An open-ended search for elusive perfection that may or may not exist: it’s not just the Royal Canterlot Library’s mission statement, it’s also the tale of today’s story.
All of It, for Her
[Romance] [Sad] • 4,386 words
Thirty five years. Been roaming Equestria from town to cloying town, looking for her. Not for lack of trying, mind you. Equestria’s just that big of a place. There’s only so many places left to look, though, and it’d be foolish to throw in the towel already. I’m getting close. So I’ll do the same thing I did yesterday: search.
FROM THE CURATORS: While several of our recent features were written for Equestria Daily’s Outside Insight contest — which brought out amazing work from a broad cross-section of our community — this is an older story that should have been. “This is one thoroughly under-appreciated fic. It would have placed in Outside Insight’s top ten for sure, and that’s no small compliment coming from me,” JohnPerry said. Horizon agreed: “It’s full of nice details throughout,” he said, “like the subtle awkwardness of ponies’ internal struggles with racism, and Cranky’s observations on how their culture has gotten inside his head.”
However, while All of It, for Her has a lot to say about Equestria, along the way it takes an exemplary look at an underappreciated character. “This story gives Cranky a very strong voice,” Chris said. “His story has always tickled that ‘doomed nobility’ bone for me; the idea of consciously deciding to put your entire life on hold indefinitely, and probably forever, just oozes pathos.” Upping the ante, JohnPerry said that “the characterization of everyone is absolutely brilliant. … Even the ‘minor’ characters Cranky meets on the way feel fleshed out, and to say that Cranky feels true to the show seems like an understatement: it expands on what we saw in the show, and significantly so. Everything about this brings to light the … I suppose not ‘tragedy,’ but the tragicness of his situation.”
Even that tragedy carried unexpected depth. “This is also thought-provoking in how it uses the context of the show to play with the tone of the story,” Horizon said. “Taken as self-contained original fiction, it’s a tale of Donkey Xoté, a dreamer who wastes his life on a mad quest … but we know that there’s a payoff to his quest. The entire premise of this character is that it works out, at long last, in Ponyville, and that turns the ending surprisingly bittersweet.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Pav Feira discusses stolen appellations, compelling snark, and the crucial importance of cabbage.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a twenty-nine year old financial software engineer by trade. This fandom is my first foray into creative writing since middle school. Moreso than as an author, I’m probably most well-known in these parts as one of the founding members of Seattle’s Angels.
I am an irresistibly sensual and highly available individual. At times, I have been called a gallant badass. At times, I have been likened to a redheaded Antonio Banderas. At times, I have been called absolutely dreamy.* I’m a lovably unrepentant pervert and a diehard Twilestia shipper. I like short walks on the beach (seriously, who has time for long walks?), snuggling together under warm fuzzy blankets, and healing your raid group as long as they’re not jerks. When I was in the tenth grade, my math teacher took me out into the hallway (leaving the door open, of course, so that I might serve as an example to the others), where he lectured me for five minutes before concluding that I would never accomplish anything with my life. Well, who’s laughing now, Mr. Taylor?!
* In fairness and in the interest of full disclosure, only one individual has ever said this. During the conversation in which we broke up, she did assert that she would quote, “make my life hell for all eternity” if we ever crossed paths again. As such, I am unable to confirm if the status of “absolutely dreamy” is still in effect or not, but without evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe as such.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
There’s a needlessly convoluted story to this one! As a wee lad at a summer camp, one of our eighteenish-year-old camp counsellors had the birth name “Vincent”. He hated that name with a passion for whatever reason, so he had everyone at the camp call him “Pav” instead. (Where Vincent himself came up with the name shall forever remain a mystery to me; he was actually quite adamant about not explaining its origin. It’s therefore entirely possible that this was a gift to myself via time loop.) Me being a wee lad at the time, this was basically the coolest name that I had ever encountered in my life up until this point. So I shamelessly stole it.
The name was originally going to be used for an JRPG I wanted to make (like, via RPG Maker or similar software) as the name of the main character who was totally not a self-insert Mary Sue. (I was in high school. Cut me some slack. Yes, I’m aware there are tons of talented authors on this site who are currently in high school, shut up.) The “Feira” bit was just thrown on at the end cuz it sounded fantasy-ish, and to forever confuse people with the i-before-e-except-after-pavf. As I started getting into MMOs, I used this name for my characters there, then I pretty much dropped all pretenses and used it as my “official internet name.”
