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Obsolete: Fic/Author of the Month

The acest of trainers
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Re: Fic of the Month - August: Vaira: The Legacy of Cyrus by Athena

After taking the month off for the awards, we are back with the Best Story winner from the Summer 2015 awards, Vaira: The Legacy of Cyrus by @Athena:


Firstly, congratulations on winning Best Story. How does it feel to get this prize?

I'm a bit stunned. I figured that if I won the prize it would be much further down the line. Vaira's only getting started and the opening Act was kind of a mess setting everything up so I can play with the world later. I only realized looking back during the awards process that the story is a fair bit longer than I had thought it was. It still feels new and developing to me.

How does writing Vaira compare to the process of writing Backgrounds?

Backgrounds had it's own challenges. Plotting out timelines was a bigger issue since I had to have everything figured out from the start and weave it together in to one story. There was also a certain issue of writing through a mild filter of mental and physical illness. So I had to research a lot about how those affect people who have them and also mold that in to the narrative. And then, fundamentally, Backgrounds was an origin story. It ends right where another story might begin. There was even a scene at the end of the original draft setting up a more conventional journey fic. I later nixed it when I realized that Vaira was going to be my main project rather than a Backgrounds sequel.

Vaira has its own problems. The narrators can be a bit hard to work with at points and I have to pay much closer attention to pacing. The story has a badge quest plot and after 100k words that's only one badge in. But since there's so much else I have to work with if I go too quickly I'll end up really overstuffing it. If I slow down too much it will never end. Research is also really difficult since I have to keep rechecking old notes and books since it deals with a fair few topics in some detail. And I actually have to figure out how to pace myself so I write but don't burn out. I didn't have to do that for Backgrounds since I wrote the Gela arc in a one-month span.

Of the three main characters in the story, which one is the easiest to write? The hardest?

I actually really dislike writing for Evyrus, which will probably surprise some people since he's the most normal character. He is a canon character, sort of, but there's almost nothing to go by on him. There's a lot of difficulty in adopting a near-silent protagonist in to a story. How passive do I make him? How active? And since his style is actually normal I can find it a bit difficult to get inspired by it or just flow with it when I start to write.

However annoying it might be to read, I don't have that problem with Jane. Literally every moment is a potential avenue to explore how she might feel about something, her style practically writes herself, and I have a fondness for morally ambiguous characters who view the world through odd lenses. And she has some really interesting character dynamics. She has a much stricter sense of good and evil than any other character in the story, but her views of morality are so skewed that sometimes she can be doing pure evil and see nothing wrong with it. She also has the power to enforce her will upon others, which combined with her general moral certainty and lack of understanding can make her into a villain who's neither good nor evil in the end.

You give the Pokémon in this story a lot of personality. Do you think the story would work without those characters?

I hate to say this, but probably. At the end of the day the major plot dynamics of Act I would still work with pretty static Pokemon characters. I don't think it would be as good, though, since they let me handle things in dialogue that would otherwise be expressed in lots and lots of internal monologue. They can also be used to force characters to confront aspects of themselves that they otherwise wouldn't. For Evyrus that's some conflicts over how human he really is and what his friendships have really been about. For Aracai that's her past and the extent to which she's fallen when she can't truthfully tell her childhood friend much about her adulthood at all. And for Jane... well, she and Jewel are going to have some talking to do after Act I.

You’ve done a lot of research to write the story. Why did you choose Indian and Maori cultures to be at the centre of the story?

The story does take place in the same universe as Backgrounds, although it will very seldom matter due to fifty years and half an ocean separating the stories. During that story I set up Kanto as a post-colonial island struggling between European and traditional norms, but it mostly took a backseat in the plot. I also established Kanto as being in the South Pacific since it's basically the only place that could easily fit a few more small continents and I don't like "Kanto is Japan" in the story because it limits what I can do for world building. So since it's the South Pacific the native culture dealing with European influences was going to be Polynesian.

Aracai was originally Hispanic in early drafts of the story because when I set out to learn about global guest labor practices I was thinking from an American perspective. I also really wanted to explore how a devout Catholic would react to quests from Dialga, Arceus, Darkrai, etc. Then I picked Guyana as a country of origin because it was in South America and had a connection to Mew. Then I found out that Guyana really isn't culturally Latin American at all and, demographically, its population is about equally split between those of Asian, African, and native descent. So I ended up making her of Indian descent because the country is very significant in the global labor supply system. So both were kind of necessary consequences of some choices I made more than some grand vision from the start.

Some people have criticised Vaira for having too many themes. How do you respond to that viewpoint?

It... probably does. There are four major villainous groups, three of which represent Early Modern ideologies. The entire political and economic backdrop of Sinnoh is complex and will only become clear through the entire story, if then, and I'm not helping myself by adding in the supernatural elements. The protagonists are way over the top but in my defense that part was originally a stealth parody of fan fics that insist on having ever more ridiculous characters. It's also sort of my take on how a Chosen One quest would work if the gods could pick their Chosen Ones. Why go with ten years old novices when you can take an experienced killer, a guy who's already saved the world twice, and a virtual demigoddess to take up your quest?

I think it's partially balanced out by themes tending to stay with their respective narrators. Only Aracai deals with Hinduism, politics, and class warfare. Only Evyrus deals with languages, Cyrus, and the PMD world. Only Jane deals with outer space and general psychic issues. If I tried to bring in every theme in a single chapter that would be awful. But I try to only deal with a few at a time.

The last chapter ended with a big revelation that a main character will soon die. Where will we see the story going next?

A lot of chapters dealing with the other two reacting. While the fate of the third is uncertain to them and events have basically made working together impossible they need to split off and figure out how to proceed. For one narrator that involves a lot of moral questioning. For the other that's a lot of strategy and working through frustrations. Basically after the quest was abruptly derailed they need to find a way forward, whatever that means. All the while various factions gain an increasing interest in just what the incident at the end of Act I means for the political balance and work to strengthen their position.

In short, the story becomes a lot more introspective and the villains in the background start to take a more active role in the plot
 
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Our fic of the month for September is the very different Survival Project by @diamondpearl876

Why did you choose to write the story from the perspective of the Pokemon and not Sai?

Most, if not all, of my inspiration for writing from a pokemon's perspective is thanks to Farla, a fanfic writer notorious for many things, including her harsh reviews. I was younger, thirteen or so, and admired her writing to the point where I would message her with all my ideas to see what she thought about them. Her support during the beginning stages of Survival Project's development was all I needed to go ahead with my plans.

The multiple point of view technique though... With me not having written a novel-length story before, I had no idea how to choose a single narrator or how to frame a story around a main character. I thought all of my characters were equally important, and I was determined to give them all the same amount of focus as the story went on. Somehow, I do think I succeeded in that.

Looking back now, writing the story from Sai's point of view wouldn't have worked. For one, the main "appeal" of the story, so to speak, and the plot itself, revolves around the fact that Sai is an enigma. If we knew his thought processes and all his secrets, there would be no Survival Project. Also, I will confirm some readers' suspicions that Sai has a mental illness. Sai's moods go up and down, much like a rollercoaster or whatever comparison you want to use. It's not that I would have minded writing an unstable character, but I'm not sure many people would have been able to tolerate such tiring narration. Instead I opted to assign myself the task of exploring how others view and react to mental illness, and how those views/reactions can change over time.

Why did you choose a Sentret, Totodile and Hitmontop as the original three Pokemon you covered?

In short, I wanted to pick my favorite pokemon. Remember - I was thirteen.

In hindsight, though, it all worked out. I don't regret choosing the pokemon I did. I'm going to be honest in this question and say that a lot of Survival Project came naturally to me. If I was stuck, it wasn't for long. If I made a decision I regretted later and couldn't change because I had already posted and had readers, I found a fix for it without having to rewrite. I might be bragging, but I think this tells you more about me as a person: I follow my gut and figure things out later.

That being said... Well, I don't have much to say about using a sentret. I had my plan for Senori early on and, in fact, it was one of the first ideas I had for the story. But with using a totodile, I plan to include the concept of mega evolution in the sequel. As for using a hitmontop... Atis's typing is ironic, but it also suits him. He's shy, not aggressive like you might think a fighting-type to be. But if you push him too far, he'll definitely surprise you with how expressive he can be. He's surprised me a few times before as well.

Do you prefer writing in first person? What are the positives and negatives of doing that?

I write in first person almost exclusively. With third person, I've run into many issues. My sentence structure is awkward (more awkward than normal, even), and I get many complaints that my writing becomes too "poetic" for fiction. Also, my writing is very emotional in nature, and with third person, I feel that I can't delve into emotions, nor portray them how I want to. I prefer to get into a character's head and speak using their voice rather than my own.

There are downsides, though. The main one for me being: using multiple POVs in one story means using various writing styles. I found that very difficult, to the point where, for the sequel, I've made an entire chart dedicated to individual voices for each point of view character. In the original I don't think I succeeded in making each voice unique, even though I do believe the characters themselves are distinct in personality.

You've written this story in full before posting it. Why did you make that decision? Do you recommend other people do that?

I originally posted Survival Project as I wrote it, but I only posted on Pokecommunity, Serebii, and Fanfiction.net. I was not an active member on Bulbagarden at the time. A year or so after completing Survival Project, I believed my writing style had changed far too much, and that the story didn't quite live up to the new standards I had for myself as a writer. I went through each chapter, sentence by sentence, and fixed awkward sentence structure, weird word choices, among other things. It wasn't a major rewrite - I didn't remove entire scenes or any plot points - but previous readers seem to have noticed the difference.

I posted on Bulbagarden to see what readers who hadn't read the story before thought. Reviews have been both positive and negative, and I'll be using all comments to move forward with the sequel and with my writing in general. I've also been pleasantly surprised to hear from readers who read the original in other places, and now they've even re-read the story and offered comments that compared the two versions.

You have two active stories right now. What would you say is the key difference between Survival Project and Love and Other Nightmares? Would we ever see a crossover between the two stories?

The main difference, I think, is character interaction. The characters in both stories react very differently to other characters' flaws. For example, all of Sai's pokemon in Survival Project accept Sai from the get-go for their own personal reasons. They know there's something wrong with him, and they can't quite place what it is, but they don't care. They put aside their differences and own faults to help him despite the fact that Sai's actions and words hurt them more often than not.

In Love and Other Nightmares, there is a lot of animosity and tension in a lot of the character interactions. Annie's pokemon are reluctant to accept her and only do so because they feel they have nowhere else to turn. The 'help' they provide each other is forced and is rather selfish.

The two stories already, in a way, cross over, or at least, they will in time. It's already been established that two pokemon characters in Survival Project, Ezrem and Rennio, were Annie's pokemon previously. But they haven't appeared in Love and Other Nightmares yet, and won't for quite some time.

We know there will be a sequel. What can we expect from the rest of Survival Project, and will the sequel change anything up?

The next two chapters of Survival Project finish up the arc in which Sai disappears. Kuiora and Ezrem will have time to react to their trainer's disappearance. Then the plot unravels itself piece by piece - a member of Sai's team decides to leave, and things go downhill from there. Tension builds up chapter by chapter, and we finally figure out everything Sai's been hiding by the end of chapter 24.

As for the sequel... The official title of the sequel is Phantom Project. The title partly alludes to kind of ghosts that haunt us, whether it be a mistake we made in the past, someone who's passed, or something else. I'll say little else about that at the moment, except that the main antagonist will actually make appearances throughout the story, unlike in Survival Project.

The story itself will be different from the original in many ways, but some things will stay the same. The multiple point of view technique will still be used. We'll have new narrators and old narrators. The story will delve into some darker subjects that we only saw the surface of in Survival Project. The story will also have three main plot points, all tightly interwoven with each other. I'm nervous since my writing style has changed an awful lot and I'll be taking some risks, but I'm excited to work with my characters again and to share them with my readers.
 
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After an extended break, we are back with an old favourite for December: Communication by @Sike Saner, which won Best Character at the last awards. Before the next round kicks off, get some tips from a pro! (Interview conducted by @AetherX)

The story so far is broken cleanly into three different arcs. How did this come about, and how do you think it affects the way the story plays out?

It's really just... how it came together, heh. I don't recall it being a conscious decision so much as something I just. Well. Went with.

I think the format probably makes it a bit harder to guess how significant any given event or character is in the long run. X character'll be part of the main cast in one arc, only to make no appearance in the next. Looking back from the final chapter, there might be a better sense of "oh okay, that led to this", whereas while you're reading it for the first time it probably comes across as more of a "where the heck is she even going with this". Ah well.

Jal’tai won both Best Antagonist and Best Character overall last Summer Awards. How did you come up with his character, and what are some of the quirks of writing him? How do you write a character that is simultaneously evil and so gosh darn adorable?

Jal'tai, or someone like him, was pretty much doomed to make it in, seeing as he belongs to my absolute favorite character archetype (i.e. the well-intentioned extremist). I think I also wanted to play with the whole "humans are bastards and pokémon are cinnamon rolls" idea--here we have a latios who goes on and on about humans mistreating pokémon, and what does he do? Mistreat other pokémon. What an ass.

Quirks, I don't know about, other than that nowhere else have I ever used the word "chuckle" so many damn times as I did when I was writing this dork. Will I ever stop making fun of myself for that? Smart money's on "no".

When you're a big fluffy featherbag, as lati are, you're kind of doomed to be at least kind of cute. Even if the things you're doing sometimes aren't. Put mildly.

The nature of the story results in a quickly rotating cast of characters. How did you decide on which Pokémon to use? What is your approach to character design?

Many of the pokémon species choices were literally just whatever came to mind first. I'd usually only veto it if I can't justify something of that species being in the scene. But luckily that didn't come up too often, what with one of the main settings being a deliberate melting pot, not to mention one of the major characters having connections in multiple regions (and the ability to teleport).

My approach is... well. Possibly not an approach at all? I don't know. I think the best way to describe it is "not entirely deliberate". I just write the characters, really.

Talk to me about worldbuilding. The city of Convergence plays a big part in the story. What inspired it, and how did you go about coming up with ideas for it? What about the other Pokémon communities like Virc-Dho?

Convergence wound up heavily tied into Jal'tai's character and the aforementioned "pokémon aren't without sin" thing, but of course I came up with it before I came up with him. So, sorry, Jal'tai. You can't take credit for it after all.

I think it originally came about out of a desire to work with pokémon in situations I might not have gotten to otherwise. Oh, and also as an excuse to come up with gadgets and mods for multispecies accessibility. I am much prouder of that bathroom in the inn than is reasonable.

