Friday, November 2, 2012

WovenWord's Wonderbolt

I'm mortified that this is going up to late - but up it goes! Today we have a darker atmospheric piece, set in an unsettling future or alternate timeline from the world we know and love.

[Dark][Shipping] • 3,100 words
I have something I want to tell you.

It's a very simple thing.

A short little phrase.

I wonder if it still matters, though, in a world like this.

It matters to me, but I'd like to know if it'll matter to you.

Hit the break for a lovely long chat with WovenWord, and links to Wonderbolt out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Lima, Peru. Same place I was born in. It's an okay city to live in, I guess... once you get used to the crime rates, mostly gray skies and all the trash in the streets.

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

I work full-time as a Functional/Technical Analyst for IT Projects at an insurance company. Not the most exciting job in the world (though it can be stressful at times), but at least I don't have to bring my work home with me and I'm rarely asked to do overtime.

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

For the better part of 2011, I was on a huge anime/webcomic binge that had carried over from 2010. Now, I've always liked anime, but this was excessive – even by my standards. Whenever I was home, I was either watching anime or checking to see if one of the webcomics I followed had a new page up. I didn't even log into any games for several months, and I love games!

Anyway, one of those webcomics' artists started mentioning MLP in his comments, saying that the show was pretty neat and that people should give it a chance. I didn't immediately start searching for episodes after that (I was in the middle of a binge, remember?), but the idea was planted in my head. A couple of weeks after that, I was searching for something on Google (can't really remember what it was off the top of my head) and happened upon one of the FiM wiki's pages. It eventually led me to a description of Discord, which is when my brain clicked and went, "Oh, this is what that guy was talking about."

After a quick YouTube search, I found the first episode of season one. I basically said, "I've got time. Let's see what this is about." Roughly twenty minutes later: "To be continued... hmm, okay, I'll bite." Thing is, the pilot isn't really the best showcase of FiM's strengths, since it still has that "this is a cartoon for children, so a lot of things have to be really obvious" thing going on. It's not that big on the comedy aspect either, which is one of the things I love most about the show. Suffice it to say I wasn't exactly convinced, but the link to episode three was right there and my brain didn't really want to change gears just yet, so I decided to give it one last chance before I moved on.

24 hours later, I'd caught up entirely with the series (this was towards the end of September 2011, so only the first two episodes of the second season were up). Goodbye old binge, hello new one.

Do you have a favorite episode?

"Lesson Zero".

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)?

Refer to the previous question.

Answer based purely on canon? Twilight Sparkle. Change my opinion based on the fandom? Are you kidding me? Twilight Sparkle!

On a more serious note, I've always loved the concept of magic. Whenever I get immersed in a new original fiction universe – or a game – that plays around with magic, it's always entertaining for me to think about how it works and how many uses it can be given in the story – within the constraints of the particular set of rules for that 'verse. Having Twilight be not only the incarnation of magic, but also the equivalent of what scientists and scholars are like in Equestria, instantly endeared her to me.

It also helps that, out of the mane six, her personality is the one I identify the easiest with.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Back in February, I started to come up with a story that I wanted to write. I realized that I was going to need an OC for a small part in the plot, so I decided to create my penname based on that. Since the character was a writer, I started playing around with names in that vein that sounded plausible enough to exist within FiM's world. At the same time, I started thinking of what the pony's cutie mark would be, to use it as my avatar on the deviantArt and FIMFiction accounts I'd create.

I should mention that I'm completely useless when it comes to drawing, and I didn't want to bother anyone by asking them to draw a cutie mark for me. Thus, I fired up Word and fiddled around a bit with WordArt. The result is what you can see in my profile: a lemniscate composed of Greek letters. It also helped me come up with the name Woven Word.

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

Wonderbolt is actually the first thing I've published. Ever.

Still, I've written a lot before. Mainly for the D&D campaigns that my friends and I used to play, since I was the one that kept a log of the adventure – in either the form of a 3rd person limited narrative or my character's journal – but all of that was completely private.

My biggest experience with writing, before entering this fandom, was when I created my homebrew campaign setting. This forced me to learn how to world-build – create characters, lore, cities, political systems, religions, etc. – and form a cohesive storyline from several different plot threads. It was a ton of work, but I really enjoyed it (though I'd never go through all that again).

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

If I'm not out with my friends, I'm usually playing with them online. Other than that, I've found myself reading a lot on FIMFiction. I have over a hundred tabs that open up and refresh every time I fire up my browser (it's like I dropkick my internet connection in the lungs), since I mostly refuse to use the Favorite system to track incomplete stories.

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

On the published side, I think I'll go with Gabriel García Márquez and his novel Cien Años de Soledad.

Now, with fanfiction, it gets a lot trickier for me to choose a favorite. There are lots of authors in the fandom that I respect and look up to, like Wanderer D, SS&E, Cold in Gardez, among others. Having to choose just one, though... I'd go with AestheticB. I can honestly say that I've loved every story he's published on FimFiction, The Immortal Game being one of the fics that made me want to write something of my own, to give something back to this community – which is the first I've actually grown fond of on the internet. I doubt I'll ever get close to his level of writing, but dammit, I can try.

However, my favorite story (of the Completed variety) isn't by Aesthetic. It's Thanqol's Yours Truly.

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?

Since I've never been in the habit of showing others what I write (which is something I'm just starting to change), I don't really think of how another person might react to it, aside from myself. I write things that I'd enjoy reading, and judge what I produce accordingly.

