Settle in and warm up with today’s story.
Coming in From the Cold
[Romance] [Slice of Life] • 11,961 words
Starting over is never an easy thing to do. Lost, alone, and cold, sometimes a friendly smile and mug of cocoa are all that’s needed to warm the heart.
And right now, Bon Bon is very cold.
FROM THE CURATORS: With winter and spring currently engaged in their annual slippery baton pass, here’s a story, as AugieDog put it, “where the cold and the warm are practically characters.” But the main focus lies squarely on Lyra and the mare now known as Bon Bon, newly arrived in Ponyville after the dismantling of her previous life and full of uncertainty.
“Bon Bon’s unsureness about who she is,” Present Perfect said, “was a great place to start” with FanOfMostEverything noting that the readers “get behind Bon Bon’s eyes and stay there for the whole story, the evocative imagery selling everything from struggling through the storm to the anxiety of Lyra getting uncomfortably close to the truth to the warm fuzzies at the end.” Lyra’s equally well painted, AugieDog said, “working as a waitress back home in Ponyville after failing to become a musician in Canterlot.” They’re “two lost mares,” Augie went on, “meeting at the exact moment they most need a friend.”
And more than friends, of course. “I may be a little biased,” Present Perfect said, “as LyraBon is a long-standing OTP, but…the flirting was top-notch.” “Yes, the attraction is mostly physical,” FanOfMostEverything added, “but they’ve only just met and are still getting to know each other, much as Sweetie Drops is still getting to know Bon Bon.” Soge brought up “how well the author utilizes ponies’ physical actions to convey emotion, like ear flicks, tail movements and the like. That helped sell me on their flirting, and the progressively more intimate actions made for a really well realized progression throughout the story.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Timaeus discusses writing as a social activity, second chances, and “playing wild.”
Give us the standard biography.
A glance at my userpage or on any of my social media profiles paints a rather straightforward picture: I’m Canadian, live in Calgary, Alberta (born and raised!), in my mid-twenties, work at a university in the Academic Advising offices, completed a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and History, and have been a student most of my life.
Beyond that? I read and write a lot. Sadly, most of this isn’t related to My Little Pony. I’m currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Educational Research, and the last year has seen me hunched over my desk, reading everything from John Dewey to Hans-Georg Gadamer. I’ve written paper after paper, and while this has been great for expanding my horizons, with every week I feel a growing itch to get back into (fan)fiction writing.
In my spare time, I try to get out of my student-isolated bubble. I play Dungeons and Dragons with a group of friends I’ve been close to since junior high (middle school for my American friends) on a weekly basis. I’m slowly learning and trying desperately not to study fighting game culture. Recently, I discovered a pinball arcade-slash-bar in my hometown, and have spent a good few hours there already.
Most of all, I love stories. Then again, I think it’s fair to say that we all do. How else do we communicate anything meaningful to anyone without making it into a narrative? In my case, I love most everything—movies, television series, cartoons, anime, books, biographies, histories. I love reading stories, I love creating stories, and I love tinkering with ideas in my head on the bus ride to work or class. When I was little I used to do this thing where I would pace around the house, muttering to myself about characters and stories from different series doing anything from having a tea party to breaking into a top-secret facility. It was a kind of play, and my parents called it me “playing wild.”
In a way, I guess I’d been involved with fanfiction for as long as I can remember. I just needed a few more years to take it to the page and to shift focus to romance/slice of life.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Oh, goodness, now that takes me back. “Timaeus” is something I came up with way back at the beginning of junior high when I first discovered Steam. All of my friends had Steam accounts and had created a clan, The Tiki Bar. Iron_Tiki, Crazy_Tiki, Sexy_Tiki, the list went on. I was a little slow to sign up, but when I did I needed something.
Now, when people see my username, they typically assume one of two things: (1) that it’s a reference to Yu-Gi-Oh! And the Eye of Timaeus card that showed up in the Orichalchos season no one really watched, or (2) that it’s a reference to one of Plato’s lesser-known works.
Man, the latter sounds really clever and worldly. The truth is much less so. I like to think everyone has a “Homestuck phase,” and when I made my account and had to choose a username I was in the midst of mine. It’s actually a reference to one of the characters’ online handles (timaeusTestified). I really liked the character and thought it sounded neat.
Sometimes I think I’m still in my Homestuck phase.
… I’m such a dork.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Let the record show that I stared at this question for a good five minutes before actually typing anything. I have characters I don’t care for, characters I like, and characters that I love. I love Daring Do, I love Rarity, I love Maud Pie, I love Fizzlepop Berrytwist. The wonderful thing about My Little Pony is that it gives us so many lovable and inspirational characters to choose from. No matter where you look or who you are, I think you’re bound to find somepony that resonates with you.
For me, I think that character might be Starlight Glimmer.
Starlight made for an excellent villain, and like a lot of people I was lukewarm on her redemption and her tragic backstory that drove her to do bad things. Since then, though? She’s tried. She’s learning. She’s got good instincts, but her mistakes (former and more recent) make her second-guess herself.
