• Member Since 20th Apr, 2012
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Loganberry


Hold your ground but do not be unkind. (Ponyphonic, "Shy Heart")

T

I'm Last Account. For quite a while now, I've been the Keeper of the Book of Ended Lives here in Ponyville Town Hall, and it can be hard work – especially when Fluttershy visits the office. This afternoon, though, it's Applejack. She's here to tell me about the timberwolf she killed earlier. To start with.

Reading by The Feral Brony!

Winner of the Rarity Award, EFNW Scribblefest 2017

"what a gut-punch it is ... Highly Recommended" -- PresentPerfect

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 35 )

A gripping story, deeply and at times disturbingly intense. Definitely an interesting read.

Holy geez this is good! Bravo!

7986974 Thank you, and thanks for reading! It was quite hard to write some of this, as you might imagine. One reason it took so long. (Another being my habitual laziness...)

7987038 Thank you! I'm flattered you thought so. I've wanted to write something like this for a long time, but I didn't expect this. (The Fluttershy section was my original idea for the whole thing, but as so often happens the story didn't let me do what I intended.)

Interesting. A little bit art and a little bit slice of life. Not a common medium by a long shot. It's the kind of story they make kids read in school.... the kind that everyone ultimately ends up with a reference to somewhere down the line.

7987601

It's the kind of story they make kids read in school

Ah, so 20 years down the track, everyone will be complaining that they were forced to read this story by Loganberry, and why do they have to do this when they could be outside hyperspace-hopping or something? :twilightsheepish:

Thanks for the read, and especially thanks for commenting!

7987699
Heh... Well, yes. But those also tend to be the kind of stories that take a decade to fully mature before that weird moment when it suddenly becomes clear WHY it was required reading. Powerful or important stories are rarely appreciated in the moment.

Extremely well-written, but kind of painful to read. You have a great deal of talent, if you haven't realized it already.

7988971 Thank you. It wasn't the easiest story to write, either -- so I guess it's done its job there.

7991796 You're very kind; thank you! :twilightblush:

That was... pretty good. My only gripe with it has to do with me not liking Applejack so much, but otherwise pretty good.

7994476 Heh, I'll take "pretty good", thanks, especially when it's a character you're not fond of. :ajbemused:

:applejackunsure: Hm. I like it and it's technically good, but for me it feels like the components are at odds with each other.

The flashback to Applejack's fight against the pack is appropriately dark and a good tense action scene in the telling. I also like how matter-of-fact she is, combined with Last Account's obvious discomfort. And I like how Applejack is at the start so dismissive of the idea of identifying a monster, especially given her history.

The main problem is that the darker story feels like it's coming out with very little prompting. Last Account might be officious and relatively distant from this sort of thing, but the way Applejack delves into the painful story feels a little like she's bullying him rather than helping him appreciate the reality behind the figures. It might just be me, but he never feels particularly unsympathetic, so the need for the retelling seems a little too thin.

Make no mistake: it's still a good piece of writing. But it does feel strangely incomplete and structurally rickety. Perhaps it's the way I'm interpreting it, but I think a stronger motivation and a little more of the history between the two characters would've gone a long way in fixing those problems.

Also, the Fluttershy segment was unexpectedly painful for such a short scene. The poor dear! :fluttercry:

7999450 And people wonder why this fandom has built up such a huge fanfic community! Back in the furry world, I used to be ecstatic at getting more than "Okay" on any of my stories, so thank you so much for going to the trouble of making such a detailed comment. As I frequently say, I love this sort of thing. :pinkiehappy:

And now I'll address a few of the points you made:

Hm.

Now there's an ominous way to begin a review! :rainbowlaugh:

I like it

Totally out of context, I know, but it gives me the opportunity to say that, in spite of some of the things I'm about to say, I like it too. (And thanks!)

...especially given her history.

I suspect AJ has had more than her fair share of timberwolf encounters. She's in serious danger in "Spike At Your Service", after all.

...the way Applejack delves into the painful story feels a little like she's bullying [Last Account] rather than helping him appreciate the reality behind the figures.

She is being a bit harsh, yes. The idea in my head was that AJ had decided (or been told by Fluttershy!) to get past history out, and that her determination to be honest and straightforward was so strong that it had pushed one or two other things a bit too much to the side. Once she's got the tale out, this is less of an issue, which is why AJ's rather harsh demeanour softens later in the story.

So that in itself I don't mind. However...

it does feel strangely incomplete and structurally rickety ... I think a stronger motivation and a little more of the history between the two characters would've gone a long way in fixing those problems.

This is the key, I think. With maybe the exception of the Fluttershy segment, I'm writing outside my comfort zone here. My usual style of ponyfic is a silly, mildly comedic piece of fluff, which The Book of Ended Lives is not. This is also A Story I Needed To Write, and quite often stories like that don't turn out as well as stories that come almost out of thin air.

The lack of fill-in detail regarding the history between AJ and LA was a deliberate decision: I didn't want to fill in too many gaps. But I think my determination not to do that may have taken me too far the other way, and that would fit with what you say. (Heh, a parallel there with my reasoning for AJ's behaviour!) As it happens, the original story was even sparer, and it only became even this detailed after my (anonymous) pre-reader suggested it was too hard to work out what was going on.

