Friday, July 20, 2012

Trawling FIMFic: Seeking Out Diamonds in the Rough

Today, I'm going to do something a little different.  Normally I focus on highly-regarded stories--6-star stuff.  What I'd like to try now instead is to walk you all through one of my occasional forays through the most recently posted stories on, as I seek out the next great good fanfic for my own edification.  What I'm going to do is give each story's title and synopsis (treat [sic] appearing after most of them as a given, BTW), whether or not I'm going to read them (and if not, why), and if I did read, what I thought of them.  Consider this a glimpse into my fanfic-reading-for-pleasure habits; a look at how I pick out stories I do or don't want to read absent any expectations or recommendations.

First, a few notes: I'm writing this post on Wednesday afternoon, and am simply going down the "new story" page in order.  Each title below will link to the appropriate story.  Just so we're clear, this is me looking for something interesting to read, not critically breaking down everything I come across in depth.  Everything in here is just my opinions, even more so than usual: the whole point of this exercise is to look at how I as a casual reader discriminate based on first impressions, after all.  Anyway, let's begin:

1.  Torturing Gryphones 101:  I got the idea for this from "Know Your Mare' by Overlord_Flinx. so thank you for the idea. This is what I thought would happen if the "voices" were gryphons, and got caught by all the villagers in ponyville.
  • Will I be reading it?:  Nope.  Leaving aside the fact that the description seems tailored to be incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with the story it's inspired by, I've got no interest in diving into a story when the author can't even be bothered to spell his title correctly.

2.  Eating Diamonds:  A second person vorefic about you cutting apart and eating Rarity. Written in an hour to satisfy a challenge issued to me by a friend. It's a pretty poor fic, but I thought it was worth a chuckle or two, so I posted it here.
  • Will I be reading it?:  I was out the door four words into the description.  I guess it's my own fault for not turning the mature filter on, but really: who reads this stuff?  Based on the "I thought it was worth a chuckle or two" line, I'm going to assume it's a trollfic, but still.  If this was written because of a dare by a friend, then good for the author; whatever you guys do for fun, right?  But I just keep asking myself why this was posted for public consumption.  Then I look at the two thumbs-up it already has after being up for less than half an hour, and I shake my head in bemusement.

3.  The Coming Crusade:  A routine salvage operation outside claimed territories seemed like the perfect way to score a quick payday. The best known trio of odd-job ponies find themselves far more than just a quick heist, but a treasure fit for royalty. But, just with any life-changing find a dark string is wrapped around their score... a string that threatens to drag the crew of the CM Crusader into a brewing conflict that could spread from one side of the galaxy to the other.
  • Will I be reading it?:  Hmm... a missing word or two isn't an auspicious introduction, and I'm always wary of AU stories.  Plus, this one's incomplete.  Still, I'll glance at the first few paragraphs and see if anything excites my interest.
  • What did I think of it?:  Poor formatting, and more misspellings in the first few sentences.  Couple that with my earlier misgivings, and I see nothing here to convince me it's worth reading.

4.  Maple Meets Equestria:  This is the story of how the five Maple Heroes were transported to Equestria after their fight with the black mage. After they defeat the black mage, they wake up to find themselves in the middle of the Everfree forest, with little to no memory at all, knowing only their names. At the time of their fight with the black mage, Twilight Sparkle is on her way to Ponyville, where she soon learns of the values of friendship. The two groups will soon cross paths, but what happens from there will only be revealed in time.
  • Will I be reading it?:  Nope.  The intro does nothing to convince me that there's anything of interest to a person, such as myself, who doesn't know what the "Maple Heroes" are from, and the rambling and repetitive sentence structure augurs ill for the story itself.  Maybe this is one of those stories I pass over because it's a crossover with something I'm unfamiliar with when in fact it's really I'd love it if I gave it a try, but I think I'll take my chances not reading.

