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  • 15w, 1d
    How To: Slice of Life

    I wrote this back in 2013 for the site, but it never ended up getting posted anywhere. I fought it again today when I was sifting through my Google Docs folder and I figured that since I haven't had much of a presence on the site for the last couple of months I might as well toss it up in the hopes that somepony somewhere finds it helpful.

    How To: Slice of Life

    Slice of Life is probably the least informative tag you can give a story.

    That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad genre, of course, or that stories that have the tag aren’t good stories. It’s just a very broad category. It’s the Mystery Box of tags, the tag you default to when nothing else quite seems to fit. ‘Sad,’ ‘Dark,’ ‘Comedy,’ and most of the others at least imply a tone or set you up to know what to expect from the story; ‘Slice of Life’ really doesn’t. It could mean somepony going about their day-to-day life, or an over-the-top soap opera. Luckily, there are at least a few commonalities to the best ones.

    With Slice of Life, you’re basically trading off the burden of creating compelling narrative thrust from ‘what happens’ to ‘who things happen to and what they do about it.’ If you want to wax poetic about sprawling, exotic worlds and magnificent vistas, well, that’s what the adventure tag is for. There’s still room for interesting descriptive prose, but it’s less important. Your description of a foreign city in the adventure fic is there to craft a picture of something new in peoples’ heads. The point of your prose in a SoL fic is to take a picture your reader already has of something familiar and either link it thematically to what you want to talk about (a character or an idea), or just talk about the familiar thing in a novel and amusing way. Unfortunately, this is considerably tougher than it sounds, and if you think it sounded easy to begin with you should probably take a step back and seriously reevaluate the scale of your ambitions.

    So if the setting isn’t the star, and the plot is something well-worn and familiar, what’s left? Well, that’d be your characters. Even moreso than in other fics, writing interesting, believable characterization is a make-or-break factor in whether your story is going to see the feature box or sink off the bottom of the ‘New’ stack with a dozen views. Yes, I’m pretending the world is fair and that quality is the one and only determination of popularity or success. Just run with it for the time being.

    ‘So Eakin,’ you probably aren’t actually saying but really should be at this point, ‘how do I make a believable, interesting character? Everyone already knows who the Mane six and assorted supporting cast are, how do I say something different about that without mangling their personalities beyond recognition?’ Well, there’s nothing wrong with slightly divergent interpretations of a character. I mean, you probably aren’t going to get away with Fluttershy secretly living a double life as a stripper to make money, but you can choose what parts of the character to emphasize. This even happens in the show; sometimes Twilight is the frazzled psycho who’s gone totally out of her mind at the slightest provocation and sometimes she’s the cool and collected leader of the group. Bonus points if you can resolve this contradiction in an interesting way (in that case, both traits seem to stem from her unflinching devotion to impressing Celestia) or give an original reason for it. Turning a virtue into something that creates a problem or, if you’re feeling like a bigger challenge, creating a situation where a vice is key to the problem’s resolution are also good foundations for interesting characters.

    Of course, just because the Mane Six are there and the center of the canon doesn’t mean they’re the only options. That’s where OCs tend to come in. Now, OCs get a bad rap because they’re pretty easy to mess up. You’re faced with the potential for the paralysis of choice, where you’re so wrapped up in how many things they could be you don’t pick one thing and make them good at it.

    And for the love of Celestia, if you make them an alicorn I will hunt you down and beat you with your own keyboard. Alicorns are these larger than life figures, walking metaphors for whatever they’re rulers of (though with Twilight and Cadance the show might be moving in a different direction with that. Time will tell.) and that is exactly the opposite of what you want in a Slice of Life OC. You want a decent balance between talents and flaws, and again, bonus points if those can derive from the same core traits. The most important thing is to make them likable and relatable. Note I did not use the words ‘mind-blowing exceptional’ in there. Would you want to hang out with the guy who’s great at everything instantly and who has his victories handed to him on a silver platter without any real struggle? I wouldn’t; that guy sounds really annoying. Don’t go too far in the other direction, though. Nobody wants to hang out with the guy who whines for fifteen minutes whenever they get so much as a papercut, either. Throw challenges at them that are manageable for their station in life and capabilities, then have them deal with them in a realistic way.

