I’ve got a feeling that you’ll appreciate today’s story.
A Familiar Feeling
[Romance] [Sad] [Slice of Life] • 11,142 words
After months of pleasant dating, it’s time for the inevitable meeting of the family. For Sugar Belle, it should be easy as cake. She’s already met three of the Apple Family members, after all. She only has one more to win over.
It’s more complicated than that, she finds.
FROM THE CURATORS: Romance fanfics face something of an uphill climb in consensus processes like ours. Non-canon ships tend to be divisive based on readers’ connections to the characters, and canon ships struggle not to retread ground already covered by the show. So when a shipfic overcomes those hurdles, it’s worth noticing. “This one I’m recommending on the strength of its portrayal of the relationship of Big Mac and Sugar Belle,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “I have read scores of shipfics in this fandom, and so few authors are willing or able to get the little things right: the cute moments, the use of closeness for comfort. A relationship isn’t all about making out or grand romantic gestures. This story convinces me these two ponies are good for each other.”
As our discussion continued, there was one thing on which we all quickly agreed. “It is pretty darn cute,” AugieDog said. Soge agreed: “Belle and Mac are really cute together. I liked the characterization work, and I thought that the scene in Sugarcube Corner was something special.” The handling of the story’s central romance was repeatedly singled out as exemplary. “There are some fantastic moments between the couple, doing far more to develop their relationship than the show has,” FanOfMostEverything said. “Seeing them interact with one another without any contrived sitcom plots does a lot to sell the relationship for me, especially subtle touches like how Sugar Belle can get Big Mac to open the verbal spigot.”
And it turned out that A Familiar Feeling had some pleasant surprises in store. “I appreciated the generally solid writing and many quotable moments, but I wasn’t sold until I hit the second chapter,” Horizon said. “The ‘wandering hooves’ effect was vivid and well portrayed, and the emotions connect and provide a satisfying coda.” That ending brought a unique and memorable touch to this romance, FanOfMostEverything said: “The last scene and its setup were a peculiar form of quietly creepy-sweet that I’ve almost never seen.” It all added up, as RBDash47 said, to “a pretty perfect balance of soft, snuggly lovingness and a believable conflict that avoided melodrama. … At the end of the day, it passed the most basic of tests: I had a great time reading it.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Poptard discusses friendswording, Flash vindication, and alphabet remixing.
Give us the standard biography.
I’d describe myself as a 23-year-old Florida man who’s finally getting his life together again. I generally split my time between getting my English Lit degree; working to pay the bills; and either playing videogames, playing tabletop games, or trying to get some writing done. I recently took up performance theater, which is fantastic for you if you want to make new friends for life and then swing metal swords at them at high speeds.
When it comes to pony, I’m kinda proud to say I’m one of the original bronies. I was able to catch the Owl’s Well That Ends Well (S1E24) premiere after a weeklong foray into all the pony I could on the image gallery of Know Your Meme, with my interest sparked by the VG Cats strip on the show. That was sophomore year of high school, and I suppose like many others, I was initially those who liked it ironically. I came for the silly memes, I stayed for the interesting worldbuilding, clever characters, and sizable, welcoming community, and I haven’t looked back since.
If you knew me before I published my first fic, I started off merely reading and editing the TVTropes pages for FiM, eventually launching fic pages for all my favorite stories at the time. In 2014 I published my first fic, A Royal Morning, and then in 2017 I published this story you’re asking me about, A Familiar Feeling. Check back in 2020 for my next one.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Thank Plants Versus Zombie’s limitations for that. Back in 2011 I still went by the handle “Poptart 0verlord” which, unfortunately, didn’t fit in the name box. I ended up with Poptart0, which in the game’s font had a nearly invisible “t” and a 0 that looked like a D, so I would constantly read it as PoptarD. By the third misreading I realized it was hilarious and so, I kept it. That being said, I keep it mostly for the legacy, as I’ve moved away from using the “tard” term over the past few years.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Three-way tie between Princess Cadance, Princess Celestia, and pony Flash Sentry. Wait, come back!
I guess I’ve always been a fan of underdogs, not just in stories, but in the meta sense. It’s literally like shoving aside everyone else to reach a little gremlin. When everyone is throwing a lot of vitriol towards a character I take a look for myself to decide if whatever potential in them is worth looking past the flaws for, and if I find something worthwhile, I’ll hold onto them and never let go. It’s kinda worrying.
