I Hate Anons · 5:18am
I hate stories in which the main character is "anonymous" and has neither meaningful background or personality. I have noticed that such tales are usually Humans in Equestria who are almost always male late-teens or early-twenties and have various canon characters inexplicably fall in love with them, usually for the purpose of having at least one highly-explicit love scene with these characters.
I. A Failure of Imagination
I hate this because they represent massive failures of imagination on the part of the author, and are transparent attempts to induce the audience to fantasize "Gee ... this "Anon" could be me."
Why massive failures of imagination? Because the "Anon" viewpoint (often done in second person) is essentially the writer failing to create a protagonist. And this is, after all, supposedly someone from our world in Equestria, which creates all sorts of interesting possibilities in the hands of a gifted writer: he's in a whole new world, a new society, meeting a new species who are in turn discovering us through him.
And what the author usually writes is something to the effect of "Dur! Cute colorful horsies! My story is sexually-explicit so I can describe Anon having sex with them! Sex, with cute colorful horsies! Duh-huh-duh-huh-heh-heh!"
The fact that the writer generally knows very little about anatomy, equine (or in some cases human), frequently making even the sexual mechanics absurd, is but the rotten cherry on the sundae of ineptitude. This is often taken to the point that I wonder if not only whether or not the author has ever had sex (and there's nothing wrong with virginity IMO), but whether or not the author has ever had any form of sexual education (apply to Goldie Pie for The Talk, either Version One or Version Two).
II. A Failure of Morality
More importantly, the author usually can't depict character properly, meaning that there is generally no discernible motivation for these explosions of carnal lust. Anon's motives often boil down to "I'd been in Equestria three weeks, so I was pretty horny, and she looked kinda cute despite the obvious obstacle of being from an entirely different Family of Mammalia and my having absolutely no concept of how her culture worked." This makes me believe that the set of Anons who go to Equestria and the set of victims who report to hospitals with embarrassing masturbation-related self-inflicted injuries may be strongly intersecting ones.
This part of it, of course, is sadly believable. Just look at the trouble sailors get into when they put into port. It's just that a desperately-horny sailor isn't usually my idea of a model romantic, or even erotic, protagonist. Among other things, the stereotypical sailor in a liberty port is utterly-indiscriminate in his quest for pleasure.
The real problem comes when the canon characters get warped to make them plausible partners in these sexual scenarios. None of the main characters of the series impress me as even remotely promiscuous enough to just have sex with some random alien whose motivation toward them is "I'm horny -- you look vaguely like a female of my kind -- let's bang." (The series does have two canon examples of xenophiliac emotional relationships; however both are very obviously and strongly sentimental ones -- I doubt that Anon can impress Rarity the way Spike does, or for that matter be as interesting as Discord is to Fluttershy).
The usual assumption here is that the Equestrians, and specifically the Mane Six, have roughly the morals of especially-airheaded college girls on Spring Break who have consumed far too many psychoactive substances. Now, I won't argue that one could not find Equestrians matching this description (there's a whole subculture of them in my fanon, the Fast Set, though most of them are classier than most of the mares Mr. Anon encounters). I just doubt that the members of an elite order of mystical embodiments of the Elements of Harmony are likely to be this sexually-indiscriminate.
Among other things, they're not desperate. I cannot over-emphasize this point, even though I've said it before -- it bears repetition. Every one of the Mane Six is beautiful and charismatic in her own way. All of them know numerous Ponies of both sexes, some of whom are single and would probably be flattered to fall in love -- or just have sex -- with anypony matching the description of any of them. This is true despite the fact that my Equestrians are fairly prudish -- the Mane Six are just that awesome, by their society's standards.
They are not clearly in any romantic relationships, though there are at least 4-6 such relationships being teased more or less strongly in canon (Spike/Rarity, Fluttershy/Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy/Bulk Biceps, Fluttershy/Discord, Pinkie Pie/Cheese Sandwich, and Pony Twilight Sparkle / Human Flash Sentry). The implication is that they are very choosy, and either have decided whom they love, or decided that nobody of their current acquaintance meets their standards.
Which makes it very unlikely that they fall for Anon. I have seen Humans in Equestria who might plausibly be loved by one (or several) of them, but such Humans are generally more admirable and interesting than the typical Anon.
