Monday, December 19, 2011

Melionos' Black and White

Today's Vault entry is a sad, sweet story of love and loss that seems to connect and speak to its readers very well... possibly because, like our last entry, it draws a great deal from the author's own life.

[Shipping][Tragedy] • 7,400 words
Lyra receives a mysterious book from an old friend, confessing a depth of feelings she never knew existed.

As usual, hit the break for an interview with Melionos himself, and links to Black and White wherever fine pony literature can be found - and don't forget to get your copy from the Downloads page as well.

Where do you live?

I live in Lake Villa (actually closer to Gurnee), a Chicago suburb right on the edge of the Illinois/Wisconsin border.

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

I'm currently enrolled at Purdue University, without a job. I'm looking to fix the latter part of that relatively soon.

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

The Internet. I sadly cannot recall anything more specific than that. I imagine I realized I was a fan about 4-5 episodes into my first MLP: FiM marathon, like anypony else.

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

Just one? Not a fair question. I can't pick just one, but Sonic Rainboom, Sisterhooves Social, Dragonshy, A Dog and Pony Show, and Luna Eclipsed are among my favorites. Canon Luna blew my expectations away. "Yes, I can tell, by all the adoring shrieks of the children, as they run away." And Fluttershy's expression(s) while Luna was hugging her without her consent were priceless.

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)?

Rainbow Dash, though Fluttershy and Rarity are close behind. And no, my answer wouldn't change if I considered the fandom because we're so good at coming up with billions of interpretations of each character, the only one I can really get attached to is the canon one. Trixie is definitely growing on me though.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

"Melionos" (pronounced "meh-lie-on-os") came from a minor obsession with Greek-sounding names when I was younger. My other handle (my username on MMO-Champion), "Bluesparks", is a reference to one of my favorite book series as a child, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. In said series, "blue sparks" is a recurring phrase used to describe the raw, natural state of free-floating magic. (Ironically, red is my favorite color.)

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

Surprisingly, no. I wrote only for schoolwork prior to entering the brony fandom, which happened around April/May 2011.

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

I can often be caught playing League of Legends or - on rarer occasions - drawing. Though most of the time I'm mentally beating myself for not writing. If anypony wants to add me on League of Legends (I'm on the North American server), my summoner name is "Melionos" (Karma/Fizz main).

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

Tough question. I'm not very well read. I'm attached to Eoin Colfer, though if I had to pick one story, it'd probably be Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.

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?

Funnily enough, I think I've already met my ideal reader, another member of the MMO-Champion brony community known as Kaorin (and Daetrin, to an ever-so-slightly lesser extent). She's intelligent and well-read enough to be highly resistant to diction-based seduction (don't read too far into that; essentially distracting the reader from plot holes or other no-nos with compelling/engaging words or phrases), while still remaining insightful enough to catch all the subtle things authors (often unconsciously) drop in their stories. And she still somehow manages to enjoy a story for what it's worth.

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

If you're just starting out, know that you're not going to be amazing right away. Realize that oftentimes, good critique is going to hurt. Look for people who read your work and say more than "I like it" or "I don't like it". Those are great confidence boosters, but they do nothing to help you improve. Know that what works for one person or one story may not work for another. If you get turned down by, say, the pre-readers of Equestria Daily, don't get discouraged, and don't take it personally. They are there to filter out all but the best of stories. From my experience, crossing that line is a hugely satisfying goal. Ask them what you can do to improve, what you can do to make your story stand out. If you let your reaction be "I'm just not good enough" or "They're all idiots that wouldn't know a good story if it gnawed off their forearm", you've already lost. Always be looking to improve, and don't abuse your finger of blame. Pointing that finger means you get to be lazy and not work to improve; it implies you feel you are entitled to being a good writer. Yes, it won't always be your fault, and yes, sometimes the pre-readers will be wrong. They're human too. If you think they're wrong, talk it over with them in a reasonable manner. Don't rage at them. Or about them, for that matter. It reflects poorly on you.

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

I usually start off with an idea of what I want to do. When I write, it's as though it were all the final draft. I write a part, tweak it, rewrite it, so on and so forth until I'm satisfied. I do all my work in Google Documents, where a few other fellow writers (willingly) reside as livereaders. I have five livereaders, all from the MMO-Champion brony community; Daetrin, Mixup, Kaorin, Isrozzis, and Valcron (in no particular order). Daetrin and Mixup have both been published on Equestria Daily; you can find their stories here and here, respectively. Valcron, if you don't know him already, is a well-known and rather talented artist around the bronydom. You can find his deviantArt page over here.

What inspired you to write Black and White?

In short, bronies. By that point, my heart had been warmed enough by bronies to feel the compulsion to share the only story of my life (so far) worth sharing, one I hadn't told anypony else, not even my parents.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Black and White?

[Spoiler alert!] I had two that stand out. The first was the part where Octavia recalls the quote Lyra told her; I genuinely can't remember that quote, and it was insanely aggravating that I couldn't until I decided to just move on. Lucky for me, it worked without it. The other was figuring out how to end it, likely the most controversial part of the story. It's true that I kept my vow of avoiding contacting Lyra, but nothing ever happened between us past that, besides me writing this story about it. I'm 99.9% sure she hasn't read it, and I really hope she doesn't. She's happier not knowing.

When you set out to write Black and White, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Besides "tell my story", no, no specific messages or themes in particular. It evolved into what it is - a mishmash of self-absorbed emotional splurging and philosophical waffle - while I was writing it. I'm still a little awed at how well-received it was, since I had basically grabbed Octavia, yelled "MINE" like a Finding Nemo-seagull, and proceeded to inject her with my soul.

Where can readers drop you a line?

My deviantArt page,, or a PM on MMO-Champion. I primarily use a different Twitter account than the one I linked at the end of Black and White, which, for technical reasons, is virtually dead. I'm considering using my main one for my brony interactions. (Twitter, I have to ask, why can I use multiple-logins on my iPod touch but not on my PC? I don't have a wireless router around me at all times).

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

To all you fic writers: Use justification alignment, not left-align. Justify spaces words so every line is filled to the margins, left-align doesn't. It's subtle, but it makes your story feel cleaner and more professional to readers, I guarantee it. Also, when writing your description, bear in mind that your description, title, and your coverart (as Past Sins so thoughtfully taught us) are what sell a story on Equestria Daily. Only a few authors have the status of "X story is by him/her? I have to read it now!" - don't count on that. Make sure your description hooks people in a non-cliche manner (i.e. "protagonist has amnesia"). Tell people enough to get them interested, but don't spoil anything. I try to lay the story's foundation out, but while leaving things maddeningly open to interpretation so people are compelled to read the story. Find something that works for you.

I'd like to give another shoutout to everypony in the MMO-Champion brony thread, currently on part three after the first two threads broke VBulletin with a combined total of almost 17,000 pages (18,747 pages, at time of writing, if we include part three) at 20 posts per page. A huge thanks to the brony community for showing me the support my parents have declined to provide me as well as producing massive quanties of enjoyable, high-quality fan creations. A shoutout to Sethisto, Cereal, Phoe, Tek, and all the pre-readers for maintaining such a respectable and handy blog for all us lazy bronies. And last but not least, RBDash47, whom I can thank for the opportunity to be interviewed and being a genuinely sensitive, thoughtful person.

Umm...go buy Bastion and/or Okami. My two favorite games of all time; trust me, you won't regret it. The two-bit, half-baked prophet said so! The world cannot have enough people to drool with me about how incredibly awesome they both are.

Keep a weather eye on the horizon, cap'n, for the writing has not ceased!

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