Back in the Season One hiatus, Celestia was totally eclipsed by Luna in popularity, and all the jokes about “Tyrant Celestia” and “New Lunar Republic” were very, very real fan concepts back then. I just wanted to give this kind, regal mare a break from a thousand years of heartbreak. When the Season 2 finale premiered people were freaking out about Cadance, an extra special and pink (gasp) alicorn that was made to sell toys. I simply loved her season finale, her song, her romance with Shining Armor, and I couldn’t wait to see her next. For Flash, both versions were singled out as the irredeemable flaw in a mediocre movie, and once the dust settled down I really wanted to see how FiM would handle a continuous canon romance and exploring the history of the Royal Guard more. I was vindicated with my love for Celestia, I was vindicated with my love for Cadance, and I can guarantee you I’m never gonna be vindicated with Flash within whatever time we have in the show’s run. Well, you can’t win ‘em all.
What’s your favorite episode?
The Perfect Pear, but more on that soon.
What do you get from the show?
I would’ve been gone years ago if it it wasn’t for the community of people around. The show is fantastic, even if its quality is going up and down this season, but I’ve seen equally good shows with fandoms that I don’t participate in at all. I admit I’m a little shy, lurking here and there and only infrequently commenting between here, Derpibooru, and Tumblr, but the idea that there’s always new fan content, new stories, and people to interact with means that no matter what, I feel like I can always return and pick up where I left off.
What do you want from life?
I want to be my best self, honestly. When I set out to accomplish a task, like finish writing a book or get in shape or meet with an old friend, I want to know I have the skills and the drive to see it done. I think that’s the best way to achieve the rest of the things I’d like, such as a published series, a good home, friends, family, and a really nice computer.
Why do you write?
I was the kid who would sit by himself at recess reading a book, constantly daydreaming my own stories about my favorite characters. That lead to analyzing stories and discovering fanfiction, which led to wanting to write stories, which led to taking Creative Writing courses, and then led me to publishing it. I also speak with a moderate-to-severe stutter, which makes it difficult to speak verbally. Yet, everyone is equal when the text is the measure of your character, so writing always felt like one path that would always remain open to me.
I can sit down and publish academic papers, reports, wiki pages no issue. Yet creative writing is a compelling challenge for me, and I often feel a struggle to put the right words down when working on purely creative works. I’m honestly happy to simply daydream, so when I publish a story, it’s because I desperately want to share it with people, and believe it refined enough to be released. I want to see the audience react, to feel emotion at a story’s joys and tragedies, walk away with an experience. Hopefully a positive one they might think back to later, like I do when I recall favorite quotes or characters of mine.
I think it might be working.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
If you’re deciding on whether you want to jump into writing, hear this. I’m of the mind that stories exist to fill some niche, some idea, and some untold tale that needs to be shared. Even if it’s as simple as your variation on an already popular idea, it’s a niche that can be explored. The alphabet has been invented already, after all, and a writer’s task is just to remix it.
Now, if you’ve chosen to start writing: Don’t follow my example. The bad parts, I mean. I struggle with ADHD and I get very, very hung up about the “correct” way to tell my story, and it involves a lot of opening up my Google document, looking at the first sentence, and then giving up for the night. The most productive I’ve ever been is by literally tricking myself into focusing only on writing. After all, I can’t open up another tab when I’m using pen and paper, and I can’t keep running to the bathroom when I’m under four layers of blankets on a cold night (which is 68 degrees in Florida).
I used to think my weird perfectionism about my own stories helped, but it’s a flaw I’m correcting. Don’t let the idea of “not good enough” defeat you before you start, because nothing but practice and many failed attempts (that nobody has to see) will help you get better at what you set out to do.
What inspired “A Familiar Feeling”?
It was the first time watching television made me break down and cry.
“The Perfect Pear” could’ve been handled much worse. It might’ve shown purely the immediate tragedy of their presumed deaths, but it instead focused, smartly, on the love that Pear Butter and Bright Mac made work and how the many lives they touched dealt with their absence. Sections of their life painted a living picture of their love, a story that still continued, in their children and also in the literal seeds of love they planted. It’s the perfect execution of the idea of “making peace with the loss of loved ones,” and answered one of the FiM’s biggest questions of “who were Applejack’s parents” in the most satisfying way possible.
