Friday, April 19, 2013

Eakin's Hard Reset

Today's story is a thoroughly entertaining romp through Canterlot as everyone's favorite purple unicorn, over and over again. We're treated to a first-hand (hoof?) look at her snarky mind... and how she faces the consequences of having no consequences, for a little while at least.

[Adventure][Dark] • 35,000 words
Twilight isn't having a very good day. An experimental spell blew up in her face, an army of changelings is attacking Canterlot, and she just died. Yet somehow, it looks like it's going to keep going downhill from here.

Given the chance to correct what's gone wrong, Twilight swears she's going to fix all this even if it kills her. Which it will. Frequently.

Hit the break for a chat with Eakin, and links to Hard Reset out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab yourself an ebook copy over at the Downloads page! (And note that the online version features a bonus alternate ending.)


Where do you live?

Washington, D.C.

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

Working on a Master’s degree in cyber security, and also some stuff I can’t really talk about because I signed a nondisclosure agreement.

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

I first saw it right after the end of the first season, when I found myself with a surplus of free time one week and decided to investigate what this show was that was producing all these strange yet awesome mashup videos that were appearing everywhere on the internet. Blew through the first season in two days, then moved on to other things for a while and came back about two weeks before season two started. I’d say it was all the great music that was popping up that sucked me into the fandom, and everything snowballed from there.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Oh, man, that question is just mean. Probably “Cutie Mark Chronicles” just for all the worldbuilding and backstory in that episode. But obviously I have a weakness for time loops, so “It’s About Time” is up there too.

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)?

Just canon? Twilight Sparkle in a landslide. I’m so like her it’s a little bit scary. I think that’s the reason writing from her perspective worked so well in Hard Reset. There are passages in there that are basically just me transcribing what I would think in that situation.

Bringing fanon into the picture, Luna and Celestia. My not-so-secret wish for Season 4 is a “day in the life” episode around those two governing Equestria.

Favorite supporting character to write is AJ. Of the Mane six she’s probably the most well rounded. She lacks any exaggerated personality quirk and is easily the most flexible character from a writing standpoint, slipping easily between roles as the story calls for them.

Least favorite is Fluttershy. Sorry Fluttershy! You’re sweet but also kind of boring.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

It’s my middle name.

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

I’ve always loved writing, but the first time I ever did anything that wasn’t for my own amusement or academics was writing sketch comedy for a theatre group in college (CHELSEA 11:17! Stands for Creative Handwritten Episodes Lovingly Submitted or Extracted from Ass) that handed out scripts to audience members and forced them to do cold performances of them, usually while drunk. In a way I can still see that influence in what I write now. I think my dialogue and characters are pretty solid and punchy, but I could stand to devote more words to physical descriptions and setting which obviously weren’t necessary when I was writing for the stage.

Pony is the first time I ever tried my hand at really longform stuff, but even if I eventually move on from this fandom I could see myself writing professionally, or making an effort to at least.

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

Between school, work, and writing I spend a lot of time staring at a computer monitor, so my other interests are active outdoorsy things. Hiking is always a good way to clear my head. I enjoy rock climbing (mostly in gyms, not about to try scaling Everest or anything) and I ran a half marathon a few years ago before all the aforementioned sitting in front of a computer. I’m trying to get back into that.

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

I’m going to give the same answer as about half the authors you interview and say Terry Pratchett. I read Good Omens when I was nine and re-read it so many times the cover eventually fell off. Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files series have been my go-to fantasy series for the last year or so, though. Getting out of the fantasy genre, I always quite enjoyed Michael Crichton. Between him and Orson Scott Card I learned pretty quickly how to separate my feelings for an author’s work from my feelings about their personal views and politics. When I’m not reading fiction I gravitate towards economics and political science. For that, the only author that jumps to mind is Michael Lewis. I guess I like a little bit of everything.

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?

The reader who gives constructive criticism! I try to give my readers something to think about, and I’d rather read one comment that’s two or three paragraphs of “here’s what I liked, here’s what I didn’t, and here’s what the story made me consider,” than fifty “This is good!” or (ugh) “MOAR!!!” comments, because 90% of the time the former sort of comment makes me think of what I’ve written in a new way, and sometimes even changes the direction the story develops in. Usually for the better.

