Today’s story is a real page-turner.
[Dark] [Horror] [Mystery] • 23,036 words
Twilight has given you a new book to read. Well, she didn’t exactly give it to you, you actually just found it in the back of the library. Behind a shelf. On the ground. It looks very old, downright ancient, and it smells like moss and rot. The binding is a little cracked, and there’s no title on it. You can’t help but wonder what might be inside, and the only way to find out is to keep reading.
Just turn the page.
You can do that much, can’t you?
FROM THE CURATORS: Notable fanfiction can bring to life ideas that are too big for the show — but even among exemplary stories, it’s not every day you see ideas that are also too big for traditional prose. “anonpencil’s most recent work — I hesitate to call it just a ‘fic’ — is impressive,” RBDash47 said in his nomination. “Beyond the pure fic/storytelling aspect, pencil spent months building a multimedia experience that takes full advantage of the publishing format: this is not a story that could ever exist in book form, or even really as an ebook.” And while that novelty caught our collective eye, what earned this a feature was its solid quality. “There are plenty of other fics which toy with formatting,” Soge said. “What sets Broken Bindings apart is that it does these things well.”
He wasn’t the only one impressed. “There’s substance in all of this stylish packaging, and it is some beautifully haunting work,” FanOfMostEverything said. “anonpencil used literary devices as thoroughly and as well as she did hyperlinks and multimedia integration.” RBDash47 praised the craft in the character work: “From a pure fic standpoint, it tells a compelling story about a mare imprisoned within a book, and is creepy while simultaneously earning the reader’s sympathies for a villain (maybe even a ‘monster’). The turn/reveal/prestige at the end also makes it an interesting commentary on ‘death of the author’ for me.” And Present Perfect was most impressed by the consistent eye for detail: “I had so much fun finding the little inconsistencies, the seeming mistakes, and the really, really hidden stuff. It was every bit as much fun watching the story unravel, too. Muse’s unstable emotional state comes through in chilling ways.”
Even curators turned off by the story’s structure found themselves admiring it. “I’m here to read a story, not play a game … the concept behind Broken Bindings, though, struck me as a really nice answer to a lot of my objections,” AugieDog said. “If I’d just stumbled across this story on my own, I would’ve stopped about page 6, but since I was reading it for the RCL, I kept going — and found myself immensely impressed with the character’s voice, the little animations and nutty typography stuff, and the rising tension.” And in the end, our biggest regrets were not getting to the tale sooner. “I meant to nominate this one myself. This is what I get for procrastinating,” FanOfMostEverything said. “In any case, this is a glorious exercise in using the medium to its absolute fullest.”
Read on for our author interview, in which anonpencil discusses brie bathing, editor cheating, and dream infiltration.
Give us the standard biography.
Well, okay then! My name’s anonpencil, and I’ve been doing the whole writing fanfiction for MLP thing since around Season 2. I yell a lot, drink a lot, and I’m basically a horrible person as I’m sure some others will tell you. Most of my stories contain lots of vomit and horrible humor, as well as comedic death. But not this story, this one is “special.”
Anyway, I also like cheese more than I like people, and I’m on this really great/horrifying podcast called The Barcast. If you like interviews and want to hear me scream obscenities, check it out. So … yeah, that’s about it.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Actually, the name comes from a drawthread on 4chan. I used to draw really bad and usually lewd pencil art there for requests, and when people asked me to pick a name I did. Anon because of where I was, and Pencil because all of my stuff was in pencil. I know, not exactly exciting.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Berry Punch. She’s the best little drunkhorse, though cheese legs is pretty wonderful too.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Bridle Gossip”. I usually show first-timers that one to start, because there’s so much genuinely wrong about it. Wrong in good ways — things that animators did that look terrifying or suggestive, and lines that, out of context, sound downright insulting. It has so many moments where little adult things can be implied, and the drinking game that goes along with it? HOO boy.
Also, dat zebra tho.
What do you get from the show?
I’ve been a fan of My Little Pony since I was just a tiny snot creature. It’s always been the equivalent of visual comfort food for me. Since then, I’ve made some amazing friends. Five of my very best friends in the world are part of the MLP fandom, and two of them are … er … more than friends. They know who they are, the lovable buttfaces. Either way, this is a community I love being a part of and contributing to. The Barcast podcast every week is always something I look forward to, and our viewers are beautiful terrible people and I hate all of them but not really.
Also, the fandom lets me write about puking ponies. Come on. What’s not to love?
What do you want from life?
A proper book with my name on the spine. I’ve had some stories and a LOT of articles published, but I’m a writer for life. My goal is to hold a published novel in my hands that I am proud of. That will make me truly happy and, in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right? Being happy and making sure others around you are happy too. Or making them miserable, but hey, if their misery makes you happy, then you’re halfway there!
