Uncommon Dazzling Ships 234 members · 411 stories
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Hi everypony,

Welcome to our quarterly Author Spotlight! This month we have an interview lined up for you with MetaSkipper, who has been on fimfiction for several years, with 2/3 of their stories being about sirens.

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

So, MetaSkipper, perhaps a good place to start is to ask what it is about the sirens that appeals to you, and makes you want to make them the centre of most of your stories?

It's been a while since I've published anything for this site, so I'm flattered by the interview. I am working on something in the shadows, but it's slow going for now. And yes, it is siren-centric. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

When it comes to the appeal of the sirens, let's start from the most debased and work our way up to the respectable.

Yes, one of the reasons I like the sirens because sexy women swaying hips makes peepee hard. Okay, on a more serious note, I do think that the sirens offer an opportunity to write characters that are aware of how attractive they are, and actively use it as part of their social toolbox.

Second, the sirens are in this helpful middle ground where they have enough canon characterization to have direction, and yet enough mystery to be open to significant fan interpretation. It allows for experimentation and even evolution in how you view and write the characters over time, in a way that is harder for more fleshed-out in canon characters without having to stretch the bounds of their characterization.

The next appealing characteristic is that they're a fantastic composite villain. The three characters play off each other, each one supplying a character trait the other lacks. There is simple, and yet effective tension between each of the members, and yet they are still greater than the sum of their parts. When writing them, when one changes, the others necessarily change. The foot cannot say to the hand, "Be cast off for I have no need of you," and there is a wonderful story just under the surface about how the sirens don't want to be with each other, and yet must be with each other.

Finally, I'm a sucker for redemption stories, and who doesn't love a good ol' bad girl gone good story? But because the three characters have very different temperaments, goals, and mindsets, they can't all be redeemed the same way, which lends itself to either chain redemptions (where character changes, which encourages the other to change, and so on), or different approaches for each character. Which then opens avenues for exploring each characters' mindset and desires, and it's wonderful fun working through those characters in a narrative.

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7344552 Aware of their own attractiveness is a nice way to put it. Somewhere a very hurt Rainbow Dash is wondering why she isn't in that category too.

It's interesting you mention them being a three-part villain, because you've also written stories where only one siren appears. Do you always picture them living together, even when only one is involved in a story? Does only featuring one change how you would write them at all?

To answer the first question, yes, I almost always see the three living together. It's fine to write them living separately, but it's not how I do it.

On the way to answering the second question, I think this is a good opportunity of differentiating the three being (narratively) connected with the three being (physically) together. I've read multiple stories where the sirens are living together, but they all more or less have their own plotline and changes in one of the sirens doesn't have any real effect on the others. I think that's a shame, since one of the great things about the sirens is that they play off and into each other so well.

In a story focusing on only one of the sirens, I think it's good to still keep the other sirens in mind, and how what the "main" siren is doing affects the other sirens, and how they would respond. Even if you don't show the other sirens directly, they're still there and relevant to the "main" siren because they're a unit.

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7345929 I agree, it's nice to think their connection could never really be broken, whatever the distance between them. And I can't really see many other living situations working out for them as well as living together would.

Cut is my favourite story of yours, with Aria and Flash Sentry. Aria maintains a kind of professionalism through the story, but there's a disdain in pretty much everything she does. Where do you think she gets that attitude from generally? What is it that drives her constant negativity? I think the only time we see her showing anything more than negative in Rainbow Rocks is when she's singing.

Characterizing Aria is an interesting topic. from both an intra- and extradiegetic angle. From an extradiegetic angle, Aria has the least canon characterization. Her name isn't even said in Rainbow Rocks until her credits listing. Because of this, her character is largely based on extrapolating those small moments, and contrasting Aria against her fellow sirens. Aria is angry and dry to Sonata's ditzy and literal and Adagio's scheming and grandiose. Aria is also traditionally the one with the greatest affinity for physical combat, contrasting against Adagio's masterminding and Sonata's following orders.

