=+=+=+=Warning=+=+=+=VERY LONG STORY EXCERPT BELOW=+=+=+=Warning=+=+=+=
So here we are, finally. A new Survivor Shy image (and a new chapter on FimFic! Link below).
In this piece I spent a lot of time focusing on drawing the mountains and shading them. Used a few references and tutorials to get the hang of it, and then spent a few hours playing with colours to get something I liked. I even used hot pink as one of the colours to shade the mountains with, who would've thought that colour would work?
I will be honest though, and say I spent very little time with everything else, except for maybe the sky and the Dragons - even though I'm terrible at drawing them. But in my defense, I have drawn trees much more often, with different approaches each time. Even this approach was different, its just that some things get carried over the more I practice them.
Anyway, this February, I plan to put more effort into the fanfic and getting updates out more often. The next chapter I have planned only needs two new illustrations, and can borrow existing ones (ha! ha-harrrr!). The writing will take a long time to do, though since I have a lot of ground to cover in the next chapter I plan to write.
The chapter this scene is for is coming out today, so keep an eye out on FimFic for the next hour or so for when it appears. Or not, maybe you'll want to have a good night's sleep (I've only just noticed it's nearly midnight here.)
I've come to notice that I kind of inadvertently drew an inversion of a major point in Fluttershy's life. In the show, Fluttershy fell from the sky and was saved by a butterfly migration, and then discovered the wonders of the ground. In this illustration, she is looking up from the ground, and discovering in the sky the strange beauty of watching a Dragon migration.
Anyway, with nothing much more to say, here's the obligatory link dump, followed by the story excerpt (It's basically half the chapter, "Everypony is Gone" has the other half). If you like reading comments, or reaching your "Add a Comment" box this side of Summer, then make use of the drag bar on your browser and save your mousewheel from terrible punishment.
The deafening roar of a beast bellowed above, shaking me from much-needed sleep. I leapt onto my hooves and looked up through the branches of a tree I was under, expecting to see the shape of a furious Dragon in the clear sky. It was much worse than that, there were dozens of Dragons - flying and circling around - their roars making the trees shake in fear and the ground shudder. I couldn't move. I was frozen in place no matter how much my legs wobbled to set them loose.
They were searching for me, weren't they? And they were soon going to find me! I had to find somewhere else to hide, before they started to tear the forest apart to catch me. But the sight of so many Dragons at once was paralyzing, and their chorus of throaty cries pushed me further and further down until I was lying flat on the grass, cowering by a tree trunk.
Suddenly, the circling creatures banked and swung around, changing their direction and aligning themselves toward the jagged mountains that were now far away in the horizon. Moments later, many more Dragons appeared and raced across the sky after them, their bodies casting numerous shadows on the ground as they each passed. What was going on? What were they doing?
If my subconscious was screaming in terror, I couldn’t hear it over the roars and my own heart thudding in my eardrums, because I dared myself to take a peek from the top of a tree. Dragons were meant to be sleeping in caves with their treasures, or terrorising ponies and burning towns down to get more loot. What was happening in the sky didn’t match up to either of those. I had to know what it was.
I opened my stiff wings and forced them to lift me into a tree. I clambered up among the leaves and branches until my head cautiously rose out from the canopy. High in the sky were dozens of Dragons of all shapes and sizes. They were flying together, all heading towards where I had come from. Some were spitting flames randomly into the blue sky, while others rolled and dived carelessly among their own kind. Together, they formed a long and twisting chain of countless Dragons that stretched for miles across.
So this was what a Dragon migration looked like.
An amber-tinted Dragon passed over in a low fly by, narrowly missing the treetops and somehow not catching sight of me. Seconds later, a strong gust of wind chased after it, blowing the trees side-to-side and almost knocking me from my perch. I clung onto the branch I was sat on until the swaying stopped.
Okay, that was enough of that.
Moments later, my hooves landed on the soft grass down under the cover of the forest. The line of Dragons would take a while to pass over, so I decided to keep in the shade of the trees, out of sight. Even with shaky legs trying to dive into the nearest bush, and restless ears constantly searching to place every sound’s location, I had to keep going and follow where the Element of Kindness was leading me.
Sometimes, another Dragon would pass over at high speed and low altitude, blowing the trees about with its powerful wings. Fear would grip me for a few moments, not even letting me take a breath until I was sure I hadn’t been seen. I tried my best to block out the roars and keep moving, and constantly assured myself that they were not looking for me yet. The “yet” part stuck with me, though, keeping me wary of what the future had in store for me.
