• Pony Writing Guide (Update Part 4!)

    So Cereal Velocity wrote this massive guide to writing stories about ponies.  If you are struggling with shipping Dash and Pinkie, feel free to use it to make your shipping of Dash and Pinkie look like the Romeo and Juliet of shipping Dash and Pinkie. 

    Pony Writing Guide
    Pony Writing Guide Part 2
    Pony Writing Guide Part 3 
    Pony Writing Guide Part 4 (New!)


    1. Wasn't Romeo and Juliet like the worst couple ever though?

    2. hey CV, great guide.
      Only one thing-- unicorn ponies have magic, not pegasus. Just a lil' typo.

    3. Haven't read it yet - but I will (and thanks for this guide and the feedback!)

    4. having read it, you'll want to talk about pony stu and pony sue that everypony should know better as mary su and mary stu.

      If you're going to come up with a self-author-insert character, watch out you don't go for faster than dash, prettier than rarity, smarter than twilight, cuter than spike, more shy than fluttershy, tougher than applejack and the powerfullest awesomest winged ponycorn ever since celestia, who by the way is said ponies bestest ever bud and she like totally comes to ask said pony about ruling equestria...well...don't do that.

      TV Tropes has more, but beware! it will suck the life-force out your eyes.

    5. I think everyone in the universe has their default self insert character, which is why OCs are hated as much as they are.
      This is some people's first fandom that they actually want to write about. They should get it out now, and bury it in a vault as quickly as possible, never to see the light of day.

      No rules against using them as backgrounds, but most people don't want to read about how awesome your character is that resolves all the plot bits that you don't like, then shacks up with your wifu. Even if you 'totally' avoid making them a Sue by making them the Mario, or worse completely inept.

      We don't care. Write it, shove it into a vault, look back at it in five years and laugh at yourself.

    6. An excellent guide! Thank you for writing it; I am thrilled to pieces to have found this site and so many people this dedicated to writing quality pieces of fiction. I think that as a primer this guide covers most of the important stuff, and the last thing anyone wants is to scare off new writers with the full list of the elventy billion tips and tricks for writing and the quadrillion circumstances in which they don't apply when the number one secret to good writing is just writing in the first place. With that said, here's a few more generalized tips for anyone who's read this far and still wants more:

      -"More Than Twice and it's Playing With Yourself": You've got a favorite word, I'm sure. A lot of people enjoy the word 'literally'. I myself am fond of sesquipedalianism. When you're really in the flow of writing, there's going to be a tendency to drift to certain words over and over. It's going to be your job to go back over your story when you're finished and prune a couple of instances of anything that pops up multiple times in a short interval. There's always exceptions, but in general once establishes, twice emphasizes, three times distracts, and four times makes the reader think you don't know any other words.

      -"Stay Inside Your Vocabulary": Sort of a corollary to the more common KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) rule. You're in the zone and cruising. You're a veritable Rainbow Dash. Time to bust out some amazing vocabulary and blow everyone away, right? Eh... not so much. It's much more important that you stick to the part of the English Pool you swim in almost every day. Words you picked up a thesaurus to find are words you can't clearly convey the meaning of through story context, which sends the reader for her own thesaurus, which is time she's not spending reading your story, and that's a disaster. Worse, what if you misuse it? Then you look like an idiot. It's better pull off a well executed Super Speed Strut than it is to crash mid-Fantastic Filly Flash.

      "Have Fun": If you're not doing this, the story probably isn't worth writing. If you're frustrated by something, walk away for a while. Don't force it. Writing about ponies is not supposed to be a chore...

    7. @Anonymous

      Whoops. That's what I get for writing that part at 2AM. Fixed, thank you.

      And thank you to everyone reading as well! At some point I may go back and revise this guide with suggestions I get for new sections. Or maybe I'll write an intermediate writer's guide later. We'll see.

    8. I read it and enjoyed, I might be getting some writing done tonight or at least some time. Also Phoe's rules are good to use too, makes sense to me.
      I'd say use the thesaurus when editing and finding you've got too many of one word lined up like Phoe said.
      Thanks Cereal Velocity.

    9. Thanks Cereal Velocity.
      I like to think I'm doing these in most of my writings, but it's certainly something to consider, especially while proof-reading.

    10. Great guide. The only thing I'd like to add is to keep Kurt Vonnegut's rules for short fiction in mind, as they always help me out:


      Also remember that the best writers can break all of these rules, except for rule one.

    11. writing stuff is easy, all u need to know is two little words.

      Pony Happens

    12. Read it, really enjoyed it. I'm not much of a storyteller myself, but I often consider doing so.

      I think this is a guide I'll come back to from time to time.

    13. @Retl

      You just gave me warm fuzzies, man. I hope it can help you.

    14. One important rule the guide missed, and one I find a lot of fanfic writers violate, (not just here, but I am running into it here):

      When the character who is talking changes you must start a new paragraph.[1]

      This is an important special case of a more general rule: A change of topic means a new paragraph.