    The best part about developing strong characterization is that it opens up so many brand-new and exciting possibilities for ways to be awful to them (What? Have you read my stories?) by imbuing otherwise mundane actions with a layer of symbolic importance. If your protagonist is well-developed as an orphaned foal whose constant upbeat, pollyanna outlook has stood up to everything the world has ever thrown at him, then having a bully tear the head off the stuffed teddy bear that is the only remnant of his lost family is infinitely more heartrending than a thousand “Hello. I am Blank Slate. I had a little sister but she is dead now because cancer.” On the other hand, the scene two chapters later where said orphan stands up to said bully and gives them a swift kick in the nuts is now a cheer-worthy moment of triumph rather than just a cheap laugh. That’s what slice of life can be great at: establishing relatability and wringing the maximum amount of emotional payoff out of the tiniest little detail or action. Don’t be afraid of strong theming, either. Setting can be an excellent metaphor all on its own, especially if the setting in question is being built up/torn down/slowly decaying/being repaired to its former glory. The rising or falling of the place should match the direction of movement in that character’s life. An alcoholic put to work fixing up the Apple family barn while he dries out, for example.

    Dialogue and character voices are so, so important to making this kind of thing work. With any OC or minor character, the reader is approaching them as a blank slate. You don’t want them to stay that way for very long. The character should say or do something within the first page, really within their first paragraph, that tells you something about who they are. Alternatively, if your protagonist is meeting them in a space they control you can speak volumes about them just by describing that space. A well-decorated home that feels like its been lived in for decades and a sparsely-decorated apartment with no pictures of friends or family paint very different pictures of their occupants before they even appear. I’m not sure I can give you any magic-bullet solution to writing interesting dialogue. If you read it out loud you can generally get a feel for when it sounds wooden or stilted, but that’s more about avoiding the bad than elevating the good. You should be consistent with the way the character sounds or acts and avoid anything that runs contrary to what you’ve established about them. Your pious nun shouldn’t curse like a sailor all the time, for example. On the other hand, if she’s been prim and proper for eight chapters then it’ll be extra shocking if she drops an F-bomb when something finally pushes her too far. If you’re going to have them say something that doesn’t fit who they are, you need to have a specific reason for doing so, and generally one that’s explained (implicitly or explicitly) around the time it occurs.

    So yeah, slice-of-life isn’t something you should default to because it’s somehow easier. It requires a lot of nuance, introspection, and a light touch to make a good one. It takes just as much planning and attention to detail as a successful adventure/tragedy/comedy story, you’re just focusing those attentions on a different aspect. Still, a well done one can explore a whole range of different ideas that just aren’t well suited to other genres and be very rewarding to write and, hopefully, to read as well.

    27 comments · 641 views
  • 31w, 4d
    The Dos and Don'ts of OCs

    OCs. An acronym that sends a cold shudder down the spine of so many long-time FimFiction readers, and not without good reason. Nary a day goes by without the ‘New Stories’ box being graced with a story wherein some new pony wanders into town and befriends our beloved cast. And for the most part, these stories are... less than good. Which is a shame, really, because a good OC can open a ton of doors for an author to take their stories in directions that just aren’t possible if they restrict themselves to the canon personalities of established characters. And since I’ve been turning over questions about when and where they’re properly applied this evening, I figured I might as well share (read: inflict) some of my wisdom (read: bullshit-laden ramblings) onto all my adoring fans (read: people who sneezed mid-click and accidentally ended up here) while I try to hash out the things I’ve done right and wrong in the past. Some of the conclusions I’ve reached are common sense, while others are a bit counter-intuitive. And like all ‘Rules for Writing,’ the best stories are often ones that know when and where to break them.

    DO: Make sure your OC has a life and identity of their own

    Nothing makes a world start to feel claustrophobic like a network of characters who all share some pre-existing connection. The mare who just happened to be Twilight’s classmate back in Canterlot. The stallion who became a champion lasso-tosser after he just happened to watch Applejack win some tournament. It’s cheap and lazy characterization, and it defines your new character only in relation to another one. Imagine meeting a real-life celebrity on par with the Mane Six. Sure, they expect that you’ve heard of them, but going on and on about how you went to kindergarten together and you still have a scrap of the blankie they drooled on during naptime and omigosh isn’t it just kismet that we’re meeting again like this is a great way to get a complimentary escort out the back door by a large, burly man wearing a three-piece suit and an earpiece.

    Bottom line: Your character should be able to carry a story that never intersects with the canon cast at all, at least in theory. If you do need to break this rule, try to do it retroactively. See Cheese Sandwich and the events of Cutie Mark Chronicles for reference. The connections are already existed, but the characters would be interesting even if they didn’t. It’s the gravy rather than the meat, is what I’m saying.

    DON’T: Clone an Existing Character

    ‘My OC Tabula Rasa is a total nerd and bookworm! She’s usually pretty level-headed, but she can get totally crazy when she thinks she might disappoint her mentor, Brincess Belestia.’

