You won’t want to leave today’s story.
The Enchanted Library
[Romance] [Adventure] [Alt. Universe] • 339,524 words
Everypony enjoys myths and ponytales, even if they know such things aren’t real. Alicorns fighting against a spirit of chaos? An ancient princess trapped in a library under a tree, waiting to be found? Quite enchanting and fantastic tales yes, but nonetheless as fictional as Daring Do and other such stories. At least, that’s what Rarity used to think.
She doesn’t anymore.
FROM THE CURATORS: When we last featured this week’s author, we spotlighted one of her short, high-impact stories while merely name-dropping the longer work which put her on the map. But readers loved The Enchanted Library so much that they voted it into the running for our effort to find The Fandom’s Best Fanfic™ — and after a tense battle full of upsets and narrow wins, this epic adventure-romance novel emerged victorious.
It was easy to see why it inspired such dedication. “It is a literary chrysanthemum opening layer upon layer of secrets, inventive worldbuilding, Monochromatic’s signature heartfelt emotional and romantic development, and Rarity being unable to actually tell the truth even if her life depends on it,” FanOfMostEverything said when introducing it to our panel audience. “It is not just a romance, it’s a romance that shows its work, and a great AU to boot.” Horizon agreed: “Rarity and Twilight start out as complete strangers, and we get a full-length novel’s worth of words in which they slowly become friends before either one even starts wrestling with deeper feelings. I honestly don’t think any story has ever sold me on a ship the way that TEL did, and the dynamic between the partners is a source of both joy and tension throughout.”
If all the story did right was that perfectly-paced and grippingly compelling romance, it still would have been deserving of a feature — but top-notch writing in multiple areas elevated it to a story worthy of being called The Best™. “The characters are worth mentioning for their color,” Horizon said. “Rarity is a fascinating study in contrast that gets her canon complexity across well. We get to see her flaws front and center, but it never stopped me from caring about her and her quest.” AugieDog agreed: “The Discord here is a master class in how to write a villain, as is pretty much everything about the adventure, the character building, and the romance.”
And several of us commented on its raw power. “There are multiple scenes in the story that just ring as perfectly as crystal bells, and there are several scenes where the author types a paragraph that tears down everything that’s come before and kicks it flailing off a cliff she’s quietly and calmly been building in plain sight,” AugieDog said. The fic kept those standards high to the very last word (and its in-progress sequel). “TEL throws a succession of finely crafted punches, and man, the ending just wrecked me,” Horizon said. “Wrecked.”
Read on for our (all new!) author interview, in which Monochromatic discusses brain HDMI, Disney destinies, and the good kind of selling out.
Introduce yourself to readers who didn’t see your last interview.
Excuse me? I’m the author of the best fic ever according to this totally accurate contest probably, I don’t need no introduction LOL
Sorry, that was a joke, don’t hate me.
Hi everyone! I’m Monochromatic, I’ve been writing stories about colorful horses for about five years now, and I’ve dabbled in a lot of genres and topics but more predominantly AU, mental health and romance. And also RariTwi. Lots and lots of RariTwi.
The stories I’m best known for are the Enchanted Library series, The Bodyguard!AU verse (in which Rarity is a princess and Twi’s her bodyguard), and Crimson Lips (an AU take on the movie Moulin Rouge posted on an alt account, which I’m only known for by virtue of me talking about it to everyone who so much as looks at me).
Beyond horses, I lived in Mexico City most of my life until about two years ago when I moved to Los Angeles under the delusion of the God Given Destiny of getting Disney to hire me to write for Ducktales. That was two years ago. Now, I’m realizing screenwriting isn’t my jam, so I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do with my life while I work as a script clearance agent. Basically, I read scripts for shows and stuff, do research, and then give that research to Important People.
So yeah! TL;DR I’m just a gal who likes to write Rarity and Twilight in different scenarios while I try to figure out how to write the story of my own life.
How does it feel to have your fic be voted the fandom’s best?
I love y’all, but this question is, like, designed to trigger my self-deprecating impostor syndrome.
Realistically — and I don’t mean this in a self-deprecating way, promise — I know this contest was heartfelt but ultimately flawed and very inaccurate. Therefore, I know Enchanted Library isn’t the best fic ever and that this entire thing was just a celebration of a bunch of awesome fics and it’s all in good fun.
I acknowledge that.
But to answer your question, IT FEELS REALLY NICE TBH.