Also, Pav has more of an “ah” sound to it like, like “father”, rather than a short “a” as in “apple”. Everyone always assumes the latter, and I don’t want to snootily correct people on the pronunciation of my made-up name, so I usually just deal with either pronunciation. So, now ya know. But in explaining that, I just corrected everyone about the pronunciation of my made-up name in a featured interview…
Life is tricky, sometimes.
Who’s your favorite pony?
It’s changed a few times, but for the past year or two Sweetie Belle has had a commanding lead. Dem squeaks, yo. She strikes this balance of being an adorable little child, behind the curve but not dumb, and generally so full of love (mostly for Rarity, but whatevs.)
Close second is Fluttershy, for reasons I’ll expand upon more in a bit. Also adorable, and the fact that she’s the
personification horseyfication personification of Kindness really resonates with me. I admit that she can be somewhat polarizing in her episodes, but it strikes me how her friends treat Fluttershy’s “invisible problems” like fear, uncertainty, and anxiety with the same seriousness they’d treat a rampaging dragon. Basically, the friendship report of Lesson Zero.
What’s your favorite episode?
Hmm. Lesson Zero has long been my standby, for featuring best-pony-at-the-time and for just subverting the expectations of a S1 fan so thoroughly. Oh, adorkable OCD, you shall be missed. But nowadays, hmm, I haven’t given it enough thought. For now, let’s either say Sisterhooves Social (adorable Sweetie Belle) or Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 (hits all the right notes for me).
What do you get from the show?
Now keep in mind, I joined at the end of S1, so this probably dates myself. But back then, there was a huge “new sincerity” movement going on, as people joined into the fandom. Jayson Thiessen said it best at Bronycon 2011, indirect paraphrase via Roundstable, “that it gave us an excuse to ditch all the poisonous, self-perpetuating cynicism and bile that we’d become used to throwing around at the world and each other, and to just appreciate something sweet and beautiful because it was objectively good enough that we didn’t have to feel weird about it if we didn’t choose to.” Particularly at that point in my life, I had been feeling very jaded and cynical, and it was rejuvenating to free myself from that.
That vibe has died down a lot, partially due to time, and partially due to “LOVE N TOLARENCE IZ DUM” (which misses the point just as badly as those who embraced the original phrase unironically; the true ground was somewhere in the middle; I digress.) So nowadays, my experience with the show is a little less, I dunno, “spiritual” or whatnot. But the feeling isn’t dead. Not by a long shot. Hanging out with friends online, and those huge meetups at Bronycon really remind me why I’m still here; the community culture is important. If you look in the right places, you can find people who still openly embrace those good vibes and morals. Even just watching a Fluttershy episode or two really helps rejuvenate that feeling, since I feel like her Element really encapsulates that essence which initially drew me to the show.
What do you want from life?
Phew, doozy of a question! I guess in the broadest sense, I’d say “satisfaction” in the sense of “opposite of having regrets.” There’s so much going on in life, between friends and entertainment and successful careers and fulfilling life goals, that even with a perfect guide you’d never be able to experience them all. Whether it’s dumping years into writing horsewords or dumping years into a massive project at the office (or occasionally, juggling both at the same time ) I want to be able to look back and say “yeah, that was pretty sweet.”
*rereads the upcoming questions* Aaand suddenly I realize why I settled on this for an answer. Ha.
Why do you write?
Mmm, a very timely topic. A number of my friends, and even myself, recently hit moments of self-reevaluation with this very question. It’s not always as easy/obvious an answer as it should be!
My own answer has evolved over the years, which I think is perfectly natural. My first fic (still in progress) was a crossover with the SNES game Chrono Trigger, and was a self-labelled “love letter” from me to these two franchises that were deeply meaningful to me. Then as I started writing stuff like Thesis and All of It, for Her, it became more of this sense of “I have a story to tell. It’s meaningful and deeply personal, and therefore it’s important that I write it all down and publish it so that I can share it with others.” In both of those reasons, fame and viewcounts were never really a factor; it was sufficient simply to exist.
