Today’s story is more methodical than one might think.
[Sad] [Slice of Life] • 6,834 words
The tensions of estranged family run high when Cloudy Quartz’s mother, Change, comes to see her newborn grandfoals. Things only get worse when Change makes a discovery that spells hope for her species, and promises disaster for her relationship with her daughter.
Pinkie Pie has the soul of a draconequus.
FROM THE CURATORS: This piece definitely went in directions we never expected. In the words of Present Perfect, “It could easily have been, ‘Wow, Pinkie’s part draconequus, that explains so much!’ but instead, that’s merely the backdrop for this tale of family tensions.” Added AugieDog, “I also love how the author made this into a story about Pinkie in which she doesn’t actually appear.”
The curators agree, the author’s decision to focus on family dynamics is what drew us to it. The conflict between Pinkie’s mother and grandmother is relatable and approachable. “A lot of authors would have let themselves get caught up in the mechanics and backstory of the draconequui,” said Chris. “The central conflict is one that anyone with an extended family has seen play out firsthand.” Augie agreed: “The struggles here are the sort that go on in families every day.”
Relatable, too, was the character of Igneous Pie. “He provided not just a writer’s tool for promoting reconciliation,” Chris said, “but he also ended up being the character I related to best.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Bugle discusses the MLP collectible card game, diversity in the fandom, and the tribulations of writing for an ever-evolving canon.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m 29, male, and have lived in California and Texas most of my life. This all changed as of a couple months ago. I moved to the Denver area of Colorado to work as QA for a digital trading card game company. Here’s hoping this is the first step to a long career in the games industry. Hopefully the CCG industry specifically, as CCGs are my passion!
Speaking of, probably my biggest accomplishment is my tumblr blog called Cloudchaser and Flitter Explain, which is dedicated to explaining various aspects of the MLPCCG to new players and veteran players alike. And it accomplishes this by having Flitter, a casual player, and Cloudchaser, a competitive player, talking, discussing, and arguing with one another, but always as best friends. A subgoal of the blog is to prove that casual players and hardcore players can get along, even if they don’t always agree. It is quite cute, and I’ve been told that even people who don’t play the game can appreciate their interactions with one another. I try and get an update every week or so, but sometimes real life intervenes and I can’t get to it quite as frequently as I’d like.
I am also a big proponent of being creative and innovative. I’ve honestly found myself being somewhat of a harsh critic on media I consume and looking at what it does that’s new and exciting. I like to be surprised; if I can see where things are going, I’ll tend not to enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. There are exceptions, of course, but generally I prefer novelty to things I’ve seen a million times.
I’ve been designing games ever since grade school, and writing since middle school. All my life has been basically starting and abandoning a million different projects. It’s only until a year and a half ago or so that I started actually sticking with things long enough for me to see results from them (not counting the 3+ year stint I was working with friends on trying to reboot a digital card game, but the results there weren’t quite as promising as we’d have liked). The feeling is quite nice!
Outside of creative exploits, I’m fairly boring, so not sure what else to say.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Wasn’t me, actually.
Back in grade school, a friend gave a different friend a nickname, so I decided he should give me one too. I don’t think he was quite prepared for this possibility, but he rolled with it anyway, manipulating my name until he settled on “Bugle. Emperor Bugle, Emperor of all Weirdos.”
I basically kept it as a nickname ever since, and use it just about everywhere. Usually without the whole Emperor bit.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Pinkie Pie! I fully and completely believe in her philosophy on life, even if I’m not exactly the most extroverted person around myself. Making people smile is frequently my own goal in life. Plus, she’s just fun!
That being said, I probably relate more to Fluttershy, as I am all too willing to sacrifice my own enjoyment for that of others.
All six of the Mane six happen to rank higher than any other pony for me, which is surprising to many folks, apparently. But to me, they’re all essential for the show we know and love to be what it is, and that gives them priority. The same can also be said for the CMC, but I draw the line after them (sorry Big Mac!)
As far as background ponies go, however, well… Cloudchaser and Flitter, of course! Flitter’s a tad higher, but only because she’s the fun loving one (much like Pinkie Pie).
