Published on April 10th, 2016 | by Rainb0wDashie0
The Rainb0w Review: For the Good of Equestria Part 1 by brokenimage321
For the Good of Equestria
Google Docs link
[Story in beta, expect changes to the story]
If you want my true first impression of this story, it went something along the lines of “Hmm, pretty cool picture. Has a sense of seriousness to it that I always like – holy shit this thing is over a hundred pages long!”
It seems daunting at first, which I know first-hoof is more than enough to turn most people away from a story. It’s just a hair over 43,000 words, which breaks down to roughly 90 pages if it were a physical book – that’s almost a third of a modern-day fantasy novel- That’s a lot to stomach, but for the sake of the review I’m going to read maybe 20 pages and give it a chance, because that’s what you’d do for a normal novel right? Ready the first page to see if the setting and writing style arre enough to hook you in, and if so you read the first few chapters to see if it’s enough to make you stick through the whole thing; not just comb through it for stray grammar and syntax errors and then give it a 3 out of 10 probability of future reading.
Personal salt aside, someone clearly worked hard on this story. The least they’re owed is the old college try!
As some of you might know, I’m very picky when it comes to reading novels. If the first few sentences don’t immediately hook me into the story I usually don’t end up reading the story. It’s a habit I picked up from The Mighty Boosh but it has some validity to it. If you ever wrote an essay in school, you know very well that a good introduction will capture an audience’s attention, while a bad introduction can turn an audience against a speaker. And the introduction to this story sits right in the middle for me.
The morning of the funeral, it rained.
It doesn’t make me dislike the story, because it’s decent, if not pretty good. But it’s so terse and abrupt it doesn’t really get me hooked either. That coupled with the unusual chapter structure makes me very anxious about the story.
The story would probably work better with chapters titles instead of scene and location titles. It creates a weird disconnect reading “scene 1” and then reading novel prose because it sets your expectations up for a screenplay. This isn’t a be-all-end-all “literally unreadable” thing for me, it’s just a chapter style that’s very unusual and subsequently that I’m not used to.
Beyond that, the writing style is pretty solid, but it stumbles every now and again in the first scene. It’s nothing that detriments the story,but it’s also something that can’t be fixed as easily as grammar or punctuation, it’s just one of those things that come with practice. It’s hard to explain what I mean by this, the sentences start to flow and then you’ll hit a sentence like hitting a snag. Just read the first page and you’ll see what I mean.
Beyond that, another thing the early scenes suffer from is that they’re just too damn short. The first five chapters barely break 1,000 words each, some having less than 600. Which is unacceptable from an author who writes this well. You just start to get engrossed in the flow of his writing and you hit the end of the chapter like you would a brick wall, it’s a very jarring feeling, and does not help with immersion.. These chapters should either be condensed down to one or two longer chapters or have them all extended.
To start things off, one of the introductory character’s names is very confusing. His name is Silver Lining but in certain spots it’s written out in short-hand as “Sill”, which is one letter away from ‘Still”. Several times I had to re-read sentences because I keep mixing up those two words. This is a minor point, but if you’re going to use a shortened version of a character’s name you have to be very careful with it’s placement in your sentences, or just stick to other character’s using it as a nickname, just to keep from confusing your readers.
Onto a more major point, though.
There doesn’t seem to be any character description outside of their own names. It’s a bit of a personal preference the level of description that is needed, but it’ a necessity to have it at all. It’s really hard to get a mental image going when none of the characters have any description whatsoever. Canon characters get a free pass because we have the cartoon to show us what they look like, but most of the characters in the introductory scenes are OC ponies and thus are blank slates in the reader’s head because there’s little to no physical descriptions.
On a completely irrelevant note. In the middle of all this, this passage stuck out so much for me that I had to include it:
We have a very good selection today,” he said, launching into his practiced spiel. His horn glowed, and a number of bottles lifted themselves up. ”Some excellent Bour-doe and Sauterne from Prance; a rose from Ponyville itself—1247, excellent vintage—a zinfandel from Rainbow Falls…”
She sighed heavily. “Ah could use something a little stronger,” she said. “Ya have any hard cider?”
