Today’s story will really get into your head.
Being Juniper Montage
[Equestria Girls] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 42,118 words
Mere weeks ago, Juniper Montage was a spiteful girl, a thief, and even—for a short time—a magical menace. However, Starlight Glimmer and the Rainbooms managed to reach her, and extend the hands of forgiveness and friendship. Juniper has been grateful for the second chance ever since, and eager to show that she can be a good friend herself.
While touring Canterlot High School with Twilight Sparkle, she comes across two girls in dire cinematic straits. Juniper knows she can help, so she decides to step in. However, in the midst of her attempt, her past—all of her past—returns to haunt her, and her self-esteem pays the price.
Now Juniper must discover for herself what it truly means to be a friend, while also fighting an angry, fearful voice in the back of her mind that continues to insist that she’s not worth anyone’s friendship… and keeps getting louder.
FROM THE CURATORS: Maybe the most basic reason Pony fanfiction exists is to take characters and situations we know from the show and explore them at greater depth. A good piece of fanfiction, though, works even if the reader isn’t familiar with the particular character or situation. “I knew nothing at all about Juniper Montage going in,” Horizon admitted during our discussions, “and this story made me curious enough about her background to get me watching Juniper Montage’s episodes.”
“Bookish Delight,” Fan of Most Everything said when nominating this story, “has an almost inhuman talent for taking the bipedal cutouts Equestria Girls calls antagonists and turning them into fleshed-out, multidimensional people.” AugieDog agreed, saying, “The ‘Ex-Villains’ Club Sleep-Over’ made me very happy” with Horizon adding, “the whole cast is unerringly interesting.”
“What I liked the most here,” AugieDog went on, “was the way the story digs so deeply into the process of redemption.” Horizon noted, “This brings a lot of context to the inner struggle involved in the redemption we see characters breeze through in the show.” “Juniper’s inner demon,” AugieDog said, “is just that—an interior force—and her realization that she has to find a way of dealing with this thing at the core of her personality drives the story.” “Plus,” Fan of Most Everything concluded, “it’s a good meditation on the creative process as a whole.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Bookish Delight discusses core idealism, glasses-wearing nerd girls, and playing, not working.
Give us the standard biography.
Name: Bookish Delight
Gender: I’ve heard that’s a thing, yes. ^_^
Occupation: Published Freelance Writer, Webdev, Ex-Professional Critic
Turn-ons: Nice People, Positivity, Modesty, Bonding Moments, Rainy Walks in the Park, Glasses, Certain Shades of the Color Green, Subtlety and Innuendo
Turn-offs: Smoking, Insects, Cynicism, Massive Egos, The Inability to Grasp Subtlety or Innuendo, and Insects. No, really, the only good bug is a dead bug.
I grew up mere blocks away from the set of Do the Right Thing as it was being filmed, and pretty much everything you need to know about what my formative years were like can probably be learned by watching that movie. (Well, that and The Meteor Man.) So as not to become a statistic early, I spent my time going to school, reading books, watching far too many cartoons, spending far too much time in the arcade, having far too few friends, and making sure I was safe in my house before it was too dark so I could go to sleep each night to the tune of intermittent gunshots.
After attending college (while somehow living and working in an even worse neighborhood) for the better part of a decade, I finally managed to move somewhere where my life expectancy would be slightly higher. Following that, I spent a decade reporting on the video games industry, then spent another decade in said industry, before deciding—partially of my own accord!—that it was time to branch out.
All this while writing fanfics for a multiple of video games and cartoons for, like, a good couple decades. These days, I broadcast from my secret base, spinning out pirate-radio pony beats to the tune of mares and girls comforting and kissing each other a bunch. Since 2010, my sole purpose round these parts has been to give this entire fandom that uki uki waku waku super mega ultra daisuki feeling.
Hopefully I have. I’ve been here for far too long.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
When MLP: Friendship is Magic dropped in 2010, it blew my ever-loving mind. However, back then, it contained what I considered a massive flaw: a complete lack of a dorky, socially awkward, glasses-wearing nerd girl. Preferably one who did wacky science experiments every episode.
You think I’m joking, but when I take over the world, every kids’/family show is going to have one of these. If there’s a budget limit on characters for your show, then go ahead and sacrifice one of those archetypes no sane person cares about, like the Spiky-Haired Underdog Shonen Boy With A Single Unorthodox Special Talent And Big Dreams. Toss him in the garbage, replace him with Velma Dinkley. Boom. Already better show, from the jump, you’re welcome.
