Friday, July 26, 2013

Vargras' What Must Be Done

The batponies -- sorry, opliptera -- are a fascinating piece of Equestrian lore (unless you subscribe to the notion that they were just Nightmare Night costumes... but what's more fun, spooky mutant ponies or dressed-up pegasi?) that make the perfect Night Guard. But where did they come from? What secrets hide with them in the shadows?

[Tragedy] • 5,600 words
The Night Guard are as efficient as they are enigmatic, but it takes the curiosity of a recruit to discover that some things are simply best left unsaid.

Hit the break for a chat with Vargras and links to What Must Be Done out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I live in northern Kentucky, about ten minutes or so outside Cincinnati, Ohio. I say "northern Kentucky" because northern Kentucky is a lot different than just Kentucky. Seriously, anything south of Louisville and Lexington is usually "don't get off the highway unless you absolutely have to" territory, though that assumes there's even an exit around. When your state is known for little more than horses and fried chicken, there isn't much else to see.

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

I'm currently enrolled in a nursing program at a local college -- with luck, I'll be doing hospital work in about three years or so. My dream job is being a flight nurse, which involves working on helicopters. It'd be a challenging work environment, but that's part of the appeal. My current job during the summer is a warehouse position, loading beer for delivery.

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

I wish I was joking when I said this, but my first real exposure to MLP was one of the many "Guile's Theme Goes With Everything" videos, specifically the "Sonic Rainboom" scene with Guile's Theme playing in the background. The first time I legitimately watched the show was the start of season 2.

Do you have a favorite episode?

"Sleepless in Ponyville," without a doubt. We finally get a Scootaloo episode, and it's got some Luna too? What's not to like? The writing was absolutely superb, and what made it more astounding was that it was the first time that particular writer had written an episode for the show.

In second would probably be "Apple Family Reunion". The little scene towards the end with the shooting stars was a subtle bit of confirmation to the fanon (and also Lauren Faust's original plans) of Applejack's parents being dead, and it was something I loved.

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)?

Favorite character is Applejack, without a doubt. It's funny because when I first got into the show, she wasn't even in my top five! True to her character, though, she slowly worked her way up to the top, and she's more or less cemented herself in that position. I've now got far too many buttons of Applejack, a few prints, and even a plushie of her.

Answer doesn't really change when you throw the fandom in. I still love Applejack, even after all the "background pony" jokes. That being said, Nurse Redheart is my favorite background pony, for what should be obvious reasons. I may or may not be biased.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Just popped into my head. Sorry, there's no real story behind this or anything. I was laying in bed one night about eight years ago, trying to come up with a username that wasn't taken on some other site, and "Vargras" simply popped into my head. Sure enough, it wasn't taken (and it pretty much never is on any other sites I use).

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

I've always done a bit of writing since I was little, but it was never anything really serious. I got some pretty high marks from state-run stuff, but it had always been school work and nothing I ever really did in my free time for my own enjoyment. I only started to really work on my writing after I tried my hand at roleplaying, and thankfully, I've improved quite a bit since then. Those earlier roleplay sessions are pretty cringe-worthy.

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

I usually just play games, or chat with my friends over Skype. Sometimes I'll go to bars for a drink or two when some of my other friends aren't busy with work or their own lives. Sorry if I'm not that interesting!

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

Favorite published author would have to be Stephen King -- I simply like It, Pet Sematary, and Cell far too much. For fanfiction authors, Varanus, Thanqol, and Device Heretic have been some of my favorites (and I'm fully aware how polarizing some of them are).

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?

Oof, this is a hard one. For some of the things I've written, I haven't had that "ideal reader". I wrote simply for the sake of writing or to try and prove something to myself. For some of my others, that "ideal reader" had always been the people who are obviously loving your story. They're the ones who drop everything they're doing as soon as you update, and they're always leaving comments and telling you how they want more. It can be an incentive to know that people like what you write, but it can also be a little stressful!