A few weeks back, I pushed out a huge stockpile of updates that I’d been sitting on — 42,835 words across five fics, published in one week — which included finally publishing All of It, for Her on Fimfic. (It was written for a contest several months ago.) Especially in seeing so many stories update at once, with wildly different responses, it really made me reevaluate things. Fame and views are certainly appreciated but still definitely not my primary motivator.* Upvotes, poking into the Feature Box, and comments in the vein of “LOL moar!”, eh, they’re popcorn: tasty but not filling. The “sharing something meaningful” bit is still certainly relevant, but it’s no longer sufficient on its own. And silence? Silence is deafening.
So the part that I love most? The connection with the community. Comments that are positive or negative but which regardless show that the reader is engaged, that I’ve spoken directly to them. Good friends reading what I’ve wrote, and us getting into a discussion of what they thought. Old followers who have been with me since the beginning, who have put up with my painfully slow update schedule, yet who immediate reappear in the comments after an update, expressing the joy of “Yes! Finally!” There’s really nothing that can compare. I definitely don’t show my followers as much appreciation as they deserve.
* That said, if I should break… let’s say 500 followers, then I will absolutely sell out and start writing Featurebox bait. Like, in a heartbeat. My 500 Follower Special will be titled “Sweetie Belle Is Stuck inside a Large Cardboard Box.”
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
See that previous question? “Why do you write?” Ask yourself that question. Do you have an answer? Did it take you more than two seconds to think about? Was it something more complex than, “Eh, for _____, I guess?” If you answered no to any of those, you really owe it to yourself to give the topic some more thought. Like I said, me and a bunch of my friends recently tripped up over ourselves, because we had an answer here—”_____, I guess?” — which served us well for months and years. And then, some event, some concern, some doubt came up for each of us in turn, and it shook up our confidence.
Reasons will evolve over time, and so will you. You don’t want to reach the point where the reason that served you so well for so long suddenly fails you, and leaves you thinking, “Why am I even still here?” (That said, your friends will always be there to offer you support and advice!) When you’re walking across that tightrope, the last thing you want to do is look down and give yourself vertigo. You want to walk forward, with confidence, moving toward your goal. It’s fine if the goal is something small, or if it changes over time. It’s fine if the steps are small, or if they sometimes go backwards. But you can’t move forward unless you know which direction to go.
What was the inspiration for All of It, for Her?
This won a writeoff competition with the prompt “A Single Moment.” What do you see as the “single moment” this story is about?
These questions were listed separately in the interview, but the answers are so intertwined that I’ll just answer them together.
The writeoff’s prompt came first. “A Single Moment.” Once that was announced, a mere five days to brainstorm, outline, write, edit, and submit to the contest. Go. Day One for me was completely unproductive. No ideas. Hated the prompt. Officially decided to skip that writeoff.
But then on Day Two, I was out for a walk, not thinking about the writeoff per se, and inexplicably I thought about Cranky. His story is one of the most adult-resonating moments in the show, strikingly so, right up there with the friendship report of Equestria Games. He spent a lifetime on this journey; they seemed nearly Mane Six-aged in the flashback, but Cranky was well into his winter years by the time he rolls on into Ponyville. Seriously, I know it’s a storybook romance, but one magical evening altered the course of this guy’s life forever. The next few decades of his life were suddenly devoted to that single moment when he would be reunited with his true love once more. That’s when I knew I had my story. (The whole bit about “selling memories” was also a really interesting concept. I only just barely scratched the surface on that, but it was a neat little side thought that meshed nicely with the main story.)
I mentioned earlier that it’s important to me to write things that are meaningful and personal. That’s certainly not a universal rule across all my fics (lookin’ at you, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!), but it’s true in this case. Take my college sweetheart, for instance. When she transferred schools and moved across the country, what if I had chased after her? I’d probably still be a brony, her too. But, probably neither of us would have time for this site. Would never have gotten into MMOs, not if she had her way about it. Wouldn’t be working for the same company; they only hire college grads from a limited number of schools. But I’d have a different job. Would’ve been on the wrong side of the country to connect with most of my current friends. But I’d have different friends. Maybe we’d be married. Or maybe our eventual breakup would’ve been ten times worse than the one I faced in this life.
Am I happy with my current life? Yeah, absolutely. Would I have been happier if I chose differently? That’s impossible to answer. There’s one life that I have lived, and an infinite number of lives that I have not lived.
