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horizon
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Extended reviews (written before the author reveal)! And I'm surprised nobody's linked this yet:

My Big Brother, a Stranger Forever
The strongest feature of this story — and it is, I should specify, an awfully strong feature — is its narrative voice. Especially at the beginning, it does a great deal of implying with its little details, and it's worth reading as an example of how to do that well. "Just-Mister-Pommel-If-You-Please" is a paragraph of conversation, plus tidbits of characterization of two characters, in just five words of tell. Wow. (Though, nitpick: "just" Mister Pommel? That's the name Twilight was given; what else would she have added?) The description of the brown side of Ponyville, Pinkie's dialogue about Pierce, the thoughts on the workshop … this is super tight writing. The textual quality does fall apart toward the end (with even some verb tense issues), but that's a deadline problem and easily fixable with editing.

Much has been said about Pierce's relatability, so I'll add only this: On rereading, I thought his bitterness was fairly compelling, but what caught me was that it wasn't consistent. Why would he explicitly suggest Sugarcube Corner given the roughness of his breakup with Pinkie? His mixed curiosity and suspicion toward Sparkle came through (and did I catch him implying that she was adopted? Whoah, what a zinger to sneak in on through the back door), and his blow-up over unresolved past resentment was reasonable, but then he just sorta … forgave her out of the blue and the story lurched toward an unearned happy ending. If anything, you build the case too strongly of Pierce's resentment for his "replacement" — what he says isn't the sort of thing you shrug away and walk back a few minutes later.

What might make that more satisfying would be to show some character growth on one or both of their parts which informs the reconciliation. Maybe Twilight has learned some friendship lessons from Ponyville that are relevant here, or maybe Pierce's time alone has taught him something (though that might involve some editing of their fight)? I think a reconciliation is the right place to take this story (it's thematically reinforced by its setting of Twilight's new home and new lessons), but it needs a bit more structural support.


The 18th Brewmare of Bluey Napoleon
My story. So … wow. Apparently you all liked it a lot better than I did.

Fun fact: The title is a reference to Marx's essay from which came the famous phrase about history repeating: "The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Given that that essay was about the French Revolution, I threw in a hodgepodge of related historical references (Poncemercy is a ponification of a major Les Misérables name; the description of the rabble is the first line of Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel; Napoléon's disastrous invasion of Russia Grpyhonia, etc.), and from there it was all Blueblood being Blueblood, because what better way to have history repeat as farce?

I didn't realize people would have such strong opinions about footnotes.

The notion that Blueblood is both Ditzy Doo and Daring Do's brother is a reference to Ponky's The Sisters Doo, combined with the mark that Blueblood and Daring share. Somewhere along the way, the idea of Princess Derpy snuck into my headcanon and is now refusing to leave. I'm totally going to have to sneak that into another story somewhere.

3467917's observation that the end needs some extra oomph is a reflection of me writing the last line literally three minutes before the deadline. I'm adding a brief epilogue and tightening up the whole Celestia-outwitting-Blueblood aspect of the ending before I post this to FIMFic.


Somepony Get Me Out!
Here is the review I wish I'd written here, and I second it wholeheartedly: 3467249

So, having reread the story, let's try to talk about different things than have already been highlighted.

There is a solid premise in here that I think you could develop into an excellent story — Cadence's guilt at the spell she cast on her parents, and how that both doomed the Empire and led to her being sent away and saved. If I read the story right (and this realization took me three re-reads), you're also implying that Cadence has cast her love spell 4,903 times, and has completely stopped using it because it's theorized that the 4,904th time will cause similar obsessive effects to what she did to her parents. That's the needed context which makes the "lesbian shipping dooming Equestria" thing work. However, you're really going to need to do more work bringing that premise into the foreground, because right now it's hidden among many other false leads and dead ends.

The first being the title. When you call the piece "Somepony get me out!", you're saying that a major theme is that someone is trapped within something. When your first paragraph introduces Cadence and talks about the royal wedding, the obvious assumption is that there's something going on with Chrysalis — for example, that we're seeing Cadence in some sort of altered state of consciousness, reliving memories while she's trapped in a changeling cocoon. I was convinced my whole first time through that this was a mind-screw story of that type, especially since it shifts so effortlessly between scenes, and physical elements (the trees, the castle, the guard, the image of her with her parents, Shining Armor) seem to arbitrarily appear and disappear around Cadence without the benefit of a scene break. Since we don't see inside Cadence's thoughts, only the emotions on the surface, it seemed reasonable that she was thinking about various things which were then becoming manifest around her. After rereading, I don't think that's what you're doing; and given that the core of your story (guilt over a love spell, and fear of casting it again) has nothing to do with "getting out", you'd REALLY be better served choosing a more appropriate title.

Since we don't get to see any of Cadence's thoughts, the things we do see are given outsized importance, and I kept waiting for their significance to be explained — things like it being 10:09 a.m., or the significance of the guard she meets, or why Shining Armor is crying. There aren't any good signals as to which elements are thematically important, which is behind a lot of the confusion here. (Most of the rest of my confusion was due to the way that Cadence's emotions repeatedly turn on a dime. Her lour is reserved for the worst of situations, yet a few paragraphs later she's smiling, yet she screams at the guard, yet she's sad and smiling through it, etc. … there's too much emotion, coming too fast, and I don't know what to connect with. When you edit the story, slow down and give those emotions context, the way that you do in your dialogue scenes.) If you can bring everything up to the quality of the middle/later scenes I think you'll be able to kick those readability issues away, and I'd be curious to see what comes out after editing.


