source of food, she looks out for her changelings as best she can, even when she uses them as pawns. Ultimately, however, she's egocentric and self-serving, and her own interests and desires always come first; a glimpse of this can be seen when she tries to escape the Chamber of the Cycle before the time spell takes effect.

Due to the lack of canon information about that period, I had no points of reference to work from while creating the rest of the cast. They all had to be OC. I tried to handle them as reasonably as I could—not really standing out among others, just members of the Unicorn tribe that happened to be in the right place at the right time and did the right thing.

Sparkling Sky, Star Swirl's mentor, came to life as the pony most representative of the tribe's spellcasters. He's old, wise and powerful, with an impressive service record (that is mentioned in the story in no specific detail) and a considerable knowledge of his race's and the world's innate magic. However, he also embodies the less virtuous side of the unicorns: he let the pride of success go to his head and believes himself to know more and be more talented than others. This causes him to ignore his suspicions when his reason dismisses them. In turn, this leads him to believe the changelings' takeover was his fault, and invokes another side of him: the more heroic and adventurous one, the one Star Swirl admires him for, that forces him to try and set things right again. It reaches its apex point in the Chamber confrontation, where he is ready to stop Chrysalis even if it costs him his life. Yet again, he shows his mixed character, because doing that was going to cost Star Swirl's life too, and Sparkling Sky gets him to aid in this last-ditch plan without warning him about the danger.

Of course, 'not really standing out' does not entirely apply if we look at Sparkling Sky from within the setting I've envisioned. Sparkling Sky is one of the best, if not the best, unicorn wizard of his time. However, he's not made this way to be a self-insert that outshines canon, but to be a worthy mentor to Star Swirl, who, I think, is much more powerful and talented than him. He's only the best in comparison to the other members of the Circle of Day and Night.

I invented said Circle in my attempts to understand how did the ancient unicorns operate the day/night cycle. It stood to reason that it wasn't the entire race that was doing it, and a single pony doing that would mean they'd have to have alicorn-grade powers, which is too much, so I went with the best mages of the kingdom forming a group for that purpose. JohnPerry had the impressive kindness to drop a few references to it, as well as a few other aspects of my story, in the Quest, for which I'm very grateful.

The Chamber of the Cycle, the arena for the final confrontation and the means through which Star Swirl casts the massive time spell, was was conceived just before I reached Chapter 8. Over the course of the vacation, the concept developed and expanded and was eventually integrated into the existing magical gemstone device that used to be a rather awkward one-shot meant to give Sparkling Sky a means to stand against Chrysalis. Thus, this idea actually helped to tie up that loose end of the story and make it neater overall. While designing the Chamber itself, I was envisioning to be similar to TES: Oblivion's Temple of the One, but at least twice as large and more elaborate, complete with some early gothic-style elements. The thing that ended the Chamber in the story, the time spell, had its activation and the lightshow outside taken directly from It's About Time, by way of pausing when Twilight cast a spell of time magic and transcribing the effects.

As for the rest of the OC cast, first comes Opal Beam, a sergeant in the unicorn guard and the closest I have to a personal OC right now. He's unlike myself, however, being a less talented and sophisticated version of Star Swirl who nevertheless shares some of his interests and sentiments, as well as the adventurous spark that, according to my vision, caused them to become friends back in their foalhood. Opal Beam as a soldier also shares some similarities with his superior, Lieutenant Moonlight, which eventually plays a part in what is implied in the epilogue, albeit vaguely: he is the pony she chooses to replace her as Lieutenant upon her promotion. Years later, he will succeed her as Captain of the Guard, which JohnPerry once again caught on even before I wrote that part.

Iron Vein, the heavy guy of the group, was meant to combine several things at once. He's the toughest and the strongest, but also quite intelligent, coming up with ideas and words often reserved for wizards. He was meant to defy the 'big and dumb' stereotype. His name and the tiny line about his family's mining background actually resulted from him being the one to describe the mines to Star Swirl; it used to be different, as is the case with nearly every prominent pony in the cast except Chrysalis, Star Swirl and Opal Beam, and assumed its final version in one of the feverish rewrites. The eventual fate of his is to replace Opal Beam as the sergeant of their squad, and later on as Lieutenant.

Thistlethorn, Comet Trail and Meteor Shower have considerably less detail to them than the others. The first is a terse soldier proficient in agile swordfighting, inspired by select aspects of Dragon Age 2's Fenris. The other two are the least developed, mainly characterised by their strong sibling bonds that cause the former to stay and guard the latter after he is grievously wounded.

