Friday, May 11, 2012

Violet CLM's Home Is Where the Hearts Are

I've always thought that this sort of thing would have to be pretty common in a place like Equestria, if sentiments like "everypony equal, everypony loved" are the true motto of the land. Doesn't mean it all goes perfectly right away, of course...

[Shipping] • 27,700 words
Rainbow Dash blinked at Rarity. “Come again?”
“Polyamory. What you’re trying to build with Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy is called a polyamorous relationship."
“Okay,” said Rainbow Dash, “fine. So I know what it’s called. But what I really need to know is how I’m going to make it work!”

Hit the break for an interview with Violet CLM, and links to Home Is Where the Hearts Are around the ponynet. Don't forget to grab a copy from the Downloads page, if you're into that sort of thing!

Where do you live?

Santa Cruz, California. ‘sup, BONC?

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

Unemployed. Anyone need a coder (desktop or web)?

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

It was all over the web last summer, y'know? Around a year ago I went on youtube looking for a video of the song “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit” from How I Met Your Mother and found one about Rarity, so I used that because I knew ponies were popular even if I didn't know why. Later I played a Rainbow Dash reskin of Robot Unicorn Attack, and also Story of the Blanks, with little to no idea of what was going on while I did so. Finally I tried watching the show itself, specifically the first five episodes to give it a fair trial. I wasn't too impressed, but eventually I came back and watched a few more just to be safe, and a few more, and gradually that impression changed.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Season 1: Green Isn't Your Color. It has a much better storyline than many other episodes in that there's very little repetition of events or scenarios -- compare to e.g. Luna Eclipsed or Look Before You Sleep -- and it has some great visuals, strong character dynamics, and a non-simple lesson.

Season 2: Probably Hurricane Fluttershy. It was advertised as this generic Fluttershy episode about Fluttershy's generic Fluttershy problems, coming a scant few weeks after Putting Your Hoof Down, and then it ended up as this amazing look at the Rainbow Dash/Fluttershy dynamic with lots of great action on the side. I'm also utterly fascinated that Blossomforth, a toy character, made it in the show -- that's never happened before.

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)?

You'd think Fluttershy from the above episode picks, but I'd have to say Rarity. She's very complicated, plus her profession and aspirations make it easy to tie her into all sorts of stuff outside of Ponyville. (Sweetie Belle is the best CMC, for the record. On the one hand she's not as bright as the other two, so she's easy to make fun of, but on the other hand she's clearly working on becoming a leader figure. Every once in a while you can see her directing her friends around. And her dynamic with Rarity is also really nice and ripe for both humor and pathos.)

Putting aside canon, I love Colgate. This may be kind of obvious because she's my avatar picture and I ship her with Twilight every chance I get.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

That's a longish story that isn't remotely relevant to MLP. It comes from the Jazz Jackrabbit fandom, tho.

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

I started writing... when I was about 3, I think. I've written Jazz Jackrabbit, Homestuck, Harry Potter, LEGO toys (back in the day), and various miscellaneous or original stories. You can find some non-pony stuff on my Archive Of Our Own and accounts.

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

Coding, reading, playing games. I'm not an especially interesting person.

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

I don't really have a favorite author, but for novels, I can't get away from Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. It's the perfect world-building story; it runs almost exclusively on the wonder of discovery with practically no care at all given to the human characters involved in that discovery. (Which is weird when you consider that a lot of my stories lately are mostly dialogue, but oh well.)

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 gets every single reference I make, however oblique. The line in HIWtHA about FS/RD's relationship not “softly and silently vanishing away” is based on The Hunting of the Snark, for example. Likewise, I love to include the names of blindbag ponies or minor details from MLP G1, and if you recognize them, well, that's great!

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

Consider the issues of breadth and depth, I guess. If I don't feel like thinking much, I'm happy to read through a bagfull of short and sappy Twidashes or whatever, but they're hardly the highest level to aspire to. A story should be about something, and not just “about” the actual events that occur in it. Fortunately MLP itself provides a very easy way of thinking about this because it has those formerly-ubiquitous friendship reports. The episodes aren't really “about” a boastful traveling magician, or a many-headed monster attacking someone who's carrying frogs around, or a doll being enchanted so that everyone falls in love with it. They're about, if nothing else, the lessons. A few episodes go farther than that and are also about an intercharacter dynamic, like Hurricane Fluttershy with RD/FS, Secret of My Excess with Spike/Rarity, Look Before You Sleep with AJ/Rarity, quite a few episodes with PP/TS, and so forth. That's a good thing to shoot for. If you're writing something really long, you can fit more of those in, or even focus a bit more on the action, but for shorter stuff, it's safest to find one or two (or maybe three) characters and look at something particular to them. (This, of course, is part of why FIMFic just reduced the number of character tags. Because there should be a small focus.)

Another great example of how this works, in case you're looking for somewhat more complex plots than in MLP itself, is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The physical action is almost always a metaphor for some more character-based theme or lesson. There's a traditional question that you're supposed to ask yourself about anything you have written or plan to write: “So what?” Okay, Braeburn went evil and put the buffalo tribe on treadmills and used them to power a machine to open new pits into the depths of Tartarus, and only Queen Chrysalis can save Equestria, but first she requires the love of the Great and Powerful Trixie -- so what? Why should anyone care, if there's not an emotional story there too? And even if that ends up being about Trixie's struggling to learn to love another, is the whole Braeburn thing necessary, or would the story work better with a much simpler catalyst that has more to do with the emotional story? The MLP-specific form of “so what?”, I suppose, is “what have you learned about the magic of friendship today?”, although you might have to substitute out “friendship” in favor of “love” or “death” or somesuch in certain cases.