Virc-Dho is the result of being just straight-up obsessed with the snorunt line and glalie in particular, and wanting to imagine what sort of society they might have. Or, more precisely, what sort of society they might have in that exact set of circumstances--hence the presence of other nations and factions that do things a bit differently. Terrifying ice monster culture isn't a monolith, especially not across regions.

Since you’ve already completed Communication, do you find yourself looking back and wishing you’d done certain things differently?

What I wish most is that I'd had the patience to actually write the thing from start to back before I started posting it anywhere. My writer mode and editor mode don't get along--when the latter's in charge, I end up writing in circles rather than making any progress, on account of constantly nitpicking and second guessing my work. That's a pretty big factor in why this thing took ten damn years to write. Lots of time lost to fretting over whether each chapter was "good enough" before I posted it. Before I even started writing it. I don't know if that makes any sense, but yeah.

Anyway, the follow-up's not coming out til I'm done with it. Editor-me can wait her damn turn.

Are there any lessons you learned from writing Communication that you'd like to share?

Yeah. Two things to remember with regards to any project:

1.) you are not obligated to finish anything, but
2.) you are also not obligated to abandon anything

Or to put it another way, it's never too late to finish a project. You can say you "never finished" something, but as long as you remain alive and able, the reality is simply that you haven't finished it.
 
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Welcome all to the first 'Fic of the Month' of 2016. Except this isn't about just one story - it's about a lot of them, and the person who wrote them. To kick off the new year, we are doing our first ever Author of the Month. These interviews will happen periodically throughout the year as an extension of FOTM, and will see prominent authors in the community talk about writing: how they got into it, where they see themselves going, their stories, their characters, their themes, their influences. This first interview was a collaboration between two moderators to help establish a new tone and style of interview for this thread, one we hope to emulate in future interviews for both individual stories and authors alike.

