• Editorial: Are All The Writers and Their Episodes Interchangeable? (Introduction)

    They are hard at work shipping Flash Sentry with all the mares.

    MLP is one of the few shows that I've watched in my life where the fandom focused more on the writers than the stars. The writers are the ones that get to lurk around Twitter when their episode airs and give us hints and clues. At the same time, they are the first ones that are on the defense whenever something "controversial" happens in their episode, even when sometimes what happened was not their fault.

    At Bronycon's MLP writer's panel, all of the writers brought up an interesting observation that I never would have suspected. According to them as stated in Aquaman's followup, none of the writers felt that their episodes differentiated from each other's once the script was fully edited. For example, they wouldn't be able to tell a Larson episode from an Amy Keating Rogers episode. Maybe I or the fandom can see what they cannot? Let's begin after the break.

    Speaking as a fellow fanfiction writer, styles of writing are one of the most interesting things to analyze. Not only is it a challenge to even get within the analyzing mindset, but it's extremely hard to gauge your own writing style, especially when you're just starting out or trying new genres. However with others it's not as much of a challenge. For example, it would be extremely easy to pinpoint a story that was written by shortskirtsandexplosions when compared side by side to someone such as Pen Stroke. Shortskirts likes to write out increasingly large tangents that can say a lot about the character unintentionally (or sometimes not) while Pen Stroke usually leaves his character's conversations on the thin side. Neither action is "wrong" (that entire conversation is room for a different editorial altogether). It's merely a stylistic choice.

    A good question to start with would be "what is a writing style"? Well it's what a writer (or other creator) does with their work to set it apart from other creators. We see the differences in nearly every piece of media. From Youtube (any top 5-10-25 video channel), to movies (Stanley Kubrick or David O. Russel), to even television shows (Steven Universe or MLP). To explain even further, a writing style is how a writer structures their story in order to fit a desired tone (the "feel" of the story), purpose (the main idea behind the story), or context (what does this story "respond to" at the time). A style can be changed in any number of ways, from something as simple as writing a character a particular way, to focusing on what that character does in their story.

    Another problem with analyzing a writing style is that any perceived difference between style A and style B could set the two styles apart as separate entities, even if the difference is minute. But within the same genres or even the same medium, you can also argue the opposite because style "A" and style "B" might not be different enough to have separate labels. I think this is what the writers at the Bronycon panel were agreeing upon. Because they all write for a slice of life children's cartoon, their styles have to be relatively similar in order to keep the show's tone and structure intact.

    I partially agree, since nearly every TV show that I've seen has made an effort to keep their episodes within the same tone to avoid confusing or losing the attention of their audience. From "Rick and Morty" to "House of Cards" to "Breaking Bad", TV shows are usually structured the same. But as we can see with both the premieres and finales compared to the episodes in the middle of a MLP season, the structures of the former change. Not only because the premieres and finales are two part episodes, but it's tradition within MLP to be a little more over the top. A prime example is the Twilight versus Tirek "DBZ fight" scene compared to the entirety of "Pinkie Apple Pie".

    Contrary to popular belief, changing structures within an overarching narrative is not a bad thing. MLP got the fandom used to the premieres and finales because the show started that way. With every season, the tradition continues (minus a few outliers) and we are given excellent episodes. Some have foreboding villains that don't get their hooves dirty, while others have villains that fight the Main 6 head to head. That's the interesting thing about style and structure. You can do literally anything with structure in order to form your style and tell your story. Both style and structure go hand in hand.

    However, I have to disagree with the writers on the notion that all of their episodes are the same. My answer is simple: the fandom's response to nearly every episode since the show's inception has asked and answered this question behind closed doors. We've all seen the "I Believe in M. A. Larson" buttons after "Magical Mystery Cure". We've all seen the criticism surrounding Chrysalis' plan in "A Canterlot Wedding" and Meghan's two-part episodes (excluding her most recent premiere). While the criticism surrounding the episodes is simplistic ("Why wasn't this done better?"), I see the elephant in the room.

    Could a different writer make a better "A Canterlot Wedding" or "Magical Mystery Cure"? Is there a writer currently on the staff that should get a shot at writing a premiere or finale? For the writers that have remained on the show since the first season, has their episode "style" and structure changed? That's the purpose of this series. Perhaps there was an episode idea that in different hands, could have been even better or "saved". Another writer's "style" could be the perfect complement to the over the top finale or premiere episodes. We already have an example of the opposite. Meghan McCarthy had trouble writing premieres and finales, but wrote some of the best one-shot episodes in the first few seasons.

    Not to bring up old wounds, but this video was an excellent example on Dave Polsky's part to address structural differences between his episodes and other episodes. Daring Don't was a very divisive episode, and Polsky is really good at looking at episodes in retrospect. He will be one of the many writers whose episodes I will be inspecting.

    Within this editorial series, I plan to watch as many episodes of a writer's past, present, and MLP work in order to see the similarities within their episodes and formulate what I believe to be their "writing style". I will also attempt to indulge in any additional work that the writer has created, such as Larson's "Pennyroyal Academy" or Amy Keating Roger's "The Journal of Two Sisters". This series will be a writer a month, starting next month.

    Until next week, I have a discussion question for you all. Do you disagree with the show writers? Are there certain elements within a writer's episode that tip you off as to who wrote it or who chipped in ideas? Or do the episodes feel more like they are written as a group, without anything noticeable that we could point out in retrospect? Let us know in the comments!

    Finally, I recorded the audio of this editorial and put it on Youtube. The video is above. I'd love anyone who listens to fill out this Strawpoll. I'd just like some feedback on whether you guys like the audio version of this editorial, or if it's unnecessary. Thank you for your input and I'll see you next week.