Friday, February 3, 2012

Pen Stroke's Creeping Darkness

So our last poll indicated we could use some more adventure fics here, and I wholeheartedly agree! If you're leery of a video game crossover, consider this: before reading this one, I had never played Alan Wake and knew only it "has something to do with a writer" - Creeping Darkness was so good I went out and bought the game, a sentiment I've seen echoed by other fans of the story around the fandom.

[Adventure][Crossover] • 61,300 words
Alan Wake has unintentionally released the Darkness and an old villain upon Equestria. To fix the mistake, Alan starts a new story with Twilight Sparkle as the protagonist. Can the unicorn find the strength to face the darkness, or is all of Equestria doomed to be the victim in the dreadful horror story?

Hit the break for an interview with the dynamic duo themselves, and links to Creeping Darkness where fine pony fiction is found. Don't forget to grab an ebook copy at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

PS: I'm currently living in Los Angeles, CA.

BG: At the time of this question, I live in Kentucky. I'd rather not name the city as it's rather small.

What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)

PS: I'm a master's student at USC, but I'm also working for a mobile game start-up called Innovative Leisure.

BG: I have a bachelor's in Business Management with a focus on Human Resources. Due to economic reasons, I'm working at a K-Mart, though I may or may not join the navy very soon.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

PS: I was first introduced to the show by a few teammates I had on a programming project at the university. That's what got me watching the show, but I really got into the fandom when I re-encountered my writing friend, Batty Gloom. We had collaborated on other writing sites before, and by some strange twist of fate we ran into one another again writing My Little Pony fanfiction.

BG: I was first introduced to the show before it actually even was animated. A site mentioned a reboot of My Little Pony and I sarcastically sneered that they would remake anything these days (completely unaware that the original movies and TV show of the 80's had three previous sequels). I later saw a promo image (the one that secretly has the armless and fore-legless Spike and Twilight *shudder*) and the style creeped me out at the time.

I more or less ignored the pony fandom, as I don't use forums on a regular basis like I used to but when I saw CR! of fame made a “Pinkie Pie in 5 Seconds” video, I just had to see it because CR! is a guy who takes animation very seriously, which is something I respect. So, because I respect his opinion in animation, I took a chance and started up the first episode and went on a marathon viewing on spring break of 2011. I was hooked by the ponies that just so happened to act and respond like believable characters, the high quality of the animation (flash animation especially, good lord, they work so hard on it), the music, the lovely voices and the next thing I knew, I realized with horror that I was assimilated with the herd and I was officially a brony.

And then Batty Gloom was a brony.

Do you have a favorite episode?

PS: Oh, that's a hard question. I really do enjoy all the episodes, so it's hard to pick a favorite. So, I'm not going to. Unless something comes out in the later half of Season 2, I'm going to say all of the episodes are my favorite.

BG: Ugh... I'll admit that I'm a little pickier than Pen Stroke when it comes to enjoying specific episodes (not a big fan of the two Spike-centered episodes, though it's more because of how they were handled; I would love a really good Spike-centered episode) but just like him I really can't choose. Let's just say that I can enjoy all the episodes, even the ones I'm not a personal fan of, for what they each offer.

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?

PS: Well, that depends. If we focus on main characters, I'd have to choose Applejack. If it was a pick of background/side characters, it would be Zecora. And, currently, I don't think my answer would change if I considered fandom.

BG: Rainbow Dash. Full stop. I love the brash tomboy character and that's to her to a T. And no, I don't think the fandom would change that answer.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

PS: I kind of just came up with it. I wanted a pen-name that fit into the show's character naming scheme and spoke to the fact I was a fanfiction writer, and Pen Stroke is what came out of that.

BG: My answer is very similar to Pen Stroke. I have a preference to the dark and semi-Gothic and I wanted a pen-name that also fitted into the show's character naming scheme as well. I came up with the idea of a very lanky, insane pegasus with bat wings and named him Batty Gloom during season 1, long before season 2 proved canon examples of tall, thin stallions as tall as Princess Luna and the existence of bat-winged pegasi.

It couldn't have worked out better than if I was a member of Studio B.

Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?

PS: I first started major writing back in late middle school, early high school. I've never been professionally published, but I have written a few original stories that were novella and novel length and I did write fanfiction before joining the My Little Pony community, though my writing had fallen off until the show gave my inspiration a kick start.

BG: I once wrote a fan fiction long ago that thankfully is no longer available in any form whatsoever; I say thankfully due to the suckage. Most of my writing before writing fan fiction was done with Pen Stroke on a website that encouraged collaborative writing and we became writing partners (and later close friends) because of that. Then FIM came along and I wrote a some-what rough story called “The Truth About Pinkie Pie” and then...

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

PS: I enjoy playing video games, but I also like to keep busy on other projects such as personal coding endeavors and work. That and, of course, watching the latest My Little Pony.