And Cadance is best Princess. Paradoxically, despite my previous statements, Twilight is least good Princess, but only because she doesn’t really feel princessy enough yet. Then again, maybe her time will come. In the meantime, she’s a better pony than the other princesses, but not a better princess.
What’s your favorite episode?
Oh jeeze, that’s hard.
That probably depends a lot on what I’ve seen recently. And as I’ve not seen much of the older stuff for a while, I’m going to go with The Crusaders of the Lost Mark. I think that was basically the best possible way to actually have the CMC get their marks, and I’m glad we got to see it happen, rather than have it happen after the show ended like many of us feared.
I also cried during the last song. It was just too happy an event.
As a bonus, my favourite song is Smile Smile Smile. Despite the fact that I fully believe that True, True Friend is the best song in the show, and always will be.
What do you get from the show?
The answer to this question has fluctuated wildly over time.
Way back in generation one, a friend suggested I watch the show. Which, of course, I scoffed at cause, come on. My Little Pony? That’s way too girly, even for me! But he managed to sell me on it, and I found it to be cute, funny, and have good, strong female characters. All of which is stuff I’m a fan of (I mean, I like good characters in general, but female ones are depressingly few in number compared to the male ones…). So the show quickly became something I’d watch with that friend and his friend, and something I’d discuss with a few other friends. Sometimes I’d get linked pretty pictures from another friend, but that was about all the extracurricular activities I did with regards to ponies. I never sought out discussion boards, or art, or anything. Especially not fanfics. In fact, the concept of fanfics was baffling to me, and I was positive that they couldn’t possibly be entertaining. The show was what was good. Everything else had to be inferior, right?
This attitude all changed when I went to my first pony con and I actually interacted with the community at a large scale. A con which, I might add, I almost completely ignored. It was fascinating seeing all this creative output. Not to mention just how different everyone was. For example, I played a game that included all of the following people: a bigendered individual, a large black male with a Rarity plushie with a spiked collar, a mousey Caucasian, a guy dressed as King Arthur, and so on and so forth. And no one had a problem with it! The show brings together people from all walks of life, and is one of the single most welcoming communities I’ve ever encountered. I also had the privilege of seeing Matt Hill and Sam Vincent, voices of Soarin and Flim respectively (as well as Ed and Edd from Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy) together. And I think they said it best when asked what their thoughts on the brony community were. They answered, and I’m paraphrasing here, that a community so full of love must be a great thing. And I fully agree.
But more important than all of that, I met Sharp Spark, who’d soon become one of my very best friends. He was someone to talk ponies with in person, as opposed to online, and the difference was surprisingly huge. He was also the reason I discovered the pony card game, and later became the reason I started reading fanfics at all (the two exceptions being Friendship is Optimal, which was linked to me by a completely different friend who is big on the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality series, and Hard Reset, which I was told had a large number of similarities to a deck I helped design in the CCG). And from there, I even started writing some!
And of course, there’s that whole TCG thing I mentioned earlier. I have a lot of friends thanks to that. And it’s been a major part of my life for almost 2 years now.
So what do I get from the show now? Entertainment. Friendship. Inspiration. Discovery. Acceptance. Community.
And love. A whole lot of it.
What do you want from life?
This answer is going to be quite boring compared to previous ones, really. I want to be a game designer. I want to keep writing. I want to make as many people as I can happy. And I want to live to be 116 years old since then I’ll have been alive in three different centuries.
Basically the usual stuff.
Why do you write?
Because it’s fun. And, more recently, because people seem to like it and I’ve accepted to myself that they aren’t lying when they say they like it (I had a lot of self esteem issues with my earlier creative exploits).
I like doing things that others enjoy, so anything I can do to bring a smile to give others a good experience is good by me. And sharing stories with other people is a great way to do that.
Shame I get distracted so easily. I’d like to write a lot more than I actually do. But I think I’m getting more and more motivated to do so. So I think this won’t be the last thing you’ll see from me.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
1) Don’t write for other people. Write for you.
Basically what that boils down to is you should write what you want to write, not what you think others will like. Maybe some people will like it. Chances are some people won’t. But as long as you’re enjoying it, that’s all that matters.
