• Member Since 11th Apr, 2012
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Bad Horse

You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart. -- W. H. Auden


Twenty years later, Celestia has for the second time taken on a new private student. Twilight can no longer be the Faithful Student, but feels she has failed to become anything else. She must find out what and who she now is—and the difference between these things.

(Non-Twilicorn universe. On EQD March 17, 2013.)

Chapters (7)
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Comments ( 162 )

For my readers who've suffered through my many sadfics, here's something less melancholy. Now technically alternate universe!

Thanks to Antsan for encouraging me to finish it, to bookplayer, GhostofHeraclitus, and Blue_Paladin42 for pre-reading, and to Ebon Mane for letting me use the drawing CosmicUnicorn did for The Three Notes (story #84 on this site, and one you might like if you liked Big Mac Reads Something Purple). Thanks to Sunchaser for telling me to move the ending of chapter 2 forward to where it is now, and for his detailed review.

A few things I see in pre-reading:

1. You use a lot of adverbs in your dialogue attributions. You might try doing a search on “ly” and finding all the adverbs that way, then ask yourself if each one is necessary. Can you indicate the same state or emotion with some form of action? It would punch up the chapter and make it a little more than a couple of ponies standing around talking.
2. Does Twilight not immediately recognize Princess Celestia? If she does, then there’s no need to say that she saw a stately wide alicorn. She saw Celestia. Let us know that. The unicorn filly, on the other hoof, needs more description.
3. Speaking of which, I’d like more description overall. We know it’s a library, but picture the library that you’re thinking of in your head. What’s the desk made out of? Are there a lot of windows? How high do the stacks go? You want to weave those facts into the action.
4. The conversation that Twilight and Celestia have while Starflower is filling out the form is cute, but is it necessary? The form-filling is the important action, and I think our attention should be focused there. Maybe rewrite this from Starflower’s perspective. She’s writing everything down while the two older mares talk about things way over her head.

O. . . K, apparently the philosophical conversation wasn't irrelevant. If that's the case, then Chapter 1 should be rewritten to put more focus on that and less on the action of the library. Celestia stopped in to escort a young filly to get a library card. Just say that, and say, "While the filly was completing the form, Twilight remembered a point she wanted to discuss. . . " or something like that. Or start with Twilight alone at night, and have her flash back to the conversation. Go into more detail on how she drifted apart from her friends. From where I stand now, this looks like a story of a mare who fell too much in love with knowledge and is unhappy about it. If that's the case, focus everything on that and it won't seem so slow.

I will read more later.

2211989 Adverbs: Eh... yeah. I'm cutting a few, but keeping most of them. I am coming more and more to the opinion that cutting adverbs because they're adverbs is bad advice.
Be careful who you're calling a wide alicorn. :trollestia: I wrote it that way because it's briefly POV the library patron, but she knows who Celestia is too, so, okay.
Description: The first pre-reader said it needed more description, so I added some. Then the next said it had too much description, so I took it out. The next said it needed more, so I put it back in. The last pre-reader said it was too wordy, so I took it out again and moved some into chapter two. Now I'm putting back part of the description into the first sentence. Maybe I can "weave some into the action". Gotta be careful, though. This chapter is long and slow, and description usually makes things slower.
- Conversation: I need most of it, but I'll cut the library card gimmick if I think of a way to smooth over the gap it would leave.

NEXT CHAPTER! it be so sad! :raritycry::fluttercry:

Hmmm? Commotion within descriptive endeavors? Too much? Too little? We shall see.

Why did Equestria Daily tag this as "Pony Joe"? :rainbowhuh:
Can somepony tell me.

Adverbs are frequently crutches. They're fine to have, but 90% of the time a writer can rewrite to avoid them and enrich narration and voice. Some of the best writing advice I ever received from my Creative Writing professors in college was "Eliminate every adverb in this chapter." I was surprised how much my writing improved when I was forced to innovate.

I'd encourage you to give it a try if only apathy convinces you otherwise.

Because it's also marked "incomplete." :ajsmug:

New story! So I think it's about time to read some of your stuff instead of just following.

A short chapter, so there's not a whole lot to say here. I like the conceit, and of course the writing is solid. The stand-out bit of this for me is definitely the banter surrounding Starflower's request for a library card. It's very breezy and natural, and quite fun to read.