      [1] NB: The reverse is not true, a large block of speech may itself be split into paragraphs.

    15. Sergeant Sprinkles: World's Greatest Party ClownFebruary 28, 2011 at 12:03 AM

      I for one will be studying these tomorrow.
      People tell me I'm not half bad, but I'm always up for improving myself.
      Thanks Cereal

    16. Just to reiterate my comments in a more permanent and less anonymous location, thank you very much for writing these, Cereal. I may not be the target demographic, but I recognize the value of your work in helping a lot of people write much better stories. It's a good deed on a scope well beyond anything I would have hoped for when I decided to start hanging around this place.

      If I wore a hat, it would be off to you.

    17. You are more than welcome, Phoe- I only aim to make the fanfiction submitted just a little bit better, and if I can help someone become a better writer in the process, then it just makes my day.

      I would have included your suggestions into the guide, but I didn't want to take credit for them! If someone comes to this page, they'll hopefully see them there anyway. I just wish I could point down to your comment and go LOOK, MORE STUFF!

    18. If you would like to incorporate my suggestions, by all means feel free. Like you, I'm just interested in helping people become better writers, and I don't really mind so much whether I get the credit or not (although being thanked is always nice).

      The important thing is that it helps somepony.

    19. Very much worth reading. Thanks for writing, Velocity, and thanks Sethisto for sharing!

      Print get.

    20. Good guides; I hope they help new writers!

      One thing that I keep running into, in otherwise fine stories, is sudden tense changes, usually from past to present tense and maybe back again, sometimes right in the middle of a paragraph. Please pick a tense, and stick with it; and unless you have a good reason not to, go with past tense. Thank you!

    21. This is a really well-written, well-formatted guide that would be a treasure even to non-pony writers. Some of the most basic rules can be the easiest to forget.

    22. Hey Mr Writing Guide, you might want to learn the difference between it's and its.
      That goes for all you youngins.

    23. I hope that minor grammatical error isn't the only thing you focused on, but I did fix the ones that I found.

    24. I've never understood what motivates such nitpicky complaints. Highly prolific, highly skilled authors make mistakes like that all the time. All it really takes is a minor lapse in concentration, and then bam. Small mess up. Even the most proficient users of a language will occasionally bobble it. And while good grammar and spelling are important for the sake of comprehension and readability, something good or useful doesn't turn into crap just because of a few misplaced apostrophes. Anyway.

      I'd like to take this moment to encourage everyone who reads this latest part to really sit down and think about what you just learned. Even if it all sounded very familiar, just mull it over. The transition from proficient writing to good writing is a tricky leap, and the more advice you have to consider the better off you'll be.

      If you've reached a point now where you're feeling comfortable about all the information you've been taking in, then it's time to enter the most important step in your development as an author: experimentation! Write your stories in different styles and voices. Focus on different aspects of your storytelling. Don't be afraid to venture into the unknown to find out what works for you and what doesn't. Establishing the boundaries of your comfort zone is a key step to consistent, quality writing.

      And even though this is something you're probably just doing for fun, don't let my theatrics scare you off. Think of it like this - you're somepony who has shown they care about getting improving, and now you're ready for your reward. Language is now your playground, so have fun! Don't forget to try the swings when you're done with the slide: I hear if you get going fast enough you can spin all the way around!

    25. Pony Guide part three? Sweet. Straight to my printer and reading folder it goes.

    26. Part 3, Swearing
      Gilda has hooves

      Everything I know is a lie.

    27. This is great community input, and should help many members of the community, new or otherwise, enjoy their writing process at a higher level of refinement.

      Personally I am a "Feeling" based writer, so Flow and Rhythm are the only things I work with.
      When I craft I do not think - although for personal work; story circles, arcs, drafts, and plans do come into play.

      English is one of the languages I use - as such I'm not exactly ashamed to announce that I do not know the difference between and adjective and a noun.

      As long as it feels right and the Flow is not disrupted, the story *should* be ready to fly. Proofreading it three times before publishing the first draft of *anything* helps as well.

      Some writers just don't deal very well with the technical aspects - the only other advice that could be added on to the guide is the proverbial:

      "Read More."

      *insert Twilight propaganda image here*

      By expanding one's vocabulary and knowledge base, one naturally gains more resources to craft with.

    28. There are many things I really heavily disagree with in these to begin with, but this thing just takes the cake. You tore up that "informal" paragraph you wrote as if things like that are awful and no one should try them, yet it was by far the most enjoyable thing to read in all these guides. I can definitely see where the people thinking you as "cynical" thing comes from.