Also readers who tell me that I’ve inspired them to do something of their own, either based on my stuff or independently, always gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

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

Lots! If you’re writing dialogue, read it aloud or act it out and you’ll see pretty quickly when something feels awkward and unnatural. It’s also a great way to spot typos and errors that your eyes might otherwise skim over.

Read a lot. More importantly, read a lot of stuff from different genres and authors. Learn a little bit about a lot of things. Not only will you be a better writer, you’ll have more interesting conversations at parties. Oh, and go to parties. Meet people. Most of my characters’ voices and ways of speaking are based at least somewhat off of people I know.

To utterly mangle the work of Charles Bukowski, there are people who want to be writers and people who want to write. Figure out which one you are early on and if it’s the former reconsider why you’re doing what you’re doing. All my best stuff comes out of what could charitably be described as a manageable madness.

Plan ahead. Even if the plan changes as you’re writing the story (it will) never just write aimlessly. Every scene should have a readily identifiable point and should leave your reader knowing something they didn’t before they read it, whether it’s about your plot or a character.

I got a lot out of How Not to Write a Novel by Mittelmark and Newman. Most hilarious style guide I’ve ever read. I’d recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in writing.

There’s little excuse for sloppy spelling or grammar in this day and age. Use Google! I’ve used it to look up “How to use semicolons” at least four times, or to check the spelling or definition of a word.

Finally, disabuse yourself of the idea that there’s any correlation between effort and quality. I wrote An Important Letter in about 90 minutes and I love it. I dragged The Pony Who Wasn’t Special out of my head over four days of concentrated effort and in retrospect I think it’s just OK. On a smaller scale, it’s likely that the tiny line you throw into a scene without thinking will grab all of your reader’s attention and they’ll totally ignore what you expected to be the epic moment of triumph that you’ve been building up to for four chapters. Learn to take it in stride. In the end, you’re the only critic you need to please but if you ever write off criticism with “well, that guy just doesn’t get it,” you’re probably wrong. Be the bigger person and embrace the criticism, because if you don’t you won’t get better.

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

My process is... weird. I don’t have an editor, or a pre-reader, or anyone standing between the raw output I put up and what I post. I have little self control, and after some basic proofreading I throw up chapters the minute I finish them. I do multiple drafts of each chapter in my head, though. I don’t need a lot of time to slip into “writer mode,” and any chunk of fifteen minutes or so can become writing time thanks to the Google Drive app on my phone. Even if I only get a sentence or two down that’s more than I had before. When I do have a block of time to devote to writing, I usually slap a single song on endless repeat and go to town. Something catchy, if not good. I once wrote 7,000 words over 137 repetitions of “Caramelldansen.” Don’t judge me.

What inspired you to write Hard Reset?

An easy one! The “Choose” storyline of the web comic Skin Horse, written by FIMFiction’s very own Skywriter, was the direct inspiration for Hard Reset.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Hard Reset?

Not as such, although the genesis of “Closure” is sort of interesting. I was originally planning to end the story (alt-ending notwithstanding) after “Perfect Run,” but people mentioned that it felt somewhat abrupt and I agreed. I figured I’d bang out a quick epilogue and that would be that. Ha. No. Thirty-six hours and 10,000 words later, I knew I had something special even if I wasn’t entirely sure how it had happened. I’m glad it did though, because now I can’t imagine the story without it.

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

When I set out to write Hard Reset it was going to be four chapters long with no alternate ending, Twilight would have discovered that the only way to figure out who was a changeling was to passionately make out with them, and the changelings ended up opening a brothel/embassy in Canterlot in exchange for cancelling the invasion. The less said about my plan at the outset the better.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Sending me a PM on FIMFiction would probably be best.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I like helping people! If you have questions about something you’re writing, or want to banter back and forth about story ideas, or talk about stories in general, or even just rant about something in your life that’s getting under your skin to a sympathetic ear I’m available. I’m a horrible proofreader, though, so that isn’t a service I’m offering. Try not to take offense if I log on and off without replying. Half the time I’m on FIMFiction I’m on a phone or iPad and I prefer to respond to PMs with a keyboard.

1 comment :

  1. Tried to read this tree times now, but I just can't find it engaging. Characterization is questionable and the plot is consistently either dull or obvious. It just plods from one detail to the next without offering any surprises or interesting twists. I'll never know if it was a nice idea or not, but the formula is altogether too simplistic for me.

    Sorry, Eakin.

    ReplyDelete