Often, the littlest detail can tell a story — and today’s feature teases out a compelling and emotional tale from one such frozen moment.
A Fragile Heart
[Sad] [Slice of Life] • 2,511 words
A short story about waiting, hay fries, and the dangers of space and silence in matters of the heart.
Takes place in the background of “Twilight Time”.
FROM THE CURATORS: To describe this as “a short and simple tale about a guy waiting in a restaurant,” as Horizon did in his nomination, is true but utterly misleading: it hit us so squarely in the feels that it went from nominee to feature in a record-shattering 39 minutes.
A Fragile Heart was exemplary in that it was “bitter, but not saccharine,” JohnPerry said. “It’s the sort of sad story I really love: one that sells its emotions without resorting to hammering you over the head with them.” Present Perfect agreed. “Little things like the pause burning in the back of his throat really sell the emotion,” he said. “There’s something to be said for being able to wring sadness out of a typo on the menu.”
Those emotions were in service of a beautifully nuanced portrayal of the protagonist’s troubled romance. “Its look at the main character’s relationship in all its complexity — the good and the bad, the raw and the precious — balances the story between tragedy and closure,” Horizon said, while Present Perfect was more direct: “All the things he doesn’t say are heartwrenching. I felt so bad for this guy.”
Another highlight of the story’s strong prose was a Pinkie Pie appearance that was “sweet but not cloying,” in Horizon’s words. Present Perfect added that her appearance was “patently ridiculous in a perfectly Pinkie way. … In another story, it would pull you out of the sad feelings, but in this one, it just serves to show that, yeah, life goes on.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Newtaloo discusses ear math, sad fries, and bag gulls.
Give us the standard biography.
Name: Tim Newton
Occupation: Professional burger eater. I mean I make the burgers too, but let’s be real — the free food is the important part.
Basic info: Homeschool graduate, college dropout, enormous nerd, fan of too many things. Fan of Friendship is Magic since 2011, writer since before I could hold a pencil, hopeful romantic since forever.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Years ago, when I was first getting into MLP, a friend and I were jokingly tossing around goofy combinations of our names and the characters’ names. My last name’s Newton, favorite CMC is Scootaloo, and as soon as I said “Newtaloo” it stuck.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Twilight Sparkle. Nerds gotta stick together.
What’s your favorite episode?
As far as standalone episodes go, “It’s About Time.” I’m a sucker for time-travel shenanigans. From a storytelling perspective, though, I think I was most impressed by “Twilight’s Kingdom.” Some excellent character moments in there.
What do you get from the show?
I’ve gotten a lot of different things from the show over time. MLP has definitely been a driving force in improving my perspective on things like gender roles, feminism, and representation in media, which hadn’t really crossed my mind before and have (I hope) made me a better person. I’ve also gotten a lot of wonderful friends from the show, and from those friends I’ve gotten countless amazing experiences and memories. Almost all of my favorite moments from the past five years can be traced back to the friends I met thanks to Friendship is Magic. I love that. Now I’m not quite so heavily involved in the fandom as I used to be, but I still enjoy the show a whole lot, and the cast and crew inspire me in my creative pursuits with their work. I’m glad they’ve gotten the recognition they deserve for making something so special.
What do you want from life?
Now there’s the big question. The simplest answer that I can give is that I want to see as much of life as I can before mine is over. I want to hear other people’s stories, see the world from their perspectives, and try to explore as many places and things as I can. There will always be more to see and understand, so the best I can do is never stop looking around and trying my best to understand what I see. Most of all, I want to become better at understanding other people, and I want to help them be understood.
Why do you write?
I think the answer to the last question goes a long way toward answering this one. I write because it helps me to observe and understand the world around me and the people in it. The conversation between writer and reader that happens anytime someone reads a story is so unique and wonderful, I try to be a part of it on both sides as often as I can. Admittedly I’m the reader more often than the writer, but I think that’s just as well. Like they say, you have two ears and one mouth because you should listen twice as much as you speak.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Force yourself to write. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I don’t mean that you should crank out ten pages a day until you hate everything and want to die. I just mean that if you only ever write when you want to write, you’ll probably never finish a story in your life. Every story reaches that point where it’s hard, it’s not coming out clearly, it’s ugly, you want to give up. When you get there, sit down and force yourself to write. Accept that what you’re writing is ugly and unclear and unusable. The words you’re looking for are underneath those ones, and you’re going to have to push through to get there. You’ll find the right words eventually, and it’s worth all of that work and frustration and uncertainty to reach the end and share your story with the world. And remember, you don’t have to show them every word you write. There will be piles of nonsense that you spend hours writing that will never see the light of day. Be okay with that. Celebrate that. No story ever comes out of your mind fully-formed and ready to shine. The important thing is getting it out of your mind and onto the page. You can work on the shine from there.
What was the inspiration for A Fragile Heart?
A good friend of mine pointed out the depressed-looking guy in the background of “Twilight Time” to me one day and said that she wondered what his story was. We started referring to him as Sad Fry Pony and for some reason that little question of what he was up to and why he looked so sad got stuck in my head. My mind kept poking at it in the background as I went about my day, and before I was even fully aware of it I had this seed of an idea floating around back there begging me to write it. So I did.
Why use a seemingly random background pony as the protagonist of this story?
We’re all the protagonists of our own stories, and the background cast for those around us. From the perspective of Sad Fry Pony, Twilight’s a random background pony filling in the scenery while his breakup plays out. We’ve heard plenty of stories about her and her friends, so it’s always fun to let them take a back seat and give another character a chance to talk, especially someone we’ve never heard from before.
What inspired the usage of Pinkie Pie in this story?
Pinkie’s in the diner scene that inspired the story, but she only talks with Twilight and co. for a little while before wandering off again. I knew I wanted to give the protagonist someone to talk to, a foil to his melancholy thoughts, so since the show established that Pinkie was there at the same time as him I thought she’d be the perfect fit. I almost wrote her out during editing, but she was so much fun to write and added a well-needed dose of cheeriness to a rather sad story, so she made the cut.
I have to ask, did you write this while in a cafe? There’s something about the “bagle” observation, among others, that just seems wonderfully true to life.
I didn’t, but I’m flattered that you’d ask that! My descriptions of the restaurant were definitely informed and inspired by a few local cafes and diners, though. And the “bagle” bit did come from real life in a way. I pronounce bagel “bag-gull” and not “bay-gle” like pretty much everyone else, and my friends never let me hear the end of it. It’s just me, Sad Fry Pony, and Britta Perry against the world on that one.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m always open to story suggestions from people — it helps keep me motivated to write if I have a handful of prompts I can turn to for practice and inspiration on days when my brain is intent on stalling. Feel free to toss me a brief prompt any time, and if I like what comes from it I might post the results here (with credit to you for the idea, of course). And thank you so much for reading my stories, you guys. It means the world to me.