Friday, July 5, 2013

Chengar Qordath's Through Death and Life

This week, like last week, we explore themes of mortality through the lens of Celestia's immortality. What must it be like to watch all one's friends pass on?

[Tragedy] • 4,600 words
I am eternal, and death is my steadfast companion. The passing of each generation of my little ponies weighs on me; every one of them is a fleeting, irreplaceable treasure, a snowflake dancing 'round a fire. I want to save all of them; I have the ability to save a few. I have saved none.

Hit the break for a chat with Chengar, and links to Through Death and Life out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab an ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Small-town Texas.

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

I'm a graduate student studying history.

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

A few of my friends who I knew generally had good taste in entertainment were fans of the show, so I eventually decided to watch one episode, just out of curiosity. I was pretty much instantly hooked.

Do you have a favorite episode?

It's hard to pick a favorite episode, because the show covers a lot of different genres and themes depending on which episode it is. It's kind of hard to compare one of the comedy slapstick episodes to an epic adventure plot or one of the lesson-focused ones, and really say which is better. I suppose if I really had to pick, I would say "Dragonshy" might be my favorite just because it managed to incorporate so many of the different things that make up Friendship is Magic. It's hard to cram adventure, comedy, emotion, and a good lesson into twenty-two minutes and make it all work, but "Dragonshy" does.

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)?

Rainbow Dash is my favorite based purely on the show's canon. She just feels like a pony who has so many layers to her: the brash daredevil, the scared pony who secretly fears rejection and isolation, the loyal friend, the insensitive pony who unthinkingly hurts her friends, the tough girl with a hidden heart of gold. Rainbow herself would probably deny it, but in a lot of ways she's the most complicated pony of the lot.

If you go for fanon ponies, the obvious answer would be Cloud Kicker, given how much work I've done with her. Cloudy aside, I'm a big fan of Derpy, just because she's so much fun.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

There's not much of a story to that, sadly. The name just popped into my head one day, and I thought, "That's a cool name. I should use it."

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

I have written a few (mostly unfinished) stories in other fandoms. Most of them aren't anywhere as close to being as polished as what I do for ponydom, mostly because I didn't have my current staff of pre-readers or nearly as much experience.

The most work I did in other fandoms came from The Dresden Files (a series I highly recommend). That's how I initially got involved in writing pony fiction; I realized there was a lot of fun potential in mixing Harry Dresden with ponies. From there, it wasn't much of a jump to just writing ponies exclusively.

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

I'm a pretty big fan of reading, both fanfiction and published stuff. Reading is a great way for any writer to develop their skills, and I suspect my own writing style has taken a lot of cues from some of my favorite writers.

Also, any time Steam has a big game sale, my writing rate slows down a bit. This is not a coincidence.

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

Picking a favorite episode of the show was just about impossible, picking a favorite author or story would be twenty times worse. It can't be done, I just like too much stuff.

However, since it's not much of an answer to the question if I leave it at that, I think I'll go with citing the three authors who've probably had the biggest influence on how I write. I won't say they're perfect authors, or that I like everything they've produced, but their best stuff has made enough of an impression that I told myself that I wanted to be able to write that well. So, my top three authors are (in no particular order): Jim Butcher, R.A. Salvatore, and Matthew Stover.

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'd say that I like to write for the thinking reader—the kind of person who can sit down and discuss my characters and their thoughts, feelings, and actions after they finish reading whatever I've written. I do try to add a little depth to my stories. One of my favorite things to do is look at the comments section of my stories, and watch the ongoing discussions between readers when a debate fires up. Even with my lighthearted comedy romps, I try to have them be about more than just giving the readers a few good laughs.

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

The two biggest tips I can think of to offer an aspiring or struggling author are to accept all the constructive criticism you can get, and to keep writing. My pre-readers, writing buddies, and the ordinary readers who comment on my stories have all made valuable contributions to my growth as an author.

You also just need to keep writing. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. I'd like to think I've gotten a lot better over time.

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

I generally work through Google Docs, with a couple of my closest writing buddies (Comma-Kazie and Ponibius) looking in and offering feedback on the work-in-progress. It's especially valuable for preventing writer's block, since whenever I get hung up on a particular scene, I can ask them for a bit of help getting un-stuck.

Once the full chapter/story is written, I'll call in the rest of my pre-readers to descend on it like a pack of wolves and rip the story to pieces. It can often take my pre-readers quite a while to finish going over things, since it's not unusual for there to be disagreements. There was once an epic five-page-long discussion with dozens of citations about whether or not a particular sentence needed a comma.

What inspired you to write Through Death and Life?

A couple things, really. As anyone who's followed my writing probably knows, the story does have a few tie-ins to some of my other works. The idea of how Rainbow Dash would react to the news Derpy's impending death was an outgrowth of Comma-Kazie's stories covering Derpy's actual death. Likewise, Shadow Kicker's presence has been established in several of my own stories.

However, I think what really ensured that I would write the story instead of just adding it to my list of discarded concepts was the idea of writing Celestia's perspective. It seemed like a really interesting challenge to write a first person story from Celestia's point of view.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Through Death and Life?

Strangely, I didn't. Usually every story has a couple points where I need to step away from the computer for a bit and think things over or bounce a few ideas around, but "Through Death and Life" just flowed out smoothly. That's not to say my pre-readers didn't have work to do fixing the usual issues and making a few suggestions, but it was one of the easiest stories I've ever written in terms of getting the words to just flow.

When you set out to write Through Death and Life, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Well, the title gives away a couple of the main themes for the story—at its core, the story is all about how Celestia deals with the fact that all of her subjects are mortal. Celestia knows and loves every single one of her subjects, flaws and all. It might be easier for her if she kept her distance from her subjects, if only for her own peace of mind, but that's just not the way Celestia works. Loving all of her little ponies is instinct, to her.

The other major theme I wanted the story to cover was Celestia's isolation and perspective as an immortal. Considering she's been alive for millennia, it's easy for the past and present to blur for her. There are just so many memories, and so many things that can remind her of what came before. Until Luna's return, she had nopony she could really share all of that with. I don't think any mortal could truly grasp everything she know and experiences. She could certainly tell them about it, but I don't think anyone who hadn't experienced it could truly understand.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Well, the simplest way to get in touch with me is by adding a comment on one of my stories (I make a point of reading every single one, even the troll-posts and spam). You can also send a PM on FimFiction or email me at, though I can't guarantee a prompt response—my inbox can get pretty busy, not to mention the fact that sometimes I'm cut off from Ponydom for a while due to other commitments on my time.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Well, I would like to thank all my writing buddies and pre-readers for all the hard work they put in. Without their efforts, my stories wouldn't be half as good as they are now. I shudder to think what my readers would say if I posted my unedited rough drafts.

I'd also like to thank all my readers, since without their feedback I would write nearly so much, or enjoy it as much as I do. Nothing quite makes my day like getting a message about how much someone enjoyed reading my work. It's really almost awe-inspiring, when I get a message from someone telling me that reading something I wrote had that kind of impact on them.

1 comment :

  1. It's past time you had something accepted here, bud. Congratulations and well done!