Equestrian Diplomacy
Rereading this, I definitely was too hard on it the first time around. The writing carries itself, with some keen worldbuilding and good princessing; the first scene does set up the ending well; the Alpha-squeezing scene was milder than I remember; and the parts with adult Spike do a commendable job of illustrating an alien intelligence. All of my problems with this story come down to a single structural issue. Namely: The premise hinges wholly on the irreconcilable neurological divide between dragonkind and ponykind, and yet what the story shows does not reinforce that central premise.

This is what I was talking about earlier with feeling like I was missing a scene. The last thing we see before the time skip is Spike cooking dinner for Twilight and then waiting for her until it got cold — and then after the time skip, he makes war on her nation as a gesture of friendship. Neurological differences aside, Spike is not dumb; how could he not know that she wouldn't appreciate that? Even if he developed his own value system at complete odds with ponykind's, how could he not see his murder coming? When you outgrow and reject a moral system, you don't forget what it values.

Adding a central scene set during the skipped centuries (millennia?) would allow you to address this directly by lampshading his growth and exposing the changing relationships. Alternatively, you could have past Spike behave, well, less like Spike. His future characterization as alien does, I think, work in the sci-fi sense of a glimpse into a brain that is simply wired differently; but his characterization in canon (and Scene 1) is so pony that I can't imagine a mechanism by which he could become the thing you show. Finally, you could fix this by making adult Spike more recognizable, and making his logic more traditional, but I think that would cut too deeply into the strongest features of the story.


Naval Gazing
Rereading this one, again I'm struck by the generally high quality of the writing, and the fact that my complaint boils down to a single structural problem: the aforementioned feeling that you have two different stories here and that you jumped ship (ha ha) between them. Actually, rereading it, it feels like three stories: there's the Mane Six adventure you open with, which is the one I would have liked to have seen continued; and then it transitions into a CMC adventure, which strikes a similar tone to the start, with real suspense as the kids try to elude the pirates; and then the CMCs get captured, and … honestly, it doesn't totally drop the plot for puns, but the thing is that once they're put in jail, suddenly it feels like the story has nothing at stake. The pirates have gotten away with the robbery, the kids aren't going to walk the plank, and both the good and bad guys are casually exchanging banter as if half an hour ago they weren't trying to stab each other with the cuts-more. That's where the punnery hurts this story —it drains all the tension of the adventure out.

There wasn't even all that much wordplay, by wordcount. But learn from my experience: when you smash a truly horrible pun into an unsuspecting audience, it becomes the only thing they talk about. (3469666's comment above was based on a single paragraph in "Thou Goddess", which I have a feeling is going to become one of those defining authorial moments for me, in the same way that defined Estee as a piano murderer.) And the thing is, aside from your title, everything up until the cuts-less (and that line about the rum, oh stars, that line) was a straight-up adventure story. (Okay, except for Pinkie trying a little too hard to be Pinkie.) If you'd opened with puns and thrown them in occasionally, the final half of the story wouldn't have felt so jarring.

I probably would have called this for first place if it had kept up the adventure.



DIGRESSION: I'd love to start a more general conversation about how to make a story shift in topic/tone without causing problems in transition. Brewmare, Diplomacy, and Naval all take huge swerves midway through, but each seemed to approach their shift differently, and based on the feedback I see here, I'd assume that Brewmare's comedy->d'aww swerve didn't turn people off.

With Naval Gazing, if the first scene had been entirely omitted, I feel the rest of the story wouldn't have suffered (in fact would probably have improved, because I wouldn't have been waiting for the played-straight adventure to return and could have taken the pun assault on its own merits). With Equestrian Diplomacy, the first scene sets up some, err, navel-gazing that doesn't feel fulfilled to me due to Spike's shift into oblivious villainy; but the first scene's question does at least feel integral to the resolution, even if I can't trace an unbroken line between them. With 18th Brewmare … it's hard to see from inside, but here would be my stab at deconstructing it: Poncemercy's introduction of the suffrage theme and Cheerilee's speech kick the seriousness into gear immediately before the Discord scene blows everything apart, so it preps you for the big whiplash with early, smaller whiplash. It's also significantly longer, so it cushions the shifts better. But I'd like to know what you all think, especially if (as I had predicted everyone would feel) you thought Brewmare's final scenes fell flat.

Ἐλπίς
Rereading it, I don't know that I have a lot of useful commentary aside from "this will be a better story when you post it with a Dark and Gore tag clearly marked up front". It felt like the most well-realized story that I read, in the sense that it stuck to its premise and sold it successfully. It was certainly not pleasant to read about Celestia's torturous transformation into a jelly blob, but at the same time, I think you're tapping a rich (if problematic) mythological vein of modern Western society — the same one that created The Passion Of The Christ — through the lens of Celestia as Crystal Dragon Horse Jesus. (Even more so, since she returns to do it over and over.) In that sense, the torture feels like it reinforces the theme, and if I were to follow my instincts and tell you to lose it, I suspect it would be to the story's detriment. Breaking the fourth wall for the dentist analogy should be removed, though. Unless … hm. Crazy thought, but what if you turned it into an explicit Jesus analogy and directly addressed the reader more? … No, on further consideration that would break it too, in a way I'd directly hate.

