Today’s story will change the way you look at fanfiction–inside and out.
[Adventure] • 118,733 words
Caramel wasn’t always a Changeling, but he’s going to become one. And he’s going to do it for the sake of his very special somepony.
FROM THE CURATORS: There are no shortage of changeling-centric, lore-heavy stories in this fandom, so it takes something exceptional for a story to stand out from that company. But in this case, we had no trouble finding plenty to appreciate. Present Perfect focused on Caramel’s role, saying, “He’s the perfect kind of layabout Everyman, the sort of character I really want to see succeed at something for once.” Augie concurred, adding, “It’s got a certain epic feel to it, too, while staying very closely focused on Caramel and his love for Sassaflash.”
Chris, meanwhile, praised the lore: “The story does a good job of lulling the reader into thinking of the changelings in familiar terms, via Caramel’s perceptions of the same, only to throw a wrench in those assumptions down the line.” Soge also noted that “the way the changeling society is established is impressive, completely alien while still relatable,” and Present Perfect noted that “The transformation sequence allowed for revelations of headcanon without infodumping,” complementing Integration for not sacrificing its narrative for the sake of over-explaining and headcanon justification.
These elements, together with an intriguing mix of action and slow-burning tension, impressed us all. “There was a lot of humor, and the action was paced well,” said Present Perfect. Chris, meanwhile, said that Integration “manages to combine moments of high action with longer stretches of waiting and uncertainty, along with exploration, discovery, and plenty of flashbacks, into a cohesive, engaging novel.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Raugos discusses dragon waterfalls, imperious goths, and attention deficit dyspepsia.
Give us the standard biography.
Just some guy working a job who tries to spend his evenings writing pony stuff, and occasionally, drawing them.
Got bitten by the writing bug when I was around 15, when I first read Eragon. Thought to myself, “Hey, if a fellow fifteen-year-old could write that, maybe I could, too!” Thankfully I didn’t try publishing anything right away, otherwise the world would’ve been plagued by one more omni-competent Gary Stu self-insert. Gotta thank my crippling lack of self-esteem back then, which gave my skill enough time to progress past that stage before I worked up the courage to post stuff online!
Relative to your position, I’m probably living on the other side of the planet. And I’m just going to leave you right there wondering about my nationality and ethnicity, because I’m evil like that, muahahaha!
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
There’s a waterfall in Middle Earth called Rauros. I thought it sounded cool.
Blue dragons in Warcraft all have names ending in –gos or –gosa, like Malygos or Cyanigosa, depending on whether they’re male or female. I thought that was cool.
I mixed up the two and got Raugos when creating a character for World of Warcraft, and it stuck with me ever since.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Luna. She’s admittedly overrated as heck, but I feel that she was one of the flagships for fanfiction in the early days of the fandom when she was little more than ‘Celestia’s younger sister’ post-Nightmare Moon. I remember freaking out (in a fun way) when she made her grand entry in Luna Eclipsed, having gotten an appearance update and more solid characterisation. It was one of my favourite moments in the fandom.
I don’t think anyone expected her to be loud, boisterous and totally imperious; nearly everyone seemed to depict her as Fluttershy 2.0 before that episode. On top of that, she seemed to have an affinity for gothic stuff and freaking lightning bolts, so she was pretty fun and edgy for a non-villain in a show most people think is only for little girls. What’s not to like?
What’s your favorite episode?
Taking all five seasons into account, I’d go with Amending Fences.
It’s a nice call-back to Twilight’s life before moving to Ponyville and does a great job of fleshing out some background characters. Minuette’s a lot of fun to watch, like a less crazy version of Pinkie Pie, and Moondancer works pretty well as a moody, alternate Twilight who’d left friendship behind. I’d definitely like to see more of them!
The episode also has a good moral and successfully delivers its message without needing to turn characters into caricatures (looking at you, Spike at Your Service!) or resorting to extremely contrived events to force and resolve the conflict (you too, Princess Spike!).
Overall, I think it’s one of the best representations of what I watch the show for.
What do you get from the show?
It’s cute and funny, and most of the stories presented are coherent and relatable enough that almost anyone can enjoy it. At this point, Equestria is a pretty huge world, rich in lore with lots of interesting places and cultures to explore. Here’s hoping that Season 6 will dig into some of that!
