• 15 Under-Appreciated Background Ponies Who Need More Love (Part 2) - ft. Guest Fanfic Writers!

    You all had a ton of good ideas for background ponies in the comments yesterday, so we might extend this to a 3rd part. If you missed the first part of this post, head on over here for it!

    We've got seven more under-appreciated colorful equines for you all to celebrate today. These girls desperately need more content, and only YOU can deliver it.

    And as promised, this one is also guest written by a bunch of fanfic writers who have written stories about them, so expect lots of words, and links to go read them!

    Get the background ponies below.

    Contributed by TheSlorg

    I think Junebug was introduced at an unfortunate time in the series, as midway through season 2 fans had already been introduced to enough background ponies that there were plenty of “blank slates” to work with through art, fiction, and music. Lyra Heartstrings was already fascinated with humans, Vinyl Scratch and Octavia had already been roomates or more in dozens of fanfics, and just 4 episodes after Junebug's introduction would see the beginnings of DerpyGate take place. The fact that her blind bag toy looked absolutely nothing like her on-screen presence didn’t help matters.

    As for the pony herself, I found her design to be relatively unique, though I can see how some fans mistook her for Golden Harvest. She is sometimes looked at as a sister or cousin to the carrot farmer. She was also one of the earlier background ponies to actually speak! She was voiced in such a way that hinted at a bit of social awkwardness, and I felt at the time of her introduction that she was the perfect pony to expand upon through fan fiction. Unfortunately, not many others shared that thought, and the few stories I did find involved her death more often than not.

    In early 2016, I had the pleasure of writing a Pony Spotlight featuring Junebug for Equestria Daily. At the time, she’d only had two appearances on the show. At the end of the editorial, I included the #BringJunebugBack hashtag to use on Twitter, which I was pleasantly surprised to see a fair number of people actually use. It seemed that some of the newer fans of MLP had never seen her before, and agreed that it would be nice to see more of her.

    Whether or not the hashtag had anything to do with it, it was amazing to see Junebug make five additional appearances over seasons seven and eight. Perhaps the call for more love had been answered?

    Lily Longsocks
    Contributed by Enigmatic Otaku

    Lily Longsocks. A filly that originally appeared in Season 5, episode 18 “Crusaders of the Lost Mark.” Now I’ll admit, when I first saw her she was, to me, just an unassuming classmate of the CMC with a design that was somewhat different enough to have her stand out from the rest of the foals. Suffice to say, I didn’t give her so much as a second thought at the time.

    But boy oh boy, that quickly changed when the scene transitioned into the song “Vote for Pip,” where we then learn that there’s more to the filly with a hedgehog for a cutie mark.

    It wasn’t what she said that made my jaw drop (’cause outside of singing with the group she didn’t really say anything), it was what she did. While trying to reach for a ball, Lily was effortlessly lifting a whole section of the school above her head, employing what Diamond Tiara referred to as “creepy super strength.” That got a laugh out of me, but then it got the gears in my head turning.

    How she got her strength wasn’t what got me thinking, it was how she lives with it. That I can think of off the top of my head, we’ve seen two other incredible feats of strength by two other ponies; one instance was where Big Mac pulled a house behind him as if it were an empty cardboard box, and the other was when Maud Pie potentially and unwittingly destroyed a neighboring town by tossing a rock into the horizon. An adult might find such strength useful, but what would a child think?

    I imagine Lily, being as young as she is, had to go through an extensive amount of trial and error, seeing what she can and can’t do. A lot of broken toys, perhaps even priceless family heirlooms were left crushed in her wake as she grew up. The simple act of hugging her parents would be a delicate operation to her, as she’d want to find the fine line between having her parent feel her embrace and not cracking one of their ribs. Worse still, playing with the other foals would be severely limited to Lily.

    Physically strenuous games like tag would be a no-go due to her concern of other students’ safety, and sports would be one-sided. This probably results in Lily choosing to stand by the sidelines during recess, perfectly content to merely watch her friends as they play and maybe fetch the occasional ball that’d escape them.

    With all these challenges she faces daily, it seems natural to me that Lily would develop a fondness to hedgehogs. Like her they are small and good natured, but can also be threatening. Not only that, but hedgehogs are one of the few animals she’s almost required to be careful with due to their quills. Perhaps that’s what her cutie mark, that of the hedgehog, represents?

    Lily is super strong, but her real strength could potentially rely in her strength of will.

