Friday, November 30, 2012

Dave Bryant's The Farmer in the Dell

Changelings have offered a wealth of possibilities for fanfic writers, and this isn't the first fic in the Vault to feature them. But it does explore an idea, and explores it in a way, that few other fics have.

[Shipping] • 3,800 words
Dale was a simple pony of the land, a widower with foals grown and moved away, and it looked like he would be the last of his line to work his ancient farm – but when an unexpected visitor literally drops in, everything changes for both of them.

Hit the break for a few words from Mr. Bryant, and links to The Farmer in the Dell out on the ponynet. However, please note that the story only exists – even here at the Vault's Downloads page – as a PDF file; as a graphic artist and typesetter, the author has made very specific selections in that regard that are difficult or impossible to reproduce in other formats.

Where do you live?

I currently reside in Silicon Valley, California, at the south end of San Francisco Bay.

What kind of work do you do?

I make a modest living as a freelance professional graphic designer, production artist, and typesetter.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic?

I began to hear about it through the grapevine during the first season, mostly via friends also in the anthropomorphic fan community. By midway through the season, it was seemingly inescapable.

When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

It took a while. Multiple recommendations from friends were required before my interest was piqued sufficiently to watch it at all. Oddly enough, a few pony music videos helped, such as the pony version of "Seven Artists". The process was complete by the end of May 2011, though.

Do you have a favorite episode?

"Suited for Success", without a doubt. As a fellow freelance professional and business owner, Rarity is my hero. I have dealt with all the terrible clients she complains about in her song.

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself?

Rarity, for the aforementioned reasons, although I also have a soft spot for Twilight Sparkle.

Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (e.g., art, fanfiction, memes, etc.)?

Nope. All those things amuse me, but I never forget that they aren’t a part of the program.

How did you come up with your handle/pen name?

I don’t have one! "Handles" still strike me as an odd if not bizarre custom – but I was starting into middle age by the time it arose, so it’s probably a case of "what them young-uns’re doin’." I’ve never felt the need for a pen name, either.

Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc.)?

I’ve written a little science fiction, and I currently am working (off and on) with a novel-length story arc set in a therianthropic analog of the contemporary world. I post the occasional nonfiction short essay on Livejournal, Deviantart, or FurAffinity.

When did you first start writing?

My earliest adolescent attempts were back in the 1970s; my first finished work was back in the 1990s.

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

All sorts of things. I play boardgames, especially historical wargames, and the occasional role-playing game. (Currently I’m presiding over a pony-related RPG based on a set of rules I adapted from Open D6.) I read, less now than in years past, partly because science fiction, my preferred genre, is in a terrible state these days. I may resume my weekly day hikes now that conditions have improved since the economy tanked, and took my income with it, a few years ago.

Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)?

Lois McMaster Bujold is a brilliant writer: witty, sly, and riveting, with an astonishingly large vocabulary and a talent for quotable turns of phrase.

Do you have a favorite story or novel?

Bujold’s A Civil Campaign probably qualifies, though I normally don’t choose favorites of that sort. I recommend it strongly as a wonderful example of how to manage a plethora of plotlines deftly and humorously. Even the occasional authorial goofs are educational.

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?

No, not at all; such an idea never occurred to me as a serious consideration, and I think I don’t agree with it. I write mostly for myself and secondarily for the world at large. Anyone to whom my writing speaks is welcome.

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

Do your research; nothing destroys a writer’s credibility faster than not getting it right. Be sure you understand the mechanics of writing thoroughly, both the basics such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and the advanced aspects of sentence, paragraph, and narrative structure. Get a copy of the Chicago Manual and use it; if you don’t know what it is, look for it on Amazon or ask for it at your local bookstore.

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

That’s a very difficult question, because I’ve never analyzed my writing process. I just do it. In general, I tend to whip out a short story such as "The Farmer in the Dell" in a single extended draft, backing and filling as necessary, until I consider it finished. I don’t use any organized process for that.

A longer work, such as the aforementioned novel-length story arc, I address in a more formal fashion. Generally I start by chewing on the overall structure, often through discussion and brainstorming, until I have at least a skeleton. Drafting and development go on more or less concurrently after that, until I have a complete storyline if not a complete draft. I try to use pre-readers, but with limited success; I have a very difficult time getting them to stick around and to provide extensive useful feedback.

What inspired you to write The Farmer in the Dell?

Much if not most of the fan fiction out there seems to ignore completely the bucolic nineteenth-century flavor Ms. Faust apparently sought to capture in developing Ponyville and Equestria for her pitch book. (Admittedly the program itself doesn’t help by strewing anachronisms thick and fast.) I wanted to honor that, largely because I think it’s a far more charming and fascinating setting than the up-to-the-minute-contemporary mirror-reflection of the real world that so many fan writers seem to assume. The last storyline of the second season provided an irresistible hook, and I was off!

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing The Farmer in the Dell?

Not really. I wasn’t sure of the ending until I reached it, but once I did it fell into place. One thing that did help in pacing and structuring the story was the inspiration of breaking up the scenes with stanzas of the folk song from which I borrowed the story’s title.

When you set out to write The Farmer in the Dell, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Only those inherent in the program itself, really. I think Dale expresses them pretty well.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Readers can get in touch with me through my Deviantart and FurAffinity accounts:

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I think that about sums it up!

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