      I suppose it's nice that you're trying to help, but without going into such detail as to look some kind of overly-negative pain in the neck, I have to say that a very large amount of the "tips" and "lessons" you provide have, at least to some minor extent, various pieces that seem to be more your personal opinion and less something actually useful to the aspiring writer. With some of these, I truly feel you were just trying too hard to seem like you know centuries-old solid-as-rock rules of the pen that in fact you just made up to seem so, knowing little if any people in this community would either know enough or have the gall to step up and say anything about it, rather than being overwhelmingly supportive as I see here. Don't get me wrong, I adore the extremely positive attitude of the pony community, but I really just feel that in these guides, you are simply trying to seem "fancy" and "smart" to the newbies, and some of the things you say that people will end up taking to heart are very, VERY incorrect.

      Now, I don't expect anything to change due to this, and I certainly don't expect you to revise anything that "may seem a little off to you" at any point, but I do hope you see this anonymous comment and think a little bit harder the next time you decide to write anything, especially something meant to teach.

    29. Hey, Cereal? I've seen you use the term "oblong look" several times now... Are you sure that's what you mean? I'm well-read and I've never heard that term before, and google only comes up with that phrase in the context of "what does an oblong look like", and a few times in reference to the cartoon "The Oblongs".

      I'm almost sure the phrase you want to use is "oblique look", which means cutting the eyes towards someone without facing it directly at it; a synonym would be "sidelong" or "surreptitious".

    30. Read part three, and realized my printouts of the first two actually got cut off somehow, so I'm about to reprint those momentarily.

      Anywho, wanted to point out "However, Card arguably write it as an event story." Should be "wrote"?

      I had seen one other thing while I was reading the printout that I meant to point out, but I forgot what it was. I should have marked it.

      Aside from Star Wars, most of the pop-culture examples pertaining to MICE flew straight over my head. That's my own fault though for not keeping up, not yours for picking them. I can say that I've read a tiny bit to do with unreliable narrators in the webcomic Inhuman. It was actually a year or two before I grasped the idea that the narrator could misinform.

      Anyway, I think it's a solid introduction to the concepts to lead into outside research. Hope it'll be useful to people.

    31. @Anonymous

      Splitting this into two comments because I think the spam filter is culling it.

      I feel as if there's some explaining I need to do here.

      I have prefaced these guides, and, in particular, the third one, with warnings that they contain many of my personal opinions about writing as a whole, and that most of the time writing does boil down to personal preference. Writing is not an exact art, and I have done my best to emphasize that. Perhaps I was not as thorough as I would have liked to be in that endeavor, or maybe you skipped those bits.

      That said, I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with me. I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional writer and never inspired to be. However, the last thing I intended to do with these guides was to appear aloof and 'fancy' to everyone reading them, because, really, I'm not. Like I have repeated many times, while nothing in these guides is set in stone, I can say for certain that every technique and every literary device I have put down in them are citable, reputable, useful things that I have used myself and that anyone can fact-check me on. I am not writing these sections and these guides out of the blue for the sake of writing them. I am not doing this for positive reviews. I am doing them to hopefully help new writers who may not have considered many of the things in the guides. If my personal opinions seep in in the process, well, that's something I can barely help. If they didn't, these guides would read like a wikipedia article. (1/2)

    32. (2/2)

      To address your concerns more specifically, you have simply read my section on informal narration incorrectly. My point was not that an informal tone is bad. My point was that a dramatic shift or change in tone where it doesn't belong is bad. My point was to emphasize consistency in tone, not one particular tone. Again, perhaps I misspoke and that never came across, but that was my intention. In you disagree with my approach, I gladly welcome your opinion, but in my experience it takes lots of practice to break this guideline, which is why I presented it as such.


      You're right, I did do a typo there. I fixed it.

      I tried to stick to well-known pop culture examples, but I knew some people might not get those, so I tried to throw some pony in there too, because I can at least assume that everyone has seen the show. Did those help at all?

    33. @Cereal Velocity

      Yep, the pony examples help a lot. They were my main point of reference in understanding what you were getting at when I got mixed up.

    34. Cereal Velocity, have you made a guide to creating OCs for the Friendship is Magic universe? If not, do you know of any such guides?

    35. There's a section in part one of my guide that deals with OC creation. Were you looking for something more substantial?

    36. @Cereal Velocity

      A more in-depth guide would be most welcomed, yes.

    37. I'll consider it. I have a lot on my plate on the moment and apparently not everypony thinks I should be writing these...

    38. @Cereal Velocity
      I like it when you write them. But yeah, if you're really busy lately, don't let it rule your schedule either.

    39. I found this guide excellent, it was incredibly helpful with my story.

    40. I remember when the 300 word contest came along. I thought to myself "self, it's only 300 words! You can do this!" But, seeing as how I have NEVER written anything like this before, I went looking for help. I managed to find this post, and I clicked on the link to the first one. By the second one this is what I was thinking, (I swear to you, this is the Honest Truth (tm Applejack):

      "WHO IS THIS? I must find out their name and thank them! This is absolute GOLD!"

      And it is. I learned more in 20 minutes of reading than I ever thought possible. I even had to read it twice.