Intradiegetically, from what we do see of Aria, she wants power but doesn't have it, and that's her driving force. In the opening scene of Rainbow Rocks, Aria is the one who openly complains about not being satisfied. In the pre-cafeteria scene, Aria hints at wanting to be the leader of the group. Although Backstage Pass wasn't out (I think) at the time I wrote Cut, Aria is the one who is most interested in having the magic for herself.

But Aria doesn't have anything to her name, not during Rainbow Rocks, not after, not even after Backstage Pass. She's second fiddle in her own group. She has no magic, especially after Rainbow Rocks. I think she's incredibly bitter about her lot in life, and she's trying to find something to ground her self-worth in.

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7348667 Yeah, she's stuck in an awkward middle ground. She thinks it's her and Adagio with annoying Sonata in tow, but Aria sinks to Sonata's level far too often and causes most of the arguments, so a lot of the reality is more like Adagio and her two idiots. I doubt Aria is happy about that!

What was it that made you choose Aria for that story, and Flash? It's hard to see it working as well or having the same kind of charm for any other pairing, that was a great choice.

It's been a long while since I've written the story, so forgive me for the delay as I remember the good ol' days.

As far as character choices go, I think it started out, really, from a desire to write Aria in something, anything. I think I was looking for a way to write a character exploration of Aria, but from a secondhand perspective.

From there, Flash was a natural choice. He's generic enough that he fulfills the role as an audience surrogate, his good-boy nature contrasts against Aria's angry bad girl, and he's open-minded enough to be willing to interact with Aria. Although, frankly, I don't think I was one hundred percent sold on the pair until after I had written the first chapter. That's when I knew I had it.

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7349494 I can absolutely see Flash as the natural choice. We've already seen how he acts when interacting with the more regular, 'good' girls, so everything he does with Aria can be directly contrasted. Nothing like a first chapter done to confirm it's working!

Haircare isn't an area I'd have thought to associate Aria with - how do you feel about that? What might have got her into that, and how far would that field take her?

It's not very insightful to say "it just happened," but uh, as far as I can recall, it just happened. I think the idea came to me soon after I had a haircut, and it all came together as I put digital ink on digital page.

As for tying Aria to haircare, I think this is a good example of one of the benefits of using underdeveloped characters in fanfiction. There was nothing really preventing me from making the connection, and after I had some time to stew on it, I actually tied it to her character though the sirens' wacky hair. All that hair has got to have upkeep, and it was a nice elegant stroke to have Aria in charge of that too.

Reflecting on it more, cutting hair is not a particularly glamorous job, but I think it is something that Aria learns to find fulfillment in, within the story of Cut, anyway. The story is deliberately short, but if I had intended it to go on longer, I could see a storyline where Aria learns to find fulfillment in smaller, more "everyday" things.

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7351608 I hadn't thought of that before, the sirens' hairstyles are indeed high-maintenance, it'd make sense if one of them were taking care of that in-house.

Asking because it was simply the most adorable image - how much did you have a tune in mind for Sonata singing about a duckling in a sailor hat sailing a taco? How vividly did you picture such a surreal image?

Honestly, I don't know where it came from myself. I don't even remember seeing a duckling in a hat leading up to writing that line. It was a very happy coincidence. It was a very cute image, and that's about as much thought as I put into it.

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7352881 It certainly was!

Ok, so, returning to Aria and Flash, because, you know, Uncommon Dazzling Ships group and all, what considerations do you think had to be made when writing that story that you wouldn't have had to for a character the audience knew more about, like Rainbow Dash rather than Aria? Was there an element of specific things needing to be included so we had enough of an idea who she was, and why she did what she did? How might the story have differed if it had been a more common pairing, like Sunset and Flash?

Well, this particular story was written where the audience discovers and learns about a character, through the eyes of another character. In that sense, it was easier to write it for an underdeveloped character like Aria. There's definitely freedom there that can't be done with a more well-established character, especially one that's very connected to most of the cast.

In fact, the perspective also lets most of Aria's motivations and backstory be shrouded. I didn't have to establish her character beyond what we knew before we got to the meat. The meat was getting to know Aria more. We first see what Aria does, and seeing what Aria does invites Flash -- and through him, the audience -- to learn more about Aria's backstory and motivations.