I googled the title before I started reading, so I called the ending from basically a few paragraphs in, but it wasn't the bad sort of predictable because knowing the ending didn't change the impact of the story.

Anyway, I'll give this a first-place pick; it won't stick with me in a good way and I'm not sure I want to reward that, but at the same time that shows it's clearly effective at what it tried to do.


Memories of a Star
I said in my mini-review that it felt like good Trixie but the partnership rang false. I'll walk that back slightly, because on closer examination I think this feels to me like a problem of Trixie characterization. Canon Trixie is basically entirely defined by 1) her arrogance, and 2) her verbal tic of speaking about herself in the third person. #2 is handled spottily; perhaps that was meant to signify her struggles to change, but IIRC we only see her correct herself once — immediately before Rarity chastises her for her arrogance, which sends quite a mixed signal. (Furthermore, that particular exchange at the rope bridge seems to establish that Rarity finds it "hard not to hate her" for, basically, patting herself on the back for conceiving and executing an idea which successfully overcame an obstacle. What? I mean, Trixie didn't even take credit for Rarity's idea, or anything; it was her own resourcefulness, and you'd think Rarity would cut her some slack.) And if there's any significance to the times she uses "Trixie" and the times she uses "I/me", I'm not seeing any. It would have been great to show her struggling with normal language use, Luna-style.

As for #1, this is clearly the "good" post-Alicorn Amulet Trixie, but that having been established, there doesn't seem to be any compelling reason to use her — without focusing more on her redemption, and the trials thereof (perhaps the mistrust from ponies like Rarity not accepting her reform), she feels kinda generic. That everyone reconciles with her so easily robs her use in this story of a lot of dramatic punch. She's clever in overcoming the adventuring obstacles, and I do want to root for her; I just would like to see the story tackle a little more character depth. "He was afraid to ask for help" feels like it could be a huge crystallizing moment for a character epiphany, but I feel like there's not quite enough leading up to it.

The adventure is done well, with obstacles and exploration and some good location descriptions and historical digging. The core of the story is solid, just tease the characters out a bit more.

Anyway, glad I reread all of these, because apparently I was way too sleepy to appreciate them the first time around. On my second readthrough my estimation of all of them jumped by a few points. :twilightsheepish:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

I'm surprised the comedy took top spot over the high-concept piece. I liked them equally, but I gave the edge to Greek Nonsense, speaking personally.

Anyway, fuckin' ouch. :( I got some good feedback, at least.

3464976
This review has bothered me since I read it. What made you think you were supposed to feel bad for Pokey Pierce? I didn't intend for him to be a sympathetic character in the least; he's too wrapped up in his own self-pity and loathing. I definitely need to make the ending stronger (I was going for ambiguity because of the prompt, but I think it'd be a good idea if I just left Twilight a blubbering mess instead), so hopefully that will fix things.

3466529
Much as I like the "Twilight has all the brothers" idea, that's actually pretty close to another idea I've had for a while, so I likely won't write it. :) I did want to mention though, that "turning like an hour hand" was meant to suggest slowness. I guess it didn't. :B

3467645
See response to Axis above. Also, the prompt link was the three times Pokey turns away from her: when he left home, when he goes back into the workshop after she first shows up, and then at the end of the story.

3486087
I think you are really overselling this story, sir. :B

Well, one thing I'll likely do with this (as if I ever do anything with writeoff entries) is add in an epilogue scene with Twilight and Pokey a few seasons on, to contrast young, naive Twilight's interactions with her estranged brother with those after she'd had a few friendship lessons under her belt. Also, no tense changes. I don't know why but I switched to present tense halfway through without realizing it and apparently couldn't recover.

Bad Horse
Group Contributor

3486072 I didn't say I thought it was darf. I said I was gonna say darf. :trollestia:

Bad Horse
Group Contributor

3486087

The title is a reference to Marx's essay from which came the famous phrase about history repeating: "The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

:flutterrage:
(For those who didn't click: "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte".)
Okay. Nicely done. But I don't think I can take any more erudite puns right now.

Celestia as Crystal Dragon Horse Jesus

Nitpick: Crystal Dragon Jesus is the trappings of Christianity without Jesus. This is closer to the converse.

Can you elaborate on "it won't stick with me in a good way"?

Silent Strider
Group Contributor

And now, twice in a row, I had a prompt with one vote less than the winner, placed as high as I could without getting a medal, and was evaluated somewhat controversially — last time by taking fourth and fifth places while having my last entry in the lower third, this time by earning the most controversial reward. Do I get extra points for mirroring the prompt in my results? :scootangel:

Edit: Oh, yeah. And both times my well placed fic was the last one in the gallery :raritywink:

I joke, I joke :pinkiehappy:

BTW, I quickly fired my reviews last night because I was feeling intimidated with the prospect of criticizing works from authors that I, sincerely, hold as being better than me. So I decided to, this time, do the reviews before the reveal, while I still didn't know who wrote which piece, even if it meant doing a fake review of my own piece (though I do mean everything I wrote about my own story).