Despite it being applejack, and the only pony to get a physical description so far in the story, cider is not stronger than any of the other stuff mentioned. Hard cider has an average alcohol content of 2% – 8.5%. Zinfandel ranges from 14%-17%. Rose wine 10.5%. To qualify for the Sauternes label, the wine must have a minimum 13%. And I couldn’t find any information on what a bour-doe is, but if it’s wine then it’s going to be in the 10% – 15% range.
So unless Equestrian Cider has some bourbon level alcohol content, then either Applejack or the author doesn’t know their liquor very well.
Anyway, back to the story!
In the third scene we’re introduced to another OC character, and at this point the plot is starting to leave the station, however due to the lack of character description I have not been able to immerse myself into the story at all. That’s not to say that every new character needs an entire biography written about then, but they need something. what do they look like? What color coat do they have? what style is their hair? are they young or old? Something, anything at all. Because at this point in the story we’re being introduced to a character’s motivation and backstory and instead of feeling for the character I’m thinking “I can’t relate at all to this character because I don’t even know what they look like.”
And that’s really the only big flaw this story seems to have. The writing style is intelligent, the grammar has almost no errors. There’s flow and detail to the plot, but all the characters are blank slates and the story suffers immensely because of it.
It’s the characters that are the heart of any story. Not the plot, not the theme, not the setting, not the twists. The characters. When we feel for a character, the story’s events matter even more. Great stories get you emotionally involved with the characters. However, if you don’t anchor your characters into the story with some description, they quickly become talking heads just floating in empty space.
Everything else about the story is fine. The dialogue is realistic and believable, but there’s virtually no description of their physical features, their surroundings, or how they react to the environment.
I know I’m really hammering that point in, but it’s the only thing stopping me from being immersed into the story; and unfortunately it’s the most important element needed to become immersed as well.
The unfortunate part is that again, there is no easy fix to this. This almost always happens to writers of an intermediate skill level. They have a pretty good grasp on their craft, but they haven’t quite mastered it yet. I know, because I myself fall victim to this and have to consciously remind myself to add in some description to my characters, even the canon characters, because I want someone who hasn’t ever watched the show to be able to immerse themselves into my stories just as well as any brony could. It’s just one of those things that comes with practice.
By the end of scene 3 I wasn’t very engaged in the story. With all the above mentioned, reading it felt like a chore, like I had to work to get through the story instead of the story doing all the work. I felt a small surge of immersion when the pony of the funeral was finally revealed -for the sake of spoilers I won’t reveal their name- but it disappeared as quickly as it appeared when the character was described. This however can be fixed quite easily because some of the things mentioned do not gel with the current events of the show, so it just needs a quick canon-adjustment.
I might sound like a broken record at this point, but it was only after reading the Celestia scene in scene 5 was I able to finally become immersed into the story. It just goes to show the importance of everything I’ve said on the subject already, simply because the only way i was able to immerse myself into the story was from a scene with a character I already knew about. Knew how they looked, how they talked, who they were, what their personalities were, what their motivations where. It was so easy because there’s 6 seasons of episodes, fanart, and fanfiction backing it, and the main character OCs only have the previous 5 scenes. Which is absolutely why it’s so important to establish those important details so your reader can become immersed as fast as possible; hopefully after the first sentence!
Piggybacking off of that, the following scene inside the house in scene 6 is exactly the type of dark shit I love, and after the events of this and the next few scenes had me completely hooked. But the whole scene, however is lacking a much needed element to the plot; why the characters were -for sake of spoilers- doing what they were doing, where they were doing it. To put it simply, they had the Who, What, Where, and When, but they didn’t have the WHY. It’s a pretty dark scene and the tension is palpable, and you get a very real feeling that everything is FUCKED, you can feel the tension radiating from the characters, even if they are talking heads – mostly because the author does a very good job at setting the scene-, but it’s missing WHY it’s so tense. If there was a bit of description earlier on in the scene, or if one of the characters mentioned it then it would be enough for the reader to chew on while the rest of the scene plays out.
