• Editorial: The Pie Family and Characterization 101!

    Such a cute family. Source.

    You can tell a lot about someone by looking at their family. The Pies used to be an enigma for many seasons. They were shown in Season 1 as anti-fun farmers who only cared about their work. Yet with episodes like "Hearthbreakers" and "Maud Pie", we got a glimpse into a family that was completely different from Pinkie. Let’s talk about the Pies and how you can get stories from excellent secondary characters after the break.

    In writing, there are two types of characterization that you can implement. There’s direct characterization, which is usually outright and obvious (Pinkie’s dialogue or actions). There’s also indirect characterization, which usually involves others and their reactions to the primary character. This is the main use of secondary characters and family members. Even with something as simple as Pinkie’s cutie mark story, it not only shows that Pinkie wasn’t meant for being a rock farmer, but that the other Pies were empathetic to her destiny, thus they let her leave.

    Each of Pinkie’s sisters expresses a different emotion, much like her. With Pinkie’s excitement and laughter, you have Marble’s shyness, Limestone’s aggression, and Maud’s indifference. We’ve already had episodes with Maud that spotlight the banter and comedy that comes with her indifference, but what stories could we tell with the other sisters? "Hearthbreakers" was a taste of what we could write with the rest of the family. While the episode was excellent from beginning to end, all we got was that taste since there were so many characters. It’s hard to keep the spotlight on anyone for long without pairing ponies up and giving them a minute or so each (which is what the episode decided to do).

    However this is a good question to ask: what kinds of episodes can we write with the Pie family? Assuming that we were to focus on the sisters or parents individually, what do their personalities bring to the table when you’re spit-balling ideas for Season 7? From what we can gather with "Hearthbreakers", Pinkie’s family lives a stereotypical Amish lifestyle on their farm. Cloudy Quartz and Igneous Rock were matched with a magical rock and have full faith in their relationship. Limestone runs the rock farm and treasures a boulder while Marble barely talks and does what she is told. Their family traditions are a little more odd compared to the Apples. While they prefer to be more forward with their traditions with gatherings and gifts, the Pie family are happy with being as mysterious as possible. Their gifts are hidden, their “dolls” are boring rocks, and their food reminds me of the cabbage soup from Willy Wonka.

    What kind of stories can we get from these traditions and personalities? Well, Marble is unfortunately very close to Fluttershy and Big Mac, so the grab bag of her episodes will risk being similar to what we’ve seen before. While the seasons have experimented with giving secondary characters their own spotlight ("Slice of Life" and "Brotherhooves Social"), it’s not as passable to give an episode to a character that’s basically Fluttershy. Or maybe I’m wrong since Starlight got her time to shine, and she’s similar to Twilight Sparkle. I predict that we might need a little more characterization on Marble’s part before we can focus an episode or have her share one with another pony.

    I’d imagine Limestone’s aggression would be hard to sell since she doesn’t look like she would work with anyone except Pinkie. I can see a story or two involving Limestone passing the torch of the farm to someone else, or wanting to leave the farm to see the outside world, but the story could risk falling into “Putting Your Hoof Down” territory. The pacing of the episode might grind to a halt over and over if Pinkie had to constantly stand between Limestone and another pony to prevent her wrath. However, I see a small amount of banter and comedy possibilities with Limestone wanting to swear out whoever she meets, only for Pinkie to cut her off. The population of Ponyville can sometimes be very dense, and I can easily see Mrs. Cake or Berry Punch being too busy making Limestone’s food to understand that she’s about to blow a fuse.

    Pinkie’s parents are a little more interchangeable. While they hang onto enigmatic traditions, they are nice ponies that simply enjoy a life of solitude among their family. Do keep in mind that while Twilight wasn’t ready (or didn’t have the chance) to let Trixie redeem herself, Igneous Pie gave her a job on his farm. He also didn’t forbid Pinkie from leaving the farm after her party opened his eyes to laughter. Even the world of Equestria where fillies are given more leeway to chase their destinies, letting Pinkie travel the world on her own is a gigantic bridge of trust as a parent. It’s this lack of character that makes me compare them to Marble. There isn’t much to the parents, which is probably why they will remain in the background, unless some new ideas spring up.

    The entire Pie family are a sum of their personalities (or lack thereof) and their traditions, which can always be fodder for new episodes. Much like the Mirror Pool of “Too Many Pinkie Pies” or Goldie Delicious in “Pinkie Apple Pie”, there can be a myriad of reasons why the Pies can become relevant without being forced or contrived. While their characters seem one-note and focused on a primary emotion, the fact that they are one-note gives them a lot more leeway than main characters with their presence in the series. Their use becomes niche, but an apt niche if the time comes.

    As we’ve seen with background and secondary ponies throughout the show, the less you see of them, the easier it is to write them in scenarios that branch them off from their personality, but still remain grounded and realistic. While Marble might be shy and any idea focused on her would be reserved for Fluttershy, it’s her upbringing and traditions that could separate and give her a reason to have an episode of her own. This is part of what makes other characters vital to the life and universe of a series. If you’re running low on ideas for the main cast, why not peek into the lives of others?

    Maud was most likely given more chances to shine because her personality stood out compared to the other Pies. It’s easy to write banter and comedy with Maud since her indifference lets you set up anti-jokes with ease. Rewatch either of her two episodes and you’ll see what I mean. There’s a lot more that you can do with her personality in a slice of life show, since her personality is the type of odd that cartoons want to spotlight. Comedy is all about timing, and Maud’s pauses and flat answers are what I’d categorize as “Banter 101”.

    While the rest of the family will stay as a unit until the perfect idea presents itself, the examination of the Pies lets us understand the intricacies of character design by having ponies that are comically one-note. Being able to explain Maud or Limestone in one sentence is vital to knowing how to write characters as a member of the show staff, and understand them as the viewing audience. This works for every pony on the show, especially the Main Six. The best and most memorable characters in any medium are capable of being explained in one sentence, either visually or otherwise. The Pies are a perfect example of that.

    What do you guys think? Are there some episodes with the Pie family that are waiting to be written? Is a good character able to be understood immediately or after a sentence? Let me know in the comments or you can tweet at me here. I also want to give a special thanks to our Patreon supporters for this editorial idea. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you guys next time.