Friday, June 22, 2012

Kwakerjak's Wild, Sweet & Cool

A well-written story, based on a unique idea; the author excels at weaving his narrative seamlessly in and out of the canon of the show while providing his own take on its events and situations (and even explains why a world full of ponies would have saddles!). As an added bonus, you'll have a much better understanding of the mechanics of flight by the end.

[Slice-of-Life] • 34,700 words
After reading a book by Spitfire's personal trainer, Rainbow Dash decides that the best way to get closer to her ultimate goal of joining the Wonderbolts is to add strength training to her practices by having one of her friends ride her. However, when she decides that Twilight Sparkle is just the mare for the job, the pegasus gets a bit more than she bargained for.

Hit the break for a talk with Kwakerjak, and links to Wild, Sweet & Cool wherever fine pony fanfic can be found. Don't forget to grab a copy for yourself over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I live in Adamstown, Pennsylvania.

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

Currently, I'm working in a factory job, but I'm hoping to find work as a librarian.

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

I honestly don't remember how I discovered it, but it was at some point during the second season. I think I realized I was a fan around December 2011, when I thought up a joke about "The War on Hearthwarming" and found it tremendously amusing.

Do you have a favorite episode?

The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000. I personally believe that the Flim Flam Brothers are the best villains we've seen so far, because unlike magically overpowered megalomaniacs, con artists who are willing do anything for money and are completely unsympathetic to the people whose lives they destroy along the way actually exist in real life. (The fact that they happen to sing my favorite song from the show helps too.)

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)?

Twilight Sparkle, and no, it wouldn't change.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I've gone by "Kwakerjak" since the mid 90s, when "the Internet" was synonymous with "America OnLine." I thought it was a cool pun on a particular brand of popcorn-based snack food (not realizing that it was also the name of a Darkwing Duck villain), and thanks to Google, I've since realized that I am literally the only person on the internet who's ever thought of spelling it without using the letter "C."

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

I've been writing fanfiction for seven years. Before MLP, most of my fanfiction was in the Ranma ½ fandom, and it could (and still can) be found at The Anime Adventure.

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

Reading, listening to music, playing video games.

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

Lewis Carroll is far and away my favorite author, and my favorite novels are his Alice books: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

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 suppose my ideal reader enjoys reading somewhat cerebral stories where it's clear that the author has thought through a lot of details, but also knows how to reveal these little nuggets of joy without interrupting the overall flow of the story.

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

Read your stories out loud as you're writing them, or have someone else read them out loud to you. It makes it much easier to catch errors and clunky turns of phrase.

As far as the actual creative process goes, in terms of dealing with writer's block and such, do as much prewriting as you can. Have a plan for your entire story before you write out the first word, and it's much easier to see writer's block coming, which in turn can allow you to avoid it. That said, don't use "prewriting" as an excuse for procrastination, either. It take some practice before you get a good sense of when the former is transforming into the latter.

Finally, if you have prereaders, ask them for story help if you're stumped, even if they claim that they aren't good enough writers to help you do anything more than check for spelling and grammar errors. I've been continually surprised at the storytelling insights I've gotten from people who honestly believe that they're not very good storytellers.

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

I usually start by making a rough outline of the chapter, and then "fill in the blanks" by expanding on the details. I generally only write one complete draft, but I also go through a fairly thorough pre-writing process before I start typing everything out, making sure all the ideas are going to fit before I get too emotionally attached to them. In addition to that, I don't wait to finish a draft before I start revising it (which I why I specified that I only write one "complete" draft—usually, by the time that draft is done, each section has been revised several times).

Wild, Sweet & Cool is actually the first story where I've been able to make extensive use of prereaders. In other contexts, I've found that getting someone to proofread can be like pulling teeth, let alone convincing someone to let me bounce ideas off of them. I think it was easier in this fandom because my stories have turned out to be a lot more popular than I ever expected.

What inspired you to write Wild, Sweet & Cool?

One day at work, I was listening to The Crystal Method's 2001 album, Tweekend. The second song on the album is titled "Wild, Sweet & Cool." I've listened to that song dozens of times before, but I think this was the first time I'd done so since discovering MLP. In any case, the song, which is mostly instrumental (with the exception of the title and the phrase "Let me do my thing," which actually pops up in the story one or two times), just brought to mind this image of Rainbow Dash flying around being her usual awesome self. The Crystal Method's music was so influential on the writing of this story that I not only named the story after one of their songs, but each chapter is named after one, as well.

