It’s easy to spot why we think today’s story is great.
The Thinkin’ Spot
[Slice of Life] • 5,282 words
Twilight’s first Winter Wrap Up in Ponyville had a rocky start. Things took a turn for the better when she assumed control over the planning and organization, but after a stressful morning and with an all-nighter in front of her, she was afraid it might all be for naught. Luckily Applejack was there and knew Twilight needed a chance to take a break and recharge.
She needed a visit to the Thinkin’ Spot.
FROM THE CURATORS: There’s something magical about a story that can inspire you to the level of reflection that we see in its characters. “The thing about nostalgia is, sometimes we forget that there’s a reason we have it,” Present Perfect mused as we discussed The Thinkin’ Spot. “It’s not all wishful reminiscence; sometimes, nostalgia is just there to remind us about the things we once loved and can no longer grasp.”
Several factors combined to make the story so inspirational — nostalgia included. “This is an excellently crafted nostalgia rush,” FanOfMostEverything said. “This is Twilight’s very first Winter Wrap-Up in Ponyville, and it shows. It’s also a fantastic meditative piece, and a wonderful bit of character exploration for both Twilight and Applejack, finding and embracing every inch of their common ground.” The story also had “a thoughtful theme reinforced by a thoughtful tone, and a pace that swirls in eddies but keeps moving on downriver,” RBDash47 said in his nomination. “Solid character work for each of them, with a lot of reflection on their places in Ponyville and what they mean to each other and the rest of their friends.” The fic accumulated several more compliments on the strength of its construction. “This is calm and quiet in exactly the right ways,” Present Perfect said, “and the fact that it continues integrating the Thinkin’ Spot into Twilight’s life, instead of just introducing it to her and leaving it at that, is what really gives this lasting power.”
Along the way, the fic offered some solid lessons in the spirit of the show. “Applejack’s in her element when it comes to insightful, honest reassurances to Twilight (which should speak to anyone with anxiety issues or worries that they don’t fit in), but she also demonstrates that you don’t have to be the Element of Generosity to give your friend something valuable,” RBDash47 said. And the quotable prose was a bonus, FanOfMostEverything added: “The story may deserve recognition for the line ‘Love ‘n about three sticks of butter’ alone.” But ultimately, what sold us on the story was the exemplary friendshipping. “It’s easy for us fanfiction writers to get caught up in the romance part of the shipping spectrum and forget the friendship part that gives the show its title,” AugieDog said. “The show itself did a whole episode last season specifically to ask, ‘Why are Rainbow Dash and Rarity friends again?’ Looking at Twilight And Applejack, one could easily ask the same question: urban vs. rural, introvert vs. extrovert, cerebral vs. physical, et cetera. This story shows us why, and does it really, really well.”
Read on for our author interview, in which bats discusses drunken pegasi, wing transplants, and Fluttershy kicking a puppy.
Give us the standard biography.
I am a writer, blogger, artist, and language lover. I like to pretend I’m deeply cynical, but I’m really a hopeless romantic at heart. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, where our weather pegasi are perpetually drunk, I’m a guy in my thirties who has been known as “that TwiDash writer” or “who?” depending on what year we’re talking about. I write prolifically and take prolific breaks.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Honestly, I didn’t come up with it really. I’ve been called some variation of “bats” since I was 15 years old. It came originally from Joker’s tendency to call Batman “Bats,” as I would imagine is the case for a lot of nicknames from when someone is 15, but it’s stuck with me anyway. Most of my real-life friends know me as “bats” rather than my real name.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Oh man, the hard-hitting questions already, making me choose a favorite. I identify most strongly with Twilight and wish I was more like Applejack, but Rainbow Dash is probably my favorite. She’s my favorite to write, and she makes me laugh the most consistently.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Amending Fences.” It’s honestly a little hard to choose between it and “A Perfect Pear.” Both are, I think, the show not only at its best, but in fact rising up above its best and achieving something truly special. “Amending Fences” hits me a little closer to home personally, though.
What do you get from the show?
When I first got into the show, I was going through a pretty rough time in my life, as I was knee-deep in a pretty painful divorce. MLP was the thing everyone was talking about, and I found that the show’s earnestness was just the thing I needed to experience while everything else was busy sucking.
That was back between the Season 2 and 3 break, so I didn’t exactly have a wealth of official content to bury myself in, and quickly moved onto fanfiction. I probably would have drifted away from the show after a while if that hadn’t happened, because the fanfiction side of it has been the real thing that I’ve gotten and continue to get from the show. The show’s fun and I love the characters in it, but at a certain point I switched from ‘watching to enjoy the episode’ to ‘watching to be up to date on lore for fanfics.’
What do you want from life?
Why do you write?