What were some other highlights of your BronyCon?
Honestly, BronyCon was such a whirlwind for me, I feel like I did a ton of things but for very little time. However, let me try to bullet point this:
- The bookstore was definitely a highlight if only because of how fantastic it was to see how popular it was and how GOOD all the books looked. It was an incredible effort from everyone’s part, and I’m so happy we all got to be a part of this.
- Also, god, okay this sounds super egocentric or whatever, but holy cow, going to the bookstore like fifteen or so minutes after vendor hall opened and having Wanderer D going “MONO DO YOU HAVE MORE BOOKS YOUR CURRENT STOCK ALREADY SOLD OUT” was like THE RUSH OF MY LIFE YOU GUYS.
- I also helped Horizon by writing a few scenes of a script he wrote for the voice actors to read! I got to go on stage and read some lines and then listen to Nicole Oliver read a scene I wrote and it was really fun.
- Meeting all my readers and friends!!! I FELT SO BAD because I kept meeting wonderful readers and had to keep apologizing for not being able to stay long lmao
- Spoiling the current arc of TEK to two friends and the RUSH I felt when they both had to take off their glasses to wipe away tears.
- And, finally, and more importantly, a talk with the lovely Anonpencil. At one point, we were sitting in Quills and Sofas and started talking about mental health, and I learned A LOT from her, especially on how we all have different coping mechanisms. She’s fantastic and I love her dearly.
If you personally had to choose someone else’s fic as #1, which would it be and why?
I’m going to go at this not from the perspective of my favorite fic ever, but as a fic that is objectively incredibly compelling. I’m doing this because if I went by favorites, I’d have to say 6 fics tied, four of them by Cynewulf.
The fic I would have personally chosen, and in fact the only fic I voted for during the contest, is Carabas’ “Moonlight Palaver.”
Upon Nightmare Moon’s return, the leaders of other nations gather to discuss the situation.
They’re not especially happy about it.
“Moonlight Palaver” is a master class in original characters and worldbuilding. We’re used to seeing Equestria as the all-powerful, all-wise nation. In a 7k fic told almost entirely in a single room, Carabas subverts that by introducing a wonderful cast of foreign leaders, including a sentient crown bent on world domination, getting together for what feels like the tenth time to try to answer a simple question: “What the hell has Equestria done now?”
Without spoiling anything, I meant it when I said this is a master class in original character writing. The way these characters talk, their dynamics, everything about it feels completely natural and believable. From the very beginning, you’re invested in them and their relationships, their on-and-off banter and quips, like they’re all old friends and rivals getting together at a high school reunion.
Not only that, but the worldbuilding is phenomenal in how subtle it is. Everything about these races, how they act, how they talk, how they think, feels completely grounded and real, no matter how insignificant the comment is.
It’s a fantastic fic that overflows with the charm and wit Carabas displays in almost everything he does and says.
How did you choose which parts of canon to keep and to change for your AU?
The first thing to know is that the core of Enchanted Library was conceived when a friend and I got really drunk on tea and rum one Mexican holiday. Her being an artist, she drunkenly painted what is currently the cover art of the original Enchanted Library one-shot and then promptly declared, “Okay, so, Twilight’s a spirit and Rarity finds her” which is an ABSOLUTELY COMPELLING synopsis, or at least that’s what I thought in my drunken state.
I asked her for more details, to which something like the following happened: “Twilight’s one of four thousand-year-old wise spirits in Equestria” “Are they, like, trapped or something?” “Yes.” “Who trapped them?” “…Discord.” “Why?” “I don’t know lol but here’s a list of cute things Rarity and Twilight do in the library”
The following days, I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept. I needed to figure out how and why this happened, so I went off the template my friend gave me — Celestia, Luna, Cadance and Twilight all lived a thousand years ago.
After that, it became a matter of figuring out what parts of canon were affected by this change. Additionally, to be clear, I was (and still am) working off canon up until Season 4.
Rarity and her shop were there before Twilight, so that stayed. Same with her friendship with Fluttershy. Applejack and Rarity were on pretty eh terms at the beginning of the show, so I felt like it would be fair to have them be acquaintances. Sweetie and Scootaloo were shown to befriend Apple Bloom during the course of FIM, which is why I decided to have the same happen during EL as opposed to have the three of them be friends from the start. The whole of Equestria as well, geographically speaking, stayed the same.