    Yeah, we already have that character. If you’re using an archetype that’s easily filled by an existing character, an OC might not be the right tool for the job. The exception is when your OC can serve as a shadow archetype to an existing character, a ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ warning who differs from the established character in only minor ways but ended up going in a totally different direction. A Sunset Shimmer to your Twilight, or an Algae Bloom to your Cloud Kicker. These sorts make great antagonists or anti heroes, generally.

    DO: Beat the Shit Out of Them

    Want your audience to like your original character? Make them suffer. Not randomly, mind, but as a direct consequence of one of their own screw ups (corollary: make sure your OC screws up from time to time). It’s a bit of a balancing act; an OC sentenced to death for littering is only going prompt eye rolling from your readers, but when in doubt harsher is better. Actually, I’d suggest making all your characters suffer as a general rule. Letting your universe knock them over and then kick them when they’re down only for them to learn a lesson and get back up again stronger than before is pretty much always compelling. Who doesn't love rooting for an underdog? It can be tough to follow through on this, especially since you probably like this character and want to coddle them. Fight that impulse. If you fudge the die rolls for them, so to speak, your readers will pick up on it. Do you want a Mary Sue? Because arranging events so that they always work out in your OC’s favor for no good reason is how you get a Mary Sue.

    DON’T: Tell Me I Should Like Them

    What makes readers think a character is awesome? That character does awesome things. That’s it.

    Obvious, right? But a lot of people put the cart before the horse and just expect readers to like their OC because they give them attributes that they think are cool and expect it to rub off. If any of the following phrases appear when you’re describing your character...

    ‘Invented a groundbreaking device that gives him the power to...’

    ‘Received numerous awards for...’

    ‘Super-genius’

    ‘The best [whatever] that [authority figure] has ever seen’

    ‘Alicorn’

    And so on and so forth

    ...then odds are I probably won’t give a damn . Nobody cares who your OC is going into the story. What they actually do on the page is a thousand times more impactful. Really, it’s just the old ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ advice gussied up in a new outfit. And don’t think you can slip these sorts of things past readers as long as you give your OC flaws to ‘balance them out.’ This isn’t some sort of point-buy RPG system, it’s a story. Give them core traits and beliefs, sure, but those things can lead to positive or negative characteristics. It’s actually better when strengths and weaknesses both feel like outgrowths of the same attributes.

    DO: Buy a Slow Cooker and Learn How to Use It

    This one has nothing to do with writing, I just really love my Crock-Pot. You can convince a truly absurd number of people you’re some kind of cooking savant when the limit of your ability is actually ‘chop stuff up, toss in pot, set to LOW for 10 hours.’


    Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.

    73 comments · 2,391 views
  • 33w, 6d
    Character Roleplay Meme: Azalea and Twilight Sparkle

    Same deal as last time.

    WHO ARE YOU? WHAT’S YOUR RACE/AGE?

    Twi: I’m Twilight Sparkle, alicorn Princess of Equestria. I’m 28.

    Az: Like there’s anypony out there who doesn’t know who you are at this point. We can barely go two weeks without your picture showing up in the paper.

    Twi: Heh, yeah, I guess I have been a public figure for a good while now. You get used to it after five years.

    Az: Five years since your coronation. You weren’t exactly unknown before that.

    NOW WHO’S YOUR LOVER? WHAT’S HER AGE/RACE?

    Twi: That’s actually kind of complicated. Pegasus, obviously, but age is trickier.

    Az: Depending on how you count, I’m some combination of 22, 37, and 6. All us former changelings have the same problem. But hey, three birthdays a year!

    Twi: You might think she’s kidding, but we actually do celebrate two different ones. You’re so spoiled.

    Az: Rotten. And you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

    Twi: Never in a million years.

    Az: They’re really more like half-birthdays, though. All the friends and family I knew back in Trottingham celebrate the one from the pony I used to be, but here in Ponyville we have a different one. Pinkie really goes all out, but then there’s quite a few of us who consider it our ‘official’ birthday.

    Twi: The first few years I was pretty down on it, but as time goes by I find I’m glad that it didn’t just end up being the anniversary of the changeling invasion. Better to have happy memories associated with it than bad ones.

    WHAT MAKES YOUR LOVER SO SPECIAL?

    Az: Geez, what doesn’t? I hit the jackpot when I landed her. To think I nearly sabotaged the whole thing for myself by psyching myself into believing she’d never look twice at a pony as bland and ordinary as me.

    Twi: There’s nothing bland about you. If anything you’re even more special than I am. There are four Princesses, but there’s only one pony who can calm me down when I get a little manic the way you can.

