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Charles Spratt


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Mar
26th
2018

Response to Equestria Daily: Gone Rejection. · 11:04am Mar 26th, 2018

A while ago, I submitted Gone to EQD. Naturally, because I have all the writing talent of a handful of old moss, it got rejected. Now, don’t get the wrong idea; like any writer who’s looking to improve, I’m grateful for the feedback, and as someone who used to do something like this myself, I understand it can be a time consuming and thankless task. Even if I was told that I write like a ten year old with brain damage (I wasn’t), I’d still thank them for the tips. So anonymous prereader, if you happen to be reading this, thank you very much for doing this.

However, when I looked over the reasons, some of them were… interesting. Because of that, I’ve decided to do a response to the note I’ve gotten, and point out what points I thought were good, and which I thought were questionable. Maybe it’ll serve as a nice lesson on the do’s and don’ts for people who try to write something similar to Gone (or just criticize stories in general) in the future. Or maybe it’ll just be fun, who knows. Let’s get into the letter.

-----------------

​Charles Spratt,

Thank you for submitting your story to Equestria Daily! I don't think it's ready for us to post, but I did take notes as I read to help point out what problems it had. We've gotten several stories very much like this one before, and the key in standing out above the rest is to make the realism come through and create a strong, consistent message. So my notes center mostly on what lost my sense of both. I hope you'll find them useful.

As do I.

>Earlier this summer, my best friend had disappeared.//

The use of past perfect tense here implies Fluttershy has since been found, and even if that ends up being the case, I'm not sure you want to reveal that yet. It just feels like an odd choice versus simple past tense.

There’s a lot of notes about my grammar in this. For the most part, they’re valid things I overlooked on my first run that aren’t worth quoting, and as such, they’ll be mostly ignored in this response. This one, on the other hand confused me a little bit. Did anyone else read any implication that Fluttershy had since been found? Because I still don’t see it.

The first 3 paragraphs of your story fit on my screen. There are 16 "to be" verbs in this space. Those are very boring verbs to use, as nothing happens. It really makes the story more engaging when you can rephrase that to use as many active verbs as possible instead. It's usually not hard to reduce the "to be" verbs quite a bit, and that keeps the story from feeling stagnant when they crop up. Having that stagnant feel at the beginning isn't a good way to grab reader interest.

Okay, I will admit that the beginning was a bit of an issue I had while writing this, as is the case with most things, writing a good beginning is the hardest part for me. I figured that starting it off by saying my best friend’s gone was my best bet, as it would make a reader want to read on at least long enough to see why they’re gone, at which point they’d hopefully be invested enough in the situation to continue. Still, repetition in words is a good point to bring up.

>going on jogs throughout Canterlot//

The movies are in kind of a gray area about this, but I believe Canterlot is just the high school, not the whole city.

If there’s no definitive proof one way or the other, you should generally give the writer the benefit of the doubt. Y’know, innocent until proven guilty and all that. I just don’t see how my headcannon being slightly different from yours is worth bringing up as a problem with me.

>I then double checked my phone’s map feature to make sure that I hadn’t gotten so caught up in my jog that I jogged all the way to another city’s cemetery.//

I mean... really? This is something she'd have to check, that she'd run all the way to another city?

The idea I was going with was implying that Rainbow wasn’t a stranger to running great distances, and had accidentally gotten so caught up in her thoughts while running that she had found herself in entirely new cities. Given how I live in a pretty tight spot where you can end up in another town with a five minute drive, that didn’t seem all that farfetched to me. Granted, I could’ve done a better job elaborating on that.

>I almost hoped that I was wrong, that the date would contradict my theory.//

And I just bet she's not going to tell me the theory until near the end of the story. When you have a character withhold information, you have to give them a plausible reason to. Why's Rainbow keeping it a secret? It adds drama to the story, but she's not telling the story for its dramatic value. She has a purpose.