Anyway. Twilight Sparkle came closest to what I wanted (and indeed, for the first three seasons I’d be… mildly obsessed with her), and yet she wasn’t anywhere close enough. Also, there’s not much in the way of science in Equestria. Also also, 2014 was still a long ways away, and as much as I’ve been trying, I still can’t see the future. So I was up a creek.
Enter ponysonas. You know what they are—either really cute or really eye-rolling, but usually still good, sweet and crunchy, especially when eaten right out of the box without any milk. Back in 2010, though, if you couldn’t draw, the only way to make any sort of OC pony was to use Hasbro’s old, old, OLD and now-broken pony creator. I’m not sure if it’s even on the Internet anymore.
(by the way fun fact bookish actually can’t be made using that fan-made flash creator everyone got to use six months later i have tried several times it just doesn’t work—)
Anyway, eventually awesome artists would step in to help me out with her design and cutie mark, and thus you can see the evolution of Bookish Delight’s design (including the little-publicized unicorn variant!) if you start at the end of this folder and just look backwards. Some people have even drawn fanart of her! I love you all.
The genesis of the name is simple by comparison. It’s a loose reference to the Chronicles of Narnia books, a favorite when I was growing up. Turkish Delight is a snack that, by reputation, is stupidly sugary and fluffy (curator Fan of Most Everything noted here, “Having had it, can confirm. It’s somewhere between marshmallows and gummy bears, usually full of nuts and covered in powdered sugar” to which Bookish Delight responded, “Ah, awesome! One of these days I really need to track it down. :3”) much like my writing style—to the point where it’s understandably Marmite for some people. That said, to a certain character in those books, it’s addictive enough to betray your family for. :3
Who’s your favorite pony?
Rarity is best pony, and officially the best character I’ve witnessed in my entire life.
She’s creative, business-savvy, empathetic, goal-driven, proudly feminine, a black belt, a rock star, a detective, generous (duh), and, uh, also a manipulative worrywart drama queen which somehow just makes her more perfect? One of these days I’ll write a deep dive essay on her, but this interview’s due in a few days which isn’t enough time in the slightest. Next time, I promise.
Still, eight years on, the meme holds true: there are no bad Rarity episodes. Even the ones where co-focus characters do their best to make them bad. :3
Meanwhile: Sci-Twi is best human, Zecora is s̶e̶c̶r̶e̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶p̶o̶n̶y̶ best zebra, Celestia is best princess, Dagi is best Siren, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are tied for best filly, Ember is best dragon, Tank and Opal are best pets, Thorax is best changeling, Steven Magnet is best sea serpent.
I miss anyone? No? Great!
What’s your favorite episode?
For the longest time, it was Rarity Takes Manehattan.
After going back through the episode list on Wikipedia (my goodness, did you know we’re up to almost 200 of these? I remember the days when re-digesting the show for writing purposes didn’t require taking an entire week off from work)…
…yeah, it’s still Rarity Takes Manehattan. By a long shot. There are episodes that I consider “better”, and certainly more landmark (Crusaders, Royal Problem, Daring Don’t, even the opening two-parter) but Rarity Takes Manehattan is just that one I have a shockingly deep and personal connection with.
It shows what Rarity, as a character, is all about, from her goals, to her background, to showing her at her best and her worst, her most generous and loving, her most petty and manipulative, and it can show how this wonderful little white ball of imperfect perfection can still touch others and make their lives infinitely better than they were before. It’s quintessential Rarity, and stands side by side with Suited For Success as a perfect primer for the character and a showcase of why she’s just so dang great.
This is before we get to its introduction of my spirit pony in Coco Pommel, who like a certain fanfic author also rose from the streets of Bronclyn, to initially being exploited by their employer(s), to then being offered more lucrative career and creative opportunities out of nowhere after following the golden rule, and going on to become one of the nicest and most fabulous of creative minds. I’m still working on the last part of that arc, but otherwise, Miss Pommel is my life. It’s kind of eerie if I think about it too hard, but I have a framed portrait of her on my wall a̶n̶d̶ ̶I̶ ̶t̶o̶t̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶i̶d̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶s̶p̶e̶n̶d̶ ̶$̶4̶0̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶p̶l̶u̶s̶h̶i̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶m̶i̶d̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶w̶r̶i̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶s̶e̶n̶t̶e̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶W̶H̶Y̶ ̶I̶S̶ ̶T̶H̶I̶S̶ ̶I̶N̶T̶E̶R̶V̶I̶E̶W̶ ̶C̶O̶S̶T̶I̶N̶G̶ ̶M̶E̶ ̶M̶O̶N̶E̶Y for exactly that reason: to remind me that the dream is always possible, and even when the world seems heartless, there will always be someone out there who cares.
