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The quest through today’s story may yield much richer rewards than some goofy grins.

pinkie-pie-questPinkie Pie and The Quest for Missing Smiles
[Adventure] • 12,804 words

Pinkie Pie’s entire day revolves around getting every pony she meets to feel happy. She’s a master of it all, from practical jokes to slapstick comedy. Sure, she’s had a few tough nuts to crack, but in the end those nuts always crack a smile!

…Except for today. A strange spell has infected Pinkie’s home, somehow leaving only her immune to the effects. Clearly there is only one solution: an epic adventure to return the smiles back to Ponyville! With her trusty sidekick Gummy at her side, there will be no stopping her quest!

FROM THE CURATORS: Don’t be fooled by this story’s surface presentation — it’s got a surprising amount of depth once you start flipping its pages.  “This is a story which shows how to do a range of emotions right,” Chris said. “There aren’t many stories that can make such a smooth and effective transition through so many tones over the course of just 12,000 words, morphing from a goofy comedy to a thoughtful look at the role of sadness in our lives.”  And it’s a story that uses all of those words to build its bigger picture piece by piece.  “I started to write how much I liked the story’s twist ending, but the more I think about it, the less I like using the term ‘twist’,” AugieDog said.  “It’s done so gently and matter-of-fact-ly that it’s more a shift of perspective than anything else.”

The fic’s slow unfolding generated quite a lot of curator discussion — especially over the cheerful cliches and almost-mythic foreshadowing of the opening chapter.  “I liked the style (of Chapter 1),” Chris said.  “I thought it was very appropriately reserved, children’s story-esque construction which fit the narrative design very well.”  AugieDog appreciated it more as it deepened: “I was intrigued by the tension between Pinkie and Twilight and Rarity in chapter 1 … and the sheer weirdness of Pinkie’s journey kept me going till in the last chapter, all finally became clear,” he said.  Even the first chapter’s detractors respected it in the story’s fuller context. “I bounced pretty hard off Chapter 1, but I do appreciate the way it retroactively justifies its opening,” Horizon said.

And while the story’s emotional range generated its share of praise, other curators also singled out the structure.  “Ponyville is grieving over some tragedy, while Pinkie is in denial — this might be the smartest exploration of that situation I’ve ever read,” Soge said.  “It attacks the idea on multiple fronts: The plot itself, the evolution of the prose, her interactions with Gummy, the way the chapter structure follows the 5 stages of grief … it does wonders to really get the reader inside Pinkie’s head.”  The characterization, too, was hailed as exemplary.  “Through it all, Pinkie remains ineffably Pinkie-y; a silly character, but one who takes her silliness seriously,” Chris said, and AugieDog agreed: “This is a finely rendered Pinkie.  Heck, it’s one of the best Gummy stories I’ve come across, too.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Venates discusses loaded questions, Latin games, and the grounding of alligators.

 

Give us the standard biography.

I grew up in a small Nebraskan town before picking up an interest in technology. I later moved to the eastern part of the state for college and work. I’ve had a few jobs over the last few years, and I love the work that I do, but I also try to find time to work on creative hobbies at home (like writing, of course).

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Back in high school, playing games online started getting really popular. Halo in particular. Once I convinced my folks to get high-speed internet (not easy in a country home like ours), I needed a name I could stand behind no matter what game I played. Long story short, I translated the word “game” into Latin and got “venatus”. The name was already taken, of course, so I swapped a vowel. I’ve been using it ever since.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Man, loaded question. I would probably have to go with Octavia. I love the style and grace that so many artists and writers have brought to the character. Also, as a background character, it’s been fun to see how so many different people interpret her. She’s the first pony I ever drew, first one I ever animated, the first one I ever cosplayed, and the first one I ever wrote. Actually, looking back, maybe the question wasn’t so loaded after all.

What’s your favorite episode?

Lesson Zero, easily. Watching any of the main characters snap always leads to great fun, but I think Twilight completely losing it tickled me the hardest. It’s actually serving as a great source of inspiration for the next story I’m working on.

What do you get from the show?

The show came to me and really took hold at a precipice in my life. I was nearing the end of my time in college, and having so much change on the horizon unnerved me to levels I’m not sure I can put into words. It didn’t help that a lot of things I hoped wouldn’t change still came to pass. In these low moments, the show served as an escape. Something to look forward to every week, and even more than that when I found out just how expansive the fandom truly is. Things in my life have improved a lot since that point, and, although this sounds cheesey, watching episodes of the show makes me feel like I’m seeing old friends again. On top of that, the lore and culture in the show is so fascinating to watch unravel; it’s not hard to see why so many writers have taken to expanding on its universe.

What do you want from life?

Another loaded question. A long time ago, I remember asking myself this. Some people will say, “I want a great job,” or, “I want a cool car,” or, “a good-looking significant other.” At some point, I said to myself, “I want to be happy.” Just cut out all the middlemen. How I do that, of course, is the tricky part, and it keeps changing over time. Right now I just want to feel like I’m accomplishing something with my time, that my relationships with friends and family matter, and that something I do leaves a positive impact on someone.

Why do you write?