This is where my personal style of telling bled into things.I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic when retelling a story to someone else, as I feel it helps people pay attention better. I will confess Dash might not have been the best choice for a protagonist given how there's no definitive proof that she does this, unlike others like Rarity, but that was less important to me than the reason I actually used her, which was that I needed a character who wasn't great at solving things with words. The reason for this was so it would not only make it easy for the audience to realize how out of her comfort zone she was, but also make it clear that her words likely wouldn't pull through. Rainbow Dash was far and away the best fit for this. Despite popular opinion, I didn't choose this duo just because FlutterDash is popular or adorable (though that certainly didn't hurt).

Actually, that brings up another point.

By the way you've phrased several things, it's clear you intend Dash to be narrating this some time after the events actually occurred. In that case, it's possible she is trying to create dramatic effect for her audience, but then she's never established who that audience is. If she's musing to herself, there's no purpose in her ratcheting up the tension. So who's listening to her and why?

In one iteration, this was going to be a blog that she was to upload to the internet after everything else she tried had failed.It was a last ditch effort to make others aware of the incident, done in desperation because she didn’t know what else she could do.I eventually scrapped it because I felt having Rainbow leak something that private was too dickish of a move, desperation or not. Perhaps I should’ve kept that though, since this seems to be a sticking point for you.

And here's the other thing. If she's telling this story sometime later, then it's not plausible she'd remember what everyone said so perfectly that she could present it as quoted dialogue. She'd only remember a general summary of how the conversation went. Some lines that stuck in her head, sure, but not the whole thing. But summaries are less interesting to read, which is why fiction gets a little leeway in that regard. That's also why you don't see after-the-fact reminiscences done too often. Most times, they'll return to the past events "live" as a flashback.

:duck: To quote later in the story:

It’s only been about three weeks since we last talked, but it honestly feels like forever since I’ve last seen Fluttershy. Ever since our talk, she’s been pretty much the only thing on my mind. Her strange behavior, odd reactions, her battered appearance, the fact that she seemed so thoroughly convinced that she had killed her friend… it’s all imprinted into my mind.

I said later on that she’d been thinking about this almost exclusively, and as such, has memorized most of it. Explanation completed.

Dash sure is going on about times she'd helped Fluttershy in the past and that the deceased must be the friend in question, but wouldn't her immediate concern be to make sure Fluttershy was okay? She disappeared and returned with lots of scars, and Dash has done little but note them so far. She doesn't even ask if Fluttershy's hurt. That and "where have you been?" would be the first two things I'd say to her.

This was actually a fair point, and was the first thing I changed around after getting this review. In my mind, it was clear that Rainbow knew from past experience that when Fluttershy gets a certain way, no amount of prying would get the info out of her, but I didn’t initially make that clear in the writing. Now, with this new addition, I feel it fixes the problem:

I sighed to myself. While Fluttershy was far from the most assertive person ever, she was often quite stubborn when it came to staying silent, and I knew from past experience that no amount of direct prying would make Fluttershy talk if she wasn't willing. If I wanted to know more, I'd have to wait.

>acapella band//

a capella. And I wouldn't call it a band. A group or choir or singing group. It's strictly voice singing, as "a capella" means without instrumental accompaniment.

But you’re not Fluttershy… you’re not necessarily going to describe things the same way she would…

This has always been the difficult thing about criticizing what a character says, at least when it comes to minor errors like this; people don’t always speak perfectly. Sometimes, they just talk in ways that aren’t perfect English. Would Fluttershy call an a capella group a band? I don’t know for sure, but if it’s not proven in canon that she doesn’t, then it’s generally not worth bringing up as a critique. Regardless, it has been changed since to avoid issue, though I still don't think it's a point worth bringing up.

>Instead of sadness, however, her voice was filled with anger.//

This doesn't create much of an image. When the emotion is important to the story, it's usually better to demonstrate it than to outright name it. So how does Fluttershy act that leads Dash to read this mood change?

I’ll be honest, I just wasn’t sure how to describe an angry tone of voice at the time. Since then, I’ve at least made a couple changes focused on describing her body language more.