      I think that the reason that I loved these so much is because you delve into the WHY as well as the HOW. I learned so, so much. This is NOT just a fanfiction guide. Almost all of the points that you bring up and explain can be applied elsewhere.

      Oh, and the thing about pacing. IN A STORY? That blew. My. Mind.

      This is the PERFECT guide if you are brand new. I don't know about those who are experienced because I am not so. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot.

      Oh, and my 300 story? I completely rewrote it, and it was MUCH better because of this guide.

    41. Can a story have a person talking AND narrating from his viewpoint?

    42. I've learned more from these guides than from my English class this year. Thank you so much, Cereal!
      I know it's been a while, but I hope to see more of these in the future.

    43. @Nitro836
      Yep! Having that character narrate would usually put the story into a first person perspective as the character would describe things they are doing or have done as "I set it down." or "I'll never forget", and others in the third person. When they're speaking to other characters, it'll be the same as usual dialogue.

      That said, sometimes a character will write about their perspective of things from the third person, and it ends up giving a limited view into the mindsets of others. Or example, I could describe how "The man pecked away at the keyboard, wracking his brain to find an example of a character describing hiself from an intentionally distanced perspective that reflected their own mindset and interpretations of a situation." It's just usually a character won't describe themselves in that manner unless they have a very particular reason for doing so.

    44. I read all three. While I disagree with some (very few) of the tips, for the most part it seems like it'd be helpful to any writer trying to get better. And everything is prefaced with a very big 'IMO' your mileage and all that jazz. I don't see how much of it can apply to my writing, personally, but if it helps one person, it's a successful, er, essay?

    45. Your guide has been a great help to me so far. But like someone else has mentioned before the advice on OC's is somewhat lacking. Your guide only makes a brief mention of them. I have found like most some static with using OC's. Personally I was wondering if the rules for creating OC villains would be different than the rules for the standard OC.

    46. I'm not sure I like the idea of "it needs conflict or it's a non-story." It sounds kinda final...Hell, what if I *want* a non-story? What if I want a slice of Seinfeld up in this place? I made a whole comic project for school with non-stories. It felt great (though for reasons of bucking academia and anxiety over trying to be high-brow.)

      I'm not complaining, but how would you classify a story that's just a quirky conversation while two characters are waiting for something? Is it an event story without a particularly exciting event, or is it a non story since there isn't a conflict or resolution?

    47. @Sharkman
      (Pony Vs Pony, Pony Vs Environment, Pony Vs Self.)
      Conflict doesn't always imply violence or a major major issue, though. Some conflicts are as simple as a guy trying to decide which thing to eat for breakfast out of a several things they enjoy for breakfast, knowing very well they can't eat all of them. Sometimes it's a matter of a person not being sure what they think is a right or wrong choice. Or for a pony example, sometimes it's when two characters that are ordinarily friends don't quite get along, as is the whole basis for Look Before you Sleep.

      So yeah, don't get too hung up on what makes a "conflict". It'll be hard to have a good sense of closure if you don't know what it is, but if you think what you've written is a story, assume it's a story and represent it as one.

      And besides, there is an audience for brief sketch-essays/sketch-stories that don't portray the whole of any particular conflict and take on the form of a description as well as general humor. Write what you like!

    48. @Sharkman

      Retl pretty much covered anything I could have said. A story isn't a story without a conflict, but the definition of a conflict is very much open for interpretation. That's why storytelling is such an inexact art! If you can convince your reader that your story contains a conflict, then it does, because you're the final say-so. Why? Because you're the author!

    49. Cereal Velocity, you magnificent bastard! I could kiss you!

      I have been writing for a good chunk of my life, and this is absolutely inspirational! I have LEARNED things this day, may it be marked. It's so informational, these are tips applicable for both my novels and my fanfiction.

      Thank you!

    50. This is an absolutely wonderful guide, and one which I will be recommending to friends.

      (Curses! My brain will now, of course, be eaten by the question as to where my own fanfic lies on the MICE scale. On the other hoof, I can reliably call it an unreliable, near stream-of-consciousness tale.) -.^

      Two notes:

      One, you might want to update earlier bits that may no longer be in line with what we know from the show. For example, unicorn ponies have at least a limited ability to teach each other spells (as per "A Dog and Pony Show").

      Second, if you ever write another section, I'd be thrilled to see my own favorite literary device, Chekhov's Gun, receive some attention.


      Thank you so much for this!

    51. Just read this, and before I give my reaction I need to let you know something first. I'm a professional writer, I study literature and write fiction for a living. I've read book after book on writing theory, study it in college, and generally know a lot about writing.

      That being said, I read this and I think it's a really good start for beginners. I alternated from being rather impressed with your reasoning, to shouting at the screen, and even learned something in the process (I learned a new word, not a new concept. Milieu... looks cool on the paper.).

