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Nothing special here, move along, nothing to see, just ignore the lump under the sheet and the red stuff...

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Happy Independence Day (for those of us who live in the US and are not locked in our basements to avoid The Plague) · 7:39pm Jul 3rd, 2020

Two quick things, and a short blub on characters: First, Lulu is having a 15 percent off sale today with code PRINT15 which is good for most of Ponyfeather Publishing's catalog including the Friends of PFP tab and Georg's collection. I’ll still do free signed bookplates for whatever you buy if you tell me (and have patience).

Second, I was typing some advice to a fellow author who is writing a wonderful story, and decided it was worth sharing, so here goes. (Free advice, worth every penny)

Comedy is where perceptions of reality clash.
-- Me

I make a lot of fun out of my lack of long-term outlining or plans in my writing, but *almost* all of the time I have characters staked out as:
A) The psychological place where they start (the character’s perception of the world)
B) The Want/Need/Desire/Goal they are striving for
C) Their ending location, and at least *part* of that goal accomplished, if not the part they expected.

Both humor and drama can flow from the resulting conflict of goals, and a good author can tweak tears and laughter from a reader with just the right touch. For example, in The Monster in the Twilight:

Monster was bad. Monster hurt mac. Monster hurt bloom. Monster should go away. Nopony would care. No, one would.

Monster hugged It. It did not hug back like twitht. It had been hugged so much, It was nearly flat. It once had a name, just like Monster. It understood when she talked to It. She wished It could talk back. She could feel things get better when she hugged It. It made memories of other really big ponies grow softer. It made them not afraid of Monster. As long as she had It, she was not afraid of them either.

Here we have a conflict between perception and reality, milked for emotional tears. I could have just written “Twilight hugged her doll” but that has almost no emotional resonance, and doesn’t set up the following scene where Monster gives up what is precious to her to help her friend.

Brother. That word brought back a memory that hugging It for a very long time could not make go all the way away. Brothers were strong. They did not need an It. mac had both sis and bloom to hug so he would not be afraid. Right?

There had to be something Monster could do.

Monster looked at It. She needed It. Without It, she would be afraid. Maybe if she hugged It a lot now, she would not need It for a while. She could let mac have It just for a while.

And that, of course, carries her different perception of the world over to Big Mac, where despite Monster’s inability to say what she means, she manages to convey her point of view and intentions.

Suddenly wide-awake, he looked around carefully for any misplaced trees or flowers. The only thing out of place was a grimy rag of some sort that had been stuffed down the inside of the blanket. It looked well-worn, as if it had originally been some sort of stuffed animal that had been stomped, dragged, carried, slept with, bathed with, cried on and hugged until all the stuffing had compressed into tiny little hard knots like marbles, and the covering had been ripped and patched and ripped and patched until almost none of whatever it was originally made out of was visible. If he squinted at it very hard, the locations of the eyes and tail could be made out only because there were two blotches at one end, and only one at the other.

He gave it a cautious sniff, fearful of the dirty cloth being a reeking mess, but he could only smell the forest mold, flowers, and a faint smell that he thought he recognized from last fall. The very fabric seemed permeated with the smell of absorbed fear and loneliness, of darkness kept away and strange noises in the night. Holding it, he could imagine a strong guardian and companion that would always be there to protect the owner. To play with her when nopony else would. Who would always listen, no matter how difficult it was to speak. To love, when nopony else would.

The flat rag seemed to call out to him on some primal level at the very core of his being. After a quick glance around to make sure he was not being watched, he put it carefully to his chest, and gave it a little hug. Only a little one. Very small. And he knew.

Big Mac carefully gathered up his blankets and pillow, as well as the tattered doll, and returned to the house. A few minutes later, Apple Bloom was awoken by a light tapping at her door.

“Oh, it’s you. Come on in, Big Mac.” The little filly yawned and tumbled out of bed, smacking her lips and beginning her normal morning routine. “I’m sorry I overslept, just let me use the bathroom and brush my teeth—”

A big red foreleg swept her up and Big Mag gently hugged the little filly for a long, long time, finally setting her down with a sniff and a pat on the head. “Here,” he said, gently giving Apple Bloom the grubby scrap of cloth. “Your friend brought this to me. Ah think she needs it more than ah do. Why don’t you take it back to her?”