Meanwhile, across the mirror:
Friendship Games is best EQG. Sorry, guys. I know y’all like tacos and cheese. I love tacos and cheese right along with y’all, I promise. And I cried in the theater when the bacon came out absolutely perfect.
Hey, did you know that bacon tacos exist? You can totally put cheese on top of them. Spices, too, if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Someone should totally do that. I would, but I’ve been busy this last month trying to get this vegan popcorn recipe just right.
But, yeah, things change, tastes change, faves change, more empathetic stories get told, and really great characters get left on the side of the road for half a decade. :( So, Friendship Games it is. I’d make a grand speech as to why I love FG so much but the truth is I did it thirty-five minutes ago with the help of the only other person crazy enough to go this deep into a fluffy tween kids’ show with me at the time. But whenever I write an MLP/EQG fic, I keep the tenets and themes of Friendship Games and Rarity Takes Manehattan in mind. I love them that much, and have rewatched both in full close to ten times, which is far and away more than any episode or movie since the show started.
(I suppose something could be said about me that both of these episodes are about the debilitating effects of a needlessly destructive environment on people who would otherwise have hopes and dreams, with friendship and empathy being the only way to break the cycle… but meh. This answer’s as long as it is. Let’s move on, shall we?)
What do you get from the show?
The future, if we’re lucky.
I did a rambly blog post on this a while back, but examining MLP/EQG, examining its mission statement, and examining its characters, is the easiest way to enjoy said show and characters, to say nothing of getting a leg up on life. And I don’t mean “analysis” like trying to make sure every single little plot point or obscure character action lines up like a machine—that is the easiest way to go crazy. But to really look at the whole picture.
Because that picture is an investment in the future.
Equestria isn’t some perfect utopia, and ponies are FAR from perfect lifeforms—honestly, if episodes like Fame and Misfortune (or any of the ones that take place in Manehattan) are anything to go by, Equestria is actually full of morons and asshats just like Earth is. However, it is my earnest belief that if our younger generations watching Equestria’s events internalize the social conflict resolution methods on display in, oh, 90% of this franchise’s output, then this world will be heading for a better place. We older folks may not live to see it in our lifetimes, but if shows like this are appreciated and more are made in its mold, then I’m okay with keeping hope alive.
Because I see a show like Equestria Girls, with literal magic swirling through a world much like our own, creating friendships on one end of the spectrum, and causing people to meet their inner demons face to face on the other. Meanwhile, I see a show like Friendship is Magic, where interpersonal problems are tackled by the horns, where forgiveness is sought above all else, and retribution is avoided unless as an absolute last resort.
I see both shows and I see cultures mingling—not without conflict, of course, but never to the point of war, because something always stops it before it starts. I see skin color not mattering one bit, or who loves who. I see all manner of ponies and creatures and humans using both their commonalities and differences to make each others’ lives better.
I see these things, I see these shows, and I see… well, I see lives that could have been saved where and when I grew up. I see conflicts and deaths now that didn’t have to happen, and I see future lives flourishing under its tenets.
And it’s a future we can get to. The core idealism and promises of Star Trek, just aimed for the tykes, sure… but ones that we can all learn from right now if we only slightly adjust our mental and emotional lenses from what we’re used to doing when processing media. Cute character designs/personalities and magical lasers are great and all (goodness, are they), and having an eye for minutae is totally not a bad thing— but it’s always a good idea to examine each episode and see what it has to teach us, both in context of its greater message and in the context of the landscape in which we live.
And you know what? Sometimes those don’t always line up. Sometimes the message is flubbed or expressed badly. Because it’s written by humans. (I want Starlight Glimmer’s autobiography, and I will say this until my dying day.) But from where I sit, to dwell on those flubs for too long is to miss the forest for the trees. On the whole, MLP is smarter than most folks think, and too often, it’s real to the point where it can make viewers past its target audience uncomfortable via forced self-examination. If neither of those two things were true, this show wouldn’t have blown up the way it did, and neither it nor the fanbase would still be going so strong.
