The Writeoff Association 926 members · 662 stories
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Trick Question
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4949109

Just be thankful my room is constantly too messy to make use of my Wacom.

Regidar
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4949122 mine isn't :pinkiecrazy:

Bad Horse
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4949002 Re. Things that have been unsaid: I agree about the title.

If I’m correct, Twilight is wondering if she can use a memory-erasing spell on her friend, Rainbow Dash, in order to prevent Rainbow Dash from spoiling the new Daring Do book.

Nope. Twilight has already used the spell on Rainbow Dash and feels guilty about it. The reveal is that Dash no longer remembers Starlight isn't an enemy anymore.

Re. Cold Case:

A detective piece requires meticulous attention to detail, many scenes and locales, a wide cast of unsavory characters, each boiling over with rage and regret and a simmering motive for the crime, and it’s up to the detective to tease out which of these villains is the real villain of the piece.

This is an un-detecting story. I think the solution should be more obvious, and Pinkie should come to a false conclusion, even after being told outright that Spike ate it. But it would improve it for Pinkie to make up motives for everyone, and falsely interpret what they say as rage, regret, etc.

Cold in Gardez
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4949027
4949145

Again, I considered that, but rejected that interpretation for the same reason Starlight rejected Twilight's suggestion -- using a memory modification spell on someone is a horrific action, akin to rape. It in some sense destroys the person it is used upon. I can't really imagine Twilight thinking that would ever be acceptable, and if the story is asking us to believe that she would, then it's a very different and much darker story than I thought.

I guess I don't really agree that messing with memory is innately akin to rape. I mean, there are medicines that erase short term memory; one that does, along with other effects, is often used in minor surgical procedures, for example, and I've had it. You can converse with people on it just fine, but they wont remember the conversation.

Now, obviously messing with her memory was the wrong thing to do, and that's the point of the story, and I think we're supposed to assume Twilight panicked and wasn't in her right mind when she did it, but I don't feel that alone makes it a dark story.

Trick Question
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Trixie's Finals 1

More Precious Than Silver Or Gold
One technical note to start: you have a problem with run-on sentences, so try to break those down. This is clearly a religious allegory, but it's difficult to place the intended meaning because it doesn't match up with any world religion I know (and I know a bunch), nor does it parallel anything we've seen in the show. The foal is clearly some kind of holy being with special powers, which in turn is the only reason for the dragon's unusual actions at the end of the story. This is highly confusing because the foal is an OC that doesn't match any of the characters in the show, or even any popular fan character. If you'd chosen an actual character like Fausticorn this might have made some sense. Basically, you've made the same mistake that Shyamalan made with Lady in the Water: you created your own mythos but failed to develop it to the point where the reader can identify with it enough to feel something. As is, we're left with a vignette that leaves us with questions rather than feels.

Point/Counterpoint
This is cute and amusing, but a little too contrived to be believable. Twilight isn't the primary character one would expect this from (I expected Pinkie Pie first, then Luna). That's not really a problem, but the lack of empathy and regret she shows feels out of character to me.

I Love You
I appreciate lesbian porn about as much as I pretend to be confused by it, which is a fairly decent amount. However, I felt like there wasn't much of a story here. I didn't learn anything by the end of the story that wasn't obvious a few sentences in. Even when I write erotica I need to put a storyline into it, or else a twist or a surprise or something so that I feel that a thing actually happened aside from raw, unadorned sex or intimacy. You need some meat to a story, even of this length. Even if your attempt is only to titillate or warm, words can do much more than you're doing with them here, so I urge you to try. We aren't given any insight into the relationship between the two characters apart from the fact that they are in a relationship, so that could be a good place to start. Also, a comment on the writing: you are in the midst of a love affair with gerunds. You don't need to break up with gerunds, but I think you two should try an open grammar arrangement and see other parts of speech now and then.

Cold Case
The main problem here is that, although the aim is laughs, there's no mystery from the beginning so I was kind of bored. Only Spike can eat gems and leave crumbs, after all. The addition of Twilight's comment just goes over-the-top with the obviousness. At first I thought that was intentional, but when I got to the end, you made it seem like it was supposed to be a surprise. You can't legitimately end on a "Surprise!" note if the reader isn't likely to be surprised. So the ending falls flat. I think this story can be improved by actually quoting Pinkie's dialogue rather than making it sound internal. Then you can focus on dialogue and action in a way that conveys more details. The internal-monologue with Pinkie is also difficult because she's an unreliable narrator, and in a mystery of this length, that can confuse the reader. Also, the adjective "friggin'" doesn't seem very Dashie to me. She rarely uses adverbs when a stronger version of a word (awesomazing) will do.

Love Needs No Words
You have a good mastery of the written word, but this prose is super-duper telly in a way that ruins it. Don't tell us about Luna's attempts to reach the sky; show us. Don't tell us what their emotions are; show them. Show show show show show show show show show-ditty show show show. Also, the conclusion of the story seems to be the exact opposite of what the title is saying, which confused me.

Consistency
You're easily my better, so I have nothing to recommend. I'll just mention that the order-in-chaos theme as described here commands a mathematical and quantum mechanical purchase in several interesting ways.

4949324

"Only Spike can eat gems and leave crumbs"

Maud did it! Actually, apparently everyone in Pinkie's family can eat rocks, so I can actually rationalize Pinkie considering this a mystery (even if it's obvious to the reader).

Edit: Ok, fine :p

Trick Question
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4949335
Don't unspoiler my text silly! :facehoof:

Trick Question
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4949222
I discovered with my Back to Normal fic that a surprisingly large number of ponies have extreme views on this topic.

Seriously, I had several ponies threaten to boycott and downvote all of my works just because I wrote a story where Twilight altered her friends' memories. One of the authors who used to participate in the Writeoffs every month was among those severely bothered by it (not Cold in Gardez, for the record).

Trick Question
Group Contributor

4949335
I don't think Pinkie's family can eat gems. We've only seen them eating "edible rocks" which other ponies were also able to eat.

4949358

Maud ate a gem that fell off Rarity's hat in the episode she was introduced.


Anyways, reviews for the new stories on my slate!

4. Eeyup
You know, considering the prompt, I'm kind of surprised I haven't seen more Big Mac stories. This was a pretty good one. Not perfect; his explanation seems to bounce around a lot, and some of the conclusions feel a little forced, but still good. He's a hard character to write for, but I could see this as something he'd actually say.

8. Cold Case
Pinkie as a Noir detective? Reminds me of the story Sparkle's Law, which I loved.
Was it supposed to be Rainbow Dash who said she friggin' hates spicy food? I just can't see her using the word friggin'. Other than that, a cute and funny store.

9. I Love You
This story faced an uphill battle when it showed up on my slate. I'm not a particular fan of romance, and even less of shipping. This story takes that a step further by being mostly descriptions of physical intimacy; nothing wrong with that, and it's not a clopfic, but not my cup of tea.
The end helped, though, when I realized why it concentrated so much on those descriptions, and how it all fit in with the prompt. It's still not my kind of story, but it's undeniably clever and well done.

13. Flapjacks
Ok, this was another one I stumbled onto some reviews for, and that made me a little apprehensive since the reviews considered some darker implications.
But having read it.. I don't agree. Maybe I'm just optimistic and/or naive, but to me this read like a straight up happy shipping story. I'm not really a big shipping fan, but this story was an interesting examination of the odd ways in which a relationship grew.

14. Curses
This fic cheered me up! Not that I was depressed or anything, it was just the right sort of enthusiastic fun.
That said, it's not without its flaws. Some of the back and forth banter lost me, though based on the other character's reactions it was obviously intended to have more meaning. I still really enjoyed it, though.

17. Point/Counterpoint
I tried to avoid reviews for stories I hadn't read, so I'd go in fresh, but I couldn't help but see a few discussions of the bouncy castle. Time to see what the story is like.
Ok, the image of Princess Twilight trying to use the bouncy castle is a hilarious one. But in the spirit of literary criticism I have to take things overly seriously, and that gives this story some odd tonal problems. The company is definitely in the right, IMHO, but their overly snippy language does them no favors. Meanwhile Twilight seems rather out of character here, but I suppose that plays into the nature of the joke. After all, apologizing and suggesting ways to make them adult safe wouldn't be very funny. Overall a very good story.
Also this story deserves bonus points for the title.

