Uncommon Dazzling Ships 233 members · 410 stories
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Hi everypony,

Welcome to our quarterly Author Spotlight! This month we have an interview lined up for you with Fuzzyfurvert, who has been on fimfiction for several years and has a few siren stories under his belt.

As a warning, this discussion might include spoilers for his stories.

So, Fuzzyfurvert; you’re best known around these parts for the Crackshipping & You series you write with Misago, which we even used as the best example we could find of an AriaShy ship. What is it that interests you about crackshipping compared to ‘regular’ shipping?

First of all, thanks for asking me to do this! I am legitimately honored. I've been skulking around the site for a while now, trying to write good stories. Emphasis on the trying. Out of my 58 currently published stories, five specifically involve the sirens with maybe a half dozen or so short things in my rando collection that feature them. Misago and I have dropped...17(!?) Crackshipping & You fics so far, with at least four more to go. The next one even involves a fairly rare siren ship with Adagio x Applejack. I like to think that most of those crackships were fairly well written and enjoyable. I know I enjoyed writing them!

As for why I like crackshipping versus regular shipping...poor life choices? General lack of taste? Inability to back down from a challenge? ???

I mean, seriously, I like a challenge and putting together two personalities that have no history of romantic interaction, or seem like they would just rub each other the wrong way, comes off as a worthy challenge. Putting them together, and then puzzling out how they meet, how they might treat each other, and then what changes need to happen for them to reach even basic friendship is like a big jigsaw to me. I like crackshipping because I want to take the old fanfiction trope of romance between characters that have no business doing the romance, and making it work. That's what activates MY almonds.

Group Admin

6527553 They sound like a good calibre of almonds to have, in that case. And you’re welcome, of course; and thanks for agreeing to do this!

So if the jigsaw puzzle is to get them together, what level of end game would you say is best to aim for for a reasonable success rate? One presumes a one-night stand or casual friendship is easier to orchestrate than a relationship of several months, and that in turn easier than a happily ever after. So what’s a good target to go for?

For example, you mentioned AppleDagio coming up, that’s a good choice! Rune Soldier Dan’s recent story of the same name proved that it wasn’t as totally impossible as I’d thought. But it still strikes me that theirs, regardless of the story, would be a relationship of short-term convenience rather than long-term appeal, as I don’t see their values overlapping enough to make lifelong marriage a believable prospect there, personally. So is a shorter relationship of, say, girlfriends though high school, ‘enough’ for a crackshipping story? Or does a happy ending for the story require the suggestion of a permanent happy ending for the couple?

I would say that a good end goal would getting the characters to that point where the crackshipping morphs into regular shipping. That their original relation with each other has been redefined. They see common overlapping interests between them and can spend time together and reasonably expect to not try to murder each other. At that point the shipping becomes pretty straight forward, though usually still interesting and unique to the specific couple. That's what I go for. I want to get the characters, dragging the readers along for the ride, to the point they could at least see the two of them giving it a go. Maybe it works out. May it doesn't. But it COULD happen.

Going past that can be fun. In A Dazzling Sunset, I've taken it on myself to write out the whole of a rocky start between Sunset and Adagio. I want to show off, eventually, where going through all that puts them and where they want to go next. I've tried that in other stories that are less crackshippy and it's paid off well I think.

I know this is trite to say among authors, but happy endings are overrated. We long, usually on a personal scale, for lasting positive relationships with others. We tend to project that personal desire onto fictional characters, so a lot of us like to see, or at least get the implication that these relationships end 'happily ever after.' Don't get me wrong, I love seeing that too! But I'm at the point in my life where I've lived though the lifespan of multiple friendships and romantic relationships. Sometimes they just end. Sometimes they go sour. Telling those sorts of stories to ourselves keeps us grounded and acts as an imaginative palate cleanser between the sugary happily ever after stories. So, long answer to a short question: no, I don't think the suggestion of a permanent happy ending is a requirement for a story to end happily. Frankly, sometimes I prefer the ambiguity.

On the topic of Appledagio (which I like Appledazzle, tbh), I'm going for that decidedly gray area. Adagio and Applejack are pretty much polar opposites in the values area with maybe some overlap in musical taste or work ethic? If you stretch your definitions, maybe some overlap in their views on strength and the use of said strength. But those are pretty dang nebulous things. So I'm rather more inclined to highlight their differences into stark contrast, then throw them into a situation requires them to put those differences aside and be acutely aware of them at the same time. That, in my opinion, gives them the clarity to see past those differences and decide if the things that separate them are actually important or not.

Is a short fling, however energetic it might be, crackshippy enough? Heckin' yea. The important part is seeing if the characters involved turn out to be oil and water, or peanut butter and chocolate.

Group Admin

6528010 Thanks, I really like that answer! And you’re right, Appledazzle sounds much better, like a refreshing carbonated drink :pinkiehappy:

When you talk about the changes that need to happen for them to reach even basic friendship, would you say that’s more about changes to their situation, or to their attitudes and characters (or both)? And, if the latter, how do you balance changing their character over time (which might be called character development or growth) with maintaining the elements we like that character for in the first place?

A lot of hero/villain shipping stories, for example, involve an element of redemption for the villain of the pair. How do you address that when the character’s villainy was half the reason they were enjoyable to begin with?

Making the hero/villain pair work can be done via a little reformation, but I think it's more interesting to show the hero as a little less heroic. Deconstructing heros and heroic archetypes is pretty popular right now in the media, so I know I'm not alone in that view. Though I like more the turning of the hero, so to speak, so that their "heroic values" are seen from a different angle, and therefore no less heroic, but now in a different way that's not so directly opposed to the villain. Throw in a little bit of redemption for the other side and you have the classic 'meet in the middle' scenario.

When it comes to changes that 'need' to happen, I always go for the external factors. Environment and context are a huge factor in how we act, how we treat others, and often how we see ourselves at that moment. There is a derisive trope in general shipping called Alien Brainworm Syndrome that basically explains stories where the characters meet and act a level of out of character in order to reach the relationship stage. As if some alien brainworm had invaded their minds and is now pulling the strings to increase the likelihood of mating. I try to avoid that at all costs.

I see it as lazy writing, and there are few things that cheese me off more than lazy writing.

I like taking characters and putting them in a different place and watch them run around and try rationalize themselves in that setting. Taking them out of their comfort zones can be enough to weasel out a natural feeling shift for a character. I feel you don't even have to go the way of the full AU and disregard the MLP or EQG settings to achieve this. Just look at the episodes where the characters went to new locations and the changes in their behavior. It's often slight, but it can be enough to making the elusive connection that forms a ship to spark. These changes lead to character growth. It forces the characters to evolve, little by little, but it also, obviously, changes the character.

To keep the characters distinctly themselves, I try to pick aspects of their personality or design that are concrete or constant. Usually these are concepts that you can boil the characters down to, like Adagio's need to be in control, Aria's general contrarian attitude, or Sonata wearing her thoughts on her sleeve. Once you have your base to work from as a foundation, you can go in and monkey with all the rest of their traits. If you do that sort of thing well, you can move the character amazingly distant from their canon counterpart. I also like to find small traits that might not be obvious, but would be implied by a character's design, and give those a highlight. Things like Adagio's need to take care of that mass of curls she's got, or Aria's preference for distressed clothing(and whether she buys them like that or does the ripping and tearing personally).

On a related side note: using that same approach is how I make AU settings. I find the basic building blocks, then stir the rest of the details around until I get something I like.

Group Admin

6528403 When you say making the hero less directly opposed to the villain, do you mean, say, giving them a common enemy to oppose together?

This is all really interesting stuff, and after you mentioned it I went and read ChuckFinley’s blog on Alien Shipping Syndrome, and then bookplayer’s one on avoiding it, both of which were enlightening and showcased problems very recognisable from various stories on here (and also published much further afield, I’m sure). The technique of keeping a core idea of the character the same and then messing with some of the variables is something that takes practice to get right, I bet!

I notice you’re one of the very few authors on here to tackle an Adagio x Sonata story. Given the gap in level of intellect between the two characters, I’ve always struggled to picture a story where Adagio would respect Sonata enough to love her. Any thoughts on how one might go about addressing that for a shipping story?

I suppose what I mean is taking the hero's ideals, values, or actions and turning them on their ear so that they appear less than selfless or altruistic in nature. Focus on the downside, real or not, of the hero's journey, so that they feel less like they are fighting the villain and more like the two are just on two different sides of the same issue. Taking away the personal animosity opens a lot of things in the relationship, primarily the possibility of that phantom common ground between them. Obviously this can be done in a lot of different ways depending on the pre-existing hero/villain dynamic...

Practice makes perfect. I've done it enough times now that I can say with reasonable confidence that I'm good at that particular skill. I've screwed it up plenty of times, but I've gotten it right most of the last few times I went in under the hood of a character with a monkey wrench. It takes a fine balance to get it right, but getting there isn't hard once you have a clear understanding of a character's positive and negative traits. The difficult part, I think, is the extrapolation you have to do once you change something. Chasing down all the mutations that make sense to their logical end and re-looking at the whole to make sure it's still recognizable as the character it started as. I think that another pitfall of this approach is the part where you find one of those character mutations to be extra interesting or adorable...but said mutation doesn't fit the overall goal of the story. Then you're forced to prune it off, and you kinda don't want to. That's where I think a lot of authors and visual artists start to go off the rails into barely re-skinned OC territory.

As a point of personal headcanon, I don't see Sonata as particularly dumb. Maybe simple, or a poor communicator, but not straight up stupid. That said, Sonata and Adagio are an interesting match up emotionally. Sonata wears her heart on her sleeve and speaks her mind. Adagio broods and runs on a form of single minded determination. Their biggest difference is level of focus. Adagio is a laser, Sonata is sunlight. But this doesn't make them incompatible. Sonata and Adagio each possess skills and traits that the other lacks or is just not good at. They compliment each other that way, pretty much the same way they do musically. Adagio brings the power while Sonata fills up the background. Adagio gives Sonata direction while Sonata gives Adagio the ability to chill out. And that's just taking from what they display in the movie. You can reasonably argue a lot of tertiary character traits for the both of them that work well together. They can clash, and certainly do! Sonata's lack of focus irritates Adagio, and Adagio's forcefulness annoys Sonata.

When you factor in their theoretically vast amount of time in each other's company, these traits either get magnified, or smooth the rough edges out. I like to think it's more like the later, given that they are still working together like a well oiled machine. To me, siren x siren ships should operate like an old married couple. They know all the buttons to press for each other as well as all the soothing words and gestures. Otherwise they would have gone their separate ways by now.

Group Admin

6530018 That sounds a good way around it, and having them meet in the middle sounds far healthier than one character doing all the changing to meet the other :twilightsmile: Yes, I can see mutations like that being hard to keep track of! You’re right, though, you have to do what’s necessary to keep them away from becoming near-OCs.

Mentioning the amount of time they’ve been in each other’s company; there’s quite the age gap between those three and the rest of the cast. How do you find that affects shipping those characters with teenagers in the show, and what strategies do you suggest for putting the characters on more even ground in that situation despite the centuries of experience difference between them?

I think a lot of how you tackle the age issue comes down to two basic factors for an author: how do you view immortality(or a life span so long it might as well be eternal) and how do you view mental maturity? And maybe how do you headcanon the EQG time flow? Like, has it been running the whole time, like regular time and a 1:1 ratio with Equestria? Does it run slower than Equestria's time flow, thereby making the amount of time passed there less than the main timeline?? Is it on a loop, resetting after X number of years, effectively keeping the human characters in step with their long lived pony counterparts, like Celestia & Luna???

But I digress.

May December relationships offer a lot of interesting drama and interaction possibilities just from the two characters seeing the world differently. And to veer a little away from the sirens directly, I think I should make a few items of my personal background apparent, as they play a part in how I reconcile age gaps this large.

1) I'm in my late 30s. I don't find the idea of agelessness, or immortality, or just a super long life span, depressing or anything. Frankly, it's pretty dang desirable.

2) I have a background writing things involving massive age differences. I'm a princess shipper, and a Twilestia/Twiluna devotee. So I've come at this particular issue from just about every angle at this point. Before pony, I was involved in years of fantasy gaming, including producing 3rd party content for DnD back in the early 2000s. That meant writing and RPing a crapton of elves and other non-humans with fantastically long life spans palling around with others that are centuries younger than they are.

