Today’s story warns about the hidden dangers of “shows, don’t tell”.
[Romance] [Comedy] [Drama] [Equestria Girls] [Slice of Life] • 4,640 words
Rarity and Sunset are having their third weekly Dappled Shores marathon.
And then Sunset ruins everything.
FROM THE CURATORS: Don’t let that story description fool you — this third-place winner in the recent Changing Seasons contest is a light-hearted (and ultimately heartwarming) romp about the perils of spoilers. “The story is consistently both witty and hilarious,” Horizon said in his nomination. “Bon mots like ‘it was time to call in the least terrible people she knew’ litter the text, and the dialogue is consistently whipcrack smart. The shipping scenes, too — with their wealth of loving detail, like the matcha tea and Rarity’s nose for laundry detergent — are a delight to read.” AugieDog agreed, much more succinctly: “I’d call this romantic comedy done right.”
But we quickly found that there was plenty to like in the story whether readers appreciated shipping or not. “The comedy is the big sell here,” Chris said. “Once the story started diving into Sunset’s and Rarity’s overreactions, the hushed horror of their friends, and Rainbow having only one make-up plan, I was sold.” Soge was impressed by the prose: “God damn, the writing is really strong here, full of clever turns of phrase, great pacing, and a keen sense of comedic timing.” And the relationship itself even won over some doubters. “Maybe it’s just that the prescription on my shipping goggles needs an adjustment, but I’m always a little leery of stories that start off with any of Our Heroines in a romantic relationship,” AugieDog said. “By the end of this one, though, I was absolutely convinced that there was something very real between this Sunset and this Rarity.”
The icing on the sweet cake of the prose was the solid construction throughout. “Most impressively, in less than 5,000 words it manages to give solid moments to each of the entire Humane Seven,” Horizon said, while AugieDog praised the structure: “I really enjoyed the way we only see the unfortunate aftermath of each plan and the way Rarity sort of floats over the whole middle section of the story like a will-o-the-wisp, drawing Sunset on to ever-increasing extremes.” That reinforced the core strength of the story, Chris said: “The running gags and the winking mockery of the sillier parts of the show (and movies), all while letting the characters take the central conflict seriously at every turn, kept things funny without turning it all cynical.”
Read on for our author interview, in which MaxKodan discusses object transpositions, old film, and midnight definitions.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m 28, male, and live in New York state in a little town no one knows about except as “That place on the highway with the Kmart.” Beyond that, I’m a college student studying Mathematics. My education has been spotty: here-and-there, take-a-semester-when-I-can-afford-it.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
MaxKodan? True story, because I remember the exact moment when I created it. It was back when MSN Chats were a thing and I needed a new character name and handle. I was looking around the computer desk for something to inspire me, and sitting right there beneath the screen was a box of film. Kodak Max film. Thankfully, MaxKodak was already taken, or I’d have changed this thing ages ago.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Phew, that’s a toughie … it’s a tossup. On the one hand, Princess Cadance, even though her name is spelled wrong, is pretty awesome. On the other, Mayor Mare brings that “ordinary pony in extraordinary circumstances” vibe that I can’t help but adore.
What’s your favorite episode?
For this one I’ve actually gotta go all the way back to season one with “Griffon the Brush-Off”. Gilda as a character left an incredibly strong impression on the fandom as a whole, and just the fact that by the end she hasn’t just flipped around and turned into a better griffon, and in fact remains the villain until four seasons later is pretty gutsy.
What do you get from the show?
Now? Nowadays I mostly get the setting and the community for inspiration for my writing. I’m actually a fair bit behind on the show and movies. Back when it first appeared though, I was in a questionable spot in my life, and on a lark I decided to check out this show I’d seen a few memes of. It really sparked my creativity and motivation back then, and I’m thankful to it for that.
What do you want from life?
A bit of sanity would be nice, but that seems to be a rare resource both internally and externally.
Why do you write?
The first answer that comes to mind is “For Fun,” but that’s only part of it. Honestly, it’s the ability to influence the emotions of other people. My readers, specifically. While I don’t agree with Pinkie Pie as far as methods are concerned, being able to make someone smile or laugh with nothing but words on a piece of paper is one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve experienced. The best feeling in the world was being told that my story made someone genuinely happy while they read it.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
I’ve got two pieces of advice: The boring bit and the emotional bit. Boring first: Learn all that stupid technical language jargon like the back of your hand. It can make the difference between thinking “This sentence feels off and I don’t know why” and “This sentence feels off because I’ve transposed my subject and my direct object, so the structure feels weaker.”
For the less boring one: Finish something. Everybody wants to write a million-word epic spanning six genres and three universes. You can still do that, but one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do is actually end your story. Come up with some shorter pieces, write them, and end them. Take a week to write a 5,000-10,000 word short story, step away from it for another week, edit it, and post it. Getting that experience can be invaluable when it comes to your larger works.
What inspired Dappled Shores?
The prompt for the Sunset Shimmer Shipping Contest. They wanted a story about changing seasons: I wanted to be cheeky and write it about changing TV show seasons. I absolutely started writing this fic, 100%, as a joke. From there, everything else fell into place.
How did you approach the idea of writing a romance between two of the series’ main characters?
Writing a romance between two main characters isn’t that much different than simply writing those two characters. The characters themselves take priority. Some people might write a romance story with this idea of true love blossoming through adversity, but I look at relationships differently: Two people (or ponies) decide they like each other enough to go on a date. They go on a date. They have fun, and they keep doing that. They stay together.
None of this changes either character. Rarity is still Rarity. Sunset is still Sunset. They just like each other a little bit more than the movies let on. And there are cuddles.
From there, romance becomes the motivation behind the characters’ actions. That lets me work with the question: “How does my character try to get what they want?”
Why only show us the aftermaths of Sunset’s various attempts to reconcile with Rarity?
Part of it was to drop the word count down a bit. I worried that the story would drone on if I spent too long on each day. The comedy also plays better when the events have already happened. Rarity’s horrified screaming from fritter-burns were much easier to downplay for a laugh when the outcome was already known to at least one of the characters. Besides, a reader’s imagination will fill in a much more fantastical dye explosion or Pinkie party than I could provide with my measly horsewords.
Do you prefer planning your stories out ahead of time or letting them grow in the typing?
I have to do a little bit of both. I’ll have a rough outline, at least in my head, when a story starts so I know where it’s going and where it’s ending, but I’m a bit of a pantser when it comes to the more intricate details, and my outline is always subject to change when the story starts to materialize.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Writing mysteries is hard. Other than that, thank you guys for taking an interest in this fic! I had a lot of fun writing it. A lot of panicky, last-minute, pushing-the-definition-of-midnight fun. Also I want to thank my prereader (you know who you are), and also the crew in the Fimfic Discord writing help channel for their suggestions and help.
I especially want to thank Oroboro for being a madman who ships Sunset like there’s no tomorrow, and who created the contest which inspired this whole thing in the first place. I would literally not be here if he hadn’t. Also Wordsandpunctuation, the artist who did the cover image. Don’t worry: I haven’t forgotten.