• NaPoWriMo Interview: Crystal Wishes on Romance

    "And then... they kissed!"

    If you folks haven’t noticed, I’m diehard shipper. And if you haven’t noticed, you haven’t been reading the art captions for every single pic I’ve posted in these NaPoWriMo articles! For shame!

    But that’s okay, because we’ve now got one of the best romance writers on FimFiction here to talk to you! Our guest is none other than Crystal Wishes, known far and wide for her coming-of-age romance saga by the same name, Crystal's Wishes, as well as being the creator of the heart-stoppingly adorable Lovey Dovey from Lovey Dovey and the Business Pony.

    Check below the break for the juicy details of her powers over her sister’s love life, insight into those three very special words and even secrets into the forbidden art of OC romances! 

    To start us out, where do you usually get your inspiration for your romantic adventures?

    Crystal Wishes:
    My inspiration comes as a strange lovechild between romantic comedy films and my own experiences, personal and through friends.

    I'll watch any trashy romcom I can get my hands on, and then tear it apart until I can pinpoint the parts that made me roll my eyes. Those pieces are what I use the most; I figure out why I didn't like them and try to spin them in a different direction to make them work for me.

    For example, the super common trope of "opposites attract" almost always goes the same route: guy meets girl, their personalities clash, something changes their perspective, and they live happily ever after. It makes for a great story but it's not realistic to me. They're still going to have conflict, and that isn't resolved by a single eye-opening moment.

    On the other hand, I also draw a lot from real-life experiences. I take my own relationship with my husband, Anzel, into consideration a lot of course, but I also look at stories from my friends and family. There are some good and bad love stories I've encountered in my life, and I like to pay homage to the ones that have stuck with me the most.

    What are some common pitfalls to avoid when using formulas similar to romantic comedies, especially considering every writer's personal experience with romance tend to vary wildly?

    Crystal Wishes:
    The biggest pitfall a writer can encounter, I think, is trying to write the romance before the characters.

    Some time back, I had someone reach out to me for advice on their story. Their plot demanded that two characters be together, but they had no idea how to make that happen. After explaining the characters' situations and personalities, I responded as honestly as I could: I had no idea how they would make it happen, either.

    There are few things more detrimental to a love story than "the plot demands it." You can't make two people just suddenly fall in love; you shouldn't make two characters do the same, either. If you really, really want those two characters to get together against all their better judgment, then you better be prepared for it to come off as feeling forced if you're not really crafty about it.

    Treat your characters as living, breathing, thinking, feeling people. They have opinions. They have likes and dislikes. It's okay for two characters who seem incompatible to end up together! But try to put yourself in their shoes as you form their love story.

    And if you sincerely don't understand love or why people fall into it, then maybe ask yourself why you want to write a romance before you get started. Not everyone is meant to write everything, after all. I would rather read a story with no romance than one where the author forced it because they felt they had to rather than wanted to from the heart.

    Considering how most of the characters in MLP haven't shown any specific romantic preference ever stated, how do you tend to go about developing a relationship? How do you transition a friendship of seven years into something more? 

    Crystal Wishes:
    Oh, I love long-term friendships developing into romance. They can be so beautiful and tragic at the same time because there is the feeling of a great risk being taken.

    Is the potential relationship worth the equally potential loss of friendship? They know each other so well. Perhaps, in some ways, too well. They know each other's flaws in a way they might not want a romantic partner to know. At the same time, they've probably seen each other at their worst.

    In my personal opinion, there has to be a moment. Something that pushes one or both into making that exhilarating and terrifying leap.

    It can be external—for example, my sister and her now-boyfriend spent years circling one another, both afraid that if dating didn't work out, it would destroy our group of friends. What finally sealed the deal was I gave our friend permission to date my sister and promised that, no matter what, I would still be friends with him. (It helped that I knew they were nigh perfect for each other, and they are.)

    Of course, it can also be internal. A desire to no longer be without them that outweighs the fear and uncertainty. Jealousy at watching the other date someone(s) else. Love that just can't be contained and bursts out like a dam. A slip of the tongue (figuratively... but hey, maybe literally, if that's what you're into).

    On that note, I would caution against drunken confessions... because that's too easy and overdone. Think like the character! Imagine their fears, their concerns, their wants, their needs. Have fun with it! Be creative! There are so many, many options, and they can be so very fulfilling to read if you take the characters and their existing relationship as the primary consideration rather than looking for an "easy" path.