      First, there have been stories written in present tense that have actually been rather decent. Present tense, however, is difficult to pull off and you need to know the rules about narrative drives before you can break them for your style. Just saying that just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean they're no good. Though I have yet to come across a present tense novel, there are thousands of present tense short stories written during the 20th century that fall under the radar. It doesn't always take the reader out of the story if the style is correctly applied. I do, however, agree that beginners should stick to past tense as that is the most common form of story telling.

      Second, this just might be your wording but it made me feel that you thought first person was inferior to third person. Personally, I'm very nit-picky with first person, but that's primarily because I have a very distinct ideas for what should be and not should be done for first person. As a professional, this is natural, however I don't think it's inferior no matter what the setting is. Again, it's not all that uncommon in contemporary fiction, it's just more often used in short stories than novels. I really feel kinda stupid for saying this but a majority of literature is short stories as opposed to the much more popular and wide spread novel. I don't mean to be condescending or anything (And sorry if I'm coming across that way), it just bugs me that you seem to be portraying that first person is somehow inferior and or harder to pull off. It's a different style and like all literature style takes getting used to. It's generally considered uncommon because most popular fiction is written in third person, and it is generally more taught in schools than first person (Which also bugs me, but I won't get into that.)

      Now for some positive things.
      I liked how you handled OC's. Personally, I love OC's, I can't get enough of them. The more OC's the better, but I'm also very picky about my OC's. Though you could mention that it's usually bad form to force sympathy for an OC in an attempt to get them to be likeable (An example, having the OC gush about their lost parents, how (s)he is suffering from some sort of illness, and how they're utterly broke). While you could incorporate all these things into an OC's background, shoving them down our throats is really, really bad form and one of the reasons OC's get a bad rap. But I definitely liked your OC section.

      I also really liked part three of your guidelines. Not only did it teach me a new word (Knew the concept before hand, didn't know or couldn't remember the word though) but it did an excellent job at explaining on various ways you can use style to create a strong story.

      Well, that's my two cents. Hope I didn't offend you, I wasn't trying to honest.

    52. Fuck, if that's your two cents, I'd hate to be around when you spend big.

      You do sound pretentious, but make up for it by saying constructive and positive things.

      This has been my review of your essa- um, post.

    53. I didn't think he sounded pretentious. I welcome all opinions about these guides, especially from those who are experts in the field.

    54. Thank you for writing this. ^_^ It really helps, when I tried to write a fanfic I didn't think about HALF of the stuff listed in this essay/guide. Welp, off to Google Docs.

    55. I have this page bookmarked and will return to it time and again as I write. Thank you.

    56. I have this page bookmarked and will return to it time and again as I write. Thank you.

    57. Perhaps instead of just adding more on OC's, a chapter about building characters in general is in order.

    58. I really enjoyed reading this! The MICE theory was new to me, and beyond reinforcing/repetition on other stuff, I think that's the biggest thing I took home from having read your series - considering the very type of the story.

      It seems so simple and obvious in hindsight, but I never did stop to think. After reading about MICE, I realized I tend towards Character stories, but this knowledge also makes me want to challenge that, and try for something different.

    59. I really appreciate this guide :) I've been looking to improve (and quite frankly the proof readers here are probably sick of hearing from me by now lol) and this helps greatly.

      I'll be coming back to this guide quite a bit I think until it all sinks in :D

    60. Wow this is a blast from the past! I was just referring this guide to another person yesterday and the previous update was back in March!

    61. This is a good guide to brush up my skills with. Good, helpful update!

    62. Even though I can't write fiction at all I find myself enjoying these guides. Maybe one day I'll actually try to write one. I do have some ideas...
      Also, about OC alicorns. You said none have worked. Nyx. I'm just saying :P (Yes, I know some people might argue that she is a bad character or that she isn't really an OC. I son't want to start anything here, just wanted to point this out)

    63. I've read all these guides and agree with them for the most part. Some have already mentioned it, but I'll say it again because it's the only thing I really disagree with. Claim: OC Alicorns never work. Rebuttal: Nyx. All I'm saying is, just because it hasn't worked for the most part, doesn't mean it can't be done. That is all. Excellent guides.

    64. I haven't read it yet, but one thing I hope it touches on is LEAVE OUT MEME. I've read a number of fanfics which really drive me insane with this. While the fandom got started on 4chan, not everyone find them amusing:

      More on the subject: http://www.reddit.com/r/mylittlefanfic/comments/jkye6/memes_and_internetspeak_in_mlp_fanfic_anyone_else/

    65. I have a PinkieDash fic in the works. Oh, the irony. Anyway, I'll definitely give these a read.

    66. Like I need it, I would send in my story if I could get on my computer and finish the few chapters I started so as to not over stress myself. That and it's Grimdark/crossover/sad/war.

    67. it seems sergeant sprinkles is still among us. I thought he would have been lynched by now for sure... I guess now's as good a time as any to thank him for raping my mind with a rusty spatula.

