Today we have the Vault's first official Dark fic. Other stories here have certainly explored some less-than-well-lit themes, but in the end they were really more Tragedies than anything else. This one is true, subtle horror.
[Dark] • 5,600 words
Never enter the woods alone, for there are monsters there. They can look like anything, even another pony. And if you waver in Gaea's love, you will become one.
Hit the break for a talk with Filler of /fic/ fame, and links to Beyond the Wall around the ponynet. You remember where to get ebooks, right? Right?
Where do you live?
What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)
I'm a college student.
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
Around May last year, I saw a friend of mine posting my another friend of mine's Facebook wall something along the lines of: "Success. [Friend 2] is now a brony." A few days later, the second friend posted the video Equestria Girls. Curious, I decided to look up what that was, and that led me to the first episode. I watched it, and I thought it wasn't too bad. So I watched the second. Then I watched the third. And the fourth. And the fifth. And before I knew it, I stayed up until 5 AM on a school night the week before finals week watching a cartoon for little girls.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Hearth's Warming Eve. When its song got last place in Equestria Daily's poll for best season two song, I was quite saddened.
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)?
Fluttershy if I just consider canon. And if I considered fanart, fanfiction... Yeah, still Fluttershy.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I occupy space. It's what I do.
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
I started writing pony fics around August of 2011, and before that, I've never written anything more than three pages of introduction to a story at a time and promptly giving up.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Wasting time in some way or another. Reading message board posts, chatting, and playing Magic: the Gathering, mostly. I'm kind of a shut-in.
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
Favorite published author? I don't really have one. Don't have a particular favorite fic writer, either. Favorite novel would be Lord of the Flies by William Golding or Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky... I think. Nothing stands out for me. As for my favorite fic, that would probably be the first two thirds of Helix Aspersa by StarmanTheta or Bloomberg's Last Hurrah by Blueshift.
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?
Normally, I'd just write for myself and write whatever I want to read. For this story, however, that wasn't the case—this story was written for a writing competition on Ponychan's /fic/, so I kind of wrote it with that audience in mind.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
Many say to write more, but I think reading more is more important. Trying to write without reading first is like trying to paint without looking at other artworks. If you write the same few things every month for a year, you won't have a year's worth of writing experience; you'll have one month's worth of writing experience twelve times. Don't just read pony fics, either. There's a lot of ground that pony fics have yet to cover.
Learn to write with proper grammar without having to think about it. That way, your journey through the mire that is the proofreading process will be much more pleasant and you won't have to rely on external editors or proofreaders as much, if at all. If you're not sure about something, look it up. Google's amazing. Conversely, don't spend too much time worrying about grammar. Grammar's a tool you use to sculpt your story out of words.
Listen to constructive criticism, even if you don't take or agree with it. Better yet, actively seek it before you release your story. A reader's opinion of your story is independent of whether or not you've clicked the Submit button for your fic on FiMFiction.
Possibly above all, have fun with it. You're writing for people who like reading about technicolor ponies. If you're not having fun, there are other things you can do with your time and creativity besides writing.
I could probably go on and on, but there are plenty of guides that say what I want to say, except better.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
Most of my stories begin with some kind of simply stated concept, like "Rainbow Dash fails to impress Twilight Sparkle." If I feel that the concept can be built upon, then I start thinking up scenes or lines that could fit with it.
From there, I devise an outline, be it written down or in my head. I try to run through each scene and check for logical inconsistencies. After that, I write it and edit it as I write. Unless there's some massive problem with what I've written in the early drafts, my first draft is often nearly identical to my finished draft.
After that, I bring it to one of Ponychan /fic/'s review threads, so my draft can be critiqued. I take the comments, edit and rewrite accordingly, and resubmit to the review threads until I'm (or they're) satisfied with what I have.
Unfortunately, I don't use this process very often. I rarely finish the stories that I try to actually make postable for a little more than casual reading—I have about six other one-shots sitting in my Incomplete GDocs folder.
This story, however, didn't fall under any of that except for getting it reviewed on /fic/. Beyond the Wall was me writing whatever words came to mind, and I pretty much winged it. Maybe I should try it more often.
What inspired you to write Beyond the Wall?
A sense of desperation and wanting to submit something readable for the aforementioned writing competition. The kind-of-bimonthly /fic/ Write Off releases a prompt and participating writers have three days to write a story using that prompt. By the end of the second day, I burned through five other ideas that I couldn't get anywhere with, so I discarded them and just wrote down whatever came to mind. What I wrote down was the opening scene of Beyond the Wall, imagining some scene from an anime I saw some time ago that had an unscalable wall at the edge of a forest, and the rest just followed.
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Beyond the Wall?
The deadline for the write off, as well as mounting pressure to study for a midterm I had the next week. I turned it in ten minutes before the cut-off time after staying up all night writing it. It was originally planned to be a Scootaloo origin story, but I didn't have enough time to make it happen in a believable way, so I dropped that path. Perhaps that was for the best.
When you set out to write Beyond the Wall, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
The prompt for the write off was "Setting the Rules," so there was that. I also tried to make it about deceit and conviction and groupthink.
Where can readers drop you a line?
I can usually be found on the IRC channel for Ponychan /fic/'s Training Grounds or the unofficial IRC channel for /fic/. I can also be PMed on my FiMFiction account.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I'm still a bit shocked that this story was considered for this. During the competition, I was expecting it to end up somewhere in the lower half of the contestants. At one point, I even considered dropping out and letting this story rot in my GDocs folder of abandoned stories and ideas. Don't give up just because you're worried people won't like your story, I suppose.