2) Don’t be scared of what others will think.
I really should try and practice what I preach here, as I am terrified of what others think of my stuff. But, really, fear of not being accepted will only drag you down and mean for sure you won’t get anywhere. I’ve found that, as a whole, people are actually pretty friendly and accepting. And even if what you write isn’t particularly amazing, most folks will try and give you advice on how to improve it. Yes, some people will be jerks and will act accordingly, but try your best to ignore them and focus on the people who are actually trying to help.
This advice actually applies to a lot of places. Like job hunting, or making new friends. Sure, you might fail if you try. But you fail by default if you don’t.
3) Don’t get discouraged.
Unless you’re a crazy prodigy of some sort, chances are your first works are going to be not so great. In fact, they might just flat out suck, to be perfectly blunt. But if you keep working at it, you’ll find you’re getting better. Just keep at it, and don’t let anything stop you.
Similarly, if you set out a goal for yourself and miss it… it’s okay! No one’s counting (unless you’re actually getting paid money for this, in which case you don’t need my advice =P), and now you know your limits a little better. Reassess the situation and try again. Or just set smaller goals for yourself next time.
4) Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Start small. Big epics are great and all, but they’re also really hard to actually finish, let alone finish and have them be good. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve started huge projects that I never came even close to finishing since, well, they were just too big. And by not finishing the big stuff, you just get disheartened and don’t try again.
So start with smaller stuff. 10K words max. Refine your craft. And once you’ve gotten enough stuff out here that you feel you’re satisfied with? Then start considering the bigger stuff.
5) Don’t always think your ideas aren’t good enough.
Creators are their own worst critics, and it’s very easy to fall into a trap of thinking your ideas are terrible. We’re awful at judging ideas for ourselves, and a lot of what we think is bad is actually fine, if not downright good.
We also have a habit of dismissing ideas before giving them a chance. You have to do this to some degree, of course, but when you get one you think is worth pursuing, take it to its logical conclusion before deciding whether or not to dismiss it.
If you truly think you’ve come up with something you feel is a bad idea, consider running it by someone else first. Someone you trust to give you an honest opinion, rather than always says “yes, it’s awesome” or “no, it sucks”.
6) Don’t accept all criticism at face value.
There is no one correct way to write. Write what you want, how you want. You can’t and won’t please everybody.
That being said, this also doesn’t mean ignore all criticism. Some critiques are quite valid. And sometimes, even if you disagree with the critique, it might give you some useful insight anyway. Take your time and come to your own conclusions regarding every critique before deciding whether or not it’s worthwhile. Criticism is an incredibly useful tool. But like everything, not all of it is appropriate for your needs.
Note that you should apply this very piece of advice to all the advice I’m giving you as well. Including this one.
7) Story is conflict.
These are, to me, the three most important words I can impart on any writer. They were spoken by the teacher of interactive writing class (writing for games with multiple dialogue options, like most Bioware Games, for example), the teacher being the (at the time, not sure if it’s changed) lead writer for Bioware.
Anyway, while I had kind of known this long before actually hearing them, they managed to wrap everything up in a very simple and easy to understand package. What does it mean? Basically that without hardship to overcome, there is no actual story. “I walked down the street to the grocery store” is not a story. “I walked down the street to the grocery store and was attacked by a horde of laser sharks wielding nunchucks and a burning hatred for mankind” is. In general, people don’t want to see everything go right. They want to see things go wrong, and then watch the characters deal with it. Every once in awhile it’s nice to see a bit where everything goes right and there’s nothing wrong. But, let’s face it. If every story was like that, we’d be bored out of our skulls.
So how can you incorporate this? Well, make sure you know what your core conflict is before writing, and tell a story about that, exploring the conflict, its ramifications and implications, and ultimately its resolution (and not necessarily a happy one. Bittersweet stories are probably my favourite at the moment). It doesn’t have to be overly complex. It can be as simple as Twilight lost her favourite book. Or maybe you could put a spin on it: Applejack lost her favourite book!
Conflict is the most important part of any story. Pick a good one.
What inspired you to write a story about Pinkie in which she does not appear?
