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Maud of Sterner Stuff

Keeping it simple, sometimes.

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An Insight Into the Making of "Even Tough Ponies Have Soft Spots" · 8:17pm Sep 4th, 2020

If you want some insight into my thoughts and writing process for this story, you've come to the right place.

Let me start off by saying that I am a complete newbie to writing. I've never really written anything outside of essays for school, and I don't think anyone could blame me for having no recollection on what those involved. I'm also only just getting into reading stories, so I haven't been able to glean much secondhand experience.

I noticed the site announcement for the AppleDash Warm and Fuzzy Feelings Event when it was first posted. The premise behind it and the fact that it had very few restrictions caught my interest. That, and the prize money.

Some users in the group thread suggested that this was the perfect opportunity to practice writing, and I found myself agreeing with them. As a result, I started thinking of what I should try to write.

I was able to think of a story idea quite quickly by taking the name of the event literally. I thought, "What's something that's warm and fuzzy? Maybe a plush doll?" With this thought, I began to think of some ideas. The story was originally just about Rainbow Dash hiding a plush doll of Applejack from her, and not about Rainbow's feelings.

My writing process started out by jotting down story ideas as they came to me. This included ideas such as how the doll was discovered by Applejack and why Rainbow had the doll. I did not initially think of elements such as story themes or metaphors; most of those actually came to me as I was writing, and even after the story was mostly done.

Once I got a few ideas down, I started working on the outline of the story, if one could even consider it an outline. It mostly consisted of complete dialogue with a few nondescript lines of what happens between the dialogue. My outline process was basically: reread what I've come up with so far, refine those things, then continue where I left off. There was lots and lots of changing things that had already been written before the plot was actually finished. I'm doing it right now in this blog post. In hindsight, it probably would have been a lot more efficient for me had I just given brief descriptions of what should happen in the story and then fleshed them out once the story layout was complete.

I wanted the title of the story to be a play on words, so I started trying to think of plush-related words early on. I thought, "This story is about Rainbow having a doll that she wants to be kept secret. She's tough and doesn't want to be seen with stuff like that, but she has a soft spot for a soft doll." That's how the title came to be, and it's how the story shifted focus when I realized that it could also mean having a soft spot for Applejack. I couldn't resist ending the story with the title drop; if being cliché is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Writing out the dialogue and character interactions was surprisingly easy. I just wrote what I thought each character would say or do at that point in time and let it flow naturally from there. I tried to give each character their respective personality and manner of speaking. Given the nature of the story, I decided to reverse the roles that Rainbow and Fluttershy usually have. Since Rainbow's always trying to get Fluttershy to do things outside of her comfort zone, I thought it would be nice for Fluttershy to do the same for Rainbow by doing something she knows she can help her with. I like the idea that Fluttershy empathizes with Rainbow's soft side and acts as her confidant.

While dialogue and interactions feel natural to me, narration does not. There's no 'next logical step' for describing something. Questions I kept asking myself include, "What should I be describing?" and "How descriptive should this be?" I chose to leave some character actions ambiguous during dialogue (such as facial expressions) unless they felt important, but I have the feeling that dialogue-heavy sections (aka most of the story) may look bland as a result.

I'm not concerned about my spelling or grammar, so I suppose I got at least one thing out of my English classes. I frequently looked up words to make sure I was using them correctly. Again, I'm even doing it right now. I did strongly consider avoiding the use of 'ponyisms,' meaning words such as 'everypony' or 'firsthoof.' I prefer using regular English here, but I'm not sure what the opinion of this site is on that, so I decided to play it safe and include them. I chose to write Applejack's dialogue without her accent because Ah think writin' like this is dumb under most circumstances. It's easy to imagine how she sounds, anyway.

One of the metaphors I came up with while writing was the doll representing Rainbow's feelings for Applejack. This is most obvious when Rainbow is telling Applejack how much of an inspiration she is. The tear in the doll was originally just an excuse for Rainbow to drop off the doll at Fluttershy's house, but at some point I realized that it could represent Rainbow's hidden feelings for Applejack. After Rainbow finally shares her feelings, the doll is seen to be good as new. This could also be interpreted as Fluttershy fixing their relationship by bringing them together, since she is the one who sews it back together. I had decided early on that I wanted to include 'tying up loose ends' to relate fixing the doll to the resolution.

This story is intended to take place shortly after Season 1 of the show. I included some references to Fall Weather Friends, Suited for Success, and Green Isn't Your Color for their appropriateness, and I also included one small quote from Read It and Weep because of how Rainbow Dash it is.

The total time it took for me to come up with ideas, write, and edit this story until submission was about 65 hours. About half of that was spent on my silly 'outline' that I was constantly editing, while the other half was spent struggling with the narration. My perfectionist attitude will be the end of me. I think I'll try writing without premature editing next time. :facehoof:

I got a few comments asking about the presence of romance in the story. Including romance was something that I had thought of at one point, but I decided against it because I didn't think I could do it justice given the setting and my inexperience (with writing and romance). Though with all the mentions of feelings and such, I can understand why some readers would think be inclined to think of this story as romantic. I initially tried to make it implicit in the description and early on in the story that it's about friendshipping, but I may not have been direct enough. I've added a paragraph to the story that hopefully clarifies the nonromantic intentions and I've also now directly mentioned friendshipping in the description. Is this enough? Should I have attempted to try to write romance anyway? Clarification of intentions and avoidance of misleading the reader is something for me to consider for later writing attempts.

That about wraps it up for everything I wanted to say about the story and my writing process. I'm curious to know what people think of my writing style and how it compares to others.

Before writing this story, my favorite ship was FlutterDash. As I wrote, I found myself liking AppleDash more and more, and now...

I can't decide! I'm thinking AppleDash works better romantically, while FlutterDash works better platonically. I love them about the same, though.

Anyway, thanks for reading my story and this blog post. If you have any writing and editing suggestions or story criticisms, please let me know. I don't know when I might decide to write again, but when I do, I'd like to do it better and more efficiently. If there's something I didn't talk about here that you would like to know about, just ask.

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