23. That Secret Fire
What.

37. More Precious Than Silver Or Gold
Not quite sure what to make of this one, if I must be honest. It's well written and descriptive. On the other hand.. it hardly feels like a pony story, really. It's really mostly the author's own world building, which is fine, but other than filly Cadence and a few mentions of ponies it really draws nothing from the show and would work in just about any setting. And it feels kind of odd that just seeing a sleeping Cadence would have such effects on a dragon.

43. Consistency
I think I may have missed something here. Or maybe not. As it stands, it seems an odd sort of story, trying to make a point but not really selling it. Discord's lecture on consistency and inconsistency really didn't mean much to me, and other than that it's just a fairly unremarkable story.

73. Deathbed Confessions
Wow, isn't that a cheerful title.
Ok, that was much better than it sounded. Everyone felt slightly out of character to me, but it was an enjoyable light and fluffy comedy.

Xepher
Group Contributor

4948857 4948882 4948895

I'm honestly NOT trying to call anyone out or get anyone in trouble. My interpretation was that the rule was meant to preserve anonymity. If you write stuff obviously connected to your own (published!) work, then it's kind of a give away as to who wrote it. I, of course, trust myself to not let that bias my judgement (I'm pretty equally harsh on all stories I think) but... It can definitely be a concern any time you have contests with as many people in them as the writeoffs do.

That said, I know we've had several cases of people writing in other people's universes though. I think Bradel wrote a Lost Cities homage, for example.

M1Garand8
Group Contributor

4949324

The foal is clearly some kind of holy being with special powers, which in turn is the only reason for the dragon's unusual actions at the end of the story. This is highly confusing because the foal is an OC that doesn't match any of the characters in the show, or even any popular fan character.

If I'm reading the entry right, it's actually Cadance from Skywriter's "Cadance of Cloudsdale" cycle during her time as an infant in a monastery.

She's magical like that.

Bachiavellian
Group Contributor

The last of the finalists on my slate.

Compassionate: You've got a nice idea, but it's a pretty big problem that even as a minific, this one feels a bit too long. A lot of the paragraphs/vignettes feel redundant in that while they give us new details, they don't really seem to give us any new information about Big Mac's relationship (or lack, thereof) with Fluttershy. The second to sixth paragraphs like repainted versions of "Big Mac helps Fluttershy with something", which bogs down the pacing of your story a bit too much. As for the ending, I think that's the sort of thing that really works best when you're running at it at full speed. The fact that you've lost some steam here and there means it doesn't hit as hard as it could have.

Don't Say It: I'm going to have to reflect a lot of other reviewers here in that I have absolutely no idea what Rarity's motivations are. The most obvious explaination ( that she's maliciously leading him on) feels OOC for her, to me. Regardless of my own thoughts, however, there doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence pointing in any direction. And without a strong characterization/reasoning behind this kind of behavior, I'm just left mostly confused.

The Spare: The message is interesting, but unfortunately, it didn't strike me at an emotional level. I think the main reason behind this is the talking-heads-esque first scene. The dialogue doesn't quite feel paced right, and the characters themselves don't have very distinct voices. For instance, search the page for "Of course." Every single speaker (including the narrator) says it at least once. Even at a structural level, all three ponies seem to favor short, single-claused statements followed by another sentence or two of elaboration. Spice up the dialogue with some more personal touches, and chances are that Sunset will come across as more of a unique and nuanced character.

BBBCF: I'll be upfront, author: I was never that enthralled by changelings even when they were first introduced, and by now I think changeling stories are a bit cliche. And I'm sorry to say this, but in my personal opinion, this fic doesn't really bring anything new to the table that I haven't seen many times before. One of the Mane 6 being a changeling is such a popular motif that we've done semi-metafictional studies about it, and having the government secretly being controlled by changelings is almost as popular a subject as well. Still, I really enjoyed Twilight's voicing; it's just different enough to be disorienting, but at the core you can still tell it's Twi. But I'm afraid that voicing alone doesn't quite give this story what it needs to stand out from the pack.

Eeyup: A couple of the point that Mac brings up are interesting (like how he interprets his cutie mark), but the story lacks forward-going momentum. Without an apparent conflict, there's not very much that encourages the reader to become interested in a simple conversation between Mac and Bloom. We don't even have a lot of emotional context at the very beginning; it just kinda opens up cold-cut into the dialogue, which is hard to get invested in. I think the story would work a lot better if the reader knew from the beginning about AB skimping out on work. If the dialogue is structured around a concrete contextual conflict like that, it raises questions that the reader would like to see answered, like how Big Mac will express his displeasure, or what sort of lesson AB will learn from this.

Trick Question
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Trixie's Finals 2

BBBCF
This is cute, though it's hard for me to tell where the line between comedy and drama are supposed to be. I think the main thing that hurt this story for me is that it started off by explaining canon errors, but in the process the explanation became far more contrived and unrealistic than the errors it attempted to explain; this undercut the comedy for my too-rational mind. Nonetheless, I genuinely laughed.

Deathbed Confessions
I'll be surprised if nopony thinks I wrote this one, but I didn't. I found the opening a little too grim, so even though it was false it was a little hard for that to recover to comedy for me. Still, I think that's my problem and not a problem with the story. I think the ending needs to be changed up a little, because where did all the pillows come from?, and I didn't quite buy Fluttershy saying that line.

Flapjacks
For a moment I forgot that I had read Things That Have Been Unsaid and thought this must be the story about Twilight or somepony else rewriting ponies' memories that Bad Horse and Cold in Gardez were discussing earlier. I wouldn't mind if it were, though, because Applejack and Rainbow Dash are clearly very happy together. (And no, I don't actually think anything unusual has happened to AJ here.) I do think Applejack's expression or mental state needs to be described at the very end of the story, though, because I was left wondering how she felt in the moment, so to speak.

Swallow Down
This is simply masterful.

The Fool and the Food
I'm not sure I'd agree that Cranky's love prior to finding Matilda would be all that strong, or even that it would be "love". I might not be qualified to say what love is, but I'm fairly certain it isn't desire, longing, or need.

When the Seas are Wide
I can't improve the story, so all that remains is a nitpick. I'm fairly certain "raged loud enough" needs to be "raging loudly enough", and my English is very good, but I'm a native so I have no idea why that is the case. I'm also not entirely certain what "Seas" in the title means, so I feel rather stupid.

Bad Horse
Group Contributor

4949107 Thanks!

Can everypony who looked at the picture and saw my cutie mark reply to this? It would save me a lot of time.

Trick Question
Group Contributor

4949547
wat

No, seriously. I'm more confused than usual. What do you mean by "saw my cutie mark"? :rainbowhuh:

EDIT: Wild guess, you're asking somepony to tell Calipony that's not your cutie mark? That doesn't take much time.

Winston
Group Contributor

4949573 It's a trap! He wants a convenient list he can use to methodically get rid of the witnesses so there won't be any loose ends! :pinkiegasp:

Bachiavellian
Group Contributor

I've finished reading and ranking all of the finalists. My top scorers, for those of you who are interested, are:

The Red Dress
Swallow Down
Flap Jacks
The Calligrapher
More Precious Than Gold or Silver

Comment posted by Trick Question deleted Dec 29th, 2015
KwirkyJ
Group Contributor

4949547
Um… Crayons, red, the color of blood, for striking out our names with.

OR!

Firearm cartridges (bullets, e.g.)?

Georg
Group Contributor

Georg's Second Round Micro Reviews of Micro-Stories for Things Left Unsaid: Scores are letter grades for Plot, Technical Work, and Characterization, with an E for stories I find particularly Enjoyable


Read! - Don’t Say It - A+/A+/A+ - +1+1 E - I can summarize this story in one word: Hurrragghhh! (thud) Ok, technically, that’s two. Beautiful work summarizing Spike’s relationship to Rarity, in a way that tears out your chest. Rereading: Still can’t find anything about it I don’t like.

Read! - BBBCF - A+/A/A+ - +1 +1 E - So that’s why we never heard about Cadence and Shining Armor before. Kudos for setting up an entire world and justification for the Royal Wedding inside the word limit, and making it so real at the same time. Brilliant work. Rereading: A few minor grammar quibbles, but nothing worth complaining about. Still amazed at the worldbuilding in a sniglet.

The Red Dress - A/A/A - +1 +1 E - The correct way to summarize this story is to put as much of a sing-song tone into your voice and repeat the following: “Somepony’s in trouble.” Excellent job of creating dialogue without words, and showing actions. Rereading: Still nothing I can nitpick on.

