• Fanfic Interview: The Diary of an Evil Pony

    I have no idea how Seth runs things around here while he's off gallivanting at conventions. Aren't we all glad he's in charge and I'm not? To make up for my negligence and assure the pre-readers working with the Royal Canterlot Library that I'm not a completely lost cause, we're going to post another one of these tomorrow as well.

    For those of you just joining us, the Royal Canterlot Library is a joint initiative between Equestria Daily pre-readers and other community authors to highlight meritorious pony fanfiction and provide insight into the circumstances surrounding the featured story's creation and its author. Today's offering is "The Diary of an Evil Pony" by TheBrianJ, someone who, I have belatedly realized, lives within 30 miles of my alma mater.

    Head over here to read the interview, or just dive past the break.

    Today’s featured story is a tale of an amoral confidence mare … and a job gone horribly right.

    The Diary Of An Evil Pony 
    [Slice of Life] • 8,312 words

    Dear Diary,

    I have selected my new name for this job: “Fleur De Lis.”

    The target’s name is Fancy Pants. He’s rich, he’s well-known, and most importantly, he’s single. This is going to be a breeze.

    Sometimes, when you’re squaring a subversive fanfiction idea (Fleur de Lis is a grifter and Fancy Pants her mark) with canon (she and Fancy Pants are apparently happy together), there are only a few ways the story can go. This story earned its honors with an exemplary journey as we discover how she gets from one to the other. “It’s the good kind of predictable,” Benman said, and Vimbert agreed: “It’s neat, emotional, and heartwarming.”

    Like last week’s feature, this takes an impersonal and often telly narrative form and infuses it with genuine emotion. “This story is one of the few I’ve ever seen in the fandom that uses diary formatting to its full advantage,” Vimbert said. And it uses pacing effectively to make Fleur’s growth believable. “I think what sells this one for me is [the final scene],” Horizon said.

    Read on for our interview with TheBrianJ, where he discusses his wrestling roots and the princess story that Diary almost was.

    Give us the standard biography.

    My name is Brian. I live in Seattle, home of coffee, music, and hipsters.  I am a mechanical engineer by trade, writer by hobby, and nerd by lifestyle. I engineer because I love to build; I write because I love to create.

    My typical writing style is Slice of Life, although I try to experiment as much as I can with different styles, different formats, and different mediums of my writing. Because at the end of the day, I consider myself the Andrei Ulmeyda of pony writing.

    Although to be fair, I don’t think anyone else was gunning for that title.

    How did you come up with your handle/penname?

    My first name is Brian, my last name starts with J. The “The” at the beginning is actually a reference to a pro wrestler I was a big fan of, The Brian Kendrick. He was only around for a few months, but I always laughed at the absurdity of someone, even an over-the-top pro wrestler, using “The” as part of their real name (as opposed to a pseudonym like The Rock or The Undertaker)  So I ended up adopting the online name a few years ago.

    Who’s your favorite pony?

    Cheerilee. Considering she’s a secondary player on the show at best, I was always surprised by how developed the character is. There’s also something about her design that’s just cheerful (obviously), which makes the scenes where she’s less so all the funnier.

    What’s your favorite episode?

    Tie between It’s About Time and Read It and Weep. IAT is just a fun episode from start to finish with how ridiculous it gets, and RIaW features Daring Do, which I think is one of the best-done parodies on the show… it was a segment poking fun at Indiana Jones-ish adventure stories, while at the same time very much in love with getting to BE that adventure story.

    What do you get from the show?

    Enjoyment. That’s really all you can ask for from a show like this… good writing, good jokes, good stories, just all around enjoyment. It’s a perfect encapsulation of what a cartoon can and should be.

    What do you want from life?

    Happiness, success in my chosen profession, and an HD re-release of Legend of Legaia. I got those first two down, but Sony doesn’t take my calls anymore. But joking aside, the past year of my life has had a lot of success in my chosen profession, as I now work as an engineer for one of the biggest companies in the world. As far as happiness goes, I’ve always been a pretty happy person but it isn’t until I took up pony writing that I really got the happiness out of my hobby that I had been looking for.

    Why do you write?

    By trade, I am a mechanical engineer. I am early in my career, and the fact is there isn’t a lot of wiggle room, creatively, at my jobs. So I write as a creative release. I first picked up writing because of my family… my mom is an artist, my dad a writer, and my brother a poet. So despite going a more math and science direction with my career, I was surrounded by creativity. So even though I was pursuing more math and science-related endeavors, I began to write when I was young because I was so familiar with the creative side of the spectrum. My writing was just small stories, but eventually I took up writing what is called an “EWR Diary.” Basically, you use a wrestling simulator program called EWR to book your own wrestling company (who wins/loses, who you hire, what storylines you do, etc etc) and write the results/backstage happenings. I posted them on a forum dedicated to them and had a very small fanbase, but I was always sorta craving more. So I ended up trying out pony writing, and here I am.

    What advice do you have for the authors out there?