Also, in case anyone is interested, this Writeoff was a roller-coaster for me:

- My first idea was to mix Back to the Future, Chrono Trigger, and Day of the Tentacle: Star Swirl the Bearded would be a kind of Doctor Emmett Brown expy, the big bad would be something that threatens the whole time continuum and had to be defeated simultaneously in the past and present, Star Swirl would recruit Trixie (who I consider to be older than Twilight) and Sunset Shimmer to handle the present part of the fight (present being, obviously, before the first season), Celestia (and Luna, in the past) would need to do damage control. At least part of it would be told from the point of view of Celestia, for whom the whole thing would appear to be history repeating itself in a nearly identical fashion. Then I looked at the complexity of the whole thing and realized I would need at least a couple months to write this :facehoof:

- Then I thought about a simple story with a pegasus and an unicorn giving birth to twin earth ponies, with the (obvious) reveal that they are ancestors of one of the Cakes. But I couldn't think of a way to extend this to 2K words without delving into romance, and I'm still a disaster when trying to write romance :facehoof:

- I went through a series of ideas in quick succession, mostly dealing with Groundhog Day style time loops, but everything felt like a cheap rip-off of Hard Reset, something that could only work with 1K words or less, or something that would need weeks. Often more than one at a time.

- My next attempt was to look at my song-based ideas. First I thought about something based on No Way Out, from the Disney animation Brother Bear, making a parallel between Celestia's grief at having banished her sister and Luna's grief at having given cause to be banished, but (besides the fact I already did a sad Luna fic last Writeoff) my early idea fizzled. I also looked at something to do with how Cadance thought her life was too predictable (based on a not well known song I quite enjoy), using the joke that the "predictable" involved saving the kingdom before breakfast in an almost literal way, but having to create a string of minimally credible enemies wasn't something I could do in the (then) a day and half I had left.

- Finally I broke down, went to TV Tropes, did research on each and every trope related with story repeating itself, looked at the examples, and drafted something with Daring Do, using a book end (the ending was identical to the start). On the second draft it was Trixie and Rarity, because I did a daring do fic last Writeoff. On the third draft I noticed that the OC I created to be the source of the treasure was similar to Twilight, so I dropped the book end, reduced the amount of adventure and character conflict to not detract from the prompt, and attempted to bring the foil relationship between Twilight and her (now) ancestral to the fore; when finally writing it (and almost out of time) I noticed that Trixie could be used as a further foil for Twilight, and added sparse bits of it in the last rushed edit.

This is why I was more or less grumpy with the prompt. Not an issue of the prompt per see, it is a good prompt, but since I decided to try my hand at writing fics for such events and contests I never had so many issues trying to get a workable idea for a single prompt :twilightoops:

I'm going to answer some of the questions from the reviews, and explain a bit why I did some choices, in a further post.

Potential Albatross
Group Contributor

Welp.

People have noted there's something missing from my story - indeed, more is missing than not! In retrospect, the outline was far too ambitious for the eight to twelve hours I had hoped to spend on it. When I only found two (those directly preceding the deadline), the issue was exacerbated. Everything that might have made this worth writing got cut for time. Important thematic foundations (including the prompt tie-in) were wedged into random paragraphs as one-off references. Characterization was not done. The title was even going to be relevant! Instead, I churned out a steaming mess of dirty cricket. My better judgement declined to exist when it was time to not click the submit button, but if we could all pretend that it hadn't, I'd really appreciate it!

Specific responses!


3485509

It's an interesting concept, that of a dragon's solitary nature overruling his moral compass, though one that seems to have been debunked by the series (teenage dragons hanging together in Dragon Quest, the way Spike acts at the end of Equestria Games, etc); if published here on FIMFiction, I would think an [Alternate Universe] tag appropriate.

I would argue that the behavior seen in that episode was the exception and not the rule. That was specifically about the migration, which is notable in that the dragons actually are together for a short time. Moreover, the adults are just as unsocial as ever, sparing only a couple of snarls for the teenagers' shenanigans. Every other time we see them, dragons are alone and ill-tempered. With regard to Spike's behavior, he acts as he's trained to for as long as he's able. We've already seen him nearly lose out to dragon instinct once, though.

Two nitpicks: first, where is Cadance?

Dead, I hope.

3475227

but as soon as Spike is killed, we get a joke about how Celestia and Luna finally get a guilt free nap.

I actually didn't regard that as a joke, so I guess it's interesting to see it interpreted that way.

Hi __________!

Hi!

3486087

The last thing we see before the time skip is Spike cooking dinner for Twilight and then waiting for her until it got cold — and then after the time skip, he makes war on her nation as a gesture of friendship. Neurological differences aside, Spike is not dumb; how could he not know that she wouldn't appreciate that? Even if he developed his own value system at complete odds with ponykind's, how could he not see his murder coming? When you outgrow and reject a moral system, you don't forget what it values.

It's intended as more of a cry for attention (negative or otherwise) than a gesture of friendship. Note that he doesn't seem particularly surprised when she shows up in flaming avenger mode.

