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It’s not hard to see why today’s story is a quality tale.

flash-fogFlash Fog
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 127,920 words

When Fluttershy received her certification as a fog specialist, she only wanted a plausible excuse to write off the expenses associated with her ground-based house on her taxes. However, when an accident in Cloudsdale sends a blanket of industrial-grade clouds rolling towards Ponyville, Fluttershy suddenly finds herself in charge of coordinating the response, mostly because she’s the only fog specialist in the area. Can our heroine step up to the challenge at hoof, or will she risk facing the wrath of the Equestrian Revenue Service?

FROM THE CURATORS: Though we found ourselves debating the merits of particular aspects of this story, there was one thing on which we all agreed: it effortlessly kept us turning the pages.  “Flash Fog spins a loose, sprawling, unfocused yarn which is nevertheless consistently entertaining on its own merits, and it has plenty of humor without sacrificing story at the altar of comedy,” Chris said.  Horizon agreed: “This is a highly readable story, with laconic, page-flipping prose and concise chapters that make it feel like a breeze.”  AugieDog, meanwhile, pulled out cinematic comparisons: “The main storyline — actually dealing with the fog — kept making me think of those ‘all-star cast’ disaster films of the 1970s and 80s, but I mean that in a good way. The tension, the conflicted characters, the setbacks and triumphs: it was all very fun to read.”

Disaster films weren’t the only comparison being made.  “This story’s like one of these modern open-world RPGs, where you have a main plot, but it doesn’t stand out that much from the multiple side quests on the way,” Soge said.  “But that also works in the story’s favor since, even if you don’t enjoy one particular distraction (like, say, the Lyra and Bon Bon human stuff), you can be fairly sure that it won’t affect much.”  Chris, too, praised the wide-ranging nature of the story’s explorations.  “Some of these interpositions are almost entirely unconnected from the titular fog,” he said, “but what they collectively accomplish is to showcase a wide range of Equestrian low-key goofiness, from the Cutie Mark Crusaders building convoluted Rube-Goldbergian traps to the insipid idiocies of a superior’s pointlessly idiosyncratic speaking style.”

What really made this story sing, however, was the sharp way that the broad ensemble cast was portrayed.  “The characters are spot on target,” AugieDog said, and Chris agreed: “I was consistently impressed with how the characters responded to events in-universe.”  Chris went on to praise the depiction of Fluttershy in particular: “An on-point mix of soft-spoken, nervous, and uncertain, she nevertheless doesn’t fall into the ‘weak-willed waif’ trap that many writers — and sometimes, the show itself — cast her as.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Kwakerjak discusses exploding vignettes, unplanned deuteragonists, and the collision of cameos and H.P. Lovecraft.


 

Give us the standard biography.

I live in Adamstown, PA. I have several college degrees, including one in library science. However, due to a very crowded market in that field, I’ve been working as a Quality Control inspector at a spring factory and, surprisingly, enjoying it far more than I ever thought I would. I’ve been writing fanfiction since the mid-2000s, and MLP fanfiction since 2012.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I’ve gone by “Kwakerjak” since the mid-90s, when “the Internet” was synonymous with “America OnLine.” I thought it was a cool pun on a particular brand of popcorn-based snack food (not realizing that it was also the name of a Darkwing Duck villain).

Who’s your favorite pony?

Twilight Sparkle.

What’s your favorite episode?

It’s a toss-up between “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 3000” and “Somepony to Watch Over Me.”

What do you get from the show?

Entertainment.

What do you want from life?

Stability.

Why do you write?

I enjoy storytelling, and writing is one of the most cost-effective ways to do it.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

The best way to get around writer’s block is to write something, even if it’s bad. I’ve found that once I lay out my bad ideas and examine them, that’s when I realize what I should do next.

What inspired Flash Fog?

The original idea came from a throwaway line in an early draft of Wild, Sweet & Cool (and I call it a throwaway line because it didn’t make the final cut). I forget the context, but Rainbow Dash made an offhand comment about Fluttershy becoming a fog specialist for tax purposes, and for some unknown idea, that resonated with me. Soon after, I saw a photograph of a bank of fog sliding down a forested hill, like some sort of slow-motion avalanche, and that’s when the idea really took hold.