The idea of Twilight Sparkle riding Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, came from the ashes of an abandoned sequel to my previous story, Petriculture. This was to feature Pinkie Pie attempting to play matchmaker by getting Twilight and Dash to be special someponies, but the Hearts and Hooves Day episode basically went over all of the ideas I wanted to cover in its first fifteen minutes, so I jettisoned it, though bits and pieces of it can still be found in chapters 6 and 7. I did, however, like the tangential idea of Twilight actually riding Rainbow Dash that I came up with in the course of my prewriting, and I thought that it would be interesting to develop it into a full story.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Wild, Sweet & Cool?

Planning out the whole thing was probably the toughest challenge. Unlike most of my stories, I had no idea where it might end up when I started writing. My prereader, DPV111, was a huge help here—for example, it was his idea to have the story end with a race.

As far as the actual writing went, I'd say the biggest challenge was chapter 3. That chapter couldn't just be entertaining—it also had to be educational as well, or else the audience would get completely lost during the final section of the story, and the fact that I basically had work out all the physics that would be involved with riding a pegasus didn't make it any easier. It paid off, though, because thinking through all those details made writing the last two chapters much less stressful than I initially thought they would be, allowing me to focus on making them as exciting as possible.

When you set out to write Wild, Sweet & Cool, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Originally, I did have a specific message I wanted to get across, but I concluded that it sounded like I was just using my story as a soapbox to vent my personal opinions about society. Since I intend for my stories to be primarily escapist, this seemed to drag the entire story down, so I eventually excised it completely.

Where can readers drop you a line?

At the moment, the best way to get in touch is probably to PM me on FIMFiction.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Throughout the writing of this story, I continually received comments either expressing disappointment that the story wasn't a shipping fic, or eagerly anticipating when I'd change my mind and make it a shipping fic. Even those who expressed their satisfaction with this aspect of the story often seemed surprised that I had managed to avoid romance, because the relationship between Twilight and Dash had became very close by the end. I'd just like to remind folks that there's absolutely nothing unusual about intense platonic relationships—in real life, the overwhelming majority of close friendships are platonic, so why wouldn't it be the same with ponies?

1 comment :

  1. If I just pretend that chapter 6 (I think?) didn't exist, it was a really good story.

    First few chapters lack much conflict, BUT, the general quality of the writing is sufficiently flowing that I still found it quite engrossing. Even stopping to re-read some of the acrobatic descriptions actually felt like it ADDED to the feeling of investment, rather than detracting from it. I kinda like that.

    Then chapter 6 just descended into shipping jokes, fan-service and other stuff that just felt utterly out of place compared to EVERY chapter before and after it. Even leaving my personal distaste for such things aside, the shift in tone alone was grating, but I also thought most of the jokes were really bad. Not 'oh dear, that's terrible' kind of bad, but 'OMFG please don't do that again' kind of bad. It pretty much spat in the face of the overall tone that is Equestria with the kind of crass immaturity that I expect in a nerdy clop-fic.

    Then, as if by magic, we're back to some hugely enjoyable story. To it's credit, it's one of the few stories that manages to really invoke that 'spirit of the show' feel while avoiding almost all of the pitfalls that usually come with it. It's a powerful thing to do something fundamentally formulaic, and do it well enough that it doesn't matter, and I mean that as a huge thumbs up, not a best-of-a-bad-job deal.

    The only issue I have with the ending is simply that it feels a little bit too much like a bit of wish-fulfilment. Getting too close to giving a character their ultimate goal is actually pretty stifling, as far as writing stories go, so it felt a little bit to easy and fake. If they'd won the race but NOT got the THAT would feel more like an MLP ending and a worthy friendship letter. Not that there was anything wrong with the actual friendship report, though.

    Score if I ignore C6: 8 / 10, a few weird word choices and questionable jokes. 6-star material.

    Score if I include C6: 4 /10, one for the slightly freaky fan-nerds only.


    Scott 'Inquisitor' Mence