As Nightmare Night approaches, don’t forget to get some subtle scares from today’s story.
No One Goes There
[Dark] [Horror] • 2,483 words
A broad, clear path runs through a deep wood on the far side of Ponyville.
No one goes there.
Four young colts want to know why.
FROM THE CURATORS: FIMFiction.net has a few tags that we at the RCL don’t track in our story summaries, so there’s one exceptional thing about this week’s feature that isn’t reflected above — it’s a horror fic rated “E” for Everyone. And while (like any dark story) parents might want to review this before sharing with children, No One Goes There does a remarkable job of subtly selling those conflicting tags. “It’s your classic ‘kids go into spooky woods’ story, but what makes it so effective is that you might not even notice anything’s wrong until well after the bad things start happening,” Present Perfect said. “It completely undersells its horror, leaving the fridge horror strong by the ending.”
Both that light touch and the story’s tight focus earned curator praise. “Bravo to Rinnaul for keeping this tight and bare,” Chris said. “Just like the best horror movies don’t show you too much, often the best horror stories are understated and light on explication.” And despite that apparent simplicity, this still served up some surprises. “I have to praise the elegant way it snuck the twist past me,” Horizon said. “It actually took me until the light went out to realize what was going on, even though on second read the story wasn’t being dishonest about the action in the slightest. And when the horseshoe dropped, everything fell together so tightly.”
That tight construction was a recurring theme in our discussion — there were so many elements that came together to enhance the effect. “Damn fine work with the atmosphere,” Soge said. “This is a truly unsettling fic, all the more impressive given how little actually happens.” That was due to its fine balance, Horizon said: “While the colts’ light slice-of-lifey banter might seem like padding, it’s crucial to construct the facade, and it feels neither sparse nor boring nor drawn-out.” Ultimately, as Present Perfect put it, “I have come to the conclusion that Rinnaul is a name worth paying attention to, and this story shows why.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Rinnaul discusses curator research, crucial tones, and Amtgard personas.
Give us the standard biography.
Well, I’m a 31-year-old father of one 3-year-old, trying to work up the drive to shoot for being a professional author and get out of the retail pit. I was always a big reader as a kid — anything from fantasy and sci-fi to my sister’s Babysitters’ Club books and, eventually, the entire non-fiction science section of the city library (it is not a large city) — and kept it up through college.
As for writing, my earliest creative writing efforts date all the way back to around second grade, but I didn’t start doing creative writing outside of school assignments until early in high school, when I reunited with a childhood friend and she introduced me to fanfiction. This resulted in a notebook-filling nonsensical pile of Dragonball Z crossover.
I started writing things that actually followed logical plots in college, thanks to my wife.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Rinnaul is what I use basically everywhere online or in games. It’s been a Shadowrun character, a Dungeons & Dragons character, an original fiction character, and my persona in Amtgard (a medieval fantasy combat LARP); but it actually originated years ago on a random name list for roleplay characters. I used to copy down interesting place and character names from various games, alter them a bit to hide the origins, and pull from the list when I needed a random name on the spot for an NPC in a D&D game or something. “Rinnaul” specifically is a deliberate misspelling of a world map location in Final Fantasy 8.
Who’s your favorite pony?
I don’t really have one in particular, despite putting Sweetie Belle everywhere. I think if I had to really narrow down my “liked” ponies to a short list, it’s Sweetie, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Luna, and Celestia (in no particular order). For most of them, they’re the characters I find the most fun to write, but AJ is the one who I enjoy watching or reading more than writing. She just makes for such a great straight mare to react to the antics of the rest of the cast, unless she’s been dropped into the role of “well, someone has to be the dumb one.”
What’s your favorite episode?
First, I have to admit I don’t regularly watch the show anymore, so I’m pretty far behind. I think the last one I saw was “Slice of Life”. But, that said, “Canterlot Wedding” is still the top for me, with “It’s About Time” and “Too Many Pinkie Pies” right behind it.
