• Member Since 7th Sep, 2012
  • offline last seen Last Friday

Dark Avenger


"Un bon mot ne prouve rien." (Voltaire)

E
Source

The Cutie Mark Crusaders tell Zecora how they earned their cutie marks. Zecora returns with a story of her own.

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(Submission for The Writer's Group's first official group contest, prompt #2. This was written over the course of a single week, under influences such as: alcohol, a vacation in Moscow, hours of walking, tennis, and the music of Swans and Pink Floyd.)

(Read by mindlessgonzo and co: link) (NOTE: text has been slightly re-edited since then)
(Featured on EQD and included in Twilight's Library)

(Blog series where I dissect this story: link)

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 50 )

So you like Pink Floyd too, Awesome

3308764

I hope that's not all you got from this story... :duck:

No, I just noticed that when I first got here.

What happened to Muddy Water?

3309027

We may never know... :raritywink:

Wow, just wow. This has to be the first Zecora backstory I've have ever read. And then there's the molar to the story:

Live you life as you want,
Not as life wants you to live.


Ragdoll Out

3309137

Thanks!

Not sure about the "molar", though... :trollestia:

I want to know what happened to Muddy Water :raritydespair:

3310671

If you don't know, you did not read it "hard enough"... :trollestia:

To be honest, though, there is no singular answer. What are your thoughts? :duck:

3310690

I don't know :raritydespair: I want a real answer, not a 'figure it out' ending :C

3310781

I don't really know either! :raritycry:

Very lovely and fascinating. Bravo.

3315992

Thank you!

Any specific observations? :duck:

3316046 Oh jeez, where to start. The opening with the Timberwolf was brilliant it felt very natural and really did sound like a predator. Zecora was great and using the powder and then tying it back later with the manticore was exceptionally well done. I loved the CMC's stories, especially Scoots. I also felt their concerns and anxieties about things changing was really well done. It felt very natural and appropriate for them to have those fears and definitely to confide them in Zecora. I also loved her cheering them up it really suited her well.

The story...oh god, her family was wonderful I loved the description of her roots and her reason to travel, it really felt fitting. Meeting Muddy was also terrific and I love the wanderers and how Zecora feels in her cloak, i really felt true to emotions and similar.

Their travels were really fun, you gave just enough to fill in detail but not so much as to drag it out. I loved her dream with Nightmare Moon and Muddy finally leaving. This section contains he only criticism I could think of. I wish you described Muddy's colours more as I had forgotten what he looked like by then. just a small mention would've really helped my immersion immensely.

I love how you didn't reveal the note's contents. It made it feel even better just being able to make up your own wording. I found the tree design bit confusing until the CMC at the and and then a few minutes after that. to confirm she marks the tree and comes back to set up home in it yes?:twilightsheepish:

Them falling asleep was sweet but also felt a bit funny as it wasn't clear when she was telling the story when and if they fell asleep so that was a bit confusing but nothing bad.

Sufficient observations I trust?:rainbowlaugh:

3310781 To me the answer is that he goes back home to make amends with his Father. He leaves Zecora the note saying thank you for helping him realize that an wishing her luck on his travels.

3316189>>3316194

YES! LENGTHY FEEDBACK! :pinkiehappy:

I found the tree design bit confusing until the CMC at the and and then a few minutes after that. to confirm she marks the tree and comes back to set up home in it yes?

More or less. I deliberately avoided declaring anything explicitly, so everyone can come to their own conclusions (though I doubt that the details I have provided can actually suggest a wide variety of interpretations... :twilightsheepish:)

Them falling asleep was sweet but also felt a bit funny as it wasn't clear when she was telling the story when and if they fell asleep so that was a bit confusing but nothing bad.

Same as above. That powder is some strange stuff. For all we know, not all of the story was presented by Zecora's illusions... :raritywink:

I wish you described Muddy's colours more as I had forgotten what he looked like by then. just a small mention would've really helped my immersion immensely.