The central theme of what made it to imaginary paper is informed by some experiences with people who raised wild animals as something other than wild animals. They're really cute and sociable as juveniles, then one day you look over and they're gnawing on the neighbor kids. Turns out that cougar/bear/wolf was a cougar/bear/wolf all along! And now it likes hanging around humans and can't live with its wild relatives, so it's just a danger to everyone at this point. This exposure has made it impossible for me to ever see Spike as anything but a terrible mistake, and I can't see a future in which he does not get Old Yeller'd.

Actually, in my headcanon the egg was never meant to be hatched - it was mainly there as a lesson in failure, which Twilight failed to fail. This doesn't actually seem to be a very unique idea in the fandom, so I'll take it a bit further and say that Celestia was looking forward to a particularly exotic omelette.

horizon
Group Admin

By the way, I'd like to thank everyone for this round's lengthy, detailed reviews, positive in tone and chock full of helpful analysis and suggestions. This thread is everything I love about the writeoffs.

I'd like to especially give props to 3464976 and 3473252, for such fantastic feedback from authors who didn't even enter this round. (Also, a tip o' the hat to 3485509, for the footnotes in the Brewmare review. :ajsmug:)

3486317
I meant it in that same Passion Of The Christ sense I name-dropped, for about the same reason — the takeaway I'm getting is something like "For Celestia so loved her little ponies, that she dragged herself through millennia of graphically described body-ablating slug-torture every single time they f'd up". If you'll spot me a moment of Death Of The Author, you have written a story where torture is the point. It's the same thing that made me quit Eyes Without A Face without finishing despite its amazing quality — it's revolting, but it's using that viscerality to make a point rather than to simply shock. (As opposed to, say, Cupcakes, which I could turn my brain off and power through, because there was nothing in the text which was worthy of engagement and analysis.) Other people will have different tolerances.

3487050
Spike, the Equestrian Kobayashi Maru?

Silent Strider
Group Contributor

3487050
3487057
Spike as a kind of Kobayashi Maru — likely followed by the real test — crossed my mind in the past because it's either that or the test being different for each candidate, which wouldn't strike me as really fair. Otherwise each pony entering Celestia's school would have a pet dragon — which would include Sunset Shimmer and (if considering word of Lauren as canon) Trixie.

(About the footnotes, I couldn't resist, I love those things :twilightblush:)

Prompted-by-Raridash
Group Contributor

Well, considering quite a number of people have already posted about their stories (And I've actually wanted to do that before), I shall punch out some quick responses to the reviews.

3466529
The grammar could use work. Admittedly, I dug myself far too deep into the "NaNoWriMo" mindset and neglected to look through the story to make a proper edit. And I had the whole day too...

3467645
Little risks taken here and there indeed. I pretty much typed out every single detail that came off the top of my head. That, and the mix of comedy and tragedy came about simply from trying to show how the mood of the situation was to change as Cadance realised that the race was probably starting already.

3469532
3473358
Yes everyone, the story's sort of meant to confuse people, but not really do that. I sincerely think that, when writing the story, I had decidedly left out many of the points that would ordinarily be in the story to push people to think about why it was happening. Of course, the issue is that I never seemed to tie them into the theme much (My own biggest issue being the biology factoid with her being with her parents, that could've been explained simply in that time just by showing that her parents taught her simply biology or something) and that my overambitious sentence structures can be my pitfall.

I... also didn't pick the best method of writing in such a 'contest', being that I jumped from part to part of the story.

3485509
I'm technically native English speaking, just not officially. That pretty much explains the sentence structure somewhere and the obscure word usage. (Which came from Google. :derpytongue2:) Though quite honestly, living in Singapore, you'd think I'd have grasped the language by now. Especially considering I use it so common it may as well be my native tongue.

3467249
3486087
I honestly wish I could somehow give you two a virtual hug. Or something of the equivalent, considering how you two have managed to grasp the story buried underneath it and figure out fully what was wrong with the story.

As for the ideas themselves, as mentioned earlier, I basically rolled with the punches on this. The only idea that stuck throughout the writing was Cadance's spell going wrong. Then I established the "Running of The Leaves" prompting when writing and just chugged out the rest of the details as I went.

Still, that is something I'll remember in the edit/actually rewrite.

And, overall, that sums up the entire writeoff: Confusion. Somehow, I feel halfway proud about this emotion being shown, considering that in some ways, the worst thing for me is when people are bored. It's down there with when people are sad and people are angry, though. Still, it doesn't come by because of any good reason, so I'll have to take note when I come back for another writeoff, which has been one of the most stupidly fast three to four hours I had ever partaken in, which could've stretched to six had I not been either so lazy in the editing process. =/

Silent Strider
Group Contributor

Well, I will start by saying that I'm glad for all the reviews, and my intent is not to criticize or belittle them. While my intent often didn't come across, I attribute that to my limitations as an author.

Like I said earlier, my story changed quite a bit from inception to the final(ish) version, from a lightheaded and pun-filled Daring Do romp to an (attempted) introspective look at what gaining friends did to Twilight. And it suffered from being rushed and having some editing done past 1am :twilightoops:.

BTW, no one mentioned it, but the fireworks display that had Celestia in tears and the Wind Rocket are a direct reference to Lullaby for a Princess. It's rare for a story to make me cry, and rarer still for a song to manage it, but that one did.