3) I once dated a girl more than a decade younger than myself. Even a gap that "small" is noticeable. I was, at times, painfully aware of it, while at other times it might as well have not existed. I also grew up around friends and family that had gaps in the ages of their partners, so it's not weird to me on a very basic, elemental, level.

All that said, I take a lot from my personal experience when writing older characters and merge it with my memories of experiencing life when I was younger, healthier, and less married. Much like in my own experience, the gap is usually unimportant, unless you come to a situation where that extra life experience comes into play. Those moments of sharp contrast are few and far between, but they should be notable and cause moments of reflection, or at the very least, an acknowledgement of the gap.

Or, alternatively, you could disregard it completely, and take the sirens to be a similar mentality to a regular young adult, because they can't possibly remember with any true accuracy, more than a handful of decades of life. I know I can barely recall yesterday in but tiny flashes of feeling and fuzziness. So maybe Sonata isn't dumb, she's just hit her mental buffer limit and it's shorting out her short term memory? Maybe Aria is irritated at the world because she SHOULD be able to remember where she left her keys, but she can't, yet for some reason she CAN vividly recall a 20 second snip-it from the first phonograph she encountered on the streets of Paris. Maybe Adaigo is so focused on her goal to get Equestrian magic because it's the only thing she can remember wanting, even though she doesn't know why she wants it besides a nagging pang of homesickness? She doesn't even know how to use it if she got her hands on it? Maybe they all have some form of immortal only hyper Alzheimer's and what we see is them reduced to human teenager level?

But really? I don't think the age gap is important unless you want to take a look at what might be some dark implications under the pretty colors and uplifting message of the show and movies.

Group Admin

6531402 Ah, the time differential between worlds conundrum :ajbemused: I tend to avoid the problem myself since I usually see the sirens as teenagers thrown forwards in time. But there are some definite discrepancies in time flow for us to ignore or try to explain or work around :twilightsheepish:

I am completely with you on how nice immortality would be. Can’t come soon enough.

I can see how the Twilight/princess comparisons would come through, yeah! Are there any other ways in which you think shipping princesses has influenced how you characterise the sirens? Do you tend to see them as friends, sisters, the only three of their kind, or... (the list of possibilities goes on)?

We try to avoid talking about SunDagio too much in this group, but I’m sure many know you for your story A Dazzling Sunset, which is at present 70k words long. Which other siren ships would you enjoy exploring in that kind of depth, especially of the more crackshippy ones? If you had time, that is - I’m sure we all have reams of stories we’d write if we could only get around to it. So are there siren x siren/mane cast/side character ships that you’re particularly fascinated by?

I tend to see the sirens as three individuals that float in and out of friendship with each other as the years come and go. They have known each other so long they might as well be family, when it comes to how they treat each other, but I like that degree of separation as an easy out to avoid squick factors in siren x siren shipping. I don't think they are the only sirens...I would hope not! But I think the three we are familiar with should be special. They are the ones with the magic and power and the size to rule over their kind, much like the alicorns are for ponies.

Oh god, speculative fiction I would write if only I had the time! I have entire gdoc folders full of story ideas that will never see the light of day. Sometimes the drive to work on them just dies, or the ideas get cannibalized and regurgitated into other stories. I've got a couple of siren specific semi-dead fic ideas lying around, and at least one of these could be vastly expanded on. Though, no lie, it would likely be the Adagio focused one. She's my favorite siren.

Way back when, shortly after Rainbow Rocks came out, Misago and I were both in creative slumps and to try and get out of that we started bouncing 'what if' scenarios back and forth. This would eventually lead to the Crackshipping & You series as we compiled a list of characters to mix and remix. One of the first ones out the gate, before we had any real system in place, was an idea I creatively called Cracked Ship. It was an idea that put together Adagio and Princess Cadance in Equestria. From the saved chatlog (also Adagio would be in her siren form for the majority of this):

Fuzzyfurvert: Well, I though about the phrase 'crack ship' and that as a siren, Adagio is a sea monster.  So...Cadance is on a ship that gets hit by a bad storm. It starts the sink and due to the winds and rain, Cadance can't fly.  She gets banged up in the wreck, losing consciousness just as the water starts rushing in.

Fuzzyfurvert: Then later, she wakes up on a deserted island/underwater grotto/someplace she can't just leave from.

Fuzzyfurvert: After a bit, Adagio shows up and brings her supplies and stuff from the wreck.  But she doesn't talk to Cadance. When Cadance tries to communicate, she dives back into the water and vanishes.

Fuzzyfurvert: This keeps up for a while.  Cadance wanders around, Adagio brings her stuff, Cadance ries to talk to her, Adagio runs away.

Fuzzyfurvert: Until one night

Fuzzyfurvert: Cadance wakes up from another nightmare about the ship, and finds Adagio there, watching over her.

Fuzzyfurvert: Adagio goes to leave again, but Cadance chases her, diving into the water after her

Fuzzyfurvert: Cadance, of course, can't follow her far, and even after all this time, she needs to heal from the shipwreck.  She starts to lose her strength quickly and almost drowns again, until Dagi returns and takes her back to the beach. Eventually, Adagio opens up to a stir-crazy Cadance, and it is revealed that the siren caused the storm that sunk Cadance’s ship.  Angry at her defeat and ignoble return to Equestria, Adagio whipped up the storm in her frustration and only noticed the ship by the time it was too late.  She’s been keeping the weather calm ever since, and protecting Cadance until a rescue ship comes, but none have so far. After a while the supplies from the wreck start to run low and Cadance must make a long flight to a populated area and will need Adagio’s help to survive it.

Fuzzyfurvert: Well, just imagine: Cadance is getting tired from the long flight, there is no land in sight.  She starts to lose altitude faster and faster. Adagio surfaces and gives Cadance a place to land, in the safe coils of a siren.  She holds Cadance up while she rests, floating on the surface.

Fuzzyfurvert: Then, when Cady wakes up, Adagio is all stiff and has to dunk herself under the water to relax after being coiled for hours

Misago: Works even better if Cadance did not expect her to save her again

Fuzzyfurvert: And she starts singing, her siren magic whipping up the waves and wind to give Cadance a boost and breeze to glide on as they across the barren ocean together

Misago: And Cadance is amazed by the beautiful singing

Fuzzyfurvert: Adagio is like a whale under the waves, a shape that sometimes appears under her and sings a beautiful song.