Hmm... good point. I must have been dreading Lavender Unicorn Syndrome by then... :derpytongue2:

To me the answer is that he goes back home to make amends with his Father. He leaves Zecora the note saying thank you for helping him realize that an wishing her luck on his travels.

We may never know... :trollestia:

The following review is brought to you by Zero Punctuation Reviews.

Y'know, if anyone is tired of me constantly bring up "Dream-Whisper-Story", it is me. I feel like the lowly concubine trapped in the palace of that one-eyed king as it defeats it's blind challengers week to week. I find myself dreaming of a handsome stranger (not gay) to march in, pop the chunky bastard and carry me away from here. And lo, did "To Catch Up With The Sun" by my constituent DarkAvenger burst into the throne room as that handsome stranger, sporting two eyes and a chrome revolver. So you, dear reader, might find yourself as disheartened as I was when the handsome stranger tripped, fell flat on his face and slunk out of the room in embarrassment and nose blood.

With that being said, at the end of the day "To Catch Up With The Sun" is pretty good. It's rare enough for a fanfic to actually be pleasant to read, let alone one that I can say I enjoyed without any massive qualifying statements. "To Catch Up With The Sun" definitely kicks the shit out of "Dream-Whisper-Story" in the mechanics of writing aspect, but its story is significantly weaker by being bogged down with the dead weights of unrelated plot points and cliche. The missteps in the theme department discouraged me personally, but I might possible be the only one in the universe that gives a shit about that kind of thing.

The mechanics of writing aspect:

DarkAvenger is actually a pretty good writer if you find the unqualified words of a complete stranger to be creditable. The story opens with an absorbing segment involving a timberwolf that really establishes a tone and starts the action. The scene doesn't really go anywhere, more on that later, but if you take the individual scenes out of the context of the story and examine them independently, there's some really great stuff here. The action scenes are particularly delicious, but dialectics demand there be an antithesis so the beautiful action scene has two evil, disfigured step sisters plotting his downfall - played here by exposition and background description.

If you recall the axioms I spelled out on my blog that no reads (accessible via my user page that no one visits), the third reads 'All lines must, apart from provide information, either reveal character or advance the action'. Apart from the rather enthralling opening timberwolf sequence, "The Ketchup On The Buns" method on scene-setting is to bring the roller coaster to a screeching halt to describe the scenery in the manner of a emotionally malformed tour guide that would rather be fucking anywhere else.

You see, the little background-building segments provide only information with no further meaning or interest, and I found myself beginning to skip over them to get back to the intriguing parts that did the advancing-action/revealing-character shit. When "Locked Up With The Runs" remembers that it's a story with character drama and an overarching plot, it gets pretty good, but it has to constantly has to stick my face back into the stinky bucket of underdeveloped exposition before I really start to get invested. The setting should be established while stuff is happening, you can't just stop and describe a flower field before folks do stuff in the flower field.

These little explanatory puddles that smack the pacing around could've been tolerable if they at least got the job done. There's a huge difference between vague and mystique; mystique still has distinct detail and usually has a huge impact on the plot. Vague is malnourishment - the imagination is not appropriately fed and thus the descriptions become muddled and confused. A prime example is about halfway through when a green smoke appeared and… moved around the room, I guess?Then it acted as a movie screen for Zecora's memory… or something. Wait, can Zecora project her memories on shit? What's going on!? These segments need more clear and distinct language.

The story-telling aspect:

Let's begin by restating that the story is by no means bad nor is it not worth your time, but I feel like it can see the ever shining light of "profound" but can't quite reach due to a few plot issues and slop. One little thing that gets on my tits are plot points introduced and explained but really have nothing to do with anything. Such things tear into the narrative. You see, them CMC's show up and serves as the framing device by being the audience for Zecora's story.