    You've worked with both canon characters and original characters. What sort of challenges and benefits do you get from working with original characters? 

    In addition, what's your stance on the "Never ship an OC with a Canon Character" philosophy?

    Crystal Wishes:
    My stance is never say never. When writing original characters in fanfiction, there is one central piece of advice that I always give: know what you're getting into.

    Regardless of if you ship your OC with a canon character, there will be a stigma against you just for writing an OC. By far and large, people read fanfiction to see their favorite characters in situations the show doesn't provide. They didn't come here to read about your character. So you have two options
    • Just write what you want and screw what anyone else thinks. Totally viable! But I would recommend instead...
    • Treat your OC as if you don't already know them. Make yourself fall in love with them over the course of the story rather than from the get-go. Start from a neutral point and grow them through the story before you even introduce the canon romantic interest.
    And whatever you do, please, please, please try to stay true to the canon character you're using. This is even more important in an OC x Canon pairing than Canon x Canon, because any out-of-character actions and reactions will be treated with extra scrutiny than normal.

    That isn't to try to deter you from writing original characters, of course. There is so much potential in doing so! If you want to try but are afraid of the stigma, then start with taking a lesser-developed background canon character and breathe your own life into them. You'll either love the freedom that having no pre-established personality allows, or realize that you prefer having an existing characterization to work from.

    So, with all this great information, can you give five quick tips you may not have covered and maybe a practical exercise for everyone?

    Crystal Wishes:
    It would be my pleasure!
    • Know what you like and don't like about romance. If you're not into it, then it's very likely to show in your writing.
    • Remember that a relationship doesn't have to be perfect—and honestly shouldn't be. Even people who are deeply in love still have disagreements or even fights sometimes.
    • Romance doesn't end at the first kiss or wedding vows. There is life and love after these moments, and they aren't written about nearly enough.
    • A lot of couples have their own "weird couple stuff". Anzel and I talk to his hand (whose name is Hand Handy McHanderson, thank you very much). Giving your characters a weird couple thing can be extremely fun and I highly recommend it.
    • More than anything else, please know the difference between a crush, attraction, and love. These are three VERY different things, and mixing them up is one of the easiest ways to kill my interest in a romance.
    And as an exercise, I challenge all of you to write about your two characters on a blind date. Enjoy exploring the awkwardness as they explore one another. I think it'll really give you insight into who they are as people and the challenges you'll need to face writing a romance about them.

    Here’s a big one: any advice on how to use "I love you" in a story? Or even how not to use it?

    Crystal Wishes:
    Oh, boy, you've stepped on a landmine for me there. You might regret asking this one because I'm probably going to upset some folks with my opinion.

    This may not be true for everyone but it seems to me that the easier it is to say "I love you" for the first time, the less likely it's truly love. When I was an ignorant teenager, it was easy to tell my middle school boyfriend I loved him. It was just, like, so totally obvious, gosh! How could I not be in love with him?

    Then, much later in life, I met Anzel. It was a year into our relationship and I finally wanted to tell him how I felt. I sidled up to him and tentatively said his name, then started to tremble as a hundred thoughts crossed my mind all at once: what if he didn't feel the same? What if it was too soon? What if it was too late? I very nearly started to cry from the sudden terror that I was about to ruin things.

    Once it's been said—and, ideally, written to be said with care and sincerity—that doesn't mean it now has to become their new favorite phrase. I don't know of any couple among my friends and family that just throws the words out there all the time like it's as essential as breathing. I say it to Anzel when I'm feeling profoundly emotional about us, and when one of us is about to drive (because I'm terrified that he or I'll get in a wreck and I don't want regrets about 'last words'—morbid, but hey, it's true).

    Love is a nebulous concept. It's not as easy to grasp as friendship or sexual attraction. Both can be mistaken for love, but neither always lead to it. Treat it and its words with the precious care, because when it's real, it's a deep, wonderful, and life-changing experience. That's not something to be tossed about lightly, so please don't insult those of us who have it by doing so.

    Any parting thoughts or suggestions?

    Crystal Wishes:
    Write what you love—whether that's romance or not!—and love what you've written. It's the only way I've found to be truly happy in this very fickle world of "fame" and "popularity". 💗

    Previous NaPoWriMo Interviews: