, , , ,

An unlikely crossover source mashes up with pony in today’s story.

Sugarcube in the Corner
[Drama] [Sad] [Slice of Life] [Tragedy] • 8,069 words

Enter Painless — a young resident physician at Manehattan East Side Memorial Hospital who drew the short lot, and ended up working through Hearth’s Warming. With the city caught in the grips of a blizzard that weatherponies are still trying to get under control, the night is boring, the decorations contrived, and the coffee is as bitter as his sensibilities.

Tonight, Painless has a single, pointless task assigned to him — to keep the company of a lonesome, unconscious stallion who is essentially already dead. In so doing, a young doctor will learn that medicine is about more than scalpels and technique.

It’s also about mending broken hearts.

FROM THE CURATORS: One of the joys of fanfiction is running across the sorts of stories which the show itself won’t offer us — but which feel like they nevertheless fit right in with the show we love.  “How about a hospital drama with a high realism factor, lots of emotion, and a young doctor learning not to harden his heart to the world?” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “Plus, it’s a M*A*S*H tribute. You don’t see a lot of those.” We quickly came to appreciate that blend.  “This feels well removed from the show, but not in a way that breaks immersion … learning a lesson in empathy like this is very much in MLP’s bailiwick,” Chris said.  And while it drew many elements straight from the M*A*S*H episode it used as inspiration, it was “an excellent adaptation, and a strong story in its own right,” Horizon said.

That was due at least in part to the way that it brought MLP canon into its tale.  “The turning point in this story comes when it’s revealed early on that the dying stallion is not just another OC like the main characters, but Mr. Cake,” Present Perfect said.  “It was quite the effective tactic, and it pays off well by the end.”  There was also plenty of payoff along the way, Chris said: “I feel like Corner is at its best in its smaller moments.  Painless’ coffee selection in the opening is a tiny but revealing moment, and there are a lot of those scattered about, buttressing a melancholy but touching story about doing what you can for living and dead alike.”

Both those big and small factors were repeatedly cited in our discussion.  “This does some impressive character work at its epistolary core, but what makes it exemplary for me is the emotion past the final turn,” Horizon said.  “The meditation on death that this draws from its crossover source is profound in a way that really touches on the moral core of MLP — about caring, and about what caring means.”  But ultimately, it was the successful meshing of two very different styles behind this story’s strength.  “It’s a powerful juxtaposition, throwing ponies into an unfixable situation,” AugieDog said.  “There’s always a chance in the Pony universe, always a possible solution that will right the balance and mend the broken heart.  This story doesn’t have that … but it treads very close to the line.”

Read on for our author interview, in which WishyWish discusses Alphasmarts, Flutterhugging, and rock candy cherries.


Give us the standard biography.

Is there a ‘standard’ biography?

Let’s see. I’m an older brony I guess by average age — approaching 40, with two little fillies of my own whom I adore. I didn’t follow MLP until the current generation, but I was into things like the Care Bears extensively while growing up, so the transition to this was not only easy for me, but something I was quite happy about. Blame my oldest for getting me into it. One day when she was three, she insisted, quite randomly and specifically (and with no knowledge of MLP at all), that she wanted a coloring book with a purple unicorn on it. We went to Target and found Twilight Sparkle. I still have that book, though she’s too old for it now. It’s dog-eared and heavily scribbled in, but it’s a memento.

I digress. As opposed to starting with fanfiction and segueing into mainstream writing, I did the opposite — I have a couple of books to my name, which you can find on Amazon (they’re linked on my Fimfiction profile). I’m a quiet sort who likes a slow Starbucks latte with some smooth jazz and a nice game of chess. For what it’s worth, I consider myself a “safe zone” for folks to talk about their troubles, or the things they’re not sure how to say around others in their lives. Think I’ll be shocked? Try me. Look at my writing, too :p

If you want my OC’s bio you’ll have to go to my fimfiction page ;)

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

“Wish” is the OC I’m best known by in the pony circles I run in. The prefix “Wishy” was added because the word ‘wish’ is rather common, and on most relevant sites is already taken as a username. I debated a different writer persona, but, well, why confuse folks :)

Who’s your favorite pony?

Oh my, that would be Fluttershy. I admit that initially I didn’t care for her all that much, but after writing for her a couple of times, I learned so much about her depth. She’s the bravest pony to ever be afraid.

Another reason I love her so much is that I feel that I get her. Granted, she, like most of the characters, are extreme examples of various emotional states. But I know what it is to feel painfully shy even if I don’t show it sometimes, and I know that it … never really goes away. You just learn to cope with it the best you can. I really appreciated what she had to say in “Fame and Misfortune”, when accused of always learning the same lesson over and over:

“Can you honestly say that you could learn something one time and completely change who you are? I didn’t think so.”

Fluttershy also isn’t all that shy with people who are really close to her. Look how she behaved in “Flutter Brutter”. When the shy person in your life stops being so shy around you, it means something — much like it does with me. I consider her braver than I, because she’s not afraid to admit how shy, or how afraid, she really is. She’s okay with stepping all over herself, instead of trying to pretend the fern in the corner of the room is the most fascinating thing she’s ever stared at, because she doesn’t want to look like she doesn’t know what to say or do next.

It doesn’t hurt that Fluttershy’s family … kinda reminds me of my own to a T.

Grumpy Bear taught me how to handle negative feelings. Fluttershy teaches me to be brave, but also that it’s okay to be me. I’m totally not hugging a Flutterplush right now. Nope.

What’s your favorite episode?

It’s hard to pick just one. I’m a lover of the ways, and I don’t much care about the arguments over what show writer did this and who depicted what in what way. I just love my horses :)

But, let’s see. I really liked “Brotherhooves Social”, because what Big Mac did for his little sister was just wonderful, and the conversation they had at the end really got to me. He’s a simple soul, doing what he can in a family where the heroine takes all the credit. He just wants to feel important again. I’m a parent myself, and thus I wonder if I’ll eventually wrestle with the same sorts of feelings, once I’m not “cool” to my kids anymore.

I’m also going to plug “Filli Vanilli”, because watching Fluttershy bop to the beat and sing her heart out is just the best thing ever, no matter what octave she’s in! Hey, I gotta pick one with my favorite character in it, no?

Of course, there’s also “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”, but come on. You didn’t keep a dry eye through that. You know you didn’t. It’s like not crying through the second half of the movie “Deep Impact”. Are you human or not!?

Okay, so I mentioned three episodes. Hush. I told you picking one was hard!

What do you get from the show?

The Magic of Friendship, of course. Don’t knock it — it’s not just something people say. I’ve made so many friends through ponies, I’ve found a new venue for my writing in a whole different community, and it’s one thing my entire family can get together on. So I get magic from it. Ponies have given me a lot, and words are the thing I can think to give back.

What do you want from life?

A tall ship, and a star to steer her by!

Seriously though, I guess I can say that I have most of it already. My day job is rather boring but it’s steady and secure, and there are people who care about me waiting for me at home every night. I admit that I am not bereft of ego — I also want people to read my stories, and hopefully like my stories. I don’t just write fanfiction, and though I have tempered my thick skin, my works still mean a lot to me. I still like getting my proverbial ‘you done good’ pat on the head, however.

If there’s anything I don’t have right now that I really want, it’s at least one novel with solid agent representation and a good publishing house behind it. But I’ve gotten their attention before, and I believe I can get it again. I just need to write the right book, and I’m not giving up!

More friends would also be a nice thing. Don’t be a stranger!

Why do you write?

Because I love it, and because the people in my head won’t rest until their story is told. I can play an instrument, but I can’t make music. I can draw a picture, but I can’t make (visual) art. Words are my canvas and I need that expression. The freedom of a blank page, where I can craft whatever little slice of reality I want, has a lot of meaning for me.

I also want to share stories with others. This is how I do it.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

1) You DO have time to write — assuming you genuinely want to, and it’s ok to not want to. If you don’t, then you either aren’t willing to put the time into it (also ok), or you’re letting other concerns nickel-and-dime you. Nobody has zero personal time, we just tend to feel that we don’t because of the pace of our lives. (You’re reading this right now, after all, aren’t you?) Most folks write on computers nowadays, but computers are a sea of distraction. After you check your email twice, reply to just that one more comment in that chat window, or check that one website ‘just real quick’, you’ve wasted 40 minutes of that hour you set aside. You might not even notice it when it’s happening, so give it a look next time and see. If it is happening? Consider immersion writing. Get yourself a cheap portable word processor like an Alphasmart, or just grab a pen. Ignore the machine or disconnect from the internet, and leave yourself alone with your story.

2) Remember to write what you want to write. No matter what you create, somebody out there is not going to like it, and is probably going to tell you so. Don’t let it get to you, and don’t assume that you have to ‘defend your baby’ from every critical comment. If anything, that ends up making you look bad, as though you can’t handle a little criticism. Dismiss the useless commentary, grow from the rest, and stay your course. Only you can tell your story, and you have to do it your way (that does not mean, however, that you can’t ask for help).

A wise Pie once said: “Never rearrange ‘cause some pony said you should!”