Part of the charm of the three characters is that their talents are blatantly obvious and they serve as a parallel for the propensity of youngsters to ignore their own innate talents to explore ones more favored by society, and having the story just come out and say that kinda fucks up the symbolism. Also, why is so much time devoted to the framing device with the rather absorbing intro timberwolf sequence and the one-paragraph monologues on how they got their cutie marks when neither really has anything to do with the rest of the plot? The post-cutie-mark CMC are unnecessary and could easily have work with them being pre-cutie-mark with sacrificing the impact a 'coming-of-age' story would have on them. Also, why are they going to talk to Zecora? Apple Bloom is the only one that has any kind of relationship with her, I don't remember the other two even having a scene with her, so why are they there? It seems the framework could've worked better with just Apple Bloom seeking Zecora's advice on obtaining cutie marks - maybe dragging her friends along - then we could've cut to the far more interesting Zecora story rather than waste time talking about how they obtained their cutie marks.

The reason why I rate story over the specific mechanics of writing is because in the end the reader will remember is how the story made them feel. And I left "To Critique It Then Be Done" disappointed. Apart from the scenes that add nothing to the plot, the story felt like it was winding up for a big theme that never came. It had all the tools it needed to make a quite profound statement, one reinforced by the themes looming around the CMC as well as that excellent Pink Floyd song, and I was left wanting a spiritual journey that didn't happen. As for the story Zecora told, I'm underwhelmed. It's that very same 90's Disney movie you've seen a 100 times. It's riddled with cliche, Zecora doesn't get to make any really effective decisions, and Muddy Rudder or whatever was too under-characterized for me to really care about him. I suppose you can never really be fully free of Mr. Cliche, but don't make him hold up your plot points and OCs. Mr. Imagination, Mr. Substance and Mr. Characterization should do that.

It's amazing that as something approaches the threshold of excellence, the more glaring issues become. But "The Batch Is Up With The Huns" is still pretty good, and despite the previous ranting I still like it. DarkAvenger, if you could clean up the description a bit, drop the cliche, have Zecora make narrative-driving decisions and give your work something profound to say (borrow from that Pink Floyd song), then you will have a truly excellent story - and I will be all over that shit like a cat on discarded Christmas wrapping paper. Until then, accept the twitterdickian badge of "pretty good". Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to ripping off Kurt Vonnegut and being a hypocrite.

3496649

Not going to use any emoticons to speak for me this time. Let me just say this: your review made me smile all the way through. And no matter how deep it cuts, I have to remind myself that these are still the most helpful observations, since they point out what is wrong with my story, instead of just maybe tossing me a few words of praise, or perhaps even abuse. I am equally thankful for all of those things, of course, but a complete and ruthless dissection is truly the most informative.

All that said, I think without going into a lengthy argument about all the things that you have pointed out, I only need to mention that your most important observation was the "vagueness vs. mystique" one. Indeed, on their own, quite a few elements of this story may seem unnecessary, drawn out, cliched, or just out of place (despite being quite good otherwise), such as the opening scene that everyone seems to keep bringing up. I attempted to merely hint at some of the most important elements of this story, and even left quite a few things open-ended, rather than just go ahead and explicitly point them out and tie up every "loose end."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, when it comes to my writing, the "words that I show you" aren't really the important details (they merely point you at them), which is why I even let myself get away with using cliches from time to time, as long as they are actually just a part of a bigger picture. To provide an example: that opening scene? As good as it may be when it comes to "building atmosphere" and all that, it's actually just a fancy decoration for a little "mystery" that I tried to set up. Without giving away too much, I would suggest trying to read that and the ending scene together (if you're interested at all...) Maybe you'll spot it. Maybe not...

If the things described above did not find themselves within your impression of my story, however, then that simply means I have completely and pathetically failed in this regard...

Still, I am most grateful that you took the time to let me know about that. Thank you very much! Also, you forgot to add the header, you stupid bellend!

