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Mike Cartoon Pony

Hardcore animation enthusiast who discuss it in video format. Also likes pastel cartoon ponies. They do that to people. And ghosts.


Phyllis Cloverleaf, founder and leader of Canterlogic, prides herself on looking after everypony in town. You can never be too careful when it comes to defending yourself. Thankfully, everypony sees it that way.

Well, almost everypony. It pains her that one pony continues to hold out, to not only resist seeing the truth, but to endeavor for an impossible change, one that will endanger everypony by trying.

Phyllis has tried much to appeal to Sunny. It's never easy to help somepony who doesn’t see it as help. Perhaps, by approaching her not as the leader of Canterlogic, but as just another citizen of Maretime Bay, Phyllis might be able to get through.

Perhaps, a pony who really needs help might let it in.

An entry in Imposing Sovereigns III, using the prompt "Phyllis Cloverleaf/Integrity".

Thanks to hawthornbunny for proofing and editing the revised version.

Chapters (2)
Comments ( 15 )

An intriguing, thoughtful before/after with well-written characterization for both leads throughout. Kudos!

Exactly the sort of interaction and reconciliation I'd expect between these two, and you wrote it wonderfully. Bravo! :twilightsmile: :raritycry:

Thank you very much! It is still a Phyllis story more then a Sunny one, even if the text in the first chapter is fully about Sunny, it’s really about Phyllis. As we observe through Phyllis never internally acknowledging that Sunny’s words could have merit, and we interpret a lot from that. And the fic obviously uses knowledge of the film’s events to basically function at all, both in putting us ahead of the characters (spotting the truth of the cliff incident well in advance of the characters) and knowing what Sunny is feeling/thinking at moments where even Phyllis doesn’t. Still, a good fanfic can rely on the film to exist, no?

In any case, very happy you found the characterisation intriguing and thoughtful. Always want to make a reader think!

Thanks very much! The fic’s genesis is a bit of a mystery even to me, but showing how these two would interact, when they clearly know each other and have interacted many times in the past - despite basically never directing interacting in the film - was one of my top priorities.

If I had a second goal, it was to write a Phyllis story without Sprout, to see if there was anything I could work with there, just her. And, well, there was.

It both is and isn’t surprising a fic with these two hasn’t been done yet (it’s hard for Phyllis to make much of an individual impression when she spends almost the whole film either as a plot device for Sprout to bounce off of, or as the speaker for the film’s setup which Sunny fights against - Haven and Alphabittle, despite less screentime and dialogue, get more chances to shine individually and embed themselves in the mind as characters to want to focus on for stories), so I hope I set a high standard as the inaugural writer there!

Much thanks for your praise on the reconciliation especially, it’s never an easy thing to pull off (and frankly, I’m not sure I did that as well as I could have. But a good writer always aims to improve!).

The first chapter’s quite good, providing some excellent background for both characters. Phyllis having deeper history with Argyle makes a wonderful amount of sense, and the tragedy at Zephyr Heights is very well conceived.

But the second one… The emotional arc feels all over the place. Phyllis’s apology and returning the repaired picture both feel like they should be the emotional climax of the scene, but it just keeps going. And it drags itself into a review of the last act of the movie. Yes, Phyllis doesn’t know the details there, but the audience does, and the review feels like a slog as a result.

This does do a lot to flesh out Phyllis and her relationship with Sunny, but there’s a lot of bloat around that. Still, plenty of interesting ideas on display. Thank you for this, and best of luck in the judging.

Hey, my first FoME comment! I've seen how great they are elsewhere, nice to have one of my own now.

It's fitting you mention the second chapter's bloat, because I was very much aware of this (and had already done a lot to mitigate it – Sunny's tale was originally close to double its current length, until I decided to have her start in right at the crystals failing, hoping by making her story about what she was feeling, not what happened, it would be justified), but I struggled to find a way to fix this while still having it flow organically. Perhaps the piece's origin (a cookie-cutter "Sunny and Phyllis reconcile after the movie at Argyle's grave" story I thankfully abandoned quickly) gave me undue attachment to them patching up the pieces, even as the first chapter, the prequel one, was proving more fascinating as I developed it.

I think the real sign of the bloat lies in Chapter 2 being 1,600 words longer than Chapter 1 – if it could not be shorter, it should still structurally be in the same ballpark. The release should not be longer then the buildup of tension, after all. I think I felt the thematic and character point of Sunny's tale – echoing Phyllis doing the same last time, with the same end result – justified the means, and didn't consider it would feel repetitive (well, I did, hence shortening it substantially, but you know). In fact, in writing the whole piece, the numerous echoes and contrasts, thematic and otherwise, became so important to me I perhaps grew too attached to scale them back. If I'd hit upon a way to go from Sunny accepting Phyllis' apology straight to her prodding the older mare about what to do with Canterlogic going forward, I would have. That probably would have been enough. Maybe I just need objective distance to try cutting Sunny's tale and see if that works.

The real kicker? When I was finishing this up, I realised that either of these chapters, with minute adjustments, could have been standalone stories (Chapter 1 more so, Chapter 2 would have required substantial changes). And I was this close to just making this story be Chapter 1. Perhaps publishing Chapter 2 at a later date, or as a separate fic. Or even just marking Chapter 1 alone as the contest entry!
Why didn't I? I'm not sure. Maybe I didn't feel confident in doing a non-happy ending. Maybe I felt readers needed to leave with more sympathy for Phyllis by seeing her admit her wrongs, rather than not even thinking of them despite the reader seeing them. Maybe I felt the lack of an emotional release from Phyllis in Chapter 1 needed the second one as a counterbalance. Maybe I feared backlash from presenting a protagonist who is wrong and mostly unsympathetic (not that that can't work, it very much can, I mean pulling it off correctly).