Read - Curses - A+/A-/A+ +1 E - Minor capitalization issues. Some gestures not suited for young audiences. Wonderful story. Rereading: Found a few more wandering commas that needed herded back home, but still wonderful even on second reading.

Life, Love and Lives Loved - A/A/A+ - E - Once again, a heart-tugging bit of unseen backstory from our writeoff writers. I really can’t put a finger on why I’m not rating any + on first two scores other than it felt a little rushed (probably because of wordcount) and not quite as smooth as I would have liked. The characterization of Twilight/Celestia was handled quite well, and they seemed ‘real’ while I was reading, which is why the extra + there.

Read - Companionate - A/A/A - E - Sneaks up on you while reading and punches you in the kidney. Straight, plain, and understated, just like Big Mac.

Read! - Chirality - A/A/A +1 +1 - Hey, I learned a new word. The plot lays out well, technical work didn’t have anything jump out at me, and Twilight’s characterization is… different than I would like it to be but spot-on for what the cartoon uses. (I.e. in her exact situation, my first words when I got back would be, “Spike, take a letter. Now.”) The base question underneath the story is one of those annoying really-doesn’t-have-a-cut-and-dried answer, so there will be (and has been) quite a bit of discussion on how to resolve the issue. Rereading: Still a story built around a puzzle with no obvious solution. A little flatter on re-reading.

Read! - Love Needs No Words - A-/A-/A +1 +1 E - Admittedly, I’m a sucker for Luna/Celestia stories. I’m dinging the plot grade a little because I had to go back once and re-read to figure out what was going on, and the technical grade a bit because it seemed chunky down around the three-quarters mark to the end, but both sisters seem to be right characterwise. Rereading: still clunky around the end, but maintained its interesting-ness.

Eeyup - A/A/A - E - More of a sweet slice of apple… I mean life here, with a little brother/sister interaction. It could have been made better by ruthlessly pruning Big Mac’s words. For example, his last word is not needed.

Read - The Spare - A-/A/B+ - E - I can’t help but think an excellent story is lurking inside this one like a seed awaiting a little love and attention. It was lacking a little in the setup and hook. Some traps were baited with peanut butter if they were to trap vermin. The really large and annoying vermin require a different bait. (cut to the paper) It still feels a little fake at the beginning, although *much* more real near the end.

Faith - B/A-/A - +1 E - The hook at the very beginning was confusing. The transition through the rest of the story firmed up, but never really jelled into a concrete substance. The plot worked, but could have been done much better with more words to work with, so the idea seemed cramped. Looking forward to seeing this expanded. Rereading: I sense a touch of Discworld here. Really does need expanded.

I Love You B/A+/B - Dinged on characterization because the scene could have *literally* been about any two of the characters in the show. Also dinged on plot because it really dragged after a bit (although nice scenery porn).

Morning Veil - A-/B+/A - Nice transition on AJ’s part from reluctant to appreciative. There’s no real hook, but there is a continuing theme. Clunked a bit, and I really emphasized with AJ more than Rarity.

Things That Have Been Unsaid - B+/B/B+ - Starts out forced, misspelled character name, good ending Titanic: The boat sinks The pacing issue may be related to the word limit, but it seems rough even then. The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy goes home to Kansas It was a little difficult to differentiate between Starlight Glimmer’s ‘voice’ and Twilight Sparkle too. Star Wars: Jar-Jar Binks is Luke’s father Rainbow Dash does seem spot-on here. Rereading: It really lacks a central theme to carry the reader along, which is possibly due to the length limit and the desire to put a longer period of time in the story than just a problem/buildup/reveal in the discussion. It *might* have even been possible to sucker Glimmer into the main plotline by having her eager to go borrow the book because *she* wants to read it, therefore giving the ending more of an impact. Sequel! Sequel!

These Thoughts of Mine - C/B+/B - There’s really nothing here, not even really an enticing slice of life. Oh, it’s fairly well put together, but I get no real sense of the primary or secondary character. It’s just… there.

Georg
Group Contributor

4949547 I couldn't make heads or tails out of the cutie mark, and I certainly wouldn't be able to pick it out of a lineup. I mean it happened so fast, officer. Perhaps it was a pegasus.
4949391 Honestly, we have gotten some really astonishing things out of recursive fanfictions. Cheerilee's Thousand, for one. And peaches. (ducks for cover) Lost Cities is one of those deceptivly simple appearing stories that is devilishly hard to write well.
4949358 In a world where ponies raise the sun and moon, rocks may just be nutritious to certain families of disguised Chineighese dragons earth ponies.
4949165 As somebody who has reached the half-century mark and had (ahem) that indignity foisted upon me, I can state with absolute certainty that the drugs used for that purpose are able to erase a bare minimum of twelve hours out of your life, even though you may think you're perfectly lucid and logical. Certainly thaumatological science can produce a more delicate spell than chemistry.
Twilight: Spike! I'm telling you I've never used a memory spell, ever!
Spike: Here we go again. You've done this a whole bunch of times today, Twilight. First you use a memory spell to erase the last half-hour of your life, then you get curious about what you erased and use a recollection spell to bring it back. Seriously, if I knew you would react to Rainbow Dash's fanfic this severely, I would have burned it to a crisp before you opened it.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

4948857
It's the latter interpretation.

Yes, it is difficult to enforce to the letter (what about things never published?), but those cases are not relevant to the reason the rule is in place.

Bugle
Group Contributor

Batch 4/6

Pretend either a) I am in fact still awake from yesterday due to being an immortal who doesn't actually need sleep b) You hallucinated the past 24 hours and it is in fact still yesterday or c) I got tired of reading yesterday and took a break. Personally, I prefer you believe a. Maybe if enough people do, it'll come true.

37. More Precious than Silver or Gold

Is that supposed to be baby Celestia? I'm not entirely certain, and it bugs me. A lot.

Besides that, uh... Okay, maybe I'm just the wrong audience, but there really seems to be no reason for the dragon's reaction. None. If there is, it's not explained in the story whatsoever. And this kind of... also bugs me.

As does having a dragon named "Dragon." With no further explanation as to why, this is just lazy.

It's pretty. I'll give it that. But this story didn't work for me.

Verdict: weak.

38. Charility

So, this is the one story I'm not really going into blind since I noticed a lot of discussion about it while I was lurking and more or less only reading my own reviews. Someone (Horizon? I forget) posted an image, and that got me curious when I should have been working and, well, I read some of the commentary before and after as well. Woops. Anyway, does it live up to the hype?

Kinda. The puzzle it presents isn't bad, and is kind of thought provoking. All of the answers I've come up with are situational at best (use sound, but the device utilized for communication could muck with that. Use widdershins and diesel, but you run into the same problem as left or right. Use the layouts of the room, but there's no way to tell if they're in the same layout. And so on and so forth).

But, well, I think that the wording of the problem is actually kind of... really bad. "the same" is really, really vague and can be interpreted in a lot of ways. For example: the buttons look identical! An argument could be made that pressing either would work. Alternatively one could argue that "the same" doesn't fully explain whether or not we're talking on choosing right (or both choosing left) for both individuals, or picking ones that happen to be both port, or both starboard (I'm assuming for the sake of argument that the ship they're on, assuming it's a ship, has a distinct front and back, meaning it has a distinct port and starboard). I'm inclined to believe that the puzzle isn't actually about solving it as presented, but about finding the flaws in the presentation, and working from there. Son until proven otherwise, I am attributing the vagueness of the puzzle as a feature, not a bug. (Though I could honestly see it going either way...)

Anyway, enough about the puzzle. What about the way it which it's delivered? Ehh... It could be worse. Celestia feels really awkward and is a bit too "explain the problem you're having so the readers at home can follow along," and isn't really a character (unlike Spike, who, while he fills a similar role, actually feels like Spike). And there were a few bits that felt a bit awkwardly worded here or there. But it mostly delivered well enough. And, well, the puzzle is the main attraction here, not the characters, so I'm willing to give it a slight pass, and it's currently sitting near the top of my slate. That being said, I think this could use a bit more polish.

Verdict: Rough, but solid.

40. The Calligrapher

This was very pretty. And while I thought at first that it might go nowhere, it wound up being a rather bittersweet piece.

The ending, though... I'm positive there could have been a better way to go about it, though I'm not sure what it is. It changed it from bittersweet to confusion for me. "Does Mayor Mare not know how to write?" "Why a writing lesson to prove her wrong?" "Why is Mayor Mare so convinced that his love is gone?" I dunno, these felt like questions the story didn't want me asking, and yet...