What are you talking about? She totally appears! Twice, even! Once in the first scene as a newborn foal, and once in the second as a filly on the rockfarm! What do you mean those don’t count?
But okay, yeah, more seriously, that’s a really good question. And I think I have a good answer for you.
So I got the original idea for what would eventually become Random a couple months before the “A Matter of Perspective” Write-Off, actually. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but I remember making a joke that Pinkie Pie had the soul of a pegasus, referencing the fact that she has flying machines, tends to bounce to stay in the hair whenever possible, clings to balloons to float, etc. Basically, she’s in the air an awful lot for an Earth Pony, now isn’t she? Anyway, Sharp Spark’s response was that she had the soul of a draconequus. As you can probably guess, a very silly conversation came from that. But more important than that, it was a story idea.
The next day at work, I spent a long time thinking about how to turn that concept into an actual story. I managed to come up with 3 scenes, the first two, and the one that was the original final scene that the Writeoff employed (that scene is not at all in the final version, more on that later). And since I didn’t have a pen or anything (it was a stand up job in retail, sadly), I was forced to memorize everything. That being said, certain aspects were really clear to me. For example, I knew for a fact that the beginning of scene two was going to have the line “she’s miserable, you know.” And I would routinely roleplay scenes with myself to better solidify them in my head for when I actually started writing.
At the time I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen in the middle, I was pretty sure it involved Change following Pinkie around and observing how draconequus she was like. I was actually quite excited for the story, and couldn’t wait to write it. But wait I did, as the next short story WO was 2 months away!
Cue the start of the write off, I start writing with my original goal in mind. I eventually finish scene two and realize that what I’ve written is going in a slightly different direction than I expected. And the more I thought of it… the more I realized my original plans weren’t nearly as interesting as what I was actually writing. So I made an executive decision to change tracks from focusing primarily on Pinkie to focusing primarily on the relationship between Change and Cloudy. And I think it worked out rather well, don’t you?
So yeah. It was… kind of an accident! But I’m really glad it worked out the way it did. Though perhaps a better way of looking at it is that it was an idea that evolved over time. This is why the old saying of “there are no bad ideas” exists. While my initial idea wasn’t quite as strong as the final one, it was an important stepping stone on the journey.
As a closing note on this subject, let me tell you some insight a friend of mine had on the subject. He’s suggested that perhaps one of the reasons the story is so well received is precisely because Pinkie doesn’t really appear in at all. By doing so, it can look at Pinkie from a very different perspective from normal. Not through her eyes, or through another main character’s eyes, but still by someone close to her. In this case, her family (Or at least my interpretation of her family).
It’d be pretty neat seeing stories about the other mane six in a similar fashion.
What is Fortune’s place in the world? What’s the effect of her decision to live as a pony?
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. Partly because I haven’t thought through all the details yet. But mostly because this is something I’ll likely go into more detail in the future. I’ve got the bare bones of a prequel laid out, which I am calling “Unfortunate,” which covers exactly that.
But in the meantime, I think I can safely establish that her powers were mostly probability based. How precisely I haven’t quite finalized yet, so I won’t go into any more detail until the story.
To possibly alleviate the somewhat of a let down answer, have a bit of trivia. Fortune’s Draconequus name was originally going to be “Chance,” but thankfully I quickly realized that was a terrible idea. Not only does it violate my rule of “don’t have two characters with names that start with the same letter”, it is literally only one letter different from her mother’s. That wouldn’t have been confusing at all, now would it?
Did you run into any difficulties writing this story, or adapting it to season five canon?
As I mentioned before, Random wound up being pretty different from how I initially envisioned it. After those first two scenes, I found myself lost. How should I get from point A to point B? I spent a lot of time thinking about the next scene before actually writing it, and it was a struggle the whole way. When I finally figured out what I wanted to write, I’d sit down and write the scene only to find it went in a completely different direction than I had planned. So when I was done, I was even further from my original goal. And I still had no idea of how to get to get there!
Repeat that process for every single one of the remaining scenes before the last one.
