Monday, January 9, 2012

AVery Strange's Kindness's Reward

We're starting the week off with a beautiful tale of redemption and renewal, a story that's become mine and many others' favorite Trixie fanfic.

[Shipping] • 28,800 words
Fluttershy is used to nursing critters of all sorts back to health. When she comes across a broken showmare, however, it will take all her patience and care to help the other pony. Especially when Trixie begrudges her help every step of the way. Can she get through to her? And can Trixie learn that she doesn't need to stand alone to stand strong?

Hit the break for a few words from AVery - or is it Avery? find out below - and links to Kindness's Reward on your favorite pony sites. Don't forget that eBook copies await you on the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Judging by the amount of time I spend there, the internet. No seriously, most of the time in Massachusetts.

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

Oh, I’m a college student. Usually leaves me with time to write. By which I mean I write straight through most of my classes.

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

I never actually knew it growing up! Well, only in passing. Then my friend linked me episode one of FiM in... I want to say May, I don’t have the best memory. I was hooked five minutes in.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Season one, episode one, will always be special to me because it proves how much you can do with such a simple premise. Maybe it wasn’t the funniest, but it provided so much world-building, and the characters were astounding. The humor still had me giggling nigh-constantly at that.

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)?

Purely on canon? I’d have to go with Twilight. She gets decent character development and backstory, and is just so adorably dorkish. Mostly it’s the fact she plays the straight man to a lot of the others’ antics, almost being “the sarcastic one” and I love that kind of humor. I love Fluttershy as well, but her canon is kind of bad... If we extend it to the fandom interpretation of characters, it’s a toss up between Fluttershy and Luna, at least pre-season 2 Luna. Nothing against canon Luna, but she can’t really match what the whole community came up with.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I am A Very Strange person. Also my first name’s actually Avery. Yes it’s a girl’s name too.

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

I’ve toyed with the idea for years; I have an active imagination I suppose. I was “writing” fanfiction when I was seven just imagining where I’d go if I was a Pok√©mon trainer. I’d never really written anything substantial, certainly not a full story, until MLP came up.

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

To be honest, ideally if I’m not writing or working on schoolwork I’m sleeping. If I can’t muster up the energy to write, I do have a few video games, and I enjoy board games when I can get friends together.

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

Hummm. In terms of fanfiction I’m not saying, I don’t really have a single favorite, nor do I read a lot of it. For published novels, I enjoy the works of L. E. Modesitt, I think he influenced my ideas on world-building. Terry Pratchett’s a lark, but after you read a few books in a row they start to feel formulaic.

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?

Ideally, no one. I’m writing because it’s fun. I often forget that, but I don’t think I’m doing any great deeds or even that I’m producing art. I’m having fun, and readers can come and go as they please. I forget this sometimes and worry about everypony’s opinion and that’s when things go wrong. I guess my ideal writer is me. Perhaps that’s selfish, but I often seem to be my own worst critic as well, so it works.

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

Oh boy, do I ever. First off, the same piece of advice any artist will tell you - just start producing something. You really don’t have to worry about it being good, because there’s nothing worse then nothing at all. The more practice you get putting ideas to paper, the easier it becomes. For this purpose it’s really helpful to write what you think, even if your thoughts are disorganized.

Secondly, accept that you’re not going to be good at it for a while. Overconfidence is almost as bad as a lack of confidence. If you can’t accept criticism, you won’t improve, and you’ll keep receiving criticism. The best thing to do is head it off at the pass and become your own worst critic. Put down that draft, give it a couple days, and then come back when you’re in a fresh mindset and do your best to tear it apart. As long as you’re trying and improving your work, you’re a better writer than most.

Third and lastly, sometimes ideas just don’t work! Don’t get discouraged if your drafts keep running dry at chapter 4. I myself have 4 stories out there (not counting a smattering of short pieces) and yet about 30 different drafts on file. Recycle or combine ideas you don’t want to let go, but don’t sit there at a blank page. Some people benefit from plotting things out, sometimes you might want to try to sum the entire story in a paragraph, sometimes you just need to write and see where it goes. Remember step one - as long as you’re writing, you’re making progress.

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

I come up with an idea, sometimes a scene or other times just a single “what if” statement in my head. I can think “where does this go” and “how did we get here” and build a story outwards from there. I don’t outline so much as just get a feel for the story. So far I’ve written shorter works because of this, since it’s easier to hold the whole story in my head the smaller it is. The first draft I make is a skeletal one, rushing through the plot to get characters from point A to point B. Then I set it aside for a day or two (this is important! You need to ‘reset’ before editing) and give it another go, fleshing out scenes, rewriting paragraphs and making sure it flows naturally. Then I give it to editors (one, two sometimes) and get their opinions - I don’t look for grammar and spelling errors so much as just comments on what makes sense as a reader. Did I over-explain? Skim too much? Go too fast? Does this dialogue sound awkward? Et cetera. Then I go over what my editors had to say, typically throwing out a couple paragraphs and expanding others again, and out goes the final draft.

What inspired you to write Kindness’s Reward?

I won’t name names, but I was rather unhappy with ‘Twixie’ stories up to that point. More than that, her character felt flatter in fanon than in canon. I wanted to see her shipped with somepony else, and once I thought of Fluttershy my muse went wild. More ideas just kept coming after that, especially as I began chatting to my future editor on the work. It really “wrote itself” to a point.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Kindness’s Reward?

The scene with the dragon took a lot of redoing, and I’m still not 100% happy with it. Action scenes are a bit difficult for me to pace, and I have to convey a sense of urgency while still making every detail unambiguous. Other than that, Trixie’s character took a little work, because I actually hated the pony before writing this. Believe it or not, I warmed up to her by the end of the story...

When you set out to write Kindness’s Reward, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Trixie stories are often about redemption, and it was definitely on my mind. I wanted to start with her canon character, and make something off of that. In line with that, I honestly wanted to prove she was a character in her own right. She isn’t treated as such, even by most “good” shipping fics involving her, because even then she’s typically just a partner for Twilight, no real depth given to her. I dare you to find more than a couple shipping stories where her love for Twilight is even explored or given context! She just shows up, usually already inexplicably in love, and that’s the end of it. I wanted to give her more.

Where can readers drop you a line? or if you want

Is there anything else you'd like to add?