Friday, November 25, 2011

Patchwork Poltergeist's Somewhere Only We Know

Today's Vault entry is a beautiful, sad story of a broken mare who dreams of a better life... or a brash young pegasus haunted by nightmares of a world without color.

[Tragedy] • 4,700 words
Every night, in a little stable just outside of town, an old mare lays down to sleep. And every night she has the same dream of rainbows and open sky...

Hit the break for a look into the mind of Patchwork Poltergeist, along with links to the story on just about every pony site out there! And don't forget to check out the Downloads page to get Somewhere Only We Know in your favorite eBook format.

Where do you live?

I’m just outside San Antonio, Texas. Or inside of it. I can never tell with suburbs.

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

At the moment I’m a full time student at the University of Texas San Antonio, while sometimes also doing freelance editing or writing work when I can find it.

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

I think I’m one of the five people that actually knew about it before it premiered and was excited about it. My Little Pony was a thing that I always wanted to like but never could because aside from Midnight Castle there was never anything really worth liking, aside from the occasional guilty pleasure. I always thought that the franchise had the potential to be awesome (as evidenced by Midnight Castle) but was never allowed to be awesome. Knowing the good work Lauren Faust does, I was excited to see if Friendship Is Magic would finally give me the show I’d been waiting on for almost two decades.

But it didn’t. It was even better than I ever could have hoped.

Around the point where I realised just how deep the character writing and worldbuilding was I knew that I was in this thing for a long haul. I think that point in time was Griffin the Brush Off. Or when Twilight ate the daisies at the restaurant table and I geeked out because ponies were really doing pony things for the first time in the franchise. These weren’t just humans in bright pony outfits, they were actually ponies and the world around them reflected that, from the little stomping and snorting and whinny sounds to the fact that their cups have straws since they don’t have hands.

Do you have a favorite episode? [Editor's note: at the time of this interview, the most recent aired episode was The Cutie Pox.]

Look Before You Sleep, definitely. I love what they call “bottle episodes” where it’s just a few characters in one space for a long time because they’re slower episodes that get to expand on characters and interaction and all of that awesome stuff. Normally I’m not crazy about odd couple dynamics, but this really made it work. Twilight is so adorkable in her enthusiasm about the whole thing. I loved discovering that Rarity actually isn’t fussy for the sake of being fussy, nor is she just a neat freak - it rather exemplifies her attention to detail and just a pinch of OCD. For the record, I make sandwiches the same way she makes s’mores and gets into bed. And Applejack... okay I didn’t learn too much about Applejack besides that she’s absolutely fun to watch. I don’t know why, but everything she does is just so fun to watch!

Also, every single sleep over I ever had went exactly like this. The only thing different is we weren’t stuck in a storm and a tree never fell through a window.

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)?

So, that run on sentence about Rarity up there? That’s the moment where Rarity became my favorite character. She’d been building up to it with her cute little melodrama moments and my noticing how sincere she is about helping everypony look and feel their best. Suited for Success and Sisterhooves Social just made her top-tier position stick.

But if I included the fandom’s input... well, the answer would still be Rarity. But Princess Celestia would come in at a close second. While I got tired of Tyrant!Celestia real quick, I still like the multiple interpretations of her character I see in the fandom, (even if I don’t always agree with them). I especially ilove the way she appears in Egophiliac’s fanart. I’d say that my favorite fanon background pony is Caesar, but aside from my own little fanon there’s not actually much material about my favorite monocle pony.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I actually don’t remember where the Patchwork part came from. “Patch” was attached to some previous handles, but I don’t recall the origin of it. I think it was from the Patchwork Girl of Oz, to imply I’m a bunch of things at once and a giant weirdo-pants. I have a habit of using the same prefix for my internet names, so when I came to a Danny Phantom message board I attaches Poltergeist to the end, and the name eventually stuck.

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

I’ve been writing - writing for real and not just taking advantage of school assignments - since I was about fourteen. (Ten years! I just realised that. I feel old now...) About half of that writing is fanfiction, though anything written before 2004 I’m not too proud of. I keep it up on my account because I like remembering how much I’ve improved. I had a long lull in fanfic for a while until I got into Danny Phantom around 2006 and decided it was my duty to write character studies all over the place. I’m glad I did because it reminded me how to work with established characters, how to pace my writing, and most importantly, how to frame, edit, and end an ongoing piece. I’m barely in that fandom anymore, but what I got from it is invaluable.