Sunflower and Dawn Gleam, while present in the story from the beginning, did not have the adopted daughter-father figure relationship until the story was nearly done. The former was originally just another apprentice meant to show that not all unicorns have what it takes to fight the changelings, and the latter used to be just one of the mages in the battle. Eventually, however, Sunflower's shields came in useful as something that could help defend the cave, and her timidity and reliance on her mentor received a more emotional charge during the writing of Chapter 9 which then got retrofitted into earlier parts. Dawn Gleam, for his part, is a strong fire-centered wizard as well as a kind and supportive surrogate father. Not a combination seen very often.

(If you're reading this, you are an explorer fitting of journeying alongside Daring Do! Mention the words 'Sapphire Statue' in the comments.)

Lieutenant Moonlight and Keeper Nightshade are the third pair of characters meant to share a familial relationship, this particular case echoing the one between Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor, but in reverse. Moonlight is a calm and collected field tactician, and only goes out of this mode just as she believes she is about to die, when she thinks of her family, her own daughter and the plans for her birthday party. As for Nightshade, what little we see of him is a more studious and scientific sort of wizard, not extremely unlike Twilight.

The last of the guard who I need to mention is captain Steel Hammer. We see awfully little of him, but he was intended as a lifelong soldier and guard who is professional yet retains strong convictions regarding honour. It is those convictions tha force him to resign, as he believes himself to have failed the kingdom.

In the epilogue, we get an opportunity to see two more characters show what they're like: King Silver and the pegasus Commander Stormfront. In this part, Silver is quite unlike his official self from the first chapter; he's fuming and raging at the commander in a most unregal way, as in the situation he is unable to do anything. Despite the unicorns' victory over the changelings, it is costly, and the pegasi made it considerably more so. I intended for Silver to not come across as a strong-willed monarch, but rather a weaker one. Ultimately, his fate will be that which we see in JohnPerry's Quest: a monarch with considerable dependence on his nobles, who even have the decisive influence on his daughter when she is born. A snippet of such a noble's thoughts earlier on in the story indicates that they're not content with the situation they are in (having had limited to no influence on Silver's father, who'd made changes they don't like) and meant to imply that they would use this opportunity to start taking their ground back, and the king will have his position weakened by the perceived failure of the changelings' attack and the pegasi's outrageous demands that he had to accept. This is the start of the decline of Silver's power.

Commander Stormfront was one of the more enjoyable characters to make. With him, I tried to draw upon the image of an aging Roman general (an example of a similar character would be Skyrim's General Tullius), and gave him possibly the most indicative name in the fic: he is a military pony who leads his army (storm) from the front. It is also similar to the other commanders' names, Tempest and Hurricane. He is also a cunning tactician, both on the battlefield and in politics, although we only get to see the latter: finding the situation in the Unicorn tribe as it was, he was quick to turn it to the pegasi's advantage as much as he could. His adjutant, Private Tempest, and JohnPerry's Commander Tempest are, of course, the very same pony, years apart; Stormfront had taken her up as a protege and a student and eventually passed his mantle on to her.
A bit of curious trivia: I wasn't sure whether to make Stormfront male or female, seeing as we've only seen female commanders so far. Regardless, I chose to go the way I did, simply because I had a more coherent vision of him as an old stallion.

And finally, to wrap it up, what was behind some of the scenes that I was particularly giddy to include:

The first would be the initial battle outside the mines. In part, this is why I wrote the fic in the first place: to show an actual open engagement between ponies and changelings. In designing the fight, I had several sources of inspiration aside from FiM itself: Dragon Age: Origins' Battle at Ostagar, music from the soundtrack of Warhammer 40 000: Dawn of War 2, specifically this and this, and a few other things. The first Dawn of War 2 piece could probably fit any Changeling appearance in the fic, and when the tide of battle turned and Opal Beam's squad, despite being outnumbered, pushed them back through teamwork, I just couldn't help thinking 'space marines versus tyranids'. The changeling fighting style was also, in part, inspired by the tyranids: seeing as in A Canterlot Wedding, the changelings mainly fought in their natural forms, this seemed all too fitting.

The second scene I simply had to put in was Lieutenant Moonlight's contemplative moment on the castle bridge, which she believes to be the last of her life. With it, I was attempting to lend more emotional weight to what was at stake. There, I was attempting to invoke some moments from Mass Effect, namely the third installment's title theme, as well as some feeling of the 'best seats in the house' scene at the end (needless to say, the link is as spoilerrific as can be).

Finally, there is the final confrontation in the Chamber and the chase leading up to it. With the unicorns' numbers steadily dwindling and the PoV squad getting worn down, I was trying to create a buildup towards that single pivotal moment in the Chamber of the Cycle, so that the outcome of the conflict would truly be decided in that duel. Opal Beam's squad taking a last stand to hold back the changeling reinforcements is the last scene to be inspired by Mass Effect, namely by a similar moment with the character Grunt. While the story does not return to the squad again, what happened to them is somewhat similar to the linked video.