Starlight Glimmer is a sociopath. She has trouble understanding what is good and what is bad, but there’s no denying the growth and change she’s gone through. Every bit of redemption she has feels earned, but I think what I love most is how she started on that path: she was shown another way and given another chance.
Instead of punishing her, sentencing her to Tartarus, blasting her with a rainbow laser that turned her good again, or anything of the sort, she was offered hope, a chance to be different from who she was, and forgiveness and acceptance. There’s something fundamentally good and hopeful about that, and something that I wish we could more easily do in our world.
I adore Starlight Glimmer because her journey represents a world that I want to see and the kind of loving attention that I want to believe we are capable of. Maybe I also adore redemption arcs.
What’s your favorite episode?
… Let the record show another five minutes was spent staring at this question and scanning through the episode list. Again, there are episodes I don’t care for, ones I like, and ones that I adore. It’s difficult for me to nail down a definitive “favourite.”
I really loved “Luna Eclipsed,” and then I really really liked “Amending Fences,” and then “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep” aired right after that, then Season 7 gave me “Rock Solid Friendship” and “The Perfect Pear.”
TL;DR if you want my attention give me romance, heartwarming friendship, and/or redemption stories and I’ll probably be fawning over it.
What do you get from the show?
I actually have a really strong opinion on this. All too often when I hear people talking about a cartoon, animated movie, or something on the Disney channel that isn’t that great they give it a pass because it’s “for kids.” It doesn’t need to be complex or convey any complicated, intricate messages with well-developed characters because it’s primary audience is kids, right? Kids are dumb.
I really, really adamantly oppose this narrative.
The bottom line is that kids are smart. To say that there are dumb kids is to say that there are dumb adults or dumb people in general, but a child can pick up on a lot more than what people give them credit for. That’s why when a “kids’ show” treats their audience seriously, it’s usually better than most material written “for adults.”
Shows like Gargoyles, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Teen Titans stand out in my mind as exemplars of treating their audience (i.e., kids) seriously, and they’re all the better for it. Steven Universe and Gravity Falls stand out as more recent examples. There’s a reason that Avatar and Teen Titans are praised by children and adults alike. There’s a reason My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is loved by such a diverse audience.
The show brings joy and hope to an increasingly cynical world, contains well-written and complicated characters, and from time-to-time isn’t afraid to touch on sensitive and painful subjects. It’s straight up a good show, and one that brings me delight to watch and celebrate.
What do you want from life?
I don’t rightly know, to be honest. At this point in my life, everything is dynamic, subject to change, and exists in a constant state of flux. What do I want to do for a career? Where do I want to be in five years? These are all questions I wish I could answer, but I’ll have to leave them for Future Sam to deal with.
I suppose what I want most is to wake up each day knowing that I have the potential to be happy, or that I can work towards something that makes me a better version of myself. I want to be a person worthy of the relationships and bonds I have forged.
Why do you write?
Storytelling is how we communicate and make meaning out of something. I’ve always loved stories and storytelling. More selfishly, there’s something inherently satisfying about creating something and watching someone, whether that someone is a stranger online or a close friend, get some joy and meaning out of it. Perhaps even more selfishly, I write because I want to improve myself and the medium through which I feel I can tell stories.
Writing is a hobby, yes, but it’s a hobby for which I care passionately. Criticism may be hard to take sometimes, but I try to take something from it I can apply to myself and my craft.
Why do I write for My Little Pony? I think because of how big it had gotten. I was (and am still) nervous and tentative when faced with the concept of actually writing something and actually posting it somewhere where actual people would be actually reading it. When I stumbled upon the MLP fandom, though, the community had grown so much that I think it swallowed me up. Story ideas popped into my head, and I knew there was an audience who might read them.
So, as the young, sweet summer child that I was, I sat down and wrote an awful crossover piece. Sometime after that I learned my lesson and went to the romance/slice of life side of things. Now I write because I love experimenting with characters, how they play off each other, and how that dynamic can be used to fuel some kind of story.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Writing is hard. I’m afraid that there’s no way around it. But if it’s something you care about, then it’s also meaningful to you and probably to someone else out there.
Some excellent advice has come out of these interviews in the past, so I don’t really want to rehash what has already been said. The most important thing to remember, I think, is that writing is a social act. Unless you keep it private, then what you write gets seen by others, and it is through their experience of what you wrote that you learn.
When you share it with friends, you have the chance to learn about what they liked, what they didn’t like, and you can reflect on that and think about how you can improve for the next story. You can also read what other authors have done that you liked, what they’ve done that you didn’t like, and can think about how that compares to your writing. Within this fandom alone, we have some incredibly gifted writers, and I have had one of their stories opened up on half the screen while struggling with a scene or concept.
Sometimes this feels like an uphill battle, but it’s a battle I think is worth your time.
What inspired “Coming in from the Cold”?
I’d love to give some kind of inspirational story or message here, but the truth of the matter is that I felt desperate for the kind of warmth and love Bon Bon was treated to in the story.