On the critical side, I feel like that first paragraph is a bit of a beast to get through. It's chock full of words with three or more syllables. It does serve well to alert the reader that this is going to be written from Twilight's perspective, and I know you have a big enough following that you're not going to lose a whole lot of readers with that block of text, but if I didn't know who you were, I would find it particularly intimidating.

The use of 'shouted' for Twilight's exclamation when she sees Princess Celestia niggles at me a bit, too. This may well be a matter of personal preference, but 'shouted' to me carries either no emotional connotation or some subtle negative connotation, depending on circumstance. I'd expect Twilight to be pleasantly surprised to see Princess Celestia, at least from what information we're given in this chapter, and so I find that particular choice of verb a little jarring.

Other than that, I found it quite enjoyable (if a little depressing – this is all Twilight comes to, after 20 years?) I need to run, but I look forward to coming back and reading some more later.

Sorry Joe, but you can't compete against a princess.

2229705 I've tried writing without adverbs. I think adverbs get a bad rep from being used in speech tags. But most of my adverbs aren't in speech tags. Here's half of the adverbs from the first chapter:

"She frantically searched her memory": I could use say "She rifled her memory." But it's not as precise. Rifling can be frantic; it can also be brisk but practiced.

"The open spaces of the original plan had been gradually partitioned..." Gradually, over the course of two hundred years. It's just one word, but it's important.

"As administrator, she dealt mainly with X, but on that day was doing Y"--simply killing "mainly" would make it sound like she was doing something out of the ordinary.

"Her chin barely reached the countertop." It would sound bizarre to say "Her chin reached the countertop." That would be commenting on a coincidental sameness of height between a person and a piece of furniture, rather than on the fact that she is young and still growing.

"who finally turned around to look": Removing "finally" would make it sound like the person responded instantly.


I haven't started to read this yet, but I MAY if you tell me why Equestria Daily has tagged this as pony Joe?

What does that even mean?

The character Pony Joe shows up in future chapters.

2229783 Both good points, and both now fixed. "Shouted" is one of those cases where I used the wrong verb in order to avoid using "said" and the right adverb, because adverbs are evil. But changing it to a movement with no speech tag is, I think, even better.

Huh? Wait, is that who Twilight will be romancing?

Waaaaaaait... I think I just got the whole fourth F thing. For some reason that is probably the only joke that gets better when it takes you a minute and every second of slow realization is priceless. Innuendo is always worth the wait, 'teaching without teaching' Donut Joe-style. This chapter became a masterpiece in hindsight.

excellent writing. I love what you're doing with the writer's workshop scholarship—a very noble endeavor with a good cause, considering all the talented writers on this site

She turned to leave, then stopped, and added, "And, Twilight? I am always interested in your opinion. But you do understand, you don’t need to impress me anymore.”

this line struck me as harsh, vaguely out of character for someone like Celestia, especially as a parting line

but I don't really like making these types of comments before the story ends because maybe it will clear up later

While she had become an expert on semantics and epistemology, they had become experts at life.


a lot of little 'oh wow' moments here, sentences that think

Good, melancholy stuff! I actually really enjoy stories where Twilight is perhaps under-appreciated and a bit past being relevant, and any story where she's replaced as Celestia's student always hits hard. I suspect such tales will be a dying breed what with the direction the show has taken, so it's a treat to see one now.

Heh... I'm nearly as dense as poor Twilight when it comes to picking up on Joe's affections (Joe's reaction to her taking him up on his suggestion was hilarious)... I didn't even realize there was a shipping tag on this one at first. I wonder if she'll come back for that 4th F, or if she'll find it elsewhere?

Should I be worried that it says "Updates every day until complete" and yet it hasn't updated in a month? Or was that bit added recently? I'm certainly looking forward to more of this one.

I shall read because of the Twilight X Pony Joe pairing.


I was wondering when this was going up! :pinkiehappy:

Disappointment is in store for you both. :trollestia:

This is very good. I'm looking forward to the rest.

2230287 The 'romance' tag is a little misleading. It's there, but it's not the center of the story.

Gotta admit, it took reading the comments before I realized what the fourth F was. I think I was paying too much attention to Twilight's thoughts and not enough to how Joe was reacting to her.

Comment posted by JMac deleted Mar 8th, 2013

This is really reminding me of the early parts of "Eternal". Twilight, stuck in a holding pattern. I'm finding your take on her future as a marginalized scholar both depressing and compelling. Then again, I actually spend my days worrying about things like epistemology, linearity and statistical independence. [For a good time / if you value your sanity don't] get me started on Bayesianism, omniscience, and perfect probabilistic knowledge.