3497791
Oops. Totally forgot about the banner. Fixed!

I'm glad you enjoyed (for lack of a better word) meh review, and I think I understand what you're saying. I do get a teeny, weeny sense of a 'bigger picture', but there wasn't enough presented to make me actively think about a bigger picture. I suppose I might be a complete idiot - there's more than enough evidence to support that claim - but I don't feel like I was given enough juicy detail to create a sense of mystique or make 'bigger picture' conclusions. I'm not saying that you have to point to the bigger picture and draw our attention to it, just leave enough of it out in the open for us to see clearly and become interested in - if that makes sense.

Also, I don't think that you should ever sacrifice the flow, uniqueness or feel of the story for the 'bigger picture'. If segments make your audience raise their eyebrows or get confused, they won't even start to really analyze the events and symbolism. I'm not entirely convinced that the story works on its own without any special 'bigger picture', let alone with one. And to reiterate, I can feel the story reaching for something profound and beautiful but I just don't think it quite gets there. I personally was sucked out by the vagueness, exposition and cliche; you always found ways to suck me back in, but the audience needs to be super immersed before you can pull off the bigger picture stuff, and I personally think that moar detail that reinforces the plot and hints at the bigger picture and less cliche will really improve things.

You still made a really good story, and I think with some more polish it can truly become a great one. There's still a lot that I like here, and I think you've got a great head on your shoulders and a ton of potential - if the words of a total stranger on the internet mean anything to you.

Happy writing!

3500071

You still made a really good story, and I think with some more polish it can truly become a great one. There's still a lot that I like here, and I think you've got a great head on your shoulders and a ton of potential - if the words of a total stranger on the internet mean anything to you.

To be honest, that's kind of how I felt, too (if I may permit myself this amount of vanity...) This story was a sort of "stepping stone" for me. A "turning point," if you will. The first one that I consider to be a truly "good" work of mine, and yet still not quite there... :raritywink:

If you take a look at the stories awaiting review, by the way, you might bump into some more juicy stuff... :trollestia:

And Mu'we never existed - like Tyler Durden from Fight Club. He was only a product of Zecora's mind.

3550476

Never thought of it that way before... :derpytongue2:

Or did I? :pinkiecrazy:

CCC

Well, that's an interesting story... I like the idea of exploring Zecora's backstory, and you did a very nice job of it.

Now I'd really love to see Zecora - this Zecora - having a bit of talk with Princess Celestia.

3554297

Well, who knows what else has happened during Zecora's journey? :trollestia:

3558522
Well, make it a sequel. A short one-shot.

3558542

There is something in the works, but I can't say it will be released anytime soon...

I was in the process of typing up an extensive in-depth review, but discontinued post-haste upon noticing TwitterDick's thorough scrutiny. I will, however, refute and amplify certain statements, and amend a few of my own.

--Describing the setting before commencing with the action does not poor pacing make. "Setting the stage" is a writing technique used by many adept wordsmiths, like, oh, say, William Shakespeare for one. Most authors who have worked extensively writing for stage tend to use this method, and there's nothing inherently wrong with "describing the flower field" first. It allows further focus on the action without throwing in snippets of background adjectives. Granted, there are a few swaths in the story where it slows a little too much. :twilightblush: All in all, it is not a major issue.

--Along that vein, vague narrative conclusions aren't inherently bad, as long as ambiguity is an integral element of the narrative. Throwing in a Philip K. Dick ending when it's unexpected or not properly built up to, however, is either inexperienced or (worse) lazy authoring. In my experience as a professional author, this is only effective in "crapsack world" or "deeply philosophical" narratives. This is not one.

There were a lot of potential moral Chekov's Guns set up throughout, and none of them were effectively fired. I'm a big fan of said literary device, and when I saw the little tidbits you were weaving into the early portion of her story-in-story, I was excited. Then... what? No accurate reflection? Thus, the ending comes off a bit like a "screw this, I'm done" shrug. The attempt, though, was admirable. We can't all be James Joyce (all the time). This is the issue with this work.