With these new interviews, we encourage you all to get involved as well. From now on, this thread will serve as a monthly discussion about whatever story, author or writing topic we choose to highlight. We encourage you all to ask questions, discuss the interview, discuss the author/story /topic and share your thoughts until the next one is posted. But most of all, enjoy the interviews!

~~~~~~~

For our first AUTHOR OF THE MONTH, we have our very own forum head and first ever WRITER’S WORKSHOP CHAMPION: AceTrainer14!

Ace has been around for quite some time, posting his first fic on Bulbagarden in April of 2010, Galactic, a dark journey story telling of five teenagers and their fight against the terrible Team Galactic.

The story spawned Ace’s GalacticVerse, a collection of stories all within the same universe, including most notably:

Dawn of Darkness: The story of young Cynthia Carter and Viktor Fischer as they unknowingly kick off the epic saga of the GalacticVerse.

The First Warriors: The retelling of Red, Blue, and Leaf’s journey across Kanto and their struggles against Team Rocket.

Kris vs Gold: A Tale of War: A Johto journey fic from the point of view of Kris Soul, as she seeks to beat her rival Ethan 'Gold' Hartley.

How to Conquer Kanto in Eight Easy Steps: Another Kanto journey that takes place in the aftermath of both The First Warriors and Galactic. Alaska Acevedo is the latest teenager to be destined to save the world, but she’s not so keen on the idea.

AetherX: How did you first get into writing for fun? If not through fanfiction, what got you into fanfiction and Pokémon in particular?

AceTrainer14: I have always been writing ever since I was a kid. Most of my work started off as Thomas the Tank Engine fan fic, some of which I still have lying around. If you think early-Galactic is bad, you should read this stuff. I’ve always had good ideas but my execution early on was much worse than it currently is. Very childish, but I guess it fits in with the show. My first chapter story was one where the engines were all humans, and I actually finished it – there were about twenty chapters - but then our computer crashed and I lost all but the first seven or something chapters, which was kind of depressing. Thankfully I have a USB now so that won’t happen again.

Pokémon I liked a lot as a kid. I never played the games but I watched the anime up until about mid-Johto and then kind of lost interest: Yu-Gi-Oh became the next big thing so my attention turned to that. It wasn’t until I started high school that my friend had gotten into it and he lent me his Game Boy. I instantly became hooked through LeafGreen, and a few months later I was watching the anime, had my own DS and copy of Diamond and had gone through FireRed and Emerald as well.

Out of boredom and because I had nothing else to write at the time, I decided to write a short story that was basically a battle between Red and Leaf. I really enjoyed writing that, and so it spawned a series called Red vs Leaf, and now here we are.

Æ: A vital question: Are these Thomas the Tank Engine fics officially part of the GalacticVerse?

AT: Who knows; I’m always open to a crossover. Maybe all Alaska’s needed this entire time is a stern talking to from The Fat Controller.

Æ: How did you get the idea to start the GalacticVerse? Did you decide that any stories in particular "had to happen" when you started the GalacticVerse, like The First Warriors?


AT: The GVerse came about once I’d finished Red vs Leaf. I had this idea to do a big saga set in Sinnoh, essentially a journey fic but on a really large scale. At the same time, I knew I wanted to do a sequel to Red vs Leaf cause that had been really popular on FF.net, which was calledKris vs Gold. While plotting out Galactic, I knew that Charles would come from Johto and had ideas about doing a prequel series about his adventures before being displaced and what not.

I later had ideas about bringing Red and Leaf into Galactic nearer the end, or them having adventures in Johto at the end of Charles’ story. As a result, I sort of began to connect these stories together, and knew that since KvG was a sequel to RvL, that would have to be involved as well. Out of habit, while doing stuff for the URPG, I decided it would be easier to set those stories in the same world. I can’t remember quite when I decided to name it, but I knew I had to call it something, and since Galactic originally was the big epic (I feel like 8ES has perhaps usurped it in that sense), thus the name was born (plus it was a slight pun since Cyrus’ plan is to make his own universe.)

About midway through8ES, I knew that if I was going to do the story justice, that Red vs Leaf was not an appropriate thing to reference as there was very little plot and all the action was off-screen and Blue based, which wasn’t what I wanted. I decide I needed to give Red, Leaf and Blue a better story, so The First Warriors was born.

There are no stories though that I felt like I had to write. My Johto and Hoenn series I originally was less enthusiastic about as I originally just went in thinking I might as well complete the set kind of just jotted down ideas and made plans out of a need to complete the set. However, I had a stroke of inspiration for how to handle the Aqua v Magma thing in my Hoenn story, so I am excited to write that one day. Johto I am still mulling over, but I’ve had some more character-centric ideas that I am fond of.

After Gen 6 got announced, for a time I did debate whether or not to do a Kalos story. However, my world had been fairly set out then, and including a sixth region and plot was going to be more irritating than enjoyable, and it definitely felt like I would have written it for the sake of writing it. That’s where the idea came to destroy the region entirely, tying into my planned ideas of a war happening at some point, and that idea actually formed a lot of my world.

Æ: So you don't see Galactic as the peak climax of the GalacticVerse anymore, then? Do you plan to make it so with your rewriting?

AT: Well, 8ES takes place afterwards, so I can’t really get around that. The way I see it though is that Galactic is the mid-point of the GVerse. The big four regional stories kind of lay the groundwork for everything; the final showdown concludes this part of the world from a thematic sense, and then the stories that follow deal with living in the aftermath of the world those characters created. It will be the biggest ending of any of my stories though. As it’s been hinted a lot, the climax is a huge, bloody, violent battle on Mt Coronet that basically everyone takes part in. I don’t know 100% how the GVerse will end eventually, but I do see Galactic as a conclusion to a large part of it. You could read TFW, Hoenn, Johto and Galactic and then would not have to read all that comes after in order to be satisfied; before Coronet and after Coronet deal with different themes and tell vastly different stories.

Æ: Is it tricky at all to maintain consistency within the GalacticVerse? How often do you find yourself going back to check what events and characters are established?

AT: Not really. I have things firmly ingrained in my head or written down, so I know when I’m writing what I’m referring to and when certain things happened. There also isn’t that much crossing over that requires keeping detailed consistency about. I think people view the stories as having tons of references and cross over, but aside from my clumsy use of some characters in8ES, there is very little crossover. I think all stories can be read individually and enjoyed individually and the other stories simply exist around them.

It is constantly changing though, so that is the harder thing: having to go back and edit in the new ideas I had, and to make sure the other stories reflect those changes. Like I’ve made edits to Eight Easy Steps to better reflect what will happen at the end of The First Warriors and Viktor’s vision of the future from Dawn of Darkness. I’m editing the early chapters of Galactic, and now when Matthew’s having breakfast in the first chapter, there’s a news report about Kris’ upcoming battle with Lance. It can be a challenge, and there are times where I’ve missed things, but it keeps me on game and I like including these references.

Æ: How do you deal with balancing writing so many stories at once?

AT: I don’t really. I used to update a lot but the quality was shit. Now I haven’t posted a new chapter of Galactic or TFW for about a year, but I think that my creativity for Eight Easy Steps has been its strongest yet. The breather though has given me time to plan things out more, and I have big plans to rewrite large chunks of Galactic and make it a much stronger story as a result. I wouldn't recommend people juggle this much writing at once.

The good thing about writing them and rewriting them at the same time is being able to bring them together moreso. Like I can look at scenes, characters, plotlines between the stories that are too similar and cut them out, and now that the GVerse is becoming more defined, the rewrites and nitpicking will make for a better put together world.

Æ: Do you consider yourself to have a distinctive style, or do you try to mix it up from story to story?

AT: I think my style is fairly continuous. I don’t know how to describe it, but I am pretty narrator-heavy, I think, with lots of internal dialogue. People seem to view Dawn of Darkness as being quite different to the rest, but I didn’t set out for it to be that way.

I guess explosions have been touted as my signature thing, which I’m not fussed with. There are worse things to be known for, and I plan on turning it back.

Æ: I'd say that flashy action scenes and of course, your signature explosions, tend to appear often in your work. The lack of those until the end of Dawn of Darkness is what made it stand out in my eyes. Have you ever purposefully set out, in individual scenes or entire fics, to defy your usual style? To mix things up for the sake of doing something different?


AT:
I wouldn’t say I purposefully set out to do anything; it just depends on what ideas I have and what comes naturally to the story. I talk about this more below, but I have recently begun to look at certain planned action scenes and question what they add to the story, but I will still include ones that feel natural. I cut out a scene where the Cycling Road collapsed in 8ES, but I’ve added another action scene in the next arc; it’s all about what works best.

With DOD, part of it was that the characters weren’t very experienced so I couldn’t do a lot with them action-wise (plus Castform is a horrible Pokémon to write battles for), but it partly was that that story had to be told in that way. I didn’t original intend to end it so dramatically, but when I got the idea for the final showdown at the league and the library, I was able to think of that constantly while writing and build up towards those scenes. The final chapters, the scene where Gyarados smashes through the window, none of that would have been effective if I had blown everything up beforehand.

I don’t think I’d ever do a full first person story again. The Moral Highground I didn’t enjoy writing in the end because of that narrative style. I prefer third person and internalising the characters through a narrator. Mostly, I’m not that experimental. If I ever came across a scene that couldn’t be told in my normal way, I’d be open to trying something else. There’s an issue of Hawkeye Vol 4 by Matt Fraction that’s told from the perspective of Hawkeye’s dog. I’d like to try something like that one day.

Æ: How have reviews you've received (critical or otherwise) throughout the years impacted your story plans or your approach to writing?

AT: Quite a lot for some stories; namely Galactic. I have always been rather accepting of that stories faults, and the feedback from it has been hugely helpful. I think it was a review from you actually that made me cut out a number of action scenes from the latest instalment (Reflections by the Lakefront) and stories on either side. That chapter was originally going to end with a much more dramatic fight between Vanessa and Draco, which would’ve resulted in the hotel burning down. There’d be a bit where something exploded and the others aren’t sure Vanessa survived, and then Infernape walks out, freshly evolved, carrying her in his arms. The review from you about the amount of action made me decide to cut back a bit and I made the chapter made personal and the ending fight scene more about how they can’t avoid the nightmare they are in. It made for a better sequence, and I hope a better story.

The action thing has come up a bit, and I have taken notice: the last two arcs of 8ES haven’t had any big action scenes outside of run of the mill Pokémon battles, and it helped move the story towards its current state in a positive way. And I have recently decided to bite the bullet and go back over and make style and grammar changes to old chapters, which in itself has inspired changes. I have become much more accepting of how much a deterrent bad grammar can be to a reader, something I never cared about when I first started writing.

I am also contemplating my use of references. Even though I maintain these stories can be read separately, it seems a lot of people believe that I am trying to force you to read them all. I think early in 8ES I included some of the characters quite poorly, but even then you don’t need to read their stories to understand what’s going on in 8ES. The fact it is kind of ‘sequel’ I don’t think really has much to do with it. If you look at Star Wars, Episode IV kind of jumps right into this world and has all these references and callbacks without a lot of setting up. 8ES is along the same lines of things happened in the past, but this is about the present.

The one criticism I tend to ignore, and by ignore I mean bitterly respond to every time it comes up, is around Alaska. I stand by my creative decisions in terms of her character and the broad way she has reacted to the incidents around her. There are some scenes I will probably tone down in rewrites, but I 100% believe that Alaska’s response to the whole “Hey there, we want you to save the world but aren’t going to help you, at least not in a way we can agree on” is the most realistic response a 13 year old girl who has no interest in saving the world would have. And I always intended for her to change and grow, but not in an overnight way, so it gets fairly annoying when people say she needs to change when A) she’s going to, and B) a lot of the time she already has. A theme throughout the story is about change, and I think for this story and this character, I am telling that theme in the most appropriate way. I would simply say people both need to be patient and probably accept that this change isn’t going to be a huge obvious thing. I think if I had Alaska repeatedly state “I’ve changed now” every chapter, people would start complaining about that.

Æ: You currently have three stories actively running, but do you have any plans for new installments in the GalacticVerse?

AT: Yes, but probably not any time soon. I have ideas for Johto, Hoenn and Unova – of them, I have planned Unova the most, but it’s bigger than Galactic (six main characters), so of them I’d probably do Hoenn first. The next thing I intend to write is a miniseries about Arnold Adiem and how he came across the orbs. It will cover the earliest part of my world yet (I have removed A Wish on Freedom from GVerse continuity), and will explore things I’ve only hinted at before; the fact Pokémon and humans haven’t always lived side by side namely. It will also look at stuff that was mentioned in Dawn of Darkness, but no one has ever mentioned or brought it up in reviews so it will be interesting to see what people make of that.

Æ: What's your reasoning behind removing A Wish on Freedom from continuity?

AT:
Honestly, I decided the story was shit and I can’t be bothered going back and fixing it up. Time wise it doesn’t match up anymore with regards to the revised history of the GVerse, and I don’t have the time, energy or interest to fix it up so it can work in the world. It’s a story I enjoyed at the time, and I did like the ending, but it always was messy and overall I’m not proud of it. I don’t want to feel obliged to reference it or try and fit it into this world. A bit of Charlotte’s flashbacks from Princess of Darkness take place post-AWOF and there’s a brief reference in Chapter 69 of 8ES, but asides from that the story has no real connections to the world.

Æ: Have you thought at all about doing any stories not in the GalacticVerse?

AT: No.

Æ: That's surprising, since I often see people complaining about wanting to abandon current stories in favor of new ideas. Do you just combine any new ideas with the stories you already have planned out? Or do you just not get many ideas that aren't based in the GalacticVerse?


AT:
I will clarify and say that I do get a lot of ideas, but most of them aren’t Pokémon related. I don’t think people really want to read about failed authors or gay prostitutes in the Pokémon world (though after typing that sentence, I love the idea and hate myself for falling for it).

Pokémon wise, I had a lot of ideas in the past for a number of Pokémon stories. These were stories that wouldn’t have tied in massively with the GVerse, unless I threw in some prophecies or had Charlotte show up for some reason (which, let’s face it, I definitely would have done), but I probably would have written them in the GVerse anyway as they weren’t stories that were set in like apocalyptic futures or anything like that. The stories were never massively planned out, and since then I’ve decided to just focus on my main stories. Any Pokémon ideas I’ve gotten over the last few years have been related to my current work. Though now I’m seriously wondering what a human brothel in this world would be like…

Æ: Related, you've actually finished a few stories before. That's an impressive feat in this community. Do you have any techniques that you use to avoid getting distracted or disenchanted with what you're writing?


AT: Thank you. I was so proud to reach the end of Dawn of Darkness. I recently re-read the final for Crossover Battles, and I am actually so proud of those last few chapters. Even though it differed from my original plans, everything came together in the end and it worked better than I could have ever imagined. It took so long to get there but all the emotions I felt typing the epilogue was such a great feeling. Tying back to the last question, I’d recommend everyone try and finish at least one long story; you feel so relieved at the end. Don’t rush and drop a project just because you’re a bit bored.

Back to this question; I find having it as a connected universe helps. I can’t really give up writing The First Warriors or Galactic, because then there would be so many holes in the overall story it wouldn’t make sense and I would kind of have to give up.

I have been disenchanted though. Some reviews I got for TFW last year are partly why I haven’t written it for ages; I got a bit dejected and I was a becoming more invested in the other stuff so I put that one on the backburner.

With Galactic, I have always accepted the criticism for that but my disenchantment there is a result of having too many ideas. The story is probably too huge. There are so many side stories and little mysteries running through it, because when I planned it I just threw everything in, tried to make sure everyone had a really showy storyline that it has gotten out of control (one of the main characters is secretly related to another prominent character in the story and there’s a really overcomplicated way that it works out). I also let friends pick the characters teams as this was the first big story I wrote and I wasn’t sure which Pokémon to pick, and I kind of used them as inspiration for the characters in the first place so it seemed fair at the time to let them help. But now I’ve realised that most of the Pokémon horribly suit the characters (Vanessa with a Dustox makes very little sense) and I don’t want to write some of them anymore, which is a real pain going forwards.

My sole advice would be to start small and don’t let your ideas get too out of control; make it interesting enough that you want to write it, but don’t make it too interesting that you burn out. Don’t be afraid to go back and change things either. If you’re unsure about something, keep writing and see where it goes, and if it doesn’t work, go back and fix it up, there’s no harm in that.

Also, setting yourself a deadline can help. Things like the Awards encourage me to move along, and I have a timeline I don’t really stick to but it’s there and when I fall really far behind it makes me get myself into gear.

Æ: What's in store for the future of the GalacticVerse? Do you have plans for an "ending" or will you keep going until you lose interest?

AT: A lot, really. We aren’t very far into The First Warriors so there will be a lot more of that. We are about halfway-ish through Galactic, perhaps a bit more, and two-thirds through 8ES. There are about six arcs left to the latter story, maybe seven depending on how I split things up. Ideally I’d like to finish that within the next year but at my current rate who knows.

Since we’re here and people have read all five pages worth of this interview, I’ll give y’all some teases as a reward:
The First Warriors:

- There will be a chapter post-Cerulean that looks at why the three heroes decided to go on their journeys in a way that introduces a major story arc for the GVerse.

- More Pokémon captures over the next few chapters. They will each get a new Pokémon in the next chapter and their teams will grow more than most of my other stories.

- We will see how Giovanni has remained gym leader in this world.


Galactic:

- The next chapter is a huge one not just for the story but it will answer a lot of questions about what the GVerse is as a whole (these were questions raised in DoD but no one seemed to notice or care about them there :p). There will also be big revelations about Sahara and her alternate personalities and what they mean for the rest of the story.

- We will get Vanessa’s back story in a few chapters and see a completely different side to her.

- The revised chapters will turn Cyrus and Galactic a bit to be more of a religious, apocalyptic cult. Cyrus is using his visions of the future to push the agenda of a world without injustice that Cynthia first put into his head, and the events of the previous story has led some to believe the world is ending and he is their answer.

- Vanessa and Matthew will capture one more Pokémon each. I have plans to replace Pokémon on each team in rewrites, with everyone having at least one Pokémon swapped out for a more suitable option.

- There will eventually be a sit-down confrontation between Cyrus and Cynthia. Her role in the story will be increased in rewrites, mainly as I enjoyed writing her so much during DoD.


Eight Easy Steps:

- As has been teased previously, after this arc the focus shifts from deconstructing Alaska’s personality and decisions to her and Sandy preparing to face Gideon and Buzz. However, their attempts to formulate a steady plan are interrupted as Amanda steps out from Buzz’s shadow. We will see more cross over between the interludes and chapters themselves, namely as Kris moves into the main story and the gym leaders begin to plot.

- Alaska and Gideon will come face to face once more before the prophesised final battle. Their meeting will establish part of Gideon's plans and introduce from the games to the GVerse.

- Alaska will have a full team of six before facing the Cinnabar Gym but Latios will not be one of those Pokémon, though the two will meet and have at least one chapter alone prior to the climax.

Future stories, I am not sure when they will happen or if they will. I do want to do a few miniseries/setting up on things. I have ideas for what happened around the Fall of Kalos / The War on Three Sides, perhaps doing a miniseries establishing where those characters are (I have a great idea for a scene where some of the higher ups, possibly Rowan and Oak, are sitting in a bar watching a young Cyrus trying to preach about the end of the world), but I am not sure whether to do it as a series of work those flashbacks more naturally into TFW/Galactic/other stories. I’d love to do my Johto and Hoenn series, but timing is everything. My Unova series is planned out excessively but would take years to write and get right.

I do have plans to end it. After 8ES, there will be two series set in Unova with different main characters, but after that I am not sure how many other stories there will be before the end. I have a lot of ideas for ways it could go, so I think I might just make one epic story rather than splitting things up between multiple stories. There are villains and threats I haven’t introduced yet who have huge roles to play, one whose already around who’ll have an ever increasing role through the series, one villain who is going to be introduced soon. We will see the consequences of what Cyrus’ plans are, what Gideon’s really planning has huge consequences on the rest of the world. There’s plans for a big scene in the climax of Galactic that will directly set up a major part of the Unova story Knights, as well as the rest of the series. Parts of the Kalos games will be adapted – there’s a lot planned, basically.

I have a lot I want to write so I don’t think I’ll lose interest, it’s more about whether I will ever get around to writing these stories. I’ve finished university now, I am looking for a proper job and want to travel the world. If I’m going to keep writing, I’d like to try my hand and some original fiction and try and get published one day. I love this world I have created and I want to share my ideas, but in a way I know I will always be the one who appreciates this the most. I could spend the rest of my life writing all the stories I have planned and putting in these references and crossovers, but half of that is for my own amusement.

I will always appreciate this community as you have all helped me grow a lot as a writer (you only have to look at my early work to see how far I’ve come), and I’d like to pay you all back for your support and kindness by wrapping up these three series. If more come after that, fingers crossed but who knows. It would have been fun while it lasted at any rate.
 
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Welcome to our first Fic of the Month interview of the year, where we celebrate some rise by sin by the wonderful kintsugi.

Opening with our protagonist telling us the story will end with her death and the destruction of Johto, some rise by sin tells off a teenage girl living in an apocalyptic version of Johto controlled by Team Rocket. They rule with an iron fist through use of their Psychic Pokemon, and anyone caught with a Dark type is labelled a traitor and killed. So, naturally, our heroine is assigned a Murkrow, at the same moment the country's electricity is brought down a magnetic anomaly - and that's just the beginning of her worries. The story tells of her fight to stay anonymous and questioning the path ahead, while facing off against an unexpected rival and collecting the most diverse range of Pokemon ever seen on this site.

Four time winner of Best Dark Fic and clear record holder for that category, once winner of Best Character, and our current reigning holder of Best Story - this is some rise by sin.

AceTrainer14: How long did you spend crafting the mythology of this world? Things such as the history, how ghosts work, the various Pokémon communities, must have taken a long time to plan and plot.

kintsugi: People who read the earlier drafts may have noticed/commented that the worldbuilding was quite scant, and they were definitely right. Around two years ago, I sat down and decided to think exclusively about worldbuilding and write things about that. I’m not really sure how one thing lead to another, honestly—they were all interconnected. For example, the idea that ghosts congregated in Sprout Tower was pretty critical to a couple of plot points now and later in the story, but then I wanted to work on the details behind that. Why in Sprout Tower? What was so weird about Violet City that would draw ghosts there? If they come from dead Pokémon, why are there not more ghost-types than every other type of Pokémon? For every question I answered, I ended up asking a lot more, and the world kind of started sprawling out from there.

It definitely took a while—at least two years now, and I can’t say that I’m done yet.


AT: The story opens with the unnamed protagonist reflecting on her failings and her death. An opening like this would kind of box you into how you proceed. Is the story still going along the same path you had in mind when you first started writing, or have you changed a lot since then?

k: Down to the woefully dramatic irony of one line in particular that I can’t mention at all for massive spoilers, the events of is still par the course for reappearing as the epilogue, which I wrote alongside the prologue.

Regarding how boxed in I am, heh. Shhh don’t tell, but besides the fact that Nara dies with a flaming building in the background, the rest of the prologue is vague enough that I had a little flexibility to add in a few more things that I hadn’t planned on originally. Although the story is definitely going in the same direction it always has, the exact details of the path have definitely changed with time.


AT: I love the dynamic between the protagonist and Silver. What made you choose to portray the trainer/rival relationship in such a complicated way?

k: Life is complicated. Friendships, even more so. One of the things that bothers me most about the Pokémon franchise is the concept of a ‘Rival’—some random trainer happens to walk into your protagonist in the middle of a forest and is, coincidentally, diametrically opposed to your protagonist in some major way. And then they keep meeting.

With SRBS, I quickly realized I had a unique advantage here. The base character for Silver has always been a bit of a loose cannon in all of his adaptations (games/manga). Like, he’s a total dick, but at the same time, you can’t really help but feel bad for the kid and he definitely toes the line between antagonist and anti-hero. I wanted to portray something with that degree of mixed feelings here, but it was a lot easier than in the games because of how morally greyeveryone is in SRBS.

Honestly, to steal a theory from GRRM, the best way to write a good antagonist is to treat them as people first. My interpretation of Silver is that, all things considered in his childhood, he’s a pretty nice guy who happens to be directly aligned against Nara. These basically become arc words between the two of them, but in another time or another place, he and Nara could’ve been good friends. Unfortunately, it’s not a different time or place, so I stuck them in a room together and things fell apart.


AT: We know from the prologue that the protagonist will get all eight gym badges. After fifteen total chapters across two and a bit years, we still haven’t seen a gym match yet. Will we actually see those battles, or will they occur off screen?

k: There’s a gym battle of sorts coming up very, very soon. That being said, the phrasing of that sentence is actually pretty critical, haha. Nara says she obtained them, and that she physically possessed them; she says nothing about earning them.

…that’s all I can say about that.


AT: Personally, after the most recent arc I am wondering how long the story can keep going at its current pace, both within the story and with your chapter output. Will we see her travel to all eight gym cities, or will her adventure end before then?

k: I actually have, uh, planned out the whole thing to eight badges and well beyond. The full story is massive. I once told Flaze my intended scope, and he told me that I’d probably finish by the time my kids were my age, so I guess we can all look forward to that in a few decades.

All joking aside, yeah, the story takes us to the events discussed in the prologue, and even a little bit further. There’s definitely some heavier focus on the early stuff—once we get around to the fourth-ish badge, the pace ratchets up significantly. This is probably a product of how I played through Johto when I was a kid: there was a bunch of grinding in the first few gyms while I got my team/affairs in order, and then I steamrollered through the rest of the region. Nara does basically the same, although with less steamrollering and more being steamrollered.


AT: So how many chapters roughly is this story going to end up with? Do you have a time frame you'd like to get the story done by?


k: I used to keep a chapter by chapter outline of what I wanted to happen, but my scale of pacing has gone out the window based on reader feedback (ie people talking about how taking ten chapters to get to Violet City was overkill, and me agreeing with them). I'd make a tentative estimate of at least a eighty chapters, probably a hundred. Given my current rate, Flaze is right and I'll finish when I have kids who are my age.

...not the most promising thought I've had, that one.


AT: You have a particular skill with writing Pokémon. Did you know that they would play such a huge role when you started writing, or that they would be so well received? What advice would you have to authors struggling to get their Pokémon just right?

k: It became pretty evident that, due to how I set up Nara to be, well, a budding terrorist, having human travel companions would be pretty implausible. As soon as I figured that out, I knew that Nara’s Pokémon were going to have to have their own personalities/backstories and quirks, and they’d honestly have to carry the plot at points.

Honestly, not every story should treat Pokémon the same way SRBS does. I hesitate sometimes when considering if SRBS should treat Pokémon the ways SRBS does—there’s an awful lot of them, and I’ve started running into this issue of “if these things are so sentient should I really be advocating slavery…?” that I’m mostly just dancing around for now.

That being said, I treat them mostly like normal side characters/humans who have a lot more leeway with how inclined they are to tear out your throat, become permanently immobile over the course of a chapter, are secretly regretful spirits of another dead character, and so forth. When I’m picking up new Pokémon to write about in detail, I’ll sit down and try to imagine how a certain species would really work—for instance, Atlas was originally going to be aloof and kind of a dick, and then I got a dog and realized that was never going to work. The character tends to fall in place pretty quickly after that, and then it’s a matter of mapping out the team dynamics and seeing where and how things should proceed from there.


AT: You have had issues surrounding your interpretation/explanation of magnets and the science behind it. Why did you choose a magnetic apocalypse in the first place? Do you regret not getting the science right the first time?

k: I’ll put it out there for the record that I’m an engineer and I love science.

That being said, I do feel like people give me way too much shit for a concept in theoretical physics I basically made up when I was sixteen, heh. In a story that begins with a bird who can see the fabric of spacetime to visualize the past/present/future simultaneously, where children are given portable flamethrowers on their tenth birthdays, and ghosts are a canonically accepted aspect of the world by chapter ten, I feel like there were definitely some less logical areas in this story than the one time young Ely tried to be smart with magnets. Yes, yes, suspension of disbelief goes so far, and yes, I’ve definitely learned a lot about how to research because of all the backlash, so I think it was a lesson that needed to be learned.

That being said, no, no regrets. This idea came about when I was being a totally cool kid back when I was sixteen and doing what cool kids do, which is to say I was watching the weather channel. There was this cool show on about ways that the world could end that people might not expect—tidal waves, giant blizzards, and one of them was the magnetic apocalypse. I definitely took this idea and ran waaaay to far with it. The canon explanation that I ended up going with after seeing the extent of my science failure can be summed up as “because magic/Pokémon”—that is, there’s a giant, world-creating psychic bird that lives somewhere in the ocean that can hardly contain its power and literally causes whirlpools whenever it moves. And that totally should be reason enough to mess up the rest of the world somehow.


AT: The story takes a slight detour in the middle thanks to ‘The Noodle Incident’. What brought about that interlude, and would you ever try it again with anyone else’s work?

k: Beth Pavell and I had joked about doing some sort of April Fool’s joke where we would write chapters for the other about six months before that interlude.Right after that, I had really awesome idea for what I was going to write for The Long Walk. Except, in the peak of my wisdom, I didn’t write it down, so I forgot it. Like, within a week. Oh, and then I forgot that we’d even made this pact at all, lol. Obviously, with this in mind, it was clear that this chapter was a product of months of hard work and collaboration, hence the intentional typos and being posted a week late and all that stuff. Meeeep.

I probably won’t try my hand at writing whatever-genre-even that would be called, but I actually had another great idea for this year’s April Fool’s joke—except I need to be at a certain point in SRBS for the joke to be worth it at all. Not like I’ve ever been that great with writing on schedules, but hey, I can still dream. And prolong this joke a little longer. To keep saying sentences that start correctly. Inglenook.


AT: If you had to change one thing about the story, what would it be?

k: I wish I had more grasp on how political structures worked so I could do some realistic societal worldbuilding. I can kind of piddle my way around with just exploring the more unique aspects of the Pokémon world, but when I read over fictional worlds in actual literature, I’m constantly amazed by how rich and fleshed-out the worlds are. And how thin SRBS seems in comparison.


AT: What can we expect from the rest of the story? Most importantly, will we ever learn the Protagonist’s actual name?

k: According to my notes, her name gets revealed around the same time (objectively) that we return to the prologue, so yeah, we’ll see if that sticks.

Some things to expect in the future:

And then the building exploded.
Okay, okay, I joke. Here’s an actual spoiler:

The reality sunk in during the silence. My starter was dead.

My murkrow would never speak to me again.
 
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Another month, another fic - but hang on a minute, there's no interview? What madness has the world come to, you might be asking.

Well, in order to spread ourselves out a bit and pace out the amount of stories, authors and topics we write about, the Workshop Academy will now fall under the Fic of the Month banner. Thrice a year we will provide a new lesson discussing some of the big topics in writing, both generally speaking and with fan-fiction, and we encourage all of you to take part in the discussion.

Our first lesson covers Giving and Receiving Criticism: how should you review a story to be as constructive as possible, and how should you as the author respond to feedback? Hit the link and join the discussion over there, and come back next month for another Fic of the Month interview.
 
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Welcome to Fic of the Month for April, as we highlight relative newcomer @Juliko and her delightful story Pokémon: A Marvelous Journey


A twist on the Gold and Silver plotline, Marvelous Journey follows Julia Parisa, a young girl with autism who has the gift of being able to communicate with Pokémon. After a botched birthday leads to her befriending a shiny Pichu, Julia begins to emerge from both her shell and the protection of her mother. Things go wrong when her malicious, abusive sister Amara steals a Totodile and goes on the run across Johto. On a mission to find and stop her sister, Julia embarks on an wild adventure, joined by new friends human and Pokémon alike.

A Journey fic that touches on heavy themes with a big heart, this is Pokemon: A Marvelous Journey


AceTrainer14: You talk about how you wanted Julia's autism to be different to the usual media portrayals of the condition. Could you expand on what inspired the character and what you hope to achieve?


Juliko: Oh yes! I'm sure you're familiar with the movie Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. There's also books like The Curious Incident Of the Dog In The Night Time, both of which show said autistic characters as non-empathic, throwing tantrums, or portrayed as burdensome in society's eyes. Lots of media in this day and age show autistic people, kids and adults, as being mostly non-verbal or portrayed as not being able to live in society among other people. Being autistic myself, I don't necessarily like this view. My parents went above and beyond to make sure I got the therapy I needed early in life, and now I graduated from college with a degree in Asian Studies, and I even met many people my age who happen to be autistic and are nothing like some movies and books portray them to be.

I wouldn't consider myself an advocate, but I guess you could say I want to show, with this story and other works, that autistic people aren't like what most media portray them to be. That they aren't nothing but burdensome children who throw tantrums all the time, that they do care about others and can achieve great things, just like non-autistic people can. I guess a better way to put it is that autistic people do deserve representation, and I want to show that autism manifests differently in different people, and showing just one facet of the spectrum isn't the best way to go about it. For example, Julia is friendly, kind, cheerful when she's happy, but shy when she's around strangers, loves drawing, listening to classical music, eating sweets, and doesn't like wearing dresses or skirts or poison type Pokemon, and is autistic. There's more to a person than their disability. It feels like a lot of people seem to forget that just because someone has a disability doesn't mean it defines them completely. Autistic people, like all people in this world, do have hobbies, strengths, flaws, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc. Like me and possibly others here both on this forum and in this world. I guess that's what I want to show.