But back to the point, I like the characterization in this chapter. It's obviously non-standard Twilight, given the age, but it feels believable to me, and you do good work in delivering the characterization in a steady flow. (I'd comment on consistency, but meh. I'm not going to read a Bad Horse story and expect that's something I really need to worry about)

It might be that I'm more hooked into the story, but I definitely felt like the writing was stronger in this chapter. There were still a couple unwieldy passages, but as I mentioned after Chapter 1, I think part of that is intrinsic to Twilight's viewpoint and fighting against it too hard would be a mistake. One or two personal issues with word choice, but that's just me being a pain in the butt and given that this is already published I feel a little odd bringing them up. (In particular, do a find on 'recollected'. Coming after descriptions of interactions with tangible objects, it took me a second to realize she was remembering and not re-collecting something she'd just put down).

I particularly liked Twilight's cabinet of unsent reports. Also, the line

If Celestia thought Twilight was still just trying to impress her, she’d think differently then.

Definitely looking forward to some Luna, especially since it didn't seem like a whole lot happened in this chapter. I find that very forgivable, because it's a short slice and I'm entertained by discussion of what many might find to be abstruse academic allusions, but I'm glad there's something already published to follow this.

Sometimes I think Celestia is unintentionally cruel (at least in stories like this), sometimes I wonder whether she realizes that.

:twilightsmile: That last line, Perfect

Heh. I don't know about anybody else but I'm really enjoying this.

I love this story so far. As DeadHead pointed out, the last line in this chapter was just perfect. In just five short chapters you've managed to craft more memorable lines and moments than most 30k word stories. I'd offer criticism if I had any, but my only complaint is that I have to wait to read the rest. :twilightsmile:

Thank you for writing this story.

Yay first comment!:derpytongue2:

On this chapter at least:applejackunsure:

I'm sure that I could find flaws with this story if I wanted to.
Truth be told, I don't. I want to see Twilight realize her despair and overcome it. To see what the power of friendship can truly be.

People move on. People change, and grow, and falter, and die. But Twilight? She's still the same as she once was, and realizes that the world is moving past her. Hopefully she will draw meaning from her crisis, and come out a better person/pony.

And if she can't? Her pain will be something that I, as a human, can relate do.

I want to read more.

This chapter really reinforced two things for me: (1) I have no idea where this is going, and (2) I'm definitely in your target audience.

I'm afraid this is going to sound horribly cliched or just plain inane, but I feel like there's more truth in this chapter than in just about anything I've read on Fimfiction. That's not always what I'm looking for in stories, but it's what stands out to me here. I suppose what I mean is that the characterizations of Twilight, Joe, and in absentia, Derpy, these characterizations are, for me at least, as solid as I've read. Twilight's preoccupation with usefulness rings very true for me, and Joe reacting to young Twilight rather than middle-aged Twilight is wonderful. More than anything, it puts me in mind of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" and Harry Chapin's "Taxi".

It's... I don't want to waste space in your story comments linking to Youtube, but those songs mean a lot to me. And frankly, music moves me a lot more easily than writing, and I'm more than a little surprised to be reacting to this chapter as strongly as I am.

This is powerful stuff. The story's going in the favorites list now. I'm a little disappointed I've already given you the watch and that I don't have it to give away still.

For me, at least, not as good as Chapter 3. Still very good, but a couple little details that threw me out a bit.

The first, perhaps obviously, is "Hadn't not followed her to Canterlot?" It does make sense, but it stopped me reading and forced me to think about the structure of the words. It is a sensible stylistic choice, but even so, double negatives always sit badly with me. I'm not usually one for extra wordiness, but I probably would have opted for something more tagged on the front. "Hadn't what? Hadn't stayed in Ponyville? Hadn't not followed her to Canterlot?" But as I said, sensible stylistic choice even if I'd have gone another way.

The second just genuinely feels weird to me.

So Twilight told Joe about how special a treat donuts were when she was a filly, and how grown-up she'd felt when she could finally afford to buy them herself. "Walking in and ordering a double-glazed for myself, with my own money. It made me feel more grown-up and powerful than the first time I addressed the House of Nobles."

She stood up a little straighter, and told him about the night of the Gala. "And in the end, all the fancy food and music and dancing weren't as sweet as sharing donuts with friends."

