Take a colorful look at one of the show’s more memorable side characters in today’s story.
[Slice of Life] • 2,388 words
She saw things differently
*than those around her
**so focused on life
***they did not live
****but she never worried
*****for the universe was
******always singing to her.
This is the story
of Tree Hugger’s Cutie Mark.
FROM THE CURATORS: “One of the quintessential functions of fanfiction, it seems to me, is to fill out the lives of the secondary characters,” AugieDog said in his nomination. “This is Tree Hugger’s cutie mark story, but there’s a lot more than that going on here. The story touches on one of my favorite MLP topics — the relationship of Ponies to nature — and quite literally looks at that topic with different eyes.”
That novel look at Equestria’s interconnectedness provoked comment from several curators. “The depiction of synesthesia is unique — though I don’t think it’s actually supposed to be synesthesia; the useless magical glasses attest to that,” Present Perfect said. “She’s just always been attuned to the universe without realizing just how far that goes.” Chris found that impressive: “The use of color throughout is clever while being easy to follow, and doesn’t feel forced.” JohnPerry, meanwhile, turned up the praise: “It uses its visuals to good effect. It’s the first good take on Tree Hugger I’ve seen — and that includes the show!”
While Tree Hugger’s visions made this story unique, we also singled out its emotional authenticity as exemplary. “There’s something touching about a person able to say, without guile or unwarranted assumption, what another person is feeling, even (especially) if they’re unwilling or unable to say it themselves,” Chris said. “That’s hard to set up, and the end could easily have felt manipulative or self-serving on Tree Hugger’s part, but the author here managed to make it feel like … well, like Tree Hugger herself: honest, and interested not in what she wants, but in what the show might call Harmony.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Masterweaver discusses DIGITAL EXPLOSIONS, Mary Sue-icide, and the benefits of forgiving Pinkie Pie.
Give us the standard biography.
Just an average insane brony, doing average insane things.
You’re not satisfied with that, are you …
HOOkay, so. I am the eldest of, hold on, 4, 5, count cousins that’s 8, and then there are the out-of-state cousins … Eldest of eight children, 4 bio-siblings, one semi-half-adopted sibling (in that we never actually did the paperwork, just sort of picked him up), and three cousins. My mother is a labor and delivery nurse (and a teacher of nurses), and my father is a computer programmer. Heck, I can remember being a wee tyke and playing black-and-white Lode Runner on the Macintosh home computer… Oh, and also I am an Aspie.
That last bit, that’s kind of important. Growing up, I came to realize a couple of things. One: I don’t get people. You know body language? It’s a foreign language to me. Two: I communicate better through nonverbal methods, or at least methods that don’t have me looking at people’s faces. That led me to delve into the internet pretty early — I was born in 1990, so I was right at the beginning of the GREAT DIGITAL EXPLOSION. Three, and this is important: I can be exactly as crazy as I want to be. In the nature vs. nurture debate, I feel the environment influences personality but only as much as the person is willing to let it influence them.
Hmm. I could go on many philosophical rants about my own identity and how I developed, but I honestly feel that my position as an artist is better represented by my art than by myself.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
More than a decade ago, there was a glorious city known as… InterFable. Also known as the City of IF. The only way to travel there was either via dangerous cosmic storms interlaced with raw shards of pure imagination, or possibly just logging onto their website.
Okay, okay, in all seriousness, the City of IF was my first real internet stomping grounds. It was a forum devoted to the art of the Storygame; a writer would publish a chapter and leave the end on a cliffhanger, then turn to the readers and ask ‘what should the hero do next?’ And the readers would make suggestions, then the writer would make a poll, and the readers would vote. And yeah, for an aspiring writer as myself, that was… that was just an amazing idea. So I leapt right in!
Unfortunately, I was a bit of a brat. See, like most forums there were older members, and they’d built up minor personas of their own (the fictional City of IF had their own districts, there would occasionally be roleplays in the setting, ETC). I decided, ‘hey, I’m weaving together a story and it’s GOING TO BE AWESOME, why not let these guys know?!’ And thus was born Masterweaver, Teller of Tales, Bard of Awesomeness … and generally waaaaaaay too full of himself. Good flark, I made my first Sue back then, and he was totally horrible. Then later I had Masterweaver fire said Sue and to this day the Sue is trying to kill Weaver in revenge …
Yeah, those were my days of youth. But the Masterweaver persona, like many of my characters, stuck around and grew into his own … entity. Nowadays, Masterweaver is still bombastically confident, but he’s at least willing to listen to people. He’s also a black leather robe, because I thought that a black leather robe that acted like a party dude would be funny.
Who’s your favorite pony?
THAT ONE! THAT ONE RIGHT THERE!
… what, you didn’t see it? Shame.
Oh, you’re not falling for that either. Uh … hmm. I … reeeeeally don’t play favorites. I like them all, and I can’t exactly split them up. I suppose if I had to choose, I’d pick Maud. She’s a lot like me. In fact …
Yes, I am the guy who made this originally. Also this one.
What’s your favorite episode?