I guess you could say that my "ideal reader" is one that shares my approach towards stories. One that stops reading for a moment, in order to imagine how future scenes might play out or where the plot might be going. One who tries to empathize with the characters and piece together their motivations before they're spelled out. One that finishes a compelling story and starts to wonder about all the little what-if scenarios that he or she can conjure up.

I think "creative reader" is a good name for it.

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

I'm not really experienced enough for others to be looking to me for advice, but there is something that helped me when writing Wonderbolt: don't worry about what others will think of your story until after you've released it into the wild.

When you're still in the writing process, you should try to look at your work objectively and ask yourself: "Do I think this is good? Does this story mean something to me? Does it grab me or inspire me to think?" If you can say that you're satisfied with your story, without being biased towards it, then you should go ahead and publish it.

If I'd worried about there being a large number of people who dislike Romance and Dark fics in the fandom (or are, at least, very vocal about it), I never would've written this story – much less published it.

Of course, the common tips also apply:

  • Read a lot
  • Write a lot
  • Check out EqD's Omnibus to help your writing from a technical standpoint
  • Check Wanderer D's Self-Help Gui – I mean, How-To Guides
  • Use the resources available to you. The community is rife with people who want to help others, so ask for their help (I'm a huge hypocrite, and you're about to see why in my next answer)

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

I don't have any pre-readers or editors. The only pre-reader I've ever come into contact with – once – is Seattle, and that's because of EqD's system. I know that having these people help during the writing phase can be a huge boon to your work, but I just can't bring myself to ask others to do this for me. There's this little voice in the back of my head that goes: "Hey! This is your baby. You're not about to burden someone else with it. You decided to write it, so you should take the time to go over every horrible mistake you've made and correct it yourself."

Yeah, it's not a very nice voice.

As to my writing process, I have a document that I constantly update, where I organize the ideas I get for my fics. I like to have everything planned out before I actually start writing a story.

Consider this: remember that other story I told you about? The one I've been planning since February? I already know every single detail about how it's going to unfold. I already know that it'll have two sequels, because I've already planned them. I know every plot twist, character, location and event that'll be thrown in. I know how it's going to begin and how it's going to end. And I know that even if no one reads it, I'm still going to write it in its entirety, since it's a story that I want to write.

Due to the fact that I've already planned out everything that's going to happen in the story, I don't have to write it in a certain order. My document is currently over 60,000 words long, because it's filled with little scenes that I'm going to be using five, ten, maybe fifteen chapters from now.

I use this method to accommodate my inner writing diva, which can only be bothered to get off its lazy ass when it feels like it. For example, I might be at work or somewhere else and suddenly get the inspiration for how a certain scene will play out, so I write it down and update the document with the new scene once I get home.

By the time I actually end up writing the chapter, it's like a game of Connect the Dots. I use the scenes I already have as a foundation and just build what's missing around them. Then comes the long process of reading the chapter over and over, editing and revising until it feels right.

What inspired you to write Wonderbolt?

Well, this is an easy one. As mentioned in the story's description, it was inspired by the image Twilight's Library by SpyroConspirator. When I saw it, I came up with a quick scene and – following my writing method – updated my document, letting the idea stew for a couple of weeks. After adding a few more pieces to the puzzle, I sat down to try and fit them all together.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Wonderbolt?

The beginning. I wasn't sure how to start it, even though I'd already written the ending. And not just the initial lines, I'm talking about the whole world-building part. I was very nervous about picking and choosing what to show the reader and what not to.

I also had to fight off a bad habit I've acquired when working on my main project, i.e., revising the damn thing dozens of times and never being satisfied with it. I think I only reread it four times – to make sure no grammar mistakes slipped through – and then I just had to stop and force myself to submit it, so that it wouldn't stay in development hell for the rest of eternity.

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

The main themes are despair and open-endedness.

From a plot standpoint, I wanted it to be clear that Rainbow felt like she was hanging by a thread. That these weren't the actions of someone who has carefully thought things through or of the daredevil that doesn't care about the consequences of her decisions. She's acting upon emotions that she's not even sure of, but she tries to convince herself that they're real, just so she can keep going.

From a meta standpoint, I wanted to convey what I felt when I saw the image that inspired the fic. A feeling of endless possibilities, springing from a small glimpse into a bleak scene. I know that this irked some of my readers, who wanted a more solid foundation, but one of my main objectives was to evoke uncertainty. I never give you a definitive answer to any of the questions that are asked in the story, explicitly or not. I don't tell you the final fate of the rest of the mane six or the princesses. I don't tell you if Rainbow or Twilight's feelings are real or not. I don't tell you what drove industrialization forward. Heck, I don't even tell you what a Wonderbolt is. But I do – hopefully – leave you with enough pieces to create the world you want to believe in around this single scene.

I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that several people were seeing the silver lining in the story – choosing to believe in the possibility of a happy ending – since it would be so much easier to think that the world is headed towards a tragic end.

Where can readers drop you a line?

I always check my notifications and PM's on FIMFiction, so that's the best way to get in touch with me.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Yeah, I just went over my answers and... wow, this came out a lot lengthier than I expected. I don't usually talk this much about myself, I swear! I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

Also, don't use my writing method. It's excessively slow (seriously, it's been like nine months and I'm still editing the first chapter). Use this method instead: get an idea, find some free time, sit down and write your story. Don't stop until you hit the end. Proofreading and editing can come later.

That about wraps it up. Big thanks to RBDash47 for considering my story for the Vault, and thank you all for reading (I'm so sorry)!

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