Today’s story ticks along to a sweetly chilling conclusion.
Sweet Little Lovely: A Gothic Romance
[Romance] [Dark] • 14,993 words
[Note: This story contains scenes of blood and gore.]
Everyone in their sleepy little town knows that Marvelous, the clockmaker, has eyes for only one mare – the beautiful Little Lovely. Despite her mysterious illness and his amusingly obsessive nature, there’s no question that they make a perfect couple.
But when the truth of Little Lovely’s affliction comes to light, Marvelous begins to realize that her true beauty is … on the inside.
FROM THE CURATORS: This week’s feature makes no bones about its heritage; right in the subtitle, it’s clear what you’re going to get. As Soge said in his nomination, it’s “a really lovely romance story, with genuinely touching moments, interesting characters, and an effective, just-florid-enough writing style that is clearly inspired by 1800s Gothic novels.” Horizon agreed: “The voicing in this is a marvelous style imitation, and the Gothic parts are a compelling enough character drama on their own that in several stretches I forgot I was reading a horror story.”
That being said, astute readers might note the lack of a Horror tag on the story itself, and this may not just be because the story predates the Horror tag—whether or not this was actually a horror story was a matter of some debate among the curators. Present Perfect thought it was an excellent one: “This is a great horror story, full stop, just completely unsettling.” AugieDog had a different perspective; he doesn’t read horror stories, because “they’re too scary. This story, though, I didn’t find scary at all.”
Something all the curators could agree on was “Sweet Little Lovely” managing to require a Gore tag and yet remain almost… wholesome. “The one scene that actually earns that Gore tag is so beautiful and fascinating,” Soge said. Horizon reassures anyone with a weak stomach that “it’s quite possibly one of the most beautiful stories with a Gore tag, and even as a somewhat squeamish person I finished the story over lunch.”
Speaking more broadly, FanOfMostEverything appreciated “that this story’s protagonist is a clockmaker, because this is some beautifully and meticulously assembled prose.” A few curators commented that the setting teeters on the edge of believability within the world of Equestria, but as AugieDog put it, “I’d call it a very Pony story. Because friendship is magic even when your friend turns out to be a sort of—” Ah… that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
Read on for our author interview, in which Mr V discusses prose cameras, gummi artisans, and audio adaptations.
Give us the standard biography.
Isn’t it more fun if it’s all a mystery? I’m just a guy behind a computer screen. No need to be anything more than that. Wouldn’t want to subtly influence anyone’s perceptions by introducing real-world information.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I’m not very good at coming up with names. Too many factors to consider. So I just went with something simple based on the initials of my actual name.
My actual name is also fake.
Layers upon layers.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Rarity is (the) best pony.
What’s your favorite episode?
This is the hardest question ever.
I guess it’s “whichever one I’m watching at the moment.”
Otherwise … I guess “Sonic Rainboom” does have some notable memories for me. I found Rainbow’s triumphant moment to be more emotionally intense than is probably reasonable.
What do you get from the show?
There’s something absolutely hypnotic about those adorable little ponies doing adorable little pony things.
What do you want from life?
All my life I’ve had one dream: to achieve my many goals. And also to have a suitable Simpsons quote for every occasion.
So far, it’s working out well.
Why do you write?
Well, in the event that I were to write something (heh heh), it would be because an idea were stuck in my head and I’d feel almost compelled to see if I could pull it off. I’d say almost all of the stories I’ve written have been something like experiments to see if I could adequately convey a certain concept, emotion, or tactile sensation via text.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
I’m not good at giving advice, but at least I might have some interesting information on writing technique. So here’s something, even though I do hate giving up such an essential trade secret: I’d say a lot of my “success” can be attributed to treating everything I write like it were a movie. Easy enough to say, but what I really mean is that you should (at least consider the option to) treat the reader’s perceptions the same way as a camera, and direct the “shot” accordingly.