… You know what, I’m going to go safe and pick “Slice of Life,” because I really can’t pick a favorite. And “Slice of Life” was fun.
Actually, the only complaint I had about that episode was the OctoScratch song … or rather songs plural. There were three different tunes, each of which was excellent on their own, but they were smashed together with abrupt transitions and that just … nnnnrganh.
What do you get from the show?
Amusement, bemusement, memes, characters, and community. Mostly community, which does not directly come from the show but from the myriad spinity-offers of the fandom creations. Still, that would not exist without the show, and I’ve become quite ingrained in certain projects, so I project that the show should be the one to thank, probably.
What do you want from life?
Mostly, to make artistic and storytelling contributions that will be recognized by a large audience and have a positive impact. So I’m pretty much living the dream … aside from the money issues.
Why do you write?
Why do you breathe?
In all seriousness, I have been writing since I was, oh, sixish. My motivations are as myriad as my writings, but quite a bit of it comes from the fact that I tend to spend a lot of time in my own head as opposed to interacting with others. I read as I write, and I write as I read, and any time spent away from those two activities is mostly processing time. I WRITE MY DREAMS. Not even kidding, I am a semi-lucid dreamer, but never as any of the actors.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Let’s see. There’s the typical “triple-check your grammar,” the usual “write what you want,” of course there’s “practice makes perfect …”
Flow. Flow is important. Flow is what makes a story. It’s not easy to explain — I have tried — but even a grammatically perfect story is going to suffer if the sentences are stilted, if the conversation is abrupt, if there is any break in the rhythm. Read your story as though you were playing a video game, where if you jerk it the wrong way at the wrong time you go back to the last checkpoint. I think. Like I said, it’s hard to explain, but you should eventually get a feel for it.
Do you have any personal experience with synesthesia? If not, did you do any research before writing this?
Not exactly, no. As an aspie, I’ve already noted my troubles dealing with people; part of my own personal method of coping was, essentially, to retreat into my brain and examine my own thoughts. This means that I don’t think the same way others do, that I pick up on some things they don’t and miss what they’d consider obvious. That’s not synesthesia, but it’s a similar way of having a worldview that cannot be shared.
As for the synesthesia portrayed in Floral Embrace, it actually isn’t. Synesthesia is defined as a cross-wire, seeing sound or hearing smells. Tree Hugger’s Aura vision is just that: Aura vision, pulled from an (admittedly brief) internet research trip and applied in story. Admittedly, there is the minor factoid that in this setting, at least, Tree Hugger goes mostly blind during the acquisition of her cutie mark; I wasn’t able to make that clear in the story, but in my mind she relies primarily on her Aura vision by the time she appeared in the show. They’re magical ponies, they can have a few extra senses.
What’s going to happen between Tree Hugger’s parents? Do you believe they’ll have a happy ending, and will it be together or apart?
At the time of the story, there were some rocky moments brought about by financial troubles and some unclarified misunderstandings. Tree Hugger, however, said what she needed to say. And I think that’s all that I need to say on the matter … for the moment.
Considering the important role it plays in the story, what do you see as the relationship between ponies and nature?
Depends on the pony. And the nature. No relationship is like another; every relationship is unique. The webwork of relations ship us across time and space.
Now, Tree Hugger’s relationship to nature is that she listens, to both it and herself. She knows who she is, and she introduces herself to nature, and from there the conversation can go any way at all. And speaking of conversation!
Any tricks you want to share for writing Tree Hugger’s “trippy” dialogue?
There are two aspects to Tree Hugger’s dialogue: the technical side, and the emotional side. From a technical standpoint she does reference new-age Hindu-ish stuff like Chakras and Auras; she’ll also call things “righteous” if they’re particularly worthy of attention, and give blessings upon anyone she meets. However, just because Rainbow once said “20 Percent Cooler” doesn’t mean that’s all she says; Tree Hugger’s special terms are just the chips in the chocolate chip cookie that Pinkie Pie ate while you weren’t looking, but you’ll forgive her because she’s Pinkie Pie and you don’t want pink ponies angry ever at all trust me on this.
Emotionally, Tree Hugger relaxes herself and others. She’s not passive in the sense that she’ll be pushed around; she’s passive in the sense that she won’t lash out or snark. A lot of her talk is her thoughts just flowing out as she contemplates the nature of harmony or the pony she’s talking to or just whatever interests her. But when she does sense harsh vibes, she’ll try to work her speech around them in a soothing manner. She’s oblivious to some things primarily because she’s always always thinking, she just doesn’t pace like Twilight does. Twilight’s thought excite her actions, but Tree Hugger’s thoughts relax her actions.
Do you see Tree Hugger’s vision of Harmony as being a good thing, or “just” a natural thing?
Tree Hugger believes in balance in all things. At least, she does how I write her. Harmony is a combination of individual balances, each distinct, on a larger shared balance. Like tops spinning on a bigger top. Is it a good thing?
I’ve once described the human race as paragons of chaos that have embraced harmony. What you make of that is up to you.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Two twos to make a four.