>Silence fell over the graveyard right after she said that//

I don't get why you have a scene break here. There's no skip in time, no different setting, no change of perspective.

It’s a little psychological trick I learned. When people see the break, it subconsciously creates a pause, which not only helps to imply that a fair amount of time had passed (which it had.As I said, the two stared at each other in silence for a while after that), but also makes the reveal right before the break all the more poignant. It's unorthodox, but it helps make the reveal stronger, I feel. Once again, I'm not sure this counts as a point against me.

One thing I don't understand: This friend was buried not far from where Fluttershy lives, so the friend's family must have ties to the area, possibly even live there. So I don't get why Fluttershy had to leave town and not associate with the girls while visiting this friend. Or why Dash had never met her, I guess. Yeah, she talked about going on tour, but not the whole time.

This is… actually a really good point, and one that could honestly be traced back to me not having much experience with ‘out of town’ funerals. At the time, I thought that the body would end up being buried wherever was closest to the spot of death. However, my funeral with my grandmother taught me that’s not how it works. It would be wherever the victim spent the most time in life, and given that my story blatantly says that Fluttershy was the one who moved, not Silver, there’s really no reason Silver would be buried in Canterlot. Your point is vaild.

>to get over these sorts of things//

But this is completely different than anything she's been through before.

I still think this was really easy to see, but Rainbow was talking about deaths in general. Yeah, the circumstances for this one are clearly different, but it’s still a death, and Rainbow figured that it would end the way her other ones did. I did change this a bit since then, but I still don’t think I was wrong here.

The ending does kind of lack some closure. Not that it has to tell us how everything turns out—more thematic closure. Dash doesn't draw much of a conclusion from all this. She's very passive, not taking the initiative to do anything about it, and that doesn't really fit Dash's personality.

You sure about that? Again, to quote the story at the time of submission:

I tried everything I could think of. I tried visiting her house a few times, but every time I did, her mother told me that she wasn’t home. I revisited the graveyard Silver was buried in whenever I went out on a jog, hoping that I'd see her again in passing, only to discover each time that she wasn't there. I’ve even asked the others if they’ve seen or heard from her. None of them had. In fact, most of them had just assumed the same thing I had; that she was still on her trip and just didn’t want any interruptions. They ended up asking me why I was so sure that wasn’t the case, at which point I had to tell them about mine and Fluttershy’s talk in the graveyard. I made sure to leave out the part about the car crash, though. I figured it would be better if Fluttershy told everyone about that when she was ready.

I’d hardly call that passive, mate. I’m not sure what else you expected her to do. If someone won’t answer your calls, and you can’t find them in person, there’s kind of a limit to what you can actually do.

In fact, this story only has a couple of spots where the characters exhibit any behavior peculiar to the canon ones. You could have this be just about any characters, not even MLP ones, and it would still be viable, which means you could use a more irrevocable tie to it being these specific characters.

Again, this is a problem with me. Some writers view the characters and write around what they would do. I have trouble doing that. Instead, I typically come up with the story first, then see which characters from MLP would fit, altering it slightly to fit them better. You can say that’s not the best way to write, but it works for me, and as long as the characters don’t act unbelievably out of character (like say, for the sake of example, Sunset Shimmer falling into a suicidal depression after one of her friends dies, resulting in her taking her own life), then I don’t see the issue.

With that being said, however, I do think I put in a little more thought into who played what role than you give me credit for. I already discussed why I chose Rainbow Dash, but Fluttershy wasn't arbitrary either. In the story, I wanted a character who would A: be likely to blame themselves for the incident, B: could manage both quieter, more subtle sadness as well as louder, more in your face emotion, and C: be someone who might believably isolate herself over the incident.