Not too shabby for a commercial toy vehicle.
(…what I’m trying to say is i uh kinda like this show a whole lot)
What do you want from life?
At the risk of sounding like a beauty pageant contestant: worldwide and inter-cultural peace would be nice?
But as far what’s feasible in my lifetime—I just want to live a moderately comfortable and relaxed life within my financial means. Being a kids’ TV or comic book writer someday would be nice, too. I used to always fear that my normal brand of almost conflict-less, super-fluffy storytelling wouldn’t burn up the ratings charts or shift many copies, but as of this interview DC Super Hero Girls is in its fourth season, has four movies and a line of comics, so I suppose anything’s possible. :D
Why do you write?
Stock answer, I’m sure, but: because I can’t not. Stupid imagination never turns the heck off. It dreams up varying timelines for everything I play, watch, read or experience, sometimes with scary results if I don’t get it out of my system. Sometimes it even dreams up (gasp!) original things!
And to that end, I actually don’t have any other creative or emotional outlets. I’m an introvert who originally wanted to be an artist, but I can’t keep visuals in my head for the life of me. Never could.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
You. You reading this right now.
You’re better than you think you are.
Way, way better.
Stop obsessing over every word because you think they all need to be “up to snuff”. Smack your inner critic with a 2×4 and lock them in a closet. The inner critic is there to make sure you don’t enjoy writing.
Put words on the page until you don’t have any more in you. They don’t even have to be in complete sentences. Just get the ideas down. Even if they’re in scattered pieces.
Then look over what you have, because it’ll always be something. And add any more cool ideas or cool words that those original words bring to your mind, and glue those scattered pieces together.
Then comes the trust. Trust what you’ve written, trust it with maybe one or two other people who you trust to have sharp eyes while also caring even more about keeping writing enjoyable. Trust yourself to agree or disagree with them, and make (or not make) changes accordingly.
Then trust your story to survive being submitted. It usually will.
Then do it all over again.
That’s writing. That’s the process.
I started out doing the above, and had tons of fun for a decade-plus. Then I became obsessed with “quality” for an excruciating second decade-plus before only recently re-learning all of the above.
Don’t be me.
What inspired “Being Juniper Montage”?
Have you ever just seen a character concept show up and instantly just connected with them, regardless of how much that concept had actually been realized? Not just liking them, mind you, but where your heart, for some reason or another, or even no reason at all, gives a palpable reaction?
Most people were really into Vinyl Scratch and Octavia, or Muffins, or Lyra, but it looks like with Juniper Montage, my number finally came up. I can’t get enough of this gal, now especially after I’ve written 100K words about her over various fics. I bought her movie theater playset just to get her Mini. T̶w̶i̶c̶e̶. I am stranded on Juniper Island as probably her only fan and it’s great here. Every night is Magical Movie Night.
I tend to have a romanticized relationship with media-adjacent characters in fiction–journalists, writers, creatives, moguls, and yes, even moviemakers. One of my favorite characters in all of video games is Ran Hibiki, the fighting high school journalist from the Rival Schools/Project Justice series of games. If you ask me my feelings about Calista Flockhart’s character on Supergirl, I will blab your ear off for hours at high frequency. 30 Rock is one of my Desert Island shows.
And then comes Juniper with her movie schtick and fantastic voice acting, starting as an unhinged fangirl, then moving on to a petty teenager denied something she didn’t deserve, to shockingly vulnerable and lonely in her Sunset-induced flashback and genuinely contrite with her final wish. Ali Liebert is a freaking hero and without her delivery, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Her voice and Hasbro’s single Juniper bio buried deep in the bowels of the Equestria Girls website were all I had to go on, but we as fans have done far more with far less—see any of the characters I just named two paragraphs ago.
So once I saw the Magic series, I was off to the races. I wrote about 50,000 words of Juniper in various situations with a few characters. One of the things that came out of all that fun work was a fluffy epilogue fic for Juniper and her duology called “Melding Mediums.” It was made up of just the storyline in “Being Juniper Montage” (BJM) where Juniper helps Photo Finish and Sunny Flare make a movie. Basically, picture much smaller to-the-point versions of Chapters 1, 2, 12 and 13, to the tune of ~9000 words.
