[Slice-of-Life] • 17,200 words
A letter from Celestia interrupts one of Pinkie's parties with disturbing news. Now friendships will be pushed to the limit as Twilight struggles to uncover which of her friends is not who, or even what, she appears to be.
Hit the break for a talk with kits, and links to Who We Are out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own copy in ebook format over on the Downloads page!
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)
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
I found out about MLP through /b/ threads. I kept seeing these colorful horses being posted as header images and they had insanely long threads. So I checked one out, for the lulz. I was completely fascinated. 4chan had a sore spot that was pony shaped and I couldn't resist the urge to poke it and add fuel to the fire. Over three weeks or so, I learned the characters' names and basic personality traits. When a link to Derpyhooves.com got posted, claiming that it had links to all the eps, I went ahead and checked it out.
I was half-way in love with Rainbow Dash already from my experiences on /b/. I watched the pilot episodes and wasn't really too impressed. The very front opening was great, but the meat of the show was only okay. Magical Girls with ponies is still magical girls after all. It was "Applebuck Season" and "Ticket Master" that kept me going. After finishing "Boast Busters" and "Griffon the Brush Off", I was hooked. I have a real job, so it took two days to finish what was available: "Sonic Rainboom". The thing that really got me into the fandom was The Party Hasn't Ended.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Oh, you probably want to know what it is? It used to be "Cutie Mark Chronicles". The backstory combined with the way each of their elements is "foreshadowed" is amazing storytelling. Also, Dash is Best Pony. But it was dethroned by "Hurricane Fluttershy". This episode has so much good tension between Dash and Fluttershy, it's just absolutely amazing. Not to mention the montage. Oh god, the montage. Now, if you watched "Dragonshy", you really get the impression that Dash is not really fond of Flutters. There were quite a few small moments in S2, like Dash grabbing her to go save Rarity and Spike, but this is the first time that I really, really could feel them being old friends. Friends who do get annoyed at each other, but are close enough to overcome that.
Other favorites include:
- "Look Before You Sleep"
- "Sonic Rainboom"
- "Party of One"
- "Last Roundup"
- "Read it and Weep"
I liked the song in "May the Best Pet Win" enough, but the rest of the episode was not my cup of tea. I'm a bit of a weirdo in that I don't much care for the adventure-y bits in the show. I'd much rather focus on the characters interacting with each other. An adventure forces focus on the plot (literary) while the slice of life episodes force the focus squarely on the characters. That doesn't always work though. When it does fail, it fails spectacularly; "Owl's Well" is easily the worst episode in the series.
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)?
Easily Rainbow Dash. Pinkie made a good run with Season 2, but "Read it and Weep" and "Hurricane Fluttershy" gave Dash the boost she needed.
My love for Best Pony is a mixture of visual and character appeal. Visually, I am entranced. She's so very colorful and her eyes are amazing. Everything from the shape of her cutie-mark to the way her mane falls over her eyes is just beautiful. As a character, she has a lot of the traits I wish I had. She can talk to people without getting nervous, she can deal with attention, she can even demonstrate her talents in front of others! As someone who has trouble with that, I really love her for her extroverted-ness.
Her contradictions are lovely too. She's a tomboy, but she still loves dresses, even if fittings are too boring. She's the "cool" character, but isn't afraid to be adorably nerdy when the time comes.
I don't pay too much attention to fanon. I like some of it, Derpy as mailmare, but I kinda hate it when people act like fanon is 'right'. So I'm doubling down on Rainbow.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I do not remember where the YMG in KitsuneYMG came from. It's really old. I had a DA I had signed up for under that name, but I no longer liked the full name. So I shortened it to "kits". Yes, that's all lowercase. I like ee cummings and case sensitive filesystems. The name "Kittyhawk Contrail" was coined to fit "kits" and the fact that I deal with things that zoom through the air for a living. Kittyhawk Equinson is the result of Google flagging "Kittyhawk Contrail" as a fake name during my brief stint on G+. G+ sucks guys. A lot.
