Today’s story explores the dance of love.
Pas de Deux
[Drama] [Romance] [Slice of Life] • 3,734 words
Fancy Pants and Fleur Dis Lee were made for each-other: the perpetual playcolt and the sultry supermodel. Now, they’ve been going out for over a month. Has she fallen for this stallion? Is he finally ready to settle down? Can true love blossom in the high-pressure world of Canterlot’s social elite?
FROM THE CURATORS: A “pas de deux” is a dance for two people, and Pas de Deux is not only a study of the dance of intimacy between two ponies but also their social dance as they define themselves against the expectations that confine them. What first caught our eye is that it’s “a good character study of two good characters,” as AugieDog put it, but this also breathes life into an often poorly explored relationship. “I’ve always found FleurPants shipping to be a weak explanation for why they hang around together, but this story shows their relationship is anything but weak,” Present Perfect said.
The same was true for the story’s portrayal of its protagonists. Chris was impressed that they were so relatable despite (or perhaps because of) their upper-class background: “Their concerns are familiar,” he said. “Here, we see a look at pretensions and the need to hide our true selves in the name of social demands, which is about as universal a conflict as there is — but at the same time, Fancy and Fleur’s richness keeps them far enough removed from reality to explore issues more frankly and directly than suspension of disbelief might otherwise allow.” And AugieDog was impressed by how they became more than the sum of their parts: “In the stories I’ve read about Fleur, she always seems to be struggling against her inclinations … that’s always a powerful story to tell, and when you add Fancy Pants as the outsider on the inside who triggers this desire in her, you get two characters who see their own missing pieces in each other. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.”
That was enhanced by the excellent framing of the story, which multiple curators praised. “Setting the scene with Fancy and Fleur before zooming out to resolve it was a good strategy,” Present Perfect said, and Horizon agreed: “Marriage counselors say there are three people in a marriage — the first partner, the second partner, and the two of them together. This explicitly is structured to show how the relationship benefits all three of those, and it’s much stronger for the decision.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Dafaddah discusses Kirin mothers, vulnerable moments, and the pushing of ships.
Give us the standard biography.
I am pretty much the bearded stallion you see in my avatar image: male, Caucasian, Canadian of mostly French origins, age 54 (yes, years!), married for over 30 years to a lovely Kirin mare who is the mother of our two now adult offspring. I am an avid fan of science fiction, history and cosmology, and I have many published articles of non-fiction — but that’s work, not passion! More about passion later, but I differ in one major respect from my avatar — I generally wear pants. Oh, and both dogs in the avatar image are real and still alive, though the budgies have since passed on to noisy little monster heaven.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It’s a derivative of “teh faddah”, the name my daughter has used to text me since her early teens. I combined it with a bit from an old Abbot and Costello routine and came out with Dafaddah, and then promptly patted myself on the back for creating such a unique handle! I later found out the name has also been used by someone else on social media. So much for my galloping originality! Sigh.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Without a doubt, Twilight Sparkle! She’s a deep science nerd, and so am I. She’s had a happy, somewhat sheltered youth that left her a bit naive and terribly earnest, just like me. She’s a compulsive reader who will scan the fine print on breakfast cereal boxes (if that’s all that’s available). Me too. She is “happy to share” her knowledge with anyone who asks, in bulk, at the drop of the teensiest hat. Yuppers, I do that too. She has a strong tendency to be a social recluse with her nose permanently stuck in a book, unless somepony pushes her out of her comfort zone into the warm glow of friendship. There,
but for the grace of a kind universe, go I.
Double sigh. I am Rule 63 Twilight!
All kidding aside, when my daughter introduced me to MLP:FIM, I was just so amazed and happy to see a character like Twilight not only treated sympathetically, but actually made the show’s central figure! And the other key players were not the usual disposable stereotypes, either, so in addition to my personal sense of identification with Twilight, the other members of the main cast also provided a refreshing departure from what one would expect of a TV show designed to sell toys for little girls.
What’s your favorite episode?
The Season 1 opener still thrills me, but like with any show, there are good episodes and bad episodes. Overall, for me the ones that deliver a positive life lesson, and especially those where the solution to the problem is friendship, stand out over the others.
What do you get from the show?
A positive experience that reaffirms my inner belief in the good nature of others, and the genuine magic that results from kindness, generosity, honesty, loyalty and laughter! (Hey kid, I’ve earned my earnest naïveté! Now get off my lawn!)
What do you want from life?
