This pre-reader sounds like a kid that has just finished her first creative writing course and now thinks she's the universe's gift to writers. She has some good points, but they're outnumbered by the instances of her mistaking her opinion for actual criticism, and worse, she's using that to justify her acting as a gatekeeper insofar as what constitutes entertaining fiction.
Let's break this down:
This is pre-reader Amacita here with your second opinion. I pretty much found the same problems as the other pre-reader. In addition to that, some things struck me as weird, like the casual use of blood magic and the way she pets Spike while he blushes.
She's starting off strong, here. I do agree with her that these are legitimate points of critique in terms of the casual deviation they represent from what we've come to expect from MLP, and the lack of explanation for it.
But most of all, I found the first real chapter boring.
And immediately, she goes off the rails. There's a difference between a review and an editorial, Amacita, and what you're saying here is that you don't seem to know the difference. To be fair, it's not clear which one a "pre-reader" is supposed to be doing - they might very well be charged with doing both - but they should still have a clear understanding that the two aren't the same.
A review is where you figure out the goals that the work in question has set for itself, and then figure out if it's achieved them or not, while elaborating on the manner in which it succeeded or failed. An editorial, by contrast, is whether or not you found it personally appealing.
If what you find relevant "most of all" is that it struck you as boring, then it sounds like you're mistaking the latter for the former, because whether or not you
liked it is not a critique of the story itself.
It's a setup to a plot device that we've seen a hundred times before: "oh no, this experimental teleportation spell can't possibly go wro--oops!" And then they end up in an alternate world. It just felt too obligatory.
This is even more egregious than her previous offense. Yes, having Twilight miscast a spell and end up in another setting is cliche - so what? Seriously, why is that a bad thing? Cliches become cliches for a reason, which is that they work
Even worse is her charge that this is something "they" have "seen a hundred times before." So this needs to have an element of surprise to it in order to be worthwhile? Here's something to keep in mind, Amacita: innovation is overrated. It's all about the entertainment that the story offers, not the novelty of its ideas. You know how we know this? Because you say so in the very next sentence:
I think if everyone can tell right away how your first chapter is going to end, and you're not going to skip it, it helps to at least make it as entertaining or insightful as possible so you can still hook the reader.
Fair enough, but the first issue ("entertaining") is one that's going to be a judgment call that each reader has to make, and the second ("insightful") isn't a point that you're addressing.
Here are some of my notes:
The disclaimer is quite obtrusive as the first chapter of the story, and not really necessary. It's not really something people do a lot on Fimfiction. If you really feel you need it, it works just as well as an author's note at the end of the first real chapter.
This is something I can't bring myself to disagree with too much. I think that people wildly overestimate the necessity of these disclaimers - they've become window dressing more than any kind of legal fig-leaf.
Twilight screws up a spell and is transported to another world. We've seen this a million times.
Again, why is that a bad thing? If something is used frequently, doesn't that mean that it's doing its job? What you're saying here is that you personally find it boring, which strikes me more as being a comment about you than about the story.
It strikes me as very odd to see Twilight casually using blood magic in the second paragraph of the novel. Nobody notices or cares. It just doesn't work for me, and sets me not believing in the story from the very beginning.
This is a good point. We've never seen Twilight using magic that requires any sacrifice of blood, no matter how small. There's nothing to suggest that this sort of magic even exists in Equestria, so that Twilight would know about it, possess it, and be willing to use it does indeed come out of left field. Given that there's nothing that's intrinsic or even narratively-suggestive to tie "blood magic" to cross-dimensional travel, one is led to wonder why this is here at all.
> With a quick flick of a dagger she kept around for such emergencies //
You're saying the need to use blood magic is an emergency, but the scene doesn't make it seem as if this is an emergency. It seems more like she's just casually experimenting, so the word choice comes off as odd.
Again, this is a fair point. The use of "such" in that sentence makes it seem like this situation is the sort of emergency that Twilight has the dagger for...but this isn't an emergency situation.
> "I hate blood magic," she groused to herself as she set the dagger aside. //
She says she hates it, but it's just a tiny gripe. Still seems really weird.
This complaint also seems like a minor gripe on Amacita's part. Everyone complains about things that are inconvenient, laborious, or otherwise unpleasant, even if not very much.