5.  Bronycon 2013 : Bronycon 2013 is long very awaited event that many bronies plan on attending. There is also a special treat for everyone who attends this year. The Mane 6 will be arriving from Ponyville as guests and are available for autographs and pictures. But when a plan to attack them is discovered, Celestia acts fast to find the humans most suitable to protect the Ponies and the Elements as they face an unknown group, with infinitely dangerous possibilities..
  • Will I be reading it?:  The title was all I needed to read to convince me that this wasn't a fic for me.  What's the appeal of a story about actual ponies showing up at Bronycon, anyway?  Is it just wish fulfillment?  Is it supposed to be funny (it is tagged comedy... among other things)?  Is it a trollfic?  I don't know.  Whatever it is though, it's clear to me that I'm not the target audience.

6.  Egg: There comes a time, when even Pinkie's infallible defense is vulnerable. What happens when her secret is revealed?
  • Will I be reading it?:  An overly vague description with a misplaced comma?  Normally I'd probably give this a pass, but I'm getting tired of not reading things.  I'll take a glance.
  • What did I think of it?:  The opening is frustratingly vague, and comma usage is clearly a weak point for the author.  Then there's a long, fairly dull infodump, and then the pony responsible for the infodump breaks a Pinkie Pie promise, which apparently causes him to die on the spot.  Then I stopped reading.

Hmm.  This hasn't been a very productive trip so far.  Hopefully something jumps out at me in the last few stories.

7.  Pinkie's Secret Place: Pinkie felt she needed to do something special for her friends, so she decided to take them to her Special Place.
  • Will I be reading it?:  It looks like this is another "Pinkie breaks the fourth wall" story.  Such stories are a dime a dozen, and few are really good.  But it's short, and it already has 19 thumbs up and no thumbs down (compared to seven and three total ratings for the stories above and below it, respectively).  Might as well give it a chance.
  • What did I think of it?:  I guess it wasn't bad, for what it was.  But having Pinkie point through the screen to the reader is an idea that lost its novelty almost a year and a half ago, and this story doesn't really add anything new to the genre (I think at this point, it's safe to call it a genre).  The writing was competent, but certainly not what I'd call good; there's nary a contraction to be seen, among other things.  Let's put it this way: there's a place for this fanfic, and I feel no antipathy towards it for existing, but it wasn't something that I personally needed to read.

8.  Stronghearted in the Desert: Oneshot. Gilda left Ponyville in order to escape her affections for Dash, not to nearly die in the desert, not to find an annoying little buffalo, and certainly not to fall in love with the buffalo in question. Knowing her luck, this buffalo proves to have tighter bonds to Ponyville's local daredevil than Gilda ever managed...will Gilda finally find the "right" type of love? Gilda x Little Strongheart. Yes, you heard me correctly.
  • Will I be reading it?:  Actually, that sounds kind of interesting.  Yeah, I'll take a look, at least to see if this is going in a humorous direction or taking a "srs bzns" path (it's not tagged [sex], so I'm assuming it won't go that route).
  • What did I think of it?:  Unfortunately, the writing was a pretty major turn-off in this one.  Passive voice is taken to ridiculous levels, and despite the competently-written description, this story's full of homophone mix-ups and simple editing errors which mar readability.  I didn't get very far before giving up.

9.  Princess Celestia's royal secret: We all have secrets, even royal princess's like Celestia! Some might wonder "How does she do all that work and still have a level head at the end of the day?" Well, find out in this tale about what helps drive the princess to do her work every day with a smile and what happens when all her responsibilities for the day are over.
  • Will I read it?:  Nope; this one has the [sex] tag.  Sorry, not interested.  Everyone's got their own tastes, and mine don't include erotic literature, never mind erotic pony fanfiction.

10.  The Losing Battle: Time is running out for Pinkie Pie, the more time the group spend separated, the more danger creeps up on her, and the more this provokes her enraged counterpart. In this post-apocalyptic warzone, Pinkie attempts to meet up with the rest of the group, with knowledge that Rainbow Dash awaits her in the hangar. My first attempt at Grimdark and Sad genres. This is a fairly short story, I tried making it longer but I ended up dragging out scenes that were already long enough.
  • Will I read it?:  Er, no.  I'm pretty sure more than 2000 words are required to tell a complete story which justifies dropping the ponies into a "post-apocalyptic warzone," and the run-on first sentence of the intro isn't exactly a promising sign.