There's so much structural repetition between these two paragraphs that I feel like they don't join properly, much like when you try to force together isopolar ends of magnets.

I didn't have much trouble figuring out the fourth F, and definitely enjoyed Joe's flustered reaction to Twilight's general cluelessness on the subject. The stories and the thoughts of Twilight's old friends were the high points of the chapter for me, though. Definitely still getting the nostalgia for our youth vibe, and finding it both bittersweet and delicious.

To echo what has already been said, that last line was perfect. I was a little worried I was going to find your characterization of Luna disagreeable until that line, but this is the Luna I know and love.

This was an enjoyable chapter, but something of a cliffhanger and without a whole lot happening in it. I'm kind of disappointed I'll have to wait another day for more, but I can find other things to do.

There is one thing I feel almost pathologically bound to bring up, though.

She noticed where the mortar was crumbling between the stones in the wall, which picqued her interest, but she saw with a glance that there weren't enough stones to tell with 95% confidence whether the decay had a Poisson or a power-law distribution.

First of all, I'm only aware of the spelling 'pique'. Second, and I have a feeling I may be the only person around who's going to nit-pick this point, but it must be done... You're describing a confidence level for a decision problem. It's probably not utter nonsense. If you gave me an hour, I might be able to string together some abstruse bit of inference for which you could talk about being 95% confident in the decision you've made with a testing problem. But it would be a pain, and more importantly most methods that would result in talk about confidence levels are inferences about parameter values when a true distributional structure has already been assumed, but you're talking about making a choice between two competing parametric frameworks for the data. Something like the following wouldn't rub me so wrong. "She saw with a glance that there weren't enough stones to reliably test whether the decay had..."

For an image like that you would expect to have a "dark" or "tragedy", or even a "sad" tag.

Moving On, eh? It couldn't be that this story already appeared somewhere else, could it?

But enough of past sins. And let's Move On to present ones. For instance, am I wrong to expect that a story that is finished gets uploaded as such? Come on, you say it yourself that it is, so why exactly are you delaying updates? Views? Incentive to favorite, so that you can brutely force your way into feature?
Don't do that, really. If you do, at least mask that you are only publishing already finished chapters.

I think it has something to do with his being evil. Giving his fans what they want, when the want it would be bad for his image.:moustache:
What do 'dark', 'tragedy', and 'sad' have to do with extreme 'D'awwwww'?:rainbowhuh:

They don't really but the image seems unsetteling. It's anything but happy.
Still a Twilight X Pony-Joe fic seems good to me. :pinkiehappy:

2233496 Tsk, screw the Evil League of Evil.
Actually, even they have honour, and this is a case of simply that. You can be a douche all you want, but if you go around not uploading stuff that's already finished for no reason, not even the douchiest of douche douches will want to walk with you.

Needs more description. And fire your pre-reader who says otherwise because that's just dumb as hell.

I can properly say that I literally didn't know where this took place. Needs SO much more discription (and not detail) that will not only place Twilight and everyone. But explain her situation.

The Discription of the story doesn't count toward the story itself. Remember that. So EXPLAIN EVERYTHING! And I'm sorta interested. But not all that much. you have 1,000 word chapters that not only show uninterested writing, but point out a significant lack of effort.

Hell even my oldest fics were always 2000+ word chapters :applejackunsure:

You should have seen when I started out too. Every chapter was 30,000 words and it wasn't that good.


It's just lazy and needs to be fixed :ajsleepy:

2233392 I posted an earlier version on ponyfiction archive a year ago, as I already explained in my blog post.

>For instance, am I wrong to expect that a story that is finished gets uploaded as such?
Yes, you are wrong. You are wrong to feel any kind of entitlement to what I write or how I post it.

>Come on, you say it yourself that it is, so why exactly are you delaying updates? Views? Incentive to favorite, so that you can brutely force your way into feature?
Various reasons, but that's one. :twilightsmile: I still want to make some changes to chapter 6, but I'm not using that as an excuse.

>I'm only aware of the spelling 'pique'.
>most methods that would result in talk about confidence levels are inferences about parameter values when a true distributional structure has already been assumed, but you're talking about making a choice between two competing parametric frameworks for the data.
Argh. You're kind of right. I /could/ however talk about 95% confidence for rejecting either distribution.

2233665 You know what i say? Quality over quantity.

:applecry::ajsleepy::derpytongue2::rainbowwild::twilightsmile: i don't know which to use....

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