The third time this episode made me sob was from me literally just seeing artwork of the Apple-Pear tree while on lunch break (that was an interesting conversation with my manager), and I finally realized I had to write something to capture this feeling. It was sadness, but it was heartwarming too, happiness that prevailed in the face of tragedy. There was a certain magic to it. I guess that’s why I scrapped the original version of the story, which was just going to be Buttercup adjusting to her first few nights living with the Apples, which would’ve just been sadness followed by acceptance which wouldn’t have done the episode justice at all (if you do want to see that idea done well, look at this one). Through various iterations, one thing that always stuck around was the Apple-Pear tree. I saw it as something the show infrequently explores: earth pony magic. Something that was subtle, maybe acted slowly, but literally had the power to reshape the world around it. Making two trees carefully entwine to represent the eternal love of two ponies was just one possibility, and the one I wanted to focus upon. But I didn’t know how.
Fortunately I stumbled across this image. I laughed at first, but then pondered it more. History is repeating itself. What if the characters involved in the episode could realize that too? I wondered what the Apple parents would think about their son’s adorable little romance, how would they react, could they react, which led to the story-centering idea of Sugar Belle and Big Mac finding the Apple-Pear tree. From there, I worked backwards to craft the story.
With so many ponies out there to ship, why choose to focus on the few actual romantic relationships the show has given us?
It sounds oxymoronic, but I tend to prefer canon in my fanfiction. I rarely view it as an obstacle, but a framework to expand upon. I love exploring roads the show might not touch upon, but never at the expense of having characters act like they never would or having story elements that deviate from the show with insufficient explanation. It’s very peculiar when I can read a story about the ponies meeting Indiana Jones without my FiM immersion being ruined, but it’s very possible.
Of course, that applies to ships, as well. It was kinda abrupt to jump from MarbleMac to a new ship, but I was happy there would be a real relationship instead of just a tease. Most intriguing to me was that Mac and Sugar Belle had established characters already, so we were seeing a new angle to them both. I was all over SugarMac from the announcement that there was an actual romantic episode, and concluded after watching the episode that they were, indeed, an adorable couple. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Sadly, judging by the number of stories featuring the couple, I feel it’s rather underrated.
When the episode aired and I saw that comparison pointed out, Sugar Belle and Big Mac’s relationship took on an extra layer for me. Once more an Apple stallion finds love in a poofy-maned mare with hair scrunchies and a talent for baking, but this time the two have a chance at a happy romance that their parents never did, nor apparently get to see. Sugar Belle really does invite comparison to Buttercup, for better or for worse. It’s an emotional wound that I thought needed closure, and a way to develop a relationship I adored. A story begging to be told, in my eyes. As I mentioned before, I knew my end goal, and Sugar Belle visiting Ponyville to spend time with her beau seemed like a stellar framing device.
Do you find that ideas for stories sneak up on you when you least expect them?
Oh, all the time. I guess I should start expecting that. It’s at the point that I can simply listen to a song and imagine characters in motion, I can hear a funny line of dialogue elsewhere and then imagine a similar exchange set in a different story, and nothing gets my mind racing more than simply seeing artwork of unknown characters and settings and then making a game of trying to fill in the details for them. Yet, most of those musings aren’t quite ideas, more fragments of ideas. A witty exchange, a character trait, an outfit, typically.
When you get an idea, do you start right in on the story, or do you prefer outlining things first?
When I get a solid idea, a great idea, an idea that I pair with rubbing my palms together while cackling deviously, I do my best to write it down and then fill in a few details around it so i know what I’m dealing with later. Notes like who’s talking, the context, why it’s important, and such jog my memory when I inevitably forget. Even if an idea is one that I’d build my story around, like Cadance having morning sickness, I still compile and ponder. Yet pretty often I’ll try to connect the dots of ideas and when I find a great combination, I fill in the gaps. I’ve got a very weird take on outlining the connecting details: I don’t write them as notes, but as questions. What does Character A’s room look like? Why is X angry? I can immediately answer those questions with a thought, then immediately write down that thought, to trick myself into not overthinking things. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I spend too much time outlining instead of writing, because that’s the hard part.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you all for reading this far. You’ve been wonderful.