    HAVE YOU EVER DOUBTED YOUR LOVER?

    Az: I had a really hard time believing she was actually interested in me. And there have been times when she pushed me out of my comfort zone that I thought she was just completely crazy. Which she is.

    Twi: Hey!

    Az: In good ways, dear.

    Twi: Hmph. Well I guess that’s alright then.

    Az: Mostly good.

    Twi: Anyway, after we got off to that rocky start there were definitely things I hesitated about confiding in her.

    Az: That was partly my own doing, considering how I reacted the first time you dumped something big on me. And it’s not like I wasn’t hiding stuff from you at the time myself.

    Twi: That was probably for the best, all things considered. If you’d mentioned your past on the first date there wouldn’t have been a second one. I was still an eensy bit of a bigot toward changelings at the time. You should have seen my right after I broke out of the loop.

    Az: Yes, Butterscotch told me about the dinner with your parents where you nearly tore his head off.

    Twi: Not my finest moment.

    Az: Should we change the subject? Because it sounds like the moral of this story is ‘if you’re a racist and lie to your special somepony, you’ll end up ascending to be a Princess and fall in love.’

    Twi: I’m not saying that! Bite your tongue or Press Release will have my head. He already lectured me for an hour about what would and wouldn’t be appropriate to say for this interview.

    Az: I can see the headline now: ‘An interview with Princess Sparkle and the six-year-old who impregnated her.’

    Twi: Don’t use that headline. In fact, don’t even write that... you’ve already written it down haven’t you?

    Az: On the plus side, if there’s a coup and you get overthrown I’ll finally have you all to myself.

    DID YOU EVER USE PICKUP LINES ON YOUR LOVER? IF SO, WHICH ONES?

    Twi: We actually met on a blind date, so it wasn’t really necessary.

    Az: Oh really? I seem to recall somepony trying to get me to come into her library with ‘Want to see if we can extrapolate this trend line?’

    Twi: I can’t believe you remember that.

    Az: I remember every second of that night like it was yesterday. Every one.

    Twi: Well, I seem to recall being told that I ‘really knew how to make a mare all wet.’

    Az: We were in a lake at the time, for context. Oh, and of course we do have pet names for one another. Isn’t that right, water walker?

    Twi: Absolutely, grounding wire.

    WHAT’S THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT YOU’VE EVER HAD WITH YOUR LOVER?

    Az: Remember the time Cloud Kicker almost walked in on us ‘assembling a bookshelf?’

    Twi: I try very hard not to. What about the marriage proposal that ended up with both of us in the lake? Again.

    Az: I’m not letting you change the subject that easily. Of course, it’s a good thing Cloudy wasn’t a few minutes later or she’d have stumbled on me calling you ‘Darkness Nightsha—’

    Twi: Next question, please.

    DO YOU BELIEVE IN WAITING UNTIL AFTER AFTER MARRIAGE TO HAVE SEX?

    Az: Nope.

    Twi: Very nope.

    DO YOU HAVE ANY DESIRES YOU’D LIKE TO TRY WITH YOUR LOVER? IF SO, WHAT?

    Twi: Most ponies have heard that in the months after the Regalia melted I started eating a ton of food to fuel the ascension process. What’s not as well known is that wasn’t the only... uh... enhanced appetite I experienced. Most of the fantasies got checked off the list pretty quickly.

    Az: That’s not a figure of speech. There’s an actual checklist she keeps in her nightstand. Me, I’m just looking forward to her not being fat anymore.

    Twi: I didn’t complain when you were the pregnant one, you know.

    Az: If you’re ever looking for new ideas, I’m sure Cloudy could suggest a few.

    Twi: I don’t know, she’s mellowed quite a bit since she got promoted into Rainbow Dash’s old job.

    Az: Maybe not as much as you’d think. My cousin has stories that are definitely not appropriate to print in the paper. They get up to things you wouldn’t believe.

    DO YOU KNOW YOUR LOVER’S WEAK SPOT? DO THEY KNOW YOURS?

    Az: Twilight here has a history of freaking out a little bit when she thinks somepony she cares about might be in trouble. She tends to make some rash decisions, and she can get a little controlling. Like the time she tried to have me thrown in the dungeon.

    Twi: What did you expect? I’m hundreds of miles away negotiating trade arrangements with a pack of Diamond Dogs when I get a letter telling me you, Rarity, Cloudy, Morning Glow, and Shooting Star are heading out to the edge of the freaking Badlands to look for a changeling nest.

    Az: They needed a guide who knew what to look for. You weren’t there; Rarity would have gone out there all by herself, the state she was in at the time. I can promise you Princess Celestia wasn’t thrilled about the idea either.

    WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU FIND YOUR LOVER WITH ANOTHER MARE? HOW WOULD YOU INTERPRET THAT? FAMILIAR? FRIEND? CHEATING?

    Twi: There were definitely some jealous pangs for a couple of months whenever you hung out with Cloud Kicker, especially since you two used to date.

    Az: That was a whole other life, and I wouldn’t exactly call it dating. More of a very sensual interrogation.

    Twi: To be fair, though, you’ve never been the biggest fan of Star Gazer.

    Az: That’s different. First of all, she hurt you pretty badly back then. Second, you two were married.

    Twi: If it’s in an alternate timeline, it doesn’t count.

    Az: I guess I should just be happy you came back with less baggage than some of your friends after all that. For all I know they could have gone and turned you straight or something.

    ANY FANTASIES WITH YOUR LOVER? PERVY ANSWERS ALLOWED.

    Twi: Like I said, we’ve experimented pretty liberally already.

    Az: Actually, after what you’ve told me I’ve always been a little curious about Princess Luna. Maybe she’d be up for some excitement once Star Swirl finally kicks the bucket.

    Twi: Azalea! That’s a terrible thing to say. I know you aren’t his biggest fan, but he really is a genius.

    Az: He’s a jerk.

    Twi: Those aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Az: We’ve never really seen eye to eye, and he made a heck of a first impression that morning in the marketplace.

    EVER HAVE FIGHTS?

    Twi: Now and then. Lately over what I’m allowed and not allowed to do while I’m pregnant. And she says I’m the controlling one.

    Az: You are the controlling one. And it’s not unreasonable to forbid somepony in your state from jumping into a freaking volcano looking for a magic eggbeater.

    Twi: Spatula.

    Az: Whatever. But there have been others. The first conversation we had after I ran out on her because of the changeling venom thing was probably the biggest one.

    Twi: Yeah, any fight that ends with accepting a date from another mare out of spite is a bad one. Although if I’d known what Algae Bloom was like I wouldn’t have.

    Az: Turned out just fine in the end, though.

    Twi: I guess. In hindsight, I wish I’d handled that whole debacle myself instead of dumping it on Cloud Kicker. Maybe things would have turned out differently and I wouldn’t have had to throw Rainbow Dash in jail a few months later.

    Az: It was only for a few weeks. And she did kind of bring it on herself. The whole Applejack thing had her pretty out of control for a while there.

    Twi: Or what about the time you nearly took my head off because I leased your shop?

    Az: Oh, I was furious. That whole Badlands trip had just put me through the ringer physically and emotionally, and then I get back and you basically dictate to me that I have to move in with you and start putting money towards rent payments I had never agreed to make?

    Twi: I didn’t tell you that you had to move in with me. I just calculated the financial implications of a number of different possible scenarios is all. But I’ll admit that you running off like that did make me want to sort of tie you down in Ponyville. I was really scared.

    Az: Welcome to my life! You think I never worry about you when you do exactly the same thing? But I really did almost break up with you right then and there. Thank goodness for Bon Bon.

    Twi: Yeah, I’m glad she was there to defuse it like that. Although I do feel bad that it spoiled the surprise she’d been working so hard on.

    Az: Lyra said yes anyway, which is all that really matters in the end. I’m sure she was annoyed at the time, but someday it’ll just be a funny story that they can tell their daughter.

    HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR LOVER’S FAMILY? DO YOU KNOW THEM?

    Twi: They’re great! It’s quite the extended clan, and they were all really warm and welcoming the first time we met. Although I wasn’t exactly the center of attention on that trip.

    Az: Yeah, my parents pretty much fell in love with her the minute they found out about us. Then again, bringing their child back from the dead goes a long way towards winning their approval.

    Twi: You hit it off with my parents pretty quickly too.

    Az: The one pony that I was most nervous about winning over was Celestia, actually. Being invited for a three-hour private tea with a mare who you clobbered in the back of the head with a baseball bat before she casually flung you out a window on your last encounter made my heart skip a few beats.

    Twi: I was most nervous for when she found out you had been a changeling once. Then of course it turns out she knew that since before I’d even met you.

    Az: The rest of them were a cakewalk by comparison, and we get along great. Cadance was one of our bridesmaids, and even talked me down from a minor panic attack on the wedding day. Best sister-in-law ever.

    SPEAKING OF FAMILIES, DO YOU WANT TO START ONE TOGETHER?

    Twi: Way ahead of you. In fact, we’re about to expand it from three to four.