Still, aside from that, this was rather pretty.

Verdict: Good, but the ending felt off.

42. Swallow Down

Yay... more awkward. Have I mentioned yet that I hate this prompt? The majority of the good stories are really unenjoyable... That's not meant to be an insult, incidentally, just goes to show something about my personal taste.

Anyway. This wasn't bad at all. I think it may have hammered in the answer to the story's question a bit too much near the end there (I personally figured it out rather early on), but at least it didn't explicitly say it, right?

I don't really have much insightful to say about this, though. It was pretty fine, but not by thing. And those are basically the hardest stories to comment on.

Verdict: Good, but not my thing.

43. Consistency

I think our personal definitions of "chaos" vastly differ from one another. This made Discord's little rant a little tough to swallow.

Aside from that... eh, this was just kinda dull, to me. Everything about it is pretty cliche. From the setting, to the conversation, to the vague threat ending. I saw everything a mile away, and it kind of left me with no enthusiasm at all.

It's written fine enough, but the substance is just not there for me.

Verdict: A very solid "okay".

46. From Afar

Time for the usual disclaimer: Shipfics are typically not my thing, and I don't "get" them as well as others do. Take everything I say here with a grain of salt.

I kinda hate stories like this. I find secret gifts to one's desire to not only not be romantic, but to be really dumb. I find it's a lot fairer to everyone involved to be pretty upfront about one's feelings. Now, before everyone jumps on me for this, I will absolutely admit that there are plenty of times where it's correct to not say anything. But in those cases, I feel it's correct to commit to that stance entirely. Either tell them or don't. Don't go half way in like this.

On top of that, the formatting is just weird and jarring to me. I'd prefer it if every two paragraphs were combined into one, rather than just "dialogue, description. Dialogue, description." This may just be a stylistic choice, but boy does it bug me.

Oh, and the reveal is too predictable for me. Anyone who knows anything about Vinyl and Tavi could have seen this coming a parsec away.

Basically, I didn't like anything about this. Sorry.

Verdict: Weak.

Forerunner: That Secret Fire.

Calipony
Group Contributor

Reviews of the stories on my finalists’ slate I hadn’t read already:

55. Explainer Horse
The idea itself is funny, but I found it very similar to CiG’s Babel of the last minific round. Besides, this is not much of a story. As much as Chirality doesn’t tell us something, this one hardly does, too. It’s a silly concept extended to 400 words to outstrip the floor. What I see here is that you had that idea of TS talking funny, but didn’t know exactly how to exploit it, so you plumped for a letter whose contents is insubstantial. Also, should TS really notice she speaks clumsily? Maybe, if it’s a curse. Finally, is that blue light a reference to the Cherenkov radiation?

65. Motherhood
No state of the art English here. Shattering, Cadence stepped through the now empty doorway. Who shatters? The way you wrote it, it’s Cadence, which conjures up some crazy images (CiG would call that “a dangling participle”). Let’s move on to the contents. I’m not really sold on that story. I don’t see why Cadence blows her stack about letting Spike in Twilight’s care. After all, Celestia’s in the right: even in the “real” world, it’s often a good thing to give slightly autistic children a pet to care for: it helps them reach out. Besides, Cadence is supposed to be the princess of love, isn’t she? Why doesn’t she offer her help rather than ranting? On the other hand, I found that Celestia talked Cadence around a bit too easily, but I reckon you’d reached the limit.

49. The Spare
So Blueblood signed a discharge releasing him from the burden of assuming Celestia’s royal duties in case she would be killed. Okay, admittedly. And then all of a sudden we’ve the classic scene where SS runs off from Celestia and throws herself through the mirror because she’s jealous of Twilight Sparkle. Not bad, but I would’ve liked to see SS flee for another reason. This story lacks tang: it tastes like a minor variation on a hackneyed theme.

2. In the leaves
Sorrowful and poignant, but leaning a bit too heavily on the gushy side. Your repeating of she knew I didn’t have to say makes the whole story feels like a song, whose chorus would be those words. The running of the leaves scene feels contrived too. I don’t expect Equestria medical art to have reached our level (or I’d expect it to be different, grounded on magic rather than chemicals) so the description of her loosing her mane and wings felt a bit off. Not badly written, but tugs really too much at the heartstrings – too dumpy and explicit. Some extra subtlety would be welcome.

All the others stories on my slate I had already reviewed during the prelims.

Good luck to everyone!

Bugle
Group Contributor

Batch 5/6

49. The Spare

There's some head canon here I like. Namely that Princes are appointed and that Sunset was originally groomed to defeat NMM. These are interesting concepts, and I can totally get behind them.

That's unfortunately about all I got from this, though. The beginning was just a little too drawn out for me, and the ending... well, actually, I have no problems with it, it just didn't particularly grip me. Maybe it has something to do with it being the obvious conclusion? I dunno.

Verdict: A very solid "okay".

51. Yours Truly, Cheerilee

These kinda journal entry stories are rather hit or miss as a whole. Sometimes you get something that gives you a nice look into someone's head... sometimes you get what amounts to nothing but a series of journal entries with no substance behind them. This one's closer to the former, but I'm not sure it's quite there.

I think where this went wrong for me is the subject matter, honestly. Usual disclaimer about shipping, yadda, yadda. That and I really don't like Cheerimac. I far prefer them as just friends.

Still, it wasn't a bad look inside Cheerilee's head, and I can't say I disenjoyed it or anything. But like so many other finalists this round...

Verdict: Not my thing.

52. Companionate

More shipfics? Sigh I'm getting sick of saying this but my usual disclaimer applies: I don't tend to get shipfics as well as others do, so take what i say with a grain of salt.

This didn't work for me. I can't precisely say why... Mac's completely in character, and I seriously doubt he would say anything. Similarly, I could see most of the things he describes happening to Flutters and such. And I don't mind FLuttermac nearly as much as Cheerimac above but...

I dunno. It just didn't work for me.

As a note of hopefully helpful advice, to me it seems like Mac talks about the cows like they're critters (i.e. non-sentient), when it's well established they are. I dunno, feels weird.

Verdict: Very not for me.

53. The Longest Night

Yet another good but entirely unpleasant story =(

This hit hard in all the right places. And, quite honestly, I don't want to say more because I don't want to think about this kind of thing at 4 in the morning. I am probably going to be a wreck until I go to bed now.

Sorry for the lack of a better review but... I don't think you actually need one. This was very good.

Verdict: Top notch, but very sad.

55. Explainer Horse

I'm torn on this one.

It's a cute idea, and mostly enjoyable, but a few proper noun swaps felt sub-par, and I think it went on a little too long (not that you could really fix that, as this was almost at the minimum word count...). The joke didn't quite get old so much as it... I dunno, was less interesting?

Still, it worked fairly well, and I'm glad I read it. It was a nice experiment and even if it didn't work entirely, experimenting is always worth trying.

Verdict: A partial success, but good experiment.

57. Life, Love, and Lives Loved

Well, that's not what a young Filly should be pondering at all, now is it?

This was a nice bittersweet look at Filly Twilight realizing Spike is going to way, WAY outlive her unless something bizarre (like, say, Princesshood) happens.

I'm afraid I don't have much more to say about it, though. Partly because it's 4:30 AM and I want to finish this review and go to bed. Partly because while it's a nice conversation, it felt kind of... I dunno, too talking headsy? I might be making that up, because it certainly did work.

Basically, this review is pretty bad, sorry about that. Still I think this worked well enough, and I'm glad I read it.

Verdict: Pretty good.

Forerunner: The Longest Night

Trick Question
Group Contributor

4949820
4949372
It's not a matter of nutrition, it's a matter of possibility. I read the Maud-eating-gem thing as a bit of visual humor about her being schizy and weird, and it was probably not an actual gem but some kind of semi-precious stone that could be safely chewed and swallowed. I didn't see that as a sign she had the magical ability to break gemstones with her teeth.

So, no, I don't think it is intentionally implied that ponies can eat gemstones—not even the Pies.

Trick Question
Group Contributor

Trixie's Finals 3

Curses
Apparently I forgot to review this one after I read it; if not, have a second review (which will probably be totally different from the first, derp). Anyway, the story is fine, but you have a lot of huge run-on sentences before the dialogue begins. That's all I have to recommend.

