Friday, March 15, 2013

Butterscotch Cream's Silverware

Today the Vault features its first coltcuddler fic! Why should fillies get all the fun? Stallions can be just as sweet, charming, and adorkable.

[Comedy][Shipping] • 5,200 words
Everyone has things they aren't particularly good at, and we all work to make the best of our weaknesses. Sometimes, though, our weaknesses can prove to be tools of our undoing.

Hit the break for a talk with Butterscotch Cream, and links to Silverware - bane of earth ponies everywhere - out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

USA, California.

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

Currently, I work primarily from home as a small-time platform programmer.

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

There was a webcomic I used to follow regularly that I’d joined the forums of. Someone there said, “You should watch the new My Little Pony! You’ll love it!” I wasn’t convinced, and if I’m honest I privately questioned her maturity. To me MLP was still the glimpses I’d caught of G3 and prior. I didn’t see them as “bad” but they were securely in the realm of “shallow kids’ stuff” that I wasn’t interested in watching. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I’m sitting there bored out of my mind. I try to find some Street Sharks episodes (because that totally isn’t shallow kids’ stuff) which happened to be on the HUB. Well, I couldn’t find Street Sharks, but MLP was posted there and I decided to watch them with a hesitant curiosity. I was prepared to gag, and I admit the first two episodes were a little hard to sit through, but you can probably guess the slippery slope word for word. I watched another, and another, and another... I think I became a fan the moment Big Macintosh glared at Applejack for pushing his side too hard in “Applebuck Season”.

Do you have a favorite episode?

I love a lot of the episodes, and choosing a favorite is hard. However, I will say that the “Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000” holds a special place in my heart due to its blatant references to my favorite musical The Music Man. Aside from that, though, “A Party of One” and– heh, I think I’d probably list half of all the episodes.

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)?

My reflexive answer is “Guard ponies,” but um... I’ll waylay that in favor of a more interesting answer, hehe. Choosing a “favorite” has always been a bit difficult for me, because I don’t tend to pick favorites. However, I love Pinkie for her antics, Braeburn because... well, Braeburn, and Shining Armor. Considering the fandom though, I’d have to say one of my favorite characters is actually Prince Blueblood. I’m a sucker for reformation stories, and I’ve read some especially moving ones which involved him. The farther you fall, the farther you have to climb to sincerely get back up, and it isn’t easy.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I’ve always been a fan of horses, and I’ve been a roleplayer for a long time, so the character “Butterscotch Cream” existed long before MLP:FiM was around. Naturally, when I discovered a cartoon about horses that I actually enjoyed with a pretty broad fandom, it was pretty easy to transplant myself in. If you want a more literal answer, I happen to love butterscotch cream pie, and so I designed my character around the dessert.

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

Actually, this is the first time I’ve ever written for a fandom, as such, and I’ve never written professionally. I’ve considered trying but I haven’t really known where to begin with that. Writing itself, though, has always been a love of mine. I’ve been voluntarily writing stories ever since I was in grade-school. Most of them are stories I’d never want to put out in public for people to see. “Yep! Yeah! That certainly is... a story. Of some sort.”

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

I love to create things. I enjoy drawing, writing poetry, music, creating games and models, even cooking. I’m also something of a gamer, though I tend to prefer multiplayer “sandbox” environments like Minecraft, Second Life or Garry’s Mod. I also enjoy games like Skyrim, and some platform games (the Metroid Prime series being my favorite). Lest I be considered a shut-in, there are a ton of outdoor things I enjoy as well such as fencing, tennis, goony golf, outings with a friend, etc. Of course, these are all things I like to do – time to do them isn’t always so plentiful.

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

Naomi Novik and her Temeraire series cover both those categories. I wasn’t even into historical fiction as a genre until I read her books (though, I believe I may be getting the genre on that slightly wrong). The Harry Potter series also holds a pretty high place in my library, and both stories engaged me pretty thoroughly.

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 take it for granted that every person will come to every story with their own perspective on things. I don’t really write with a goal to pander to people who will read my work a certain way. Instead, I try to write in a ways I hope a broad spectrum of people will be able to identify with.

I’m something of a pragmatist who recognizes the world isn’t perfect, but I’m also an idealist who doesn’t believe it’s all bad, and it’s my hope that my work shows people what life can be like. Things to hope for, or strive for as the case may be. Whether a story makes a person laugh, cry, or just think, it can always communicate something. A story doesn’t need a “message” to make a statement. I want to encourage the people who need hope, and I want to inspire the hopeful to pass encouragement to others. If that counts as an “ideal reader,” I’m not sure, but that is my goal as a writer.

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

Writing is about communication, and it’s about being capable of transferring your ideas to those who invest time in looking at what you write. Not everyone has perfect grammar, not everyone can think up the perfect thing to say on the spot, but don’t use those as excuses to leave your work at a mediocre level of “good enough.” Don’t fall back on “You can’t please everybody” in those areas. While it’s true that you won’t be able to, you can’t expect others to take your work any more seriously than you take it yourself, and if you’re willing to put in the effort it takes to learn the grammar, to practice it, to read over your work and nitpick, you’ll find others much more willing to respect both you and the work you do.