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
Nope. April 2011, after those terrible tornados.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I draw. I read. I chat in irc. Oh yeah, I have three kids too. Occasionally I take a break from ponies and family and I get to sleep. I used to play a lot of Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, and Gears of War. I have no time for that now.
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
Brandon Sanderson. Hooves down, he's my favorite published author. I love The Way of Kings and I honestly think he did a better job than Jordan would have on the last two Wheel of Time books. His world building and the way he reveals it to the reader are simply astounding. Next on the list would be Robert Jordan. While the middle books – Lord of Chaos, I'm looking at you – were slow and dull, he is a master world builder as well. He also juggles something like four hundred thousand characters. I might be exaggerating a tiny bit.
I feel really weird gushing about fanfiction authors since I talk to so many of them on a regular basis. See my callouts on my user page for fics I like.
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 tried to answer this in a useful way, I really did. I spent most of my thirteen hour drive back from CG thinking about this question. I do have an ideal reader, but it's not very helpful I think: fans of the show.
Let me try to clarify in a way that won't insult anybody (yay for Twi-like awkwardness coming to the fore!). It's fine that you like HiE or Lunaverse Fics. It's fine that you like HotDiggityDemon or $insert_fanon_here. I don't. I don't like fics based upon fanon like that. I don't like Grimdark, I don't like Sci-Fi, I don't like AU, I don't like OCs. I like The Show. When I write, no matter what I'm writing, I always strive to make it feel like the show. That means that there is often a lesson for one or more characters to learn. There are themes of friendship and harmony. There is growth and exploration of character. There is often some comedy. Some people are probably just itching to comment that shipping isn't in tune with the show. I disagree on the grounds that the entire show is about strengthening of bonds between the ponies and romance is a form of this. Shipping is worthless to me without the close emotional bonds that the show builds upon. I'd honestly rather have a good solid hug "with feels" than a bunch of passionless makeouts.
If you read the above and nodded at pretty much every point, congrats! You're my ideal reader. I don't know how many of you there are and I hope I didn't piss the rest of you off.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
Read a lot. If you're trying to write shipping, read it. Analyze it. Read fics you like and ask why you like them. Find stories you loath and figure out why you hate them. Find the ones that are almost good enough and figure out why they aren't quite there. Once you understand what you like or hate, and why you do, you can begin crafting a story you like. If you don't like a story you're writing, odds are good no one else will. Now, that doesn't mean you'll be instantly-loved. Not only is this fandom kinda fickle, but you could just like something that few others do.
If you have a specific fic or author you really like, don't be afraid to imitate, but don't copy either. I loved Rainbow Dash's Best Plan Ever to pieces. I loved everything from the way Dash's personality infected the narrator, to the way she ignores the rules of grammar to deepen the emotional impact. It heavily influenced my writing style and I totally think anyone who ever wants to write Rainbow Dash or shipping should read it and take notes.
If you find that your story isn't popular, do not be afraid to ask your readers questions. If no one leaves feedback, ask them what they didn't like. If you make a successful story, ask what they liked. Beg for details. Sometimes you'll find that things you didn't know you were doing triggered a love it/hate it response.
Read your fic out loud. Do it. Any place you stumble, any place you think "this isn't the character I was writing", mark for editing. This is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your writing. Whether you have the issue of missing words or the dreaded "out of character", reading aloud will help you catch those.
Characterization is important. You need a solid grasp of not only what each pony does, but why. Even if the reader never finds out the why, the fact that there is a single unifying desire to your characters will lend you a consistency that can help overcome some OoC moments. I always write down what each character's motivations are for a story. In a complex story, I write down how each pair, or trio of characters behaves. Rainbow Dash talking to Pinkie Pie is different than Rainbow Dash talking to Fluttershy. Talking to Pinkie in private is different than in public. Know what your characters want and fear.
