We’d like to give you a good word about today’s story.
Without Another Word
[Drama] [Sad] • 11,912 words
Seven years have passed since Grand Pear moved to Vanhoover, and time has dulled the pain of leaving Pear Butter behind. Though the scars remain, life for the Pear family has done its best to return to normal.
But one day, a letter from Ponyville comes in the mail.
FROM THE CURATORS: The Perfect Pear is one of the most moving and beloved episodes of MLP’s recent seasons, so stories based on it have a high bar to clear — a challenge which this fic exceeded with grace. As Soge noted in his nomination, “Powerful stuff … Without Another Word does what fanfiction does best, by exploring the empty spaces left behind by canon.” And Present Perfect summed up our assessment: “Grand Pear is perhaps the greatest tragic figure of MLP:FiM, beating out even Cranky Doodle Donkey’s decade-long search for love. This story gets how someone could do what he did, how they could live with it, and how none of it would be easy. Every last drop of possible emotion is wrung from a pure, natural understanding of his character.”
That was accomplished, Soge said, “thanks to some very well realized characterization work, and a tone which manages to feel heavy and yet avoid falling into melodrama.” Several other curators also praised the treatment of the Pear family, such as AugieDog: “The character details elevate it right into the clouds — Grand Pear’s relationship with his wife and with the griffon bartender especially, but also with his other children and the folks who come into his shop,” he said. “It displays a real understanding of the sort of person who would do this to himself and to his family.” And FanOfMostEverything added, “The fleshing out of his wife when the episode gave us absolutely nothing to work with was fantastic.”
The character work was also enhanced by a finely crafted structure. “I feel the strongest part of this story is its use of unreliable narration,” FanOfMostEverything said. “At first, we see Grand Pear how he wants to be seen, as the strong central pillar of his family, the source of order in the chaos. It takes an emotional breakdown, other perspectives, and too much straight whiskey to peel back the layers and show what’s really been going on.” And ultimately, what that added up to was something all of us commented on — the raw emotional power on display. “This story hit me hard,” Soge said, and AugieDog concurred: “This doesn’t pull any of the punches Grand Pear’s got coming.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Jack of a Few Trades discusses starry-eyed phases, fruit glue, and hailstorm baptisms.
Give us the standard biography.
It all started … when I was born.
I’m a dude from the plains, born of wheat fields and baptized in a hailstorm. My life revolves around weather, and I’m currently fulfilling my lifelong dream of pursuing a degree in meteorology. I also like hockey, fried onion burgers, cartoons, and am a huge train buff. When I’m not chasing storms in a locomotive with my skates on, I sometimes partake in the appraisal of fine miniature equines of the pastel variety. Occasionally, I write about them.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I like usernames that incorporate my real first name so that even people online will just refer to me as “Jack.” Luckily, there’s a lot of colloquialisms out there and sayings that use my name. I used several variants before I settled on “Jack of All Trades”. Of course, that’s too self-congratulatory and mainstream for my tastes, so I humbled it down to just being a Jack of a Few Trades, not quite all of them.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Cheerilee, hands down. I always liked her, but I was an Applejack fan for the longest time. But then one day, I started writing a story starring her a few years ago, and I just kinda fell in from there. Someone’s gotta rep the characters that don’t see much love from the fandom, so who better than me?
I gotta mention that Silverstream is also an incredible little bundle of feathers and joy that I can’t get enough of, but this question only asked for ponies.
What’s your favorite episode?
That’s a tough question. There’s so many good episodes, great for often very different reasons. “Hearts and Hooves Day” was amazing for the comedy and the mature lesson at the end (not to mention Cheerilee’s only starring role so far). “Amending Fences” closely mirrored real-life experiences that I’ve gone through and was quite profound while doing so. “A Royal Problem” was an all-around blast and gave Celestia and Luna some sorely needed time in the spotlight, and the list could go on for a while from here.
But I think I’m just going to go the semi-expected route and give my favorite episode as “The Perfect Pear”, for obvious reasons that I’ll probably wind up explaining later in this interview.
What do you get from the show?
I’ve been a fan of animation for my entire life. Many people I know grew out of it in their teens, but I’ve never stopped preferring animation over live-action and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
But now that I’m an adult, I should be a fan of “adult” animation, right? Cast off that silly toddler-fodder and enjoy the raunchy, off-color fruits of maturity. Well, I can only enjoy that to a point. There’s a few shows out there like Bojack Horseman and Futurama that aren’t kid-friendly and are genuinely good, but then there’s the not-so-silent majority of Family Guy-class shows that stack up as little more than juvenile attempts at shock humor. They’re alright for a short time, but they quickly lose me. And they’re hideous! Again, with a few rare exceptions, these cartoons are lazily animated and unpleasant to look at.