So when you need the characters to be in a certain place, consider beginning with an establishing shot to show the reader where the characters are. This is a great chance to use descriptive language and set the emotional mood of the scene.
Next, and this is the key point, lead the camera around. Understand that the reader will be imagining whatever you write about. So whenever possible, try to always relate new things to things that are already in the scene, or things that the reader already knows about that are nearby. Otherwise, the “camera” will be flying all over the place, confusing everyone and negatively impacting the reader’s experience.
So, as a simple example, if you’re talking about a character’s face, you wouldn’t jump straight down to their shoes. Instead, you’d go to their shirt, then pants, then shoes. Or, if you have characters in a room and need to introduce something important on the wall, you might try to have one of the characters talk about that thing, or look at it, or maybe just briefly mention the wall at some point nearby in the scene, so that the wall is established in the reader’s mind and so that they can anticipate the “movement of the camera.” Anticipation is important. By controlling the scene like this, the reader will always be ready for the next thing they’re supposed to “see” and will stay nicely immersed in the story. Instead of jumping unexpectedly from place to place and object to object, the “camera” will be moving smoothly across the scene.
Well, of course, the precise implementation can change depending on the pacing of a particular scene. Action sequences can handle more jump cuts than a slower scene and so on, but I’d say the concept is still solid.
It’s kind of a subtle technique and maybe a little hard to explain, but I think it can have a real impact on how you experience a story. I used it extensively throughout Sweet Little Lovely. I like to think it worked out. Hopefully.
Bonus: Also, if the appearance of a character or object is important, do try to remember to describe it as early as possible (especially if it’s one of the main characters). I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to “retcon” my own imagination after I realized I was visualizing an important character all wrong because the author waited until chapter 3 to actually say what they looked like. It’s a really easy mistake to make, and I may even have done it myself a few times, but it’s really important to get it right if possible.
What inspired “Sweet Little Lovely: A Gothic Romance”?
As I mentioned earlier, it was initiated as a sort of experiment just to see if something could be done. In this case, it was “Is it possible to write a gore fic that’s also romantic? Can gore and horror be treated in a sensual, romantic fashion that allows it to actually be effective as a romance story and not just a mockery of the concept?”
I knew that it would be a tough challenge. Proper treatment of mood and language would be critical and the “gore” aspect would need to be treated as a positive rather than a negative thing. I struck upon the idea of something that examines the body with a sort of scientific and darkly romantic viewpoint that evokes a Victorian feel. It would be an old-fashioned horror story with slow pacing that would allow suitable buildup for the romantic plot and appropriate mood throughout, whether light and romantic or dark and anxious.
The actual process of writing took at least a couple of months, and I spent a good number of hours studying and reading works from Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and Lucy Maud Montgomery in order to get a period-accurate use of language, atmosphere, and flow drilled into my brain until writing it became second nature. At least, that was the intention, anyway.
What was it about My Little Pony that made you want to write a gothic romance in the setting?
It was never really a question of whether or not to write Pony; that’s just what I do.* Pony is my chosen medium, much like the gummi artisans who work exclusively in the medium of gummi.
* For certain definitions of the word “do.”
Do you see the story fitting somewhere into the Equestrian timeline we know from the show?
I guess it’s not impossible that it could have happened, say, 80 to 100 years before the current story.
But, I think it’s not entirely likely, and I wasn’t too concerned with that, since for the most part the actual historical context and relation to the canon timeline doesn’t really affect the events one way or the other. Either way is fine.
Would you characterize this as a horror story?
I don’t see why not. In fact, I would have added the “horror” tag to the story a long time ago, but I just never got around to it (as noted by someone who left a comment on one of the chapters). I don’t really worry too much whether my story is classified as this genre or that genre, just as long as it can be classified as “good.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Actually, yeah. Turns out there’s an awesome audio dramatization of this story (available on Youtube — here’s part one right here at this link). It’s got sound effects and everything. I was exceedingly stoked when I learned about it, and everyone should totally go and listen to it and upvote or whatever. It’s neat.