Fuzzyfurvert: Cadance returns to the Crystal Palace and immediately begins converting the stadium into a giant saltwater aquarium...

Misago: Only to accidentally stumble across Dagi in pony form?

Fuzzyfurvert: That could work.  Maybe she shows up like a normal court petitioner and doesn't say anything, but starts singing or humming, but when Cadance looks, she only catches a flash of curly tail disappearing around the corner. And the Empress descends from her throne and goes on a merry chase through the palace, listening for Dagi's sweet song. She finally corners Dagi at a pool or pond/lake/some body of water and Dagi jumps in at the last moment and transforms back into Siren form, and rises silently out of it to loom over all the ponies.  The guards all get twitchy, but Cadance orders them to stand down. She approaches the "monster" and asks Dagi if she came all that way to say goodbye. Dagi doesn't answer and instead just lowers her head down to Cadance, sort of bowing to her, and Cadance wraps her wings around Dagi's head and hugs her.

I think something like that could be worked out into a longform story and be rewarding to write. But time investment for something like that...whoo lad...

On a shorter scale, I also planned to write a Sonata x Sapphire Shores fic for one of the Write Offs many months ago. Again, set in Equestria with Sonata in size-of-a-small-whale siren form and essentially being a kaiju fangirl and showing up unexpectedly to a beackside concert. The only thing I have with Aria was a follow-up to my fic In the Shower, where she pined over Applejack in a erotic manner while in the titular shower. While Aria has always been my least favorite of the three, I have been trying to think up some new story ideas for her that show her off in a positive light.

Group Admin

6533073 Ooh, I really like the idea of the sirens as alicorn-level equivalents of their own species! :raritystarry: I've not heard that before, but I could see that being a good angle for a story, and it fits with how they have both flight and magic.

Wow, I had no idea you'd be ok with sharing unwritten story ideas, that's ever so generous and open of you! And that would indeed be a story unlike any other we've seen. I notice that, apart from the bit at the end about converting a stadium and hearing petitioners, the plot would work with just about any pony. What was it that led to Cadence being chosen in the first place for it? I presume you chose Cadence and Adagio and then came up with the plot, rather than the other way around?

I think, regarding favourite sirens, Adagio tends to be the 'serious choice.' I've not read many big, serious, competent stories revolving around or favouring Sonata (only the work of Daniel-Gleebits springs to mind, off the top of my head). I think with Aria the key to enjoying writing her is to find an appeal for her separate to that of Adagio - otherwise she'll always be just Adagio but not as good. DWK's story Welcome to the Show is king in that respect.

Having asked about other crackship pairings that you'd like to spend more time on, what about the opposite side of things? What siren pairing (with another siren, or Rainboom, or side character etc) do you think would be hardest to convince an audience as having a shot at success? What pairing like that would be least enjoyable or interesting to write? Are there any pairings you enjoy reading but wouldn't like to try writing yourself?

Yeah, the plot was developed after the fact. It's how we've done all of the crackshipping & you series. We set up two lists of characters and took turns picking out pairings until we had about 20 of them. From there we used a shared gdoc to space them out, then plot what we wanted to do with each, not holding ourselves to any real requirements besides coming up with what felt like a convincing reason for the ship. We got through three or so before we hit on the first published one. I like to try to come up with a simple overview, maybe two or three sentences to put the stakes in the ground and let the details grow up around them as naturally as possible which might be inspired by what I end up doing to make the cover art for the fic.

Yeah, I can totally agree that Adagio is the serious choice. It's like choosing your favorite ice cream or favorite pizza. They are all good, just in different ways that might not be easy to compare on an apples to apples ratio. Adagio, frankly, has the most built-in depth of character and motivation but the most esoteric music nod and play on words in her design. I mean, who is going to get it that her outfit is a siren suit? Or put together that she is supposed to represent popular diva Disco from the late 70s early 80s? Not that you have to, obviously, but once those details kick in, how can she not be the favorite? Of course that last little bit is semi-dependant on noticing Aria represents the angry Punk wave of the early and mid-80s, that then gave way to the vapid Pop of the late 80's early 90s Sonata. Aria is grumpy and just kind of contrarian in Rainbow Rocks, which frankly makes her a good foil to bounce off of, but has little power on her own. Sonata is the cute woobie of the bunch and that packs its own sort of built-in following.

tl;dr: Each siren is good in her own way, Aria just doesn't speak up as loudly as the other two do to me, specifically. I think the trick there is finding what makes her tick on her one-note personality trait and then trying to add to it with out covering that note up in a mix of other sounds.

Hmm...that's a tough one. Aria is a weak spot for me, so she's definitely in there for hardest to write, but a pairing that would be really difficult? Eh...Aria x Ms. Cinch? Cinch is my absolute least favorite villain MLP or EQG has generated, but still has plenty of canon to cannibalize.If I pushed myself, I could make it work, but I think that would be more a fight against myself and my personal dislike of the characters than anything else. Plus, if I did it, once I hit critical mass with the set up, it would start picking up steam in the creation process and do most of the work for me as the characters start growing on me and each other. Besides that, I think each siren brings her own problems to any potential matchup. Though I'm pretty sure Adagio x Aria would be the hardest to write, it feels to me like it would be less predictable than say Aria x Sonata or Adagio x Sonata.

And really, I'd kinda like to read more all siren polyship fics. I've only seen a few of them, and they feel like those would be tiring to write from the sheer weight of the characters' histories together to make it feel like something realistic.

Group Admin

6535773 So, upon making the two lists of characters, what considerations were you going for when matching up pairings? Were you specifically looking for combinations you hadn’t seen before? And, since you both write a chapter for each pairing, were there any you disagreed over? Were there any you wish, looking back, you’d chosen differently?

I like your idea of a two or three sentence overview. I find planning out stories can be a very tricky balancing act - the more detail you add, the more solid the skeleton will be, and the better an idea you’ll have of what the finished product will look like. But it also eats into the creativity when actually writing it, which is less fun.