Also, the Fluttershy segment was unexpectedly painful for such a short scene. The poor dear! :fluttercry:

When I first had the idea for what would become this story, it was going to be a Flutterfic, and the earliest drafts had a great deal more of that Fluttershy scene. It's just that Applejack barged her way in and took over! I'd still like to write something one day focusing on the darker side of Fluttershy's calling, but it won't be like this fic. I suspect Rarity will be involved somewhere.

Sweet Celestia, I'm rambling on, aren't I? Time to stop. But again, a really big thank you for taking the time to give such interesting and helpful feedback. :twilightsmile:

7999618

I wish I could give detailed comments all the time, but sometimes I'm a slave to caprice, and I can't muster up the energy. Whether I'm just making excuses or stating the honest truth, I'm at least happy to see when it's appreciated. :twilightsmile:

Regarding the "hm", I honestly didn't intend it to be ominous. It was supposed to be "Hm, how interesting", rather than "Hm, you're sure this isn't garbage"? :twilightsheepish: At least, I wanted to convey a mixed reaction rather than anything awful, though in hindsight AJ's uncertain mug doesn't help.

The timberwolves are certainly an odd bunch power-wise. I can imagine Applejack having to deal with them from time to time, but depending on the episode, either the encounter would be a tense battle of wolves reforming into monstrous menageries, or it would be a quick banging together of the pots until they run off whimpering.

The lack of fill-in detail regarding the history between AJ and LA was a deliberate decision: I didn't want to fill in too many gaps. But I think my determination not to do that may have taken me too far the other way, and that would fit with what you say.

I think this is right. Myself, I've had problems in previous fics where things I thought were clear turned out to be barely present suggestions in the finished piece. It really is a balancing act between beating the reader over the head and whispering too quietly for them to hear. It isn't fatal to the overall piece - I got the general gist of Applejack's point for telling the story - but a few more clues or a single illustrative scene/flashback between her and Fluttershy might have helped it click.

That said, I think another aspect is Last Account too. As much as I give a thumbs-up to the flashback with Fluttershy, it feels like it runs counter to the inexperienced desk jockey angle which could've given Applejack more reason to correct him. Yet that said, the scene does a good job of humanizing him and showing that he can care, so I'd hate to suggest taking it out of the story. Maybe instead, the modification would go to his interactions with Applejack, such as making him less scared and more annoyed or defensive near the beginning, the better to contrast with his growing unease as she later shows him the error of his way of thinking.

Of course, it's all up to you how you take one user's feedback. I may well be a statistical anomaly. But I hope it's at least food for thought, and I wish you luck with your future fics regardless. :raritywink:

(And don't worry about "rambling". Quite apart from the detail making the interest for me, you're not even close compared with some champion ramblers I've encountered, and that's including the one in the mirror :rainbowlaugh:).

7999704

The timberwolves are certainly an odd bunch power-wise.

I prefer it when they're a more serious threat. This ties in with my general irritation that the Everfree Forest has been tamed, in my view, a bit too much in recent seasons. (Mind you, Twilight was wandering in there to get tea back in S1, so what do I know?)

Maybe instead, the modification would go to [Last Account's] interactions with Applejack, such as making him less scared and more annoyed or defensive near the beginning

Interesting. And I don't mean that as a euphemism for "What the absolute hay?", I really do mean "interesting". I have somewhat mixed feelings about that -- and again, that means what it says. I see the reasoning, but I rather want him to be scared. Yes, he knows AJ pretty well... but there's something in the air this time.

I may well be a statistical anomaly.

All the best people are statistical anomalies. :raritywink:

you're not even close compared with some champion ramblers I've encountered

I've mellowed! Time was I used to exchange 100k emails (plain text) with one friend on a regular basis. It's actually rather weird that I don't write long stories, now I come to think of it.

As far as this story goes, I don't think I want to make any significant changes to it at the moment. That absolutely doesn't reflect on your comments and suggestions, as I'm very grateful. I just want to see more of what readers make of it as it stands. And as I said, I do like the story I have now. However, I may well have another look at it with (hopefully) fresher eyes a little way down the line.

Though let's face it, by that time I'll probably be engrossed in something really stupid again. :pinkiecrazy:

This is really good! The rest of this comment will be complaints against that fact. Remember this first part as you read.

There's a huge presumption on the part of Last Account. He talks about "The Bearers" as if they're some recurring or otherwise imposing burden on his personal time. Nothing else in the story bears this out. You need to either sell this conceit or skip it, before you move on to AJ's report, which is the bulk of the story.

Good job with the tense. I was halfway through the story before I even realized I was reading a present tense, first-person/pony story. Those are both hard to write. Doing them together is bold, but you make it work and prove yourself adept in the process.

