Today’s story will hit the spot for fans of the MLP movie.
The Sweet Spot
[Drama] • 15,679 words
The Cutie Mark Crusaders have dealt with all kinds of ponies having trouble finding their true calling in life, but none can compare to the special request they receive from Princess Twilight Sparkle herself, or the shock they receive on discovering who it is: Fizzlepop Berrytwist, possibly the most hated and feared pony in generations. Can a pony who’s spent most of her life rejecting her true calling possibly find it now? Can the Cutie Mark Crusaders help a pony who almost everypony else in Equestria has rejected?
FROM THE CURATORS: Long-running series like My Little Pony often revisit their characters to explore their full stories on-screen. But when a compelling character shows up in a one-shot movie, that offers fertile ground for fanfiction to dig in. “This one is fairly simple on paper: The Crusaders help Tempest Shadow get a Cutie Mark,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination. “What follows is one of the best redemption arcs I’ve read in this fandom, if not ever.” Present Perfect was equally impressed back when he first read it: “I homaged it in my own ‘Tempest Shadow gets her Cutie Mark’ story,” he said. “As my first introduction to how that concept would play out (aside from the one in my head), it was a delight.”
And while several curators thought the story could use trimming, it won us over regardless. “Everyone, from the Crusaders to the background ponies, feels perfectly in character, and Tempest’s struggle for redemption fits the series’ best mold,” Horizon said. That characterization came in for repeated praise. “I think that it more than succeeds on the strength of its characterization, and the way that this angle informs the conflict resolution,” Soge said. “It also deserves praise for how it eschews an easy solution to its central conflict, and how ‘pony’ everything felt. And, despite the bloat, it additionally works as a solid comedy in many places.”
Regardless, it was the exemplary show-like approach which we singled out for praise over and over again. “The vision of the ‘Tempest episode’ here is gorgeously realized,” Horizon said, “and while the plot points it hits feel predictable, in a way that’s part of its charm, making it feel less like fanfiction and more like a discarded Hasbro script.” Present Perfect went further: “It gave me everything I wanted, while also being perfectly show-tone and full of solid drama. Not to mention the creative approach to Tempest’s special talent.” In the end, FanOfMostEverything said, that led to a thoroughly satisfying story: “The ending feels earned, the dramatic beats are on point, and the whole thing makes you wish the show could afford to get Emily Blunt back for an episode.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Piccolo Sky discusses dead space, failed coups, and Guard bandwagons.
Give us the standard biography.
Well, not much to say. I’m a 35-year-old Christian software engineer from the USA. Way back in high school was when I first started writing fanfiction. A couple years back I heard about the “Brony Craze” and eventually got curious enough to watch “Luna Eclipsed”. I followed it up with “A Friend in Deed” and “Putting Your Hoof Down”, and after that I crossed the hurdle and binge-watched the first season. As soon as I was done, I wrote my first MLP fanfic.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Whew, long story. Way back in the 90s, when our family got its first Windows PC and we first got on AOL, the whole family used the same name for everything, and it was picked randomly off a book title on a shelf nearby: “Sky Knife”. Eventually, when I joined my first RP, I kept the “Sky” part of the name when I split off my own because I liked it. When I left the RP and created my own title, I was in high school and happened to be a fan of DBZ at the time, so I prepended “Piccolo” to it. Ever since then I’ve used Piccolo Sky.
Who’s your favorite pony?
That’s a real toughie, but I’ll go with Rarity. She’s the most “real” out of the Mane Six to me, since the fact that she’s an entrepreneur and deals with issues of the ability to create vs. the ability to make money in a business relates the most toward the adult demographic of the show.
What’s your favorite episode?
Still “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”. Sorry, “The Perfect Pear” … you came close to dethroning it but not quite.
What do you get from the show?
To me, shows like MLP:FIM are part of the new ideology in American animation that just because something is “for kids” doesn’t mean it has to be enjoyable “only by kids”. It’s animation that is really made for everyone, which is a severe challenge for something that has to be rated Y and was originally created to sell toys. For years American media said that for a cartoon to be for adults simply meant it had to be too explicit for kids. The fact that more modern shows like this really have something for everyone to enjoy is not only admirable but, in a world of the filth-for-filth’s-sake that we get from most adult animation, is a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to watch a cartoon that entertains me without leaving me feeling dirty afterward.