...And that's the ten most recently published stories, as of this writing.  I don't know about you, but I think looking at a fairly random sampling of fanfiction really puts some of the reviews I've written of 6-star stories into perspective.  This is what "average" fanfiction looks like: some bad, some okay, and a lot of stuff with niche appeal, even within the niche that is that particular fan community.  I don't know about you, but it really makes me appreciate some of the great, broad-appeal, and in some cases, professional-grade stories out there.


  1. *sits in the corner with popcorn, waiting for the horde of people to come by screaming, "WHERE IS THE MY LITTLE DASHIE REVIEW?!?!?!?!"*

    Relating to the entry itself, these are definitely my experiences with fanfiction as well. An big part of the reason I hang out in the pony community, despite being pretty "meh" about the last season of the show, is that the fanfiction makes it all worth it.

    I love reading. I love reading what people do with characters and settings that aren't their own. And most of all, I love getting my reading material for free, with all the convenience, ease and lack of judgement from librarians that the internet entails (Yeah, that's right Dinotopia and Dungeons and Dragons. You can go suck it.).

    Places like EqD are great filters for all the crud you get on the average trawl for a story to read. As disagreeable as I find some of the stories there, it's still wonderful and awesome when you think of how stuff used to be back in the day when the only place you could really find fanfiction was the infamous pit of voles, where the frontpage has user-written articles on how to insert gratuitous amounts of description into every sentence, how to plagiarise with style, and how to write "songfics" (which they eventually banned).


    Seriously, though, this was fairly interesting. My own process mostly involves me visiting this site and looking for ones you've given 4 or 5 stars

  3. The pre-readers have an active email thread wherein someone will post just a synopsis screencap when a new story on the front page seems particularly... memorable.

    Usually, no additional comments are needed; the image speaks for itself, and we give the poor people front-lining in the submission inbox a sympathy pat on the back for having to actually skim through everything that comes in.

  4. No "My Little Dashie?" I was looking forward to that all day!

    Still, let's talk about this post. Man, you picked a bad time to go trawling for stories. Not a single gem in the bunch? Ugh.

    One of the things I've noticed about quite a few authors on Fimfiction is a huge disdain for Equestria Daily and its pre-readers. And on paper, their grievances are genuine. How dare those nasty pre-readers block all these wonderful stories? They're all biased and evil, I tell you! Evil!

    And then you see ten stories like this, and it all makes sense.

    Equestria Daily isn't perfect. Sometimes, bad stories make it through the pre-readers, or a perfectly good fic will be rejected because of one person. And yet, they still help to filter through as much of the junk as possible. They might toss away a gold nugget or two in the process, but most of the stuff they toss is little more than mud and gunk.

    I love that this fandom has encouraged so many new writers to come forward, but writing is not an easy thing to do. It requires you to work hard and think every word through, to create believable characters and sketch out a meaningful plot. I don't begrudge anyone for feeling dejected when they're rejected by Equestria Daily. Trust me, I was tossed on my butt the first time I submitted anything. But I worked things out and came back. That's the key to improving as a writer. Don't just attach the labels "hater" and "biased" whenever anyone dislikes your fic. Take their advice to heart and improve.

    Some of these stories actually sound like they could have been interesting in the right hands. Darn shame they had to end up like this.

  5. Ahahaha, you just trolled the hell out of everyone. XD Bravo, sir!

    I hope you do this more often. It's always fun, and a little disappointing, to look at fimfic's front page this way. I'd also suggest turning off the mature filter next time. It won't help you find anything better, but it will let everything you do find fail on its own merits.

    1. I really should... I think I've only ever found one or two stories with a mature tag that I enjoyed. Still, I can't help feeling like I shouldn't be pre-censoring when I'm taking shots in the dark already. Maybe I'm just too stubborn for my own good.

  6. I always give the Latest Updates page a quick browse too. I've found many truly Great and Exceptional stories that way that I wouldn't have ever found otherwise. Occasionally good stories do find their way into the featured banner up top, like today there's A Rising Moon. The description does give the bad impression that it's a collection of three-digit word stories, but the Balanced storyline is a good 18,245 words long and could easily have been it's own stand-alone story.