What do you get from the show?
A setting and characters to write about, mostly. The show is pretty much a giant pile of writing prompts for me. I mean, it’s a great cartoon with endearing characters and positive messages, and I still enjoy the occasional episode, but if we’re being honest, writing ideas outweigh straight-up episode enjoyment more often than not.
What do you want from life?
A few years ago, I’d just have told you “to enjoy myself.” Now, it’s “to take care of my family, make a lasting contribution to the world, and enjoy myself.” I can’t stand the idea of just surviving for 60-70 years or so. What would the point even be? I want to impact the world in some way, or at least enjoy life.
Why do you write?
Mostly because I just have so many ideas. Seriously, my ideas folder/writing to-do list has about 150 items in it. To a lesser extent, like I said before, I want to actually make something that lasts, and I think writing is the best way I can do that.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
First, read a lot. Familiarize yourself with the written word as much as you can.
Second, write a lot. Writing is a skill that improves with practice.
Third, listen to advice, even and especially if it’s negative. But learn to see the difference in harsh but fair criticism that tries to push you upward, versus base cruelty that wants to drag you down.
Fourth, get an editor. Seriously, I do reviews too, and the first line of my advice section is just “Get an editor” at least half the time. It doesn’t even have to be a professional editor — make a friend and be each other’s pre-readers. It’s great to have someone knowledgeable about language to give your story a good polish, but just having someone else’s eyes on a story can be a huge help.
Finally, don’t give up just because you’re not at the same level others are at. I’ve shared one of my old Shadowrun fanfictions in my blog before to make this point — it was awful. This even goes for major published authors. You can always improve.
What inspired No One Goes There?
Sadly, since I started it back in 2014, I don’t actually remember anymore. I know I set out specifically to write some E-rated horror for Oneshotober that year, and I think the original concept involved ponies being “vanished” from existence and the memories of others, but setting it around a walk through the forest only came later. I can’t entirely rule out the story beginning its life as a Doctor Who crossover.
Did you run into any unique challenges when writing your E-rated horror fics?
I think the only real challenge is in actually selling the horror, and that is less a matter of the story being E-rated, and more a matter of it being subtle/suspenseful horror. Tone becomes extremely important, almost like you’re writing poetic prose, and the occasional slip-up that would annoy a reader and maybe break their stride for a minute in other stories can wreck the mood of an entire scene in subtle horror.
Horror can be subtle, or it can be visceral. Why choose one over the other?
Short answer? Subtle because I’m a long-time H.P. Lovecraft fan.
Long answer — and this is really just my opinions and experiences — while I’ve encountered some very good visceral horror, it’s always felt to me that visceral horror can’t really impact the reader the same way subtle horror can. It’s great for an immediate reaction, but it’s not something that can really keep you up at night. I don’t read a story like that and wonder if maybe a friend might really decide to slaughter me, or look over my shoulder for knife-wielding maniacs. The disgust and disturbance is short-lived, but subtle horror can stick with you for a while.
You’ve blogged before about your original fiction writing, and your fanfic for other fandoms. How does writing ponyfic differ from those?
Oh god, you guys do research.
Constraints. Above all else, constraints. Pony has a very solid setting you have to work within. If you’re writing canon characters, you’re even more confined. If you’re keeping it E-rated or show-toned, even more. And this is a good thing — to quote Mark Rosewater, restrictions breed creativity. Though personally, I prefer to think of it more in terms of constraints being guidelines. When working within constraints, part of the story is already defined for you, and all you need to do is build upon that base. That can make fanfiction faster and easier to write than more open stories — I’ve had ponyfic go from concept to published in less than three hours before (though part of the humor of that story came from lots of repetition, so with how much copy & paste I could do, it may not count for as much).
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just a thanks to all the people at RCL for surprising me with this feature, and an even bigger thanks to my wife for pre-reading and editing my stories, and more importantly, pushing me to actually write in the first place.