What do you want from life?
Good friends, good memories, a life that leaves an impact, and hopefully to make a few people smile.
Why do you write?
I like telling stories even if I’m not the best in the world at it. Honestly, I get some enjoyment out of writing purely for aesthetics. I get ideas and I want to flesh them out on paper, and I derive joy simply from that. Even more than that, though, is knowing that someone was entertained by it and thought that I told a good story.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
You’re going to think the first, second, or third story you write is your masterpiece … and in five years you’re going to look back on it and be so embarrassed that you wish you could erase it from existence. It happens. Don’t get discouraged; as with all things, becoming a good writer takes time and practice. Congratulate yourself every time you finish a fanfic or story, because many authors never even make it that far even when they’re being heaped with praise.
What inspired “The Sweet Spot”?
After I got out of the “My Little Pony Movie”, I wanted to write a fanfiction about what happened to Tempest Shadow when she tried to re-integrate into Equestrian society. Initially I imagined a situation which would rely more on the Mane Six in which she would join the Canterlot Royal Guard, she would end up being way too “good” at her job, she would alienate herself from the other guards who would be hostile to her, and eventually she would end up coming through for everypony with her tougher attitude and they would all learn to appreciate her and accept her. Two big problems: (1) that’s virtually the same plotline as “To Change a Changeling”, and (2) everybody and their uncle was already imagining that Tempest Shadow would join the Canterlot Royal Guard. I tried to think of an alternative for a while when I was browsing around on Deviant Art and I saw someone on there suggesting that, with a name like Fizzlepop Berrytwist, maybe her special talent was soda. After that I got a different idea from imagining big, cold, ruthless Tempest Shadow wearing, to her own embarrassment, a cute little soda jerker outfit, and the rest of the idea came from there. Eventually, I realized I wanted it to be a Cutie Mark problem, and so the Mane Six got left by the wayside and the CMCs filled the void.
Why was it important for you to keep the story as close to the tone of the show as possible?
Like I said before, I admire the writers for that show immensely for being able to write plotlines that appeal to all audiences and yet are restrained by the Y rating. I admire them even more after attending a panel with some of them when I found out they basically have three different sets of executives constantly shooting down their creativity and yet they still manage to put out such high quality. To me, it’s “too easy” to push up the rating a little bit so that more adult themes and content can be put into the story. I wanted to see if I could write something people would like as much as the show, following the show’s rules.
Do you hope the show will get around to redeeming all its villains eventually?
If the show did that, I’d say it was insulting its audience. The theme of the show is, first and foremost, “Friendship is Magic”, so it makes sense that in the far majority of cases the route to defeating a villain is understanding where they’re coming from and connecting to them. And the truth of the matter is for most “villains” we encounter in real life that they aren’t genuinely bad people, so as a principle it’s good to follow. But not everyone. It’s always a good idea to try and be friends with everyone, but it’s naive to always expect everyone to be friends with you in return. Every once in a while, you’ll encounter someone who just has to be stopped from hurting other people.
Do you plan your stories out ahead of time, or do you prefer to let them grow during the typing process?
When I was younger I was more chaotic and let them grow from just a few core ideas. While I think that part is still important for creativity and vigor in the writing process, I don’t favor it so much anymore for longer stories because too often you just end up filling those gaps with dead space — only later realizing you could have done something much better or you could have cut that part out entirely. The worst part is that sometimes relationships between characters take an odd turn when you’re “improving” a conversation, and that ends up ruining what you have further down the line. For one-shots it’s usually OK, though.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I honestly never expected “The Sweet Spot” to get half the comments and likes that it received, and I just want to thank each and every reader who supported it. Never, ever, EVER underestimate the power of giving someone a like or a comment. Many times it has made my day, and made me feel all the effort I devote to writing (because it IS a big commitment even as a hobby) is all worthwhile.