    Don’t be afraid to try. That’s the biggest thing I can say. You might be worried about how the story will turn out, but I guarantee that the story will suck if you never write it, because there won’t be anything down on the page. The absolute worst thing that happens is the story doesn’t turn out well. That’s it. I’ve had stories that turned out badly, and trust me, it’s not a big deal.

    Even if you write something that is bad, there are people out there more than willing to help you. If you’re embarrassed, remember… the biggest success I’ve had as a writer came from magical talking ponies. You really don’t have anything to be embarrassed about. Don’t be afraid to seek help, to post, and to learn. There will never come a time when you are done learning about writing, there is always more to learn.

    What inspired you to write this story?

    I always liked Fleur’s design—she looks totally unlike any other unicorn on the show. She looked more like a princess than a generic pony, so it didn’t surprise me that she got so noticed by the community. I had seen a lot of fanart showing her as a trophy wife, or a gold digger, or in a true loving relationship, all sorts of interpretations of her character.

    I had two ideas for Fleur stories. One would have her be Princess Celestia in disguise, letting her go out and blow off steam without being noticed, with the story being about what happens when Fancy Pants falls in love with her, not knowing who she really is. I had a few key scenes of that story planned out, but I never really knew where I wanted to go with it, so It ended up on the shelf.

    I remember a single picture someone made joking that she had many names, and would discard them “like the empty wallets she left behind,” and I thought that was a really cool idea. I tried looking around for stories that painted her like that, but was surprised to not find any. So that became my second idea for a Fleur story, and when I decided against the Celestia story, this one came to the front.

    What inspired you to tell this story mostly through diary entries?

    Two reasons. One, I wanted to really get inside the head of Fleur, a pony who not only is doing something wrong, but makes a living off of doing something wrong. I figured that having her constantly talk to herself would be super out of place, and having her talk to a “contact” in Canterlot would require tons of those scenes, so I decided on a more unconventional route. Second, I wanted to challenge myself. Up until that point, I had written only one style of story; typical third person narrative. It’s what I was best at, but I was starting to get the itch to try something different. First person would have been good, but I really wanted to try something new that would be more of a challenge than just switching perspectives. That’s how I decided on the diary format; not only would it change up the style of my writing, but it would be an excellent way to tell a slightly different style of story than you normally see on fimfic.

    What challenges did you encounter trying to develop Fleur’s character mostly through her diary?

    When you are telling a story in first person with the character telling the story after the incidents have happened, there is a real issue with show vs tell. The biggest challenge was making sure the story wasn’t just Fleur saying “I did this, then I did that, then this happened.” Chessboard Storytelling. One very early draft was a bit like that, but became so tedious to write that I ended up scrapping about a full page or two of the story just to re-write them to be more interesting.

    I tried to put in enough of Fleur’s own thoughts and feelings to make the diary entries more than just recaps of what happened. While that could be a hinderance to storytelling, it also was a blessing in disguise in some ways. I really enjoyed getting to play around with emotional states based entirely on if she wrote the date, or using strikethrough on the text. You can’t really do that when you’re writing a more typical 3rd person narrative, but in diary format, it works pretty well. It’s a great subtle little way to show what she’s feeling without having to outright say how she’s feeling.

    Did you feel you were able to do enough with Fancy Pants’ character, since the story is told from Fleur’s point of view?

    I think so. I never really had intentioned for Fancy Pants to be a big part of the story… Diary of an Evil Pony was, first and foremost, Fleur-centric. I did want to go into some detail about why Fancy the way he is—in the show, he’s basically the only Canterlot pony who isn’t portrayed as a stuck-up jerk—but I wanted the main character arc and evolution to be Fleur. Fancy was always meant to be the secondary character, the one who is the object of Fleur’s attention, the one who moves the story along while not being right in the spotlight.

    I actually did consider having a second chapter telling the story from Fancy’s perspective as if he was writing his own diary simultaneously. I also considered a sequel from Fancy’s perspective. But I decided against it… looking back, I got across Fancy’s character the way that I wanted to, and at the end of the day I really don’t think there’s anything I could add to make him better or more interesting.

    What’s your favorite response that you’ve ever gotten on this story?

    In all honesty, I love pretty much all the comments I get on my stories; I love feedback more than anything. But if I absolutely had to pick one… either the comment that called the story “some of the finest work I’ve seen in fanfiction,” or the comment that said it was “one of the most beautiful and touching stories I have read in a while.”

    There were also numerous comments saying that the story was was enjoyable despite being predictable. Those were huge compliments to me too because that was one of my biggest fears in writing the story; that it would be so predictable that it would completely take away from any enjoyment.

    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    I am truly appreciative of everyone who has taken the time to read Diary of an Evil Pony, as well as my other stories, and faved/commented on them. You guys are the reason I keep writing, and keep wanting to push myself creatively.

    And to anyone who wants to write… write! Contact authors for advice if you really want to, the worst that will happen is they won’t respond to you and you move on. Push yourself creatively and eventually you will find the success you want.

    You can read The Diary Of An Evil Pony on FIMFiction.net.