BG: I enjoy video games, watching amateur web media, web comics, reading, and animation. So of course, I try to catch the latest FIM as soon as I can.

Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?

PS: For fanfiction, I'm a real big fan of KKat and her story Fallout: Equestria. She did an amazing job with that, and her dedication to finishing such a long story is to be admired. As for published works, I probably don't read enough honest, printed stories as I should. Still, I was just at the right age for the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and I'm also a fan of Terry Brooks.

BG: For fanfiction, KKat and her story Fallout: Equestria. There are certain criteria for me to be able to get behind a grim-dark story and she hit all the right spots. For published works, I'm (to my great surprise) not as big of a reader as I should but so far I've liked all the Neil Gaiman stories I have read so far.

Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" - the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?

PS: I don't think my “ideal reader” really has a name, now that I think about it. I general know the kind of stories I like, and with Batty as my writing buddy I also like to make sure he enjoys my stories as well. Still, I don't think I have an ideal reader I can name as a real person.

BG: Ditto.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

PS: I'd say the thing is to get outside opinions, if you can. This is something that's true for both writing stories as it is writing code. Sometimes, if you stare at something too long, you have trouble seeing something that may be wrong, where a fresh pair of eyes may be able to quickly point out what's wrong.

The other thing I say is don't be afraid of re-writing. Sometimes, I find that I've written myself into a corner with a scene, or something just isn't flowing. If I can't figure out what's wrong, I'll gently place that original scene off to one side and then just start fresh. I'll go at the scene again, using the knowledge I gain from trying to write its first pass to better set up what I want to happen or make sure key dialogue comes naturally to the characters.

BG: Know this: just like any serious artist or even wannabe artist has a thousand bad drawings in them, everyone has at least ten bad stories in them. The only way to get better is with lots of practice and even then, sometimes you'll still mess up on something. For example, the reason I enjoy having Pen Stroke as a writing partner is that he often catches OOC moments and lost opportunities when I'm writing. I'm slowly getting better but I have a lot more practice and a couple of creative writing courses to attend before I'm anywhere near his level.

Also, use Speakonia with headphones to read back your lines if you're unable to read your stories out loud. Trust me, your editing skills will increase ten-fold.

What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)

PS: Since Batty and I hate getting into a fanfiction and then finding it's been abandoned, we like to try and write a whole story before posting it anywhere. This has both its advantages and drawbacks, but it also gives us time to make sure the story is coherent. Then, once we've got a story done or close enough to done we know we're going to finish it, we start looking for pre-readers to not only nit-pick grammar but to also give us general input about what they like and dislike about the story. Personally, I like to have at least three other people look over the story in some capacity.

That, and Batty and I have come to love a tool called Speakonia. You know how people say you should read what you write aloud to make sure it makes sense? Well, Speakonia is the ideal tool for that. It has a feature where it will read to you any text you copy to the computer's clipboard, so it becomes easy to have your computer read your own story to you so can listen and hear when things don't sound right.

BG: (Ninja'd on the Speakonia advice! O: ) I tend to get ideas from the strangest places, such as a blog post or a random quote. Two stories were inspired by blog quotes, which I give full credit for. I have a word file that I write down a sentence or two to describe my ideas and then pick the one that's the most inspiring to me at the time. If I can't write more than maybe a chapter, then it was probably a weak idea and I promptly discard it. If, on the other hand, I can write at least three chapters on my own before sharing it with Pen Stroke, then I probably have a strong enough story idea, even when I occasionally run into writer's block and need a second pair of hands to help me out.

As for the actual writing process, I write the same way Pen Stroke does: complete a full story and then submit it. Typically I write a full chapter first and then pass it to him, who goes over it. He'll usually trim the fat, point out some OOC behavior or at least set up the situation so it's less OOC, or add in a scene or two that seems obvious but I missed. The less he changes, the more I did right, typically.

What inspired you to write Creeping Darkness?

PS: It was a mixture of replaying the Alan Wake games and having pony on the brain at the same time. The two literally began to intermingle in my head, and that's where it all started.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Creeping Darkness?

PS: I can't really remember at this point any section that gave me a whole lot of trouble, but my memory for details like that tends to be shoddy at best. I can remember a difficult part being keeping the two tones of the source material balanced. That and making sure I wrote the story so that Alan Wake remained a secondary main character to Twilight Sparkle.

When you set out to write Creeping Darkness, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

PS: To be honest, I usually don't write my stories to explore a theme, but in the end I always end up having one that kind of grew out of the situation. When I started Creeping Darkness, is was really just me exploring and enjoying the crossover. Still, in the end I got at least a few themes, the strongest of which was learned by Alan Wake in that he didn't have to do everything himself. Friendship may not be magical in our world, but when you need help, friends are the ones you can turn to.

Where can readers drop you a line?



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