Friday, March 8, 2013

Nonsanity's Words Failed Her

When your name is Twilight Sparkle and you're living in Ponyville, even the most average of days can end up becoming an adventure.

[Adventure] • 6,700 words
In a world full of magic, mere words can carry viruses. When reading any correspondence or signpost could infect the unwary, and cases are starting to turn up around Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle casts the one spell that can give her time: the Curse of Illiteracy. Now she has to figure out how to stop the epidemic... without being able to read

Hit the break for a chat with Nonsanity, and links to Words Failed Her out on the ponynet. As always, grab your own ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I hale from Columbia, Maryland, just south of Baltimare.

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

I’m a professional programmer that’s worked on everything from military radios to mainstream video games (Elder Scrolls 3 & 4, Fallout 3).

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

I first heard of the reboot through a sound byte from “Bridle Gossip” played on The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast. I asked my eight-year-old daughter if she watched the show. She did and it was on the TiVo, so we watched it together. It’s one of the many things we do together to this day.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Short answer: No, no clear favorite. They get repeated often enough in our household that favoritism has to be a fluid thing. So at best I can say: the most recent episode is usually my current favorite, as I have seen it the fewest times. Not that any of them wear out their welcome with repetition. They are all quite good after all.

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)?

Again I’m lacking in obvious favoritism here. Each of the mane six have their good points and their annoying little personality quirks. However, if you asked me which pony I’d prefer my daughter to hang out with, of the mane six, I would choose Twilight. I might also be willing to entrust her to Celestia’s care, if she wasn’t going to be preoccupied by princess duties.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I was registering my first domain name in the late 90’s, and after much deliberation settled on Nonsanity as fitting with my style of humor. (Now one of the longest running “coming soon” websites on the internet.) I later adopted it as my nom de plume for all digital endeavors.

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

I hadn’t written since my college days, and then only at gunpoint. My decision to write a MLP fanfic was a combination of my daughter asking me to, and an overseas business trip that was going to give me a lot of idle time with an iPad. All published chapters of my unfinished Rainbow Typhoon are from that trip. (Oddly enough, earlier today I just so happened to pick that story up and started writing the next chapter, while waiting to get a haircut.)

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

My free time this past year has been mainly consumed by Minecraft. I tend to run a hobby for a year or two before picking up a new one. I never abandon the old ones, but they get less time after that. Some previous time wasters were Second Life, and producing special effects puppetry music videos, available on to this day. I keep meaning to make more of those...

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

My two favorite novels are Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Jumper (the book, not the movie—two very different beasties) by Steven Gould. Interestingly enough, both stories are about kids with significant advantages over everyone else, and how they end up using it. That ties in well with what I like best about science fiction: the reader is presented with a wondrous toolbox of new toys, and then the author sets about showing how creative you can get with them.

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 don’t know if this is what Mr. King really meant, but I think that “ideal reader” is always going to be... yourself. Nominally, I wrote my stories for my daughter, but I definitely didn’t write to a third grade reading level. I often have to stop and explain some of the bigger words to her. (Though I’m proud that she often informs me seriously that she KNOWS what that word means already.)

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

Oh, I can’t help much with struggling. I don’t have the answers myself. Rainbow Typhoon has been sitting unfinished for over half a year. So I know struggling. However, when I decided to start writing it again today, I just... did. And it seems to be working. My first line of quality control is always: wait a few days, then read it back, aloud. If I stumble over the words, or speak slightly different words as I go, those are the places that need work.

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

For Rainbow Typhoon (or at least as much of it that’s complete) I just wrote, and published each chapter as I finished it. It was only several chapters in that I discovered the pre reader sites that have grown up within the MLP fanfic community. I paused in my writing and started revising under their collective advice. On the whole and looking back, I can’t be sure that all of what they told me turned out for the best in that story. Except for the proof reading. Who knew a 15-year-old could give an old glue factory candidate like me a complete refresher course in grammar? I’m curious to see if I have retained any of that knowledge now that I’m resuming my writing.

What inspired you to write Words Failed Her?

It came from a scene in Rainbow Typhoon where Dash has to make an apology speech, something that doesn’t come naturally for her. She actually manages to summon up a rather eloquent apology from somewhere deep inside, until she runs out of steam... and words fail her. My use of that phrase in that context sparked some debate with my proofreader, and so the phrase got stuck in my head for a few days. It grew on me and I thought it would make a good title. Then I tried to think what the story would be behind it. From there, Words Failed Her was born. Much of the plot was hashed out during an hour long drive with my father and family along. My daughter turned out to have all the best idea pieces that I ended up working into the story.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Words Failed Her?

My goal was to actually write a SHORT story, under—or at least close to—6,000 words. I can be rather verbose, as my answers herein should attest, so that was a particular challenge I had to overcome. I had a lot of story, and not much room to cram it in. That the story feels too rushed is the only repeating criticism I’ve heard so far. Most people of that opinion didn’t seem to think anything was missing, per se, but they felt it would have been better with a bit more padding. I can’t say they were wrong, but I did manage to keep it at short story length, and that wasn’t always easy. I actually developed an entire backstory as to how the spells came to be. It’s turning into the story of Star Swirl the Bearded’s life, and I’m really looking forward to writing it. I recently posted a little piece of that story to my FimFiction blog. It’s an older piece, but one I thought had aged well enough to release early.

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

Only having written two stories so far, I’ve found I rather enjoy putting the characters in situations that force them to make decisions they normally would not make—situations of high stress, emotion, or consequence. I do it repeatedly to Rainbow Dash in Typhoon, and give Twilight one big one in Words. The messages—or Letters to Celestia, if you prefer—usually derive from the reasons behind the character’s unusual decision. A good and moral character’s internal reasoning as to why they did what they did, IS the message. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic just happens to be packed with characters filled to the brim with goodness and morality. What’s not to love for a writer?

Where can readers drop you a line?

I check my FimFiction account fairly regularly, more so when I’m actively writing. I also woudn’t mind in the slightest if anyone wanted to write to me at to discuss anything MLP related, or any other subject that interests me, for that matter. Feedback is what drives me. If there wasn’t such a massive following of this show, and eyes hungry for new stories, I would have lost interest in my writing long ago. Readers’ comments are what keep me going.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Oh, I am working on a direct follow-up story to Words Failed Her that tells what happened at Sweet Apple Acres when “the curse” rolled in. It’s a bit of a comical puff piece as far as my basic outline goes, but it looks like meat will grow over the bare bones as I’m writing it. It’s hard for me to not put in emotional moments from time to time. Slow going, but it will probably be the next NEW story I publish. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another half a year...

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