Probably the most egregious example (and this is a minor spoiler, so skip this chapter if you’ve not read yet) is the scene where Change informs Cloudy about Discord. For the original writeoff version (which had an extra scene not in the Fimfiction version), that was intended to be the second last scene when I wrote it. They were going to discuss things and come to the eventual conclusion that happens at the end of the story. But Cloudy didn’t react at all the way I expected her to at all. Instead of a calm conversation, there was rage. And I’d found myself in a completely different place once again. Never before have I had characters so drastically go against my intended direction! But it all wound up being better. Every single time. So I can’t exactly complain.
Let’s also talk about that deleted scene I’ve brought up a few times. During the Writeoff, several people mentioned it felt incredibly weak, was unneeded, and actually hurt the piece as a whole. And in retrospect, I completely agree, which is why it’s not in the Fimfic version. It’s entirely possible I’d have gotten higher than my 8th place if I’d left it out, but live and learn, right? I think I learned a lot from that experience, and now I know not to always stick with my original ending, just because it was how I envisioned it before. I should make sure every scene is where it belongs before submitting.
That being said, revising the ending was probably the biggest hurdle I had to overcome to get Random to a place I felt it was publishable. Well, that and one other detail I won’t go into here. Overall, though, I think I managed to find the perfect ending. I just needed a little more time than the 3 days the Writeoff provided.
The last major hurdle I encountered was, as you mentioned, the new season five canon. While I had fully intended on publishing Random well before Hearthbreakers, that didn’t happen due to various real life complications that just took priority (my blog, moving to Colorado, ponycard nationals, etc). And, well, when it did air (and I loved it!), I realized I had a few things I needed to change. For example, originally I thought the order the Pie Sisters were born was Maud > Pinkie > Limestone = Marble, so I didn’t need to mention Limestone or Marble until significantly later.
Of course, the biggest part was converting Igneous’s dialogue. I had no idea how to do that and had to ask for help. Thanks again, Softy!
I also had to decide what to do with Cloudy’s dialogue. I was pretty sure leaving it unchanged was best since I don’t think reading through all that dialect would make for quite as endearing a story. And my internal rationalization for that is she has no need to hide it around her mom; she already knows who she is and is used to talking to her mom in a more mundane fashion.
So were there hardships? Yes, absolutely. I basically had to fight with the story the entire way to get it the way it came out. In fact, I’d say this was probably the single hardest story I ever had to write. But good things are worth fighting for, and Random was no exception.
What might Pinkie’s reaction be to finding out she’s related to Discord?
I’ve been asked this a lot. And not just asked! Someone has told me they want to write their own version of those events. Which is super flattering, and I can’t wait to see it! But I’ve never actually given an answer myself in case I actually want to write that myself.
Anyway… I imagine she’d actually find it pretty exciting. While she may not have the same comradery with Discord as Fluttershy does, she did seem to be the one to warm up to him the fastest of the non-Fluttershy Mane Six, and she’s not the type to hold a grudge. So I think she’d take it rather well, on the whole.
But boy will she be surprised ;)
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
While I’ve said before that the story Random has told is done, and I completely mean it, I think there’s a high chance I’ll write more stories set in its universe. In addition to Unfortunate, the prequel I mentioned before, I also have a rough idea for a sequel which I’m currently calling “Random Conversation,” though I reserve the right to change that. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it, as I have a few other projects I’d like to finish first, but the idea is definitely kicking around and I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually.
One such project is a spinoff to Cloudchaser and Flitter Explain: Cloudchaser and Flitter Play. It’ll be a similar format to CaFE, only instead of talking about the card game, they’ll talk about various video games, similar to a Let’s Play (it probably qualifies, but unlike most Let’s Plays the goal is less to see people talking about the game but more to see the ponies’ reactions to the game). The first game they’ll be tackling is the recent indie hit: UNDERTALE, which I feel is an amazing fit for the two of them to cover. I’m still working on the first post at the moment, and slowly working my way towards getting everything set up, but I’m hoping I’ll be good to go soon. By the end of the month at the very latest, but hopefully within the next week or so. I’m pretty excited for it and hopefully it’ll be pretty awesome!
Other than that… Not sure what else to say at the moment. So I’ll just say thanks again to everyone who’s read Random, whether you liked it or not. Here’s hoping the sequel is just as good.