Motherhood
For the story itself, the idea is solid. I wasn't at all convinced by Celestia's explanation that Twilight caring for a dragon is the ideal way to connect her with ponykind, so that needs massaging. I really didn't buy Cadence's sudden shift in mood: you exaggerated her rage initially, and then the change in her attitude was far too rapid (especially since the discussion wasn't that convincing). An extremely violent rage becoming hugs and kisses should not happen in such a short space. As for the writing, Celestia's voice is off. Most of her dialogue sounds more like Discord than Celestia. It's too monologue-villainy, which makes it feel like you're trying to force a specific interpretation on the reader. There's a lot of subtle telliness that I didn't like, e.g. "her Sun", which goes along with it. You need to try to paint the scene in more neutral tones and allow the reader to come to conclusions on their own: you can point, but don't lead me there by the hoof. This is a hard skill to master, but this is a good story to practice with because the message is tricky, and it needs a lot of careful work to make it really shine.

Morning Veil
I like the story, but I have a few qualms about how Rarity and Applejack are voiced. Rarity's voice sounds much too muted for her enthusiasm: it needs more shout poles(!), italics, superlatives, and fancy words, darling. I don't think Applejack would be so dismissive of the arts. She's always shown an ability to appreciate art and culture as long as it isn't getting in the way of utility, and she values both history and tradition. It would make much more sense if the examples of things that don't interest her were significantly more abstract than the ones you used. Like a Jackson Pollock painting, and something less historically-interesting with no functional purpose instead of the fountain.

Yours Truly, Cheerilee
The story is nice, so I only have a couple of nitpicks. Who eats two sundaes apiece on a date? That seems odd and hoggish, particularly given that Cheerilee wants to impress her dates. Also, she mentions straightening desks like it's a tremendous chore, which makes no sense, because it isn't. I would change up those bits.

The Longest Night
I think the one thing this story is missing is Twilight recalling her friends themselves. It's weird that she would think something along the lines of "Owlowiscious survived so I have nothing to complain about", given that there's no possibility her former pet is still alive that far in the future. Her remembering the past without any reflection on the passing of her friends seems very out of place, since that's something that should affect her more than remembering all the ponies she never even met. This feels like a large hole in the story to me.

Everyday
Group Contributor

5. Morning Veil
Hmm. Interesting.
For the first two scenes, I found myself questioning Applejack’s characterization. Is it… inaccurate? I’m not sure. It comes together nicely in the last scene, though.
I admire the structure of the story. Each scene feels just right.
I’m not really sure what else there is to say. I liked it, and it was crafted well.

6. Thrity Seconds

Flash Sentry wasn’t—

Oh, that kind of test…

Sunset clenched her fist even tighter around the pregnancy test even tighter

Use of the phrase “even tighter” twice.
This story leaves me in an odd place. It’s well-written, I won’t deny. Certain things about this make me uncomfortable, but that’s on me and doesn’t reflect the quality of this story.
What makes this story work so well is that no other character would fit. It explores ideas and issues only Sunset Shimmer would have in this situation.

28. When the Seas are Wide
Okay, if I followed that correctly, Valencia Orange is Granny Smith’s daughter, this is after Applejack’s parents died, and I guess the fifth pony in attendance would be Uncle Orange?
I think this story would benefit from a little bit of expansion, just to make some of the thoughts and ideas clearer. It’s not bad as it is, but it doesn’t quite reach its full potential, either.
Still, I’ll leave you with this:

For Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, we smile at days gone by…

35. The Fool and the Food

Talon didn’t respond; talking to food was undignified.

Interesting piece of changeling characterization.
Well, that was a nice twist in revealing who the “food” was.
Overall, I liked it. The details about how changelings work and operate were sprinkled in without being obtrusive, and it’s nice how things come together in the end.

42. Swallow Down
Aww… I instantly fell in love with Golden’s Southern twang.
Well, it makes my heartache, but I think it’s a little heavy-handed. Go ahead and employ a bit of subtlety. Not quite so many hints at how Golden Harvest is feeling.
Still, it’s cute and tugs at my heart in a wonderful way.

49. The Spare
Hmm. I feel like I should like this more than I do. On paper, this story is well-written. Parallelism, between Prince Blueblood and Sunset Shimmer each being the “spare”. The repetition of the idea of worthlessness and such things being better left unsaid. The juxtaposition between the slow and methodical first scene, and the rapid second scene. It makes for quality writing.
In spite of all this, it just doesn’t inspire much of a response from me. Perhaps Blueblood was given too much screen-time, causing my interest to wane. I don’t know.
I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful than that. If it’s any consolation, the story itself is structured well.

52. Companionate
Oh… My heart feels all… squishy.
I smiled at the idea of Fluttershy singing around him. The repetition worked quite well, and each was long enough to get the message across without being so long that it overstayed its welcome.
This was well-crafted, and I’m glad I got to read it.
Thank you.

53. The Longest Night

What of that old mare at the docks?

Trying to be sneaky, are we?
This is a good story, and it struck me as some of the best prompt-usage I’ve seen in the entire competition, which is not something that usually occurs to me. Given the subject matter, one might be prepared for it to be filled with grief. Such is not the case, and I appreciate that.
I think that Twilight remembering not only the details, but the numbers, is excellent characterization for her.
I’m not sure if there’s anything to be improved upon, really. Thank you for writing.

55. Explainer Horse
Well, that was amusing. Nice work.

57. Life, Love, and Lives Loved
I like it. A story about mortality that isn’t sad. It’s not often one runs into a story like that.
The conversation flowed in such a way that it avoided feeling like talking-heads, so well done there. Celestia was a good choice as the point-of-view character.
Not much else to say, really.

CoffeeMinion
Group Admin

I know I said I was gonna steal someone’s review format, but then I forgot to write down whose it was… so in the spirit of actually getting through these before the deadline, I present to you some more raw thoughts.

I should have one more set to go after this one.

In the Leaves

I found this powerful and sad. I’d like to know more about these characters, yet I don’t think adding length to this would make it much better than it already is. It felt sparse, but in a good way… but also in a way that makes it feel less “complete” than a couple other stories in the mix. So I can’t quite bring myself to give this my top spot, but it’s pretty close.


These Thoughts of Mine

The writing is good and the presentation feels real. But IMO, it’d be a lot more complex if the dad-character was less prone to enforcing “order” through physical violence. While that aspect of things does create more sympathy for the protagonist, it also detracts from the story’s net character depth as a whole, because there’s no way to not end up slapping an “obviously bad” label on the dad. But it works in terms of showing the one character’s struggle and feelings.


Don't Say It

I’m torn on this one. I think the series of brief moments we saw here was structured well, and I liked that the hoof-on-lip thing kept recurring. However, it bugs me that we don’t get much additional insight into what these two characters think about each other. One is clearly infatuated, but at some point it would make sense to address his feelings about the lifetime of rejection that he goes through; and the other clearly isn’t willing to let the relationship “go there”, but why? While part of this is my own curiosity, I feel like the story would be legitimately more powerful if more was done to address the reasons behind these things.


The Red Dress

In brief, this didn’t work for me. The author presents a clear technical ability, an excellent eye for descriptive detail, and a flair for the poetic. However, I ultimately found the story’s herky-jerky flow to be both off-putting and somewhat difficult to read; and I have little clue what happened plot-wise. I feel like those aspects of it could be improved significantly without sacrificing its more positive elements. So while this isn’t at the bottom of my slate, I do feel inclined to rate this quite a bit lower than some stories that skewed more toward comprehensibility than artistic presentation. (Now, I’m not saying that I feel the two must be mutually exclusive…)


Eeyup

I like this, and it’s well-done, but it comes off as a bit “preachy”, and I have trouble looking past that. But it’s still a contender IMO.

Everyday
Group Contributor

4950871

I'm pretty sure you made that comment about sunnypack's review format.

Bugle
Group Contributor

Batch 6/6 We're finally done.

64. Don't Say it

Another shipfic, another usual disclaimer. I don't typically "get" ship fics. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

So, I don't like Sparity... so you're already coming at me from multiple angles where this just isn't my story. And I definitely don't like how Rarity is treating him here and, in fact, completely disagree with what the story things the motivations were behind her silencing him in the first place. I don't think it was for her, I think it was for him; she already knew and she didn't want him to say something he might possibly regret later in life (I doubt she thought they were actually going to die due to pegasi being a thing. Spike is both younger and less familiar with pegasi on multiple levels, so he'd be more inclined to come to a more fatalistic conclusion, I feel), or at the very least save the conversation for when a) they have the time to talk about it b) they're away form other ponies and c) Spike doesn't feel pressured into giving voice to his emotions due to circumstance. She knows its a crush, and that crushes are fun and enjoyable. Let him enjoy it while it lasts. And if the feelings do persist... well, they could handle that when it happens.