AT: How do you balance making her autism a part of the character but not over-glamorizing it while at the same time not ignoring it entirely?


J: One of the biggest problems with writing autistic people is that people always use autism as their defining personality trait, nothing more. Like, there is NOTHING else about them besides autism, and in real life, that's not true. Whenever I create autistic characters in general, I always try to make sure there's more to them than their disability, such as having hobbies, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, things they like or don't like, how they affect the story in such-and-such way, etc. There's also the fact that autistic people are just ordinary people, like everyone else. They wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, and get through their day. Depending on the extent of the disability, it doesn't exactly make their life unliveable. They also show and feel emotions, have thoughts and feelings for everything around them, which I notice people who attempt to write autistic people tend to forget. I always make sure any autistic people I try to write have thoughts and feelings about everything, like how horrible it feels to be called names or how nice it is to be able to wear those special clothes or how wonderful it is to have friends who care about you or how spicy and disgusting this grilled cheese tastes. Things like that give depth to a person and makes them more three-dimensional!

At the same time, there are people who think it's super inspirational to see disabled people doing everyday things, glorifying it to the point of making them come off as courageous or even superhuman. ("It's soooo incredible that she can walk around using prosthetic legs she's been using for 15 years.") I'm like, "Huh?" Exactly how is that inspirational? I'm kinda neutral about this, but I've seen others say that it's...not exactly the best way to portray disabled people in general. That's like claiming a bird is special just because they're able to fly...just like all other birds in this world.

Basically, what I'm trying to do is show Julia as just an ordinary person who happens to have autism. She's not superhuman or inspirational just for doing everyday things, nor is she a burden to her family or friends just for being around. At this point, she's just a kid who sometimes makes mistakes but does what she can to help her friends and tries to enjoy her life however she wishes no matter how difficult it may seem. At the same time, nobody is perfect. She'll make stupid, petty mistakes and do stupid things like any other person. Her sensitivity to loud noise renders her unable to move a lot of the time, which can leave her at risk, should something like a Gyarados using Hyper Beam come her way. She can often do things without thinking. I actually plan on exploring more of her flaws in upcoming chapters, so that's about it, I guess. Of course, despite what I claim, I have been accused of making a character's autism totally define them before, in another fandom, so I'm hoping I'm getting it right this time around.



AT: You mention being autistic yourself. Have you drawn on personal experiences at all while writing this?

J: Yep. Pretty much. At the same time, however, I'm trying to make sure Julia doesn't come off as a Mary Sue and make sure she isn't entirely based on me and my experiences. For example, she hates poison types whereas I love most of them. She doesn't like mashed potatoes but I don't necessarily mind them. But yeah, I do draw on personal experiences a lot of the time.



AT: People being able to talk to Pokemon is a common trope amongst fan-fiction. Why did you decide to give Julia this ability, and did the commonness of the trope influence how you wrote it?


J: Really? I didn't know that. I actually do have a reason for giving her that ability, but to explain it would give away massive spoilers for future chapters, so I'll refrain. But I've been unaware of its frequent usage. However, at the same time, I can see how someone can interpret a character having this ability as being a Mary Sue, so I've tried taking steps to avoid that, such as making sure talking to Pokemon doesn't automatically solve every problem in the universe.



AT: You seem to have done your own twist on the Johto games by replacing Silver with Julia's sister. Why did you decide to put Amara in that role? Reading the early chapters it feels almost like a comment around the age of the players in-game: was that your intention?

J: I'm not really sure what you mean by how the chapters feel like a comment around the age of the players, but I just simply thought that having Julia's conflict revolve around her family would make for more interesting stories and stronger character development than having her devote her journey around some stranger. I mean, I just find it rather silly that in most journey fics, the protagonist would meet some stranger, declare them to be their rival, and go after them. Nobody would do that in real life, and it makes almost no sense as to why someone would even do this. If it's someone who's familiar, part of their family, then I can understand. Plus, I really had no intention of using Silver from the beginning anyway. Having another rival who acts just like Amara would be rather redundant.


AT: About the ages, I was referring to how Amara is shown bullying and generally mistreating her Totodile and having it taken away. To me, that felt like a reference to how young Pokemon trainers are in the game and how giving a 10 year old responsibility of a pet is perhaps not the wisest choice. Was that at all your intention with that backstory?

J: Ohhhh! So that's what you mean! To answer, no, I didn't really have any intentions about commenting on a trainer's age when they become trainers. That was honestly meant to show how Amara is letting her grief and anger consume her in a way that hurts others and pushes them away, and as much as she denies everything, her actions hurt others and result in her becoming the way she is now, and because she's so adamant about her feelings about Chanel, she continues to express her grief and anger in an unhealthy manner, hurting both people and Pokemon in the process, which is why she is forbidden from becoming a legal trainer.



AT: Hunter J is an interesting choice of villain. What inspired you to adapt her?


J: I'm sure some of you know, but Team Rocket, both in the games and the anime, are kind of bland and non-threatening, and don't really do much. Since J is one of the few Pokemon villains who is actually competent and threatening, and how she never appears after the Diamond and Pearl anime, I thought I could try making good use of her. A villain like J has so much potential one can utilize, and I have great plans for her in the future, especially in future arcs. To go into detail about what her overall plans are would mean spoiling a good bulk of the story, so I won't do that. But I will say she will be an important, overarching villain throughout the series who won't take crap from anyone, doing whatever the heck she wants to achieve whatever goals she has, even if it means people die in the process.



AT: The more the story progresses, we see more characters and Pokemon appearing. What would be your advice to authors on how to manage multiple Pokemon in their stories?

J: I'm not exactly the best writer in the world, as there's still a lot I need to learn and improve on myself, so I'm sure any advice I give might come off as hollow. But for what it's worth, I'll just say...if you have loads and loads of characters, be sure they have something to contribute to the story or have some amount of character and personality, and not make them just fodder to fill up slots in a trainer's six pokemon only limit.



AT: What can we expect to see from the story in the future? Do you know how long the story will go for and where it will end up?

J: So far, I have almost 60 chapters of the Johto arc planned out. I actually plan to write sequels in the future which cover the following regions in order: Hoenn, Kanto, Sinnoh, Unova, and Kalos, and have just started writing outlines for the Sinnoh arc as I speak. At this point, expect to see more of the kids dealing with the hardships of being on a journey and dealing with Team Rocket's machinations and all that stuff.



AT: What advice would you have for new authors around dealing with diversity and disorders in fiction?

J: Do lots and lots of research! Read blogs, read research articles, read books, watch documentaries, talk to people you might know that have disorders, anything you can think of! Stereotypes aren't the way to write about diverse groups or disorders. Not all autistic people are non-verbal or genius savants, nor are all Middle Eastern people terrorists. In the end, people, whether they're different races or have disabilities, are all people with personalities, dreams, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses, flaws, likes, dislikes, etc. and their entire lives don't entirely revolve around their races, disabilities, etc. Sure, it's a part of them, but it's only a part of them, nothing more. Don't forget about those if you attempt to write about them! Of course, I'm still struggling with this myself, and I don't even know if I'm even doing it right, so for all I know, I might sound like a total hypocrite! But for now, I'm just doing all I can to write a story I love and hoping to make people happy, or brighten their day just a little bit. That's pretty much the only reason I write, because I like to do so with the hopes that my works will make someone happy or brighten their day.
 
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Is it still May? Tell me it's still May *checks calendar* Praise Arceus!

I got a bit caught up trying to make this, but we are nearly out of days, so here you go: our second Academy Lesson of the Year, just in time (hopefully????) for the Awards.

This lesson on Antagonists details some of the tropes that come with heroes and why you should avoid, and also details the various different villains that pop up in your stories - some you may not have considered antagonists before, but if they are well written enough, could potentially scoop up the award for Best Antagonist at the next awards. Basically if you've ever wondered how to write an antagonist, this is your guide to what to do, what not to do and will hopefully inspire some ideas in all of you no matter what you write.

Come back next month for our second Author of the Month.
 
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Is it still May? Tell me it's still June*checks calendar* Cursed Giratina!
Yeah, I got distracted with the awards, sorry for the delay. However, we have the interview up and ready, so let's just all pretend its still June and nothing's worry, kk?

We return with our second Author of the Month, this time celebrating one of our more prolific writers. Arriving on the site several years ago as Rediamond, @Athena has stood out with complex stories, filled with complex hours of research and enough meta-humour to make you laugh and think at the same time. Their most notable stories include:

Backgrounds - A deconstruction of the Kanto journey tropes, with main character Gela dealing with her past as she takes on a secret assignment.

Vaira: The Legacy of Cyrus - A semi-dystopian future, where a distinct group of people and Pokemon, each masking their own secrets and powers, are brought together by legendaries in order to save the world.

Crossover Battles - Athena's pet project that sees characters from different universes come together and duke it out in battle.

Hard Reset - The award winning oneshot that sees the main character of the game learn what is really going on.


AceTrainer14: What made you start writing as a hobby? What was your first experience with fanfiction, Pokemon or otherwise?

Athena: I wrote a Nuzlocke fan fic on Smogon that got some good reactions. I later ended up expanding it and turning it in to an actual fan fic... that failed. Then I tried again and deserted it. And then, eventually, I just decided to write original stuff and craft my own plot lines.

AT14: Your stories are perhaps notable for having quite intense female leads at the forefront. Is there any reason behind the genders you assign your characters?

A: The genders of most important characters in both were determined by coin flip during the conceptual stage. But that doesn't mean that I just built a character and then flipped a coin to tag on gender as a last minute accessory. I basically got an idea of the character I was trying to write in terms of general motivation, powers (in the case of Vaira), and general origin. Then I got a gender and started designing the character, partially considering how that would impact everything else in concept.

I find it avoids a couple of common pitfalls. My protagonists shouldn't, theoretically, always end up as the same gender. But it also avoids the trope I think a lot of writers fall victim to where they flesh out a male character in detail, conclude that maybe they should be female for some character reason or to balance out genders, and then just flip a couple things. That tends to lead to a character who's either just an aesthetically altered male protagonist or where gender only impacts their life in big (usually romantic) ways.

AT14: In terms of themes, your stories do go to quite serious and dark places, looking into racism and mental health amongst other things. Why do you tend to go for those types of stories?

A:
Mental health problems kind of slowly ended up inBackgrounds. I know that in the very first concept of the story that included Gela she didn't have any major health problems aside from insomnia. But at some point I decided to flip some things around and make it an exploration of Gyarados' pokedex entry, which introduced the trauma components. From there I just kind of thought about how it would impact her character and it ended up in there.

More or less the same thing happened over the many early concept drafts of Vaira. The setting was modeled off Weimar Germany which had a major communist presence at the start and a fascist one at the end. I wanted a character with extremist views who could still be sympathetic. Since I didn't want to make a likable fascist, I ended up with a communist protagonist. From there I started reading a lot about modern labor issues. Since it's hard for an economically advanced country (barring China) to justify incredibly poor treatment of its own workers, a lot of them simply import and abuse laborers from India, the Middle East or Africa. As those programs are both terrible and real, if I was going to make a communist sympathetic then it was a decent starting point to put her in opposition to those. So the race element came in there.

AT14: Similarly, your stories can be quite meta at times, with perhaps peak-meta in Hard Reset. Do you do this just as a bit of fun or do you really want to explore the issues and tropes you are making fun of?

A: Hard Reset was originally going to be a long, dark and gritty police procedural/spy thriller that took the inclusion of GameFreak and the director in the games way, way too seriously. I eventually just decided it was better as a creepypasta, but I didn't want to write straight horror. So I ended up just making fun of a lot of the most ridiculous aspects of RBY and playing off of the nostalgia.

Most of the meta components in my longer stories were included for fun. In hindsight, they were not nearly as clever as I thought they were at the time.

On a macro level, I suppose I enjoy playing off of tropes. Vaira, in particular, was fun to plan. A lot of journey/dark fic conventions, particularly the young teenager getting their first Pokemon and ending up the savior of the world within a year, don't make a lot of sense. And virtually all journey protagonists are natives of a small town in the region they first explore. I wanted to mess around with the conventions a bit by setting up a save-the-world plot with trainers who were both actually qualified and not terribly loyal to the place they're saving.

AT14: Let's expand on Backgrounds for a bit. We got the resolution of Gela's storyline and that wrapped up, but the story begins with these three other plotlines introduced in the prologue that have not seen the light of day (on here at least). Will you ever keep going and finish telling those storylines?

A: One of the story's is completed and on Serebii, but I dislike it so I didn't bring it here. I actually got most of the way through writing the third arc before I got frustrated and more enamored with what would ultimately become Vaira. I'd say there's a decent chance that I either go back and finish the third arc as a standalone piece or heavily revise Gela's arc and republish. I have no further interest in writing the other two.

AT14: Why did you decide not to write the other two parts?

A:
I found it hard to make part three actually sound plausible or normal or anything. Dialogue was stilted and one character was unrealistic by my standards. I never, particularly, had much interest in writing the fourth part. I just sort of hoped that I'd be entrenched in writing by that point.

AT14: That story also features a lot of flashbacks, sort of hitting peak flashback in the final chapter. We get those elements a lot in Vaira when expanding on characters. What's the appeal there with that narrative technique?

A: Origin stories are boring. They're overdone in fan fiction and elsewhere. And, to a large extent, they're predictable. Something will happen to this character to change his ordinary life. You know that going in as a reader. And yet you'll have to read a lot about an ordinary life you know won't be important later and that the author usually doesn't care about. So I skip to after at least the first bad thing has happened and fill in readers later, as needed.

AT14: You often talk about the amount of research you do into different cultures and areas of the world for your stories. What is the drive behind that?

A: For Vaira, there were a lot of things I was mixing together. The politics and sentiment of Weimar Germany, a Polynesian setting (because there aren't many other places to put new continents or landmasses), Indian cultural influences, etc. So I ended up having to read a lot about those things so that the world was accurate enough to reality that I wouldn't make grievous errors about someone's culture. I also read about some other things (modern socialism and communism, the politics of the English language, speculation on extraterrestrials, etc.) so that I could have a better idea how the world of Vaira might incorporate or react to a given issue. I think it helped flesh out the world and put everything together.

AT14: You seem to play with a lot of meta commentary about various genres while also tackling various tropes from Pokemon stories. Generally, where do your ideas come from: is it more that the plot and characters come first or do you get the ideas for the sort of themes you want to tackle?

A: I tend to get a general story concept first. Then I form the outlines of characters. Then a setting outline. Then the plot outline. Then character details. Then plot details. Then setting details. Then chapter-by-chapter plotting things.

AT14: So do you plan everything before you write, or are you more flexible with how things turn out?


A: I know where the plot is going. I know most character details and the basics of setting. I tend to plan the little, scene-by-scene things as I prepare to write an arc, though.

AT14: One of your biggest projects has been Crossover Battles. What was the inspiration behind that?

A: Death Battle. Partially shows like Deadliest Warrior, but it's really Death Battle with fan fic characters and writing instead of animation. Don't even really bother to hide that.

AT14: You have had to read a lot of stories by other authors and look into how they write and work out their style. Has doing that affected your own writing in anyway? Does it make you read the stories any differently?

A: Yeah, it's caused me to reconsider some things. I've seen a lot of things I don't like in stories and realized that I kind of did them, too. I've also had to think a lot about why a story is good or bad and what that could mean for my own writing. And re-readingBackgrounds for Crossover Battles I put in more thought about the narrative and characters than I did while writing it. That one was a jarring experience.

I definitely read things differently when I'm doing it for Crossover Battles. I focus a lot more on how a given character speaks and how battles are written. I record a bunch of tiny, tiny details to compare how characters have reacted to similar situations or ballpark their power. The details matter a lot more and I pay way less attention to big picture things. Sometimes that almost makes stories better when they have a few battles that are excellently written and a lot of subtle details to find. Other times I realize how little sense some scenes and mechanics make.

I've also come to be annoyed by how much plot connivence, and not actual logical progression, can change stories. Quite a few characters have their strength vary wildly depending on whether the author wants them to win. And in big fights, the protagonist will either get blown out and prepare for a rematch after some soul searching or win very narrowly. Even in cases when they've beaten far, far stronger opponents before and the match really should be a cakewalk.