As a last tip, read those Wanderer_D fimfiction news posts. Especially the ones with guest essays. On my user page I have a box named "Pontifications". It has all of the assorted writing tip drunken rants I've written. Have fun. Oh, and if you do read them, let me know what you think! Feedback is important.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
I usually run a pitch past a whole lot of friends. If they all seem interested, I make a "pitch doc." This has the basic outline in a very conversational form and may include a lot of copy/paste from irc. If I decide to start the fic, I figure out the ending in broad terms. I then make an outline. The outline has only key events and their emotional context. It's not a micromanaged outline. Here's List's Outline.
Maybe I do it wrong. For Who We Are, I ignored all of that. I wrote the pitch "one of the mane six is a changeling, it doesn't matter who" and then I wrote the entire ending. That entire last monologue. I knew where I needed to end it. I
Sorry it's not more helpful.
What inspired you to write Who We Are?
Obviously, "A Canterlot Wedding" had a lot to do with it.
I challenge myself with new things when I write. For List, it was just to write shipping. Until that fic, I didn't know if I could do it. I often said "I can't write shipping." So then I did. For Who We Are, I wanted to write epic friendshipping. I wanted that same feeling that showcased platonic love. In "Return to Harmony" their friendship allows them to overcome Discord's influence and wield the Elements of Harmony. That was almost what I wanted. There's a lot of relying on external things there. I wanted to write something that should have ended badly, but doesn't. Not because of external forces, say Celestia telling them it doesn't matter, but because they are amazing friends.
To a lesser extent, "Lesson Zero" did too. Especially the end where Twilight's friends faced down Celestia to defend her. I tried to end with a confrontation scene like that, but I feel a few people may have missed the point. For the record, Celestia doesn't actually know who either, but she did hope for this outcome.
As for when this specific idea began to form. That would be when the changelings copied the mane cast. I immediately discarded "$mane is a changeling" because I knew we would get countless numbers of those. And we have. It wasn't for a few hours until I, half in jest, asked the #pre-reader channel about what would become Who We Are. We were talking about the hoards of changeling fics we'd soon be getting and then...
kits: What if...
kits: I wrote a fic
kits: where one of the mane6 was a changeling
kits: and the reader never finds out who
kits: but the ponies do, and they don't care?
Since everyone told me to do it, filly, I did.
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Who We Are?
Short answer: yes, most of it.
The first and last changeling interludes, as well as the very opening up through "Party's over" took next to no time. Everything else was a grueling uphill battle. Trying to not pin it on a specific pony, trying to have each character come to the realization that it doesn't matter in their own way. All of these were insanely hard to do. There were weeks where my word count was measured in double digits. The whole thing was a Herculean task that makes List look like the rough draft of an email you know no one will ever read. Who We Are took twice as long and is 1/3 the length.
When you set out to write Who We Are, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
I most definitely had a message. That message was simple: Friendship is Magic. This is not a fic about how a character hid for years – I am forced to assume that changelings are competent at physical impersonation, that being their evolved hunting method – so I literally do not care how she did it. It is of zero consequence to the story. The story is what happens to the ponies' friendships when they find out. The answer? Nothing. Because it doesn't change who they are.
Side note: Original title was Who I Am, but that seemed less inclusive and put too much focus on the changeling. The story is about all six of them, hence the inclusive plural.
Where can readers drop you a line?
Fimfiction, DeviantArt, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I have so much I could say, but then you'd all tl;dr, so I'll try to stick on topic.
I've gotten a lot of comments about wanting to know who the changeling is. I've gotten a few who are angry that I "wasted their time." I've even got one or two who insist I rewrite it so that the "obvious" choice is revealed to be her. I can only trot out that oldest and least useful of deflections: "You're missing the point."
To reiterate: I really did not pick a character to be the changeling. I tried to write from both perspectives everytime I wrote a scene out. So Dash is always the changeling, but she's also never the changeling. It's a challenge keeping that kind of contradiction in my head. I had to re-write so many lines because they would only work if the speaker was 100% a changeling or vice versa.
I am not writing an official sequel. Ever.
That said, I totally love Rainbow for the changeling. Getting to allow Dash to be vulnerable without detracting from her cool-factor really is fun. Plus the intrinsic adorableness of the makeuphugs that would follow the end of the fic are great.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you enjoy(ed) Who We Are!