After that, canon started being modified based on four of six duos I set up from the start: Twilight and Rarity, Luna and Pinkie, Spike and Rainbow, and Cadance and the changelings.
Twilight’s family stayed the same, but all of them were thrown back a thousand years.
Rainbow Dash was still going to be a Wonderbolt, but I changed her motivation to joining the Wonderbolts so she could help Spike find Twilight, which meant she wouldn’t be friends with Rarity and co. in Ponyville. Following that, Spike had still been Twilight’s assistant in the past so his essence didn’t change except physically.
Pinkie in the show moved to Ponyville, so I just kept her entire rock farm background and had her retconned to have moved to Hollow Shades as a filly with her family. Luna’s core character and role stayed the same, as well. However, because Nightmare Moon never happened, Nightmare Night was thus reconfigured into Seeking Night.
Finally, Cadance’s entire story was the same (fell in love with Shining Armor, Princess of Love, etc), but I had her be way more associated with changelings for the sake of the ruse and then retconned the Crystal Heart to be a Love Feeder for the changelings.
Beyond that, characters mostly stayed the same in essence to their Season 4 characterization thus far, the only exception being Twilight and Rarity. From the get-go, I knew Twilight had to be an EXTREME ANTISOCIAL version of her S1 self and had to gradually progress into her Season 4 persona. That entire transition was one of my favorite things to write, honestly.
Rarity, on the other hand, was only subtly changed. I toned down her over-the-top dramatics and relied more on her businesspony side. Interestingly enough, while in the show she goes from believing in fairytales and destiny to being more serious and grounded, something of the opposite happens in EL. She starts by being dismissive of fairytales and the like, and ends up completely absorbed by them — for better or worse.
How did you balance The Enchanted Library‘s romance and adventure threads?
Haha! I’m gonna derail here for a second, but I swear I have a point.
So the biggest thing to understand is that Enchanted Library wasn’t supposed to be an adventure. In fact, it wasn’t supposed to be a multichapter epic. When it was conceived back in 2014, I was still working on some other fics, and I didn’t think I had time to write it out. If I did, it would be as silly slice-of-life oneshots.
Moreso — and please understand I don’t mean this in a woe-is-me way — I genuinely thought people wouldn’t care. The appeal of EL to me was, at the time, literally Rarity and Twilight’s wacky shenanigans in the library, and, let’s face it, RariTwi in 2014 wasn’t sought out in the fandom.
For those of you who haven’t read the original oneshot, the entire thing is just a scene of Rarity and Twilight in the library having fun, as if it had been plucked out of the grander story itself. It is extremely in media res simply because when I wrote it — and again, not trying to fish for compliments, I swear — I didn’t write it to be good. I wrote it to get it out of my system and be done with it. In fact, most of the lore I sprinkled in the oneshot, the hints and signs to the grander story, were actually padding for me. Details I added just so the oneshot wouldn’t be just shameless RariTwi fluff and so I could reach the 1000 word limit.
Then I posted it, of course, and I went from being a relatively niche author whose biggest FIMFic achievement was getting in the popular box to suddenly having this silly thing I wrote shoot up to top of the feature box with over 800 likes in a single night and half as many comments expressing fascinated interest in the lore of the world while I was sitting there going “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RARITWI, YOU GUYS.”
I said I had a point, right? So here it is. Back then, I didn’t like or know how to write adventure. Hell, the entire reason I didn’t want to write out EL as a multichapter initially was because the entire thing screamed adventure and I was like “thanks, but no.” Yet there I was, sitting in front of what could potentially be the start of a great story, but faced with an audience that primarily wanted a massive adventure fic. To make things worse for me, a great deal of comments didn’t want romance. One comment in particular stayed with me, saying more or less “this is a fantastic concept. Please don’t bring this amazing adventure story down with a subpar romance subplot.”
So there was my biggest challenge: I was writing a romance story with an adventure subplot for an audience that thought this was an adventure story with a romance subplot.
My solution? Having Rarity think the same way the readers did.
From the start of TEL, Rarity thinks this is her grand adventure and I wrote her to act that way, constantly moving the plot towards her finding the books to free Twilight while figuring out what happened a thousand years ago and flirting with that one charming guard she met once.