After transitioning back into the framing device after scenes 6-10, it’s obvious that the author has a good grasp on creative writing, and it makes me sad to say that the author almost lost me at the introductory chapters, because the events in scenes 6-10 are something I have a real appreciation for. In most pony fiction the tone seems to be restrained to only having happy things happen, or sad things happen, generally staying inside their genre tags. But this story is written like the many fantasy novels I personally read. The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Runelords, The Sword of Truth. There’s a gritty, dark seriousness to it. It feels real; before and during the events of scenes 6-10. The author clearly has the skill to write a consistent story that sticks to the plot and doesn’t stumble over itself or peter-out after a strong start like most beginner writers do. So it’s very unfortunate that something like Talking Head Syndrome is so prevalent in the previous chapters, the most important chapters, that they could potentially be turning away readers. Or maybe just turning away very particular readers such as myself. Who knows? The average pony reader might not even notice something like this, but I tend to judge fiction as one would judge a novel, holding them up to higher standards, and this one is falling just short of a GOOD novel. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Well I guess that all depends on what your own standards are.
Maybe it’s because I myself am a pagan, but I really appreciated the mention of the maiden mother and crown – the Triple Goddess philosophy, otherwise known as the primary deity(s) in neopaganism- in the later scenes. For the sake of spoilers I’ll try to be brief, but It’s always refreshing to see new interpretations of Equestria, it’s princesses, it’s history, and how they are used in pony stories. There is so much material that can be used to make creative and interesting stories that it’s a shame to see nopony do anything with them. I myself am trying to incorporate Equestrian history, as well as the Triple Goddess philosophy, into my own story, so it’s very very refreshing to see another author incorporating something as enchanting as historical pagan beliefs.
Still, I have to take a more neutral stance when it comes to the story’s framing device. Although the author launches in an out of the framing device to build the story being a bit of a cliche, it’s more than made up for by the author’s writing skill. However, don’t let me labeling it a ‘cliche’ imply that it’s a bad thing. Things are cliched for a reason, because they are overused, common place. They are used so much because they WORK. Don’t get me wrong, cliches can be very very bad, but it’s all in the implementation. The Kingkiller Chronicles is structured in the same way this story is, but it’s the implementation that makes up for it; as it does in this story as well. The writing is good enough that you don’t mind going in and out of the framing device, and there’s enough new and relevant information being revealed in each segment that one wouldn’t even recognize it unless they were looking for it.
I made it to the 12th scene, about 40 pages in when I stopped reading. Not because I lost interest, not in the slightest. I actually read twice as much as I expected myself to. It’s just that at this point I felt I had everything I needed for my review.
The author has a clear passion for this story, as evidenced by the obvious amount of effort that has gone into this story. The author has been working on this story almost as long as I have been working on my own MLP novel; and it blows mine out of the water. That’s really the highest compliment I can give it. For years I have always held my own story above all the other pony fics because they just never felt right, in a sense. They’d either start off strong and slowly degrade as the chapters went on, or would be completely bereft of detail and description. Others told and never showed, while the rest just had no passion put into them. That’s not to say they are all bad. There’s always the cream that rises to the top, and I’ve always held my story up in that regard, but this story, despite it’s faults in the early chapters, is like the cream that rises above the cream that rises to the top; if that flimsy metaphor makes sense.
The story could still benefit from a revision, as the Talking Head Syndrome seems to only be prevalent with the OC characters. When it’s only scenes with Celestia and Luna they are described perfectly well, but the OCs don’t have a lick of description. But what holds it together is the consistency of the prose that, despite the story walking with the fumbling steps of a child, it’s the prose – and the consistency of said prose- that keeps the story marching on in a somewhat elegant ebb and flow. That’s something my own story could really benefit from!
Summary: This review is not a definitive assessment of the content being reviewed, it's simply Rainb0w's objective opinion. Feel free to leave your own rating below!