There’s plenty to enjoy about today’s story — but if you suddenly and mysteriously fall in love with its tale, it’s time to run away screaming.
[Comedy] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 10,049 words
Coming from a proud family celebrated for their ability at helping ponies fall in love, Archer wants nothing more than to be able to carry on the Cupid tradition. What helps is that her mother is one of the most successful Cupids to ever walk Equestria.
What helps less is that Archer is possibly the worst.
But that’s not going to stop her from trying.
FROM THE CURATORS: For a story whose main character so consistently fails to touch hearts, this certainly grabbed ours. Soge, for example, praised the story’s emotional impact and construction: “This is a straight-up adorable, really heartwarming fic, and one I really enjoyed reading. All the ponies are characterized very well, and are very believable in their actions, without that affecting negatively either the plot or the comedic timing.” That humor, too, drew its own share of praise. “The comedy in this story is consistent and engaging, a nice blend of puns, callbacks, and narrative observational humor,” Chris said, and AugieDog agreed: “This is just so appealingly goofy.”
On top of that, True Bowmance was stuffed with sharp ideas that fired up our imaginations. “It never ceases to amaze me, the stories we can come up for for incidental characters,” Present Perfect said. “Who comes up with ‘matchmaking earth pony magic’ for someone like Archer? This is an excellent work of original, on-tone world-building.” Chris was equally impressed with that for similar reasons: “On that note, isn’t ‘hereditary matchmakers’ just a perfectly Equestrian job? I mean, it edges creepily up on suggesting that free will is an illusion, but stays firmly on the heartwarming side of that line.”
The cherry on top of this tale’s sundae of matchmaking failures, however, was the exemplary character work. “Pinkie works wonderfully as both comic relief and moral support,” Present Perfect noted, while Soge enjoyed the main character’s portrayal: “It does the whole ‘oblivious youngster’ thing, a la early-seasons Cutie Mark Crusaders, very well.” That led to a comment from AugieDog that sent shivers down all of our spines: “The only thing that would’ve made this better would’ve been the Cutie Mark Crusaders trying to help Archer out, but I find myself thinking the town might not have survived that particular meeting.”
Give us the standard biography.
Hylô everyone! I’m Gaz, better known to the FiMFiction public as Ceffyl Dŵr. Well, known to a very small percentage at least, but I like to regularly assure them that they’re the privileged few. I work as a learning and safeguarding consultant for a local authority in London, and write fiction for the children/young adult market in my spare time. I do other stuff too, like climbing and volleyball and video games and gin production.
Hmm… Not enough? Okay, Ceffy factoid time!
Factoid 1: I have Altocelarophobia, which is a fear of high ceilings. It generally makes going to shopping centres and cathedrals a terrifying experience for me… and a hilarious one for my friends.
Factoid 2: I adore chocolate, but if a chocolate bar gets squished — even slightly — then I can’t bring myself to eat it. Even king-sized Twixes, which are the most amazing bars of chocolate ever invented.
Factoid 3: I have a reasonably popular aside in (retro) video-game related poetry.
Got all that? There’ll be a test later, my pony chums.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
FiMFiction is actually my first return to the world of fan-fiction in almost a decade (yikes). I originally used the penname from those early days, when I would amaze an even smaller number of readers with romantic fluff set in Namco’s Tales of franchise, or the world of Kino no Tabi. That original penname came from my long-suffering character in Alternity, a tabletop RPG from my college days, and it never felt quite right in my new surroundings. Ceffyl Dŵr was born from wanting something more pony-like, my love of folklore, and a celebration of my Welsh heritage.
To expand, Ceffyl Dŵr is the lesser-known brethren of the Kelpie. Its appearance and personality differs depending on whether you’re reading northern or southern Welsh folklore, but in both versions they come across as murderous bastards.
Just so we’re clear, I’m not a murderous bastard.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Meadow Flower. I came into the fandom relatively late — Season 4, in fact — and as a result discovered a whole host of background ponies who had already been embraced by those in the fandom, and given very distinct personalities over the years. I think that’s a remarkable and wonderful quality of the fandom, and Meadow Flower gave me the chance of having that experience myself; it was the very first time I saw a background pony in an episode and thought, “I wonder what her story is?” She’s never really been developed much within the fandom, despite being freaking adorable in that Dizzitron scene, which I think helped endear her to me more.
I’ve yet to publish a story on FiMFiction where she’s the main character, though I’m aiming to rectify that fact in the not-so-distant future.
What’s your favorite episode?
I should probably say “Hearth’s Warming Eve,” because it’s my three-year-old son’s favourite episode (he loves the Windigos), and he always wants to watch it with me. Plus, Christmas is the most wonderful, magical and romantic time of the year, so anything related to it is awesome by default.
What do you get from the show?
