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Contest Announcement: A Change of Pace (closed) · 4:42pm Sep 11th, 2020

Contest: A Change of Pace

Ever thought about how to pace a story similarly to how an MLP episode is put together? No? Because I have. All the time, even! It’s a common criticism of some MLP episodes that they’re badly paced, but as a fanfic writer, it’s pretty hard to figure out what that means, practically speaking. Most of us haven’t worked on cartoon screenwriting, and fewer still have spent a lot of time comparing how pacing and duration between the online story medium and the cartoon medium.

It turns out it’s pretty hard to restrict a story down to the length it would need to fit in a 22 minute time-slot, plus have appropriate breaks for the intro and commercials, and feature a full story arc with a set-up, conflict, and resolution. As fanfic writers we have the luxury of being able to write our stories as long and as short as we like. We don’t have to worry about commercial breaks or putting a little break at the beginning for the intro. We don’t even have to include a resolution if we don’t want to; we can leave stuff ambiguous or even incomplete and leave it up to reader interpretation. Not so for an MLP episode which has to be self-contained.

Luckily for nobody, I spent (too much) time looking at stuff like dialogue density in stories, counting the number of lines in MLP episodes, and experimenting with pacing in prose stories and screenwriting stories, and since I’ve accumulated a (fairly) tidy sum after participating in a bunch of contests, I intend to re-inject this money back into the Fimfiction community by hosting my own… and it’s all about pacing. You may think it’s boring and tedious, but hey, I do what I want. This is going to be a contest with strict word limits and where you’ll have to make sure you have breaks at the right spots. Let’s get into it.


There’s no prompt for you to follow, but there are rules. 

  • The story must be no less than 6500 words long and no more than 8500 words long.
  • The story must contain three breaks (either by using a horizontal rule or by breaking the story into chapters) to emulate the 3 act structure and intro/commercial breaks present in the show. The first must be placed 400-600 words from the beginning of the story, the second must be placed 2000-3000 words from the beginning of the story, and the final break must be placed 4500-5500 words from the beginning of the story.
  • The story can have any rating. Yes, that includes Mature rated stories. 
  • Stories must be submitted to the relevant folder on the WaE challenge group (which this contest was derived from). A link to the folder is here. Alternatively, PM me a link to the story and I'll put it there myself. : )

Confused? Feel free to ask any questions to me and I’ll clear them up as best as I can. An example story that follows these guidelines can be found here (written by me) if needed.

Yes, that means the story can be about anything. Crossover? Sure. Edgy grimdark stuff? Why not. However! The stories will be judged as a full story arc with a tangible beginning, middle, and end, not as a simple snapshot or exploration of a premise. This is about putting in the same sort of complete arc that an MLP episode would have to cram into their short runtime, only without the restrictions of having to keep their content for kids. Additionally, the stories will be judged as a solo story. Yes, you can include sequels and crossovers, but the judges aren’t going to be reading the prequel or crossover material, so you’d better be confident the story can stand by itself.


  • The story must have been published on Fimfiction after the 12th of September. Stories published before then will not be considered.
  • The story must be submitted before the 31st of October, 11:59PM, GMT-13. Once the world enters into the 1st of November, it is too late.


3rd Place: £25
2nd Place: £50
1st Place: £100

I would prefer to give the prize money through PayPal, but I can do my best to be flexible if needed. Additionally, if you would prefer to have the money sent to a charity, that’s also all fine; just let me know where you want it to go and it’ll be sent there pronto.


Cinder Vel
HapHazred (That’s me)
The Red Parade

Good luck folks! If you have any questions, now's the time!

Comments ( 24 )

Ooh, very interesting requirements. I'm not sure what I expected when you told me about this, but it wasn't this. I'll need to give this some thought...

5353265 I work in mysterious ways.

The maths for this was derived from some fancy article a dude named Jefferson posted. I have the original working here, if you're interested.

Good luck!

Will there be a group for this?

5353277 Already is.

Well, there was a group made for a stricter version of this challenge. The link for the submissions folder leads to an old group called the Write an Episode challenge, which has been around for a while, and from which the rules for this contest were derived.

I'll be posting a thread on that group soon, too! I'm just a bit swamped by my family at present.

The favorite pastime of every literary inclined mind: maths!

Will keep this in mind, on the off chance that I'll suddenly get over my writer's laziness and start writing a load of stuff this months.

Edit: 10 minutes after reading this post and I already have an outline for an intro in my head so maybe it's not completely unlikely.

5369286 Yaaaaas boi!

I look forwards to seeing it if you do get around to it! Good luck!

Thank you for setting this up.
As an exercise, I looked up how an hour TV episode is broken down and applied your word counts to it.