The final confrontation itself, with its forcibly limited magical attack diversity and an apprentice and his mentor fighting a powerful evil magic wielder, clearly draws inspiration from Star Wars, in particular from the Duel of the Fates and its famous musical accompaniment(that easily outshines the entire bucking movie). As I mentioned in the comments to the story, Star Wars also helped me decide on Sparkling Sky's magic colour (red, as opposed to the changelings' green). Even the characters' magic providing the only illumination in the room is reminiscent of the duel at the end of Episode 2. The very ending of the battle, with Chrysalis beginning to panic amid a spell going off goes back to Dawn of War 2, to its final music piece's own grand ending.

This is more or less it for the more prominent or clearly defined inspirations and ideas. The others are either inspired by crazy amalgamations of the above and many more sources, citing which would warrant another blogpost of its own, are not really worth mentioning, or I simply forgot about them.

The buffalo are here! Boring part over! I think.

4. Judge, jury and executioner: personal judgement and conclusions

Dumb rock!
~Rarity, just before discovering her destiny

Congratulations, everypony, you made it through! Whether you scrolled all the way down or actually read something, thank you for doing so.

It is time to pass my own verdict on the story. Did I succeed in what I wanted to do with it? Did it turn out well?

The answer is mixed. This is my first real, finished story, and I spent months on it: from the twenties of May to the middle of October. When I began, I was more or less 'how do I make sense lol', and now, I believe, I'm a little bit better. Back then, I had no skill or technique whatsoever, only able to write down what I was thinking without the ability to balance, pace or even make it look good. Now, I'm at least able to understand whether or not something is balanced, paced or looks good. I'd call that an improvement.

It also helped me understand many different things, from the motivations behind my writing to what I actually want to accomplish with it. I want to write, and I want to do it well. I want to write high-quality stories that can make the readers think about them and talk about them. The highest aspirations I now have regarding this are to be good enough to have my readers giving expansive commentary and to impress them enough that they might talk about my work no only to me, but to others. The highest one of all is to inspire the readers, so that they would be motivated to make artwork or write their own stories. They don't even have to be related to my own work; just knowing that I helped to inspire someone's art would be enough for me.

I hold no illusions regarding the current state of my ability in general and Darkest Hour in particular. I should have known that even good stories of this kind are not exactly popular among the readers of FiM fanfiction, and I do not think this story is good. I did some things right, but the drawbacks outweigh the strong points—it's criminally slow, takes too long to pick up the pace and so bores out the reader before they can even get there (similar to this very blogpost, in fact), and the good parts are stuck in between vast stretches of bad ones. There is only one way to remedy that, and that way would be to go right back and rewrite the entire story from the very start, but this time use what I've learned to pace, balance and style it accordingly. That, however, is not going to happen anytime soon, if at all.

So is it a failure? Is it a success? I believe it is both. I have failed near-completely to make it engaging and intersting enough to read, and as a result, it only stands at generating about one sentence of commentary and 9 views per 750 words. I need to do better.

At the same time, the making of this story has taught me a lot. I've learned to write mediocre fiction nearly from scratch; this goes to show that while I'm not one of those prodigies that make a dynamic entry with their first story receiving a gazillion views and mountains of feedback, I'm not entirely unable to write either. Still, it took me all these months to learn this; in this time, other writers manage to pull off several stories that ultimately improve their skills a great deal more and provide much more entertainment to their readers. I can do better. I should have done better.

Now the story is complete, and I'm bucking glad it is so. It has been a long journey, but now I have arrived. The 'So You Think You Can Write' reviewing committee (that is, those who provided feedback throughout its making) have seen it, and the criticism has not obliterated it completely. Now it is time to move on and make more stories. I've learned my lessons. I hope I won't repeat the mistakes I've made. I hope that this story's name becomes doubly meaningful, that it will remain the darkest hour of my writing.

Darkest Hour is the vessel that brought me into writing pony fiction. It is far from perfect, quite far indeed, but it has served its purpose. In a way, it reminds me of the unforgettable moment the link to which is just below.

Now I am here. Deal with it.

And now, the promised words of thanks to the readers who showed their support during the making of the story! Without you, guys, I would not have had the heart or, in two cases, even the ability to finish i!

Special thanks go to JohnPerry, who has been a gigantic and vastly generous help, pre-reading and helping to develop the fic from the very start. Without him, this all would've been a lot worse. If, by some freak accident, you haven't yet read The Final Quest of Star Swirl the Bearded and have read Darkest Hour, to which it is something of a prequel, then what are you waiting for? Go read it!

More special thanks go to Hat, who came aboard about one and a half months ago and helped me quite a bit with his pre-reading abilities. The story now looks a fair bit better and more readable. Additional thanks for spreading the word of the mighty em dash(—).

