• NaPoWriMo Interview: Monochromatic on Characterization

    "I can't believe Twilight convinced me to translate another shipfic..."

    Today, I’ve got something special for you all. I got a chance to pick the mind of the one and only Monochromatic, author of the critically acclaimed story The Enchanted Library and its sequel, The Enchanted Kingdom, plus over thirty other stories on FimFiction. Regarded as one of the best Rarity authors in the fandom, I was eager to get her input.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Mono in the time I’ve gotten to know her, she knows her characters inside and out. Originally, I had intended on just getting some tips and tricks, but then—as usual—Mono blew me away with this in-depth analysis of what it means to write these beloved characters.

    Below, you’ll find a modified version of the chat we had, discover secrets of wall fish, how to kill your darlings and why everyone should write their own Dragonshy episode.

    Novel Idea: 
    Are there any go-to tricks you have for specific characters? How do you prep yourself for writing Rarity as opposed to Twilight? Or vice versa?

    I think fundamentally you need to "see" like the character.

    I never really thought about that until I was in London for a week, staying at an aunt's house. She had a guest over, a rather high-class Texan woman, very elegant, and both she and I stayed on the third floor. So, one time we went down for dinner, and my uncle asked us both if we'd seen the fish he'd caught hanging on the wall, and neither of us had even noticed it. I said that I had always noticed the piano, but nothing else, while she said she'd noticed the mirror, but nothing else.

    A character's personality and interests should be visible not only in what they notice or say, but also how they say it.

    Novel Idea: 
    Such as? How do you avoid the pitfalls such as the endless Rarity Darlings, for example?

    If your Rarity is only recognizable because she says ‘darling,’ then you're doing it wrong. Honestly, I actually CTRL-F them. After I'm done with a chapter, I CTRL-F ‘darling’ and wipe away the excesses because it can be a crutch.

    Novel Idea: 
    So, if that's how you do it wrong, how do you do it right?

    You need to understand the character. I guess there's no other way to put it. See the show, see how they act and what are their specific reactions.

    “Dragonshy” is honestly one of the best earlier examples of that, because the Mane 6 all have different ways of tackling a single problem. And more than that, you need to focus on giving them depth.

    I think it's just really understanding a character. If you don't understand a character, you reduce them to stereotypes. Pinkie becomes RANDOM BREAK FOURTH WALL LOL!!!! Rarity becomes a string of darlings and narcissistic lines. Fluttershy becomes a wallflower. And that's the thing, they can all be these things but that changes completely when they have motives, when you know why they're doing it. Pinkie, at least in the episodes where she's written well, is never truly random. To others, it looks like she is, but she has her own process and thinking patterns which are completely normal and logical to her. Take, for example, the Parasprite episode, “Swarm of the Century.”

    Rarity has been shown to be aware that she acts like a drama queen, which is I think a testament to the fact that she's very socially aware and more than anything, she is a showmareship. Everything she does is, in a way, for show and attention because she runs a business and attention attracts customers and more business, no?

    Fluttershy thrives when she's comfortable, people depict her as a wallflower, and yet she's always incredibly friendly to those who are friendly to her. In her episodes, she is always willing to try new things and speak her mind when it really comes down to it.

    Understanding a character's motivations is vital for this.

    Novel Idea: 
    Any suggestions on a good practice exercise?

    Everyone should write their own Dragonshy episode. Have the Mane 6 go to the same place and see the same situation, and then write the scene from all of their perspectives. What does each of them think? What does each of them say? And most importantly, explain why they say and think these things.

    No matter what though, Rarity doesn’t say Darling nearly as much as you think she does. When you overuse phrases like that, they lose their impact. When you're writing Rarara, you gotta literally kill your darlings.


    Thank you, Mono, for taking the time to give us all that amazing insight... and that particularly painful pun at the end there.
    "I will absorb the shippy powers of this book on my head and use it for my next masterpiece!"

    I’d like to add just one additional thing for everyone to think about, something that dovetails with Mono’s comments. And that’s the idea of character agency.

    Someone once made a comment that they like to “make” characters do specific things. That bothered me, though it took me a bit to figure out why. You should never make a character do something. They need to react in a manner consistent with what 1) we’ve seen in the show and/or 2) what we’ve already seen in the story.

    If you’re writing an AU where Twilight never left Canterlot, she’s going to be different than the Twilight we know in the show, but she’s still going to share some personality traits. She’ll likely still be the same adorkable, nerdy bookhorse that we all know and love… but maybe just a lot more socially inept.

    If you're writing a story where Twilight has lived for countless millennia and regularly fights cosmic evil to protect her precious world in epic battles that shake the very foundations of reality itself, well, you're going to still need to show us that she's still Twilight in a way that we can believe!

    Let your characters act on their own. Some of the best moments in my stories come from when my characters look at me go “Yeah, your idea sucks, we’re going to go do this” and then there’s nothing but magic.

    At the heart of it, keeping the spirit of the character alive in your story will make it not only easier to write, but a far better story!

    Thanks for reading and happy writing!