“Friendship is Magic, Part 1” and Howard Tayler’s three* levels of worldbuilding

Previously, I observed that “Friendship is Magic, Part 1” packs a ton of exposition into a 22-minute episode.  This raises an obvious question: how does it do this without becoming boring?

To address that, let’s turn to the Writing Excuses podcast.

You’re out of excuses; now go make some friends.

If you’re at all interested in the art and science of storytelling, I’d highly recommend this podcast. It consists of Brandon Sanderson (whose virtues I’ve previously extolled), Mary Kowal (Glamourist Histories), Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary), and Dan Wells (John Cleaver) discussing writing and storytelling technique.

Their episode “How Do I Write a Story, Not an Encyclopedia?” reveals some valuable insight into this question: Continue reading

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Cadance and Shining’s foal is a [redacted] — and I’m actually happy about that

WARNING: spoilers ahead!  If you haven’t seen the recent sneak-peak and want to go into Season 6 completely blind, turn back now.

That said, this is the kind of spoiler that makes me more excited for the episode, rather than less (for reasons I explain below).

Continue reading

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The great exposition of “Friendship is Magic, Part 1”, and why “Equestria Girls” still struggles

As divisive as Equestria Girls is, most people agree that the series has improved over time.  And while I believe that’s true, even the otherwise-excellent Rainbow Rocks and Friendship Games have moments that make me cringe:


Principal Cinch: I know I’m asking you to beat a team that isn’t playing fair, but Canterlot High must be made to understand that even with magic at their disposal, beating Crystal Prep is simply not an option.

This is one of those moments when I have to fight really hard to suspend my disbelief.  My better sense is asking all kinds of questions:

  • Why are Principal Cinch and the Crystal Prep students so willing to accept the existence of magic?
  • Having accepted it, why aren’t they documenting evidence of this?
  • Why is no one calling the cops or otherwise freaking out?

In a situation like this, a good audience willingly suspends their disbelief to make the story work.  But if the audience has to do that, it means the writer has erred.  And if we take a close look at how they’ve erred, we can learn something valuable about storytelling. Continue reading

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The biggest improvement from Season 4 to Season 5: Princess Twilight

I’ve written before about Twilight’s status as a princess, and how it was under-utilized for most of Season 4:

…[I]n most episodes that weren’t specifically about her princesshood, there wasn’t much acknowledgement that anything had changed, beyond her new wings.  This made her ascension feel cheapened — almost as though the world forgot she was a princess when the subject wasn’t a central point of the narrative.

But I also noted that this seemed to improve toward the end of the season, with Princess Purplesmart being far more present in “Trade Ya!” and “Inspiration Manifestation.”  Then the S4 finale acknowledged in-universe that, for all the fanfare of her ascension, not much had changed.  So heading into Season 5, I was cautiously optimistic that HRH Bookhorse would have the impact she deserved.  How did that work out? Continue reading

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“Princess Spike” vs. “Party Pooped”: when is failure funny?

I would not call “Princess Spike” a “bad episode”, but I hated watching “Princess Spike”.  Apparently, I’m not alone in this.

By conventional wisdom, this is not surprising; Spike episodes are frequently unpopular.  And “Princess Spike” typifies a common complaint about Spike episodes; they usually feature Spike failing miserably.  And yeah, I found it painful to watch as the little guy utterly shit the bed for 22 minutes.

If I wanted to endure a half-hour of abject failure, I'd just go on a date.

If I wanted to endure a half-hour of abject failure, I’d just go on a date.

So the reason I disliked “Princess Spike” seems pretty obvious; it’s tiresome to watch Spike consistently fail.

Right?  Well, not so fast.

Continue reading

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“Slice of Life” was bad — and I want to see more episodes like it

Hoo, boy — that just happened.

Seriously.  All of that.  Just happened.

Seriously. All of that. Just happened.

And…it wasn’t very good.

In fact — it was just bad.

Continue reading

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I’m giving a panel at TrotCon! Plus, a search for an artist to commission.

I’m giving a panel at TrotCon! July 17th-19th, Columbus, OH!

What the fuck have I gotten myself into!?

Regardless, awhile ago I concocted an essay, but decided it would work better in presentation/speech format.  If you’re going to be at Trotcon, you should come marvel at my wise words and presentation skills and/or laugh at me while I make an ass of myself.  Here’s the elevator pitch:

Embracing Shining Armor: Friendship is Magic and masculinity

What do Big McIntosh and Shining Armor have in common with Kristoff the woodsman and Flynn the outlaw?  Why is “A Canterlot Wedding” such an important episode?  In a world of self-rescuing princesses, is there a role for the knight-in-shining-armor (spoiler alert: there is)?

Hsere, author of pony-centric blog “The Pony’s Litterbox”, thinks he knows some answers to those questions — and they might surprise you.  He hopes you’ll come listen to him discuss them, with audience questions and comments afterward.

So, with what I have to work with, I can make this panel good.  But to make it great, I’ll need some help.  Specifically, I’m looking to commission some custom artwork for it.

I’ll need roughly 10 pictures — they don’t have to be fancy, even sketches would work fine.  I’m looking to spend ~$100-200 on this (though I have some flexibility with that).

So, if you know an artist who’d be interested in such a project (or the pay associated with it), send them my way.  Hsereal AT gmail DOT com.

Hope to see you at TrotCon!

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Awkwardness is to humor as dissonance is to music: The Pie Sisters demonstrate

Apparently, when Natasha Levinger does fanservice, she doesn’t mess around.  Featuring Discord in an episode is enough to get Bronies excited, but she went all-out and brought in Maud as well.

Levinger also seemed to be channeling Dave Polsky a bit, because this episode used a lot of awkward humor.  As I’ve said before, I personally don’t enjoy that sort of comedy.  But recently, I had an epiphany about awkwardness and the role it plays in humor:

Awkwardness is to humor as dissonance is to music.

Continue reading

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“It’s magic, I ain’t gotta explain s**t (except when I do)”: *My Little Pony* and Sanderson’s Laws of Magics

No matter how much you like this show, it’s clear that FiM‘s magic system isn’t particularly robust.  There aren’t many clear rules as to how magic works in Equestria.

MagicAt first glance, this seems like bad storytelling.  I know I’ve shared this quote from Umberto Eco before, but it’s worth repeating:

Continue reading

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Why Luna is more popular than Celestia, part 2: the long shadow of “Luna Eclipsed”

When it comes to Luna and Celestia, I’m a pretty typical Brony; I certainly like Celestia, but I don’t inwardly cheer when she comes on-screen, the way I do with Luna.

“You stole a waifu, Flash? That’s cute. I stole three entire episodes.”

As I’ve argued before, much of Luna’s appeal comes from the fact that unlike Celestia, she is (sometimes) a primary character.  But as I was considering “Bloom and Gloom”, something else occurred to me; I may have actually underestimated the impact of “Luna Eclipsed.” Continue reading

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