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    Anyway, to avoid all the second person and clopfic, what I do is I go to the fimfiction statistics page , and read the stuff by the most followed author.

  9. Sadly, yes. FiMFic has actually gotten worse. It's been over 6 months since I actually scrolled through the new postings to see if anything worthwhile was there. I don't read much anymore as it is, and it's not worth the investment to add yet more to my unread queue of 76 fics, of which I've read 2 chapters in the last 3 months.

    Keep going, Chris! It's the only way I get any reading done!

  10. This looks pretty similar to my FIMFiction experiences when I don't already have like 3 stories on my to-read list and want to finish them before starting any more. Unfortunately, that's been my state of existence for the past month or so thanks to constantly adding more despite my better judgement, mostly stuff posted on EQD which caught my eye.

    On an unrelated note, the post title + its subject mean that I have to say it: Applesack/Charity OTP

  11. I've been following your blog for a short time, and this is the first intelligent blog on fanfiction I've read. I share many of the same opinions you have. For instance, I agree that fanfiction should be held to the same standards as literature, or at the least a commercially published book. (As an aside: Fanfiction has been with us for a long time. Shakespeare had his "Richard III" and "Julius Caesar." Joseph Addison's "Cato, A Tragedy" was the most popular play in the 18th century. The story of Faust has been reinterpreted time and time again, by authors like Marlowe and Goethe, just to name a few names.) And I find myself agreeing with the standards you set.

    I just want to say that looking at 10 stories and finding all 10 of them unreadable is about par for the course. I’d estimate that 99% of fanfiction is unreadable on technical grounds alone. Of that remaining 1%, I am willing to give my time to a chapter or two, but 99% is still unreadable for various other problems (tone, poor characterization/plotting). But that remaining fraction, tiny though it is, can contain some truly remarkable works. Your blog performs a valuable service for singling out truly deserving stories. For instance, I never would’ve read Fallout Equestria, but after seeing 5 stars on your blog, I just had to go check it out, and it was indeed worth my time.

    I only wish there was a service like this for other fandoms. I know you expressed your intense hatred of, but it’s the main source of fanfiction I know. I have discovered the very occasional gem there, but it hardly seems to be worth the effort scanning through thousands of stories just to find one worth reading. Perhaps the problem is that there’s no equivalent to Equestria Daily (and its prereaders) for some of the other fandoms I like (Buffy/Angel, HP, Digimon Adventure). In any case, I hope you keep up the good reviews and keep blogging your thoughts on anything fanfiction-related.

    1. On, the very best filter you can find for quality fanfiction is to find ONE story which is of decent or exceptional quality, then check the author's profile to see if he or she's written anything else.

      Then if everything is reasonably good, then you go and see what stories or author's they've favourited, and you will probably get a few other stories in the same fandom and/or genre that are also of acceptable quality (or if you're like me and don't really give a crap about either, you'll probably get a few good ones in general). Repeat with the next author. Generally the further you go from the source, the lower the quality of the stories get, but occasionally you can find some really really really good stuff that way, or you can usually go back up the tree to check out different authors instead.

      When you get to the point where you're reading nothing but slush again, start searching for another good story, preferably of a different genre. Generally shippers tend to favourite other shippers, and people who like horror will favourite other horror, so that's a good way to avoid overlap.

  12. This is my first time commenting on your blog, but I just want to reiterate what solastice wrote above. This is the best blog about fanfiction I've read, hands down. I've written a few stories that have made it on EQD, but none of the comments I've received come close to the thoughtful, detailed, and very fair critiques you give here. I'll have to go through these posts sometime and read the stories you recommend; this fandom just makes too many good stories!

    ...And a lot of shlock, obviously, given the subject of this post. I myself never even look at the latest updates pages on FIMFiction. Any new stories are either something I'm proofreading or something in the featured box at the top (and only then when the description looks like something I'd really be interested in, and I have fairly limited tastes).

    1. Thanks (and to solastice, too!) for the nice words. There really is a lot of good fanfiction out there, but... well, like anything, it often gets drowned out by the merely adequate, which is itself often the minority in a sea of sub-par. I'm glad I've been able to help you, even at something as seemingly trivial as fanfic recommendations.