Dragon migrations are supposed to be quite a number of years apart, which was part of the reason why Rainbow Dash and Twilight wanted to me to watch the last one. Something had to have spurred one to happen so soon after the last one, and as much as I didn’t want to suggest it to myself, I knew what event had motivated the Dragons to congregate so soon, and what that would mean when I returned to Equestria. Shivers ran up and down my spine, I didn’t even want to imagine Dragons lurking all over Equestria.
I looked down at my Element, and followed where its thin beams of light were pointing. It was leading me towards the base of a cliff with a waterfall raining down from it. As I drew nearer to it, the light shifted upward, pointing to the top. I unfurled my wings once more, but before I lifted off the ground, a Dragon soared out over the cliff, diving down side of the cliff before leveling out, brushing the treetops with its belly. My wings snapped shut, and I didn’t argue with them. Maybe now would be a good time to rest under a tree and have something to eat.
I found a large tree to sit underneath, started rummaging through my saddlebags. I pulled out my canteen and hung it over my necklace, and gave myself the last of the water it had left. Thankfully, I was near water and could refill both my normal canteen and strapless, backup canteen. But I would have to wait for the Dragons to pass before I venture into the open, beside the riverbanks. Searching through the other satchel revealed a large hole that had opened where the seams used to be. I frowned, I had lost the cans of fruit I hadn’t eaten yet, and also my pain pills and spare bandages. I’d have to be extra careful until I could find more supplies, and would have to graze on the grass if I got too hungry.
I looked up at the Dragon-filled sky, spotting the sun peeking out from a cloud, and mumbled to myself that it was mid-afternoon. Something made me do a double-take, and rubbed my eyes to be sure it really was there. My head tipped to the side in a moment of confusion.
The moon? How is it still up there? It’s only supposed to come up when the sun goes down.
I was forgetting something, and I lowered my gaze to the ground, my vision becoming misty. Like everypony else, the Princesses were gone, too. And without them, the sun and moon were left to move themselves alone. It made sense, I just… Never expected to have to know about this, much less see it for myself.
I dried my eyes with my foreleg, and slid my eyelids closed. I needed to stay calm, and not let myself give up; I needed to keep my promise. No matter what, I was going to bring my friends together again whether this journey to the Free Lands worked out or not. I had to hang in there, for them, and for me.
I sat in the shade for a long time after that. Eventually I pulled my sewing kit from my saddlebags, and quietly repaired the hole in my saddlebags while watching the sun and the moon move over the sky.
Every last Dragon passed and disappeared into the horizon, but I didn't move until I could see the orange glow of dusk approaching, and streaks of lilac clouds that painted themselves in the atmosphere. A gentle breeze began to sweep through the woods, beckoning me to the river. I pushed myself onto my hooves and walked to the water's edge, craning my neck down to submerge the canteen around my neck in the fresh water. The corners of my mouth turned upwards when bubbles rose to the surface, popping loudly as the canteen thirstily drank in the cold water. The sound somehow brought me comfort, reminding me of some of my animal friends at the end of a summer's day. Maybe I would find them when I got back to Equestria, after I had done everything else I could do for the rest of my friends. Maybe I wouldn't be alone. Maybe...
Raindrops started to fall into the river, but only when I looked up into the sky did I feel the tears glide down my face. I breathed a gentle sigh and twisted the cap for my canteen back on. I went back to my saddlebags and packed my things away. It was quickly getting dark, but the Moon was looking down from the sky, promising a gentle glow until it too would dip beneath horizon.
I slipped my saddlebags on, quickly glancing at them and checking over my hoofwork, and took wing up alongside the cliff. I took things slowly, letting the ambient sound of the waterfall crashing beneath me wash the memory of the Dragons away, and taking in the quiet songs of distant birds about reading to go to sleep for the night. The rustle of leaves in the breeze, little creatures scurrying in the bushes, all the subtle things - and more - were what made nature so wonderful to me. But even if I was with somepony right now, I doubted they could hear what I could hear.
And I will never be able to find somepony who could.
My wings fell out of sync, and I tumbled into a bush at the top of the cliff. That was not true! It couldn’t be true! How could I even think of something like that? I will do everything I can to make things better. I won’t let myself live out my life alone.
I crawled out of the bush, and pulled a few twigs out of my mane. This isn’t the end. There’s still hope. I wouldn’t lie to myself like that!
My head swung down low, and I tightly closed my eyes. I wouldn’t lie to myself, would I?
I slowly opened my eyes, and had my view filled by a bright and solid beam of light radiating from the necklace I was wearing. I had to be close, now. There was no time to lose.
