Friday, December 30, 2011

Cloud Wander's Tonight I Shall Be Laughter

We resume our regularly-scheduled pony reading with our first Comedy entry - lighter fare for the end of the year. Keep an eye out for subtle allusions to both historical figures and one of the best comic fantasy authors of our day.

[Comedy] • 8,500 words
Luna decides to work on her Element of Laughter. The Commander of the Lunar Guard gives chase.

Hit the break for a few more well-turned words from Cloud Wander, and links to Tonight I Shall Be Laughter on the ponynet. Check out the Downloads page for an eBook that works for you!

Where do you live?

San Diego, California.

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

Database administrator, programmer. (I've worked in a number of fields; currently, I'm in education.)

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

A thread on MetaFilter brought the current generation of MLP to my attention. After reading Lauren Faust's comments about her goals for the series (girl-positive, smart-positive), I took a look at an episode or two in YouTube.

I can't stress enough how much Faust's essay on her goals for MLP influenced my decision to watch. I understood her impatience with the lack of girl-positive programming. I had little prior knowledge of the MLP universe, but her essay compelled me to learn more, not just about the current generation of MLP, but of the generations that came before.

I decided I enjoyed this show when, half-way through The Ticket Master, I realized I actually wanted to know how Twilight resolved this issue with her friends. From that point, there was no looking back.

Here's how I've described this to others: suppose you suddenly found a cache of classic Warner Bros cartoons. From the "golden age" of Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese. Suppose they offered you a window into their world. Wouldn't you like to come inside, look around and make new friends?

Do you have a favorite episode?

Troubling. I point new viewers to Winter Wrap-Up, but my favorite is Suited for Success. While watching this episode, I finally "got" Rarity and realized that she and I are not so very different. The homage to Sunday in the Park with George is just icing on the cupcake.

An embarrassing admission: I did not, initially, like Rarity at all. I assumed that she would be the "mean girl", the oh-don't-hate-me-because-I'm-beautiful character. I am astounded by how wrong I as. After the Suited for Success episode, I felt I understood her completely. For all of our differences, she is very much like me.

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)?

Ha ha! For the longest time, I couldn't decide on a favorite! Right now, it's Twilight Sparkle, because she is so much like the daughter I wish I had.

(Have you see the PMV "The Stars Will Aid In Her Escape"? Watching this, I understood why I love Twilight: she has courage of the heart. In real life, I would be privileged to be her friend.)

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

It started with Monty Python's "Airline Pilot" sketch. I was trying to come up with the pegasus equivalent of "Bob" and I wondered what some simple pegasus parents would think of. "Let's call her... I dunno, 'Sky'." "It's a boy, dear." "Okay... how about 'Cloud'?"

"Cloud Wander" comes from Wordsworth, obviously: "I wandered lonely as a cloud."

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

I've written, previously, in RPG journals and drew a humorous comic strip that was well-received by the fan community. That was long ago, however. I have returned to "the herd" but newly.

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

Reading. A good writer is, first, a good reader.

I can't stress this enough.

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

Terry Pratchett is who I want to be when I grow up. My favorite story is (long version) "The Lord of the Rings", (short version) "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

The thing that both have in common, now that I think of it, is that both are mindful of the point-of-view of the narrator. One of the main weaknesses I see in other's writing is that they are "describing a movie," rather than getting down into the heads of their primary characters.

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?

I write for my teenage self, the boy I was at 14, who was desperate for escape.

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

Read. Write. Do the first extensively, and think about the "why" and "what" of the authors you like. For the second, have confidence in yourself and write without fear.

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

What works for me is to just sit and write without concern for the outcome. OK, maybe a story will emerge, but, if not, at least some bits and pieces will be produced that might be useful later. Over time, I've learned to have confidence that whatever I write, there will be something there worth reading.

What inspired you to write Tonight I Shall Be Laughter?

Equestria Daily's "Happy Luna" competition.

To expand on this a bit: the story was written over two weekends and was constrained by the rules of the challenge ("Happy Luna", "socks", etc.). While this was a challenge, it was also helpful, in that it forced me to restrict my story to what I could accomplish within the time constraints.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Tonight I Shall Be Laughter?

The biggest problem was structuring the story so that Princess Luna and Captain Bucephalus had "equal" roles. In the end, I think Luna had the strongest story, emotionally, while Bucephalus had the most "action".

When you set out to write Tonight I Shall Be Laughter, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

When I set out, no. Looking back, I'm struck by how urgent it was that both characters get out of the Tower, the dull, dead-end lives that they had lived until then. This is why I said, above, "have confidence in your writing." You may discover unexpected qualities in what you write. Goodness knows, I have.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The truest thing I ever wrote:

“Bill, let me tell you something: you, me, Blue, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Sweetie Belle and all the folk down in Ponyville, all the earth ponies and the pegasus ponies and the unicorn ponies, the kelpies and the cuddlefish, we all began with nothing more than this: once upon a time.

“In a world like this, like Equestria, a story is a very powerful thing. Maybe the most powerful thing there is.

“So if you tell a story out loud, and if you believe in it, well, maybe the world will listen and like your story better than the one it has, and the world will believe you, too. And follow you.

“Bill, if you believe you have a chance to be a unicorn, then I’d be a foal to bet against you.”

This is from "The Shadow Over Ponyville", the second story I submitted to Equestria Daily.

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