About the interaction between Rarity and Trixie: I did something really dumb here. I had something planned with quite a bit more conflict than I showed, it was there until my second draft — and then, when I changed how I would tackle the prompt from a book end (the story starting and ending in the same way) to a parallel between Twilight and her ancestor, I toned down the elements that could steal the scene, including the conflict between Trixie and Rarity :facehoof:

The seeds of the conflict are still in the story: Rarity glaring at Trixie when telling she is helping because she is generous, unwittingly trying to pick a fight with her every time Trixie mentions what she did in Ponyville or says something that could be interpreted as criticizing Rarity's friends, and so on. Rarity starts the story more or less wanting to dislike Trixie, but giving her a chance because she promised Twilight she would do so, and helping anyway both because of self-interest and because it's in Rarity's nature to help.

What I did to keep the seeds of the conflict buried, without removing them, was to tweak Trixie's responses. She yields in every argument, and either asks for forgiveness or says she will change, until the end. What makes Rarity smile in the end is that, instead of backing off or apologizing, which Rarity was seeing as an attempt by Trixie to gain empathy without meaning to truly change, Trixie keeps her position — which was a fair one anyway — but adds, in a way that sounded sincere to Rarity, that she would like to be Twilight's friend; that, plus the fact Trixie didn't lash back during the trip, convinces Rarity that Trixie is being earnest.

What I should have done, instead of toning the conflict down, was to use it to show the difference in how Twilight, Trixie, and Evening behave, and perhaps even use it to show Rarity that she was behaving in a childish way and create a link to Sisterhooves Social, bringing one more layer to the prompt; this would have brought the prompt to the fore without making the narrative tame.

3467670
You got the author right :twilightsmile:

Contrasting Trixie actually snuck out on me; I literally only noticed that Trixie could also work as a counterpoint to both Twilight and Evening when I wrote about Rarity finding the drafts of the letter, and Trixie's answer simply popped on my mind unprompted. Unfortunately, by then, I had no time to do anything more with the concept.

Why the lack of conflict is mentioned above, since basically everyone told me it was a weak point in my story :rainbowderp:

As for why Rarity: convenience, mainly. I wanted the story to start in Canterlot, and I didn't want to use Twilight; apart from Twilight, Rarity is the one among the Mane 6 that has more reason to go by herself to Canterlot (she did so twice in the show already, once in Sweet and Elite, another in For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils). Her personality could have been much better explored, of course, and it might have been interesting to do a joke or two with the fact she occasionally refers to herself in third person when talking to others.

Oh, yeah. The mountain. The workshop was at the base of a cliff, in the base of one of the closest mountains of the Unicorn Range, but the mountain part got lost in editing, together with a few more scenes before and during the trip; a joke about why in the hay Rarity brought safari garb to a trip to Canterlot, why she wasn't staying at the palace this time, and a few other things. Editing past midnight, while nearly falling asleep, is not a good idea :facehoof:

(And I need to back off on associating Trixie with Fireworks, to the exclusion of her other skills...)

3467917
With my incredible (lack of) skill in writing romance, I'm not sure you would want shipping by me :trollestia:

3468804
Actually, the way I pictured Twilight's mom for this specific story, yes, she does send a letter to her mom telling her to not beat the horseapples out of whoever wrongs her loved daughter. It's wise when said mom is protective as a mama bear and can stare down, and potentially beat, the captain of the guard :scootangel:

I planned a joke about Shining being afraid to face his mom, and it having nothing to do with the fact that she is his mom, to justify that, but couldn't find a good place for it.

As for the motivation being too convenient: I'm not happy with it either. But I needed something that could drag Rarity even if she didn't really want to come with Trixie, and atop that something that Rarity could find out by accident, without Trixie having to sell the idea to her. I couldn't find anything better that fulfilled those requirements in the time I had.

3475227
Not actually too prideful to ask for help; rather, too unsure about him or herself, and afraid of the other pony refusing. I have the same issue; this part was as close to a self-insert as I ever did in a fic.

I see Trixie as somepony that is afraid of forming relationships, afraid of rejections, but hides that behind a forceful, boisterous facade; somepony that created a strong stage persona as a way to not be hurt by the world, and now hides behind it.

Oh, and about Twilight's mom being a Solar Guard: it was blatantly stolen from inspired by The Princess of Books, though the materializing weapon was based more on Past Sins (and is supposed to be a very high level technique, powerful enough to face an alicorn in combat). I loved the idea of Shining Armor following the steps of his mother, and Twilight following more closely the steps of her father.

3480662
It's more that she had clients treat her worse than Trixie did, so she didn't mind the matter with the banners that much. And Rarity, while not actually lying, was hiding her feelings anyway.

As for the connection between Twilight and Evening: the starburst Evening used to mark the scroll and the door to his workshop is the same that is at the center of Twilight's cutie mark, at the center of Shining Armor's cutie mark, and (judging by their uncle's old gala uniform, which Shining Armor used at his wedding) their uncle also had that starburst in his cutie mark.

3486087
That barb at the bridge was for Trixie reminding Rarity about how she hogtied Applejack, actually; Rarity latched to the other thing Trixie said, about prevailing, in an unconscious attempt to make her comeback hurt a bit more. It came out in a rather confusing way, though.

