• Member Since 21st Feb, 2012
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Quixotic Mage


More Blog Posts4

  • 117 weeks
    The Problem of Evil: Personal Reflection

    This blog post contains spoilers for The Problem of Evil. If you have any interest in reading that story, please consider completing it before reading this post.

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    0 comments · 183 views
  • 117 weeks
    The Problem of Evil: Themes

    This blog post contains spoilers for The Problem of Evil. If you have interest in that story, please consider completing it before reading this post.

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    3 comments · 159 views
  • 144 weeks
    The Problem of Evil release schedule

    As I warned in the Author's notes for the latest chapter, there's going to be a bit of a delay in future chapters due to travel and the holidays. I will resume the Saturday posting schedule on January 13th. I believe that I will be able to post consistently from there to the end, though real life always has a chance of getting in the way. If I post consistently then I expect the second arc to

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    0 comments · 133 views
  • 444 weeks
    Why do we love ponies?

    As I'm sure many of us have done I've spent a lot of time wondering why it is I like this series and this fandom. Here's my two cents on the matter.

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    1 comments · 277 views
Jul
1st
2018

The Problem of Evil: Personal Reflection · 11:50pm Jul 1st, 2018

This blog post contains spoilers for The Problem of Evil. If you have any interest in reading that story, please consider completing it before reading this post.

I started writing The Problem of Evil in January of 2014. Originally, the prologue was just meant to be a oneshot. As best I can recall now, it was inspired by a combination of Lullaby for a Princess and me wondering what would have happened if Celestia had decided to “fix” whatever had led to Luna turning into Nightmare Moon.

I didn’t decide to make it a full story until over a year later, in March of 2015. It seemed like the time had come to embark on a longer story once again, and I was looking through my old works for something that I might be able to expand. By that time, I had totally forgotten about the prologue, so rediscovering it was a nice surprise. I didn’t know how long it would end up being, just that it was worth spending a little time with it and making it longer.

That first writing push carried me through the end of the first arc. Satisfied with having completed an arc, I put down my pen for another few months. That was the first time I had actually completed a work longer than a short story, and I was content with that.

I picked it back up a few months later and decided that a time skip was just what was needed. It was meant both for myself, as a reset from what I had been thinking before, and for the hypothetical future audience, to give them a sense that things had changed.

That was, I think, one of the less successful choices I made in writing this story. I was aiming to disorient a little bit, to give that feeling when you pick up the second book in a series and things have shifted around a little bit. However, I think the transition was too jarring, especially with the chapter by chapter format online works require. If I had to do it again I’d at the very least put something like “six months later” at the top. More likely, I would have another few interludes carrying through those months from the perspective of other characters.

Writing the second arc carried me through to Fluttershy’s death. Not the end of the arc, the actually death scene. I stopped writing on the very paragraph where she is hit with the crossbow bolt and didn’t write for another six months or so.

I hated killing her off, I truly did. It was never the plan. That was just supposed to be a scare that pushed Twilight and the others into motion. But, as I got closer and closer to the event, I realized that that was the proper course of action, and the most likely one besides. It drove a not insignificant amount of character development and caused the motivations of many of the remaining characters, especially Rainbow Dash.

I did not want it to simply be a one-off thing where everypony is sad she’s dead and then goes right back to their normal characters and lives. It was in playing with this idea that I came to think of the funeral, and writing that finally pulled me back into it.

From there I wrote through to the end, kind of. As I discovered when I started posting what I called the third arc, much of those chapters were more like outlines than actual chapters. I have written somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 additional words in the process of “editing” and posting the final arc. On the whole I think the story is better for the additions. They gave me space to expand Rainbow Dash and Pinkie’s character arcs, and to include a few scenes with other ponies besides. The original version was very much the Twilight and Luna show; to the point that most other characters didn’t even have a part to play in defeating Sombra. They were just kind of schlepped to the end without purpose. Anyway, with those new edits, the story was finally completed on July 1, 2018.

This story has been a part of my life to a greater and lesser extent for the past four and a half years. At my fastest I write around 1000 words/hour, and my average is probably much less than that. Add in the time I spent editing, cutting, and revising, and I probably spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 hours working on this ~200k word story. I have spent late nights hammering away at the keyboard to make self-imposed deadlines, and spent time awkwardly contorted on trains in foreign countries as I wrote. And now it is time to put it to bed. However, before I say a final goodbye, I want to spend some time talking through the pros and cons of the story, as well as what it means to me. This is purely for my own edification, but if you are interested in the story itself my other post about the themes of the story may be more to your liking.

***

Let’s do the cons first so I remember to remain humble when writing the pros.

Cons:

Plot thread management was not a strength of this story. A number of things were hinted at or set up that then never resolved. I think the most egregious of these was the magic system. I spent time in the beginning setting up the whole free magic vs. spells thing, and then after the end of the first arc it was barely referenced. I did try and be consistent about saying spells when I meant spells and saying magic when it was free magic, but it didn’t have much plot relevance. Additionally, this was partially because the magic just got weird in the story. Even with that divide, things like Twilight’s trip through Hvergelmir and fight with Celestia just don’t fall within the realm of normal magic. I think I would take the magic explanation out of the beginning and just let everything be either mortal or immortal magic.