III. This Anon Is You
This failure of plausible Anons comes from the very nature of what the author is trying to do by making his protagonist anonymous. He's trying to say "this could be you" but, the problem is that any particular person -- you, me, your brother, that guy standing on the corner over there -- is a unique individual with his own special interests and personality.
Seriously, you should read The Everyman trope I just linked. The very second paragraph of the entry describes what's wrong with the blank Everyman very effectively, namely
The Everyman has no distinct personality, except what is defined by others' interactions with them. One gets the distinct feeling that if people weren't trying to kill them / wacky circumstances didn't happen to them / the fate of the world didn't fall into their laps / their wacky neighbors weren't around, The Everyman would be the most boring person in the world.
Does this sound like the sort of person with whom a heroine who represented one of the cardinal virtues of her civilization would fall in love? Or find romantically or sexually attractive? Could one describe any of the Mane Six as an "Everymare?"
No, each of them is an extreme outlier personality by the standards of her species, Kind and subculture. Twilight's a brave and brilliant scientist-mage, Rarity an exceptionally-skilled social climber and fashion designer, Rainbow Dash a top athlete, Fluttershy a gifted naturalist, Pinkie Pie a hyperactive weirdo Bringer of Joy, and the most normal of them all, Applejack, a pillar of emotional and moral strength.
Characters like this are not likely to fall for average, boring Love Interests, especially Satellite Love Interests. That's one of the reasons the fandom hates Flash Sentry -- he doesn't have much discernible personality besides being generally nice and non-threatening, which makes him seem an absurdly under-whelming match for Twilight Sparkle, who's the main heroine of the whole series. One might consider that what the authors of Anon self-inserts are really doing is writing new versions of Flash Sentry -- generally without the character traits that make him at all likeable.
Consider the description of Satellite Love Interest from TV Tropes:
A type of Satellite Character who exists primarily to serve as the love interest for a main character. It doesn't matter what their life was like beforehand; their focus in the story revolves around the sole fact that they dig said main character, and the main character digs them ... The test of course, is to ask "What does this person do when they're not being a love interest?" ...if it's hard to answer, you probably have this.
Flash Sentry -- both Pony and Human versions, are actually better fleshed-out characters than this, because we can answer the test question with "Guarding Princess Cadance" and "Developing his musical skills" respectively. It's just that the standard for being worthy of a Pony as unusual, admirable and well-developed as Twilight Sparkle is especially high -- if he were in love with (say) Golden Harvest, we wouldn't see him as a poorly-developed character.
What the Anon usually comes off as, instead of The Everyman, is worse -- he comes off as This Loser Is You. The TV Tropes article again deserves quoting:
In many shows, particularly comedies and children's programs, a protagonist or another major character is an ugly, incompetent, lazy, and near illiterate ditz. This is supposedly to allow the audience (i.e., you) to identify with said character or protagonist. Ergo, the loser protagonist is you.
The point of this is that the Anon is always someone to whom the reader feels superior. The appeal to showing him scoring with Rarity or whomever is that the story is saying "See! If this jerk can get the girl, you can too!"
This is actually a decayed version of an older concept, which is that the protagonist would be someone humble, who has Hidden Depths and in the crisis discovers that he is better than he thought he was. Having displayed his hidden heroism, the protagonist would then be accepted as a hero by others.
The difference in the older idea is that the protagonist is in fact admirable, and always was: he just looked like a loser because he'd not had the opportunity to display his true virtues. Instead of implicitly arguing "You can be a total loser and you'll still inexplicably get everything you want without changing in any way" (a Degrading concept), this instead argues "You aren't really a loser and if you have the courage to change and become the hero you always really were inside, you can achieve your desires" (which is an Uplifting concept).
This is, perhaps not incidentally, Fluttershy's character arc -- she starts the series as Ponyville's Crazy Animal Lady in training, horribly lonely (with only two friends, only one of them a really good friend), and terrified of most social situations. By the end of the first two-parter, she's helped saved Equestria, and by the end of Season Four she's a recognized national heroine, the best friend of a Chaos God, has numerous friends, and is arguably being courted by 2-3 desirable mates.
