Though there’s little to laugh about in it, today’s story is quite something.
Something Like Laughter
[Dark] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 4,027 words
It’s been six months since Tirek was defeated, but Trixie still has nightmares. Nightmares of being pinned down, of the magic being ripped from her bones, of being thrown around like a worthless doll. It’s been six months since Trixie has had a full night’s sleep, and all she wants is peace.
But Trixie is fine. Trixie doesn’t need Twilight. She doesn’t need her family. She doesn’t need anyone. Trixie loves being alone.
So why can’t she stop crying?
FROM THE CURATORS: This is “not just a story about Trixie dealing with having had her magic stripped from her by Tirek,” as Present Perfect put it, but one that takes a broader look at her troubled character. And “it works very well,” as Soge put it, “in showing how Trixie is trapped in her cycle of depression and trauma.” Present Perfect added: “I’ve never seen a more topical, in-universe way to approach the tired old ‘sad Trixie story’ trope. I definitely felt this one, and what makes it work is the layering of emotional states.”
It certainly hit us hard on that level. “This just plain pulls out all the stops, taking the character up to the breaking point and right on through,” AugieDog said. “The language, the pacing, the structure: it all comes together in a portrait of a pony literally and figuratively thrown against a wall and trying desperately to bounce back.” Chris said that the strong prose was a major contributing factor to that: “Dubs has a knack for vivid descriptions, and uses the immediacy of present tense to good effect. I always appreciate it when an author’s choice of perspective dovetails so nicely with the story’s design, rather than feeling arbitrary.” Present Perfect also praised the writing: “I liked the way it’s never quite clear how far inside her head we are. Things like the cut-off sentences are very effective in keeping the reader off balance, which only helps drive home how chaotic her mindset is.” And while the story’s prose choices were its most notable feature, it was well constructed on a much broader level. “There’s plenty to like,” Soge said. “The stream of consciousness writing, that clever shift at the end, how it seamlessly transits between reality and the dream in chapter 1, and Trixie’s characterization as a whole.”
Given all that, it might be surprising to learn that this was written and published long before Trixie’s recent reappearance — and even more so to read it with that context in mind. “We often talk about stories that have been invalidated by canon, but here’s a rare case where post-publication episodes actually enhance the story,” Chris said. “With Starlight Glimmer now clearly established as Twilight’s live-in student, Trixie’s feelings of inadequacy and resentment here take on new depth.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Dubs Rewatcher discusses sunlight allegiances, musical superpowers, and the life-changing effects of fandom.
Give us the standard biography.
Hey friends/horses/horsefriends! I’m William, better known to you peeps as Dubs Rewatcher. I was born in New York City, and I’ve lived there for most of my life, excluding a three-year excursion to Maine and summers spent teaching writing and acting in Massachusetts. I’m nineteen, and I currently attend the State University of New York at Geneseo, way up in northwest New York (about an hour away from Niagara Falls), where I double-major in English and Adolescent Education with a minor in Communications.
So, yeah, training to be a high-school English teacher. Although, if I could be perfectly honest … my dream job is being a ring announcer or color commentator for the WWE. Random, I know, but pro wrestling and public speaking are two of my favorite things in the world, so it works, yeah?
I’ve been in the fandom pretty much since the beginning. I first heard about ponies after seeing a talkback thread about “Griffon the Brush-Off” on 4Chan’s Comics & Cartoons board. Knowing the little I did about My Little Pony at that point, I immediately assumed the episode was about a competition to see who could best brush a griffon’s hair. That being said, a few weeks later I tried to turn on a random episode and see what everyone was talking about. I got two minutes into “Ticket Master” before turning it off.
Skip forward to April 2011, a few days before “Party of One” was aired. I was sitting with my friend Manny playing Super Smash Bros when a guy named Sam came up to us with a laptop and asked us to put some headphones in our ears. We did, and he pressed play …
Oh, Opalescence, can’t you just picture it? Moi, stepping out in a stunning new gown at the Grand Galloping Gala in Canterlot!
I watched the whole episode — went home and put Art of the Dress on loop — watched the rest of the season in like a week — and the rest is history.
I spent most of June 2011 reading fics on Equestria Daily (back then we used Google Docs, you youngsters), and wrote my first fanfic — a Derpy/Carrot Top friendshipping fic called Unforgettable — that July. FiMFiction came out around the same time, and I joined almost immediately! I’ve stayed with the fandom for nearly five years now, and although I’ve certainly never been the most famous author, it’s always been pretty fun.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Back in June 2011, I was spending most every night frequenting the MLP Generals on 4Chan’s /co/ board. Around that time, I wanted to rewatch the few episodes that had been aired (26 in season one). But I didn’t want to do it in order. I needed a way to pick what episodes I wanted to watch and when …
If you’ve never been on 4Chan, whenever you post, your post gets assigned a number. Although it goes in sequence, if you’re posting on a very busy board, it can often seem like the last two digits on your post number are random. Back then, there was a common game users would play in which they would ask a question about how to do something (name a Pokemon, watch a show), and whoever’s answer post had “dubs” (i.e. a post number ending in two identical digits, like 33 or 00) would be the answer. Y’all see where this is going?