Ah, but not only is Adagio the Disco queen, she’s Disco covered in spikes! Which I happen to think makes Disco quite a lot better? I agree, so much effort went into the looks for those three. They each have a separate, distinctive style (which extends across two outfits), yet they look like a unit together as well. And the detail in each outfit far outstrips most of that the Rainbooms have, too; just the number of bracelets and wrist bands, for example, makes the character models much more complicated.

I must say I really like Adagio x Aria as a pairing, because they’re so similar. It’s often rather explosive, though :twilightsheepish: And it does run the risk of imbalance, since Adagio is the leader and Aria isn’t, however much she wants to be. But that can be interesting in its own right I guess.

Ok, yeah, I’ve never seen Aria x Principal Cinch. I think Aria’s next in line for our spotlighted pairings, so if someone fancies writing a story for that pairing before the month is out then we’d have an example to show it with...

Not too many polyship ones out there, no. I imagine it’s a bit of a niche, given the small percentage of poly people in real life? The usual angle people seem to take with them being both poly and immortal is that they’re almost more like siblings in how they act: very close, prone to fighting, but without much in the way of long-term consequences. And then adding into that that they sleep together in various combinations from time to time, although it’s a more occasional thing, in the examples I’ve seen?

Rarity of the pairing was the primary requirement we put to ourselves. After that was coming up with a plausible, but unique way of setting them together, which Misago and I approached from different angles almost constantly. You'll notice that a lot of his tended to go with the characters already past the first hurdles and into that cute stage where the couple is comfortable with each other to varying degrees. I tended to tackle the more HOW, WHEN, WHERE aspects of characters coming together. It wasn't really intentional on our part, but that quirk of our writing styles tended to compliment each other. So we didn't so much as disagree with other, but there were plenty of times that his views influenced me and vice versa.

The ones I'd entertain the idea of doing differently are ones that I think fell flat due to length of investment or issues with story structure, rather than say, characterization. I LIKE my characterizations for the most part. But there are some of the early ones that need more actual story to them. They represent more their ideas of a story than an actual piece of story telling with clear beginning, middle, and end. That's why I like doing the short overviews. It allows things to grow, but the downside is that sometimes they become overgrown, or they don't quite make it to full ripeness. I've gotten a lot better at finding that right balance, and the Crackshipping & You series has been a big part of that development.

Recently, when I plan a story, what I've been doing is trying to visualize scenes and then breaking those scenes down into 1-2 sentences. I highlight the sentences, then linebreak them apart a few times so I can then write out the scene with the essential overview right there for quick reference. Any more than that, and like you said, it starts to lose the fun, or energy, that comes from creation. For longform stories though, I think the stronger skeleton, or foundation, is a must. For me, since my writing tends to come in bursts, a detailed skeleton means I can bring back to mind my formulating ideas and kinda respark those fires of creation. EVENTUALLY...that adds up to something grand.

It feels like a struggle. Frequently. But I have proof, on this very website, that the struggle is worth it. It took years for me to get stories like Alicorn Switcheroo, Chemistry, We Two Queens, The Violin Maker's Daughter, and even In the Shower to that just right stage. A lot of that was from invaluable input from Misago and others along the way. Touching back on disagreeing in reference to ships, it was never really a bad thing, it was much more a side by side comparison of values and what made a story or pairing the MOST interesting.

Yeah, most of the examples I've seen are like that. The sirens have reached a point beyond where the way we might define or compartmentalize their lifestyle is meaningful. I think that's kind of a lazy cop out, but then again, doing it "right" would take a lot of effort that might just fly over most readers' heads. Still, I'd like to see a serious attempt at a romantic threesome that isn't just a caviler 'whatever' attitude, or a angst laden jealousyfest.

I like effort in writing, if that's not clear. I like being able to tell that an author has done research on a topic, or has personal experience that relates to the story. I try to do that with my writing. Even in these crackships, which could be seen as simple throw-away what ifs...I still want to make those what ifs thought provoking. Because who knows? The reader it was meant for might come along and my work and effort will be seen and appreciated. It might be inspiring, or helpful in a hard time. I don't think that my writing is Important, for the most part. But I like to think it is Good and that it's the kind of thing that sticks with people well after they're done.

Group Admin

6538877 Looking back on them now, there’s been a little more movement on some of those pairings, but still not a great deal. There’s a little more AppleDazzle than there used to be, and a few more in Aria x Fluttershy. Sonata x Twilight is still pretty quiet, though. I did like the way you handled Sonata x Sunset (a ship with 35 stories to its name) :pinkiehappy: And definitely; that kind of two-pronged approach, with you coming from one angle and Misago from a different one, can be ideal (when it works), both for the story and the working relationship between the authors.

That sounds a good way to handle it, summarising each scene like that; I might give that a go at some point! I would definitely agree that a more solid plan or skeleton is easier to drop in and out of, so you can leave longer breaks between periods of writing, or still make a meaningful contribution to continuing the scene when you only have ten minutes to spare.

You mention doing research on a topic, but you’ve also given some personal details in previous answers on how they influence your writing (and also mentioned Chemistry, for which I saw your blog on what inspired it). I’m sure it varies story to story, but where would you say the ideal balance lies between research, personal experience, imagination and extended contemplation, for creating a story? What balance leads to the best story to read, in your eyes, and, if different, what balance is easiest to write?

I would say the "perfect" balance would be :
75% Imagination
5% Extended Contemplation
10% Personal Experience
10% Research

But this is obviously subjective to each potential story. You have to have an idea and you have to think around it to make sure it's worthy of the time and investment, that's the imagination and extended contemplation part. Once you have that down, you can see where your personal experience has relevance to the idea, and that will show you where you need to do research to fill in the blanks. If you get these things down and play with the ratios a little, I think you're in the right place to craft a great story, regardless of length or tone. I think this kind of balance should be the easiest to write, but I know a lot of authors can get caught up on the first 80% and balk at the rest, OR just forget to do that last 20% for a multitude of reasons.

Think that's where a lot of tone deft stories or advertisements come from. The author or creator forgets or overlooks things that the audience is going to relate to in favor of just being imaginative or clever. What you're left with then comes off as insensitive or even offensive without intending to be. I think that's where the old adage of "write what you know" comes from. It's so you don't come off as an idiot. But conversely, if you stick with just what you know or have personal experience with, that's very limiting. I mean, I'm not a technocolored magical horse, I've got to use my imagination there to figure out how an equine, even one in a people suit, goes about romancing a snakehorsefish.