I think a recent story by Shortskirtsandexplosions expresses it very clearly: to cherish. Life is short. Live it, don’t waste it. And as much as you can, be a force for good in this world, because the lives of others are short as well!
Why do you write?
On a broad scale, I joined the FimFiction community at the ripe old age of fifty in order to discover if I could write fiction that others would enjoy, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager. Since I started doing so I’ve learned quite a lot, and a big part of it has come from participation in groups and contests with fellow authors sharing critiques, techniques and honest advice.
More specifically, passion! I truly enjoy getting into the minds of characters — whether canon or my own — to explore their ideas, feelings and motivations, and to explore how they deal with different challenges and situations. I truly enjoy world building, creating plots and how the character of places holds deep consequences for personal interactions. I also like to explore the science of magic and the magic of science, and the relations, parallels and differences between the philosophy, culture and psychology of Equestria and Earth.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Writers write. Write as much as you can and talk to others about your writing — not just other authors, but anyone you can get. Ask them about what they like and don’t like in stories in general and your stories in particular, what amuses them, what confuses them, and especially about how your writing makes them feel.
This story is largely about the tribulations of the rich and powerful — a group which most people tend not to have a lot of sympathy for. How do you go about making such “elite” characters accessible and sympathetic?
This relates to my answer to the previous question: it’s all about how characters feel, about themselves, others, their circumstances, the individuals and groups they love, and the ones they hate. To make them accessible you have to expose their feelings and thoughts so that these can be understood. A reader might not like a particular character, but if the author makes it possible for the reader to step into that character’s shoes, then they might at least at least feel some sympathy for the character.
In Pas de Deux I depict both Fancy and Fleur as flawed individuals, each one damaged and carrying significant emotional baggage. Each is to an extent aware of their own shortcomings, each one is a lonely being searching for something that is greater than themselves, hoping to find a way to become a better individual by helping the other in that same pursuit. They become sympathetic to the reader because at least they’re trying to become better ponies.
Do you see Fancy Pants’s concerns as being legitimate at their root, or was he looking for an excuse?
Fancy seems the typical jaded aristocrat, however he bears the added burden of being a very sensitive and perceptive individual. He’s aware and disgusted with the superficiality and dishonesty of the Unicorn aristocracy, and at the same time is very skilled in playing its politics. Yet, his perception also makes him painfully aware of his own complicity in his unhappiness, because like any addict, he simply cannot stop playing the game. This just amplifies his self-disgust, and drives him to protect himself from discovery by hiding behind his meticulously cultivated image of the shallow playcolt. His concerns are legitimate, in the sense that the only way he knows to keep all these negative feelings in check is to keep anypony from getting too close to him. In the end, it’s his fear of loneliness that drives him to step out of his comfort zone and risk exposure by getting close to Fleur.
How do these ponies manage to avoid the effete snobbery of the rest of the Old Money class? What sets them apart, in your mind?
This results from a combination of two characteristics. First, they see the games of high society for what they truly are, a way to tilt the playing field in favor of, and to preserve the interests of, the leading Unicorn families against all others. Second, they both have the moral fiber to feel shame at the unfairness of this self-perpetuating advantage, even if they respectively (alone) can’t muster the courage to say so out loud.
They’ve also discovered in each other not only somepony who can sympathize with their innermost feelings, but who understands and cares enough to push the other into trying to be a better pony, something they both desire but can’t seem to manage by themselves.
You play with some intense emotions in this story. Any advice for writing high-drama moments so that they don’t come off as melodramatic or silly?
Emotions build and release in waves. Intense emotions usually come at moments of great vulnerability, when the emotional stakes as very high. I structured this story in three parts so I could give Fleur and Fancy time to become known to the reader, and to elaborate their perceptions and demonstrate their feelings. That way, in the crucial third part which is bulk of their interaction, what’s at stake for both ponies is very clear at the outset and resonates strongly in the heart of the reader as the conversation develops. As far as I understand it, it’s the authenticity of those feelings that is the key to keeping it real when writing high drama.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s kind of ironic that a story about two ponies taking a risk and leaving their respective comfort zones was the result of an author, Estee, hosting a contest that pushed me out of my comfort zone as an author! You see, I generally don’t do shipping, but the few times that I have been pushed into it (usually by contests) have resulted in stories that have been personally quite rewarding for me as a writer, but that I never would have attempted to write otherwise. Thank you again Estee, and thanks to the Royal Canterlot Library for finding a place for Pas de Deux within its shelves!
(Note: Present Perfect recused himself from voting due to his editing assistance with this story.)