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Reviewfilly


🇭🇺 | "I will never trust a single word this femboy says ever again." - /mlp/ | Like what I do? Ko-Fi,

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Jun
5th
2023

Behind The Trees of Harmony · 1:58pm Jun 5th, 2023

Hello,

I don't usually do posts like these, but I've been having a look around at Odd_Sarge's stuff and I really like the sort of short introspective posts he makes about his stories, so I figured I'd try myself at something similar as well. Though admittedly, this post will definitely lack the laconic quality of his blogs, but oh well, we'll live somehow.


'The Trees of Harmony' was a story I surprised myself the most with writing, because honestly, it really wasn't the first idea I had when it came to the contest. I did want to write a story about Applejack (I'm slightly partial to the character), so at least that remained unchanged, but originally I envisioned a story for the horror category. In it AJ would have waken up with a horn and would face an absolute identity crisis as her earth pony-ness is stripped away and replaced with something familiar, yet completely unlike her.

Was it a neat idea? I think so. Was I able to accomplish it in 1000 words in a way I found satisfying? Hell no. I wrote three drafts, each tackling the concept from a slightly different angle... and yet it just didn't work. I wrote and rewrote segments several times, threw out long paragraphs, but it just sucked. I kept the drafts, especially because they contained a few lines I'd love to use in the future, but it was clear, this can't be published like this. I was ready to accept that perhaps wanting another shot at the contest was a bit of a frivolous idea, but then....

'TToH' just popped into my head. I just thought "Hey, wouldn't it be really sad if AJ's friends were dead and she had a place in her orchard to remember them by?" That really was the complete base idea. I didn't do any planning. What's more the words you read in the story are (besides grammatical fixes and I think one sentence rephrased) basically the first draft. The whole thing wrote itself shockingly naturally and, considering the reception, I'm inclined to think this is a very good thing.

The only part that required some active thinking, so to speak, were deciding which of the M6 would get which tree:

Flutters's choice was obvious: Weeping willows already present the image of being very timid, yet their hollow canopies are frequent nesting places. I felt it fit very well to her personality. I also adore these trees, because when I was very little I used to play near one a lot and sometimes even climb on it, it felt only appropriate to use them in a fic like this.

Pinkie ending up as a cherry blossom was a pretty ad-hoc choice, I wanted something that fits her colours and is generally considered a cheerful/jubilant kind of tree. While I understand sakura trees are more of a symbol of death (or the cycle of life) in Japanese folklore, the fact that it's still tangentially related to a celebration of something made it feel like a fitting choice.

A poplar for Rarity also felt obvious. I've always liked these trees, they have a very unique appearance and they were my immediate association when I thought of Rarara. However, I felt like the tree's trunk being white alone doesn't really represent her as a pony, so I tried to make the tree both beautiful and humble at the same time.

Now Rainbow? She was a tough case. Obviously I could have just chosen some vaguely bluish tree, but let's be honest, Bluefast needs more than that. So I quite simply googled "rainbow tree" and guess what? There is a tree called a Rainbow eucalyptus... The choice from that point was obvious. Because trees can't exactly run around, I tried to put her daredevil aspects into the apple. I admit the words there are carrying a lot of the imagery on their backs, but I simply didn't have more to spare.

For Twilight the choice again felt obvious. I mean, she lived in a tree like that. But I also wanted to focus on her aspect of being the pony to connect the M6 into one cohesive group and I've been fascinated with the fact that trees actually communicate and cooperate through a vast network of mycelium, so it felt like the perfect thing to add.


And with that I figured I'd also include a short explanation of what themes I had in mind when I wrote this story. I'll put this in spoilers just in case, because I really don't want to imply that this is the "correct" or the only way you can look at this fic. The person who inspired this very post had an interpretation that simply blew my mind, because it utilized everything in the story in a very elegant and logical way, while also giving a far more optimistic image to the story than what I had in mind.

Anyway, with that out of the way:

This is largely the story of two main topics. One being an unhealthy attachment from grief, the other the notion that just because one has a duty they want to uphold, it might regardless not bring the person any joy.