About her use of third person: it ended spotty here because, the way I consider it, Trixie would spend almost the whole story without speaking in third person. I don't think it is a tic, but rather a consciously constructed trait of her stage persona. Since Trixie spends nearly this whole story out of her stage persona I went for rule of fun, choosing first or third person according to what sounded more interesting at the time.

In hindsight, though, I could have kept to using it whenever she slipped into her stage persona, but use the stage persona to fend off Rarity's barbs. It would have made the use of third person fairly common and meaningful.

As for teasing the characters more, I completely agree. At the time I thought toning down the conflict to let the prompt through was a good idea :facehoof:

Potential Albatross
Group Contributor

3487576
If it helps, it wasn't that the information was out there for the taking, or that Rarity knew about it. It was that it's that really the ONLY thing Rarity knows is exactly what they need to move the plot forward. If it were more of a 'I know several things about this dude, and I speculate (but can't say for sure!) that he may have left something I'd like to see,' it would be much easier to swallow.

Silent Strider
Group Contributor

3487733
Actually, my take is that, if Rarity knew anything about that pony at all, it would be just his interactions with fashion. Which would be exactly what could prompt Rarity to go after him. Evening and Rarity are from different circles and separated by centuries, so I thought it even more unlikely that Rarity would know anything about him beyond the bare minimum.

Though what you've suggested could work with this, and I think it would have been better. Rarity could have known only about the pony and his greatest fireworks display (and, of course, the influence it had on fashion), showing interest in learning more about him because she thought there could be something about his shows or influences to find, and then Trixie — who did know everything there was to know about him — supplied the information about the lost notebooks.

Bad Horse
Group Contributor

3487057

If you'll spot me a moment of Death Of The Author, you have written a story where torture is the point.

I really didn't mean to. Hope is the point. That's why it's called Hope.

Prompted-by-Raridash
Group Contributor

3487576

As for the connection between Twilight and Evening: the starburst Evening used to mark the scroll and the door to his workshop is the same that is at the center of Twilight's cutie mark, at the center of Shining Armor's cutie mark, and (judging by their uncle's old gala uniform, which Shining Armor used at his wedding) their uncle also had that starburst in his cutie mark.

This... is not a bad idea to think of as. And it does happen in the MLPverse.

Thinking through it, though, Rarity and Pinkie Pie both defied that. The former went into fashion versus... not fashion and the latter went to become a party maker in a family of rock experts. It might fit just as well that Rarity and Pinkie Pie are outliers in Equestria and, generally speaking, the cutie mark that appears on a foal's flank should mimic that of their parents. On that account, it would make sense, but I guess I'm kinda iffy about it because of the idea that the mark is somehow of the pony's own destiny and not that of their parents' (Or tangential to it, anyways)

Silent Strider
Group Contributor

3488741
It's not that the family or parents determine the pony's special talent, but rather that in some cases the family influences the cutie mark's shape no matter what the talent is. Kinda like most fans seem to think there will be an apple in Apple Bloom's cutie mark, regardless of her actual talent. Or Twilight and Shining; Twilight's talent is magic, Shining's is protecting, but both have the same purple starburst as the center of their respective cutie marks.

It's not guaranteed, though. As you point, Rarity and Pinkie break the mold. Twilight's parents too, if you think about the purple starburst being a family theme.

My take on it is that the cutie mark's shape reflects how the pony him or herself would draw it for the talent the pony actually gets. Thus, if the pony is from a family with a strong sense of identity and thematic cutie marks, such as the Apples, he or she would likely imagine a cutie mark in the family theme regardless of his talent; a physicist might get an apple falling from a tree, a mechanic might get a gear with an apple-shaped shaft, a cook might get a dish that is made with apples, and so on.

Prompted-by-Raridash
Group Contributor

3488997

Well, that makes sense.

I've got another question, but in consideration of the thread's purpose, I'll send it by PM.

horizon
Group Admin

3488028
You're not wrong, but they're flip sides of the coin. Celestia keeps at it despite the overwhelming and literal pain of her failures; if that pain weren't at stake with each iteration, the choice to hope would have no impact.

Again with the Passion analogy: is that movie torture porn, or is it about how a man named Jesus so loved humanity that he willingly went through that for them? Can you make one point without making the other?

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3487576
Ah, well it was still a cool idea, about Twilight's mom. And me too, I like the idea of parental genes/influence being reversed in their children.

I've personally never delved into Trixie's character or motivations, having read only a few stories involving her, and never written any. But I would agree with your interpretation of her; it's a pretty classic response to insecurity, overcompensating and hiding behind a false version of yourself.

3487290
*hugs*
And don't worry, every writeoff is a learning experience. Even my worst entries I'm proud of on some level.

3487050

Hi!

Yeah, I was totally wrong about who wrote your story. :trollestia:
I'm sure Bad Horse is still laughing.
BUT! I still mean everything I said about the potential it has, and I still recommend giving it a real chance to become something great. You made a good point after all about raising dangerous wild animals, and while I'm sure many wouldn't agree with that in relation to Spike, it's still how you see him, and what are stories for if not for telling the world the way you see things? Besides, done well enough a story can easily convince readers of ideas, within the bounds of its own rules (i.e. in this universe Spike is more nature driven than nuture driven, and so he turns out a certain way. In other stories he isn't). You might even change the way some people see Spike. Just think of the stories that made you change the way you see a particular character.