Write what you know. Many people, when trying to write, think they have to tack on epic storylines and a lot of flashy intrigue to make a good story, but you don’t. That isn’t to say adventure stories or stories with twists and complex plots can’t be fun, but it also isn’t the only type of story to be told. In my eyes, a good author understands that all of life can be interesting, and you can make an interesting story out of a powerless earth pony farmer just as easily as you can a prince or princess with awesome powers. You don’t capture your readers by how neat the technology or magic in a story is, or how world-changingly important the main character becomes. Your readers connect to you and your characters by how much they can identify with the character you present them. The more they can identify with the character, the more you can use that character’s experiences to give your readers a window into the unexplored and unfamiliar. Instead of trying to use a story to put something into your life that you don’t have, take a piece of your life and give it to other people. Fiction is “fiction” for a reason, but it’s also a tool, and a very powerful one. There’s a place for writing the fantastic and the epic, but the familiar and the personal is always the best place to start, because even the fantastic and the epic get their meaning and their value from that aspect.

Don’t be afraid to be your own worst critic, but don’t let your own criticism or anyone else’s stop you. Don’t stop writing. Keep writing, because we learn by experience. No one comes out of the box a perfect author, and no one becomes a perfect author. No one is “the” best author, no one has to be and no one should try to be. We all just become better authors as we keep on writing. Don’t look at other authors you consider better as paragons you’ll never reach, but as fellows, as people who are just like yourself and have been at the same place you are in the past, dedicated to writing and communicating their ideas. If you always do your best, your best can only get better.

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

I tend to go through a rather OCD process of writing and refining. I have a high tolerance for repetition, and frequently I’ll end up reading through my own work numerous times, trying to detach myself and read it as a casual reader might. If a sentence seems too long, awkward or “breaks up” in my mind like choppy water, I’ll usually go back through and try to smooth it out, even if it just means rephrasing or rearranging something that’s technically correct. I firmly believe and encourage others to trust what I call the “writer’s instinct”: If it feels wrong, don’t be afraid to go over it again..

I’ll try to get a story to the stages where I feel it’s almost done before I’ll run it past others, but that’s just my personal method. When I do send it to pre-readers, I’ll typically have a flurry of paranoia where I’m constantly going back and making little tweaks and telling the person I linked to it, “Refresh! Refresh! Just one more time!” Have I mentioned I’m very grateful for the people who put up with me? Hehe, anyway. l try to run it past a broad spectrum of readers to get their reactions, both story-wise and emotionally, so I have an idea of how well I communicated what I intended. “Casual reader” reactions are just as valuable as those of “people who know their stuff.”

What inspired you to write Silverware?

It was a writing challenge from friend and fellow author, BillyColt on FimFiction. One night he and I were talking, and we decided to give each other “flash fiction prompts” to get our writing juices flowing, where “flash fiction” is just a short blip of a story. Or at least, they were supposed to be short blips. Billy’s prompt for me was “An earth pony tries to use silverware. Use of tail is required.”

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

I don’t exactly count humor as the strongest suit in my deck, so to speak. I spent a lot of time going back over the story and rephrasing things to try and make things funny without being overly verbose. I’m a fan of Bill Cosby’s drier, narrative humor, which isn’t an easy thing to follow without the inflection that made his stories so rich. Also, it’s the first time I’ve ever written a first-person narrative story, a deviation from my more typical mode of third person and third-person limited, so the change in perspective also took some refining. If I’m honest, I felt a little ungainly in the writing process, but it was a great exercise nonetheless.

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

Mostly, I wanted to give people a good time. Any messages I “hid” in the story are fairly subtle, and even the “moral” at the end of the story was more tongue-in-cheek than anything else, but they’re there for those who want to find them. Since my driving force was the story prompt, though, the main theme and focus was to give people a comic depiction of life, and how some of our more embarrassing and frustrating times can be things we look back on and enjoy. And maybe snicker a little.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Sending me messages on my FimFiction account is generally a good way to contact me. I also have a tumblr with an ask box open, and a dA account, both of which are linked to from my FimFiction page.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

My thanks goes out to everyone who has supported my writing and taken the time to leave comments and words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me, as they do to many authors. Even if you feel like you’re just saying something other people have already said, at least in my own experience, the author still appreciates you saying it. My thanks also goes to my fellow authors in the fandom who have been fantastic friends and supporters of my work. I’d list them all but that’d make this section look more like rolling credits. For the most part, they know who they are anyway, both pre-reader and authors alike.

The world is flooded with wonderful forms of multimedia, but writing is still a powerful thing. When a person reads, and when a person writes, they are opening themselves up to one another. Whether what is written is silly, sad, happy or anything else, even if one doesn’t take the story seriously, I believe the one who reads it, and the one who writes it, should both be.

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