--Premise. Ah, premise. This has it in spades. The core of the work is sterling, which is why I bothered reviewing it at all. Several parts of Zecora's backstory are positively aurelite. However, they are strangled by the meandering climactic direction and the aforementioned ending. It was like the coaster stalled on the last hill. Here's the kicker; the reason I ultimately cannot dislike it. It finds it's premise and adheres to it. The pace may meander, but the core narrative focus does not, and that is the prime category by which most fiction stands or falls. It states what it wants to do, and it goes for it. It isn't entirely effective, but it remained on the correct flight path. It's not a complete exculpation, but it makes up for a lot.

Minor Gripes:
-That timberwolf had a pretty impressive sense of deductive logic. And way too much screen time.

-For all she knew, he might be the first person outside her home that was worth getting to know.
*P... person?

And she wandered Equestria with one of my favorite blues artists. I hope he left an autograph. It would have been immensely satisfying if his voice was described as "gravelly, distant, and bluesy". :pinkiehappy:

Ultimate verdict: +like

I am a prolixious twit. :facehoof:

3561258

Thank you for your comment!

I think the best response that I can give is the one I gave to twitterdick: This story was a milestone for me, which had both its ups and downs. On one hand, I was moving into certain territories that were far more interesting than the stuff I did before, but on the other I was still making painfully many beginner's mistakes.

To be honest, since I haven't really had any experience with them, I can't say very much about the authors that you've mentioned (that, and I tend not to put other authors' names into my argument... :ajsmug:) The only thing I could say is that my primary inspiration is Hemingway. I'm not saying I'm an expert on him, nor am I saying that my garbage is anything compared to his works, just that I'm trying to aim for his kind of storytelling. A story that isn't as much "vague" as "a story that seems to be about nothing in particular," but only at a first glance, the "deeper things" coming to light only once you decide to inspect things a little more closely. Of course, like I said: if that wasn't your impression of this story, then I have failed in my attempt... :twilightsheepish:

My thinking was something like this: "Sure, I could come up with an exciting, plot-twist-filled adventure (and what better premise is there to work with than this one?) with a very clear arc from beginning to end, but that just feels cheap, overdone, and uninteresting somehow. It's the equivalent of having Yoda, the "wise Jedi master" we know from The Empire Strikes Back, participate in a lightsaber fight and jump around like a hyperactive garden gnome. To me, Zecora seems like a far more subtle character than that. I wasn't interested in her "adventures" (as the story obviously shows). The questions that I wanted answers to were things like this: Why is she the one doing the "magic show" during Nightmare Night? Why does she wear a cloak? Why did she travel away from home and move into the Everfree Forest? Why does she speak in rhymes? (And the answer I wanted to this last one was something a lot less "mystical" and more "down to earth")

-That timberwolf had a pretty impressive sense of deductive logic. And way too much screen time.

I have yet to figure out why that timberwolf scene was the most memorable thing to everyone...

Well, aside from the fact that it's at the very beginning, where not everyone has fallen asleep just yet... :trollestia:

-For all she knew, he might be the first person outside her home that was worth getting to know.

*P... person?

Zecora is using "person" as a collective term for all races (i.e ponies, zebras, minotaurs, etc.)

And she wandered Equestria with one of my favorite blues artists. I hope he left an autograph. It would have been immensely satisfying if his voice was described as "gravelly, distant, and bluesy".

There's a funny little story behind this. The deadline for the contest was approaching fast, and I still had no idea what I was going to name the guy. All that I knew was that he's based on a certain person who is, among other things, also a fan of artists such as Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf, so I decided to use the first name that came to mind when I thought about said person, and that happened to be the former. It was only later when I realized that the song placed into this story (which was also an inspiration/influence/motivator) contains the lyrics "the muddy water runs". Whether it was my subconscious playing tricks on me again (I did listen to the song while writing the story, but did not pay much attention to the lyrics), or just a coincidence, I may never know... :derpytongue2:

All that said, no, not exactly a "blues artist", but perhaps the next best thing (once you actually figure out who it is...) :raritywink:

Anyway, thank you again for your help and attention! Also, throwing in a ton of "words I found in a thesaurus" is a bit like adding lens flare to a picture, especially if it was not created using a camera... :trollestia:

3561495

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you boil everything down to base elements, the essential point is "Shit happens." More acutely, "Despite our best efforts, things occur in the course of our lives. There isn't always a straightforward explanation, but we continue on regardless."