Well, the short answer is I write because I enjoy it. Sometimes (a lot of times) the act of writing isn’t very fun, but the feeling of having written is super nice, which makes the whole thing fun in retrospect, and I find finishing a story immensely satisfying. I also write because I tend to get depressed if I don’t write stuff for too long of a time. And I write because I’m pretty good at it, and I like sharing stuff that I’ve made with others and seeing a response to it. The bigger question for me is probably, “Why DON’T you write, sometimes for years at a time?”
The answer to that question is depression and procrastination.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
First, read a lot. A lot a lot. And not just fanfiction (though that doesn’t hurt). Read as many books by as many authors as you can, in as wide a range of subjects as you like. Writing is an odd skill, in that practicing at it will only help you improve to a certain point, and only in certain aspects of it. The real way to improve your voice, style, and content is by reading.
And just to be clear, I don’t mean “the great works” or anything. You don’t have to read stuffy literary stuff if that isn’t your taste (though if it is in your taste, by all means). Just read a bunch, and read for pleasure.
Secondly, try to focus on finishing things that you write. It’s a really common pitfall when starting out writing to write the first chapter or two of a novel, then rewrite it, then rewrite it, then put it down and write the first couple chapters of a different novel, and rewrite those, then go back to the first, and on and on. Suddenly you have a lot of experience starting a story, but absolutely zero experience finishing one.
You learn a lot more and gain a lot more experience writing a shaky, not very good, finished first novel, than working at cleaning up and sharpening a really great first two chapters over and over again.
What inspired The Thinkin’ Spot?
In a roundabout way, it was inspired by The AppleDash Project by bookplayer, which firmly planted the habit in my head to always be watching the show looking for stories to tell in the margins of episodes.
I had the idea for The Thinkin’ Spot after a rewatch of “Winter Wrap-Up” several years ago, at least a year before I actually wrote the fic. The Twilight in seasons one and two had a real level of fragility that went away after her wing transplant, concerning her place in Ponyville and the status of her friendships with the others. When you consider episodes like “Boast Busters” and “The Ticket Master,” Twilight had a real “I need to please everypony or they might hate me” worry streak, and when you consider episodes like “Lesson Zero,” you know she isn’t always the most rational when it comes to her fears.
Winter Wrap Up is one of those moments of fragility, and it struck me on the rewatch that Twilight recovered from her freak-out and settled into the groove of coordination rather gracefully compared to other early season episodes, and that there was room for exploring that fragility and her turnaround more deeply with a story.
With most of your stories being tagged “Romance,” why choose to take this one only as far as friendship?
I thought that it served the story better to keep it as just friendship. The Thinkin’ Spot is really very small-scale in scope and focus, and altering that focus to include romance would have moved the story too far sideways from the type of story it was supposed to be. While I do write primarily romance, I try my best to never have that romance feel wedged in and tacked onto a story if I can help it. I think it serves both the story and the characters better as a result. Not that I wasn’t thinking about making it a romance while I was writing it, or grasping at straws for a sequel idea where it could turn into one. Despite those challenges, the story comes first, and this one wasn’t a romance story.
And really now, I don’t write only romance. One time I also wrote a story about Fluttershy kicking a puppy.
Do you still think about the challenge of writing shipping stories for all fifteen possible Mane 6 pairings?
Oof, that challenge. I like to think that I’ve already gone well above and beyond the scope of the original challenge, which was to pick five pairings and write a story with a minimum of 1000 words for each. I’ve written five, with a total word count between them of a little over 53,000 words, so really I should have passed the challenge, right? I’m the idiot who had to go and say I was planning on doing all fifteen twice, though, aren’t I? It was a different world back in 2013. I drank a lot more heavily back then.
Now, if you’d asked me a year ago if I was planning on doing more, I would have said ‘probably not,’ but a year ago I wasn’t actively writing. Since I am actively writing these days and am feeling especially idiotic, I’ll go with a soft ‘maybe.’
Now that the show’s in its final season, do you find more feelings of nostalgia bubbling up?
I don’t know. This is where I admit that I’m lagging behind, isn’t it? Yeah, I’m not exactly caught up with the current season … I’m not all the way through season 8, even. Though I could say truthfully that I’ve had bouts of nostalgia for the early going of the show while it’s in its final season, despite not being caught up. I’ve had mixed feelings about the show’s overall direction as time has gone on, and often find myself drifting backwards and playing in older stretches of the continuity when writing stories as a result.
I do think that once the show ends, there’s going to be a chance for a lot more exploring through fanfic, both the early-going and late-going stretches. Going back and filling in little stories between the margins of episodes is a lot easier to do boldly when you know where all the margins are.
Oh, and maybe G5’ll be good, too, I dunno.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to the RCL, all the friends I’ve made on this site during this wild ride of a fandom, and anyone and everyone who’s read The Thinkin’ Spot or any of my other stories, or who had to put up with my random, lengthy absences from the site. And an especially big thank you to Formerly Committed and JetstreamGW, my long-term and beleaguered editors, for not murdering me yet and always helping me put my best foot forward with all of my stories. Y’all are the best.