3) Know the phases of the writing process. The drafting phase is not for editing, it’s for getting thoughts down on a page. It’s probably going to be full of errors, but resist the urge to go back and fix them while you’re drafting, because there’s nothing more psychologically vexing than wasting a third of your drafting time ‘fixing’ one paragraph, and then realizing you haven’t met your goals. You’ve got to have that progress, even if it’s just a little bit here and there, to keep you from getting bogged down. Finish the draft. Wait a day to carriage-return your brain. Then come back and start proofreading. Also, try to avoid the trap that is wordsmithing. Proof it up the best you can and get some editorial help from others if you like, but don’t smith forever and never get around to publishing!

4) Consider carrying a little notebook around with you wherever you go. Ideas come when they want to come, not necessarily when you want them to, and you never know what insignificant thing might suddenly explode into a new story. Jot it down!

Also, if you don’t think any of the advice above works for you, you know what you should do? Ignore it. We all have our own ways. Be yourself, no matter what you do, and if we’re different then I want you to be true to you! Flash Sentry guitar riff

What was it about the “Death Takes a Holiday” episode of M*A*S*H that inspired you to spin a Pony story out of it?

MASH has been a part of my life for over three decades. There’s so much there to love, and the comedic moments are what make the serious moments shine so much more. I found that episode particularly inspiring, not only because of the moment the story is written for, but it has one of Major Winchester’s (my favorite character) shining moments, where he does something kind anonymously, to ensure that it is a true act of kindness, and not something designed to get him praise or a pat on the back.

As for the moment the story is written for, well … nobody should have to think on the holidays as a time where a loved one died. That was a powerful message to me. It became a pony story because that’s where I get to do most of my writing expression these days, in pony. I’m still working on my novels, but pony stories are a great way to bust out single ideas into their own little stories, and share them with others in the midst of the big stuff.

Don’t be surprised if I pull from MASH for inspiration again :)

How do you approach writing [Sad] stories in a candy-coated place like the MLP universe?

The same way I approach any other genre. Readers tend to have trouble with me because they never know what to expect from me next. Stephen King writes horror — you don’t go to him for dime-store romance. J.K. Rowling writes YA high fantasy — you saw how her ‘adult’ book did, because that’s not what people expect from her. My problem is, I want to write it all. Today it’s comedy. Tomorrow I want horror. The next day it’s sci-fi or adventure. There’s something for every taste, but probably not enough for any one given taste among them.

But as for how it all relates to MLP, I think it’s important to remember that My Little Pony isn’t just the ‘kids show’ it once was. If you’re willing to give it a chance, you’ll see why it’s considered a ‘family’ program — there are little bits and pieces in there that clearly aren’t intended for understanding by the little ones. So I don’t know that I would call it a world of mere candy-coating and sprinkles, with a rock candy cherry on top. I start with what’s there — the world we’re given. And then I stretch it out like taffy into the direction I want to take it, be it sad, scary, funny, or exciting. It can extend in any direction your thoughts can take it, and that’s the beauty behind it.

Do you plan your stories in advance, or do you prefer to let them grow in the typing?

I don’t care for making complicated outlines before I start working, as they end up confusing me, and taking the joy out of the process a bit by forcing me to adhere to a set of ‘rules’. I create skeletal notes to guide me along the path of the story towards whatever the goal is, but then I just sit down and let it flow out. Sometimes things I wasn’t even expecting myself happen, or characters tell me something about themselves I did not know. Thus, I get to enjoy the story as much as I hope my reader will as it unfolds. My characters tell the story to me, and I write it down.

Also, typing is speculative — I’m a fan of the writing process in all its forms, and to date at least 40,000 words of my fics were entirely handwritten with a pen before being transcribed to the machine :)

What’s the one thing you’d like readers to take away with them after reading the story?

I’m not sure I can answer that question. I want you to take away whatever message speaks the loudest to you. If it made you smile, I want you to take that grin away with you. If it jerked a tear, I want you to take that bittersweetness and reflect on it for a while. Maybe it will make you pause for a moment out of your busy day and hug a pony friend. That would be more than enough for me.

Sugarcube in the Corner has an audio adaptation too, don’t forget! It was recorded and mixed entirely by me with music and sound effects. So if you’d like to hear me try to do voices for Pinkie Pie and the Cake foals for … whatever reason, go check it out :p

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I said it before, but I like making new friends. I run two pony-themed RP communities and have two Discord servers, so say hi sometime (my Discord is on my fimfic profile).

I have been asked in the past if I have a Patreon or a tip jar. I do not. If you’re so kind that you’d want to favor me with your support, it would mean more to me if you’d pick up one of my novels on Kindle. They’re like 2-3 bucks apiece, and hey, you get a book for your trouble! Agents want to know how many units you sold, not what you made on them, so that’s very helpful to me.

Or really, just forget the money and let me know when you like something of mine with a comment or a like on Fimfiction. That always warms my heart and encourages me to write more, especially if I was able to invoke an emotion :)

I do art trades too!

You can read Sugarcube in the Corner at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.