Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mini-Reviews Round 52

It's been a good week for my writing, this has.  First, I managed to snag a tie for first in the Writeoff--there were a lot of good stories in the mix, and I honestly didn't feel to positive about my entry, but as a policy I try to take all praise at face value.  Those of you who like seeing me write stuff can look forward to (a fixed-up version of) The Sweetest Water being posted soon, by which I mean "hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we'll see how it goes."

Second, xjuggernaughtx pointed out to me a couple of days ago that my fanfic Going Up is currently on the first page of FiMFic's "Top - All Time" list!  I'm not entirely sure how that list is calculated (only one other story in the top ten has less than 10,000 views), but that's pretty darn neat to me.  So, thank you to all of you who continue to like it when I write things: you make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

But enough about me!  Let's look at some of the fanfics I've recently read, below the break.

The Carrot Dog Fight, by xjuggernaughtx

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A pair of birds nab a carrot dog from a distracted purple dragon... but that dragon's not about to let it go without a fight, and he's not the only one who wants a meal.

A few thoughts:  I think the best way to describe this story is "funny, but uneven."  At times, it's almost Loony Tunes-ian in its wisecracking and slapstick; at others it's much more staid (though never particularly serious).  The POV does hop around a bit, where I think I'd have preferred something more completely from the two birds' perspectives: their banter marks all of the comic highlights of the story, and while the ending is sweet, I don't think it would have lost anything by holding to their POV.  But with that said, this was a pleasantly amusing bit of light reading.

Recommendation:  Well, it's a pleasant bit of light reading; although it's, to borrow a description once used for one of my own stories, "at the shallow end of the slice-of-life pool," I'd recommend it to readers looking for something funny, fairly uncomplicated, and with a good mix of sweet and snarky.

The Legend of Falling Rocks, Buffalo Brave, by Titanium Dragon

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Three tales of the mythic hero of the buffalo people.

A few thoughts:  Speaking of uneven stories, here we have three separate tales of the titular brave.  The second is the clear highlight, a classic take on the Just-So Stories of peoples the world over.  The first story also captures the essence of a piece of mythology, but its two primary elements (the plight of the buffalo and the animosity of the ponies towards each other) never tie cleanly together, and the effect is that the second element feels less like a part of the story than like a lengthy digression.  And then the third story is a feghoot, of all things.  All three are well-written, cohesiveness of the first one notwithstanding, but they don't really feel like part of a unified mythos.

Recommendation:  Although I didn't feel they held together as a group all that well, the three parts are all individually very enjoyable, especially for folktale suckers like myself.  I heartily recommend these as three separate stories which happen to share a character.

Twilight Sparkle Tries Napping in a Tree, by Lightning Bearer

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  This would be a "it's right there in the title" situation, it seems to me.

A few thoughts:  At first, there was some nice humor to this... but despite the stories short length, several jokes dragged on too long for my tastes, and the ending failed to make clear that Twilight hadn't just murdered a bunch of squirrels (it makes sense in context), which... I mean, I know the intent wasn't that she'd just murdered a bunch of squirrels, but when a character does something that could murder a bunch of squirrels, I think it behooves the author to make clear that no adorable rodents were harmed in the making of this story.  There are also a fair number of spelling and basic editing errors here; this one's still pretty rough around the edges.

Recommendation:  Well, ending notwithstanding, this story did have plenty of adorably evil squirrels, which is a big plus in my book.  Maybe it is in yours, too!  But if you're looking for strong technical elements or quick, consistent humor, this probably won't excite.


  1. Read (and would recommend) the first two, think I'll pass on the third. I haven't read any fanfiction the past couple days, so it's kinda nice not to see my list grow for once. Well, not counting the ones I'd already added earlier

    Congrats on the tie, Chris! I enjoyed Sweetest Water (kinda figured that one was yours) and can't wait to see the polished version

    Now for those corrections:

    "... I honestly didn't feel [too] positive about my entry..."

    "... despite the [story's] short length..."

  2. I suspect that any evil squirrels in Equestria have pretty good anti-magic tactics. I'm picturing magic-propelled little gliders carrying them to safety from the explosion.

  3. Ah, perspective. I feel like somewhere nearby, Pascoite is pointing at me and saying, "See? SEE?!"

    I'm using that interrobang just to annoy InquisitorM.

    But I guess perspective shifts are just something that doesn't annoy me in the least. I'm always somewhat puzzled when people point it at as an irritant. I grew up reading comics, and the jump into people's heads all the time, often within the same panel. It feels normal to me, but I've had my wrist slapped about it enough times that I should really buckle down and change my ways. Or at least break the rule more creatively.

    Also, the perspective used to jump from Spike to the birds via page breaks, but my pre-readers didn't care for that so much. "It used to be worse" is a thin defense... but it used to be worse.

    1. Comics are different. You actually have an omniscient viewpoint in one, usually, since you're limited to what you can see and hear f the characters. You don't get any of their internal attitudes or perspectives. The one exception is if it's framed as one character telling what happens, usually via a text box up in one corner of the panel somewhere. Then a character can give his perception of things. But for the most part, comics only give you what's publicly visible, so omniscient. It's easier to skip around to different characters with that voice, because you're not really getting into their heads. A story can be told this way, too, but the narrator has to be careful to present everything as the characters' interpretations and not his own.

    2. Gonna have to disagree. Comics go into the thoughts of the characters via thought balloons all the time. It really depends on the era, though. I will admit that comics since the 90's have backed off of that. However, earlier comics often delved into the though of some bystander as Superman flew by, and it was very common to see what Spiderman was thinking when trying to escape some diabolical trap. Since that is what I grew up with, it's the way my mind thinks.

      The key here is that I can either do my own thing, and please a limited number of people, or I can change my habits and plet ase more. Since I'm generally writing to entertain people, I'd prefer to grow. I think there are stories that could benefit from jumpy perspective, but they are probably few and far between. I've gotten a lot of feedback lately from people who don't care for it, so I'll work on it.

      It's easier to change than my participles. I love my participles.

    3. Okay, so how does autocorrect decide that I wanted 'plet ase' as a substitution for 'please?'

    4. Thought balloons don't mean you're in that character's perspective. An omniscient narrator can tell you what any character is thinking or feeling. He just has to state it explicitly as that character's attitude or thoughts. He can't state them as if they were his own.

      It's the difference between one of these:
      "What's Eric doing?" Jim thought.
      Jim wondered what Eric was doing.

      and something like this:
      What in the world was Eric doing?

      The former keep a distance between the character and narrator, and these are pretty much what's going on in a comic, unless it's set up so that the character is providing a narration. That'd be the only way the latter could come into a visual medium like that.

    5. What I should add, too, is that even with an omniscient narrator, it can be hard to pull off rapidly switching between which character the narrator is focused on. If there's a lot of action, or if you deliberately want it to be disorienting, it might work, or in a very long story where we still get plenty of fcae time for all the important characters. It's easier to do in a visual medium, since you have the pictures to aid you in drawing the eye toward which character's thoughts are being expressed. In fact, you know that before you even start reading them. Without the pictures, it's more important to make those transitions smooth, because there's already going to be more of a delay in the reader putting together who's doing the thinking and what he thought. With the comic, you get both at the same time. In a story, you get at least a slight delay between them, with the added difficulty of making the speaker's identification flow nicely with the rest of the writing. The longer you stay with a character, the less of an issue that is, hence why it's easier to jerk the perspective around in a comic than in a story.