The rest.... There are a few ups and downs in the melodrama that follows, but on the whole, this is wonderful stuff. You do a great job of capturing a realistic feeling of dedication in AJ. We see and, more importantly, feel, her insistence on protecting her family and their livelihood. That "Last Account" is the one hearing this is almost incidental. It could be any pony really, but... I have to acknowledge you've done something unique in creating this office... or "book of ended lives" as a bureaucratic entity. It works, in a weird, twisted way that only magic talking horse bureaucracy can.

8073166 Thank you so much for going to the trouble to write all that feedback! It's really appreciated. :pinkiehappy: And of course I'm very happy that you enjoyed it on the whole.

You're dead right about the "Bearers" stuff, and I take full blame for that, especially since an (informal) pre-reader made a similar comment. My feeling at the moment is that I'd rather strip that stuff out and remove a distraction from the main thread of the story. I'll turn it over in my mind for a day or two and see whether I still feel that; I suspect I will. (Edit: I did!)

Fun fact: the very earliest draft of this story was from second-person perspective. Ever since the old "Most Dangerous Game" (which I missed out on for non-fandom reasons) I'd been wondering what I could come up with as far as 2p writing went. The answer turned out to be "a story that would work better in first person" -- perhaps not unexpectedly.

My notes from the first round of judging, totally unedited. Nothing's decided yet, but you're still in the running!

I found this story captivating, surprisingly so for what is basically a dialogue. This could have been just a pair of talking heads, but the author managed to create something shocking and interesting. It's dark, creative, and moving, enough so that I forgot to take notes while I read. Descriptions are short and effective, the tone is on point, and the OC is both believable and entirely likeable. Some bits are a little vague, but overall I loved it. Not 100% on which award it falls under, though. -SF P.S. Filed this one under Rarity because I found the tale haunting, and dark.

8081010 Thank you very much! :pinkiehappy: I live for feedback, as everyone who knows me will attest, so I'm very grateful to you for letting me see yours.

I guess Applejack just needed to rant to somepony, and maybe start putting the past behind her? If she's still hearing that in her dreams, she's in need of a friendly listener, at the least.

8365813
I think it's more just a case that AJ has been bottling things up for too long, and being who she is, it's got to the point that she needs to come clean to somepony for her own sake. But yes, there's an open question about just how much what happened has affected AJ. Possibly more even than we see here.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Staggering.

8428364
I'm glad I read your review before I saw that, as you could take it in multiple ways! :P

I've been thinking about it,and you know which fic this would go nicely with as an episode Every Little bit,

8727617
Now there's an interesting comment! I can't say I'd thought about that at all, but it's a fascinating thought. I wouldn't put myself up against TD, though. He was (I hate writing that) one of the deserved greats on here.

Also, thank you very much for the fave! :twilightsmile:

Hi! I’m from the Creator’s Library (formally the Reviewer’s Cafe). Thank you for submitting your story! Here’s your review: Link

(I’m sorry this took so very long; there were a couple complications with my role in the group:facehoof:.)

8956838
Hi! Thank you very much. :twilightsmile: And no problem with the wait; that's absolutely fine.

Hey, I'm killing off some characters over in Displaced into Nothing right now. Would you mind if I mentioned this character?

“That’s easy enough. Granny was grievin’ for her daughter and her son-in-law; she was in no condition to come along.”

I think you've got them mixed up: Bright Mac was her son, Buttercup was his wife.

9332384
In principle, I don't mind, and thank you for asking. I mean, as long as he's not going to be characterised as a terrifying mass murderer or something. :rainbowwild: But if you just want a passing mention that he's bitten the dust -- then yeah, that's fine.

9332394
Heh, any number of people have read this over the time it's been up, not to mention pre-reading and editing and proofreading, and none of them (including me!) have caught that stupid error. Now fixed. Thank you! :twilightsmile:

9332814
Uh... No. He's gonna take down that Moonique, Spike, Flash, and a bunch of creatures of unknown names were killed by the bad guys...

Also, something I didn't mention that was bugging me in this story... Applejack keeps saying she "killed" timberwolves, but she only mentions breaking them... Does she realize they re-form?

9332847
Well, I guess it's okay then. I mean, the concept of the Book itself isn't one I'm too precious about. Besides, it's not as if any of us ask permission to use Hasbro's characters. :raritywink:

Does she realize they re-form?

These don't. In "Spike At Your Service", the timberwolves near the start (the ones AJ saves Spike from) don't re-form. It's only the group near the end that do and combine into the super-wolf. As such, I'm happy with the way things work here. :twilightsmile:

9332967
Um...

Yes they do. It's right at the end of the scene, as they're leaving.

It's fine, I was assuming she meant that she set them on fire, or something like that. I've just always been under the impression that Timberwolves are a magical creature which possesses wood like that and loses control of it for a bit if the wood is disassembled...

9333653
Hmm, you're right. Shows how often I've watched that episode recently! However, my timberwolves don't. One thing about that clip is that AJ clearly doesn't expect them to re-form. So headcanon is that the ones we see in the show have acquired that ability recently (meaning since AJ met the creatures in this fic), who knows how, and it's not something that's previously been the case. I may add a line or two of hoof-waving to get around this at some point. Still, I'm not changing it right now, and I don't think it harms the story. Thanks for pointing it out, though.

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