The Anon does not change in any fundamental or important way, save in that he may become happier from achieving his desires. A surprising number of them start the story whiny and keep on being whiny all the way through, even as they recline on velvet couches being aura-fed grapes by Celestia, Luna and Twilight, all of whom are hopelessly in love with them).
This gets into another problem with the Anon, namely that being a loser does NOT automatically make one likeable. In fact, the attributes required to be a believable loser are often incompatible with likeability. Anons are obnoxious, demanding, and generally lack the most fundamental respect for anyone else or social skills: they compare poorly in these respects with paragons of kind cooperation, such as the Great and Powerful Trixie.
One mark of the Anon is that, if he does have any previous personality attributes, they will be safely "generic" ones from the POV of the average teen to adult fan of the show. He'll be into the Internet and video games (either leading to him whining into Celestia's glorious rainbow mane as she lies with him in post-coital bliss: "Waah! You don't have an Internet in Equestria!" or, frequently, to the whole land being ret-conned to early 21st-century level technology to better appeal to the audience). He may have owned a car ("Waah, Luna, you don't have any cars in Equestria! Pass me another bunch of grapes ...") or liked to drink or do drugs or have somet other "cool" vice.
He is of course very, very, VERY entitled to near-continual sexual gratification in his own mind. That's almost a given, since most of these stories are fundamentally about him having sex. None of the other characters find anything wrong or objectionable with him or the other Pony having this relationship, no matter how abusively he behaves to her, and indeed are likely to envy Miss Lucky the pleasure of catering to his least little hedonistic whim, both sexual and otherwise.
Many of these Anons are brutal, callous and sadistic. Which never causes any genuine revulsion on the part of the Equestrians, who have a whole civilization based on Love, Friendship and Harmony -- instead, they'll be awed by his amazing Human courage and determination. If he turns some of this brutality on Equestrians, they will submit to his mighty heroic wrath, rather than see him as a dangerous alien monster they can't trust.
Hmm, I'm now describing the specific Anon from AlaraJRogers' Not the Hero, which is a great and serious satire of the whole concept, and offers an explanation for the improbable adventures of the specific Anon. All of you should all read this story.
A variant of this is where the Anon is described as being just an ordinary normal guy but displays absurdly-effective abilities which seem to have come out of nowhere. The "average college dude" will turn out to be a skilled yachtsman, master of fencing and champion skin diver, just because the plot requires that he sail through a storm, win a sword-fight, or swim through a long underwater cave. Or whatever.
In some cases the Anon will defy "This Loser Is You" by coming from some sort of military or intelligence or sports background which would reasonably justify having unusual effective abilities. When this is the case, he will often be both ridiculously effective at any and all plausible skills from that background, while totally-lacking in any maturity or insight that such a background might reasonably provide him.
Well, anyway, this Anon (Alara's or any of the others) isn't me, I don't recognize myself in him, and to the extent that I did, it would make me want to change to be less like him.
The sad thing is that the Human In Equestria sub-genre doesn't have to be stupid. There's no reason why good writers can't make up (or adapt to crossover) an interesting and specific human character with his own plausible motivations and personality, and show how he interacts with and adventures in the MLP-verse.
After all, Lemuel Gulliver -- who encountered the Houyhnhnms, wasn't a boring and flat This Loser Is You Everyman -- he was a medical doctor, merchant adventurer, and natural philosopher with a distinct and interesting personality. Megan, from the G1 My Little Pony series, wasn't dull and indistinct: she was brave, idealistic, combative and yet caring and feminine. Both of them interacted interestingly with alien cultures -- Gulliver even got an early example of a xenophiliac Ship Tease romantic friendship with "the Sorrel Mare," while Megan has legendary friendships with Firefly and Wind Whistler.
Have your Human characters interact with plausible depictions of the canon characters, and don't be afraid to introduce interesting OC's. By "plausible," what I mean is ones who are motivated by aims and respond to events in ways recognizable extrapolations from canon, instead of being warped to conform to whatever demand the plot (or Anon) makes of them. This is more difficult but more rewarding to the reader, as the story becomes one which seems plausible in a mostly-canon Equestria.
This makes the story seem real -- and that is the point of fiction.