Or: "Shit happens." :eeyup:

And that's the premise I referencing, which it frames accurately, but... well... clumsily.

How far off am I? :unsuresweetie:

3561594

To be honest, I have no idea... :derpytongue2:

I like to believe there's no singular interpretation of this story. Everyone can walk away from it with whatever they choose to take with them (i.e emphasize). Some were interested in Muddy Water. Others wanted to know more about Zecora. Almost everyone wants that freaking timberwolf... :trollestia:

All that said, I think your view is just as valid as any other. Well, okay... "shit happens" may indeed be a little off the mark, but denying it would only serve to narrow the scope of this story.

If I may permit myself this much "vagueness", then I suggest you don't just look at the actual plot. It is merely a path that connects the scenes and carries us between them. The important stuff is hidden within those scenes, and not just on the path itself... :duck:

What did the note say? I didn't really get the ending.

3562234

It says whatever you might think it says... :ajsmug:

you know reading this it comes to mind that this has so much description it may just be Charles Dickens reincarnated
:pinkiehappy:

3649564

Okay... but is that good or bad? :twilightblush:

I mean, even if that were true, then it would mean that he has lost his talent... :derpytongue2:

Nah, I actually need to cut back a little on the lengthy descriptions. While they don't wander into "purple prose territory" in my opinion, they are still kind of bogging down the narrative.

3650560
it is neither good nor bad it simply depends on the preference of the reader some people do like this much description though I may not and that is just my personal preference.:twilightsheepish:

3496649 In regards to your comment about why Apple Bloom would wish to take the other CMC to see Zecora to tell her about getting their Cutie Marks: At the end of the Cutie Pox episode, they are seen running off to see Zecora (who had apparently just left to go back home herself) about getting a cutie mark in mixing potions. This point never seems to have been expanded upon, but does seem to prove that all of the CMC have been to Zecora's place at least once. It may well been during this time that they all hit it off even though it is never quite explored.

4122712

To be honest, I didn't even remember that as I was writing this... :twilightblush:

It's good to know that I was right all along, though. Suck it, 3496649 ! :trollestia:

:ajsmug:4122765 I guess you can't remember every little thing. I sure don't.

Hmmm... I was going to post the link to Gonzo's reading of this, but it appears you already have it.

Great story, I just wish Gonzo's read wasnt so long

4617601

Thank you! As for the reading, the fact that it exists already makes me happy... :raritywink:

I came here expecting a beautiful story. I was not disappointed.

5388257

Glad I could be of service. :duck:

I wasn't sure what I'd make of this (partly because it has no genre tags :rainbowwild:) but I feel it's one of the better Zecora fics around. Her backstory was certainly the most interesting part of the story, and I didn't see anything there that felt forced or unbelievable -- except maybe her companion not reading the note. (I'm sure Zecora suspected what it would say, but know for sure?) As with almost all Zecora fics, it does hit the problem of page after page of rhyming being a little wearying to read, but I'm glad I read it and I'm more than happy to give it a like.

5588975

Thank you for the comment. I gave it no tags because there is no "normal" tag (yes, I know "Slice of Life" counts as the "normal" tag, but that just didn't feel right). "Adventure" might have been a good alternative, but it wasn't quite action-packed enough for that in my opinion.

As for the note... well, it's a mystery even to me. Maybe all it read was "had to go potty, will be back in 5 mins"? :trollestia:

5590243 I think "Adventure" would be reasonable, especially for the flashback stuff, but of course it's your call. As for the note... I really, really wish I hadn't seen that line. :P

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