I was taken through some bushes and underneath some cherry trees, and soon I stepped out into a clearing. I ground to halt once my eyes fell upon it; the sight of worn away stone and mossy walls no higher than my shoulders.
The walls marked an ancient structure, half of it long since overtaken by shrubbery and trees. If I looked carefully through the overgrown areas, I could see the remains of a turret and exterior wall, and the border of a grand hall that had been open to the stars for countless centuries. The air was still, and even the sound of the nearby waterfall was no longer audible. Like the ruins for thousands of years, the world around me seemed to stand still.
The Element of Kindness flashed more erratically, and its beam grew stronger, urging me to keep walking. I hopped over the outer wall of the ruins with the aid of my wings. The wall must have been taller in the past, but now it rose only a few feet out of the ground, covered in moss. I followed the guiding beam cautiously, and began to push bushes aside to reach the fallen tower. The tower itself had completely fallen away on one side, leaving the rest of the wall looking like a sharpened tooth pointing twenty feet into the sky. The beam angled downwards, pointing down a narrow gap in the rubble. I poked my head through the gap, using the Element’s light to see a spiral staircase that quickly disappeared into the darkness below. I gulped at the thought of what could be lurking down there, and wished I hadn't left my lantern behind in another castle ruin. I couldn’t expect the Element to remain a source of light.
With a deep breath and a short countdown, I squeezed through the gap without a second thought, and started to follow the spiraling stairs down. The calm of the night soon faded away, replaced by the rhythm of my steps and the scuffing of my hooves. Faint dripping sounds also reached my ears, and a waft of damp and stagnant water filled my nostrils. At last, my hooves came into contact with a level floor, and I entered a long, cold hallway filled with cracks allowing water to seep through. Though there were only a few puddles, the corners where the wall met the floor revealed some flooding from the past.
My heart started to beat faster, and my imagination was soon getting the better of me. Before I could turn back though, I picked up my pace and fell into a quick trot, bravely making my way down the corridor. When the end faded into the reach of my Element’s light, it revealed a large, stone wall with strange markings on it. I slowed down, unsure of what I was seeing.
The wall had a spiral carved into the center, with two stars just off-center but within the spiral. Around this engraving there were six circular carvings arranged together in a hexagonal shape, and rising out of these engravings were symbols I didn't recognise. I took a step closer curiously, and narrowed my gaze at each particular marking the wall. There had to be a reason why I had been led here.
Without warning, there was thunderous crash and a burst of light filled the room. My Element shot out an intense beam of light into one of the outer carvings. I backpedaled and yelped, but the Element stayed focused on one of the carvings. Soon, all of the symbols and markings were glowing, and a bright white light began to fill my vision. I wanted to look away or blink, but I was completely entranced. The deafening sounds of magic leaping through the air quickly died down, replaced by the sound of wind whistling in my ears and whipping my mane back The damp smell of the corridor was whisked away, replaced by a crisp, refreshing scent of fresh air. I felt a strange awareness descend on me, as I felt the walls in front of me and to my sides suddenly vanish, and the ceiling open up for miles and miles.
And then I heard it - just as my body was released back to me and my vision returned - the cry of a Phoenix.
I hope I won't be intruding much when I leave my usual two bits on your story.
"====Story Excerpt====" You had me fooled there. I seriously thought I would finally have to drag my ass to fimfiction to read the chapter, but after checking there (taking the picture as the point of the excerpt's beginning) and comparing the first and last paragraphs, I'm pretty sure the excerpt's contents are the same here and there.
"the sun and moon were left to move themselves alone" Funny how only now she realizes this. I'm pretty sure you didn't mentioned it earlier.
Now, allow me to share my .02 on this fragment of the story.
I have to admit that the first part of the excerpt - do forgive me, please, for saying that - lacked the usual charm. I actually had to ponder for a while to nail down the reason behind that, and still am not sure if that truly was what was bugging me while I read the excerpt. You see, it felt like much of the story was told, rather than showed (by Celestia's beard, I hate giving this advice 100 times as much as I hate receiving it ). I don't remember who originally said it, but I read somewhere that every time the writer uses the word 'was', he (or she) is dumping the information on the reader. There are, of course, moments when it is necessary or at least when it does not bug the reader much, but when used excessively the info-dumping process becomes quite obvious.
I hope you won't hold it against me (much), but I took the liberty of copying the story fragment to a text editor and doing a count. Here are the results: the word 'was' was used 36 times and the word 'were' 18 times. Now, I'm not entirely sure if that is (too) many, but that was the impression I had when reading the excerpt's first half. Because this impression fades away as soon as you finish describing the migration and shift back to Fluttershy's next grand adventure in the cave.