Regardless, on reflection and several days off writing it, I totally see why Chapter 1 made a bigger impression on you, regardless of its lack of bloat. Phyllis' cut-dry minimalism to her words and thoughts gives it a brisk efficiency that shows a lot without telling (hence why the Zephyr Heights tale came out the way it did, landing for you greatly). It challenges the reader far more, and that's rewarding and satisfying.

So, two ways I was partially aware of fixing Chapter 2's bloat (one by cutting the chapter altogether), and I got cold feet on them both. Oh well. Guess it happens! For what it's worth, I do feel driven to do a rewrite of Chapter 2, see if I can't improve it. The bloat is too ingrained to fully remove, but if 1,000-ish words is chopped off (mostly from Sunny's tale), it shouldn't feel distractingly bloated. I wrote Chapter 1 second, it's no wonder it came out better.

In any case, remarkably succinct, efficient constructive feedback (not a skillset of mine with this comment, as you can see :twilightsheepish:), nice even when it cuts deep. And the praise for the elements that did really land for you, that's very much appreciated. Hopefully this story will help me going forward in my future writing endeavours. Thank you, FoME!

Beautiful. You've captured Phyllis Cloverleaf at her full potential. Every implied bit of complexity in her motives, expressions, actions, and inactions is thrust center stage for in-depth study and a fantastic, mature resolution in the exact ways I hoped a fanfiction would give me.

Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.


Beautiful. You've captured Phyllis Cloverleaf at her full potential. Every implied bit of complexity in her motives, expressions, actions, and inactions is thrust center stage for in-depth study and a fantastic, mature resolution in the exact ways I hoped a fanfiction would give me.

Such kind words! Seriously, you just about made my day with your comment.

I'm not going to pretend I captured Phyllis perfectly, nor in a manner that fits with everyone's headcanon (lots of people paint her as far more greedy in making money, for a start, knowingly taking advantage of her fear-mongering). But as regards actually delving into what makes her her, why she does what she does, and how she would have viewed Sunny prior to and after the film's events, I sought for exactly what you said - a mixture of breaking down her motives and thoughts, forcing them into the spotlight, while still leaving plenty to implication. Don't want to reveal everything! Especially as regards both Phyllis' backstory with Argyle and the incident at Zephyr Heights - the more detail given there, the less impact they land with.

But I'm beyond delighted to hear this fic delivered exactly what you'd hoped for in a Phyllis character study. See, she's not just a plot device for Sprout/the film's segregation setup! At least, not in terms of what can be done with her.

And mature resolution, that's well appreciated too. I really wanted to strike a balance of Phyllis being able to step over her pride and admit she was wrong, feeling not stubbornness but regret and guilt she's trying her hardest to stomach down. Stoked that worked for you!

Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

No, thank you for enjoying it as much as you did!

Yeah! One of the first things I noticed was that Canterlogic products were all defensive, and she did help supervise the defenses when Izzy showed up. For better or worse, Phyllis is sincere in her motivation. Sprout stomping past the limits she set because he didn't care for the context of why they do what they do emphasized that (and a number of other psychological points) wonderfully. Every time I saw them onscreen I hoped a good fic would come along soon!

:twilightsmile: Phyllis really shines through in this story of yours. I like the notion that she is very much sincere in her desire to keep the ponies of Maretime Bay safe from the unicorns and pegasi she (unfortunately and erroneously) thought were out to get them and that she was shocked into this mindset.

She and Sprout are characters with potential, I think.

Glad you liked it!

Phyllis really shines through in this story of yours. I like the notion that she is very much sincere in her desire to keep the ponies of Maretime Bay safe from the unicorns and pegasi she (unfortunately and erroneously) thought were out to get them and that she was shocked into this mindset.

It was a tricky balance for me, making it clear that incident was a turning point for her, but not the sole factor, as that would be rote and unimaginative. And on a related note, that she is still a businessmare driven by finances. Without that, the story would come across as making excuses for her behaviour in the film and leading up to it. Certainly, it’s an unusual take thus far in the fandom - when she’s popped up at all, she’s usually still painted in a bad light, or a hang-on to whatever is being done with Sprout (and usually with reluctance on the author’s part, clearly as an obligation). Which, you know, I get, she’s given basically no unique agency of her own in the film, so she won’t stick in the mind much.

I still debate how well I hit this balance, but it seems to have worked for most readers, so I’ll take it!

You're welcome. I must admit I would not mind seeing more stories lean away from the overly negative portrayals of Phyllis, but that may be due to me running into a lot of those ideas over the past few weeks.

Nice! A more sympathetic portrayal of Phyllis. It makes her motivations and reasons for her prejudice very believable.

Deep down she wanted to believe Argyle, still has sparks of sympathy for their cause, but just needs proof. This is the kind of story we really could have used in the movie.

It can be annoying when any piece of media makes some characters sympathetic by throwing others under the bus, or making villains of them. I knew it would be a bit of a stretch to make the Phyllis we see in the film, the most active one against unity, promoting products against it and all, be somepony who once believed the opposite. The key came in the film's implication of her business front-facing persona – of course a company leader puts on something of a face for the public. Leaning into that, and what she might be like when she lets the mask drop, was the answer to making this angle work without it coming out of left field. That, and the story fully relying on the reader knowing things the character's don't from the future events of the film – always a nifty technique with any prequel!

In any case, glad it landed well enough for you to consider it head canon worthy for yourself! Always a nice thing for any author to hear. Especially when most fics with Phyllis in them, whether set before or after the film, write here even more thinly and one-note than the film did.

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