Why do you write?
I can’t not write. I write for MLP for catharsis, because a lot of the things I write aren’t so fun and bizarre. But I’ve tried not writing, and it makes me hate my life in unexpected ways. Writing is an integral part of me, and I cannot imagine my life without it. I think I’ve known that since before I knew you have to use spaces to make separate words. My early writing was … difficult.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Don’t quit. At some point you’ll need to assess why you’re writing. Is it for you, for your own enjoyment and that of your friends? Is it a compulsion that you do because it’s the same as eating or drinking? Is it something you want to be a career? No matter the answer, I can tell you that quitting because someone was mean to you, or because you’re feeling down on your own abilities, is not the way. Keep writing, keep trying, keep listening, keep being open to new things, and keep learning. You’ll be surprised how much you grow as a writer and as a person.
Also, don’t ever try to be any other writer. You can look up to others, sure, but don’t aspire to be “the next JK Rowling.” Instead, aspire to be the next big thing under your own name.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to mess up. We all do it. Push yourself, and learn from the mistakes. I promise, it gets easier to deal with missteps over time if you accept that they’re inevitable.
Judging by your gallery, Broken Bindings is well outside the typical story you write. What inspired you to push your boundaries this way?
I have wanted to write this story for a year at least. A long time ago, someone suggested to me that a book that could talk to you and was romantically interested in you sounded so wonderful. My response was “Uh, that sounds terrifying.” Since then, the idea stuck with me.
In MLP fanfiction, I have a rather memorable style and subject matter: If it’s gross or horrible, I’ll probably write it. But outside of MLP, that’s not at all how I write. So this isn’t exactly a stretch for me as far as subject matter. The formatting? Oh man, that was a different matter. I’d never attempted something like that, and it looked like a challenge in the best way. I write for fun, and for me a real challenge, especially one that pushes the limits of the FimFic platform, sounded fun. Make an interactive, horror, ARG, non-CYOA story on FimFic … can it be done? Well, you tell me. Besides, I’d like to see more stuff like this and someone has to start the trend, right?
What was the process of crafting a multimedia project of this caliber like?
I had about ten pages of notes on this monster of a story. I had to figure out HOW to hide the text, how to link things in a way that was subtle enough, and I had to write riddles that were somewhat difficult but not too difficult. I had to find images that worked, and even make some myself. Then, I set it up page by page, and had Flutterpriest play through it probably three or four times in some parts. Then, the last things I did were to hide two final bins, and record the video. It took legitimately months of my time, and it was exhausting, but I’d say it was worth it.
Creating my main character was … surprisingly easy. I’m very attached to her, even if she’s not technically an OC (it’s true, she’s based on something). She’s done a lot of growing herself in my own head, forming her own personality. She definitely infiltrated a few of my dreams to urge me to keep writing, which I promise you isn’t something I woke up out of in cold-sweating terror. Nope. Not at all. No sir. That’s at least stopped since I finished.
If I’m being honest … I wasn’t sure the story would be well-received. Sure, it’s unusual, but when you write something way outside the norm, oftentimes people don’t know what to do with it or how to handle it. I’m pleased I hit my mark, even if it was uncertain there for a while. I even worried the story might be removed from the site for all the little links I included!
Also, yes, before you ask, I was tempted to include some sort of secret link in this interview, just to add more stuff to find. But I figured I shouldn’t do that …
Assuming the story we heard was true, what exactly happened to the brother?
I’ll confirm this one that, yes, the story she told is true, and I’ve thought about that for a while now. Initially I thought timberwolves probably got him, but parts of me don’t like that as much. Now, I think that maybe a day-less darkness has its own identity, its own kind of shape. That the darkness itself can consume ponies if left unchecked, like an ethereal predator. It might be something I weave into another story down the line.
Are there any clues to the identities of the two blood sacrifices?
Oooooh someone’s looking to cheat, are they? [You can’t prove that. -Ed.] All I will say is that she tried very hard to honor their sacrifices. That’s all she’s ever done. One line in a hidden Bin might give you more of a clue. There’s at least one person in the comments who has figured it out so far as well.
Are there any clues or secrets no one’s found yet?
Only one. While the Lullaby is arguably the hardest thing to find, and I’m thinking of redoing it so it’s better quality (though the way to find it would be the same), it’s been found a few times. Other than that there’s a little hint as to a future story of mine that I slipped in there. I don’t expect anyone to notice it until the next story is already out.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This story was stupid amounts of genuine work. And I’m proud of it. I have to thank my Barcast family for helping it get noticed, and I have to thank Flutterpriest for helping me clean and edit the blasted thing. And, of course, I have to thank everyone who read/played it and the RCL for adding it to the library. It feels good. Not like, bathing in a tub of triple-crème brie good, but pretty darn close. So, cheers, this scotch is for you.