As the story states, AJ herself is still wholly dedicated to the M6. It's not that the Elements couldn't get new bearers, clearly they do pass from pony to pony, rather that because Applejack can't let go, no matter who else would become the new EoH, she wouldn't mesh with them and without Harmony the Elements are useless rocks (or pendants). And yet, because dangers always lurk around the corner and there are things you can only solve with a rainbow laser, the two are keeping each other prisoner. AJ can't move on with her life, because she promised to protect Equestria alone. The Elements can't pass on to new bearers, because AJ cannot let go. The end result is a system that "works", but only barely and causes AJ a lot of hurt.

While her friends still love and cherish her from the other side, the constant reminder of the fact that she is the only one who survived whichever unspecified catastrophe took away the girls, combined with the stress of being the only one who can deal with EoH level threats completely turned Applejack jaded. She does her duty, because that's what she promised, but it's clear she's only doing the motions. The monster gets absolutely no description, because AJ doesn't care, so the reader shouldn't too. Even the rainbow-flavored death ray is dealt with in a sentence, because it doesn't matter. All she really wishes for is that her time would come to rejoin the others.

This is why the story ultimately ended in SoL instead of Drama. The things depicted here aren't a turning point for Applejack, that time already long passed. It's a Tuesday for her. And she's suffering all the more for it.

Again, if you disagree and have your own interpretation that you prefer, that's absolutely great! I'm all the more happy if my scribbling put some nice imagery into your noggin. I just felt like with the mild confusion from some of the readers I give one possible explanation to why things happen in the fic they do.


Thank you for reading this post. It's probably a bit scuffed and such, I really don't have experience in introspective writing, but I hope it at least provided some insight or was somewhat fun.

Comments ( 4 )

This is an awesome write-up, and I hope you retain (or at least remember to look back on) everything in this reflection.

What's more the words you read in the story are (besides grammatical fixes and I think one sentence rephrased) basically the first draft. The whole thing wrote itself shockingly naturally and, considering the reception, I'm inclined to think this is a very good thing.

In general, I’m personally inclined to sticking almost entirely to the structure of my first drafts (with some rephrasing, of course), but especially so for these shorter fics. You have a lot to pack in, but you also have quite a bit more than you realize... as long as you make sure to hit the most critical points first. And the reason I prefer that method of retaining the first draft is because the details that come naturally are the most important pieces. These might not exactly be the themes you’re expecting, but whatever comes out is going to define how it’s interpreted. The groundwork is in setting up all the right details to get the reader forming connections. You employed this brilliantly with the setup you gave Applejack, the callbacks you made to her character, and the loop back around to the theme of trees (in harmony, no less!).

I also adore these trees, because when I was very little I used to play near one a lot and sometimes even climb on it, it felt only appropriate to use them in a fic like this.

And it was. Plus, attaching your life’s experiences to your work definitely gives it the emotional attachment you might not otherwise create. And if not for the reader, then for (You).

Speaking of trees, I have grown extremely fond of them as of late, specifically when it comes to writing. There’s something really pony to be found in implementing trees to your stories as a central theme. Branches, leaves, roots... you can see how it all might loop back to little ponies, friendship, and magic.

As for your interpretation, I’m more than happy—and amused—to have blown your mind by facing the events of the story’s context with optimism. It’s consistent to both interpretations that AJ proves too stubborn to change/let go, but from the way the narrative plays out, it comes across that she’s found her new calling. Only, it’s not so drastically different from her life before: it might be another Tuesday, but her friends are still very much living with her. AJ might not know it, but it’s evident in her actions and routine that she can move on.

It’s a really great concept you’ve pulled off, here. I can’t overstate how in-character you’ve written this: if something this catastrophic had occurred to the girls in the show, I can 100% believe in AJ acting and feeling the way she does.

I hope to see more stuff like this from you, filly. Thanks for writing!

The unspecified catastrophe is: they all got turned into trees

5734018
Holy crap... Applejack was the villain all along.

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