Now it can take a bit for an author to recognize that the picture of the pony they have inside their head may not match with the reader’s perception of the character. Sometimes you just need to let the character out of its box and be itself for a while so the reader understands what their present position is, and what goals they have. I’ll close with two quick examples:

Estee’s best pain-in-the-flank Flitter from Five Hundred Little Murders:

Flitter disliked the Element-Bearers, but it was nothing personal. Flitter disliked just about everypony in the world, everything under Sun and Moon, the Princesses who made those last two work at all, and a universe which required them to do the job because the stupid orbs wouldn't operate on their own. Disliking the Bearers just naturally fell into the first two categories. Flitter had dislike, disdain, and contempt for just about everything that existed -- but never hatred. All of the first three emotions were casual things, the logical reaction of just about the only pony in the world who could think to the inherent stupidity of everything around her. Hatred -- well, she'd once overheard somepony saying something unbelievably stupid: that hate was love with its back turned. And the idiocy of those words was self-apparent for anypony who could think about them -- in other words, usually just her -- but it still seemed to Flitter that hate required a level of emotional and temporal commitment that she didn't care enough to give, especially since it would keep her from doing her job. And Flitter loved her job.

Georg’s unreleased story about Pumpkin Spice

“Does everybody know what time it is?”

Pumpkin Spice danced through her living room on the way to the kitchen and the delightful perfume wafting through the whole house. It had been almost a whole year since the last time she was able to unleash her special talent, and the song sang through her nerves like lightning!

Only it wasn’t lightning, since it was just past Summer Shutdown, and Rainbow Dash had promised not to accidentally let loose any random lightning strikes since two years ago when she had just ruined Spice’s plans for the perfect Pumpkin Spice Hearth’s Warming.

“Oh, Pumpkin Spice is very nice,” she sang, doing a little two-step around the boxes of powder scattered around her kitchen. “It never tastes the same way twice, so add its glow to everything, and in it’s honor we will sing! Oh, Pumpkin Spice, that Pumpkin Spice! Yeah!”

With a quick flutter of wings, she landed in front of Oven #3 and slipped the cookie sheet out to cool while putting another cookie sheet in. Having wings made cooking a breeze, and let her handle two of the wooden cookie paddles at once, which saved time when she had all four ovens going at once.

She had been up for almost three days now, cooking and frosting and making packages for all of her friends, even the ones with restraining orders because old Judge Grumpy always softened up when she spread a few scented candles around the courthouse and took the time to spice up the building coffee pot. He would tear up with joy and snuffle into his kerchief, then Spice would be released to give an extra-special gift of scented candles and flavored candy to everypony in the building! They always made such a big deal of it, running around and screaming with happiness just like the clerks at the bank. Some of them even locked themselves into the bank vault last year, but she had been all prepared and managed to slip their gifts of pumpkin spice perfume and pumpkin spice toffee in through one of the air vents.

Their screams of excitement had made Pumpkin Spice practically dance through the sky with joy, and seeding the clouds with the special pumpkin spice aromatics only made it better as the whole town had come alive with the wonderful scent that evening.

Oh, she loved this time of year.

* * *

“I hate this time of year,” muttered Princess Twilight Sparkle. She peered through her binoculars at the peaceful town below, just waiting for the next terrorizing monster to attack, or the next power-mad unicorn to hold it hostage.

Some clever pundits in Canterlot had made a joke about ‘All of Twilight Sparkle’s enemies are pointy.’ They had never met the most terrifying villain of all time.

Comments ( 14 )

Resistance is futile. You will be pumpkin spiced.

Hey, just because it's not a day we consider remarkable in any way except a bunch of stuff in the US exploding consensually for once, doesn't mean you can't wish us a happy one!

Ugh, not pumpkin spice!
...Wait, in pumpkin pie? That's the acceptable use case.

I guess as a character name is fine, too.

As long as it's not in my coffee, is what I'm saying here.

Sounds tasty.

Uh... today is July 3rd. Independence Day ain't til tomorrow.

Sorry, just you're like the fourth or fifth person I've seen make that announcement, and I kinda felt like I was losing my mind. :pinkiecrazy:

I've already had the plague. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Independence Day seems a bit hollow since there's so much shit going wrong in our beautiful country right now, but happy Freedom Day to you anyway! :twilightsmile:

5300465 (looks at the time on the computer) Sure seems like the 4th to me. :pinkiehappy:

Happy 4th, hope the day is going good

Georg’s unreleased story about Pumpkin Spice

Are we gonna have to wait all the way until October for this? :fluttershysad:

Happy (er, slightly belated) Fourth of July! :)

Well, did you blow up lots of fireworks?

5302050 I'm a cheapskate. I spent about twenty bucks this year, BUT I went out and walked the neighborhood to enjoy everybody else's fireworks. I estimate the city was running through about $100k/hr for two nights running, about three hours each. And the booms have just started again.

I've heard people say there has been far more people shooting off far more fireworks this year than usual.

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