Writing is a great way of harnessing a powerful creative energy that I think everyone has. Very few of us have watched a movie or read a book without being enthralled, inspired by the characters and settings presented. I honestly think that’s why we have so many MLP writers out there: the show does a great job of doing just this. Every so often, something in my life will strike a chord with me. A character, an event, an idea. Something embeds itself in my brain until it constructs an entire story around the concept. At that point the only way to appease the muse is to let it all out. It’s amazing how with a keyboard (or a pencil) we can create entire worlds filled with characters who didn’t exist yesterday.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Strike while the iron is hot. If an idea hits you, write it down. Ask questions. Expand the idea. If your brain is excited about an idea, it will transfer. At the same time, I try to make sure I have a complete outline before moving forward on a project. It doesn’t hurt to write out a few scenes, but knowing where the story is going can really help keep things moving along, especially if there’s a few seeds that need to be planted in earlier chapters. Also make sure you have a thorough understanding of your characters: where they came from, what their life has been like, significant moments in time. These details don’t have to all be in the story, but they can really help bring life to a character’s choices and dialogue.

Many people feel that Pinkie Pie is the most difficult of the main six to write well, and that it’s easy for her to either feel too serious or too pointlessly “random.”  Do you have any advice to other authors on how to write her?

I’ve aware of these points myself, and tried my hardest to avoid them. When it comes to Pinkie Pie, it’s easy to see her as a way to get easy jokes, especially of the caught-off-guard variety. While this may work in intentionally silly stories, what authors need to bear in mind is that she needs to be a living, breathing character, especially if she’s a driving force in the plot. Not just a punchline. There are a lot of things in the world that excite her, and other things that deflate her. She views the world a bit differently. As the Element of Laughter, it’s important to her to find ways to entertain and delight friends and strangers alike. As far as more serious writing goes, on the show she never comes across as too terribly introspective. She’s not dumb, but a lot of her concerns are what’s going on in the here-and-now. Anything deeper than that would require peeling back a large number of layers, but make no mistake: she does have layers.

Just like any other character, she has thoughts, feelings, and desires. There’s always a rhyme to her reason, but her flow of logic often strays from that of a “normal” pony.

In this story, Pinkie is clearly an unreliable narrator, her own perceptions and understanding coloring how the narrative presents events throughout.  Besides the big one that’s revealed in the last chapter, can you share some things that she didn’t/couldn’t understand which a reader might not have picked up on?

Throughout her journey, she comes across a few different ponies who aid her. They all come from different places and speak with different accents, but still help her when she needs it most. She never quite realizes it, but they remind her of something she’s missing back home.

On a related note, to what extent do you view Pinkie as being oblivious in this story, and to what extent do you see her as being in denial?  

I think it’s a blend of both. “Intentionally oblivious”, in a sense. There are often times where Pinkie could gain a stronger grasp of a situation if she just thought about it a bit more, but her mind continually strays elsewhere. This can be just partly Pinkie’s nature, but it could also stem from a deep desire of not wanting to face some of the hardships of the world around her. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Pinkie can be very child-like, and part of that includes difficulty dealing with more adult problems.

Gummy plays a large (though silent) role in this story; while writing, did you view him more as a character, or as a sounding board for Pinkie?  More broadly, how do you view his role in the story?

Gummy’s initial role in the story is to give us insight into Pinkie’s own thought process. She’s a very social character who works best with someone to talk to, but this is very much her story. Their “conversations” clue us into what Pinkie is thinking at any given moment (or, stemming from the questions above, what she’d like to be thinking). In the words of the question: a sounding board. That said, later in the story he starts to serve a second purpose. The quest isn’t always a safe one, and his life is in just as much danger as Pinkie’s. It helps keep her grounded, and serves as a reminder that she cares a lot about those who are close to her. That she has a home and friends she needs to get back to. These two factors help Pinkie navigate her emotional journey during the physical one.

The story starts out with a lighthearted tone, matched by goofy, carefree prose full of onomatopoeia and comic asides, before gradually shifting to a more serious, straightforward style as Pinkie’s mood and understanding change and grow.  Do you have any advice for matching prose to tone, or for using one to reinforce the other?

Each chapter carries Pinkie through a different part of her emotional journey, and as such I had to bear in mind what mood she was in while writing each chapter. The settings themselves also helped to play a large role: there’s intensity and sporadic danger while in the fire swamp, and constant burden on the mountain, for example. Bearing these two factors in mind helped to decide the tone of each situation, and everything after that came naturally. Any advice I have to give is this: know what your characters are thinking, what they are feeling, and what the world is like around them. From that point, your sentence structure and word choice should reflect the combination of all these factors. It may vary depending on where the narration is coming from, but no matter what, it should serve as a way of painting the right picture for the reader. Narration can also serve as a bit of a disconnect. In Lesson Zero, Twilight is completely losing her marbles. This could be seen as sad, or even scary, but the direction of the episode shows it in a more comical light. Again: think about what you’re painting for the reader.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Pinkie Pie and The Quest for Missing Smiles isn’t the longest, most-read, or most-liked of my stories, but just as much heart went into it as any of the others. There’s a lot I wanted to accomplish with it, and being featured in the Royal Canterlot Library is a huge honor. I was very nervous writing one of the show’s main characters for the exact reasons discussed above, but I am proud of what I was able to achieve with Pinkie. For any new readers going on their own journey, physical or emotional, I hope it serves as a solid read.

You can read Pinkie Pie and The Quest for Missing Smiles 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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