Basically what I'm saying is I think the second scene and onwards wouldn't happen the way they did. I feel that if Spike did bring up the topic again, Rarity would be more than willing to genuinely discuss the matter as adults (despite Spike being rather young) and see what conclusions they could draw upon. In the meantime, she has no intention of crushing his emotions until he is ready to truly face them.

Also... seriously Spike? You having a mare in your arms who is crying about males being jerks and you try and bring up the subject then? Ungh, everyone in this story is a jerk...

On the more technical end of things... I feel it could use a little more polish as well. The beginning especially felt like the flow was rocky. It got better as the story went on, despite me not really liking the contents, but... well, it was just jagged in a few places to me.

Verdict: Weak.

65. Motherhood

Nitpick: it's "Cadance". I know that's misspelled from the word her name is based on, but, well, it's how best princess's name is officially spelled, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I actually quite liked this. While Twilight becoming Spike's "pre-teen mom" (which was really alarming phrasing, but I figured out she meant Spike after a moment of thinking about it) isn't exactly new (Life, Love, and Lives Loved broaching the topic in its own way, for example), This was still rather heartwarming.

Also, I can completely believe Cadance would be upset about this if she weren't prepared for it (and chances are she wouldn't have been). Nothing about the conversation felt unbelievable at all to me, in fact. And, well... I'm a sucker for powerful pony hugs. This one just worked for me in loads of ways.

Verdict: Very strong.

67. Things That Have Been Unsaid

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Magically erasing someone's memory is not a comedic subject. There is a reason this kind of scenario is commonly referred to as a mind rape. I simply cannot believe that Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, would ever succumb to such a situation.

I apologize for the rather... violent refusal of this story, but it genuinely makes me angry just thinking about it.

Verdict: Whole lotta Nope.

70. Love Needs No Words

I thought for sure this would be a shipfic from the title.

Anyway this was... pretty standard fare. Nothing particularly stood out about it to me except for the lack of dialogue (which was correct for the tone the story was going for). But it's... well, it's a topic that's been broached time and time again. And this doesn't really do anything new or exciting with it. And, to me anyway, it's not really a particularly interesting topic in the first place.

It's well written enough, but the subject matter is more important to me, I'm afraid. And while you didn't do anything wrong... you didn't do anything particularly right either.

Verdict: So-so.

71. Still Waiting

There's something missing here.

I'm not sure what precisely it is, but I feel like this didn't quite touch me the way it wanted to. Maybe it's because I have no prior attachment to Purple Rain. Maybe it's because I don't really have that much attachment to show biz (despite having 1.5 siblings who are, in fact, part of helping out with stage performances). Maybe I'm just not musically inclined enough to feel quite what Purple Waters is. Maybe it's something in the story itself. I'm not sure. But I just really did not feel the emotional impact here.

So instead of being the good story I feel this was truly striving for, and almost being... I felt it was just...

Verdict: Okay.

73. Deathbed Confessions

Fitting title for the last story on the list, no?

Anyway. Like Cold Case, you started out really well, then just kind of veered straight into territory I didn't particularly care for at all. And as such, it quickly lost its comedic value for me.

There's... really not too much else to say here. The problem with comedic pieces, I suppose. Oh well.

Verdict: Disappointing.

Forerunner: The Longest Night


Well... that's that, I suppose.

I feel pretty bad because, to me, this was an incredibly subpar finals round. So I feel I was way more negative than I would have liked. Part of that is because a large chunk of stories were shipfics, which are difficult for me to care about at all in just 400-750 words, but even the ones that weren't were largely disappointing to me.

For a frame of reference of where I'm sitting with my slate, were we using the old grading system, there are only 5 stories I'd rank at a 7 or higher. More than double that would get a 3 or below. The finals were just that under whelming to me. I have a feeling the holidays really took a toll on this particular batch. Either that or, as I lamented before, the prompt just didn't lend itself to as much creativity as I'd have liked.

On the plus side. The top 3 stories on my slate I really enjoyed! So some good things did come from this!

But, well. There will be good writeoffs, and there will be less good writeoffs. And I'm afraid that for me this one falls under the latter.

Best of luck to everyone in finals.

Trick Question
Group Contributor

Trixie Finals 4

This is the last set of the finalists.

My story isn't going to place very high this time because it's far too controversial. I'm at the very top of some slates and the very bottom of others. I don't think that's enough information for you to guess which one is mine. I look forward to the retro, however. :pinkiesmile:

Faith
It took me several paragraphs to realize that the crowd was exiting rather than entering, as "down the amphitheatre stairs" is ambiguous (I thought the crowd was walking into the amphitheatre and down the stairs to where the seats are located). Adding the word 'exit' somewhere would help considerably. That's all I can say; the story is otherwise perfect.

The Red Dress
I'd never heard of 'prised' before, and I'm not sure it fits correctly (one thinks of eyes normally being open rather than shut, so eyes aren't 'pried open' by will if the subject isn't waking up; e.g. 'narrowed'). Some of the other poetics seem a tad forced, like 'did Vinyl go'. I was, and remain, confused about "she was wearing something Octavia liked", because this appeared after mentioning Vinyl so it seemed to strongly imply Vinyl was wearing something, too. Also, I'm not sure what event could have possibly caused Octavia's entire dress to turn red, unless somehow Vinyl spilled an entire keg of wine on top of her. I think you may need to rephrase things for this to make better sense, even though the idea is clear.

Explainer Horse
You absolute bucking bastard!!! I honestly planned on doing this story for my fourth entry, but I ran out of time! I was still planning on writing and publishing it, though it featured the Mane 6 rather than a simple letter. Now all I can do is destroy all of my hard work and cry. :raritydespair: That said, I take exception with a large number of your translations. Comedy is better with less accuracy and more silliness. You're clearly going for comedy when you name Twilight's friends, because their names are incidental to the piece. Something like Party Horse or Pink Sweets is going to be significantly more amusing than Pink Round-Food-Pocket, which is cute, but too cumbersome to tickle my funny bone. (Even Randall used this strategy when writing the book, by the way; most of his descriptions choose silliness over accuracy.)

These Thoughts of Mine
This is a good story, but I'd like it more if it involved ponies in some way. At least you could have used characters from the show, no? As-is, it's a nice story with ponies tacked on at the end, and it doesn't even feel like something from the show because nothing really connects up: extremely abusive father, technology, traditional school. None of this says 'FiM' to me. None of it reads 'ponies'. It's a story with 'mane' in place of 'hair' which is otherwise about humans, and if it's a story about humans it isn't very original. To make this interesting you really need to find a way to fit this idea into the genre, so that we can feel like 'hey, this idea is entering a genre where we normally feel safe and comfortable, and that makes me think'. As a story about humans (which it essentially is at present) it isn't particularly interesting or novel. One nitpick: the phrase "up the head" should be "upside the head".

Trick Question
Group Contributor

4950909
Even though I have personally had the joy of downthumbs on my reviews (which I no doubt deserved for being a terrible person pony), I think it should probably require a higher bar of terribleness than this to merit a downthumb of a review.

You might not agree with what a reviewer has to say, particularly if it seems they're dumping on you or a story you like due to personal preferences rather than objective critique; but it's still good to get feedback and this is a thing we want to encourage (including the brutal honesty).

Calipony
Group Contributor

Uh, not on my slate but I was intrigued:

67. Things that have been unsaid

Okay, so TS has erased some of RD's memories. Big whoop. You never formatted an USB key containing some old files? Just joking. Personally, I don't get it: what's the point of the story? Tell us she did and it's bad? Demonstrate that SG is morally superior to TS even though she's a bad egg? All that seems contrived. However, I disagree with those that think Twilight's OOC here. In Lesson zero, she does something very similar, so she's definitely capable of doing it.

How to make Twilight sparkle enter an infinite loop: make her cast an oblivion spell on herself so she forgets she cast the spell.

Bugle
Group Contributor

4950999

I doubt it was for any particular story review, but more about my closer at the end. Which I can totally understand. I am being really negative (even if I am being honest with how I'm feeling), so I can see why people would disagree with it.

Trick Question
Group Contributor

4951041
Ah, that makes sense. I did not read closely enough. Still, I for one appreciate the honesty.

horizon
Group Admin

Some finalist reviews!