    A Stallion's Strength

    Strawberry Sunrise
    Contributed by AugieDog

    Strawberry Sunrise’s most notable appearance came in season 7’s “Honest Apple,” where Rarity used her to illustrate the fact that different ponies can have different opinions. As Applejack had some devastating views on the fashion contestants’ designs, so too did Strawberry Sunrise have a particularly unfavorable view on apples, one which Applejack was forced to admit was valid, if objectionable to her. She was also seen in the background of season 2’s “Hurricane Fluttershy” and season 4’s “Equestria Games,” though she also turned up wingless in season 2’s “Hearth’s Warming Eve.”

    Pretty much all we get from the show is that she’s a sarcastic character who doesn’t like apples. So I decided that she would be defined largely by negatives: grouchy, opinionated, dismissive, et cetera. But she’s also very chipper in her scene with Rarity and Applejack, so I decided that she would be the sort of person who hides her negativity under a cheerful facade. This obviously meant that she was in sales, trying to convince customers how wonderful strawberries are while thinking that they were idiots for not already being devoted to the finest of fruits.

    But why was she working in agriculture when she’s a pegasus? I decided that she was the only non-earth pony born into the Strawberry family in the past five generations. For that reason, her family didn’t trust her with the crops. And that’s the source of her grouchiness: she wants nothing more than to be out in the fields, but the only job her family’ll let her have is going from hamlet to hamlet selling planting rights to strawberry cultivars.

    And just like that, she’s all set up as “a person in a place with a problem,” the three ingredients I always look for when I’m beginning a story. Strawberry Serenade is where I ended up taking her.

    White Lightning
    contributed by Impossible Numbers

    In the early days of the fandom, one of the most exciting developments was seeing incidental characters be taken up and, from the smallest of on-screen details, built up into fully fledged faces on par with the main cast. Derpy, Lyra, Octavia: they became outright fan favourites.

    Inevitably, some characters got more attention than others. It’s interesting to speculate why, because even these well-known background characters had scanty material attributed to them. Take Lyra: before the show stuck them together every other episode, her and Bon Bon’s placement next to each other was largely due to chance. From that, an entire relationship was created, (and later reinforced when the show staff noticed and started alluding to it).

    But for every pony whose one-off sitting habit generated a mass of anthropological fanon, there were hundreds more who just never went anywhere, or who never fully coalesced into one “official” form, before the fandom’s early fireworks sizzled down.

    White Lightning is one such.

    In the show, she’s one of the first pegasus ponies ever seen, flitting by when Twilight first disembarks the Friendship Balloon in the titles. Otherwise, just part of a crowd, and even then, rarely noticeable.

    Yet oddly, on FIMFiction.net, January 10th, 2017, a slew of new tags appeared on the site, and White Lightning was one of them. This despite having few – and minor – mentions in any blogs on-site (most of her “mentions” are coincidentally named OCs or poetic usage). She was on par with the likes of Merry May and Pizzelle in terms of name recognition.

    Many were incredulous. This, a proper character? Who is she, anyway? No chance, right?


    Remember the first rule of art: Anything is ammunition.

    White Lightning’s most notable show appearances were a good starting point. At the time, I tackled a writing challenge on the theme of Hearts and Hooves Day, so naturally I looked up the episode in question. I was incidentally curious about this White Lightning character, and bam! There she was! A screenshot showing her at a cafĂ© table with another background character, Ponet the Elite Pony. An artist.

    That was how my first romance fic, White Lightning and the Elite Pony, was born.

    Of course, there are more hunting grounds than just the show itself. For obscure background ponies, our wiki (mlp.fandom.com) is a useful resource. There, I paid special attention to the “other depictions” and “merchandise” sections for extra ideas. Here was where I found this description for White Lightning, from the Enterplay card game:

    "White Lightning's dad was a unicorn. Between him and her two sisters, Lightning had plenty of practice getting along with unicorns while growing up!"

    And bam! We have White Lightning’s unicorn fixation, which ties in neatly with her Special Somepony being a unicorn too. Now develop it: consider the reasons and details of such an attraction. Did she feel isolated in her family? Envious? Freakish? More positively, does she have a special empathy with unicorns? From such details, whole psychological dramas can be fed and grown.

    Limited as this is – some ponies don’t even have that much on the wiki – there’s always a reliable standby: look at the ponies themselves.