At the start of the month, I posted something very simple: “Dubs decides what episode I rewatch tonight.”
I did this every night until I had rewatched everything. About two weeks in, people were starting to recognize me, so I decided I needed a name. Thus, Dubs Rewatcher. Creative, right?
When I started writing fanfics, bringing the name over only seemed natural. I’ve used it for most everything since.
Who’s your favorite pony?
In the early days of the show, it switched back and forth between Fluttershy and Scootaloo. Nowadays, my allegiances have shifted pretty seriously over to the human world. Sunset Shimmer is easily my favorite character, and I think I relate to SciTwi more than any other character — or my interpretation of her, at least.
I swear, Sunlight being my OTP is just a coincidence.
What’s your favorite episode?
Whew … that’s a hard question. Bridle Gossip is the one I used to start peeps out on when
tricking them into watching introducing them to the show. Baby Cakes, Maud Pie, Make New Friends But Keep Discord, and Slice of Life are some other ones that stand out. The Equestria Girls movies are not-so-guilty pleasures — I’m pretty sure I’ve watched Rainbow Rocks like five times. But if I had to pick one … Suited for Success will always have a special place in my heart. I think I’d have to pick that.
What do you get from the show?
A fun cartoon? Certainly, that’s one part of it. Once I gave MLP an honest chance, I was hooked. But it’s the fandom, of course, that’s had the staying power.
As I’ve talked about a lot with friends, I taught myself how to write entirely through fanfiction. From childhood, writing was always a passion. But in today’s educational climate, creative writing is pretty much absent. It was only after being introduced to Equestria Daily and their extensive fanfiction collection that I realized that this was my chance to learn!
My Little Pony provides me with a welcoming outlet for my writing. It provides me with readers who are actually reading my stories on their own free will. It provides me with experienced authors who are willing to help me improve, to critique what I’ve written. If it weren’t for FiM, I quite honestly don’t know where I would be right now.
Maybe not in college! My fanfiction helped me win creative writing awards in high school, all of which went on my college applications. Writing fanfiction helped me realize I wanted to be an English teacher, a career choice that earned me a scholarship — without which I wouldn’t be able to afford attending school.
If it weren’t for this fandom, I’d be in a much different place.
What do you want from life?
I suppose “happiness” is the easiest answer, yeah?
But to be serious, I’m at my happiest when others are happy and safe. I dream of a day when we don’t have to be scared or nervous about who we are — a day when we all realize that humanity is a fragile, complex, infinitely amazing thing, and it’s worth as much respect as we can possibly give it.
The world’s never gonna be perfect, sure. It doesn’t gotta be. But always remember the power of love.
Why do you write?
Recently, a friend emailed me to say that an original fiction short story of mine really hit home with him. Without even trying, I had apparently a written story eerily similar to one from his own childhood, right down to the ages of the characters. As a result, said friend was inspired to reconnect with his sister — a sister he really hadn’t spoken much to for over a decade. Now, for the first time in years, they’re talking regularly.
The musician/poet/my hero Reese Roper once posited that the ability to make music that affects listeners is a superpower. I’d like to see that expanded to all art. That moment when you get to see the fruits of your labor, get to see that your hard work hasn’t gone to waste … there’s nothing like it.
On the other side of things: another friend of mine recently announced that they were retiring from writing, as they didn’t feel that they were improving at all, and trying to write was just causing them more stress than happiness. Upon announcing this, someone posted a comment that pretty much defines my philosophy on writing: “One does not simply ‘give up’ writing.”
This is too true. When you fall in love with writing — and trust me, if my friend’s work ethic is to be considered, they love writing — you can’t ever move on from that love. It’s kinda like snorting crack while riding a bicycle; you can’t give it up, and you can’t forget (shut up, it works). I’ve always been a firm believer that if you’re truly an artist, you can’t ever stop yourself from creating art … or, at the least, ever stop yourself from having the urge. You’re always gonna be writing little stories in your head, coming up with characters, seeing the world as one long series of settings. It’s in your blood.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Well, there’s the obvious: read!!!
Seriously! It’s a cliché, I know, but read, read, read. Do it. Find authors you like, and try and figure out why you like them. If you’re trying to develop a certain style, read authors in that style. If you’re trying to write a story that appeals to a certain market — whether that be FiM or the professional sphere — read the work of those successful in that market.
Always keep writing. Even if you think you’re terrible at it. Every word written is … well, another word written. Experience comes in so many different ways. Forget talent, or “inspiration”; while both have value, habit and continued learning are more important than either, in my opinion.
And although this probably doesn’t apply to much of the site: start young. There’s a user on the site right now named Harmony Pie who, if I’m remembering correctly, is thirteen? My good friend Murmurpunk is fifteen. I started on the site four days after my own fifteenth birthday. If you’re a young’un writing on the site, keep going. You’re gonna be awesome if you keep working.
On a more technical note, I find it useful to keep copies of everything I write, even if it’s just some shitty one-shot I worked on for two days before abandoning. You wouldn’t believe how often I go back to my old work and find something good I can use later. With the rise of GDocs and the like, this is just getting easier.