      On an unrelated note, this guide is brilliant. I'm not a writer by any extension of the word, but as an avid reader it gives me a greater appreciation for the writing process that goes into all these fanfics. Keep it up, Cereal!

    68. I fully support better handling of OCs in general. Too often I've seen writers getting horribly sidetracked with talking up the awesomeness of this new character they've created, then acting baffled when their readers turn on them. How often we overestimate our own ability to be clever.

    69. This comment has been removed by the author.

    70. Cereal, Go Read Past Sins and then tell us with a strait face that OC aliconrs don't work. (Directed my comment at the wrong person at first)

    71. I love this series and look forward to the next chapter! There is one thing I don't agree with: alicorn OCs haven't worked. Have you read Past Sins?! I can't see how Nyx "doesn't work".

    72. Huh, wish I'd known about this before. Awesome.

    73. My fanfic is probably going to fall flat on its face when I finally publish it... because so far, I have already broken a few rules, and now that I think about it I may have made my OC ponies TOO complicated. But at the same time, their complicated personalities are quite literally the whole point of the fanfic, so... will just have to see I guess :(

    74. Ummm... in one of the examples in Part 3 you said Gilda stubbed her hoof. Sorry to be nitpicky, but Gilda doesn't have hooves.

      Otherwise, awesome. :)

    75. Ha, amusing that after I get roped into a conversation elsewhere about OCs that there would be an update to a writing guide that addresses them.

      I can personally attest to the problems that come from making OCs over-powered, over-loved, and over-important, namely that in all my years on the internet I could count the ones that avoid those issues on one hand. (And none of them were alicorns either.)

      Likewise, it's kind of nice to know that certain rules that I adhered to are more universal and accepted than they were back in the day. Oh, the number or authors who not only couldn't see why their self-inserts/OCs failed, but refused to believe that they had and the criticisms were just "haters gonna hate". The number of potentially good stories ruined by stubbornness and pride... makes me feel slightly better than I was so judgmental of my own works in that field that I never published anything, as I would have hated to have contributed to the negative stereotypes that befall those kind of works.

    76. @ Cereal:

      Another typo, in part 3!

      "Gilda felt a sharp pain as the stubbed her hoof on the table. “Fuck!” she yelled, perhaps a little too loudly. Rainbow Dash gave her an oblong look."

      THE stubbed? :P

    77. Only one person got this right. Nyx is a) not an OC, and b) not a particularly good character, so she doesn't apply.

      I fixed the typos, though!

    78. @Cereal Velocity
      Do you say Nyx isn't an OC because she's an amnesiac photocopy of Nightmare Moon?
      I'd also be interested to hear your analysis of what's wrong with Nyx.
      (This by no means implies that I see nothing wrong with the character, mind you. Just looking for the opinion of someone who's more able to verbalize it than I am.)

    79. @LordOfTheWrongs

      I'll quote a friend of mine in her analysis, which I happen to agree with, in that Nyx is 'manufactured cute', unable to be disliked and designed only to elicit an immediate d'aww reaction from the reader. She is also not technically an OC, being based on Nightmare Moon, yes.

      If you disagree that's of course perfectly fine, and in that case I offer an addendum to my guide: alicorn OC stories statistically do not work. I've seen so many shot straight to the moon it's not even funny anymore.

    80. re: the Alicorn OC's never working and "past sins":

      umm well first let me preface this by saying SPOILER ALERT. if you haven't finished " Past Sins" ( or dont know what it is) STOP READING and go read Past sins instead. since its , in my opinion, the best fanfic ( of any fandom) ive ever read. but ....
      you've been warned.

      umm guys, is Nyx * really* an OC?? i thought the entire point of the story was that she wasn't an oc, but version 2.0 of a rather major characther.
      to be more specific, and to use terms accesible to those who know nothing about MLP: FIM. the situation is as follows:

      there is a rather major characther in the show, Luna, who has a Dr Jekyll /Mr Hyde situation going. said character, being in essence a god, is extremely powerful , making this a very dangerous situation , in fact its the conflict driving the pilot. at the end of the pilot, Luna is cleansed of her " Mr Hyde" personality.

      " past sins" involves the reincarnation of the " mr hyde" form , now a * physically* separate entity in and of herself. The question is , is this characther, Nyx,truly an "OC"? my response to this is , no she is not.
      it is true that nyx never becomes * evil* , but even this is fits in perfectly with who she truly is.. That is to say Luna's corruption into evil was driven by loneliness and envy. Nyx experiences a loving enviroment and thus she does not become evil, not because she is a wholly different characther, but because the *motivation* to turn evil is gone. Had Luna felt as loved/appreciated as Nyx does, she would not have developed her " superpowered evil side" ( as tv tropes calls it)to begin with. These ideas of motivation and the choice between good and evil are what drive the story.