    Appearances, cutie marks, and names are a great source of inspiration because many are simple, yet wildly open to interpretation. White Lightning’s scribbly and frumpy hairstyle, for instance, became the launching point for her generally being messy and chaotic at home.

    More to the point, her cutie mark’s black storm cloud and lightning bolt suggested, obviously, a role in the weather team. Obviously. But linking it back to the unicorn fixation produced more interesting interpretations. What are unicorns noticeable for? Magic. What does magic look like? Lights, sparks, flashes. What does that compare with? Lightning.

    Thus, another dimension opens up: White Lightning’s special talent in lightning adds to and reflects her own sad, yearning awareness of being the non-unicorn in a family of unicorns. Her compromise, her longing to join them, perhaps?

    It doesn’t even stop with one franchise. I’m a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and one of my favourite powers depicted therein is Iroh’s ability to redirect lightning. It’s more than just a cool technique. Iroh invented it by studying other cultures, making it part of that show’s broader spiritual theme of understanding all four elements in nature, and thus of achieving balance among them. Plus, lightning-bending comes with risks, which adds the necessary element of drama and prevents it becoming an overpowered trait.

    So I co-opted this idea in another fic for White Lightning, One Storm at a Time. Riding along with it was her having a sort of quiet wisdom, perhaps an Eastern-inspired meditativeness. Inspiration doesn’t have to be pony-centric.

    Lastly, turn a weakness into a strength. White Lightning’s very obscurity could be used as a character trait. She literally prefers to hide in the background, which makes for a ready conflict in a plot that pits her against someone more boastful and grandiose.

    Her lack of quotes and speaking lines also inspired the idea of her being a total mute, which reinforced the “quiet strength” angle I already had for her.

    And that’s really it. White Lightning may be obscure and unassuming, but most background ponies were. In these days of established fanon and reoccurring interpretations, it’s easy to forget that flexibility and extrapolation made the early days of the fandom an exciting storm of concepts and creation.

    I’d even encourage going back and reinventing “big name” background ponies like Lyra and Octavia. Far from scraping the bottom of the barrel, it’s going through the rabbit hole to a wonderland of crazy ideas, all waiting for a chance to take on lives of their own. Possibilities and probabilities, alternatives and re-interpretations: creativity is a vast field, and from humble beginnings, new adventures and new friendships always await.

    Lily Valley
    Contributed by Hap

    Lily Valley is a pony who is best known for shouting “The horror! The horror!” These are the last words of Kurtz, the enigmatic psychopath from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness who had been so changed by his experiences that, by the time Marlow arrived to bring him home, he had surrounded his jungle outpost with human heads on spikes. This might seem a bit dark for a reference in a kid’s cartoon, but the line entered public consciousness through the film adaptation Apocalypse Now, and has become a part of pop culture recognizable even to those who somehow missed the book in high school. So, many of the viewers – and surely most of the children seeing it – probably don’t recognize the, well, the horror.

    Oh, Lily, what have your amber eyes seen, and when will you start lining your garden with severed heads?

    Er, uh.

    We haven’t seen much of Lily. Or, rather, we haven’t heard much from her. She’s a resident of Ponyville and shows her face around town quite a bit – waiting in line at Sugarcube Corner, selling flowers from a cart in town square, or watching the Wonderbolts – but she doesn’t have many voice lines. The show's writers have mostly used Lily and the flower girls to show us that ponies are panicky people. The flower girls make us smile when we see them in the background selling flowers, and they make us chuckle when they overreact in cartoonish fashion.

    Lily seems to have only those two modes: “everything is normal,” and “the world is ending.” But surely I’m not the only one who has panicked at the appearance of minor setbacks, suffered an immediate tummyache at the sight of my boss’s caller ID, or slapped on a plastic smile while my brain is telling me that the world is ending?

    So, what happened to Lily?

    Our traumas change us. Sometimes this is good: you learn to respect a knife when you cut your finger chopping vegetables, and next time you won't hurt yourself. But sometimes we learn the wrong lesson.

    Kurtz was hired to travel into the darkest jungle, exploit the natives, and slaughter wildlife to send ivory back to civilization. What he saw there turned him into a poet, an artist, and a dark god. Starlight Glimmer lost her best and only friend when he gained his special talent, and she became a tyrant and dictator in an attempt to prevent anyone from being special and leaving her alone again. Luna grew jealous and lonely, and became Nightmare Moon to force everyone to love her, forever.