Speaking of Sunset x Sonata though...I need to do a serious one with them. That was a great bait and switch with that Crackshipping entry. I got a ton of laughs out of it, and it stretched my sneaky double entendre skills, but a somewhat more serious attempt should be made at some point. I like the Dazzlings enough that they all need a good treatment from me other than just my doodles. I can't give them all the same level of effort I've given A Dazzling Sunset, but something substantial for the grump and the woobie would be fun to do. I'd just have to determine who to ship them with. I've done Adagio x Sunset/Applejack/Twilight/Sonata, Sonata x Twi, and an unfinished Aria x Applejack thing.

Group Admin

6541571 That sounds good to me, although I wonder about there being another stage of extended contemplation on the end of that, to see how that personal experience and research might then be applied to the situation romancing a snakehorsefish, and what might change as a result. Regarding writing what you know, I saw a comment from PresentPerfect recently, discussing the amazing story Crimson Lips. On the subject of how much research Monochromatic had done creating the story, he said, ‘I've always said the axiom "write what you know" is better stated as "know what you write".’ I think there are some areas where practical experience will outstrip book research every time (sex scenes being a classic example), but I do like the view there that not knowing the situation personally needn’t be a barrier if one works enough to counter it.

Sneaky double entendre skills are much more important than many people realise!

And for a longer story, do you think you’d go for the same ship qualification of rarity as you did for the Crackshipping series? Or would other concerns take priority, like the chemistry the characters might have together? The frequent view is that Aria, as the most negative of the three, would be the longest to hold a grudge against the Rainbooms, so what about a more outside character for her? One of the Shadowbolts, maybe, or Trixie, or VP Luna? And Sonata, being so often paired with Aria or Pinkie (or Sunset, following The Evening Sonata) has a rather barren absence of ships with anyone else. I’ve never seen a serious attempt at Sonata x Fluttershy, for example.

I think rarity of the pairing would play a part, certainly. Why do the same thing over and over again? But I think potential chemistry would carry more weight in this circumstance. Part of why Adagio x Sunset is so popular is all that raw chemistry between the characters.

Aria is kind of a tough nut to crack, so you'd need someone willing to hang in for the long haul, or someone that could come in like a romantic wrecking ball and keep her from getting on the defensive. There are very few characters that could do that believably, honestly, so stamina would be the better factor to look for. Characters like Fluttershy, Applejack, or Maud, or Luna, or Twilight(the princess version, specifically) certainly meet that requirement. Powerhouses would be Pinkie, Sunset, Sonata, or Celestia. Obviously, lesser defined characters could run the gambit between the two, depending on your headcanons.

Sonata, I think presents a different challenge. She's the woobie, or the moe character, to borrow a manga/anime term. She appeals to the READER specifically. Shipping her then picks up the unfortunate side effect of turning whoever that other character is into a waifu-stealer, and may god have mercy on that poor soul. Once you get past that though, she's effectively like Pinkie Pie. She makes a good, but not always noteworthy, match with just about anyone. To get a Sonata ship to stand out, you have to go for something off the wall. Frankly, I think Sonata could be fun by setting her up with someone that would be the oil to her water. Characters with shorter fuses or rigid personalities would stand out and present a good challenge. Characters like Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Trixie, Sugarcoat, or Sour Sweet jump to mind, though you could make some waves with popular fanon personalities like Octavia or Fleur di Lis.

Essentially, if the ship has rough waters to sail at first, then they are interesting and usually worth following until they reach that safe harbor at the end.

Group Admin

6543742 Sure, I can see all that, sounds good to me. I completely agree about potential chemistry, I find that’s something people often miss out from crackships, and, worse, sometimes even from shipping generally.

My vote would be Maud, Luna or Celestia for interesting partners from Aria in those scenarios, but that’s just me. Likewise, I’d love to see Sugarcoat x Sonata, that could be priceless. And I don’t think we can ever have enough Fleur de Lis.

Oh dear, do people still get upset about the waifu-stealing thing? I haven’t encountered that problem myself, so much as she has a habit of turning every scene she’s in into a comedy one. Which is fine, of course, except for when you don’t want that. And she can feel kind of artificially restrained, like she’s being confined to the background, when that isn’t allowed to happen. Or maybe that’s just me :twilightsheepish: I had not considered the idea of Sonata being more appealing to the reader than to others in that respect, that’s definitely an angle to ponder!

Taking some inspiration from a post of Cryosite’s on another thread in the group a couple of days ago, what aspects of characterisation would you say are unique to each of the sirens, not seen anywhere else in MLP? We’ve seen a few characters before, for example, who are surly and not exactly on board with discussing their feelings in a positive way: Gilda, Ember, Villain Sunset, and never forgetting Limestone Pie. What makes Aria stand out from that crowd, in terms of characterisation? How does Sonata differ from Pinkie, Silverstream or Gabby? Or Adagio from Chrysalis or Nightmare Moon?

I would say, for all of the Dazzlings, the biggest and easiest characterization factor that sets them apart is their very sirenness. Only other sirens show up, or are at least implied, they are unique. The closest character we otherwise have is Steven Magnet, the fabulous sea serpent from the series opener and the Slice of Life episode. Even then, that character comes off as distinctly different from the sirens. Additionally, they have the differentness of being villainesses in the EQG setting, which they only share that meta-trait with Sunset Satan. Then there is the apparent agelessness, which only has a couple of other characters to overlap with. An author could take any one of these, or a combo of them and play them up to makes these girls seem alien and unique.

But that's the three as a group. Individually, things get a bit prickly. Let's be honest, in as far as we were shown in Rainbow Rocks, Adagio was the one with the true personality. Aria and Sonata were one or two traits each with a handful of lines here and there. They could have been rolled into Adagio and it wouldn't have had much impact on the plot. That said, there is some crumbs to work with and sort of reverse engineer the characters into something they might have been given more opportunity.