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

I guess the biggest one is directed towards people who write on this site, and it's something I see all too often within this fandom (to the point that it's a bit of a pet peeve now): the prereaders at EQD are not bad people. They are not elitists, or jerks, or tyrants. They are not trying to crush your hopes and dreams if they ever reject you. They're trying to help you.

I'll give an example: over a year ago, I did a bit of work on a Nurse Redheart fic. I finished it up, everything looked good, and I sent it off to Equestria Daily. It got declined. Upon looking it over, the prereader had noted that the biggest error was that I had a huge (and I do mean huge) plothole within the fic -- and I had never caught it, because it had made sense to me. Always take note of the feedback prereaders give you if they reject you, and take it to heart. Don't yell at them, but instead, thank them for their time and input, and then you simply get right back to work.

Another thing to note is that you can't please everyone -- it's simply impossible. You're going to have people who don't like what you write, and you're going to have to simply deal with it. Rather than try to appeal to everyone, however, instead find the people you most like writing for, and write for them. Try not to worry about downvotes either, as they're pretty much unavoidable.

Aside from that, don't be afraid to take a break from your own work. If your writing just isn't "clicking" and you can't really get anything good out, then take a bit of a breather. If you force yourself to write, it likely isn't going to be any good.

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

I'm a bit of a terrible person about this, but I use no drafts, nor do I use prereaders or editors. Everything I do is 100% me, and is all done purely within the text editor on the site. There have been a few occasions in which I have had someone else look over my stuff, but it's been rare.

Seriously, don't be me. Use all of those things. They're helpful.

What inspired you to write What Must Be Done?

I'm afraid this might sound a bit egocentric of me, but it was mostly done because I felt I could create a better batpony origin fic than Aegis Shield. I'm not going to detail what I think of him, as it's liable to ruffle a few feathers, but it was done because I felt I could do it better and also put a unique spin on it. That, and I'm a sucker for tragic stories.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing What Must Be Done?

It was mostly limited to the dialogue and personalities between the two main characters. Both of them were inspired by several pictures Equestria-Prevails has done, which usually have a playful-looking female batpony and a stern and serious male pegasus. I ended up more or less switching the personalities, as it seemed a little more fitting. Noctis (the female batpony) ended up having a much more formal speech pattern, whereas Ferous (the male pegasus) spoke much more casually. I definitely wasn't expecting either of them to be quite as popular as they have been, especially since I've had a few people tell me that Noctis is one of their favorite OCs they've ever read about.

I had a pretty good feel for what kind of scenes I wanted to do, so that wasn't much of an issue.

When you set out to write What Must Be Done, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

It's somewhat popular fanon that Luna's guards are simply pegasus ponies, and that their appearance in "Luna Eclipsed" was just a costume or a bit of magic. I wanted a more tragic and darker angle on it, which is exactly what I went for, and I probably listened to the Diablo soundtracks far too much while writing it. What if batponies were actually cursed or mutated pegasus ponies? What if they were discriminated against because of their appearance? What if their service to Luna is their way of atoning for their own self-perceived sins? I didn't want it to just be costumes or magic, I wanted them to be a wayward and forgotten race that was only recently beginning to rediscover itself.

I've continued the worldbuilding with the sequel, and it's given me an opportunity to flesh things out a bit more, but the biggest problem now is actually finding the desire to write it. If you're following it, I'm sorry about the lack of updates.

Where can readers drop you a line?

I can be reached via private messages on FIMFiction (disabled my userpage comments, sorry!), or on Steam (my user ID is osfswine). If you are going to add me on Steam, please message me on FIMFiction so I know who you even are, otherwise I'm liable to decline it. I can also be reached on Skype (user ID is notzengu). No emails -- I'm pretty wary about that sort of thing.

If you're attending Bronycon, I'll be there! I'm assigned as a helper to table #702 in the artist alley, but I'll also be roaming around so I can visit all my friends and also so I can shop.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Writing is always a learning process. There's always something new to learn or room to grow, and you can never be "perfect" at it. Maybe "satisfied" or "content", but not "perfect". If someone tells you that they are, then they've simply shown how much more they have to go.

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