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

I’m starting to think a huge chunk of my time is spent on walks and music. I can’t sit still and listen to music for some reason. Besides that, I mostly spend time reading and watching films and the handful of television still worth watching (that’s what, six shows?). Oh, and video games. I’m going through the newest Professor Layton at the moment and failing epically at half of the puzzles.

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

I don’t really think I actually have a favorite author. All the authors with multiple books I like have never written anything I’d put on my top shelf, and the books I do have on my top shelf are the only thing I like by that author. That said, my favorite novels and stories are a lot easier. Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is easily my all-time favorite book. I think I’ve read and reread it at least eight times and made me cry for reasons I don’t quite understand on at half of those times. Honorable mentions go to Watership Down, The Martian Chronicles, and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Meanwhile, on the fanfiction front The Old Stories was so good I was actually kind of mad at it for being so freaking amazing. Paradise is one of my top favorites as well; I drop whatever I’m doing as soon as I learn there’s an update.

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?

That’s a really interesting question. I’ve never really thought about it. I never have any real scope of what my writing looks like to other people, because everyone reads differently. I guess my ideal reader would be someone that takes their time, can spot subtlety, and is willing to occasionally take a chance. Honestly, my ideal reader is someone that really appreciates what I worked on. I’d like it if they picked up everything I wanted them to and noticed the cute references or whatever, but I actually think that in the end if someone doesn’t “get it” then the fault is probably on me and I ought to just do better next time.

The only thing I can ask of a reader is that they give me an honest chance. When fanon, maybe more so than canon, clashes with fanfiction it sometimes turns off readers before the story has a chance to prove itself. The same thing goes for characters that are unpopular for one reason or another - there are several very good stories about Snails that don’t get near the attention they deserve, and I’m fairly sure the reason for that was simply because people don’t like Snails. I’ve seen several stories get automatic one-stars for... whatever reason. Trolls? Haters of the genre? Of characters? Who knows, but the thought that a good story was punished by somepony that likely didn’t even read halfway through makes my heart frown a little. From experience, I can say a non-reader feels much worse than a “bad” reader, or bad reactions. I know everyone has their biases, but there’s always that exceptional ten percent. What I’m basically getting at is don’t judge a book by it’s cover and I’ll step off this soapbox now.

Besides that, I’d ideally have a reader that’s nice enough to tell me what they thought of my story. I like to know what I’m doing right or how they felt or what I’m doing wrong. Especially what I’m doing wrong.

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

Read. I know this is the answer everyone gives but that answer is common for a reason. Seriously, read. Read novels from all sorts of genres, try short stories, read stuff in first, second, and third person. Read good books and see what it is that made them good. Read bad books and see where they went wrong. Bad books are fantastic learning tools. Twilight may not be very good but it taught me so much about what not to do. (Also gave me a boost of confidence because hey, that got published why not me?)

Aside from that, I often find that if I have real writer’s block, reading something else almost always helps my juices flow again. Said Patch who’s been blocked on her Silver Spoon story for six months.

I also suggest the use of outlines. It doesn’t need to be a four page detailed affair, just a couple of bullet points about where the story’s going. If you know where the story is going, even vaguely, it makes everything a lot easier.I also find that in cases where one is struggling to write, see if you can find a different location to write in. Change of scenery can work wonders sometimes.

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

Usually I have at least two drafts, one handwritten and a typed final draft. I find it easier to write on paper because that way I can write everywhere and in notebooks I’m not distracted by editing or triple-guessing word choice. Plus, in notebooks I can make sticky notes and additional outlines if I need them. I know I could probably do all that on a laptop, but it’s just easier that way. It means that for sure I’ll go back and edit when I type it up. I used to do my initial draft typed, and in the process almost always did a really shoddy edit job. Speaking of which, I usually send my WIPs and complete drafts by my friends for some quick editing, since I don’t do a very good job by myself. I think I could really use an actual beta reader specifically for Pony fics, though. It’s always best to have a neutral editor that’s well versed in the fandom you’re writing for.

What inspired you to write Somewhere Only We Know?