    Az: We decided to keep the sex and race a surprise this time, although I know my parents would be thrilled to have an earth pony for a grandchild. Not that they don’t love Leafy horn and all, but my extended family definitely leans in that direction.

    Twi: Based on the how hard he kicks, I think there’s a good chance they’ll get there wish. Oof.

    Az: You’ll get no sympathy from me. Try having something with a pointy, stubby horn on its forehead squeezed through your birth canal, then we’ll talk.

    WE’RE FINISHED, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?

    Twi: I have some paperwork I should really finish.

    Az: Before you do, feel like grabbing something to eat?

    Twi: Do you even have to ask? I ate three hours ago and I’m already starving again. Deli?

    Az: You read my mind. Dibs on your pickle.

    19 comments · 1,033 views
  • 34w, 6d
    First World Author Problems

    Cataloging the suffering of all us poor writers with thousands of followers.

    "My story was only in the feature box for three days? Didn't anyone like it?"

    "God, I hate that one tiny pixel of red in the likes-dislikes ratio."

    "It's so awful to reply to all your comments, refresh the page, and find that fifteen more have been added in the last five minutes."

    "I'm so well-established that the top ten entries in my story box never change. It's getting so repetitive."

    "Would the EQD pre-readers please stop spamming me with e-mails telling me my story's been accepted?"

    Any I forgot? Add them to the comments or do a blog entry of your own! If two or three of us do I'm sure we'll reach at least half the readers on the site.

    47 comments · 996 views
  • 35w, 1d
    Character Roleplay Meme: Main Course and Ebony Glimmer

    Well, since Wade tagged me in his blog post, I thought I’d give this a shot. Might be fun. You can read the rules over there, and I’m sure you can guess who the characters are. I’m going to shake it up a bit, though. I’m going to skip the ‘Tag other authors’ step since I generally find the whole chain-letter style ‘challenge’ to be annoying. If you want to get in on it, just jump in with a post of your own! Second, I may decide to do a second round of these ‘In-character answers’ with fan-submitted questions. If you have a particular Q you’d like Main and Ebby to A, stick it in the comments. I’ll use whatever questions are most upvoted.

    I may also do one of these for Twi and Azalea. And before you ask, no you won’t get a straight answer about the weathervanes.

    So without further ado...

    WHO ARE YOU? AGE/RACE.

    MC: My name’s Main Course. Earth pony, turn 36 next week. I run the Grassy Knoll here in Ponyville, it’s not technically affiliated with the one in Manehatten, at least legally. Not any more, at least. Although I am a silent partner so you could say—

    Ebby: I think they’ve gotten the point, dear.

    MC: Right, sorry. Next question?

    NOW WHO’S YOUR LOVER? WHAT’S HER AGE/RACE?

    Ebby: Your lover! Ooh, doesn’t that make it sound exciting? Like we’re sneaking out for secret trysts. Like, ‘Well, hey there tall, dark, and sexy. Why don’t you ditch that nag of a wife and come be with a real mare?’

    MC: Hmm... tempting offer. You know she even tried to kidnap my daughter once?

    Ebby: That witch!

    MC: But seriously, though, this unicorn is technically Lady Ebony Glimmer, but everypony in town knows her as Ebby. As for age...

    Ebby: Think very carefully before you answer that question.

    MC: ...she’s in her late—

    Ebby: Ahem!

    MC: Like I was saying, she’s in her mid-thirties. Next question. Quickly, please.

    WHAT MAKES YOUR LOVER SO SPECIAL?

    MC: Strongest, toughest mare in Equestria, right here. Fighting the toughest fight in the world for... what’s the count?

    Ebby: 2,397 days. But you’re exaggerating about how tough it is. It’s there, but it’s a lot easier than it used to be. My turn: I married a stallion who sees the best in everypony. The number of little ways he’s saved me... well, I can’t even begin to count that particular number. Everything I have today, my friends, my home, two wonderful foals, I wouldn’t have any of it without Main. I probably wouldn’t even be breathing.

    MC: You’ve paid me back ten times over. All that was you. I just cheered you on when you needed it.

    HAVE YOU EVER DOUBTED YOUR LOVER?

    MC: ...

    Ebby: We should be honest, Main. It’s okay.

    MC: I certainly don’t anymore. But yes, right after she reconciled with Scootaloo and we started dating, there was a part of me that didn’t trust her. I would find excuses not to leave her alone with Scootaloo, even though I knew I was being ridiculous. I thought... sorry, would you give me a second?

    Ebby: No, Main, don’t... if you start crying them I’m going to start and then where will we be?

    MC: I thought it might be another act. I thought one day I’d come back and you and my daughter... I’d never see her again.