Aria stands apart from the other grumps/tsundere-type characters in her related skill (music), her physical nature (human and siren), and her relationship with the characters we see her interact with in canon (the other sirens, almost exclusively, with a little of freshly reformed Sunset). Those details, by themselves aren't much, but a decent bit of informed imagination from a skilled writer can work wonders with just those ingredients. Like we can infer from how she talks to Adagio and then how Adagio reacts to Aria's comments, that there is friction between them about how to do things, or that there is resentment, or even a history of failed/semi-successful plans in their past. We can infer from Aria's interaction with Sonata that Aria is serious-ier than Sonata, or at lease she is when the sirens are on the prowl. We can make a lot out of these interactions that isn't canon explicit, but could be a very believable way for that canon to have developed.

Sonata brings a sense of wickedness to her comedy, from that general villainess vibe of the sirens. She can come off as much more selfish than the other moe characters. And if you really want to get dark, you could look at how a badguy that feeds off of conflict and negative emotions develops a penchant for comedy. If you think about how to reconcile those two character traits, silly and evil, Sonata easily carves out her own space among all the characters that might share just one of those traits.

Adagio stands out with the details of her motivation, the tools at her disposal, her sirenness, and oddly her humanness. The same details that differentiate Aria work for Adagio too, but because she's a more in-depth character, the similarities that she shares with Chrysalis and Nightmare Moon make her stick out by grouping her into a sub-subset of MLP villains. Those three came the closest to winning. Each one of them was beaten through stuff they never could have seen coming either. They WOULD have won without a last minute asspull from the forces of Good and or Friendship. So weirdly, she stands out more due to that connection and rarefied group, rather than her differences from them.

Group Admin

6548335 Lots of good points here! It does seem the sirens were the only true Equestrian-level villain to pop up in Equestria Girls, the others all being humans or ponies with jumped up ideas, usually high on one magic power or another. Hard to see Adagio taking Juniper Montage seriously at the weekly villain meetings they totally have :raritywink:

I’m glad you mention Aria’s music being something that sets her apart, it gives her a very different side to characters like Gilda or Limestone Pie, providing a positive side without making her nice (Limestone stories, for example, often counter her abrasiveness by making her very protective of her family - which there isn’t anything in canon to back up). I really like the phrasing you used for Sonata, too, ‘a sense of wickedness to her comedy.’ It’s Sonata of the three I’ve seen most often interacting with Discord, and she fits with him (as he was as a villain in The Return of Harmony) rather well. Like a blend of Pinkie’s energy and Discord’s indifference to human/pony suffering. While I loved Adagio and Aria’s circling of Sunset in the darkened corridor, for me the most cutting line was Sonata’s gleefully uncaring, “Too bad, so sad.”

So how do you think those unique attributes for those three would affect shipping them? What would be different in character terms about shipping someone with Adagio rather than with Chrysalis or Nightmare Moon? Cryosite described the risk of uncommon siren ships as being like taking established shipping patterns for other characters and filing the serial numbers off to replace the blanks with sirens in the same mold. So what might be the appeal of an Aria x ??? ship that you wouldn’t also be able to get from Gilda x ???, Limestone x ???, recently-defeated-Sunset x ???, Rainbow x ??? etc...

Aria seems the best example of the three to look at there, since she is given the least characterisation and attention in canon, and I think the other two have fewer close comparisons (Adagio, for example, can be very different to Nightmare Moon, because Nightmare Moon developed from Celestia’s shadow, where Adagio simply Is, and so NMM is much more about jealousy and pride. Also, Nightmare Moon might be a bit dumb. Her plans aren’t exactly Adagio- or Chrysalis-level).

I don't think I fully agree with the idea that switching out a siren for a character with similar traits is as simple as filling off the serial numbers to slot them in. I think if you are treating characters like interchangeable variables in a formula, the problem isn't really the "interchangeable" characters, but the formula and more over being an author that has to fall back on a formula in the first place. I can still totally see where the sentiment comes from! Originality is harder than it should be. But boiling down each pairing or genre to their base components means that you lose the details that make them special. And eventually, you reach a point where the characters start looking like all other characters, even outside MLP. You shave off enough of Sonata's details and eventually you have something that could be Harley Quinn if you squint.

Adagio has a list of traits from her looks to her personality that is miles long in terms of being distinctly different from say, Nightmare Moon or Chrysalis. The overlap in traits is really quite small, but I concede that they are fairly big commonalities. One thing that really does hold Adagio (and the other sirens) apart from other villain ships is that she wasn't reformed in canon. That takes something special in My Little Pony/Equestria Girls. I'm pretty sure that's why stories that go out of their way to reform the sirens get a lot of attention. That seems to be the case with Chrysalis.

I think that you can take those smaller - but much more numerous - differences and play them up into bigger, or more important seeming things as a way to make any siren ship special. Like with cooking, chemical reactions, and metallurgy, you can use the same ingredients, but in different ratios and get wildly different results. If you want to file off the serial number, at least go through the process to alter the shape or weight too. A shotgun without its serial number is just as illegal as one with no serial number, two barrels that have been sawed short, and the stock replaced with a pistol grip. They both shoot the same ammo and can be used for the same tasks, but I can assure you one of them is more fun and memorable than the other.

Aria is going to be kind of difficult to ship, period, even if you were to try to reduce her down to just base components to then drop her into a story intended to match up Gilda with someone. Though, honestly, as I think about it, why not keep the serial numbers and shove her in anyway? Think of the fun Aria could be if she were to suddenly find herself so way out of her comfort zone and cut off from anything or anyone she's familiar with that she'd have to turn to someone else for help? Like, literally dropping her into a story, almost Displaced-like, that was clearly meant from some other vaguely similar character and now Aria Blaze of all creatures has to navigate her way out of it! Like think the episode with the Power Ponies and the magical comic book that would only release them if it was completed, but a romance rather than a superhero adventure.

That could be fun.

Group Admin

6551358 Oh I agree, it’s definitely not the way it should be done, and the further crackshipping or indeed story writing generally can be kept from standard formulae, the better! Sorry, my suggestion was that it was a risk to be avoided, rather than a strategy recommended; I could have phrased that much more clearly! :twilightsheepish:

I think dropping Aria into a romance story she doesn’t want to be in could potentially be hilarious, absolutely :pinkiehappy: Playing up the smaller differences that set the sirens apart from other characters seems a good way to deal with it. I just had the thought that the clearest way to see their differences would be to ship them with the characters they’re compared to, so we could see how they stack up when placed right next to each other. So you could have Aria x Gilda etc.

