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Today’s story is classified at the highest level … of enjoyable.

Mr. and Mrs. S.M.I.L.E.
[Equestria Girls] [Adventure] [Comedy] [Drama] • 10,530 words

For centuries anything magic, alien and supernatural has been handled and covered up by the Supernatural and Magical Intelligence League of Earth and their agents. A small city in the heart of [REDACTED] in particular has been designated to always have someone from the agency at hand, even though nothing of note has happened there for so long that nobody even remembers why that policy was implemented in the first place.

Get ready for action, drama, paperwork and misguided marital counseling as you follow the adventures of the two poor idiots dedicated agents currently appointed to watch over the sleepy town of Canterlot, where supernatural events don’t happen regularly so please stop posting videos of them on MyStable.

FROM THE CURATORS: While the march of canon has left many stories’ premises in the dust, every once in a while you run across one which improves with time.  “This story was having fun with the interactions between a Chrysalis and a Tirek long before Grogar forced them to work together,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination. “By making it the human analogues’ job to actually prevent mayhem, it makes them even more entertaining, since they act as a fantastic two-person peanut gallery for the goings-on at Canterlot High.” But it shouldn’t have taken the wisdom of hindsight for us to see how great it was, Horizon said: “I am ashamed that I didn’t nominate this back when it won first place in the Villain Exchange Program contest.”

Behind that win (and our feature) was an underlying factor which all of us praised.  “The dynamic of these two characters is the centerpiece, and it’s just marvelous to watch them work,” Present Perfect said. “They may be the good guys, at least from the reader’s perspective, but Tirek as straightman and Chrysalis as wildcard fits them both perfectly.”  AugieDog echoed that: “The characters are so perfectly presented, they make up for every possible minus.  I would devour a series of stories that followed these two around having their own adventures.”  Horizon’s agreement was more succinct — “the characters leap off the page” — while FanOfMostEverything found that dynamic elevating the whole story.  “This isn’t just a pile of wacky hijinks,” he said. “The two show great character depth and care for one another at times, along with some great off-hand comments that add plentiful depth to the human world. The overall effect is a thoroughly entertaining supernatural buddy cop series.”

Our critical acclaim extended beyond the character work, though.  “What’s most amazing about this is just how effectively it works with the strengths of its format,” Horizon said.  “The framing device squarely introduces the story, keeps it focused on the highlights, and then pulls the two halves of it together at the end. And on top of that is a story which unfailingly hits its comic beats and sketches out a cool and enticing ‘Men in Black’ style background for the EQG world.”  It even won over AugieDog despite initial doubts: “This is just great gobs of fun from start to finish,” he said, “and I absolutely loved how it pushed straight through all the roadblocks my pesky little brain wanted to throw in its way.”  All in all, as Present Perfect said, it was exemplary on multiple fronts: “Funny and insightful, it’s easy to see why this was a winner.”

Read on for our author interview, in which River Road discusses stick-figure comics, reader kicking, and Blueprint duplication.


 

Give us the standard biography.

I’m from Germany and I’ve always loved reading fiction and comics. About 10 years ago a classmate sent me a link to XKCD, which led to me spending the next four years binge-reading just about every webcomic I could find and properly learning the English language in the process. I actually found out about MLP through one of those webcomics in late 2010 or early 2011 and I’m a little embarrassed that it took me over two years to realize there was a whole community attached to the show.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

When I made my first MLP OC/ponysona, I only really had an idea for the cutie mark, special talent and the name at the start. Then I googled the name and found that someone had already made an OC named “Blueprint”. I have no idea if I picked “River Road” for any other reason than that it sounded good and was uncommon enough to not be taken already, but it’s grown on me since then and I’m almost more used to it than my real name by now.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Sunset Shimmer more often than not, these days. Sometimes Rainbow Dash or Twilight. But really, it’s any pony I’m having a story idea about at any given moment.

What’s your favorite episode?

Is it cliché to say “Slice Of Life”? I love the show for the characters and stories it gives us, but usually I love the characters and stories in the fanworks even more. So how much I like an episode is influenced a lot by the jokes, references, witty dialogue and songs in it. And “Slice Of Life” has a plot and even a pretty decent one, but it’s really more an excuse to pack as many of those other things into one episode as they could.