Then look at some of the modern kid-oriented shows. Yeah, there’s also a lot of garbage around, but there are also some stunningly good ones out there. Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, and kind of surprisingly, My Little Pony as a few examples. These shows have great characters, intriguing storylines, clever humor, worlds that draw you in and make you want to explore, and the animation looks great! In the case of MLP, the unique and expressive use of flash animation was what first hooked me. On top of that, there’s a wild amount of creative potential in Equestria and the world at large, far more so than I see in any other show that I’ve watched. In fact, I’d call the world of MLP a fanfiction writer’s playground.
What do you want from life?
I just want to live it.
Why do you write?
Something something “I did well in high school english classes so I should be a good writer!”
Or at least, that was how it started. I was in the starry-eyed discovery phase when I took it up back in 2013. I had just discovered that fandoms were a thing for the first time, and seeing all of the amazing creative work that the community produced got me inspired to try my own hand at making some sort of art around pony. Of course, money was an issue, so getting a music producing setup or the supplies for drawing were kind of out of reach at the time, but all writing required was a keyboard, so the choice sort of made itself. Writing fanfiction was my first foray into writing stories of any kind, and contrary to what I believed at first, there was a pretty steep learning curve involved. It’s a lot different from writing papers for class, and it takes a lot of active effort in order to improve.
But why do I stick with it? Well, put simply, I like it. Every artistic medium has a different capability of expression, and I love the depth and detail you can go into when writing, as opposed to the more surface-level limitations of drawing or the more abstract feeling that music gives. At least for pony works, this is where I’ve decided to invest my efforts, and I guess that’s where I’m gonna stay for a while.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Never leave it at “good enough”. No matter what you do, no matter how much or how little recognition you receive for your efforts, there is no stopping point. You can always improve. Never give in to complacency. Actively work to improve, to be the best you can possibly be.
And for pete’s sake, have fun!
What was it about the events of “A Perfect Pear” that drove you so strongly to write “Without Another Word”?
In my life, I’ve been blessed to not have to deal with loss of people close to me really at all. All of my grandparents are still around and are quite well, and my family is intact and close-knit, among other amazing things of that nature that I am so lucky to have. But, at the expense of that, I have little experience in dealing with the emotional toll that comes with losing someone close.
Last year, roughly a month before “The Perfect Pear” aired, my roommate suddenly passed away from a seizure. I was already reeling from losing the dog I’d had since grade school just shortly before that, and it proved to be more than I knew how to deal with. I pretty much isolated myself from reality for a month, doing everything I could to forget what had happened. I bottled it away, and strangely enough, it was that episode of MLP that uncapped the bottle.
I sat there bawling my eyes out for a solid hour after the end of the episode while in a voice chat with friends. Everything just came rushing to the surface all at once, all of the grief that I’d forced down. Heck, it was enough to make me lose my appetite for several days, and that’s saying a lot considering my lifelong love affair with food.
Shortly thereafter, I began looking for an outlet. I needed some way to get all of what I was feeling out, and that was where the episode came in. “The Perfect Pear” was still weighing heavily on my mind, and when I realized that Grand Pear likely never saw his daughter again before she died, I took to writing that idea as my vent. I can’t say it was my favorite story writing experience so far given the pain that spurred it, but the end result is by far my favorite of anything I’ve ever written.
With Pear Butter’s mother not even mentioned in the episode, where did you get the inspiration for the character of Péra Rocha?
I knew from the start that I would need a character to fill the role of Pear Butter’s mother and Grand Pear’s other half. I briefly considered presenting him as a single father, but that didn’t quite match the role that he was built up to.
I took a lot of inspiration for Péra and her role in the family from my grandmother. She is the glue that holds everything together, since Grand isn’t exactly the most agreeable stallion in the world. She is a lot of the things that Grand is not: patient, forgiving, joyful. Even after Pear Butter was disowned, Pera kept contact with her, and that took courage. She fills in a lot of the blanks that he leaves, and they complete each other in a way that isn’t always pretty, but it always works.
Do you suppose Grand Pear’s other children will ever feel the need to meet their Apple family relatives?
Most likely, yes. Sure, they’ve mostly taken over the Pear Family business now and are no doubt busy ponies, and their relationship with Grand is quite strained after everything that happened and has likely deteriorated since Pera passed, but I imagine they’d come out to pay a visit at least once.
Do stories usually come together quickly for you, or do they grow more slowly?
Most of the other authors I talk to on this site seem to churn out stories fairly quickly, perhaps taking just a few hours to write several thousand words. For me, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done the same. I approach horseword-smithing with a slow, occasionally methodical but usually scatterbrained hand. I get distracted easily and have a tendency to expect too much from my rough drafts, so I usually take a while to produce much. Heck, Without Another Word was just under 12,000 words long, but it took me a solid month of work to complete, and that was with it dominating most of the free time that I had available.
At least that slow approach seems to yield some fair, if not prolific results. It got me here, didn’t it?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank everyone who has been there to support me along the way. Everyone that has come and gone or is still with me. I wouldn’t be here without all of you. I won’t name any names because that list would get LONG, but you guys know who you are.
And thanks to you wonderful folks at the RCL for giving me a shot!