I do, of course, realize that I'm no writing expert and my advices are probably worth less than last year's snow. I do hope, however, that you will not come to hate me for sharing my opinion in such a blunt manner.
I curiously await Fluttershy's next adventures in the Far Lands.
No, the excerpt for this picture is exact and not missing anything between here and FimFic, but Everypony is Gone was missing a massive chunk until you mentioned it now. Or it may have not been initially but I 'broke' it between revisions. So you might want to check. FimFic is pretty much the only place you can guarantee that there is nothing missing from the chapter, though, so keep that in mind.
I'm trying to improve my skill because I had a reviewer read through my first two chapters, and he came back and explained that I was lacking sensory details and an 'intimate' narrative. Basically, the pacing was always moving very quickly, and I would skip out opportunities to explore and describe Fluttershy's senses or include Fluttershy's own thoughts. I'm trying to get into my stride with what I hope to be a more engaging way of storytelling by having Fluttershy describe what she senses rather than use a matter-of-fact phrasing. I had complaints of the narrative feeling like it isn't Fluttershy narrating because of this. This won't apply to every offending use of 'was' or 'were', but it will certainly account for a large number of them, since I'm putting more effort into providing detail and how Fluttershy is feeling when the action is currently slow.
Perhaps the discomfort lies in my pacing being much slower than it ever has been. I used to write in a pretty barebones way when setting a scene (since I began this fic with short excerpts to not make my noobish writing stick out), and you're now seeing my attempts at heeding some advice I was given to provide more details and give Fluttershy's take on a situation - a handful was's and were's occur in Fluttershy asking questions in her narration. Can I find a way to lessen my use of those two words when providing descriptions? Most likely. But I'm going to be spending a long time trying to find out how and how to perfect it, and what I'm trying now is still new to me.
I don't really know how to proceed. Because you're saying the older style was better, while I've got someone else saying it is lacking. Personally, I'd rather not disappoint anybody, but sticking to the older style - my comfort zone - won't teach me anything new. If I try something new and fail, I'd have still learnt something from it. I kinda like slowing my pacing down when there's very little action in the scene. Perhaps I need to make sure I don't go overboard and linger too long. Things to consider, of course.
Fluttershy's remembrance of the sun and moon's new paths is a combination of three things, depending on the reader.
For most readers, the line suggests that Fluttershy made the realisation a long time ago, somewhere between her heading to Canterlot for the first time (where the previous chapter on FimFic ends) and this moment (in the following chapter). This implies that the time-skip has leaped over a lot of events. It also reveals to the reader the terrible truth in store for "past" Fluttershy when the narrative leaps back to her visit to Canterlot - which makes "past" Fluttershy's initial reaction all the more heartbreaking. The reader knows what's coming, but cannot warn "past" Fluttershy of it (And neither can "under a spell" Fluttershy, who will have to experience the same pain a second time).
For deviantWatchers, it is the above plus a callback to another scene that lies in the future, Carry On. When I reach that scene and begin revising it, I aim to connect these two scenes together to highlight how far Fluttershy has come, and to contrast Fluttershy being alone and needing a hug with her being with Spike and being strong enough to openly talk about a sad subject.
Ah, but who am I to put a damper on your learning process? If you'd rather write something different and learn new skills, than I'm all for it - it will make reading more fun too.
If I recall correctly, I couldn't quite put a finger on the reason for the different feeling I got from this chapter. Now that you explained it, it may have indeed been because of this retrospection and observation scenes. Especially since the second (cave and forest) part of the story seemed to be 'back on the right track' (for the lack of any better phrase ). Now that I analyze it, the rift between the 'observation' (dragons) part and 'action' (cave) part is clearly visible. It may have to do with the fact that you are, as you mentioned, learning to write those pesky retrospective bits and you've already mastered the bullet-point-time action. If that's the case, then I'm pretty sure the story will seem much more even-paced as you hone those descriptive skills. Bah, look at me rambling on about writing, as if I had any idea what I'm even talking about... Your editor is definitely in a more qualified position to advice on you on your writing. I would listen to him/her.
Please, do not take this whole 'was/were' word count too seriously. I do remember the author of that article only mentioning it as a helpful way to find out if you (I mean as the writer) are dumping the information on the reader instead of showing it. The whole process, I would imagine, is most definitely more complicated than that. If only I could find the article in question. Alas, it is lost in the depths of the Internet.
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More