My knowledge of that has absolutely not stopped almost every match of Crossover Battles from being close. I know why people do it, as a writer, but as a reader and analyst it still annoys me. Part of the fun of writing Mewtwo v. Jal'Tai was that it was spectacularly unclose and we could get numbers to prove it. Going in we knew it wouldn't end with both almost dead and one making a spectacular finishing play so they could limp away. And despite that we still had to find a way to make an inevitable curbstomping entertaining.

AT14: Well, I certainly hope I'm not one of those authors. Ha ha ha... ha ha... ha... *sighs*
Anyway, when working on your own stuff, are now very careful with handling battles to not make the same mistakes?


A: Well, it's hard. Because as I mentioned earlier there are reasons for those tropes. I haven't actually written a lot of action, post-Crossover Battles. I think just the fight between Aracai and Jane. Going in I knew that even with all of her advantages that were designed to beat psychics, there was no real way that Aracai could touch Jane in a straight battle. It wouldn't even be much of a fight. So I had to take an entire arc to set up why it would even be possible for Aracai to compete. And then it doesn't end with one character barely conscious and the other collapsing dramatically. It's not terribly close at the end.

AT14: When writing one of those battles, is your goal to try and do the character and the author justice, or more to see which character would be best in a fight?

A: More the former. It's how I can justify writing blatantly unbalanced things and why some fights don't end brutally. I want to explore both characters and the stories they come from. One ultimately has to win, sure, but my goal is to make it so that the benefit of having a character in a battle where they win is basically equal to having them in one where they lose. Potential readers should be intrigued either way.

AT14: You mention disliking certain arcs and ideas. Would you describe yourself as very self critical, or is it just changing moods?

A: I often make dumb changes to the narrative at the last minute that I come to regret. Sometimes that can go all the way up to the inclusion ofnarrators. Jane first appeared in my plans for Vaira two weeks before I wrote the first chapter.
AT14: You've won a decent amount of awards for your stories but have not escaped criticism at times. How do reviews, positive and negative, affect you as a writer?

A: I'm a lot more dependent on reviews to keep my motivation up than I'd like to be. As for bad ones, I usually get defensive at first because that's what people do. And then in hindsight, months later, I'll usually listen to reason and fix some things.

AT14: You've started The Ninth Lord but currently haven't gotten very far. Do you plan to continue that at some point? How do you envisage that series playing out?

A:
The Ninth Lord was going to be a high fantasy journey quest with a precog, a prince(ss?) and knight fighting syndicates that relied more on magic than cash and weapons. I tried many, many times to get a first arc going. I even have a few chapters of it written somewhere. But I ultimately decided that I only liked one of the characters as a narrator, and the narrative voice she used combined the worst parts of Jane and Gela's. Non-linear time, a near-total total disconnect from the world, etc. It got scrapped and I have no plans to revive it.

AT14: With regards to the future, do you have any plans or loose ideas you'd like to look into more? Vaira has gone dormant, would you resurrect that? Are there any new ideas you are contemplating writing?

A: I could write more Vaira. Whether or not it'd be a sequel in a different thread with a somewhat different style, a spin-off/spin-off sequel, or just more of the actual story itself. Or a new project. I've got a couple ideas but nothing concrete enough I'd want to share it.

As for the future, there's still two Crossover Battles before the season ends. Then I'll figure out what I'm going to do. Right now I don't have much idea what comes next.
 
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Time for another Fic of the Month, and this turn we once again return to @diamondpearl876's dark take on Johto with the now Best Story winning Survival Project.

Told from the perspective of his Pokemon, the story focuses on the journey of Sai, a young man with a troubled personality and a shadowy past he refuses to divulge. Together with Senori the Sentret, Kuiora the Totodile, Atis the Hitmontop, amongst others, Sai travels across Johto with goals of becoming a trainer, but his past and his peculiar personality get in the way, creating conflict amongst his team.

Twice winner of Best Dark fic, the second story ever to win both Best Story and Best Character in one awards season, this is a heartfelt and moving examination of mental illness and how it affects others - this is Survival Project.

AceTrainer14: Firstly, congratulations: you are the second user ever to have won Best Story and Character. How does this make you feel?


diamondpearl876: I feel a bit... I don't know, surprised and also pretty excited! Survival Project's been nominated and judged several times over the last two years, but it's fallen just short of winning more often than not. I don't know what changed, but this was Survival Project's last chance in the awards. The story's coming to a close, and Bulbagarden was the last place I really intended to release it to, so... this was perfect to help me say goodbye to the story and move on to its sequel.

AT14: Now that the story has nearly reached its conclusion on Bulbagarden, how do you feel to finally release the finished product to this community?

dp876: I've been writing this story for a long time, almost ten years now. I finished posting it on a lot of forums a long time ago, but I kind of dropped the ball on Bulbagarden while updating the first time around because I didn't quite have the time to dedicate to so many different communities. I came back to Bulbagarden after I revised the story quite a bit. Most of the revisions were stylistic in nature to make each character's voice feel more polished and clear. It feels a bit strange, knowing that I won't be posting this story anywhere else anymore, and that I won't be doing anything else with it.

AT14: I know you wrote this in its entirety before posting here. Did the feedback you receive make you go back and change the story?

dp876: I made further revisions to clarify some things that were still left unclear, but that's about it. I know there were bigger problems with the story I could have improved drastically. I could have worked on intertwining the characters' plot points so they flowed better, for example. I could have given some characters, particularly Rennio and Marty, some more development. Instead I'm taking the feedback I received and using it to shape the sequel.

I probably look lazy for doing it that way. As a whole, though, Survival Project is not a story I want to change. The me I am today is so, so very different from the me who wrote Survival Project... Survival Project was the only thing I never gave up on growing up, and it helped me figure out a lot of problems in my life I'm not sure I could've figured out any other way. So I want to leave it the way it is, as a reminder, as something to look back on when I need it.

AT14: This latest arc saw us finally learn the truth about Sai. Was his backstory something you had planned out from the very beginning, or did it grow and change over time?

dp876: I had some things planned out from the beginning, but nothing too detailed. I had the dice rolling quirk, I had the weird mysterious protagonist, and I had the Team Rocket idea. I ran with all that and had not a clue as to where the story would end up. Things like the bipolar diagnosis and Sai's mother's involvement came way, way later. You know how some writers claim they don't know everything about their character because their character won't "talk" to them? That's what happened here. A few years after starting the story - I was only up to chapter 5 or so - I suddenly knew that Sai was going to jump. After that, it wasn't long until I knew everything else.

AT14:So would you say that this is a very personal story inspired by your life, or is more a fictional way to get through experiences? Do you have a character you relate to the most?

dp876: It's a bit of both, really. And it's a bit funny to look back on now, since I never really understood how personal the story is until I was almost done writing it.

I was a pretty sheltered kid growing up. A lot of crazy things happened in my family that I was in the center of, but I was never told what exactly was happening, or what I could expect to happen next. When everything finally blew over, everyone around me acted as if nothing had changed. I acted the same and spent many years confused, depressed and feeling like an outcast. I can relate to Sai in that way the most. I also tend to experience the mood swings he does, though not usually to the extremity depicted in the story.

I've been to the extremes before, though. And it's scary. You kind of lose sight of who you really are when you're going up and down all the time like that. All the different viewpoint characters trying to make sense of who he really is and what they can do to help him... I wrote them in an attempt to help me understand myself.

AT14: I do think you handle the mental illness part of the story very well. Was it entirely personal or did you do research to get it 'right', for lack of a better word? Do you hope that readers with mental illness would be able to get clarity from the story?

dp876: I read a lot of personal recounts from people who have bipolar disorder to learn about the different types of bipolar, the symptoms of mania and depression, and then the idiosyncratic things you don't always notice (like mood swing triggers). There was a lot to consider and there's no classic case of bipolar disorder, so I'm not sure I got anything 'right' or that I could have even if I tried, heh.

That being said, I do hope that readers can get something out of reading about mental illness, whether it's clarity or reassurance or just more knowledge about mental illness in general.

AT14: Last time I asked about your reasons for choosing the original Pokémon and you commented on picking your favourites. Is that still the same when you chose Rennio and Ezrem?

dp876: Haha, yeah... Embarrassing, but yeah. I can only imagine how silly my thought process was regarding Ezrem - something like "how can I make this random Unovan Pokemon show up in the middle of Johto without anyone yelling at me because it's such a lame cliche?!" And then Ezrem turned out to not only be foreign, but shiny, too! Well, that's okay. It all worked out in the end. Ezrem's always been one of my favorites to write, and I've been told by many readers that I made them go from hating to loving him.

AT14: You nominated Sai for Protagonist. Do you consider the story to be more about Sai or more about the Pokemon?

dp876: Literally everything in the story does revolve around Sai in some form, so I'd say the story is slightly more about him compared to even the viewpoint characters, though I tried to balance them all out relatively equally. Sai's not the only driving force in the story, but he's the main one, and that's why I would put him in the protagonist category. I figured that if anyone wanted to nominate him, they might not know how to categorize him... and since the recommended chapters I would have put for the story mostly focused on his backstory, I went ahead and nominated him.

AT14: How do you decide which Pokemon to assign a chapter to? Did you ever get partway through a chapter and realise the Pokemon you had chosen didn't suit what was happening?

dp876: To the latter question: not quite. There was one Kuiora-centric chapter that I was kind of iffy on. At first glance, there's nothing really about her in that chapter at all. It's chapter 22, where she refuses to fight in a gym battle. It worked out in the end, though, since refusing a gym battle is something you'd never really expect her to do and shows just how far she's come as a character.

As for the former question... I never really used to be keen on planning out stories in a lot of detail, but I had to plan a few chapters in advance in order for me to decide whose POV I used in the current chapter. My other guideline was to not have the same viewpoint character be featured again until at least 2 or 3 chapters had passed, though I did ignore that guideline a couple of times. But yeah. I think one of the weaknesses of the story's POV changes was that the characters occasionally overshadowed each other because of a lack of an obvious centralized plot, so I kind of have to figure out how to make everything flow better with all the different POVs in the sequel.

Submitted by LightningTopaz: Why did you choose to tell the story through so many perspectives as opposed to focusing on just one or two?

dp876: If there was going to be one viewpoint, it was going to be Sai's. But - and I'm going to piggyback off my answer to the previous question - I didn't want to focus solely on mental illness. I know my mental illness very well. Even when there was no diagnosis, even without being able to explain it properly... it's always there. It's impossible not to know it on some level. Then, when some semblance of normalcy comes along, it's hard not to question if that's really an expression of you, or is it the mental illness tricking you? I wanted to get into the minds of a variety of different characters who could help me personally answer that question. There was simply too much I wanted to explore and couldn't pick just one or two POVs.

AT14: There is only one chapter told from Sai's perspective. Will we see more from his POV later on, or was this reserved solely for dramatic impact?

dp876: In Survival Project, there'll be one more part from his point of view. In the sequel, however... I'm undecided still on whether it'll be a recurring thing. Five viewpoint characters is already a lot to juggle. The story is probably going to be a lot longer and cover a lot more plot than the original, so... I suppose it wouldn't be impossible. We'll see!

AT14: Will the sequel follow the same idea of the Pokemon trying to make sense of Sai, or will the storyline have moved past that?

dp876: The storyline will have moved past that. The sequel will be a character study as well, but with greater focus on character development. So there's going to be a lot more plot and worldbuilding. Atis may or may not finally learn to stick up for himself, and Kuiora may or may not actually give up her love of battling, just as a couple of examples.

AT14: What is your main takeaway from writing about Pokemon so strongly compared to humans? Is there anything you would do differently while writing the sequel? Did you have a favourite perspective to write?

dp876: Writing Pokemon as being just as sapient/sentient as humans was interesting because Pokemon are generally depicted as so... limited, despite how strong they can be. I enjoyed writing each character's limitation and their attempts to overcome them. I particularly enjoyed writing Ezrem's perspective and his quest to find a human who will take him back to his "home" in Unova. He's flawed, very much so, with all the lies and manipulation tactics he uses to earn Sai's approval - but I think he's also charming in his own way, and he tries his best at everything he does.

For the sequel, what I want to do differently is focus more on, well... Pokemon. Sometimes I think I made the team act too human. It might be a bit difficult to try to portray some of their animalistic traits when it was a low priority before, but we'll see how it goes.

AT14: I love how the majority of chapter titles are only one word. It is quite a simple but powerful way of handling things. What was the inspiration behind that decision? Did you ever find it hard choosing just one word to summarise the themes and emotions of a chapter?

dp876: It seemed like the most concise and effective way of doing things. A single word can say a lot, but I think it's even better when coupled with the viewpoint character's name near the chapter title. For example, I titled one of Ezrem's chapters with the word "grounded" - which, by itself, probably makes a reader think about a character being stuck in one place, or a character who's pretty self-aware and sensible. When you read Ezrem's name next to it, you get some extra context: Ezrem's a flying-type whose goal is to find a place to call home but there's lots of obstacles in the way, which fits the title's meaning. But although he personally thinks otherwise, Ezrem is anything but sensible/self-aware. All that put together sets an interesting tone for the chapter itself, I think.

AT14: Are you far into writing the sequel? Have you been holding it off in order to take feedback from Bulba writers into account? How will things progress now that we, and the Pokemon, know more about Sai?

dp876:
I'm currently writing chapter three, so I'm not too far into it. Mostly I've done a lot of notes for plot, and for characters new and old, based off of the feedback I've been given. I also have a beta for the sequel, which I never had for the original, so I've been sent back to rewrite a lot of things so far already.

As for the latter question, it's hard to answer when the ending of the original hasn't been posted yet. Heh. The sequel – titled Phantom Project - takes five years after the original, and a lot is going to happen in the opening chapters that I don't think anyone will see coming. Survival Project was essentially a character study with a focus on mental health and friendships, and Phantom Project focuses on additional themes such as grief and disillusionment.

AT14: And finally, as a Best Story, what advice do you have for other writers?

dp876: All I can really advise is this: be honest in your writing. Ask yourself if you're accomplishing with your character exactly what you intended to, and if the answer is no, why not? I've found that more often than not the answer is already available, but it's a hard answer to admit and so it's pushed away in favor of finding an acceptable justification for the character's shortcoming.
 
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We may be in September, but for the sake of consistency, let's all smile and pretend it's still August, mmkay?

Our AUGUST entry of Fic of the Month goes to A Sine of Things to Come by @chaos_Leader. The story follows Pete Sine, an engineer who long ago gave up or moved past, he can't quite seem to decide which, the dream of becoming a Pokemon trainer. A shocking incident while at Professor Oak's lab sees Pete ending up with a Pokemon, and when it proves a bit too much to handle, he embarks on a journey to get to the roots of its problems, and maybe find himself in the process.

A different look at life in the Pokemon world told with a relatable lead joined by a heartfelt, unique Pokemon, this is A Sine of Things to Come.

Your story opens with this idea of life outside of Pokémon
and discusses just how much the human and Pokémon worlds have to co-exist. What inspired you to examine a non-battling side of the Pokémon world?

I guess what inspired me to examine a non-battling side of the Pokémon world is, quite simply, because battling is only a small part of the world. I've always been interested in worldbuilding, no matter what setting I write for. When I started writing for Pokémon, I wanted to show it in all its glory, but also in all its mundane, everyday aspects. I feel the latter is an especially helpful concept for me to keep in mind when putting a setting together and presenting it through the story. Seeing how a given setting handles everyday activities and situations is something I strongly feel is helpful in establishing its believability, its reliability. In my opinion, a great setting should feel like it's been around for ages past, feel like it has a diverse and complex relationship with everything in and around it and that it will continue to exist and develop long after the conclusion of the story. Though battling is prominent in the Pokémon setting, it is by far not the *only* thing that goes on in its world; some people are also trying to get ordinary work done too.

Pete is an interesting character, given the fact he is older and less enthusiastic than most lead characters in Pokémon fiction.


I've found that a lot of protagonists in Pokémon fiction are driven by ambition of one form or another right from the get-go. They already have a lofty goal in mind straight from the start, or acquire one very quickly: compete in the League, become famous, defeat the villain or the like. Peter, on the other hand, is instead driven by curiosity. Especially in these earlier chapters, he's given the option to back down, and yet he chooses to continue anyway. This isn't because of a pursuit of an ambitious goal, or the pressure of a high-stakes plot bearing down on him: he continues down the path, first and foremost, to see where it leads, but also where it could lead.

The musical and engineering side of Pete was a nice touch. Did you draw from any personal interests or experiences to craft this side of him? You do write with a lot of knowledge on both topics.