Another plot thread I had a hard time tracking were the side character arcs. Pinkie, for instance, should have interacted with Luna more earlier in the story, just to set up the later connection between the two. Similarly, after the first arc Iolite didn’t end up doing much, so I wish I had done a better job of weaving her in to later events. I also meant to have more of Luna investigating Sunlit Rooms’ backstory, but it fell by the wayside. This kind of worked out because I did like that Sunlit was just finally able to tell Luna, but it wasn’t initially planned out that way. Rainbow Dash did get some development, but it often felt inconsistent. The scene where she threatens to destroy the portal was actually from an earlier version and I didn’t realize that she had moved past that as a character until after that chapter was published. I wish I had done a more consistent job of moving her forward.

Finally, my word choice and descriptions had weak moments throughout the story. Characters smile, turn, and chuckle far too often. I also have a bad habit of trying to take the reader by their neck and directing every moment of a scene, instead of sitting back and letting it play out. I also am not very good at varied description. Basically every moment that is meant to be beautiful or inspiring or visually dramatic is some version of a light show. Note to self, when you find yourself going to a thesaurus looking for alternate ways to describe a light (lurid? No, used it twice. Refulgent? No, I hate how it sounds) it’s probably time to focus on something other than the lighting.

Naturally, there are additional things wrong with the story, or that I wish I had done differently, but these three are the main categories that I want to work on in future writing.

Pros:

One of my goals when I started was to have a character which had a significant impact on the story while only showing up “onscreen” once or twice. I wanted to try and create a sense of tension so that, when they finally appeared, it would feel almost like the resolution of a musical chord. While I wouldn’t say I nailed it, I do think the Celestia arc came pretty close to meeting that goal. Her actions drive huge parts of the story, and the question of where she is and if she’ll come back hangs over a lot of Twilight and Luna’s actions. The chapter in which she finally does appear ended up being my favorite of the story and, judging by the time-adjusted reader count, the most popular chapter as well.

Another goal I had for the end of the story was that things should be different. I dislike stories where characters go on grand adventures and then return to a home that is utterly unchanged and slot right back into their old lives. I think Fluttershy made it clear that, regardless of the end, things would be different when it came. I also think the connection and the implications of that for the future make Equestria seem like a different place that’s going to be very interesting in a few years. Since I’m posting this with the last chapter, I don’t know how it all will be received, but I will be curious to see what people think of that last reveal.

A third goal I had was that I wanted to play with expectations and format somewhat. With regards to expectations, there’s a trope that foreshadowing is always right that I wanted to subvert. For instance, when Fluttershy gets taken, Luna “knows” that Twilight will succeed in getting her back, but, since Luna has no way of actually knowing that, she turns out to be wrong. Relatedly, the Dreaming spends a great deal of time and energy trying to get Luna to accept something which turns out to be entirely false. I don’t think there’s any reason a magical world should have any particular insight into somepony’s character or what they need to think, so it makes sense (to me anyway) that it could be wrong. There are a few other examples of this, where characters either think something incorrectly, or predict an occurrence in a way that seems like foreshadowing, but is just their best and incorrect guess. I would say the funeral is the biggest examples of playing with format and I think that, on the whole, the change in tense and POV was effective in setting that chapter apart.

Overall, there are a number of things I am proud of in this story, not least of which is actually finishing it.

If any of you care to share, I would love to hear what was/was not effective in the story, or just what you liked or didn’t like.

***

This story was a significant effort and time sink for me, and I have posted this online for anyone to read for free. Doing so gave me a new appreciation for all the effort that goes into the fanfiction I read (and believe me, I read a lot). I really respect the people that manage to churn out fics like this in no time at all, and I respect that they do it for free. Please, if you enjoyed this story, considering donating to the patreon of some online author that you like. Not me, I have no patreon and I’m not nearly ready to make one, but if one of the authors you like does have one, why not consider it if you are able?

At the end of a story, the natural thing to ask is what happens next? For my characters, I like to think that they keep growing, and that their world changed in new and exciting ways. As for me, I keep writing, of course. This nine-month long editing process confirmed that I (like just about everyone else) far prefer writing to editing. I don’t think I’ll be writing any more long stories in the MLP universe. I learned a lot from the process, but I also depended on the established universe for a lot of the emotional impact, especially early on, and I don’t want to get too used to that. Future efforts will likely be original works and I have some fun ideas I’ve been playing around with. However, I do love these characters and I suspect I’ll write a few more short stories in this world for recreation. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a oneshot for all the main six (or main seven) and since I’m halfway there I might just do it. Whatever the case, it’s been a pleasure being in this fandom and I know I’ll never forget the time we spent here.

For the last time, thanks for reading and I’ll see you around!

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