From a writing perspective, I divided the story into arcs. Adventure arcs, which I presented as The Plot, which would later be followed by Ponyville arcs, slice-of-life type chapters to relax and dwell on what had been learned while building the relationship between Rarity and Twilight. This was also done in part to help with my anxiety, a compromise so to speak. I had a lot of anxiety about the idea that people didn’t like the romance, so I’d write adventure arcs that I enjoyed and advanced the plot and would hopefully keep people there as we went into the indulgent Ponyville chapters. The little romance subplot we don’t really care about, but it’s nice to come back to.
That is, until the third act happens, where Twilight is brutally and suddenly ripped away from the narrative — and in one fell swoop, both Rarity and the readers (judging by the reaction at the time) realize that this isn’t an adventure story, it’s a romance. The third act is in many ways the perfect culmination of the two threads — an adventure arc entirely driven by the relationship I’d slowly and quietly developed during the past two acts.
The very same people who at the beginning asked me to eliminate the romance commented in horror at the loss of the romance while I simply smiled and said, “But I thought you didn’t want romance!”
TEL is over a third of a million words — how did you maintain such a slow-burn romance over that duration? Did it help or hurt that one of the characters is incorporeal (meaning any physical displays of affection are impossible)?
Pictured: Monochromatic when her editors told her she needed to tone down the flirting for the tenth time
Re: how did you maintain such a slow-burn romance over that duration?
Once upon a time, another writer and I were discussing a contest going on in a ship-specific group. The prompt called for the characters to be in a completely platonic situation, and they were upset about this because what was the point if it’s not romance. I remember being surprised by this because I like RariTwi in any context.
That’s how I maintained it. I would just as excitedly write a story about Rarity and Twilight being lovers as I would a story where they hate each other. I’m here for their dynamic in any context, which is I think why EL worked as a slow burn.
Beyond that, from a story perspective, Twilight was in no way ready to have a romantic relationship for most of EL. Twilight’s storyline in EL is that of a mental abuse victim trapped in their trauma, so she didn’t have the mental energy to look at Rarity and be like, “Mmm, I’d check that book out.” It isn’t until Rarity accidentally blurts out she loves her that she starts to consider it, but that only happened because Rares had already spent most of EL charming down Twilight’s barriers.
From a writing and personal perspective, a big part of the editing process was making sure the romance grew in a believable and steady way, which mostly meant editors telling me I needed to tone down flirting in some parts and me whining about it for five hours. Additionally, when it came to adventure chapters, I established a rule that Rarity should occasionally or constantly be thinking about Twilight in some shape or form. Her thoughts had to constantly linger back towards Twi — one, to keep Twi present in the narrative, and two, to keep building their relationship.
Re: Did it help or hurt that one of the characters is incorporeal (meaning any physical displays of affection are impossible)?
Honestly, I think that was one of the best ideas I had because holy cow, the pining. The burning desire not even to kiss, but just to be physically affectionate. I LIVE for that stuff. It’s always been a staple of my writing, so it was really interesting to write a relationship where they desperately want that but can’t have it. The TV show Pushing Daisies is a FANTASTIC example of this, since the main couple literally can’t touch each other without one dying.
It also forced me to be more creative in finding other ways of showing affection. The mindmeld necklaces, for example, which were initially conceived as a way to get around Twilight being stuck in the same place, ended up also being a way to get around the inability to have physical contact.
Finally, as I mentioned before, I’m all about buildup and Twilight being incorporeal allowed for that. The first time they touch, this seemingly simple act of Rarity brushing her hoof against Twilight’s cheek suddenly became everything, perhaps even more impactful than their first kiss.
What are some of the storytelling challenges associated with having a main character bound to a single location, and how did you overcome them?
To start with, I remember very clearly feeling limited in what could happen in the library since Twilight couldn’t leave and frankly, there wasn’t a lot to do in the library beyond reading books. A lot of the library chapters had to be carried almost exclusively by characters talking and interacting with each other rather than doing something, which meant I had to make their dynamics and banter really entertaining.
Additionally, it also put “time limits” on the adventure chapters. Since Twilight was physically cut off from the narrative during the adventure arcs, I was forced to compress them into fewer chapters so we wouldn’t go on for too long without Twilight making an appearance.
In early drafts of the story, when I was still outlining it, I toyed around with several ideas of how to get around this. A prominent one was a crystal that would holographically project her à la Star Wars. I also came up with the idea of a set of magic books where they could write to each other à la Tom Riddle’s book from Harry Potter. I ended up discarding it because the second EQG movie was released shortly after and I was afraid people would think I was ripping off Sunset Shimmer’s book.