    Ebby: The important thing was that we worked through it together. We’d recently been seeing the same therapist, and he did couples counselling too. Dating three weeks and already in couples therapy doesn’t exactly sound like a promising start, does it? But I think we both already knew by that point we were in this thing for the long haul.

    MC: Like I said, when my wife sees something worth fighting for, she fights for it. Tooth and nail.

    DID YOU EVER USE PICKUP LINES ON YOUR LOVER? IF SO, WHICH ONES?

    Ebby: Can’t say I have. Kissing him and then punching him in the stomach worked better anyway.

    MC: There’s some relationship advice you won’t read in Cosmare.

    Ebby: You might be surprised, actually.

    WHAT’S THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT YOU’VE HAD WITH YOUR LOVER?

    MC: There were definitely a couple of very dark, very low moments early on, but not really the kind of funny-embarrassing you’re asking about.

    Ebby: Yes, Main Course humiliated me quite a bit right after we met. And I know that the connotations of that word are pretty negative, but that’s not really what I mean by it. I mean he got me to humble myself, and to realize that I didn’t necessarily deserve to have something just because I wanted it. That was... pretty different from the way I was raised.

    MC: Geeze, this is getting depressing. I’m gonna say that my official answer is when we had to tell my sister that we needed to rush the wedding because I had... uh... Ebby was slightly pregnant at the time. Didn’t hear the end of that one for months.

    DO YOU BELIEVE IN WAITING UNTIL AFTER MARRIAGE TO HAVE SEX?

    MC: I think my last answer pretty much covers this one too.

    Ebby: We didn’t even wait until we were dating.

    DO YOU HAVE ANY DESIRES YOU’D LIKE TO TRY WITH YOUR LOVER? IF SO, WHAT?

    MC: We’re actually pretty vanilla in the, er, intimacy department. But whatever we lack in quality we make up for in quantity!

    Ebby: Main! Goodness, now everypony reading this is going to think I’m some kind of nymphomaniac who’s lousy in bed. What my husband means is that we make it a point to be physically intimate with one another whenever possible, and I don’t mean just sex. Hugging, cuddling, nuzzling, that sort of physical contact with another pony is something I denied myself for a very long time. I... being touched by a stallion was an issue, let’s leave it at that.

    MC: Right. And especially given what Scootaloo grew up around... I want to set an example for her, you know? I want her to get that ponies who are in loving and healthy relationships do that for one another, and I hope that she’ll be able to open herself up in the same way. We’re not answering the question, are we?

    Ebby: Actually, for me the answer is I’d like to travel more as a family. Ginger’s getting old enough that we can start taking him on longer trips, and I do miss travelling from my pre-Ponyville days. The problem is that somepony will never take a vacation.

    MC: The Knoll is a lot of work!

    Ebby: The only way I got him to take his last vacation was to have Pinkie fire him for a week.

    MC: She can’t actually fire me. I just decided to humor her and didn’t come in for a few day.

    Ebby: Mmhmm. Of course, dear. I’m sure that’s exactly what happened.

    DO YOU KNOW YOUR LOVER’S WEAK SPOT? DO THEY KNOW YOURS?

    MC: I think probably Scootaloo and Ginger for both of us. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost either of them.

    Ebby: I agree. Except I know from experience what I’d do, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

    WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU FIND YOUR LOVER WITH ANOTHER MARE/STALLION? HOW WOULD YOU INTERPRET THAT? FAMILIAR? FRIEND? CHEATING?

    MC: I would never assume cheating. Both of us have worked too hard for what we have together to risk even making the accusation, much less committing the act himself.

    Ebby: I don’t know... some of your waitresses are awfully attractive... and you and Pinkie do spend some late nights at the Knoll together...

    MC: Come on, Ebby, don’t even kid about that.

    Ebby: Oh, all right. Yes, I’d trust that it was something perfectly reasonable and innocent. Even if it were Rarity.

    MC: What do you mean ‘even if it were Rarity?’

    Ebby: You don’t have to play dumb. The two of us talked it over mare to mare and we’re still friends.

    MC: I legitimately have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Ebby: Really?

    MC: Really.

    Ebby: I thought for certain that you knew. Let me put it this way; if I hadn’t entered the picture when I did there’s a better than even chance that you’d be married to her now instead of me.

    MC: What?

    Ebby: You’re both good friends, you both own small businesses you’re passionate about, and you’re both physically attracted to one another. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.

    MC: You’re the only mare for me, honey.

    Ebby: I appreciate that. Oh, and one other thing. If, Princesses forbid, I were to keel over dead tomorrow, she has dibs.