If I was going to write a similar kind of story with a more established character, the pairing would either have to be two characters that don't know each other very well, or I'd have to use a lesser known facet of the character, canon or invented, as the angle of discovery.

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7355511 That's a great approach, to use the nature of a previously unseen ship and indeed a character we hardly know as the core of the story. I wonder how many different characters you could try that with without it becoming too formulaic.

Who would you choose as foils for Adagio and Sonata, if they each got a similar story? Do you think each of those tales would remain platonic as well, or go in a more romantic direction?

There are two ways to choose a foil, and one is significantly easier than the other.

The first way is to choose a neutral, "everyman" foil. This highlights the other character's extremes very well. Flash, of course, is the classic example, but you can also write Sunset in a similar way. Just because it's "easier" doesn't make it any less effective. As I've mentioned earlier, neutral characters are great audience surrogates for when you want to focus on the other character. I would say that Sunset is a more "active" neutral foil who has a greater effect on the other character. Of course, Sunset has great chemistry with both Adagio and Sonata, but that ground has been tread plenty of times before.

The other way to choose a foil would be to pick a character that deliberately contrasts the other character but has a hidden key similarity that is revealed as the story goes on. This kind of foil takes more planning since the two characters' arcs are more intertwined, and frankly I can't think of any particularly good examples off the top of my head. I do think this kind of story lends itself more naturally to a romantic direction.

To specifically answer your first question, if I was going to write a similar story for Adagio, I would pick Applejack. I'm not totally sure what scenario I would use, but I think Applejack's down-to-earthness and bluntness contrast well against Adagio's grandeur and wantonness, while still having a good "everyman" core. As for Sonata, (after a lot of deliberation) I think I would choose Luna. Luna's straight-lacedness contrasts to Sonata's ditziness, but the two both function as the younger sibling, as well as both being older than the (teenage) main cast.

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7362123 Sunset would be the other straightforward Equestria Girls choice, absolutely. Sonata and Luna is one of those pairings someone needs to write someday, there's a lot there that could be interesting but has never been explored. And that's one of the best justifications for pairing Adagio with Applejack I've heard.

Is any of that material you'd be interested at writing some point in the future?

There's always a danger in saying you want to write something, because inevitably you want to write more things than you end up writing. That said, given progress on my epic-length projects is slow going, I might refresh my writing head and work on something like that in the near future.

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7362805 That would be great to see!

Ok, final question: What do you think the situation would look like for Aria and Flash a year down the line, if they continued interacting?

I think the most interesting development would be the potential integration into each other's circles. As they grow more comfortable with each other, they're likely to start hanging out with the other's circles. Plenty of ink has been spilled talking about the Dazzlings getting closer with the main heroines, but I think there's room for exploration in seeing Flash interact with the sirens, and Aria (and the other sirens) with... Flash's circle of guy friends? Does Flash even have a dedicated circle of guy friends? I guess there's his bandmates... which change each time we see them, anyway.

As for Flash and Aria's relationship specifically, I think you could write a romantic angle, but I'd probably keep it to friendship a la regular customer to a business owner.

I suppose now is the best time to mention that I'm working on an epic-length siren-centric story that's set after Backstage Pass. Unfortunately, most of the siren-centric works are only post-Rainbow Rocks, so I figured the world could use a little more siren stuff from after we learn about what they've been up to after that. Of course, there are too many unfinished epics around, so I'm trying to get a hefty way in before I start posting it. But NaNoWriMo is upon us, so hopefully I'll be making progress. And of course, now I have two shorts to work on to help cycle the fields, so to speak.

Thanks again for the interview. I'm flattered you thought my perspective was worth having. My apologies for the delays in some replies, but at least I got to end this interview on the beginning of NaNoWriMo and my birthday!

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7363911 I'd say Flash's bandmates, yeah, they'd be a good fit for that. One of them would inevitably get the idea of trying it on with Aria's sisters, and the building would end up on fire.

There definitely aren't many big siren stories set after Backstage Pass! I imagine that will be quite a fresh new take on them, given what's been shown more recently.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us this month, and I'm glad that lines up neatly as a happy day to end on!

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