      Finally, id like to point out that part of what motivates much of the " hatedom" that has arisen around " Past Sins" is that many people view NYx as a " mary sue" . While i vehemently disagree, it is certainly the case that the * reason* many people view her as such is because she * is* an alicorn, and thus , by the rules of this universe, a nearly omnipotent god. I think its this problem in particular, that cereal velocity is warning against when he talks about an Alicorn OC.

    81. oh hey look while i wrote my screed, cereal vlocity comes in to point out that nyx is not an OC. oh well...

    82. @Cereal Velocity
      So, basically, you feel that the character is a ham-fisted attempt to manipulate your emotions. I can see where you're coming from, and I don't necessarily disagree.

      As far as alicorns go in general, I generally have an immediate negative reaction as well. As in, "You've got about ten seconds to convince me this is something I have any interest in reading. Go!"

      If it involves Twilight getting turned into an alicorn, I start making the Y U NO face.

    83. @LordOfTheWrongs

      Basically, yes.

      As I've said, though, these guides are mainly aimed at newer writers. Am I saying no writer should never, ever, ever write an OC alicorn? Yes and no- I believe it's a bad idea because doing so is like putting your fic on Nightmare Mode as far as getting people to accept it and your character as 'good', but anything is possible. This is fiction, after all.

    84. Sounds like someone has been reading his Robert McKee. The guy pretty much wrote the definitive book on story and plot, and I think you've done a very good job of distilling the relevant points as they pertain to pony-dom.

      For those nitpicking, yes, these are all informal suggestions, but they're coming from someone who is (probably) MUCH more familiar with the mechanics of story and fanfic, so you ignore them at your own peril.

    85. I am touched that someone went out of there way to offer guidance and suggestion to the masses that are submitting fan-fiction. It's never a bad idea to help steer the quality of work toward something better.

      However, there is something to be said for the placement of the "brow" on fan-fiction as well. Since speaking frankly, by nature it is amateurish and apt to less than stellar quality. Otherwise it would be "pro-fiction", and not something that just anyone with a zeal for a character or a show could jump into and begin being expressive.

      I'm all for helping people write, I'm all for helping people to write well, and I'm certainly not above criticism; but I think that fan-fiction should be kept in a better, proper perspective.

      Some fans may absolutely want to write a literary masterpiece, and dazzle us all with a pony version of Les Miserables; but most fans are not. Hence the relative ease of accessibility with fan-fiction versus other types of fiction, and places where other types of fiction submissions are more stricktly enforced.

      Since the surge of pony fiction has ballooned into the monster that it has become, I've watched the fans grow more and more demanding of the fans that make the submissions, and the constant raising of the bar of fan-fiction quality and expectation has gone through the roof.

      Certainly I am not advocating that we shouldn't strive for excellence when we write something, and I'm not suggesting that just any fan-fiction gain universal acclaim and acceptance regardless of the plethora of typos and errors; but I for one find that the fans of fan-fiction, and the influx of grammarians are circumventing the whole point of fan-fiction in its entirety.

      I'd like to strongly caution everyone to step back and take a deep breath, and take the fan-fiction in more stride. It's not meant to have massive reigns and short tethers. It's a cumulative force of many. Not the select voice of a few.

      I firmly believe that any and all fans can write fan-fiction. Not everyone of them will be good, and not all of them will be garbage. And if anyone takes away anything from the suggestions and help that's in the docs above; then you're off to a good start at shining your rough edge into a polished one. Just please, don't fool yourself into thinking that fan-fiction can be so easily contained because it isn't met with overwhelming enthusiasm and instant applause.

    86. I don't like it when someone says that one shouldn't try something just because it "statistically doesn't work." I am appalled that someone who can call themselves a brony would dare to believe such a thing. It doesn't matter that you say that others may do it if they wish or that it is possible to do it. It's that initial feeling, that opinion that something should be at some unobtainable level before it can even be accepted, that is what creates bias and prejudice. Not only is that hard to discard, but it is also incredibly unfair. I just hope that whoever wrote this isn't a pre-reader, or that the others are not so close-minded.

      Other than that tidbit, everything else seemed like sound advice, save for the several errors in grammar and all, but that's beside the point.

    87. You ponies are hilarious, you know that? You're taking what Cereal wrote as a decree sent down from the gods when he repeatedly states that these rules are not set in stone, that he is just trying to help, and that maybe, just maybe, it's okay to disagree.

      No wait, you're right, he's totally a closed-minded jerk who is DEMANDING that you write this way. My mistake...

      Well I liked this latest one anyway. I'm going to try my hoof at an OC sometime and I don't want to fall into the traps.

    88. @ShiningStar
      So what you're saying is, "I can get away with it because I'm special."

      To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the rules are there to make you think really hard before you break them. In this case, writing is kind of like art; once an artist is intimately familiar with the concepts of lighting, composition, and perspective, he can break them for a particular effect. But he has to know the rules first; the difference between that and a novice who doesn't even know how to use lighting and perspective is obvious to even an untrained eye.