Sunset and Sci-Twi's backstories immediately ruled them out (and I honestly doubt Rainbow would consider either of those two her best friend anyway), Applejack seemed too level-headed to blame herself for this aside from maybe immediately afterwards, and while Rarity and Pinkie would do well with more over the top emotion, I just couldn't see them handling the quieter part of it. Fluttershy, on the other hand, was a perfect fit. Not only has Fluttershy done both quiet emotional moments and louder more over the top ones in the show's canon, but thanks to Hurricane Fluttershy, we know without a doubt that when she's overwhelmed with sadness, she runs away from everyone, including her friends, meaning isolating herself seems quite natural. I will admit that I could've added more MLP elements, but honestly, as long as it works for the characters (which I and many other people seem to think it does), I don't think it's a big enough deal to report on.

But getting back to the closure. The ending isn't exactly a surprise, as it's the standard kind of thing that usually results from this setup. I figured it would be alcohol-related, where Fluttershy failed to prevent someone from drinking,

Umm… why would you get that idea? Judging by Fluttershy’s age in this (no more than 17), she’s not old enough to drink, and since she’s been friends with Silver since grade school, Silver almost certainly isn’t old enough either (unless Fluttershy made friends with a 5th grader as a 1st grader, which would be a huge stretch for anyone, especially Fluttershy). So… where’s this alcohol idea coming from?

(Note: I just remembered the show is Canadian, and in Canada (and most other countries in the world, for that matter) the legal drinking age is 18. Even still, Fluttershy still wouldn’t be old enough, and while the gap isn’t as big as I made it out to be, the point still stands: unless Fluttershy made a friend with someone in a higher grade then her (which is still as incredibly unlikely as ever, given A: how important grades are to elementary school students, and B: that it's Fluttershy), this still doesn’t make sense.)

so at least that was unexpected, but it's a minor detail. Even though Dash doesn't quite know what she's going to do, even though she's uncertain, she still ought to draw some message from it. And that message can be lots of things, from resolving what to try doing about it to learning a lesson from it, or many other possibilities. It sets up the problem without starting toward the solution.

I honestly don’t see what having a message would do aside from cheapen the feelings of shock and uncertainty Dash feels. After having a bomb like that drop and having no idea if her best friend is going to be okay or not, I have a ton of trouble believing that Rainbow Dash would go philosophical like that. At most, I could add something like ‘if only I’d done something differently’, but even then, that would still be based heavily in uncertainty, since for all she knew, it could’ve changed nothing at all. So basically, I don’t see what doing this would add.

Sincerely,

REDACTED

Thank you, Pre-reader.

Anyway, to sum up this review. The grammar points they made alone (which I didn't list for the most part, but trust me, there were quite a few) would've meant this wouldn't have made it in, and I'm okay with that. Just like everything on this account, I do all my editing myself, and I occasionally miss a couple things. Not a problem, and I'm glad to go back and fix the errors they brought up. As for most of the non-editing related points however... I find a lot of them questionable. Many seem overly nitpicky to me, and I often failed to see how changing them would add to the story at all. Maybe I just have low standards, but I don't see how most of this "kills the realism", as they put it. While I do appreciate some of these and find them to be valid points, others just don't seem to make sense to me. Not a bad review overall, but I do find myself wishing it could've been stronger. But hey, what do I know?

I'd like to know you guy's thoughts on this, however. Do you think this was a fair review? Do you still enjoy the story despite the issues? And if you were me, would you make alterations to the story based on they're critque so you could submit it again? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have a fantastic day!

Cheers :pinkiesmile:
Charles Spratt

Report Charles Spratt · 183 views · Story: Gone · #Equestria Daily #Response #Review
Comments ( 2 )

It’s hard to say, frankly. I rather enjoyed the story back when I read it, but I don’t always read critically. Some of those could just be their issues and not representative of others. It’s one reason why I’ve never thought that one person should be in charge of approving a story for submission to anything.

Frankly, despite knowing a contributor or two to EqD, I find it’s standards a little funny sometimes and it’s always (seemingly) a crapshoot who vets your work.

Did anyone else read any implication that Fluttershy had since been found? Because I still don’t see it.

Yep. Pluperfect implies something before past time that differs from the actions of past time, and since we don't have an explanation ready, the easiest is that she was found.

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