Today’s story is a rich look at a pair of poor little rich girls.
A Diamond and a Tether
[Drama] [Slice of Life] [Human] • 13,294 words
Heiress Lucy Burdock knows life has a way of surprising you.
For example, she wasn’t expecting a little pink pony for her birthday. She certainly didn’t expect it to start talking, either. It was cute at first, but it kinda feels more like taking care of a little kid than a pony. Lucy’s never really been great with kids … but she can make it work!
FROM THE CURATORS: When The More Most Dangerous Game Contest challenged entrants to reinterpret fandom classics, this story stood out, placing second in a crowded field of 92 entries. We were equally impressed, especially with the originality it brought to My Little Dashie’s core premise. As JohnPerry explained: “A human is gifted with a pony in a box and tasked with raising it … then completely screws it up. And not in a way that seems sadistic or cruel, like many an MLD parody, but in a way that seems unsettling but still believable.”
We agreed that that premise wrung emotions out of unexpected places. “It’s hard to make rich brats sympathetic, but it had me aching for the feelings of a self-absorbed trust fund kid — and without ever getting preachy, or dropping a ‘being rich doesn’t mean you’re happy!’ cudgel on the reader,” Chris said. One aspect of that was the well-constructed characters, as Present Perfect noted. “You’ve got a noteworthy human protagonist in spoiled, vain Lucy,” he said. “You’ve got the beleaguered housekeeper. And Diamond Tiara doesn’t exist just for Lucy’s narrative benefit. This is her story, and it presents a wholly engrossing backstory for her.”
While any reinterpretation of our fandom’s most-read story has large shoes to fill, we unanimously agreed that A Diamond and a Tether held up both inside and outside of Dashie’s context. “I think it’s a testament to the creativity of this fandom that this was written out of a prompt based on My Little Dashie, because it’s the polar opposite of that story in terms of tone or outcome,” JohnPerry said. Present Perfect agreed: “It can stand alone without MLD, yet it does so many things that story did, only better.”
Read on for our author interview, in which PatchworkPoltergeist discusses floriography problems, ornithology comparisons, and unexpected gerbils.
Give us the standard biography.
A dork in her late twenties born, raised, and still living in south central Texas. Been a fan of Friendship of Magic since the show first aired in October of 2010. I have several hats.
I’ve been writing for roughly fourteen years. Been writing decently for eight of those years. My first good story was a Danny Phantom character study in 2007 called “Master of None”. It got me back into writing after a year-long slump and, I think, got me into writing for real instead of just playing around. That was when I learned about character development and crisp diction, all that good stuff.
I also like flower symbolism way too much. I think it became one of my hallmarks when I wasn’t looking. Almost everything I write now, even some of the nonfiction stuff, has plant symbolism in there somewhere. I have a floriography problem. Please send help.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Once upon a time, I made unique forum handles for every new fandom I joined. I intended to do the same for MLP, but I couldn’t come up with one in time to post my first fanfic. So I just used Patchwork Poltergeist, from my Danny Phantom days. “Poltergeist” because ghosts, “Patchwork” because … I don’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with the Patchwork Girl of Oz. In retrospect, I’m glad I kept it. Plus, I tend to lurk more than I post in any given internet environment, so I guess the ghostly title still fits.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Rarity and Celestia are tied for number one, with Pinkie Pie coming in for second. Diamond Tiara ended up as my favorite foal when I wasn’t looking and I’m still not totally sure how that happened.
I don’t necessarily need a character to be likeable for me to like them, they just need to be interesting. Rarity and Pinkie Pie are fascinating, with just as many flaws to explore as there are strengths. Granted, all of the mane six are well rounded and interesting in their own way, but I gravitated toward those two because after a certain point (namely in Griffon the Brush Off, Look Before You Sleep and Party of One) I came away feeling the opposite of how I originally did.
Diamond Tiara, similarly, is just a blast to explore. She’s a stereotypical mean girl, yeah, but it was so weird to see in this show full of rounded pony characters, especially in the small town Ponyville. A place like Manehattan or Canterlot, sure. But Ponyville? What the heck was this kid’s deal? Tell me your secrets, small jerk horse. So I started rewatching episodes she was in, dug deeper overanalyzing lines and behavior. And then I looked up one day and suddenly she was best filly.
As for Princess Celestia, I loved her from the moment she appeared. No particular reason.
What’s your favorite episode?
Flight to the Finish. I love absolutely everything about that episode. It’s well paced, tightly written, and the moral is handled impressively. But what I really love in this episode is the characterization. Friction between the Cutie Mark Crusaders shows us what they’re made of, especially Scootaloo. The poor kid trying all night to learn how to fly breaks my heart every time, and her triumph in the end is well earned. Rainbow Dash’s “That was me, you’re you” speech is one of her best moments. Meanwhile, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon’s premeditated attack on Scootaloo’s self esteem is just brilliantly awful and easily one of the most villainous moments of the entire show.
