Today’s story never says never.
[Sad] [Slice of Life] • 1,478 words
Lightning Dust will never be a Wonderbolt. When she left the Academy, she swore she’d never look back. When the Washouts disbanded, she swore she’d forget about them.
Yet after all these years, against all odds, she finds herself here. At a Wonderbolts show. Just on the wrong side of the glass.
FROM THE CURATORS: To those of us who obsess over our editing process, ‘speedwriting’ can be a dirty word — but as this Quills & Sofas first-place winner shows, sometimes that helps authors trim a story down to exactly what needs to be on the page. AugieDog’s nomination summed it up: “Essentially, Lightning Dust is sitting with her wife Fiddlesticks in a private box at a Wonderbolts show, and in the space of 1,478 words, the author gives us a pretty darn complete look at Dust’s post-‘Washouts’ life, both the good and the bad.” The floodgates of praise quickly opened up. “This was subtly fantastic,” Present Perfect said, and Soge agreed: “A great find indeed. At its heart it is a very simple story, but looks can be deceiving.”
What impressed us most was an exemplary economy of words. “The author’s focus is so tightly held,” AugieDog said. “There are half-sentences here that could be the short descriptions of much longer stories, but while I may have blinked at one or two of them, I never felt cheated that I wasn’t reading that story.” Soge enjoyed reading between the lines: “It is one of those fics which manages to say much more than its word count would imply – the state of Lightning Dust’s situation, the bitterness that she managed to conquer, the happiness she eventually found.” And Present Perfect appreciated how it managed to play with expectations despite its length: “There are some signs ahead of the twist where you can see it coming, but the one-two punch in the middle that recontextualizes both the ‘Lightning Dust could never be a Wonderbolt’ mantra and why she’s at a Wonderbolts show in the first place was brilliant.”
Along the way, the attention to detail also drew praise. “It’s always a great sign when little elements like the chocolates serve double or even triple duty, showing us character while they set the scene and do solid worldbuilding by implication,” Horizon said. Ultimately, that helped the story cohere into more than the sum of its parts. “This is such a short story, but everything it does, it accomplishes in precisely the way it needed to to succeed,” Present Perfect said. And, Soge added, “the ending is very effective, and elevates the whole thing.”
Read on for our author interview, in which The Red Parade discusses doubt, lower-case titles and background ponies.