Lastly: find constructive critics. Find peeps who aren’t afraid to tell you what they think about your writing. Sometimes being told “This isn’t working” is a hundred times more valuable than any compliment.
And no, I’m not just saying all this as a long-winded setup for a Writeoff Association advert. Although I won’t deny that the Writeoff is an amazing place to develop most every aspect of your writing. It’s just a coincidence. Again.
How did you juggle the various emotions and traumas Trixie is trying to deal with?
The first draft of Something Like Laughter was written for the Writeoff Association’s May contest, “I Regret Nothing,” under the name “Fight Back.” It was an entirely different story than the one you’re all reading today; for starters, it was only 750 words long, down from 4,000. It was written in just under an hour, and did terribly in the rankings.
Yet, when all was said and done, it was my only entry from that round that I had any interest at all in. So as time went on, I returned to Fight Back and picked out some of the themes I wanted to keep in a rewrite: Trixie trying to conceal her self-worth issues, having bad memories of Tirek’s rampage, et cetera.
Something Like Laughter was written in one sitting, largely as a stream of consciousness piece. I didn’t really have any sort of plot in mind when I started — I just found my narrative voice and wrote.
I largely attribute the “juggling” you see to that stream of consciousness style. I tried my best to get into Trixie’s head and feel the same sort of panicked mania that she experiences. On a technical level, I tried to imbue my sentences with lots of poetic techniques (anaphora, asyndeton/polysyndeton, etc.) to better get across the absolute nonsensical frenzy of thoughts that is Trixie’s mind. I utilized repetition and concrete sensory details to make her thoughts more visceral. I put it in the present tense so the prose would be more active, more energetic. I wanted lots of double-takes — lots of sudden reveals and “twists,” so to speak, to show how unreliable Trixie’s thoughts were.
As someone who’s never really experienced any sort of trauma — especially trauma on the level Trixie’s feeling here — I’m glad that I was apparently able to make my depiction realistic.
Will Trixie ever truly wake from her nightmare?
I think so! I ended Something Like Laughter on a positive, hopeful note deliberately. I truly believe that if Trixie allows herself to show weakness, and allows herself to take Twilight as a friend, she can escape that nightmare.
That being said, it won’t be easy. It’s gonna take some real effort on Trixie’s part to let other ponies in. She has to learn that she is not her trauma — that she is more than her grief. She might never forget her pain, but that’s okay. She doesn’t need to forget it. Rather, she needs to use it in order to grow stronger.
A few readers commented on the lack of dashes marking cut-off words or sentences. What was your rationale for their omission?
Hee hee … this was a big point of contention in the days leading up to publication.
Let me say first that I love em-dashes. I love ‘em. I think you can tell that just by my answers to these interview questions! But as I was writing Laughter, I had a realization: in prose, em-dashes are supposed to indicate a very sudden interruption. Like someone is being cut-off by another sound or thought or whatever. Yet, when I read em-dashed words, I read them with a pause … which is pretty antithetical to a sudden interruption.
Normally, this isn’t a big problem. But here, I wanted to do what I could to get rid of that pause, and make the frantic thoughts really smash into one another while still keeping it understandable. Thus, no em-dashes. I trusted that readers would understand that Trixie’s thoughts were being interrupted, even without a piece of punctuation to use as a signal. And if the comments are anything to go by, it doesn’t seem like anyone had a problem. Any problems readers had were mostly due to them thinking it was a typo!
If you look at the story page, you’ll notice that I have seven people listed as prereaders. For like half of those people, their only contribution was to tell me whether or not they liked the lack of em-dashes. Majin Syeekoh in particular still thinks it wasn’t a good idea.
Do you have any advice for those who suffer or know others suffering from PTSD and similar problems?
I’m totally not qualified to give any sort of opinion on this. PTSD is a serious problem — one that’s still horrendously misunderstood here in America — and I think it’d be arrogant to think that I have any sort of real understanding of it.
That being said, if I have to give an answer to this question, I think my opinion is similar to the one I gave in the “What do you want out of life” question. Despite how awful it may seem at times, the world we live in is pretty damn beautiful. And as our understanding of it grows, that beauty only becomes more apparent. I think we’re hella lucky to live in a time when it’s so easy to express yourself creatively. I think we’re in a golden age for art right now, and I can’t see it ending any time soon.
Life is damn hard, and it’s damn unfair. Personally, I’m a pretty religious guy, so in many ways my faith is my anchor. But even if you don’t believe in any of that, I think that being able to keep hope in the idea of a better day on the horizon is a virtue anyone can appreciate.
And — much like Trixie in this story — remember that no matter how alone you may feel, there’s always someone who cares about you. Even if it’s just some nerd like me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My eternal gratitude to the Royal Canterlot Library for giving me this honor. Being interviewed by the RCL has been an absolute dream of mine for years, so finally seeing that dream come true is mind-blowing.
I’ve got at least two big fics coming in the next few weeks, so be on the lookout for those. And if you have any one-shots that you’d like a prereader/editor for, know that I’m available! Check my profile for more info.
Stay safe, horsefriends!