Yet, I think the CMC’s fight at the train station is my favorite part. We’ve never seen these characters in conflict with each other before. I liked seeing that side of an understandably angry and frustrated Apple Bloom, and poor Sweetie is conflicted, but obviously doesn’t know what to do. It’s such a great scene.
On top of all that, the spirited mandolin and snare drums makes “Hearts as Strong as Horses” my second favorite song after “Smile!”
What do you get from the show?
I’ve leaned toward nerdy things most of my life, but for as long as I can remember I had a special fondness for anthropomorphic critters and lots of world-building. When they go together, it’s a guaranteed win. I’ve had a passing interest in My Little Pony since I was seven, but because either Gen 1 came on sporadically and out of order (a problem when there’s several multiparters) or it was My Little Pony Tales. But through it all (even though the horror of Gen 3.5’s Newborn Cuties), I kept interest because of a fuzzy memories of a really dark episode that had a Midnight Castle and dragons that swooped down out of nowhere and everything was WAY more cool and dark than these cute little ponies had any business being. I waited for something like Friendship is Magic for a long, long time.
And in general, FiM is an amazing sandbox to play in. There’s just so much to write about and explore and theorize. And when you’re done with that, there’s truckloads of fanon to play with, too!
What do you want from life?
To be safe and happy. Same as everyone, I guess.
Why do you write?
It’s something I’m good at and writing new words makes me happy. I didn’t quite realize that until I stopped for a few months while in between projects. But as soon as I had my pen in my hand again, scribbling along the notebook, my arm was complete again.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Writing is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you get all flabby and winded. Don’t wait for inspiration to show up. Inspiration is a wishy-washy, inconsiderate jerk that never tells you when it’s coming and never leaves a message. Start without it and inspiration will run to catch up with you instead. And keep a notebook for when it shows up unexpected.
Oh, and know where you’re going with your story before you start it. I’m not saying you need to have your ending completely mapped out or follow detailed outlines to the letter— everyone writes differently, after all. I’m just saying to know where your destination is.
A Diamond and a Tether was written for The More Most Dangerous Game contest using a prompt based on My Little Dashie. Why did you choose that prompt?
It was the only one I could really work with. I’ve never read Fallout: Equestria or Anthropology. I had no real drive for Cupcakes or Past Sins. But I’d mused on the different directions Dashie could have taken a lot. Other scenes I’d have liked to see. But most of all, I wondered what would have happened if Dash and the Protagonist hadn’t been so lucky. What if they didn’t know about Equestria and didn’t know this little pony was, for lack of a better word, a person? What if they made mistakes? What happens to a kid raised in an isolated environment like that? Dashie always gave me a lot to think about. I welcomed the chance to play around with it.
Did My Little Dashie serve as a guide for you while writing your story?
Sort of. It gave me the basic structure (human finds pony, human raises pony, pony goes home in a dramatic ending) but that was about it. I’m sure a lot more of it had a subconscious influence than I realize because when I look back, I realise I kind of deconstructed the whole fic without meaning to.
What other sources of inspiration did you draw from?
I think I drew more from the Rainbow Dash Presents presentation of Dashie than the actual fic. It makes it very clear that this setup to raise a pony kid is … not ideal. Monkey Dad seems to regard Dash less as a child with her own life and needs than as a cute pony to project onto. The scene where Rainbow Dash doesn’t want to play “Sit” and whines on the stairs until Monkey Dad shuts her up with a sugarcube? That’s most of the story in a nutshell.
The title comes from a Death Cab for Cutie song of the same name. It provided the backbone of Lucy’s character. She really wants to try, but she won’t or can’t try hard enough because she doesn’t think she can. The situation’s falling apart because it can’t stand on “empty promises and countless bluffs”.
One summer, when I was in high school, a friend of mine gave me a gerbil out of the blue. I was totally unprepared; no cage, no food, no nothing. I had no idea what I was doing and had no business with this animal, but I didn’t know of any other options besides keeping it. And in all honesty, I was stubborn because I did want the gerbil, though I knew I couldn’t take care of him. The poor little fellow died before the summer was out.
That incident probably colored the tone for Tether more than I give it credit for.
Did you run into any challenges while writing this story?
Time and word count and time. I had a rough start deciding on the story format and approach, which held me up for at least a week. The contest lasted about a month and I’m a slow writer because I essentially write the story twice (first draft in ink, second draft in word processor). I sprinted to finish this story with the deadline’s breath on my back.
A sizable chunk of Lucy’s scenes that added to her characterization were either never written or left on the cutting room floor as a result. Then again, maybe the story’s better for it that way.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Be excellent to each other and remember: A raven is like a writing desk because there’s a “B” in both and an “N” in neither.