This is a tight little piece - an economy of words, with all the fat stripped away. It does a wonderful, terrible job of capturing that sense of bewildering loss you find yourself in when someone very close to you passes away.
[Tragedy] • 5,500 words
When her mother passes away unexpectedly, Twilight Sparkle reflects on a parent she neglected in pursuit of her own dreams. With only a little time left before the funeral, she returns home to piece together what she can of a life she barely remembers, hoping to make peace with the memories of a pony she took for granted.
Hit the break for a talk with Drakmire, and links to For Those We Left Behind online. As always, you can grab a copy in your favorite ebook format at the Downloads page.
Where do you live?
The Pacific Northwest.
What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)
I’m a full-time wireless QA team lead. Anything more specific than that gets very boring and overly complicated.
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
I heard about it through my wife, though I’m fuzzy on the details of where she found out about it. LiveJournal, I’m told. She mentioned how she’d watched a few episodes and how surprisingly entertaining they were, so I got a few links going and then hey, marathon MLP session.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Party of One. It just has a lot going for it--the idea of keeping your friends’ best intentions in mind, the problems that arise when we don’t communicate with one another, Gummy in a tux and top hat, etc.
Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?
The show itself? Twilight. I don’t think that’s too far-fetched, really. She’s given the most screen time in the first season, and so we get to see more facets of her personality than we do of any of the other characters.
Due to the fandom? Rarity. There are a lot of endearing, heartfelt ways to portray generosity, and I think authors and artists alike put that potential to good use.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Oh, it’s just one of those long, boring tales that no one really wants to hear in its entirety. Honest. I just wanted an original name way back when I was first learning what the Internet was, and I came up with this. It’s what I tend to use everywhere, so there’s probably an embarrassing trail of things just waiting to turn around and bite me one day.
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
When I first read Stephen King’s On Writing, I tried my hand at a horrifically bad... I don’t even know what. It’s 90-some pages of “set it on fire, then set fire to the ashes, then send the ashes into the sun.”
Other than that, no, no other writing.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read. I’m starting in on the last book of the Mistborn trilogy, and then the Discworld series is up next. I know, I know, I’m behind the times. If I get a hankering to destroy my life, I resubscribe to one of a half-dozen MMOs.
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
Tall order on this one, so I’m going to cheat. I don’t think I have a single favorite author as long as I’m allowed to cherry pick amongst their works for the novels I do like. Dune (Frank Herbert), Armor (John Steakley), Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams), Raptor Red (Robert T. Bakker), Dragons of Summer Flame (Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman), The Once and Future King (T.H. White)--the list goes on and on, fluctuating up and down on the notoriety scale, but they’ve all been my favorite at one time or another.
Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" - the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?
I want to say that I write for myself here, but after giving it a lot of thought, I believe that that would be a dishonest answer. I write for the people who’d enjoy the story. I work on becoming better for myself, but in the process, I hope to dazzle, inspire, entertain--or at the very least, not bore--the reader who enjoys my work, whoever it might be.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
Only two major ones.
First, read a lot. Not just fanfiction, but well-regarded, published novels. You could do far worse than starting with some of the ones in my list above. Far, far worse.
Second, get a reviewer. Not an editor--don’t let anyone else physically change your writing, but a reviewer to offer another perspective can help avoid a lot of problems before publication. It doesn’t have to be a friend, but it does have to be someone who’s willing to give your work a thrashing if it needs it. They don’t have to be mean about it--my reviewers are all thoughtful and considerate individuals, but if there’s something amiss, I expect them to mark it up and tell me. At the same time, you have to balance their opinions against your own style. Don’t give in just because they’re saying something, but don’t be opposed to change either.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
Mm. I’ve written so little that I don’t have a typical process yet. I used to follow Stephen King’s suggestion of starting with an idea, then pushing forward with 1K+ words a night, then trimming the finished product back by 10%, but that led me into a sprawling adventure fic that was driving me to the point of burnout.
With For Those We Left Behind, though I had the shape of it in mind for a few days before starting the project, I actually started by rereading Elements of Style, On Writing, How Not to Write a Novel, and then to absorb some skill with dialogue, The Sun Also Rises.
When I finally started typing in-doc, I wrote the very last line before anything else, then wrote the first scene, then did a vague outline of all the important scenes to hit between the two. I started writing full scenes linearly so that the progression would feel organic, but I didn’t hesitate to add scenes if needed.
Once my rough draft was done (as in, everything was written that was going to be written--no missing scenes or transitions), I harassed some folks I’d met through the fandom to go through and highlight anything that came to mind. After I resolved their comments to my satisfaction, I stepped back, took one final pass through it, then published.
What inspired you to write For Those We Left Behind?
My sprawling adventure fic, Lacuna. For all its charms, it had a lot of problems that were driving me insane as I wrote. After it was finished, I wanted to write a story that was almost its complete opposite: something short, honest, and trimmed of as much fat as I could get away with.
The seed idea for For Those We Left Behind is more of an unknown, but I bet at least some part of it came from reading Cold in Gardez’s Naked Singularity and wondering about Twilight’s parents and why we almost never see them in the show.
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing For Those We Left Behind?
Resonance. There was a point where I’d just worked too closely on it to get a clear view of how it looked to someone approaching the story for the first time. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be able to relate to Twilight, if the description was too sparse, if the narrative flow made sense to anyone else. For the majority of the project, I thought that I’d write it as an exercise, get it vetted by my reviewers, then file it away and never publish it.
When you set out to write For Those We Left Behind, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
I try not to write with those things at the forefront of my mind, as I worry that doing so will make whatever does emerge feel artificial and tacked on. I really just wanted to tell a straightforward story and do a good job of it. If I were more talented, I’d probably have tried a second pass to help flesh out any underlying messages that did come through on their own, but that’s not something I’m comfortable doing at my level.
Where can readers drop you a line?
FiMFiction is probably the best way, really.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thoughtful comments, whether about how much one loves or hates a story, are worth more than a hundred upvotes/downvotes or arbitrary star ratings. Please consider taking the time to leave feedback on a story once you’ve read it. I may not respond to every comment, but I can guarantee you that I read them all and give each the consideration it deserves.