What do you get from the show?

Everything and the rest. Again, I love the show, but I love what the community built on it even more. Fanfiction in particular. The show has been a hobby, but FIMfiction has been the hobby for me several times over the last few years.

Directly from the show I suppose I especially get catchy songs and a shipload of characters. Many shows have some great characters, but I can’t think of any other show that can bring in new characters every other episode and hold the community’s attention and creativity with every one of them, even if they’re just one-off supporting cast (or background characters who don’t even do anything in the episode). Just about every character you see in MLP seems to have the potential for its own series of spin-off stories just from the way the show and its world are, and I love that.

What do you want from life?

A stable job, a few good friends, just enough money to be able to put some aside for others, and enough time for reading. It sounds cheesy but since I’ve been part of FIMfiction and the community my life has been about as good as I can imagine it being. Now if I can hold the job I have and get myself to write a bit more often, I’m really not sure what more I can ask for.

Why do you write?

Because my brain loves to play real-time word association, and why should I be the only one to suffer from that?

Seriously though, I get story ideas from random passing thoughts a lot, and half the time my brain won’t let them go until I have at least the framework for a full story. And I really want to share those stories with others, because I’m proud of them and because I want to make people happy with them. And also because writing is the one talent I’m almost completely confident in (aside from an obscure sport I play that nobody who reads this has ever heard of), and I want to do something with it that gets publicity acknowledgement.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

1) Don’t procrastinate. That’s incredibly hypocritical, but those who can’t learn teach, or something like that. (One reason why I join writing contests is because it makes me actually get stuff done (in the last 48 hours of a two-month deadline).)

2) If you think of a good joke or witty line, write it down. Half of the time when you look at it again it’s a lot less funny than it seemed at the time, but at least then you know. Few things are as frustrating as rewriting a mediocre joke half a dozen times because you think it’ll be hilarious if you can just get the phrasing right.

3) Show, don’t tell. That’s an entirely subjective stylistic choice, I just personally like reading between the lines. There’s stories or authors that the “tell” approach works well for and readers who apparently prefer it, but unless it’s in small doses it’s not for me. On the other hand, I sometimes write enough stuff between the lines that I have to clarify some of it in the comments afterwards, so there’s that.

What — other than the Villain Exchange Program contest — inspired “Mr. and Mrs. S.M.I.L.E.”?

That real-time word association I mentioned earlier. Much of the story is of course based on the EQG movies and specials, but much of the rest is just little references like Chrysalis’ full name, or Birch And Cassidy, or other random thoughts and ideas that fit well into the larger story and S.M.I.L.E.’s backstory. And then there’s the movie the title was taken from, which ended up having a big influence on the framework.

Why use the frame tale in the counselor’s office instead of just telling the story straight through?

That’s actually a reference that I’m not sure anyone actually caught so far. There wasn’t really going to be a “telling straight through” because I had up to 10k words to cover at least half a dozen movies and specials of the EQG series. Doing that many direct time-skips and even more scene changes probably would’ve made the story feel choppy and forced without something to bridge them. Then I remembered “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, a movie about a spy couple that practically offered itself up for a punny title, and which had said spies visiting a marriage counselor as a framing device. It gave me a title, something to base the cover art on and a way to bridge the story through the different movies.

What’s your approach for writing such snappy dialogue?

Being bad at the alternative, for one. I’ve never been good at writing long, winding texts and padding out essays or stories. I ramble sometimes or go off on tangents, but I naturally don’t really write more than necessary to communicate what I want to, and that usually reflects in the dialogue I write. Luckily I’m also decent at coming up with witty stuff, so with a bit of luck it ends up snappy instead of just looking short.

Are you still planning the prequel you mention in the Author’s Notes?

I’m always planning half a dozen things, I just don’t get them down to (digital) paper. The prequel/sequel/in-between-quel is still one of the things I’m planning, and I hope that this gives me the necessary kick to get started on it already.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

If you’re a writer: go write something.

If you’re a reader: go kick me to write something.

If you’re a reader, just not of my stories: go read FanOfMostEverything’s stories. They’re kinda like mine, except better and there’s more of them.

You can read Mr. and Mrs. S.M.I.L.E. at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

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