    Lily… pretended everything was fine, until she couldn’t?

    I don’t know about you all, but I’ve never been at risk of turning into a cult leader, dictator, or apocalyptic goddess. In Lily we have someone who, to me at least, is more relatable. She isn’t winning, like the mane six. She’s surviving.

    Yeah, she has panic attacks. Maybe her friends don’t have magic rainbow friendship lasers, and maybe they even have some of the same issues as Lily does. But sometimes you just need your friends to be dramatic with you. To go get some Sweet Apple Acres cider with you. To sit in the back of an assertiveness seminar and snicker at the silly guru who only speaks of himself in the third person.

    Lily is somepony who is falling apart, even when she has it together. She’s somepony who is holding together, even when everything is falling apart. That lily behind her ear is a moment of happiness; it may be wilted by tomorrow, but she has to believe that there’s a whole meadow of lilies, waiting for her to stop and notice them, to pick one out and carry it with her, at least for a little while.

    Lilies of the Field

    Petunia Paleo
    Contributed by CoffeeMinion

    One of first things you might notice about Petunia Paleo is her strong physical resemblance to Pinkie Pie. In fact, as I see it, Petunia and Pinkie have quite a number of similarities. This can work in your favor if you’re familiar with writing Pinkie and want to try writing Petunia. But Pinkie can also be hard to write well, because she’s so over-the-top that it’s easy to make her into a caricature. So even though I focus on Petunia, I’ll step through a few things that I think are key to both her and Pinkie’s characters as well.

    Petunia has an exuberant personality, if not quite to the manic extent that Pinkie tends to have. She’s passionate about her primary area of interest—paleontology—and pursues it regardless of whether her parents are entirely comfortable with it or not, just like Pinkie did with partying. And indeed Petunia’s parents seem to have some misgivings, as we saw in Petunia’s debut episode—kind of like how Pinkie’s family still hasn’t fully embraced her partying lifestyle, even though they seem to tolerate Pinkie’s pursuit of it. Petunia’s parents tolerate her interests as well, as evidenced by her participation in a real dig with a real professor in the S7 finale—they likely would’ve had to give their permission for her to go on that.

    Petunia seems like the type of go-getter who’d be looking for that kind of opportunity herself and only seeking parental sign-off when needed. Pinkie also seems to have been fairly independent from her family from an early age. But however independent either of them might be, we see from certain experiences Pinkie had that Petunia might be at the beginning of a sometimes-loney path. Pinkie struggles when she thinks ponies don’t want to be around her, and she uses her manic tendencies as a way to paper-over the genuine limits in her self confidence. We haven’t seen Petunia struggle to anywhere near the same extent yet, but I think it’s a safe bet that Petunia MIGHT run into tension and conflict with her parents by virtue of walking a different sort of path than they do.

    The path less traveled can be lonely at times, both for Petunia herself, and for those who might like to write about her. But by that same token, there’s never going to be a better time to jump in and put YOUR own spin on her! These are just some of my thoughts—time to show us what you dig up!

    Santa, Bring Me a Dinosaur!
    Petunia and the Ceolacanth

    March Gustysnows 
    Contributed by Pascoite

    I’ve never seen Fargo, but it’s an iconic enough movie that I immediately recognize the reference. And she’s just as cute as a dickens. What is a dickens anyway? I don’t know that I’ve seen a picture of Charles Dickens, but I don’t imagine he’s that cute.

    Yet another role for Tabitha St. Germain to show off her versatility, March is a no-nonsense yet affable delegate from Whinnyapolis in “Princess Spike,” and she’s going to bundle up, no matter the weather. I mean, if they’re leaving Twilight’s window open, and the birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming, it can’t be that cold. The hardy citizens of Whinnyapolis should have switched back to tank tops and hot pants dozens of degrees ago.

    March has a little Mrs. Cake in her voicing, which comes as no surprise, since that’s Tabitha again. And a few verbal tics, like Rarity’s “darling”s, and yet again, that’s Tabitha. March is polite to a fault, in contrast to the more assertive Manehattan delegate constantly arguing with her. Perhaps that comes from living so close to Caneighda. She probably knows some snowy ferrets up there.

    Unfortunately, she never takes the hat off, so we don’t get to see what her hairdo looks like. Her cutie mark, a cup of coffee, displays her favorite way to stay warm while enjoying some hot dish or bars. Better than a big old sloppy slice of pizza, dontcha know?