Thank you, RTStephens and djthomp, for consistently providing comments and feedback on about every chapter! Seeing a notification of a new comment popping up always made me go :pinkiesmile:, and you contributed to that quite a lot. Extra thanks for pointing out and appreciating the stronger points of the story, because if not for that, I would have been left with criticism alone, and could have just abandoned the story altogether.

Thanks to The Ponopticon and Doom Trot for having a high tolerance to exposition and encouraging words and overall bearing with me!

Yet more thanks go to the writing duo of CEOKasen and Chessie for showing their support (incidentally, have you read Starlight Over Detrot?:raritywink: Sorry, guys, couldn't resist!) and to Redbush for providing possibly the most clear and simple piece of constructive criticism I've seen.

And now, thanks to those who favorited the story! Other than the great ponies above, they go to Dynamic Dragon, Kim Kimera Kimes, Luna-Eclipse, plagueundying, powerpony13, RainEyes, Rushelers, TwilightMoon and, of course, RandomNinja and Robotbob123 (EqM brohoof, you two!). Also, thanks to everypony who went and gave an upvote in addition to that! It is most welcome!

And finally, thanks to everypony who's taken their time to (attempt to) read Darkest Hour! I have made this story to be read, and you have helped fulfill its purpose.

P.S.: Twilight is magic.

This concludes our unscheduled titanic walls of text for today/night/something! Thank you once more for being here and reading this! The prologue to the journey is over, but the journey itself has only just begun.

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Comments ( 9 )

Mother of god uh wow.


wow you even.


i just.

there was.

435388 Our posts can't repell walls of text of that magnitude! blog.timesunion.com/localpolitics/files/2010/11/ackbar.jpg

Just read the ending. The part past the bored buffalo.

435422 oh i did read the very last part. I'm kinda surprised i was mentioned i just spoke my mind. You're far to kind, also i have read Starlight over detrot it's pretty neat eh.

Quite the journey you had there. More time and consideration was put into this than anything I've ever written, that's for sure. Mostly it's: I've got this cool scene in my head I want to see played out. Now to write an entire story around it! Somehow... :applejackunsure:

Every author has a first time and I congratulate you on starting and finishing yours. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many authors I've seen get the premise down and then abandon it later on. Give yourself a nice pat on the back (preferably not when you're holding up a dozen chimicherrychangelings) because you have earned it!

Now then, I think this calls for some sort of reward. Let's see: Transformer toys? No. Chewed up pencils? Gross. Sapphire Statue? What the heck is that doing there? Aw! Found it! It's a watch! Take it!

I look forward to your future stories! Have at it!

435781 435958 To both of you:
Your exploring skills are superlative.

Thank you for the kind words. I simply couldn't leave readers like you hanging. It's ponies like you that are an author's best reward. :twilightsmile:

Considering the Dark Side of the Fanfic, I think I have some built-in resistance to it (probably not immunity, though). While I tolerate shipping, I don't want to do it, not between canon characters at least, and even with this taken into account there are very clear limits to it. Something like you, John, have done in the Quest would be a good example of what I could possibly do. Friendshipping, however... of that I'm a most stalwart supporter.

As for the dumb comedies oversaturated with references... also not my thing. Stupid or obscene humour is something I'd not waste my writing on :pinkiesick:. However, I do plan on including references to things from the show itself, such as lines and similar gags, as well as select fandom things in my comedies. Not too many, of course, but avoiding them like plague doesn't make sense.

Oh, and considering the changelings and their unexplained story and traits: I was deliberately avoiding presenting a clear version of my own and keeping it ambiguous instead dl.dropbox.com/u/31471793/FiMFiction/emoticons/shrug_Queen_Chrysalis.png . A more changeling-centric fic could possibly need this, but here I thought it best to let the readers insert their own views on how they feed on love or where they originally came from. What I did include was mostly in line with the basic fandom ideas: them having a 'hive', storing prisoners in cocoons and such.

The 'cool scene I want to see played out' is mostly how this idea started as well, and since then quite a few new fanfic ideas have appeared in a similar fashion. As I fleshed the story out, however, more such scenes cropped up and made it into the story. The ones pointed out in part 3 up ahead are the most prominent ones of their number. As an example, one of those scenes that I didn't mention is King Silver screaming ineffectually at Commander Stormfront, who reacts as calmly as could be; of course, it appeared in my mental picture of the story only after the pegasi and Stormfront himself did, but once it was there, I couldn't leave it out.

Oh, a watch! Thank you! I think Fluttershy has a similar one, which is good, because Fluttershy's watch is quite reliable.

435661 Speaking your mind is exactly what I need. If you could continue doing so, it'd be very helpful.:twilightsmile:

438231 Do look at the P.S., though. It's for you, after all. :twilightsmile:

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