I eventually settled with the mindmelding necklaces. I’m a sucker for characters wearing matching objects, and I’d also recently tried a hallucinogenic “spiritual” drug called ayahuasca. During the ayahuasca trip, I closed my eyes at one point and images started appearing in my head — specifically, images that I felt I wasn’t consciously creating. It was as if someone had plugged an HDMI cable into my brain and was feeding me videos. This entire experience shaped how I envisioned the mindmeld to work, and it allowed me to have Twilight be in the chapter without being there in body.
Before the necklaces came into play, I also had a rule that every single adventure arc would start at the library and, if possible, end at the library. Additionally, as mentioned in an earlier question, I had Rarity constantly be thinking of Twilight and thus making her be a constant presence in the story.
The story has a very particular way of characterizing Discord. What was your process for writing him?
So I can’t completely answer this without spoilers for TEK, particularly on why he acts in certain ways, but I can give somewhat of an answer.
So the interesting thing here is that Discord barely appears in TEL.
I’m fairly certain people who follow me already know this, but for those who don’t, beyond the romance and the adventure and all that, or rather, alongside the romance story, TEL and TEK are stories about mental health — specifically a story about a mental abuse victim.
In a kind of sad tale of life imitating art, I myself entered a harmful mental relationship during the course of writing TEL. For better or worse, without me realizing, Enchanted Library became the coping mechanism in which I explored mental abuse while being in a situation like that myself.
Discord in a way represented that person and the effects of it. His shadow looms over the entire story even though he himself doesn’t even appear really until the end of the book. This is usually how it goes with mentally abusive relationships. You can cut that person off, as was the case with me halfway through EL, but their presence still looms over you for long after that. I represented this in the chaos magic Rarity keeps finding all over Equestria and more importantly in Twilight herself.
Moving on to the Discord from a thousand years ago, however, I once came up with a somewhat particular way of defining it: Discord in Enchanted Library is if WW1 Germany, who was stripped of so much by the Allies upon being defeated, tried to become better only to later find out that they had actually won the war and been made to believe they’d lost.
Season 4 was and continues to be my favorite season, and though I write him like an asshole, I love reformed Discord. It’s debatable if I was able to write or represent this properly (I do think I could have done better) but it was fascinating to me to think of a Discord who genuinely reformed, who genuinely tried to be better after being treated like a monster, only to find out his only friend (in this case Twilight) lied to him from the start. I’m not justifying his actions (and in fact I can’t really say more without spoiling TEK), but I wrote him working under the idea that he genuinely felt betrayed and in some ways was genuinely betrayed so he acted (or, well, some might say overreacted) accordingly.
Who is the protagonist of The Enchanted Library?
I actually recently wrote a blogpost about this exact topic, but essentially I always wrote TEL to have Twilight be the actual focus and protagonist while Rarity is just the main character. Twilight is the one who has a really developed arc, who changes during the story and is in fact the pony who the story is about, while Rarity is just the conduit through which we see and absorb this. This is part of the reason that it felt natural to have the perspective switch to Twilight in the last few chapters and then stay that way in TEK.
Any hints about what’s coming up in the sequel, The Enchanted Kingdom?
Honestly, some of my best writing haha
Not technical-writing wise, as that’s always something that will improve, but The Enchanted Kingdom is a culmination of everything I set up in TEL in such a way that TEL was really just a setup for TEK. It’s also an open secret that TEK is going to be my swan song (in the literal definition, not the FIMFic user) before I move on to original fiction, so I’m really excited to see the culmination of not just the series, but honestly my entire FIMFiction career. TEL, TEK and its readers have been with me through some of the darkest periods of my life, so I really want to honor these stories and the people who’ve stuck with me through thick and thin and hiatuses.
Story-wise, I’m going to be delving a lot more in the mental health aspect of the series, as well as a few more plot twists and honestly the best Rarity and Twilight interactions I’ll ever write. And the best romantic drama also.
God, people are gonna cry.
Good cry, though. Mostly.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m not sure! Big thanks to the RCL for having me and letting me ramble about TEL for a while, and big thanks to everyone who’s supported me and this story since the beginning, the middle or even after this interview. It’s been a long road to finish this and the sequel, but it’s a road I’m determined to finish walking and I’m very fortunate to have y’all with me.
Also ily all, mwa