And that got me thinking about the personality dynamics between the two characters of a shipping story. What balance do you find most enjoyable, or perhaps most challenging, in terms of how similar the characters are in their temperaments and interests? I see a lot of stories shipping two bubbly, happy characters together (Sonata x Pinkie, for example), and lots of others where there’s much more of a mismatch (Aria x Sonata, Fluttershy x any villain). What combination do you tend to prefer, and how much does it vary depending on the characters and story length?

I would say it varies a lot depending on the intended length of the story or tone you're going for. I like characters that grate on each other. Characters that see the world differently from each other, or have very different backgrounds for just about all types of stories. I like finding a way for two characters that operate differently to work together. It can make for a great comedy of errors and miscommunication. Or a serious drama of opposing views. Or even a quiet sort of character exploration by providing high contrast. It tends to be my go to.

Similar characters, or characters that share several traits, run the risk of sounding the same, especially over a longer narrative. Drawing them apart as you go and having the characters reveal unseen differences can be a great way to keep that from happening, but I tend to see that sort of set up being better for shorter, fluffier, stories. The dynamic, like say Sonata x Pinkie can be fun, but also exhausting from the sheer amount of synergy. Keeping that up in an interesting way for multiple chapters or arcs feels like a lot of work that might not be fun. A little built-in friction, to me, feels like a good way to keep things interesting and from becoming stale. It's also a great, natural, sort of braking system if the story starts to feel like it's picking up too much speed.

And I would go on to say, that that friction is the thing to look for in a ship you want to go far. Crackshipping is all fine and fun, but you can get a couple that just isn't going to work out without those Alien Brainworms. Finding the right pair is a task that's a very interesting part of shipping. You need them to be different, but like puzzle pieces, they still need to fit together. You need rough edges for them to grate together and smooth places where they come together seamlessly. Finding those magical qualities can be more or less difficult.

Aria, obviously, wears her rough edges on her sleeve. You know, going in, that she's a gruff character with a dark past and little humor. So finding a match is finding a character that accept that past, brings in some humor, and if a lot less temperamental. Sonata becoming the closest obvious answer there. Pairing Aria with another gruff and/or humorless character gives the couple more in common, and certainly allows you to really see their differences, but you also come up to the moment where a relationship could cross the line into something toxic. Gilda, for an example, is similarly gruff and seems prone to solving her problems physically, if not a little violently. Yeah, she's learned some new friendship skills, and found an interest in cooking, but without something holding her and Aria back...what's to stop them from ramping up each other's negative traits?

And I'm not saying these things are inevitable and to be avoided. In fact I think couples like these should get the spotlight for avoiding becoming toxic, or even falling into it and coming back out. There is a truckload of drama and tragedy right there you can make an engrossing tale out of. What I'm trying to get at, is that if you are trying to let the characters be themselves and not forcing the ship, some of them aren't going to sail at all, and some will go full speed toward the rocks. Finding the one that can keep it between the buoys is a talent that we sometimes underplay.

Group Admin

6556771 I can completely understand this; it must be a very careful balance determining quite how much tension you want in the pairing based on the length of the story. I agree, something like Pinkie x Sonata could quickly get old without an external source of drama for the story - often something better avoided, depending on the angle used. I especially like that you mention character differences being a good shipping braking system where necessary

I for one would love to see a complicated Aria x Gilda relationship, if you ever felt like writing it! Perhaps related to that is something I should have asked a while ago - are you thinking Crackshipping & You will just cover the pairings listed so far, or will the list be extended as the series continues?

As you mention some couples not working out without the need for Alien Brainworms, are there any siren x mane cast ships you would see as being simply unworkable in those terms?

At the moment, I only intend to write the listed pairings for the Crackshipping & You series. That said, I'm not adverse to taking suggestions for more. Never know when the Muse might swing by and slap me around until I churn it out. THAT said...my writing schedule is not stable right now. I've had a bunch of Real Life difficulties pop up that are sadly more important and attention consuming. But I'm trying to keep things limping along until I find a new balance. I would like to add more, and I've had a few good suggestions thrown at me in the comments. So I might take one of those, or Aria x Gilda, and see what comes of them.

I think if you limit it to friendshipping, there isn't a siren x mane cast pair that couldn't work. Romance, being just a step or two further, doesn't seem like too much of a stretch but some pairs would fall short, I think. Rarity x Sonata springs to mind. Though honestly, when it comes to Rarity, she'd probably only have a chance at anything lasting with Adagio. Even if you hand-waved the villainy aspects of the other two, I wouldn't see them being more than a short, illicit fling. Applejack is accepting and a reformer, the same as Fluttershy and Sunset. Each of those would work with any siren, they'd just plot different courses to get to smooches. Pinkie would probably do okay with Sonata the longest, but like Rarity from the opposite direction, not get past a quick fling with Aria or Adagio. SciTwi probably presents the oddest duck for potential shipping with a Siren. It could work for a number of reasons, especially if you tie in Twilight's developing friendship skills and interest in magic or general nerdiness about subjects like history. But because she's so much further behind the curve on the friendshipping scale, and potentially just very socially awkward, then she could be a burr when paired with a character that's an unreformed villain. SciTwi would likely be able to jump the hurdles, but she'd take the longest, I think. Princess Twilight, as we all already know, gets all the mares/princesses/villains. She'd have a snakehorsefish wrapped around her horn in no time.

Group Admin

6562058 Sorry to hear things aren't working out so well at the moment, that sounds miserable and I hope it picks up again soon. I agree about all those pairings; Pinkie and Aria or Adagio in particular is a very strange one to me. Yeah, Sci-Twi seems a bit too disconnected from it all to be an easy match, even down to how her area of expertise is much less inclusive an endeavour than Rarity's, Fluttershy's, Rainbow's etc. And I'm glad to hear that Crackshipping & You has the potential to go on for as long as you want it to, if you feel so inclined.

I'm afraid that's all we have time for in our interview month, so I'd like to say the biggest of thank yous for doing this, because it's been enormous fun hearing your answers to everything, which have been so consistently thoughtful and interesting, not to mention with a great deal of depth. So thank you ever so much, Fuzzyfurvert, and best of luck with all your future writing and non-writing endeavours :twilightsmile:

And thank you for having me! This has been great fun.

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