I’m not entirely certain. I think what happened was several stray ideas ended up combining. I know it was sparked by the use of the song for the Winnie the Pooh trailer and thought that it would fit ponies, but how that morphed into the idea of dual realities I’m not sure. I think it might have been from a TV Tropes Wild Mass Guessing theorizing that the series was a dying dream of Rarity in an alternate reality where she was lost in the Diamond Dog mines. I took that and changed it to an alternate grimdark reality where Equestria was industrialised and run by Dogs instead of Ponies and the story was from Rarity’s point of view. The visions of Equestria as we knew it were dreams sent to all ponies via Celestia and Luna, trapped in the sun and moon because that was the only comfort they could give.

But then I sat down to write and suddenly Rainbow Dash. I don’t know how Dash got there but since it was working so well I kept it. Besides, a Pegasus fit in with the themes of freedom a lot better anyway.

Humans actually came in because I’ve always found the idea of the contrast between actual ponies and our own candy color ponies fascinating. I also was always interested in the idea of somehow writing a Black Beauty crossover, even though I had no idea how to do it. I’m pretty sure that idea subconsciously combined with the Diamond Dog idea and here we are!

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Somewhere Only We Know?


I knew in this alternate universe, Dash had the whole mane cast living in the stables in the past, and Fluttershy was the only one I just couldn’t make fit without feeling awkward. I could modify names like Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, and Applejack and Rarity are feasible pony names already. Pinkie Pie’s got the knack for being recognizable just from a vague description but I just couldn’t find a place to describe Fluttershy without making it seem forced in.

My editor kept jokingly kept suggesting that maybe Fluttershy went to the knackers. Somehow it because a running gag and now that’s solution to every writing problem I have.

“Editor, I don’t know if Diamond Tiara is coming in too soon or too late!”
“Send Fluttershy to the knackers!”
“...Editor, I think you are trying to get me stoned to death.”

In the end, I decided simply not to mention Fluttershy. After all, the major characters I was concerned with were Applejack and Pinkie Pie so I decided to just cut her out of the story and hope noone noticed. As far as I know, noone did. Except just now because I just told everyone.

When you set out to write Somewhere Only We Know, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

I mostly wanted to explore the theme of separate realities, and how if one were aware of the other how it plays out. Is Dash reaming of Rainbows or is Rainbow dreaming of Dash? Are they separate functional realities dreaming of each other? Is Equestria actually pony heaven? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on the reader, really. I wrote it to be openly interpreted.

In the end, what’s dreaming of what doesn’t really matter. What does is the feelings that comes with it. Even in the grey, Dash can still manage to find happiness, even if it’s only when she’s sleeping with the knowledge that somewhere things are better. More importantly, it’s something that can’t ever be taken away from her. It’s more a story about joy than about sadness, and I view the ending as a happy one, though a little bittersweet.

(Also, look out for gopher holes when you’re running.)

Where can readers drop you a line?

Best bet is to get me on deviant art under the label cunningcoyote. I’m there all the time, and check my messages obsessively. Granted, if someone sent me an email or messaged me through I’d be sure to see it too, but I’m more likely to respond on DA. Be sure, I read every single thing anyone sends to me. I don’t always respond, because I don’t know what to say but I always read it.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Without a doubt, the response to Somewhere Only We Know blows the response to pretty much everything else I’ve written out of the water. I expected maybe... fifteen total responses with a couple of people who “got” it and a few manly tears. That’s more or less what I usually get. Instead I got over a hundred responses, the majority got it right away with lots and lots of manly tears. More than one brony told me that I made them cry themselves to sleep. I’ve never made anyone cry before. It makes me feel proud of my story, while also feeling kinda bad about feeling happy that I made someone cry. So basically I’m like “Haha I am totally aweso- Oh my god I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you so hard!”

(Not that I have room to talk. When Dash nuzzles Applejack because it’s the only thing she’s able to do, it almost always makes me cry, myself.)

Anyway, my point is I’m all kinds of amazed and flattered that I managed to affect so many bronies the way I did, and that I’m apparently good enough to be included in the Vault. On that, it’s fantastic that the Vault exists in the first place. And the hundreds of Pony fic and art and music. This fandom breeds creativity like mold on exceptionally wet bread. The good kind of mold, not the kind you breathe in and die from. Or... something.

The point is, I love you guys! Let’s all group hug!

No comments :

Post a Comment