Based on my agreement with 4948931's comments, and the fact that the story had already been drifting upward in my own rankings over time, I'm upgrading The Red Dress to a Top Contender. Meanwhile, here's a batch I haven't yet reviewed … I guess this would be batch 1 out of 3 if I do them all, but I'm probably going to run out of time for that.

(n.b.: These are the stories that my finals slate assigned me, plus one. That they all stacked up at the early end is a coincidence; I'm not reading them in numeric order.)


4. Eeyup - Clever idea and a well-executed ending. The characterization is good, but Big Mac's voice is less good; it wavers between his accented laconic style, and very non-Mac-sounding-lines like "The wonderful crisp fruit, and the seeds that grow into mighty trees". (Arguably wordy eloquence from him is canon based on Brotherhooves Social, but, um, that was Brotherhooves Social.) It also felt like he was overexplaining, given that the point of the story is him explaining why words matter and ya can't waste 'em on "the small things, the petty things". Perfect example actually: I don't believe someone who believed that would repeat himself like that. In many stories, picking apart the prose like that would be a nitpick, but here I think getting that voice right is central to the theme of your story. Almost There

5. Morning Veil - A collection of three beautiful related scenes with good character voices, but not a story. The last scene does contrast with the first two, but there's no conflict driving character growth. Consider — if you're editing this, but trying to keep it at approximately its current size rather than embed it in a larger narrative — moving the proto-conflict in Scene 3 to Scene 2 and expanding their argument, and then making Scene 3 a reconciliation. That leans pretty heavily on traditional three-act storytelling, but right now the second scene's just worldbuilding porn. (Which I like, don't get me wrong.) My only other complaint is pacing too: this sort of stops rather than ends. Almost There

6. Thirty Seconds - This was a lot more compelling than I expected out of a pregnancy story (it's the sort of story that should have gotten an "eh" from me, and transcended that). A solid moment-in-time monologue. I appreciated how authentic her worries felt — especially given that it put the problems specific to her multidimensional existence front and center — and the refusal to look was a solid closer. No real suggestions. Top Contender

8. Cold Case - This was just overall fun. The narration gimmick, especially Mrs. Cake taking it in stride, only adds to that, and the comedic shipteasing landed in the sweet spot for me. Despite editing issues (verb tenses), this handily did what it set out to do. Top Contender

9. I Love You - Well, uh, it's 750 words of Twishy being (T-rated) intimate with each other. It does as a scene what it sets out to do, and the imagery's pretty vivid. I can't really fault it anything, but it's another of those entries this round that just gets a shrug and an "eh" because I'm not your target audience and am not getting anything out of 750 words of silent snuggles of a ship I didn't already ship. An absolute requirement for getting a shipping story working for a general audience is showing us not just the ponies being happy together, but showing why they work together and care for each other, and this doesn't even make the effort. That means more room for snuggles, which is great for the people willing to be invested up front, but limits your audience to just those people.
I must admit you almost had my attention when Twilight's magic aura was pink, and I thought for a second there was some changeling/shapeshifting going on here behind the scenes, but no, that's her normal color according to the wiki. Misaimed

22. These Thoughts of Mine - I'm really not the target audience for teenage love angst, much less gayngst, so in terms of my reading reaction this just gets an "eh". However, the bits on thinking and the vivid descriptions of his secret crush are both strong writing here. I'm scoring this above my enjoyment value. (And I'm hungry for cookies now.) Nitpick: Seems odd that the intellectual stewing in his thoughts about the great thinkers of old is the one getting help with his homework. Solid

38. Chirality - We've discussed the thought experiment to death, but how's the story? I had to think about how to score this, and it's going fairly highly in my rankings — not because I feel like it's a solid story, but because this is good in the way that First Age sci-fi is good. A lot of really influential SFF stories were lackluster in presentation but big on idea, and that didn't stop them from becoming classics. This was perfectly primed for a round of nerd sniping, and this thread is proof of its success.
When I say lackluster in presentation, my big hesitation here is that this has to get to its core idea by means of a Giant Space Flea (warning: TVTropes). It's easy to envision a way to have dealt with this in a more pony-like setting, using ancient ruins or weird mythological-monster cultures, and to arbitrarily teleport Twilight to a spaceship feels cheap. I also have misgivings about her character: it's certainly justifiable to have her go all Lesson Zero and flip out at the test, but to have the story's primary source of tension be the deadline and her refusal to ask her friends for help is … well, hardly a Season 5 Princess Twilight. Even an early Twilight doesn't seem like she would keep Celestia out of the loop until Spike called her in. So this certainly wants improvement in the framing, but I can't deny the execution of its idea. Solid

49. The Spare - Uhhh … if we take the ending line in the context of the first scene, it implies that Sunset left because Celestia did tell Sunset she was worthless. :twilightoops: I don't think that's what you wanted to imply. That goof aside, the story is pretty novel and the idea is strong. I just wish it didn't feel so lopsided, with the first scene relaxed (and perhaps a little too long-winded on establishing Blueblood as a jerk) and the last scene crammed into <100 words. This deserves some pacing editing to shine the way I know it can. (Points for the pounce pot.) Almost There

65. Motherhood - Sorry, author. Between the editing errors ("So you are saying that a pony with her kind of power has her kind of personality needs grounding" is word salad) and Cadance's incoherent objections (she starts out full of wrath at the idea of Twilight being a teenage mother, then shifts to "What if Spike never calls Twilight 'mom'," which is the exact opposite concern), I bounced off this story pretty hard. I like the core idea, but it doesn't feel like this has hung a compelling conflict around it yet. Needs Work

67. Things That Have Been Unsaid - Nice. Another good "idea fic" like Chirality, but much more grounded in the characters rather than invoking giant space fleas. (Goes just above Chirality in my rankings.) I think the ending is either one paragraph too long or a few too short; you continue past the reveal, but Starlight's reaction is the least interesting of the three's once the truth comes out, and that's the only one we see. Her memory-spell exposition also feels rough, but otherwise this is cleanly executed. Solid

Bugle
Group Contributor

4951037

Not on your slate? You do know you can vote for all finalists, right? Or are you just saying you don't have time to address them all? Which is fair enough, I suppose.

Twilight's dabblings in mind control are pretty bad in general, yes (and that's... not the only time she's done it =( ), but, to me, there's still a large distinction between "making someone really want something" and "making someone forget a part of themselves."

Then again... the latter can be akin to a reformation spell... which she had no qualms whatsoever in using. So you do have a point...

Calipony
Group Contributor

4951095
You mean that I can draw new stories and abstain until I get that one I suppose. Otherwise I don't see what you're talking about.

Imposing a fake need on someone is a form of mind-control that has unfortunately be promoted and perfected by the guys called marketers. It's now so pervasive that nobody cares and everybody's victim of it. But it is no better and no worse than erasing someone's memory.

Remember Total Recall? The film with… Err… what was I twaddling about? :derpytongue2:

Yeah. Our memories are not ourselves; they're unreliable at the best of times. To me making someone forget an experience is just messing with their memory, not anything to do with actually changing that person. Whether you do it with hypnosis, magic, or drugs.

4950776

Anyway, the story is fine, but you have a lot of huge run-on sentences before the dialogue begins.

I'm sorry, but I have to pick this nit; I read over the story in question a couple times, and I didn't see any run-on sentences. A long sentence is not necessarily a run-on, it must actually be two sentences (or independent clauses, if you prefer), with a clear place where the sentences should be separated. In this case, all the independent clauses are connected by appropriate conjunctions.

More reviews:

Love Needs No Words

I found this a bit on the tell-y side, especially at the end. There also didnt seem to be any payoff for the initial setup. It did have a rather nice description of Luna in flight and her burning desire for more. Unfortunately that did not save the story for me in the end. Perhaps as part of a larger story it would have worked better, but I’ve see Luna’s angst too often I suppose.

I found this one competent, but average

Faith

I find this subject matter inherently troubling, probably because of how I was first exposed to it. I found the line ““All ponies are gods,” Celestia said. “But most are gods nopony believes in.”” to be perhaps the most fascinating part of the story, the idea has so many implications, and taken literally it is quite sad. That being said, the story does not seem to fit with what we know of the show, Twilight ascending herself, with some help, at least that's the way I understood it. Shouldn’t her bouts of self-doubt have de-ascended her by now?

Interesting line aside, I did not like this one.

Curses

I enjoyed this one more than I probably should have. I do feel sorry for Ahuizotl, though I did enjoy him flipping Daring off. There is just something about long time adversaries that make them such good foils for one another, and you captured that here very well.

I liked this one.