      By the same token, a skilled writer can get away with things that would sink a lesser writer's fic. Let's be honest, though. There are maybe three authors on this site that would even begin to qualify. And if you're insecure enough to argue with the author of a writer's guide about it, you're probably not one of them.

    89. The previous three comments are kind of amusing together. ShiningStar and silentcarto, I would direct you both to DCNPony's comment, as I think it's somewhat relevant. I feel you both make good points, but you're both ultimately taking Cereal's advice too seriously.

      "And if you're insecure enough to argue with the author of a writer's guide about it, you're probably not one of them."


      While I strongly agree with you on the part about knowing the rules before breaking them, I just as strongly disagree with this notion that you just shouldn't try because you're probably not good enough. That kind of thinking gets artists nowhere. If you don't push yourself, how are you going to improve?

      There is no harm in writing a bad story. It's not like building a bad bridge, or bad surgical equipment. Nobody is going to get hurt. All that separates a bad story from a valuable learning experience is the writer's attitude and approach to criticism. Will they angrily defend their work against all critique, or listen with an open mind, prepared to admit it if they've handled something poorly?

      It IS important to remain aware, if you are "breaking the rules", that what you are doing is risky and has a very high probability of failure, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. It just means you need to tread with caution, listen to the advice of others, and leave your ego at the door.

    90. Eh, sorry about the double post, but I forgot what I actually came here to do.

      Cereal, I have a question: what's your take on writing dialogue for characters with accents, and specifically all of this "Ah'm Applejack" nonsense?

      (Apologies if you do not think it is nonsense and use it yourself. :c)

      It's just my number one pet peeve in pony fiction. I hate it so much. It's unnecessary, distracting, and completely kills dramatic scenes. It has ruined my enjoyment of more than one otherwise quite well-written story, and that makes me deeply sad.

    91. @Epesi
      To take alicorns out of the equation, suppose you sit down and say, "I'm going to write a paragraph of purple prose on purpose, because I want the reader to feel how obnoxious Trixie is." Fine. You know what you're doing. But if you're going to flail around trying to convince people there's nothing wrong with purple prose, then you're either in denial or you don't recognize your own flaws.
      Likewise, if you decide you're going to write a story about an alicorn other than Celestia and Luna, you'd better be starting from the premise of "I know this is normally Not Done, but I have this unusual take on the history of Equestria..." Not, "But THIS alicorn is really really COOL because I'M writing it!"

    92. Everyone has valid points to make here.

      No, I am of course not suggesting that you never take risks when writing just because you feel that you're not good enough. As someone has already pointed out, I am merely giving some guidelines based on the hundreds of fics I've seen rejected for various reasons. Alicorns get a big kneejerk reaction most of the time, but if you can convince your readers that this alicorn belongs in the universe and that he or she is worth reading about, that's awesome!

      Before you try, though, I will add one note: before you can write an alicorn well, you have to be able to write a character well.

    93. @silentcarto

      Fair enough, and I agree with you. It just sounds like you're jumping to the conclusion that ShiningStar was starting from that second premise, which seems a little unfair to assume. But I don't know either of you and so cannot determine either of your intentions, so maybe I've got it wrong.

    94. An interesting guide, though I wish you elaborated a bit more on what exactly is wrong with introducing characters with relationships with the Mane 6. So far I would have thought that it was discouraged because it could be a cheap way to make your OC seem more "important". But you write it's misused as a way of lazy character building, something I wouldn't come up with.

    95. @StyxD
      He did say "unless you know exactly what you're doing". Usually, either the writer is being lazy and using the relative as an expy for the canon character -- Pinkie Pie's cousin is hyper and friendly, Twilight's sister is bookish and antisocial -- or it's a cheap way of making a character interesting for what they are rather than who they are. Consider it this way: if the character wasn't related to one of the mane six, would they still be interesting? If so, why bother with the contrived relationship in the first place?

    96. Anypony else read this in Sheogoraths voice?

      This is a wonderful guide I'll be sure to come back and re-read it a few times before and while writing my fic. Thank you very much mate.

    97. I noticed a small error in part 1. You wrote "Is a six year-old girl going to watch Call of the Cutie and understand that the episode is meant to illustrate the face..." (It's suppose to be fact).

      Overall, this is very nice and would be helpfully to any person who wanted to write well.

      Sidenote: Just wondering, but what would a writer need to do in order for an OC Alicorn story to work?

      I kind of want to attempt writing one much later in the future, just because it's hard to pull off.

    98. Heh, a year later with this comment. Thanks for writing this. I read these when they came out, but I re-read them just now to help make sure I avoid some of the larger pitfalls on my first attempt at writing a fic. Maybe 5 rewrites and 2 years later I'll try to submit it to EQD.

      Thanks again for putting in the time to help us out. You guys all rock.