I guess the main thing is a feeling of wonder and adventure in their purest forms. My day job is emotionally draining, and sometimes leaves me jaded and cynical about the world, so recapturing and retaining that feeling is hugely important to me. I’ve always admired and felt connected to works of fiction that successfully capture it; from an early age I was obsessed with shows like The Raccoons, The Moomins and The Wisdom of the Gnomes/David the Gnome, all which celebrated magical worlds of such unguarded passion. That essence has always stuck with me, and I try to capture it in my own writing. MLP is the first show in a long while that has really embraced said essence and, in a world currently obsessed by introducing ever darker and edgier concepts into the children’s market, this feels incredibly important.
What do you want from life?
Just for me and my family to be content. Not too much to ask for, I’m sure.
Why do you write?
Originally, it was because nobody else — except Tove Jansson — was writing the stories I wanted to read. I still struggle to understand why that was; I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only four-year-old who was interested in stories about dragons rescuing factory-bottled pixies whilst out shopping for a coffee table.
These days though, I write because I like entertaining people.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Be yourself. I say that to writers in general, but particularly to those honing their talents via the world of fan-fiction. It can be very tempting to write stories on a subject or style that you think will get you noticed, but you are far better off being true to yourself, and focusing on writing what you want to write. It’s easy to tell when a writer isn’t enthused about what they are writing, even if the quality is very good. Don’t be that writer. Find your idea and style, regardless of whether you think it has literary merit, and stick with it. It won’t let you down.
Since this story brings up fate pretty directly: how much free will do you think ponies have, when it comes to their cutie marks or careers?
It’s funny, because it was never my intention to use this story as a platform to explore the concept of fate — it kind of just snuck in there as a byproduct of developing the initial idea. You pose an interesting question, and one I’m not sure I have a definitive viewpoint on. I think you could argue that there isn’t much room for free will in a world where a cutie mark only appears when a pony has found their special talent — and where that talent itself feels as though it’s already there, just waiting for the pony to recognise its existence. That being said, I think the idea that a cutie mark is open to interpretation and application — look at that ridiculously cheesy story Cheerilee gives her class about her own mark — is a more palatable one.
In the appendix, you talk a little about the Cupid family’s genealogy. Do they have any connection (factual or folklore) with the Princess of Love?
Hah, a little? You’re being very generous. I don’t think that genealogy website has forgiven me yet for invading its space with loads of pony names! Top tip for those writers looking to develop pony families/history in a realistic way: Go and use a genealogy website.
But yes, I did intend for the Cupids to have a connection with Princess Cadance. My inspiration originally came from the Apple family, as well as the (fanon-based?) concept of earth pony families possessing clan-like structures. Partway through mapping them, however, I realised two things: Firstly, wings are pretty synonymous with the concept of cupids, and secondly we have Cadance, an established pony of love and romance. So I ended up broadening the scope of the family, bringing both pegasi and unicorns into the fold, whilst tying in ponies that grounded the Cupids in the MLP universe. That idea ended up adding so much richness to the family: My favourite bit so far has been developing the unicorns that used to use their magic to enter the dreams of others, and plant tiny romantic seeds. I don’t know if Luna’s patrolling/regulation has curtailed this activity since her return, though.
I really should write more about this family. It would be a shame to have spent so much time developing the Cupids for a single short story, and I’m sure the fandom can tolerate one more ~verse.
What was the idea behind — or inspiration for — Mrs. Cupid’s ginger snaps?
Oh, how I would dearly love to have an anecdote up my sleeve about how the character is based on my mother or something, but I don’t. As a writer and a reader, I enjoy the use of non-verbal forms of communication — particularly in relation to the display of more passionate emotions. I wanted to have some device to show exactly how angry Harmony Hearts was, without her explicitly saying as much, because the narrative sits with Archer, and as a kid that type of demonstration of anger must be pretty terrifying. I also took a quote from Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden as an inspiration. There’s a line in the story that states how the protagonist’s father uses his pipe against his mother, and that has always stuck with me.
Is there any precedent for “disaster dating” in Equestria, or has Archer come up with a totally original talent?
Nope. I like to think that Archer has found her own little niche. The only problem is that she doesn’t get many ponies actively seeking her help … she kinda has to hunt them out herself. I have an idea for a story about her disrupting all of the popular fanon ships in her quest to match ponies with their true partners. Lyra and Bon Bon? Nah, they’re one encounter with a Bugbear away from realising that they belong with Limestone Pie and Fleur Dis Lee, respectively.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just the generic ‘thank you’s’, if that’s okay. We’re always learning as writers (and people), and sometimes that learning process happens more quickly when we’re surrounded by talented, supporting and all-round lovely people. I’m certainly no exception to that rule, and so I would like to thank everyone who has ever commented on my work, or otherwise supported me. Particularly Winston and Astrarian, who undertook some much needed pre-reading and editing on True Bowmance to get it up to scratch, and Exuno for being a general feedback merchant and awesome cheerleader. They’re perfect examples of the nice folk you can find in the fandom, and I owe them all a drink.
I’d also like to thank you good folk at the RCL for taking the time to feature True Bowmance/this interview. It’s a wonderful gesture that I will always treasure.