I do draw from personal experience, very much so. I am theatrical audio technician by training and trade with several mechanical, technical and engineering skills under my belt, and I have also dabbled quite a bit in electronic music. A lot of the skills and working knowledge Peter has are skills and knowledge I also have. A large part of that is because I created the character of Peter to be largely based off myself, with most of my quirks and issues to go with him, up to and including an oddly specific vocabulary for a lot of things. It's not quite a “self-insert” as it were, but more of an intelligent pastiche. As an overall concept, Peter exists apart from me as his own character, but draws a ton of his inspirations and aspects from myself, whom I use as a starting template that I refine and tweak for the story.

Why did you choose an Eevee as a starter? The thought around a Pokémon being used solely for companionship really intrigued me, as it is, once again, quite different from the norm. What was your thought process around creating this relationship?


The Eevee, as well as the manner in which the Pokémon was given to Pater, emulates and was inspired by my own re-introduction into the Pokémon fandom. A couple years ago when 6th generation Pokémon was on the rise, my good friend and former roommate, who was and still is a pretty avid Pokémon fan, more or less foisted his copy of HeartGold into my hands. I hadn't played any Pokémon games at all in years at the time, and I accepted my roommate's game mainly to see if the Pokémon franchise would still hold any interest to me at all. Little did I know I was going to be hooked so completely and quickly. Similarly, Though Peter accepts the Eevee reluctantly, he decides to do so largely out of curiosity, to see if the whole Pokémon thing is all its cracked up to be.

As for why I chose Eevee/Jolteon specifically to represent this concept. I'd have to tell the long-winded story of the situation in that fateful play-through of HeartGold that made Jolteon my favorite Pokémon. Being a favorite though does not automatically grant a free pass to starterdom in my book. However, being a favorite, plus how an awry Eevee/Jolteon evolution and its possible implications were excellent story fodder, pretty much sealed the deal for my choosing Eevee specifically over other Pokémon.

Jolteon has won a few awards now. How does it feel to get that kind of recognition, and has the love for her influenced the story at all?

Honestly, I was surprised, at least at first. Overall, the success of the characterization hasn't actually affected the story all that much. Jolteon's character has done more or less exactly what I'd intended for readers during the early arc of the story, but success and recognition haven't really affected my plans going forward.

When I first laid the groundwork and got the first few chapters up, I actually hadn't read much Pokémon fiction, if any at all. I didn't start writing for Pokémon with any preconceived notions of how a “usual” story went, or how the mons themselves were treated by the fandom. I had however played several games, watched quite a bit of the anime, and taken a good look at other Pokémon media, which I used as a starting point to help me get a feel and familiarization with the franchise's setting, aesthetic and style. One aspect that I recall that stood out greatly was how the Pokémon franchise and related official media always, without fail, treated the mons themselves as fully developed characters. So when I did start writing, that mentality of the Pokémon getting a full share of the characterization along with the humans was always in my forefront, and I was going to make sure I did the same.

An evolution gone wrong is not unheard of in fiction, but it being detrimental to both trainer and Pokémon was an intriguing aspect. Did you do just as a plot device, or are you hoping to mine something more thematic out of it?


I guess a bit of both, and a bit more? The evolution itself and the sudden unintended consequences were used as the inciting incident that kick-starts the story. It presented an immediate, complex problem to a meek, meagre, relatively humdrum person who'd, up until that point, had lived a fairly ordinary life. In Peter's confrontation of the problems presented by Jolteon's sudden evolution, skills, talents and a keen intuition reveal themselves and prove useful. This then opens up possibilities to the protagonist that he hadn't previously considered. Pressure, stress and awkward situations can bring skills and talents to the forefront that one didn't know they had or had taken for granted until the situation prompted their use.

As far as thematic elements goes, it's got a lot of strength to it, and I'll probably get a lot of mileage out of it going forward. It's not the only theme I intend to use, of course, there'll be more.

The plot hasn’t progressed much in the two years since you started. Do you know how long the story will be and where you plan on taking it next? Has it changed much over the years? What can readers expect over the next few chapters?

I have a few phases for where I intend the story to go planned out in my notes. As for how long it's going to be, it's difficult to predict exact wordcounts. I think I can safely say though that I have one major story-arc more or less planned out to its finish, with an additional major arc in planning for when the first concludes.

My overall concept for how I'm writing for Pokémon again relates back to patterns I've observed in the games, anime and other media. It usually starts off with something fairly standard and humdrum; small-scale plots are confronted and resolved; but over time, usually a deeper, more complex and more dire situation reveals itself. Throughout the early arc of A Sine of Things to Come, I've left a few telltale hints about current events in the setting. Without giving too much away, I think a lot of up-to-date readers of the story can see an endgame coming to the current plot-arc. I've explained my inspirations and my methods, I think the intended direction of the story can be inferred without getting into details.

Thank you to everyone who's been reading and reviewing, and to those who haven't, I hope to hear from you too soon!
 
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For October's Fic of the Month, we have Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Destruction by @0bs1d1an_kn1ght. This story tells of a Riolu and his older sister Buneary, as they work as explorers for the Florges Guild.

What was the core inspiration for Explorers of Destruction? Obviously the PMD games, but was there any particular thought you had about making something new and original?

Of course, PMD is the core inspiration for the story. One thing I wanted to do differently from other pmd stories was the "main character is actually a human turned into a pokemon" plot point most stories like to tell. I didn't want to do that because I thought it was too cliche a plot point- everyone and their mother was doing it. In my story, all pokemon are actual pokemon, with humans only appearing in their folktales and mythologies. Though for what it's worth, I understand why everyone uses it: it's always been an important part of the PMD games. I just wanted to try and write a pmd story from an actual pokemon's point of view.

But aside from the games themselves, I used to watch a lot of anime at the time I started writing EoD. Some anime in particular are: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and I think Yugioh Arc-V. And now I'm adding Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and Berserk to the list.

People tend to be dismissive of PMD fics as they have been done a lot. Did that enter your mind at all before writing?


Actually, no. In all honesty, I thought people would be more dismissive toward the journey fics. That didn't really come to mind when I started writing, I just sat down, wrote down a quick, vague outline, and then wrote the story from there.

Does the story have any connection to the existing PMD games? If so, how?


Aside from having a guild system, everyone being called an explorer, and a Loudred being used as their alarm clock, not much. When I write fanfiction, I usually write my own canon and mythos. A lot of people are pretty vocal about being against OC stories, especially on FanFiction.net, but writing OC fic makes me feel like I'm actually writing my own book in a way. A lot of things can go wrong while writing OC fic, sure, but you can say that for writing practically any fic.

Speaking of OCs, the brother-sister dynamic is an interesting one for two central protagonists and not one I can say I've seen before. How did you come up with the idea for Oran and Pecha and their relationship?


Mostly, I drew from my own relationship I had with my brother when we were kids. I was the conniving, attention-seeking kid (pecha), while my brother was the curious kid who rushed into everything with little to no thought (oran)

If you had to write the story over again, what would you do differently?


I'm actually planning to do this, and there's a lot that I want to change. For one, I was planning on introducing Team Sharktooth earlier and explain their motives and background story a little more clearly. Another thing I want to fix is Cheri, and to a smaller extent, her mother, Delphox. I practically forgot they existed around chapter 10, so I plan on giving them more relevance in the new version. But the biggest thing I want to fix was the attack on the guild itself; now that I look at it, it's just one big mess, disregarding all the sudden gore and death from chapter 9 onwards.

Why did you choose to wait so long to introduce the villain? Would the story still work if you introduced the villain earlier?

To put it simply: poor planning. I was pretty much writing the entire story on a whim, writing things as I thought of them as long as it all flowed together well. Chapter 5 was the point I figured, "All right, either I do something interesting from this point on, or everyone's gonna drop the story dead," so I added Team Sharktooth near the end of the chapter.

What kind of advice can you share for other authors?

Not much really, other than: plan your story out before writing it. as much as you want to upload it as soon as possible, just sit back and work on the outline for a few more hours or days. You'll have a much more cohesive (and hopefully a more enjoyable) story than when you wing the entire thing, like I did. I learned my lesson.
 
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Fic of the Month makes its triumphant return with Phantom Project by @diamondpearl876, winner of Best Story in the recent Winter awards. Sequel to the award-winning Survival Project, this story takes place five years after the end of Survival Project and tells of the lives of trainer Sai and his fascinatingly varied team of Pokémon.

How does it feel to win both big prizes?


You know, I think my favorite part of the awards is the thorough feedback everyone gets afterward from the judges. When my fics were voted into the judging round, I didn't really think they had much of a chance since none of them are too far in, so I shrugged and thought I'd just keep writing based on the feedback I'd get. But the awards were a pleasant surprise, and I really do appreciate the time that people have taken to read and discuss my fics.

Did you always plan on writing a sequel to Survival Project? If so, how have your plans for it changed over time? If not, when and why did you decide that you wanted to write a sequel?


I didn't originally plan for a sequel, no. The idea for a sequel didn't even spring to mind until I was doing revisions. I was pretty close to being done with the revisions, and I thought about how I didn't want to part with these characters just yet. They all had much more room to grow, especially Sai, and once I started wondering what he might do after settling down in Survival Project, I found myself planning an actual story I immediately felt compelled to write.

Have you changed how you approach these characters compared to how you wrote them in Survival Project? Have they changed in the time between stories?

I'm trying to give certain characters a bigger role than they had in Survival Project, like Gracie, Marty, Sasha, and Rennio. The rest of the cast will have a leading role as they did before, but my goal is to try to balance them all better and to intertwine all their storylines in some way instead of having them be largely separate again.

I think, out of all the characters, Sai's changed the most between the two stories. He's had to adapt to a whole new way of life, after all, and that's really hard when the mental illness that he has can't just disappear. He's had to learn to accept that while his life is better now, some of the dark parts from his past can't be forgotten.

Ezrem and Kuiora have also changed, though more subtly. Kuiora's a lot more laidback now, and more responsible, only letting her childish side shine through when it's appropriate. Ezrem's not in everyone's face and trying to manipulate them all like before, but he's "changed" that behavior by essentially running away from his problems, meaning he's still got some self-destructive tendencies he needs to work out.

The story begins detailing the descent and eventual death of a key character from Survival Project. Survival Project itself ventured into the nature of mental illness and how it affects people, and it seems like Phantom Project will have equally challenging themes. What drives you to write such raw, emotional themes?

I suppose the cliche saying "write what you know" applies here. Not that my life involves having been incarcerated by a hidden, immoral organization or me being friends with superpowered animals, of course. But my experience with mental illness has caused my emotions to skyrocket in an illogical way time and time again. Writing the themes like the ones you'd see in my fic (grief, suicide, betrayal, and so on) helps me to take the emotions apart, piece by piece, and to understand them. Writing them is also my way of hoping that understanding them means I never have to personally experience them again, and if I do, I'll know how to handle them better.

Why dementia as a cause of death rather than some other symptom of old age? Was that a deliberate choice?

I wanted a cause of death that would be slow, rather than one that came as a complete shock, because I wanted to give the team time to see and grasp what was happening. I wanted them to make an attempt to come to terms with what was happening before the character actually passed. For some, that lessens the grief, and for others, it makes things worse. I chose dementia in particular because the character who passes is generally depicted as confident by other team members.
For the team, watching Senori, their beloved team leader, slowly lose his grip on reality... Well, it's really going to put the characters to the test, and it's also going to be a recurring theme in the story.

An interesting part of your writing style is the variety of different perspectives. Why do you gravitate towards this style and what strengths and weaknesses does it have?

I think, first and foremost, that different perspectives, especially ones written in the first person, makes the story seem up close and personal. In a character study, or in a story mostly focusing on heavy, emotional themes, I think it's important that the writing be this way. Otherwise, the reader could very well walk away not feeling the full impact you wanted them to feel.

Changing character perspectives can make your story more flexible, I think. And at one point or another you're bound to have to go out of your comfort zone and be experimental, which I think every writer should do at least once or twice. The main weakness the style has, for me, is that it makes it very easy to overlook description and worldbuilding, and sometimes even plot.

There’s a new point of view character, Gracie, in the first few chapters. How did you go about developing her narrative style to differentiate it from the others?

In Survival Project, we learn that Gracie's quite uncomfortable with emotions and physical contact because of the experiences she had being around her original trainer's aggressive family. Unlike the other narrators, my goal was to have her dwell less on what she's feeling and more on grounding herself to the present moment as a coping mechanism for what she went through, which forces me to focus on description more. She's also the type of character who's very blunt, but still keeps the worst of what she wants to say to herself. So even though the fic's written in first person, I planned to make use of italicized thoughts that depict what she wants to say word for word, but doesn't for fear of revealing her true feelings. If I can do that well enough, it should provide an interesting contrast to the way she presents herself and the kind of character she actually is. And as her character develops, we'll be able to see her become more open and honest with others as she realizes that not everyone/everything is out to hurt her.

Killing off characters is not easy to do, or at least do well. How do you approach character deaths?

I mostly wanted the character's death to affect both the readers and the characters in a major way. For old readers of Survival Project, I think the familiarity of the characters probably did most of the work as far as the initial impact went. For new readers, though, I had to think of why they would care, especially since the character passes before we get to see much of him. I thought about it, and that's partly how the "half chapters" idea came about. Most of them will feature the deceased character, which should offer new readers a glimpse of what the deceased character was like, as well as fill in the gap between the two fics for both new and old readers. I'm also wondering if some of the appeal will come from how a person's true self is revealed in times of suffering. Basically, because of a main character's death, they know they'll be able to get a pretty in-depth reading of the other characters based off of their reactions as the story progresses.

Is there anything you learned while writing Phantom Project so far that you’d like to share?

Well, I was doing some research about incarceration when I was working on developing the main antagonist, and somehow I ended up reading about some pretty crazy torture methods. I thought whether or not I could really work gore and war into my fics, and decided that no, I can't. So I guess I learned that my writing actually has a limit to how depressing and awful it can be. :p

On a slightly more serious note, I've been surprised by one of the POV characters so far (Atis). He's definitely not just the shy, submissive hitmontop from Survival Project anymore. He's gotten a bit more assertive and outspoken, and I thought writing that would be a lot harder than it actually was.

Anything coming up that you want to tease?

The main antagonist will be making an appearance in the next few chapters, if all goes as planned. Sai's mother and his old psychiatrist will also make several appearances, which may or may not go over well with Sai. And there may or may not be more character deaths. Who knows?
 
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Welcome to another Fic of the Month - and for this March Madness installment, we went with another M story.

From LightningTopaz, this marks another entry in her ever growing universe that reimagines the anime with a broader focus on all those involved in Ash's journey, and taking away some of the attention the anime puts on filler episodes.

Take a trip back to the Johto region, as Ash, Misty and Brock meet new friends and face new challenges in the anime retelling, Pokemon Moonlight Silver.

AceTrainer14: Why did you decide to adapt and alter the Johto arc, as opposed to other parts of the anime? What part of that series spoke to you?


LightningTopaz: I started with Johto first because that arc of the show generally gets a lot of flak for being overloaded with filler and barely any character development. I felt that that particular arc could have been so much better than what it was, and so it made a good starting point for the Pokemon Anime Remix Project (what I call the overall series that Moonlight Silver and Island Sun are a part of)

AT14: You said you wanted to cut out some of the filler. How did you decide what was unimportant from those 100 or so episodes and deserved to be dropped?


LT: When cutting something out, I used these criteria:

--Would this make sense in my own version of the Pokeworld, which is very different than the show we all know and love?
--Can I feasibly rewrite this into character development?
--Can I feasibly rewrite this into a step for the goals Misty and Brock want to achieve?
--Can this episode contribute to building the world, and expand on what we know and see from the games and the show?
--Can I take Team Rocket out, and still have some kind of a plot? (the answer I found in many of the episodes, not just in Johto, but the other game-based arcs, was "yes"
--Would the story suffer if this episode was taken out?

If the episode and its plot answered "no" to any of these questions (or "yes' to the Team Rocket question), it was either rewritten to suit my imagined Pokeworld, or removed entirely