    MC: Excuse me?

    Ebby: Well, I would want you to remarry and not just wallow in grief. Ginger and Scootaloo need a mother figure, and Rarity’s the mare that I would pick if it were up to me. I think you’d be happy together.

    MC: I cannot believe we’re having this conversation.

    Ebby: If you want to pick a potential future replacement husband for me, you’re welcome to. Fair’s fair.

    ANY FANTASIES WITH YOUR LOVER? PERVY ANSWERS ALLOWED.

    Ebby: Just to break my husband’s brain a little further after that last answer, I’ll say a chance for him to see what being married to Rarity would mean physically. Except of course I wouldn’t want to be left out...

    MC: I had an answer, but that one’s better.

    EVER HAD FIGHTS?

    MC: Absolutely. Sometimes even screaming matches. But never in front of Scootaloo and Ginger, and never without being able to say ‘I love you’ and go to sleep together that night. So I think that means we’re doing pretty okay.

    Ebby: For me, I think one of the hardest things to accept was that, well, I’m not Scootaloo’s favorite parent. I know she loves me but... if I’m being absolutely honest, she’s more your daughter than she is mine at this point.

    MC: That was never my intention.

    Ebby: It’s fine. For goodness sake, Main, she works her hooves to the bone in the kitchen just to impress you. You have more in common with her these days than I do, and she just glows with happiness when you even so much as smile at her. My daughter loves me and she’s happy. What sort of mother would be dissatisfied with that?

    MC: I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that while we might not always agree with one another, parenting-wise, we always back one another up. If there’s a disagreement we hash it out in private. Even if, say, somepony tries to ground our daughter for the rest of her natural life.

    Ebby: I know that was an overreaction, but you understand why it struck a chord, right? Plus it led to a good conversation between us.

    MC: She experimented. There was nopony at that sleepover who wasn’t trustworthy. Would you have rather she tried it for the first time around ponies she didn’t know?

    Ebby: I would prefer if she’d never tried it at all.

    MC: Two mugs of hard cider is pretty tame, Ebby.

    Ebby: I know, I know. Let’s just... can we get the next question?

    HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR LOVER’S FAMILY? DO YOU KNOW THEM?

    Ebby: Oh my goodness, yes! Of course Silver Scroll is here in Ponyville, and even if she was a little wary of me at first she came around. Now she practically begs us to let her foalsit Ginger, and she and Scootaloo go up flying at least twice a month just to catch up. And I was so nervous when I met his parents, but they’re the sweetest couple! I hope Main and I are still so very in love at that age. And his Mom even knitted me a Hearth’s Warming sweater! I couldn’t ask for a better set of in-laws. Sorry, I’m babbling. Main, did you want to talk about meeting my parents?

    MC: ....

    Ebby: Main?

    MC: Speaking of my parents. one of the things they taught me growing up was that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.

    SPEAKING OF FAMILIES, DO YOU WANT TO START ONE TOGETHER?

    MC: We’re married with two foals. I think we’re slightly past that point.

    WE’RE FINISHED. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?

    Ebby: I guess... I guess we should finish helping Scootaloo pack.

    MC: Probably. Can you believe that she’s leaving for culinary school in just three more days?

    Ebby: ....

    MC: Whoops.

    Ebby: I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE’S LEAVING AGAIN! What if the others are mean to her? What if she gets homesick? What if... what if...

    MC: We should probably cut this short. She’s been like this for weeks whenever this comes up.


    And done! That was fun! If you have questions you’d like to see Ebby/Main answer, or suggestions for Twilight/Azalea questions, stick them in the comments below.

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As a general rule, leaving your future bride at the altar and abandoning your entire family to flee the city of Canterlot is a bad idea.

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The little town of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia has never been a particularly exciting place to live. However, a recent spate of unusual dreams and the even more unusual equine figures in them may mean that's all about to change. For better or worse.


Happy Halloween!

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10th Jul 2014
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When Twilight's latest spell goes predictably awry, she ends up swapping bodies with all three of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. At the same time.

Written for the Body Swap Writing Contest

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Last Modified
21st Sep 2014
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2nd Apr 2014
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2nd Apr 2014
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This story is a sequel to The Sun Burns Brightly

When you're the immortal ruler of an entire kingdom, the most important quality to possess is a passion for your work. No princess can rule her nation if she can't find it in herself to give her best effort every day and night. Luna knows this better than anypony, and puts her whole heart into everything she does.

But passion, unless tempered by restraint, has a way of biting one in the flank.

First Published
21st Mar 2014
Last Modified
25th Mar 2014