Also, the fact that ponies lend themselves very well to crossovers with just about anything helps a lot. Bored with the standard pony stuff on TV or feeling a little iffy on whether they’re worth getting into? Fanfiction’s got you covered with the likes of Fallout Equestria, Stardust and Mass Effect 2 DLC: The Equestrian Equation (go read em!), and fanart’s even more diverse. What I’m getting at is that you’re very likely to discover that ponies come pre-mixed with something else you already like.
What do you want from life?
Eesh, tough one. There’s what I want, and there’s what I think I should want.
I want to be happy, but I also think I should do more to make others happy, especially those who don’t have what I do in life. The latter goes double for me since I’m a Christian. Gotta work on that one.
Why do you write?
To scratch an itch. Also, it’s nice to know that others enjoy and appreciate my work. I know it’s nobler to say I’m doing it just for love of the craft, but I’d be lying if the attention and validation don’t play a role in motivating me.
Yes … some of us writers are like ravenous changelings, always on the edge of starvation. (Please feed me.)
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
There are plenty of formal guides out there already, so I’ll just stick to something small and somewhat practical.
If you get a great idea, try to write it down even if you’re already in bed or somewhere incredibly inconvenient like that (not while driving, though!). If you wait, chances are you’ll either forget or not remember it the same way again the next time you think about it.
This is a longer fic, coming in at over 100,000 words, and you’ve got several other lengthy pieces of fanfiction under your belt, in addition to a number of short stories. Do you find you prefer writing longer or shorter stories?
I like both; each has its time and place. Long stories are more satisfying to complete and usually feel more meaningful to me, but they’re also more taxing on mental stamina, so short stories in between chapters for long ones help to scratch my itch without needing too much preparation time or emotional investment.
Though it can be a little bemusing if the shorties get so much more attention than the long epics I’m pouring my heart and soul into. (Hint, hint!)
To what extent did you intend for Caramel to be an everyman in this story?
Eh? I’m not sure if I can say that I ‘planned’ it. I just remember looking for somepony who fit the archetype, seeing Caramel and Sassaflash nuzzling in the Perfect Stallion song, and thinking, “Oh hey, what a coincidence.”
Everything else just sort of fell into place from there.
In this story, you skip backwards and forwards in time, from a steadily-advancing “present” to Caramel and Sassaflash’s history together. What did you try to do to keep the narrative moving forward, and what advice do you have for authors looking to interweave multiple timeframes into their stories?
I emulated the format from an actual book I was reading sometime before starting the story, so I had a pretty useful template to work on.
That being said, it still took a lot of planning. I had to keep notes on the timelines and ages of the characters in each chapter and flashback to maintain as much cohesion as possible with canon events, as well as to make them feel organic in their aging as the story progressed. I hoped it paid off.
Keeping the narrative moving forward in the present timeline was just a simple matter of moving from one stage of Caramel’s integration to the next. Each event then served as the reference point for whatever event I wanted to show in the flashback, and hopefully the two would share some theme or plot point that would show off how much or little they’d changed in the intervening years.
If there’s any advice I can give for this kind of format, I’d say that planning ahead and keeping notes are pretty important for keeping track of events so it doesn’t turn into a tangle of contradictions, irrelevant information, accidental spoilers or missed opportunities for foreshadowing.
Even with how much you focus on the characters, this story is still full of changeling-centric worldbuilding. Which came first, Caramel’s arc, or your conception of changeling biology and culture? And on that note: to what extent did one inform the other?
Changeling culture and biology first, definitely. Lots of writers were scrambling to explore changeling stuff once the Season 2 finale had aired, and I had an idea for a changeling disguised as a nurse just waiting to take the place of a terminally ill pony, rationalising that her deception would at least shield the family from sorrow. I discarded it halfway through writing when I realised that there were lots of similar concepts already up on Fimfiction. Not that going with a story on what a bunch of changelings were doing in the background of the invasion was much more creative, but that’s what happened instead.
Anyway, by then, there were already lots of stories with changelings trying to fit into pony society, so I thought it would be interesting to have one with a pony doing the opposite. I had already based changeling biology on that of ants and bees, plus whatever other arthropod traits I fancied, so I just needed to pick the order in which said characteristics would manifest in Caramel’s transformation. Physical ones first, followed by his reaction, and then the more troubling ones later when he fears that he might lose everything that makes him a pony.
Overall, I’d say that changeling biology is the dominant factor. Their culture and Caramel’s arc just sort of branch out from there, and hopefully in ways that make sense. Also, their lack of official history so far (not counting the comics) makes them perfect candidates for the fallen ancient race trope. That’s always nice for exploration.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for your time, I appreciate it!