3486281
Ah, so that wasn't your purpose after all. You probably don't remember, but in my review I did say this:

I understand I’m making an assumption that we are expected to feel bad for him—that may not have been your purpose

But the reason I went with that assumption was because I couldn't really imagine what your purpose would be in doing otherwise. Creating an unsympathetic character and then pitching him against Twilight, who most of your readers really care about, is only going to make him look like a villain. That's the emotional response we're likely to have towards him--at least, that's how I felt towards him. But what purpose does that accomplish? Is it trying to say something? Maybe you wanted me to feel bad for Twilight that she was attached to a crappy person, and sought reconciliation from somepony who wouldn't really desire it or appreciate/care for her the way she deserved, and in this way make it tragic?
I'm quite curious as to what your goals were. :twilightsmile: The way you imagined me feeling while I read it.

And I never wish for my reviews to bother the author; I aim to build up, alongside any honest critique I make. Critique should make a writer want to be better and have clear hope for that, and this means not making them feel like shit. It should talk about flaws as gently as possible, but still honestly. Perhaps I didn't accomplish this, and in that case I'm sorry. I did mean what I said about the concept having a lot of potential, and in many other respects the story was well done. I thought it was well written, in terms of the prose, and I liked Twilight's and Pinkie's characterization. The reason I spend so many words sometimes (or often times, as it may be) harping on what I didn't like is because I'm trying as much as possible to make it clear to the author what I think didn't work quite as well as they hoped. I want them to understand it, so that they can improve and do better. That's all. The unfortunate side effect I guess is it appears that there was much I didn't like, when that wasn't the case.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Group Admin

3489700

I'm quite curious as to what your goals were.

You and me both!

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

3490823
Haha I've been there before! xD

Silent Strider
Group Contributor

3486087
Oh, yeah. I knew I wanted to answer something here, but I couldn't find your digression in your post :facehoof:

My take on why those two stories have issues with the transitions is lack of progression and foreshadowing.

I don't actually see the shift from nonsense to serious as really noticeable in The 18th Brewmare of Bluey Napoleon because, in a sense, it follows a clearly foreshadowed progression, with the serious aspect of the story steadily growing, in the background and in footnotes, since the first scene. It's not a single moment that prepares for the shift; instead, everything led to that point in such a way that the shift into a serious story, by the time it happened, felt inevitable.

In Naval Gazing I personally didn't find the shift itself so jarring, though there was certainly some disconnect between the parts. I see the main cause of disconnection to be the fact the reader isn't even shown that the CMC are there until one short sentence before they become the protagonists; the other aspects that changed were well foreshadowed, following a good progression path. Had the fact the CMC were with the Mane 6 been shown to the reader, with a couple sentences by the Mane 6 earlier, perhaps also with one of the CMC throwing an off-hoof comment that they wanted to find a better vantage point to watch the show, the main discontinuity issue would be fixed or reduced, the transition far smoother.

Equestrian Diplomacy has the disconnect between scenes far worse, and it was actually jarring for me. We go from a scene with unicorn Twilight and Spike directly to a scene set far in the future, with a fully grown Spike that does not remind the reader of how he behaved just one scene earlier. To make things worse, before Spike makes his entrance there is no indication that so much time has passed, and even after Spike appears the reader has to remember that Twilight expected to be dead long before Spike reached maturity in order to figure out how much time passed. So, the reader is simultaneously bombarded with a sense of temporal disorientation that, I believe, wasn't intended, and the reaction to how unrecognizable Spike is.

In other words, here there is a total lack of foreshadowing for the temporal jump, combined with quite insufficient foreshadowing for Spike's personality shift.

It's why my suggestion was to turn the first part into a flashback, slotting it inside the second part; it would then be a jump from a moment in time that the reader had already figured out into one that could be easily recognized, sharply decreasing the temporal confusion, and it would bring into closer contrast the actions of future Spike with those of past Spike and past Twilight's concern, bringing said concern to the fore and keeping the reason for Spike's change at the forefront of the reader's mind.

Edit: Thinking again about Equestrian Diplomacy, perhaps just throwing some reference that allowed the reader to quickly and effortlessly grasp the temporal jump before Spike makes his entrance might already be enough. Perhaps an off-hoof comment about how it was centuries since Celestia and Luna lastly went together to Mare-is, perhaps a mention of a centuries old statue of one character from the show like Daring Do, or Celestia mentioning that she wanted a treaty ready for the 1000th anniversary of Luna's return. This would change the jump in time from a head-scratcher to be solved by looking at the changed and grown up Spike into a further foreshadowing piece preparing the reader for Spike's change, and if confusing the reader about the moment in time wasn't intentional wouldn't detract in any way from what the author wanted to convey.

Potential Albatross
Group Contributor

3491358
If I were to revisit it, I think I'd leave out the first scene completely. And also the other scenes, but for the topic of this conversation, the first scene is an exposition dump that with decent writing would not be necessary. Having the story start in the Spike-as-damaged-adult era and more gradually reveal the nature and cause of his damage, while also building a more compelling conflict (instead of an immediately failed something-or-other) would just be better all around. That's way too ambitious for me though -- better to just leave that dumpster fire where it sits and hope it burns out some day.

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