Stylistically, I took a lot of cues from 1970s disaster movies, particularly in the expansive nature of the narrative, as well as the large number of characters (whether original or from the show) who make an appearance and have a noticeable effect on the plot (because those disaster movies were known for having tons of cameos). I also tended to take some hints from H.P. Lovecraft when describing the actual fog, in an effort to increase the sense of menace.

Did you have an outline before beginning the story, or did it come together as it grew?

A little of both. When I made my initial outline, I originally thought that the story would focus almost exclusively on Fluttershy’s experience, but soon after the writing began, I realized that this would be far more comprehensive. So, initially, I thought of all the non-Fluttershy scenes as vignettes where the readers got to find out how the fog was affecting everyday life in Equestria, but even that soon had to be abandoned as these vignettes grew into full-fledged subplots that often collided with Fluttershy’s. As a result, I had to expand and rewrite my outline multiple times simply to keep track of all the various characters. It wasn’t until about two-thirds of the way through the story that I stopped outlining, which is, not coincidentally, around the time that my writing pace on the story picked up.

In a similar vein, did you set out consciously to incorporate so many different elements of comedy, romance, and drama?

I had an inkling that there would be a lot of opportunities for humor (which is why I gave it a comedy tag) but other than that, I had no idea that it would include as much drama as it did (at least at the outset) and I definitely never expected a romantic subplot to spring up.

The story’s full of memorable OCs: Pencil Pusher, of course, and Greg, the conniving pony bureaucrat with the griffon name. How do you approach creating characters?

I’m not sure I adequately answer this question, because I’m not entirely certain I understand the process I use. Generally, however, I start with a character’s personality, and when I’m writing, personality usually comes through best in the form of dialogue. Oftentimes, then, a character will begin its existence as a disembodied voice having an interesting conversation. Once the personality is in place, and I’ve determined how that character is to be used in my overall narrative, I develop the appearance and backstory needed to explain how that personality came to exist.

That said, Pencil Pusher is really a special case, because he was never meant to be a fully developed character; he was originally going to be around for one scene in the first chapter, where he’d tell Fluttershy that her services were needed, and then never show up again. As such, I only developed him enough to hold the readers’ interest until the end of the chapter. However, he was received well enough that I decided to use him again, rather than create another bureaucrat character. And then, somehow, the readers’ response pushed him to the forefront of the story, to the point where he’s really Flash Fog’s deuteragonist. It’s really quite remarkable to me how well-received he is as a character, to the point where readers who normally shy away from Mane 6/OC pairings were actively stating that they hoped he would get together with Fluttershy by the end, because relatively little advance planning went into his creation.

Seeing a 127,000 word story through to completion over two years of regular updates is quite a feat. Any hints for authors considering this sort of long-distance storytelling?

Taking the trouble to write an outline will let you maintain a sense of where you should be going with your story. As mentioned above, near the end of my story, I found that there was very little deviation from my plans, which allowed me to keep plowing through my chapters.

Speaking of chapters, I think one of the main reasons I wasn’t completely overwhelmed by this story was because early on, I made the decision to keep my chapters relatively short; most of them are between 2,000 and 3,000 words. At the time, I thought that making the individual chapters quick reads would make it easier for latecomers to get caught up, because I always tried to end on some sort of page-turning image whenever possible. However, it turned out that breaking the story up into little chunks made it far easier for me to write them. Obviously, that won’t suit every person’s writing style; as it happens, it’s atypical of my usual writing, which averages around 4,000 to 5,000 words per chapter.

Still, if you’re going to take on a huge project, breaking it up into smaller chunks is essential, even if those chunks aren’t big enough to fill an entire chapter. There are few things more rewarding than achieving a goal, and this mindset lets you experience that feeling more often, which helps in staying motivated.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

By coincidence, I recently finished a completely separate interview about my writing, which covers a broader range of topics. You can find it here.

You can read Flash Fog at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

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