Something that impressed me about this one is that it had a snarky protagonist who managed to come across as sympathetic. Got any tips for writing compelling snarky characters?
Most people tend to say that Cranky is an ass. Taxonomically speaking, that’s correct, and certainly there’s a few moments in the show where he straight-up tells Pinkie to take a hike. Primarily, though, he’s a snarker. Naturally, Kyon from the Haruhi series is a huge inspiration when writing a character like this, though by comparison Cranky is a lot more world-weary. The important thing to remember about snarking is that it’s a coping mechanism that relies on humor. Biting, occasionally rude humor, but humor all the same. A lot of his lines are funny, especially from his POV alone (I’m rather fond of the line in my fic about the waitress’s face). But most importantly, it is a coping mechanism; there are reason(s) that he’s lashing out at these specific things, and right there is your sympathetic hook.
Understand why your character is snarky. There are specific things he will (or will not) snark against, and usually he will attack the specific element/angle that annoys him the most. He’ll be unrepentant and uncaring in his attacks, but the primary intent is for him to feel better about his own crappy circumstances, not to make the other person feel worse. A snarker will rarely lash out, usually only when cornered or at their wit’s end, but it’s not their go-to response. Normally, they’re snarking because they’re not confrontational enough to attack the other person. If the snarker is separated from the elements that annoy them, they can be a perfectly nice individual, as we see with Cranky at the end of the episode!
Would you consider this story to be a tragedy?
Sheesh. *loud exhale* Is this a tragedy in the Greek sense, because Cranky’s zealous pursuit of Matilda blinds him to the world around him? Is Cranky an idiot for continuing his search in the face of uncertainty, or a triumphant hero since we know he eventually finds her? Is the tragedy contained in that envelope, or was that merely a foalish Hail Mary play? Is Cranky’s canonical tale an inspirational storybook romance, or a dangerously broken Aesop about enabling our obsessions? Does my story sour an otherwise romantic episode, or was a story like mine simply an inevitable extrapolation? After the end of the episode, does Cranky live out the rest of his days in marital bliss, or does he find it impossible to let go of his wanderlust, or worse still does he discover that he placed this jenny on an impossibly high pedestal? Should I just say “screw it, Death of the Author,” and get back to
playing Destiny totally writing the next chapter of Thesis, for realsies?
Would Cranky have been happier?
I do think, Death-of-the-Author style, that everyone will see something different here, but you asked me specifically. If my answer a few questions ago wasn’t a massive hint: we don’t know. We never will know. Is the question therefore meaningless? Ehh, I wouldn’t go that far. Were I in Cranky’s shoes, I certainly wouldn’t obsess over which outcome would’ve been happier, that’s for sure. But sometimes, it’s interesting to stop and simply think, “What if?”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Obligatory shout-outs are obligatory!
The Writeoff Association hosted the contest that this fic entered and won. It’s competition writing, with strict time limits, word count restrictions, and story prompts. That means that it stretches a very different set of muscles than normal freeform writing. Granted (and maybe this is just me) I find that having that kind of structure and restrictions really forces me to put my nose to the grindstone and just write. Plus, the contest format encourages the participants to constructively critique their anonymous competition, so everyone leaves with a lot of useful feedback. Check it out! (Unfortunately, at the time when this gets posted, we’re currently in the middle of an event, but you can add yourself to be notified about future events.)
Seattle’s Angels is a review group that specifically seeks out and promotes those “hidden gems” on Fimfic, stories that we feel are criminally under-viewed. Granted, I’m sure everyone here has heard of us already … no? We’re that group that makes those pretentious site posts every other week, the ones you haven’t figured out how to disable yet. Ahh, yep, there you go! I knew that’d ring a bell.
Also going to plug GaPJaxie, because he’s an amazing writer and terrific friend, and more importantly because he’ll absolutely hate me for embarrassing him.
This last one isn’t a shout-out, but arguably it’s the most important point to bring up: the word “cabbage”. Say it out loud. Cabbage. Like, I know that all words lose their meaning if you say them enough times. Cab budge. But this word, IMHO, goes above and beyond. Cab bush. Cah bhuj. Seriously, just think about it. Kabujz. You’re welcome.