22 minute TV episode
400-600 word teaser – roll opening credits
2,000-3,000 words into the story – roll 1st commercial break
4,500-5,500 words into the story – roll 2nd commercial break
6,500-8,500 words total – roll closing credits

44 minute TV episode
400-600 word teaser*– roll opening credits
3,500–4,500 words into the story – roll 1st commercial break
6,500-8,500 words into the story – roll 2nd commercial break
9,500 – 12,500 words into the story – roll 3rd commercial break
13,000-17,000 words total – roll closing credits
+200-300 word Tag to set up the next episode (optional)

* An extended teaser can steal words from the first act, but not the other acts.

5369617 I've not ran the numbers myself, but that looks about right.

There are some flaws with my method, to be fair. One thing that makes me grumpy was that the average dialogue density numbers I drew from Jefferson's blog (which I linked to in a thread somewhere, can find it if needed) weren't very consistent, since he used a broad range of novels ranging from children's books to Lord of the Rings. He also didn't pick very many novels, which unfortunately meant that the standard deviation from the mean was pretty big. I've reduced them for practicality's sake here.

Regardless of the maths, I hope to see your own entry, if you choose to participate! : )

5370498 Originally it was going to be a 1 month thing, but I adjusted the deadline once I learned about another contest being run at roughly the same time so the deadlines wouldn't conflict.

Looking forwards to seeing your entry! : )


Question about story structure in this contest. Can a qualifying story follow a three-act structure that isn't necessarily chronological? I'm thinking of something like the episode Saddle Row Review, where it goes from present, to past, and back to present at the end.

5380552 Absolutely, that's A-okay. So long as the breaks are in the necessary places and it does have a functional beginning, middle-conflict, and ending (most commonly seen in three act structures) then you will be fine. : )

Just finished my entry for FOME's contest since that one ended first (as in, tonight). It wasn't written for this contest and it's a bit too long in general (and the second main part in particular), but it still ended up close enough to this contest's guidelines that I thought I'd leave it here as a honorary entry.

(Also because I don't have any cover art so I'll take any exposure I can get)

I still got my idea for a proper entry, so that's next on the list.

I'm never going to submit in time for the deadline, but I'll still finish my work up even after deadline is over :twilightsmile: (not in it to win anyway)

I can't add my story to the folder. It just says, "There was an error in the request" as soon as I clicked, "add story."

5388174 Odd. I'll take a look.

EDIT: Not sure what went wrong for you; posting privileges were set to 'user' as normal. I've added your story to the folder myself, though, so that should sort the problem out. : )

Will the stories be judged on a combination of storytelling qualities and structure of an episode? And since there are different genres of story we're telling, how will you accurately rank the stories you read? By how much they impacted you personally? Or simply the skill of the author?

5389467 I selected a group of judges, all with different preferences and tastes, in order to have a strong, diverse set of opinions to bounce off of. Myself, I tend to be a bit serious and analytical, and as the architect of the contest restrictions I reckon I'll be most interested in seeing how well people worked around the restrictions, overcame them, or better yet, thrived in them.

RobCakeran53 is a veteran author I got the opportunity to chat with on discord. He's probably the most different from myself and I'm looking forwards to seeing what his opinions on the entries are. On top of that he's older in FimFic terms (and likely irl terms as well) than me, so his will be an interesting perspective, and I almost don't quite know what to expect, which is part of why I asked him.

RedParade is a relatively new writer who I believe has some good instincts on prose and writing quality, moreso than myself and, I wager, many others. So I believe his input regarding how technically impressive and vivid each one's writing is will be valuable.

Cinder and Hawthorne are both veteran readers and have been involved in TWG and other forums for ages. I expect them to be my more moderate judges who can provide some additional breadth in taste and individual story content. They're also experienced at explaining and analysing stuff from forums, I'd wager, which will be good.

All of them are folks that I've managed to chat to and interact with on and off the site, and I believe each to have sound judgement, even if their preferences and methods diverge from my own.

All in all, we're going to be putting our heads together to try and decide which story pleased us the most on as many fronts as possible, democratically. If we had a large number of submissions I'd be dividing them up amongst the judges in stages to speed things along, but with a very restrained number of entries, what'll be happening is each of us will read every entry and then spend time discussing and ranking them after weighing in all opinions on each.

Due to the range of judges I'd be very surprised if we end up being very biased for one type of story or a single story premise. We're not looking for one thing above all others; the restrictions of the contest are already fairly stringent; what will likely decide how well each does is how competently they're able to put forwards their story concept within those restrictions, which as you can imagine will include things like pacing, concept/premise, prose, and so on. Any story that focusses on one aspect above all others will probably have a hard time.

I appreciate this is a long explanation, but I hope it describes what our process will be fairly well. I hope that by having a larger amount of judges, it gives all stories an opportunity to have at least one judge in its corner.

I trust each of your judgements. I'm looking forward to placing high!

5389530 Ha ha, don't we all!

Good luck!

Story is finished right on the deadline and only going through approval now.

5390012 That's fine; send it in once it's through, or send me a link and I'll have it added.

Already added to the group. :twilightsmile:

5390018 Excellent! Looking forwards to reading it.

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