I had just finished my first semester of my Masters degree. The last of a 50-page paper had been churned out, a stack of library books sat at the foot of my desk, I hadn’t touched creative writing in three months, and a major snowfall had just dumped a couple feet of snow and trapped me in my house. I felt burned out, unsure of if I could handle another semester of courses let alone a thesis, and I needed some comfort.
That’s what “Coming in from the Cold” is for me. It’s a cup of hot cocoa on a cold, wintery night, the reward for a long, arduous journey, and something cozy I could settle into.
I always put a little bit of myself into whatever I write. How could I not? It’s something I’m creating, something that’s meaningful to me, so of course there’s going to be something of me there. In this case, I put a bit of myself into Bon Bon, and like Bon Bon I was hopeful for something waiting for me at the end of the tunnel.
I was cold. I was tired. I needed some warmth, so I decided to try and make some.
What is it about the My Little Pony characters that leads you to write romance stories about them?
Call it naive, but I find that there’s something fundamentally hopeful about romance. The prospect of finding someone you want to be with, share intimacies and strifes with, and facing whatever may come together in a society that champions individualism just sounds so optimistic, doesn’t it?
As for the characters of My Little Pony, I think part of why I’m so driven to write romance comes from the world they live in. I talked a bit about this earlier when I talked about Starlight, but there’s something inherently hopeful and good about the world of Equestria. It’s a world where ponies are given a second chance to become better versions of themselves.
Sometimes it doesn’t always work out, but the title says it all. Friendship is magic, and that magic can overcome the might of an alicorn twisted by darkness and banished to the moon, a spirit of chaos and disharmony, a species that feasts on love, and the more relatable, everyday fights we face. It can help us overcome feelings of hurt after being scorned by those we were once close to, it can help us reconnect to friends we thought long gone, and can inspire us to be better than who we currently are. Taking it to romance is just one step beyond that.
It also helps that I am one of the biggest saps I know. It may not be a great movie by any means, but the romance between Kiara and Kovu in Lion King II: Simba’s Pride just makes my heart melt. I have regular viewings and leave each and every one fawning and clutching a pillow to my chest.
I’m not crying thinking about it, you are.
What elements would you call vital to a successful romance story?
There are so many things you could say to answer this question, but I think, for me, there has to be a keen eye and attention to detail. This detail means attention to the characters, how they interact, how they feel when they interact, and the conditions in which romance blooms.
One of the biggest mistakes I see happen in romance stories is “brainworming,” when one character spontaneously starts feeling warm fuzzies and butterflies seemingly out of nowhere. While there can be moments of wonder that make one character see the other in a completely different way, I implore you to think about it like a real relationship. Was there a lightswitch moment when you and your best friend became best friends, or was it more of a natural progression?
Show us how these characters play off each other. Give us some reason to be invested in them getting together. Show us the details of how they care for each other, see each other, and can segue into a romantic setting as a more natural progression. You don’t need to write hundreds of thousands of words to make this possible—it all depends on the story that you want to write.
Treat your characters as living, breathing, feeling beings, and not just getting together because the plot demands that they must make with the kissy-kissy. In a way, they are living and breathing as you weave their stories together, so treat them as such. The biggest question to ask is why? Why are these two together/getting together? Why are they fond of each other, and how do they show this fondness?
These kinds of details can make the relationship feel real, and if it feels real, then it’s all the more easy to root for the characters.
Do you plan your stories out ahead of time, or do you prefer letting them grow during the typing process?
A little of Column A, a little of Column B. When inspiration for a story strikes, it often takes the form of a specific scene. I outline that scene, working out the beginnings of how the characters play off of each other and the setting in which they are situated. From there, I start to outline and flesh out the rest of the story. How do the characters get to that first inspired scene? Where do they go from there?
Sometimes I wonder how much I annoy my friends, as this process isn’t done in a formal way through google docs or a writing program. Instead, I talk to them, using them as walls to bounce ideas off of and for preliminary feedback on characters, odd bits of dialogue, and plot progression. By the time I’m ready to actually start writing, I usually have most (if not all) of the story outlined from bits and pieces of a dozen conversations with a few people. These bits sometimes have entire scenes drafted, and sometimes it’s more point-form.
That being said, writing is also an organic process. I’ve run into situations where an entire scene I’ve outline/drafted in the brainstorming stage has been scrapped because it no longer fit within the story as it developed. Other times, I’ve had to write entirely new scenes on the fly to fill in a gap I didn’t notice before.
I believe that having an outline or a plan is an excellent way to start a story. Doing one helps you organize and marshall your thoughts before you commit to writing, can help you find where there are kinks that might need to be worked out, and keep you on track while writing. At the same time, I also believe you need to be flexible. There’s a certain mood of the story that you can’t plan for ahead of time but comes up when you’re mid-scene, and I’m a firm believer in trusting your gut when it comes to telling a story.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank the RCL for featuring me and this story!
I’d also like to thank all of my friends who have helped me brainstorm, outline, preread, and edit everything that I’ve written. Like I said before, writing is a social activity in its practice and execution, and what I’ve done would not have been possible without them.
You can read “Coming in From the Cold” at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.