That Secret Fire

I definitely enjoyed this one more than I should have. This was great absurdist comedy. I would quite willingly read quite a few more chapters of this. I still haven’t seen Friendship Games, but I have seen a few clips of Sugarcoat and she’s really grown on me. She’s like the amoral doppleganger of Maud Pie.

I liked this one.

Consistency

This was an interesting dialogue on the nature of chaos and ponies. The only constant is change, or something like that. I liked seeing Tirek try and lie his way out of Tartarus and I like seeing Discord not fall for it. The major problem I had was with the implied ending. While I’ve seen many interpretations of Discord where he is willing to kill, it always struck me as unlikely. He doesn't turn ponies to stone. Why? Probably because a statue can’t change anything. Same goes for a dead pony. That aside, I found the dialogue engaging and well written.

I found this one okay.

Deathbed Confessions

I'm really enjoying the silly ones today. Pinkie as the focus of a story featuring all of the mane six and it's done well? What madness is this. Sure, it's a bit predictable and not every joke fully hits its mark, but this one was just a pleasure to read. I still get a crack out of the ‘Big Mac mostly’ line.

I liked this one.

Morning Veil

I’m not really sure what to make of this one. It was decently written and Applejack and Rarity seem in character, but I’m just not sure what Applejack wants. She wants to support Rarity I suppose, but disinterest is a somewhat weak conflict.

I found this one average.

These Thoughts of Mine

Having never experienced a situation like the one in this story all I can say is ouch. I understand on an intellectual level that people go through stuff like this and much worse besides, but I just can’t put myself in that mindset. There is nothing in this story that makes it need to be a pony fic, but all the same stories like this need to be written so that they can stop happening in real life.

I dont think I can rate this.

Companionate

No one can ever become entitled to romance. If that guy isn't interested or that girl isn’t interested it’s best to just get over them and move on. Maybe you can become actual real friends later on. It usually isn’t easy but the alternative is unhealthy. The reverse is true too. If another person likes you you are not obligated to indulge them, no matter the circumstances. When two people like each other, that’s great, but it has to go both ways. It’d be nice to see Big Mac moving on with his life is what I’m saying. But art doesn't just show us what could be, it can also show us what is, and this does that very well, even if the subject matter rubbed me the wrong way.

I found this one okay on average.

Swallow Down

After my rant for my last review I should be extra careful for this one. Carrot Top is interested in Applejack, but won’t say so. There are at least two possible interpretations: First, Carrot Top either knows or has good reason to suspect that AJ does not return her feelings. Or Second, she is simply scared, she doesn’t know how AJ will react and doesn’t want to lose her friend if things become awkward. In the first case she might be trying to get over it, in which case okay. In the second it would be a shame to let fear make her miss out on something that could be great. In either case it seems like talking about it would help. That may not always apply in real life.

The story itself reminds me a bit of the beginning of Bitter Harvest, which I enjoyed thoroughly. As such it does feel somewhat like the beginning of a story,

I like this one.


Currently I have That Secret Fire top rank, the humour just really worked for me.

4950909

67. Things That Have Been Unsaid

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Magically erasing someone's memory is not a comedic subject. There is a reason this kind of scenario is commonly referred to as a mind rape. I simply cannot believe that Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, would ever succumb to such a situation.

I apologize for the rather... violent refusal of this story, but it genuinely makes me angry just thinking about it.

Verdict: Whole lotta Nope.

I can definitely see where you're coming from. I agree completely that memory erasure is horrible, possibly the greatest violation of one's self-agency short of murder, and possibly equivalent to murder under the theory that life is a continuity of experience -- breaking the continuity ends the life. I won't go into long-winded metaphysical explanations here, but suffice it to say I share your disgust and anger at the thought of someone's memories being meddled with.

And yet, I liked this story, and I give its ethical whirlpool a pass. Why?

Because this story doesn't take itself seriously. The humour definitely skews toward dark, but that's all it is; a bit of black humour that doesn't encourage you to soak in moral agony, but just enjoy the punchline and then move on.

There's also a cartoony aspect to the whole thing... sort of the ethical equivalent of the physical gag of dropping an anvil on a character's head. It would be horrific if done in a more realistic context, but here it's simply not.

You're certainly not wrong in your reasons for disliking this story -- and have every right to downvote it -- but there is a different angle it can be approached from.

:twilightsheepish: But, yes, children. Erasing someone's memories without their consent is a very bad thing to do. Do not ever do it. You will be a bad person if you ever do it.

FDA_Approved
Group Contributor

About 67. Things That Have Been Unsaid

(I should really read the previous reviews, but I'm just gonna hop in here)

I could see the story both ways, but I'm just gonna put it out there. The story never said that Rainbow Dash didn't consent to having her mind erased. All it said was

“So you wouldn’t, say, use Gold Heart's Obliviation spell to make them forget what you said?”

If Rainbow was so upset she could have agreed to erase five minutes of her life. She'd trust Twilight to do things correctly (Remember? "Since when does Twilight Sparkle ever fail?")

FDA_Approved
Group Contributor

4949547
They look like crayons to me too.

Baal Bunny
Group Contributor

So I've read:

And ranked all the finalists, but I doubt I'll have time to get comments posted for the whole batch. Still, hope springs external! Or is it internal? Anyway!

Mike


4. "Eeyup" - This seems to me to be a conversation Apple Bloom and Big McIntosh would've had before this, AB being so naturally expressive and Mac so naturally laconic. Maybe acknowledging those previous conversations at the beginning and having Mac decide to give her the real reason this time will give the piece a bit more emotional weight. As for his sudden chattiness, we've seen in the show that he's willing to talk when he thinks he's got something important to say--when bawling out AB for the Gabby Gums incident, for instance--but since we're in his POV, maybe show him struggling to get the words out. Make what he's saying important to him, and it'll gain importance for the reader.

33. "Orchard Mornings" - I could quibble, I s'ppose, that none of the story actually takes place in the orchard, but I choose not to. :twilightsmile: Instead, let me suggest emphasizing Applejack's absence even more in the details leading up to the last scene. Make sure that when we get to Mac thinking, "He held her silently for a span of minutes, rocking himself gently. He understood why she left," there's no confusion who the "she" is in that second sentence.

13. "Flapjacks" - I seem to be on a bit of an Apple roll here... Still, the only thing I can suggest, author, would be that, when lengthening this to meet the FimFiction requirements, you tack on a section at the end in Dash's POV so we can see her take on this relationship. Heck, show us the whole collection of Applejack photos and keepsakes that she keeps in her cloudhouse and never shows to anypony--not even Applejack--because she knows they'd embarrass AJ...

73. "Deathbed Confessions" - Maybe a little long for a one-joke story, and I don't find that the individual colored-text shouts at the end have the same impact as one collective shout from all five of them would. But then I might just be an old fuddy-duddy.

53. "The Longest Night" - Very nice. A few small things, though: would Twilight maybe have found out the names and personal info of all those she's remembering and have that printed in her book? There's a suggestion that that's the case, but I'd like to see Twilight touching a hoof to each pony's entry as she goes past. Also, is Discord still around at the time of this story? 'Cause that'd make it important to continue keeping him in the dark about the two colts who drowned. Or maybe Twilight could think about telling him this year and then decide against it the way she always does.

43. "Consistency" - And speaking of Discord... Overall, I've gotta go with Horizon on this one: I don't quite see how Discord's defining "consistency" here. You could play with that, author, by having Tirek not understand it, either, and have Discord brush it off by repeating that he's not interested in making sense. Also, it might be fun to let Discord do some "cat playing with the mouse" stuff to Tirek before the ending, but I don't know how much of that you might want, author, given what happens during that ending....

EDIT: Ding-dang it! I wanted to comment on all the final stories whose gallery number ended in "3," but I forgot one! So here it is now.

Mike Again

23. "That Secret Fire" - This is my favorite of the comedies this time around . I've got nothing to suggest. Which is probably why I forgot to mention it...

Everyday
Group Contributor

4951266

If Twilight had gotten Rainbow Dash's consent, she likely wouldn't be so nervous about the situation.

FDA_Approved
Group Contributor

4951306
Perhaps she's nervous because now she can't find a solution to bring back Rainbow's lost memories? And bringing up a hypothetical question for her "friendship test" is a way to bring up the Daring Do conversation without Twilight outright saying that she messed up (like the Want It Need It incident).

(To be fair, I, like others, did initially assume that Twilight panicked and used the spell immediately on Rainbow without her consent.)

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