I tossed it over to some pals and one of them had a comment on the nature of Midnight Sparkle. I agreed with that comment, and somehow one brainspark led to another, and somewhere in there I realized that as much as I love Equestria Girls, I had a lot of feelings about it at the time that I had to get off of my chest.
Specifically: I’ll go to bat for nearly all aspects of Equestria Girls you may care to name, but I infamously(?) don’t like Legend of Everfree. It was the big Status Quo Changer for the Equestria Girls world, yet I didn’t care for most of those changes, to say nothing of how a lot of the movie played out on its own merits. If you look all through BJM, you’ll notice a lot of the things I objected to (though I saved my objections to Timber Spruce as a concept for different stories), and my proposed alternatives. I’m not saying they’re better. I just like them more.
Finally, to quote Dr. Brené Brown: In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s just a thing we do. However, she was talking about things like anxiety and vulnerability in the context of that quote, which I certainly came to similar conclusions to regarding Juniper after meditating over her character. This is relevant to the story as well, and I’ll say no more than all I’ve said already because like any good and correct person, I know how it feels to dislike spoilers.
So, yeah. In the end, this story is part tribute to a character who I fell in irrational fannish love with and felt deserved better, combined with one of the very few times in this fandom I felt like writing a fixfic. Fortunately, EQG has returned to being ten flavors of awesome for a while now, so we’re back to our regularly scheduled broadcast fluff. Just in case you all were worried!
What did you do to make this, your “50th Story Special,” so special?
Up until this project, there was often a point while writing a story where I decided that no matter how much I liked an idea, it would just take too long for me to fully realize given how much free time I actually have to write, which is not all that much. Or maybe it would push too much of a “controversial” envelope. (I also just prefer writing short stories or things that could last the runtime of an episode—that pesky TV writing dream again.) Given that BJM took seven months from start to finish and dealt with some heavy stuff that I refused to tackle without the subtlest hand, I was right on both counts. But I decided, just this once, not to care.
What followed was me going through the school of hard knocks writing my first novella-length piece of fiction, 80% by discovery and 20% by haphazard structuring. I don’t exactly recommend it, but I did finally learn that that is the writing process that works for me personally. Which is great, because personal process is absolutely a thing that every writer should learn and become comfortable with.
So I guess the answer to this question is: “I finally rolled up my sleeves and taught myself to stop sucking at one highly specific aspect of my writing.” One down, fifty-eight to go!
How do you flesh out a canonically under-realized character like Juniper?
The same way this fandom has fleshed out characters like Lyra Heartstrings and Vinyl Scratch (I will never, ever use that other name) and even pre-Season 6 Trixie over the years: by not dwelling on what isn’t there, and playing with what there is.
Note that I didn’t say “working with”.
In the early days of the fandom we latched on to whoever we could, from Octavia to Diamond Tiara, and we fleshed them out any way we could. If we had a different vision for those characters than the show did, then we… just put it on paper.
These days, though, it seems people are more fit to complain about what the show is/isn’t doing for them personally, than to throw their hats into the ring and do something about it—and that’s a shame. Doubly so when I see all this complaining on a fanfiction site. To this day I’m utterly shocked that Junie doesn’t have more fics and art—I think only the Everfree Camp Counselors have less at this point. And given that Juniper’s whole schtick is movies, and by extension pop culture and media, and her visual design is one of the best in the series (fite me), it just baffles me.
So, try it now: take someone who’s caught your eye in the show. Maybe it’s a background pony. Maybe it’s a Shadowbolt. Maybe it’s Saffron Masala—there’s another one who could use some TLC. Regardless of who you pick, and regardless of what the show has or hasn’t done with them, just… make up stuff for them that you enjoy. A situation or a quirk. Give them traits and/or backstories you like, that are preferably the most compatible with what little canon has given you already. After that, you really can just write whatever.
There are plenty of things I wish MLP/EQG did more of or did better. Because, as mentioned earlier, it’s a flawed show written by humans. But that also means I have so much more room to play around in with the characters and the world. And we’ll never run out of that room.
Play in the room, people. That’s all I ask. Turn whatever underwhelms you into something cute instead. I believe in you. <3
I’d ask what you see for Juniper in her future, but you hint at that in a later story. So, when does she win her first Oscar?
The exact moment she stops caring about doing so. Because isn’t that when it always happens?
(This is naturally assuming that MLP’s Academy doesn’t work… like… Earth’s does. Heavens, we should hope not.)
Is there anything else you’d like to add?