Now, it's true that this serves to highlight the narrative disconnect of Twilight using "blood magic" so casually when it's something entirely new and undefined within the context of MLP, but that just harkens back to Amacita's earlier complaint.
> "Caught up in another experiment?" he asked, "I'll let you get back to //
Dialogue punctuation is wrong
Dialogue punctuation is repeatedly wrong.
Yes, it is. This one is fairly egregious for how repeatedly it happens.
> She started on the sandwich, holding it aloft in her purple magic as she voraciously destroyed it. //
That adverb feels unnecessary. It doesn't contribute anything, and it draws too much attention to itself.
Twilight is petting Spike. Spike is blushing. This strikes me as weird. Spike is not a pet.
Another legitimate criticism. The casual touching and nonchalant physical affection between the characters does come across oddly, since it's not something that we see in the source material. It's the pony (and dragon) equivalent of human characters casually caressing one another on the cheek. When's the last time you saw a human character express casual friendship by running their fingers gently across the side of another human character's face, and the other character simply blushed and leaned into it? It's quasi-romantic (and even quasi-erotic), rather than friendly. It seems to come from the idea that it's okay to express even mild affection physically on "animals" the way you wouldn't on people, even though we hold that the ponies are people themselves.
Paragraph spacing problems
We generally prefer proper em dashes over double hyphens.
The paragraph spacing thing is a valid concern, albeit a minor one. But your issue with the dashes is rapidly falling into stylistic gatekeeping.
> The portal began to buckle and wobble. Spike glanced left and right, then looked back at the portal. As the portal started shrinking, he rushed forward and leaped through the hole moments before it closed completely. The fabric of both planes quickly mended itself, leaving little trace of the exchange that had occurred. //
Spike sees the portal going unstable. The portal he just warned Twilight about. Instead of running away like a smart lab assistant, he rushes forward and leaps into it. This makes no sense.
This is the most boneheaded comment Amacita makes. Of course
it makes sense! We saw Spike do this exact thing
in Equestria Girls! It's entirely in-character that he'd follow her into it here too! This, more than anything, makes me question Amacita's qualifications for passing judgment on this piece of fiction.
> Though she couldn't see, she could feel the forces that bound universes pulling and tugging at her in a disorienting but slightly familiar way. She wondered for a moment if she had accidentally bored back into the human world and if she'd emerge with hands again. //
This is fairly bland writing for something that is literally tearing apart the fabric of space and time.
More complaining that something doesn't live up to her personal standards. Apparently, to Amacita any instance of dimensional travel demands that the writing border on purple prose.
> The studious alicorn levitated the book again //
See the Fimfiction Writing FAQ on Lavender Unicorn Syndrome
The "Writing FAQ"? These guys actually have a style guide for how they want other writers to write their own stories? What utter pretentiousness! The so-called "Lavender Unicorn Syndrome" is them sneering at any instance of a descriptor that isn't a proper name or a pronoun, and it's the biggest red flag in this entire response that these people have utterly gotten lost in their narcissistic self-aggrandizement. There's nothing wrong with using physical descriptions to identify a character in the narrative! No, it shouldn't be done constantly, but any
stylistic quirk, repeated over and over, will rapidly become tiresome - that's not an indictment on this particular flourish. This asinine response of hers is what happens when you try to develop a body of absolutes with regards to the fluid nature of writing to fun.
> Twilight squeaked with fright. //
Telly language like this doesn't help me get into the story.
I don't know what "Telly language" is - it seems to be some sort of pejorative reference to one of the monsters from Sesame Street - but nobody cares what helps you get into the story, Amacita. He's not writing this for you personally; leave your opinions about what you do and don't like out of it.
We've had a second pre-reader look over it, and he noted pretty much the same collection of issues with the story. I'm sorry, but the verdict stands.
Pre-readers 63.546 and amacita
Which just goes to show that it's not only her that's doing a half-assed job.
Amacita switches back and forth between actual pre-reading and personal quibbles so casually that it's clear that she doesn't see any difference between the two. Even that isn't as bad as her nonsense "verdict" about what is and is not good fiction. Fair enough, if someone doesn't want something on their site, they get to decide, but this smacks of a mindset that they're somehow doing the community a service by deciding what's good and what isn't.
A pre-reader's job is to critique, not to judge.