I'd also say, and this is more difficult because it requires a lot of reading: what your story is about should be something comparatively different. Even if your hypothetical story deals with familiar themes, it should have a newish take on them. Yes, there's plenty of room for cookie-cutter shipping or hurt/comfort fics. (Sometimes quite literally; I've heard tell of a hurt/comfort story that was posted into various different fandoms with only character names and occasional descriptive words (skin color, ethnicity, etc.) changed, and everyone loved it.) But ideally, try to do something a little more than that.

Also: please don't have Pinkie's hair go flat. That's been done to death. The show has given us more direct looks into Pinkie's head than it has for any other character, arguably including Twilight, and it isn't nice to ignore those.

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

Believe me, no one should try to emulate my writing process. I sit down, write from wherever I last left off for a while until I hit a snag (or want to go to bed or whatever), then put it aside for some days until I feel like continuing it. Most editing is done in realtime as I write it; other than going back and looking for purely grammatical issues or the occasional overlong sentence, I hardly ever revise anything unless there's some external reason (a teacher, the EqD prereaders, a length limit) to do so. To be fair, this is coupled with a lot of mental planning, which can even include specific lines of dialogue or description, but still. Way too haphazard.

When writing specific characters, I also try to make a point of reading/watching stuff about them to help keep them somewhat in line with their canon versions. TV shows like MLP work well here because the characters have actual voices and I get to try to imagine them speaking the lines I've written, but the same still holds true for books and such. This is important; if I'm thinking about reading your epic Spike/Blossomforth love saga, it doesn't matter how detailed the plot is: if the dialogue doesn't sound like anything Spike would say, I'm closing that tab.

What inspired you to write Home Is Where the Hearts Are?

a) Pinkie's crush on Rainbow Dash is as close to canon as it gets.
b) The “Ask Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie” tumblr presents a very convincing argument for a FS/PP relationship working out, and if you watch them closely in the show, Pinkie really does seem to treat her differently than anyone else.
c) I felt that I was being kind of misrepresented by Hoofstuck, and I wanted to write a story that included all my actual preferred pairings. Or, uh, OT3, as the case may be.
d) Hurricane Fluttershy.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Home Is Where the Hearts Are?

There were definitely things that I don't think worked out as well as they could have. First, the story is so tightly focused on Rainbow Dash that there's not much room to pick on the other characters, which is bad if they're set up as sources of advice. I think that largely worked out with Twilight, because I like making fun of her, and Applejack and Rarity do both admit that they're not sure if they're offering the best advice, but it still comes uncomfortably close at times to presenting Rainbow Dash as clueless and everyone else as full of answers to all possible questions.

Second, I don't think it's always clear enough, in the first two chapters in particular, that Rainbow Dash simply doesn't have a perfect understanding of her friends. She's very loyal to them, which is important to remember when writing her, but she is a bit lunkheaded. This too suffered from the tight focus on her perspective.

Third -- really these are all extensions of the same issue -- Fluttershy's views are drastically underrepresented. So are Pinkie's, really, but they're less important. What's so fascinating about the RD/FS dynamic is that brash Rainbow Dash needs quiet Fluttershy. But it's not nearly so clear that Fluttershy needs Rainbow Dash, even if that's the opposite of what you might otherwise expect from their respective personalities. If nothing else, Rarity is probably a closer friend to her than Rainbow Dash is; compare Green Isn't Your Color, where she becomes a fashion model to make Rarity happy, to Hurricane Fluttershy or the beginning of Dragon Quest, where her fears override her loyalty to RD. But there's not much room for that in this story, because it's about rekindling their friendship, and Fluttershy going “hey, you know, this is actually much more important to you than it is to me” wouldn't exactly help with that. There's just a lot more to be said on that front.

When you set out to write Home Is Where the Hearts Are, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

The original idea, as I discussed above, was that RD needs FS and maybe that's not totally reciprocal, but that didn't get fully realized. So instead it got revised into almost two separate stories: the first two chapters (set in the daytime), which are about polyamory if they're about anything at all, and the last three chapters (set at night), which are about the RD/FS friendship and how it breaks and begins to get fixed. The first story is practically unnecessary for the second (and was envisioned as much shorter in the initial planning): any other setup for RD and FS falling apart could have worked nearly as well. This is part of why Pinkie shows up so very little despite being the catalyst for everything that happens.

The simplest moral -- and Pinkie lampshades this at the end by comparing it to a friendship report -- is that it's important to talk to your friends. This is pretty obviously reflected in the structure of the story, which is entirely built around five conversations (each of which I made sure to write out in their entirety, never resorting to “they talked about”-type sections) and the events that make them each necessary. I do honestly believe that's important, especially in a complicated polyamorous relationship, but it's also kind of an obvious message? I dunno. I guess sticking to “Rainbow Dash needs Fluttershy” is safe enough, even if the other half of that got lost a bit.

(There's also an aspect of surprise/subversion, even if that's not exactly a message. It certainly fits smoothly into the romance genre, ridiculous melodrama and all, but it doesn't end with a declaration of love, only the possibility of it maybe sometime later down the line. The whole scene in the park is intentionally written to move way too fast; it's basically a parody, especially when the fawn shows up. (The giggling youths represent shippers, naturally.) The story description on FIMFic is about a threeway RD/PP/FS relationship, but then the potential reader looks at the character tags and notices Pinkie Pie isn't there, which is supposed to get their attention.)

Where can readers drop you a line?

Comments on FIMFic work fine for the most part. I may also respond to

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Read Hoofstuck! It's ongoing; it's experimental; and unlike in my more traditional stories, I don't know everything about what's going to happen, so I need your help. See all those commands to characters titling the story pages? Those are from real people just like you!

1 comment :

  1. BUCK YEAH HOOFSTUCK, a story 9000 times more interesting than home is where the heart is.