AT14: What was the biggest change you made? Did you feel nervous at all before implementing it in the story?

LT:Giving Misty and Brock their own goals--Misty now competes in the Pokethlon from HG/SS (which meant Togepi could be safely taken out--I'm coming up on the National Park, where the Pokethlon is located in the games, so she will be beginning her challenge very soon), and Brock competes in the Pokemon Lore Stage, a musician's and storyteller's competition, in keeping with my imagined role for him as a songwriter/storyteller. The Lore Stage will change dramatically in Pokemon Shine Diamond (the remix of D/P, which I will release after Moonlight Silver completes), so the Johto version is him gaining experience in preparation for his competing in that. So while I do reference events, places and concepts that come later, it will eventually make sense when you read all the stories together.

AT14: Were there any episodes, moments or characters from the original anime you knew you would never change or alter?


LT: On my master outline, "The Heartbreak of Brock" is currently listed as "kept as is"--meaning it will not be dramatically altered. I felt that was one of Brock's best moments, so I had to keep it in. I also had to keep in "Takeshi no Paraidaisu", because of its sheer goofy nature as a song.

AT14: You've used versions of the anime characters a lot in your work. What is the motivation/inspiration there?

LT: I feel the anime cast could have been developed into almost anything, particularly the classic Trio of Ash, Misty, and Brock. In a way, I see the anime cast as a little like classic Disney characters--an ensemble of characters for any purpose. This makes it easy to explore what Pokemon as a whole would look like as a completely different genre, while retaining aspects that fans recognize.


AT14: How do these versions of Ash, Brock and Misty differ from the versions seen in Live from the Fireside?


LT: These incarnations of the Trio are those same versions, but before "Fireside" got started. (in my imagined Pokeworld's timeline, Brock started "Live from the Fireside" after returning from Unova), which is why Misty and Brock only make cameos in the remix of Kalos--Misty is taking a break from traveling, and Brock is busy with "Fireside"

AT14: Why did you decide to introduce Ethan and Lyra, who didn't appear in the series originally?


LT: I felt Ethan deserved a proper appearance besides just a blink and you miss him cameo in movie 10's opening, as well as an opportunity to have a foil to Ash--Ethan is basically the yin to Ash's yang, so while Ash is a hot-headed, gung ho adventurer (in my eyes), I pictured Ethan going on his own journey for the sake of seeing the world and meeting new friends. This made it easy to include Lyra as his companion, so when Ash meets them again in Shinou (Ethan effectively replaces Khoury in the remix), it makes their relationship much more meaningful, because they've met and traveled together before, rather than glorified COTDs that only get two or three episodes and then are never seen again.

AT14: Would you adapt other seasons of the series at a later date?


LT: Yes--once Moonlight Silver completes, the other arcs will release in this order:

--Pokemon Shine Diamond (D/P)
--Pokemon Storm Gray (B/W)
--Pokemon: Saviors of Destruction (XY)
--Pokemon Lightning Yellow (RBY)
--Pokemon Sapphire Sky (RSE)

Island Sun is being remixed live as the Alola arc airs, so it releases concurrently with the past remix I am releasing, following the real show's schedule.

AT14: What can readers expect from the rest of the series?

LT: Without giving too much of any remix away:

--What would happen if Team Rocket effectively disappeared after GSC?
--What would the Contests look like if they followed the game rules?
--What would it look like if Kalos had Contests, and Serena was a coordinator to start with?
--What would the Battle Frontier look like if all the facilities followed the game rules?
--What would the Pokemon Musical look like as a proper side challenge?

As for what's coming up in Moonlight Silver:

--we will get to see Buena from Crystal, HG, and SS
--Misty finally begins her Pokethlon challenge (and both of Misty and Brock's challenges shift into high gear)
--Ash gets his third badge
--The gang gets roped into a radio drama version of Zelda
--Ash and Misty finally awaken their Mega Evolution Heart Songs (Brock already has his--in my imagined Pokeworld, Pokemon Tower functions like Kanto's Tower of Mastery as well as a memorial to fallen Pokemon. In Lightning Yellow, he explains he has been to Pokemon Tower before when Ash goes to get Haunter)
 
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For all fans of Team Skull, your boy Guzma or just having fun in general, our little April Fools joke from 2017 can be found here ;)

Um, so.... we were going to have our regularly scheduled Fic of the Month for you guys today, but I got sent an email informing me that someone else was going to get the spotlight this April. In what will be a first for the section, the story isn't posted here... or anywhere, actually. We are working on that, but, um, it's proved tricky. So, here we go, I guess...

You may (emphasis on 'may') know him from his 'charity work' around the Alola region, pointing out to people how terrible they are in order to 'help' them because as good as him. He is also notable for 're-homing' Pokemon he has acquired from 'inferior' trainers who have failed to be 'hard guys' and deserving of keeping them. His interests are... varied, to say the least.

With his story acclaimed by 'some boss as people', I am proud, I suppose, to present our Fic of the Month, I like sushi, so what, that a problem, you want a beat down, huh? by your boy Guzma.

AceTrainer14: Before we begin, can you tell me... what is your story actually about?

Guzma: It's about me, man. Me. Destruction in human form.

AT14: Right.... would you mind being a tad more specific please? We do like to dig deep in these interviews.

G: Yo, I've told you like, ten times. It's about sushi. The big bad boss ordering sushi

AT14: Erm, I don't think you have told me, but sushi, that's interesting. We don't really get a lot of... food-based stories here (well, noodles, maybe, but that's another story). What inspired you to write about that?

G: Real life, man. Life imitates art, y'know? So . . . uh, my art imitates my life. Yeah. Whatever. Okay, so the day started fine. I went out to Sushi High Roller to get some sushi, ya know? It's meditative, man. I have a classy streak. Don't judge me. I get seated and the waiter hands me a menu. Alright, cool. I order a Ronin Set and some sweet tea. He leaves for the kitchen. Everything is going fine. I'm starin' out the window. It's a really hot day, man. But then, in the distance, I spot two people walking up to the restaurant's front door. I think nothing of it. So I fiddle with my watch. Lemme show you how nice it is, I got it all buffed up and-- no? Okay, nevermind. So, back to the story. I'm totally out of it. I hear movement and look up. And who do I find? Who do I find? Officer Nanu! And that damn kid! So I duck and cover my eyes with my hand. Surely they're not gonna bother me. Me! Big Bad Guzma!

AT14: Let me get this straight. Your story is about you eating sushi and trying to hide from the police? That sounds really... unique, I guess?

G: Look here, pretty boy. This story is just gettin' started. Don't you know how writing works? You gotta . . . gotta build up tension. Lotta tension.

AT14: Oh, I see. Have you actually written any of it though, or is this just an idea you had?

G: So they fake-notice me. And do all these fake-niceties. Hi, how are you. Nanu, I mean. The kid doesn't talk, y'know. The kid just stares. Analyzing me. Ooh, I get shudders just thinkin' about that stare. The kid's got one of those thousand-yard stares, man. Can't take it. So don't criticize my writing style, man. I'm sensitive. And, uh, don't put that in the interview.

AT14: Of course not, would never do that. But back to my question - have you actually written any of it?

G: This story is real, okay? It's real. Damn. This story is too real, man. I've been through a lot. Like, I've had a hard life, so I don't deserve to have this kid staring daggers through me. Y'know who I'm talking 'bout. The Champion. And I'm just tryin' to eat some sushi! That shit's expensive! It's meditative, man! And these goodie-two-shoes sit down at my table. Like we're friends. Buddies.

AT14: My word, that does sound very intense. Dear I say it, but what happened next?

G: Nanu flags down a waitress. Gets a menu for himself and the kid, like he's a daddy or something. Ugh, he's polite. Looks at the menu, shrugs, then tells her he'll have the usual. The kid just points at some random dish. Ugh. No respect for good sushi. Prob'ly ordered, like, fried rice. At Sushi High Roller. Makes me sick, yo.

AT14: I can't really say I have ever thought that much about fried rice before.

G: You don't order fried rice at a fancy sushi restaurant. You gotta have class.

AT14:..... Now, we always like to ask people about their writing inspirations. Who inspires you as a writer?

G: Me! Big bad Guzma! I don't need no inspiration!

AT14: Ah, of course. I should have known. Do you often get inspired by your own life?

G: Uh, sometimes. I mean, I should probably write a poem about my life or something. 'Cause Ultra Space really messed me up. Scary stuff. I should, like, put it into words. Would you give me an award for that? Don't you guys do that?

AT14: There are awards for poetry, but we would have to actually see it. Do you have some you want to share

G: Uh, yeah. Lemme spit a few bars.
His palms are spaghetti, knees weak, arms spaghetti
There's vomit on his spaghetti already: mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm spaghetti
To drop spaghetti, but he keeps on spaghetti
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes spaghetti
He opens his mouth but spaghetti won't come out
He's choking, how? Everybody's joking now
The spaghetti's run out, time's up, over - blaow!


AT14: I... I do not know what to say. We might have to leave it there for today. Lord forgive me for asking this, but do you want to say anything else?

G: Your awards don't mean jack, y'all, 'cause you never went up against your boy Guzma! I'm literary genius in human form!

(Guzma words and banner provided by fan girl and the Girl Who Asked for Credit @Arkadelphiak )

 
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Hopefully everyone had an excellent April Fools and enjoyed all we had to offer! However, obviously a chat with 'Guzma' was not going to be our official feature for the month.

For the first time this year, we have put together an academy lesson for you all. Talking to users from around the section, we've compiled a list of some of the common issues people face when they are just starting out as a writer. Things I Wish I Had Known features memories from some of our top writers alongside advice on how to avoid common pratfalls and issues early in your writing career. Click on the link, be inspired, and share things you wish someone had told you early on - as well as things you still want advice on now!
 
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This month, we're featuring a now completed fic by @lucarioknight56! Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Legends Unraveled was posted back in January, 2016, and a whole 60 chapters later, the story has reached its end. We thought we'd get a little insight on the author's writing process, as we know finishing a huge project takes a lot of work and is a huge accomplishment?

What inspired you to tackle a PMD setting for your first Pokemon fanfic?

When I began my story, I had just finished Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon. Ever since I played Explorers of Time, I've enjoyed the Mystery Dungeon universe, so I really appreciated the story the game told. At the time I was wanting a new project to work on, as my other endeavors in expanding the world within 'The Magical Resistance' didn't turn up as well. I also wanted to attain a higher level of popularity here at Bulbagarden, so I thought that making a Pokemon fan fiction would be a good way to start. I wanted to start with the Mystery Dungeon universe because it has the fantasy feeling I enjoy writing about, and the new ideas from SMD were fresh in my mind. So there you have it.

Which was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite character to write about is Theus Lucario, for many reasons. For one, I love Lucario, and for another, he has a fun personality in my mind. He seems wise yet makes ridiculous decisions, and his actions remind me of myself when I talk about certain subjects. He just feels relatable to me, and thanks to his mysterious past, I can write about his origin; Laryon and Arianne, as well as the other characters I've made, have their pasts set. My favorite thing to write about in stories is the lore of the region, and he gives me the perfect outlet for that.

I know I personally enjoyed reading about Theus. I liked his quirkiness, and his relationship with Laryon was always a treat to read. Care to give us a little trivia fact about Theus? Anything goes!

It's good to hear that you enjoy reading about him as I enjoy writing about him; I always felt like he was the life of the story myself. Anyways, here's a bit of trivia for you. I'll put it in spoilers as to not reveal certain aspects of the story.

During his travels, he fought with the many Legends and Myths of the Pokemon world, collecting rewards, such as his cloak that protects I'm from statuses. Most of what he gave away was gold and food with special healing properties, their locations known only to these special Pokemon. He received an Apple of Inheritance from the mythical Victini, which bestows good fortune to those who ate it. He gave it to a miserable Pokemon on the streets, who wanted to be able to run his own shop. This Pokemon was Kecleon, and through Theus' gift, he opened his vast chain of Kecleon Shops in a matter of weeks, spreading across the continents with ease! Isn't that sweet?

While writing the fic, you changed the name of your region and removed Dente as a character, among other minor and major changes. If you were to go back and rewrite your story, would you change anything else, and if so, what?

I'm not entirely happy with the continent count; out of the five I made, I only used three, and so I would have reduced it to using Deity, Serenity and Harmony only. I would also change their names to something more continent-ish, like Harmonia or Serenia, something of the like.

I'd also focus more on the Mystery Dungeon aspects in terms of exploration. Throughout the story, I stayed in a small area, only visiting two dungeons, and the rest being towns or locations, such as Electivire Guild. Implementing more dungeon locations would change the plot of the story quite a bit, not to mention make it longer, so that would be a project for another time. I'm sure there's other things, but I'll explain why that might be later.

I noticed you set a deadline to finish the fic and tried to update one or more chapters everyday. What was your strategy to meet your deadline so you didn't burn out?

To be honest, I nearly burned out yesterday, and several times before then too. It's difficult writing so many chapters in this way, even if it is something I love. I had to sacrifice a lot of my free time that I'd normally be playing games (such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or my recent gift, Pokken Tournament) in order to work as fast as I am. It's not something I'd recommend to everybody.

My drive to finish the story was because of my long delays last year; I made this originally in January 2016, and up until a month ago, I had only finished roughly 25 chapters...I think. The thought of people wanting more of my story to read was hard on me, and I wanted to finish it for that reason. I set my deadline for my last day of school, so that I can be free to work on other projects without worrying about this incomplete one.

We all get a bit burned out and discouraged sometimes, so that's understandable! How does it feel to have Legends Unraveled finally completed now? For the future projects you mentioned, do you plan to keep up the writing frenzy or will you adopt a more regular updating schedule again?

I'm planning on having a more regular schedule once I start 'The Forgotten Isles', but that really depends. I do like writing, but there are other things I like doing too such as playing video games and board games. I will definitely try to post at least one chapter each week for PMDFI once its ready, but I won't promise any more than that. 'Legends Unraveled' was just a case of rapidly finishing a long overdue project.

You mentioned that your readers' comments kept you going. What are your views on proofreading and receiving feedback? How do you think you've grown as a writer over the course of writing Legends Unraveled?

On proofreading, I view it as worthwhile and necessary for writers just starting out. I've taken a creative writing class, and have also been writing as a hobby for three years now; I know how to spot spelling and grammar errors well, so I often don't need to make a new draft just to fix those. For new writers, they need proofreaders to help them develop, and for more experienced writers, we need an occasional reminder about a rule, or maybe on something we missed as we go on, particularly on missed plot points.

Receiving feedback is fantastic for anyone, especially in the current environment we have now. I am currently the latest post the Review Game has had, and that was nearly a month ago for Chapter 30! To have a great place for new and old writers, we need to be more willing to give and receive reviews. They help us figure out what to fix in future stories, and change certain things in our current projects. It also encourages us to continue writing, knowing that there is at least one person out there who wants to see your tale become great, and is willing to point out errors for your benefit. Views on a story is nice, but the number of reviews it has is a better indicator of popularity.

I believe I've grown in a few ways. In between my first few posts and my recent comeback, I developed my writing skills in my said creative writing class, as some may have noticed when reading. I've also grown to know that even if I don't think my work's that great, others think it is; for my first story, "The Magical Resistance', I got over 5000 views in its lifetime...and that was originally written when I was in middle school! I feel like I've bettered my work since then, even if I don't get near so many views.

To add one final thing to this answer, I would like to say that I've grown in my views of characterization. It used to be in my mind that X group was evil, and X group was good, like on my first post here for an old role play, "Pokemon: A World Without Legends", and there wasn't much reasoning for it. I was pretty poor at writing then, at least that's how I see it. I failed to give backstory and motive to my characters to justify their actions, and I feel like I've somewhat failed on that front when writing for Project Empowerment in 'Legends Unraveled' as well. With 'The Forgotten Isles', I will definitely make sure to have my characters interesting, unique, and overall, fun to read and write about!

Do you have any advice for other new Pokemon fanfic writers such as yourself?

If I could only say one thing, it would be this: Have a plot! Do not wing it! That's just asking for writer's block in the near future, my first time with it being around Chapter 15, and it lasted for months! I had to continue writing without much of a plan, forcing myself to write, and I finally got a good future for PMDLU in my head. Still, with my next story, I am definitely taking time to plan out my plot, my characters, and overall, anything for the story. Never, I repeat, never wing it!

With that out of the way, I'd also say write how you want. While you do want to plan, don't always follow everyone's suggestions on descriptions and everything else. While I do have a good idea of the locations PMDLU has, I want to just get on with the dialogue and actions, all the extremely important items of business. In my mind, heavy descriptions bore people, and I restrict them to when I want to build dramatic scenes and for when I just introduce an area, and even then it is not extremely in depth.

Do you have any future projects in mind already? If so, can you give us any kind of sneak peek?

I do have plans for a future project, two in fact. Some readers may be familiar with Zacheus Incineroar, and while I won't go too in depth, he comes from the Forgotten Isles of Equivos. I want to expand more on this hidden location, and I plan to write on it in the sequel for PMDLU. When I post the first chapter of 'PMD: The Forgotten Isles', it will mark the first--technically second--time that Pokemon from Gen VII have been used in a Mystery Dungeon fiction, as the Forgotten Isles are home to all the Alola Pokemon.

I haven't gone too far into planning the sequel, due to me working on PMDLU at this rate, but there is more to it than simply exploring the Forgotten Isles. This will take place somewhat far into the future, where the Guilds have been further developed, and the events of PMDLU have been made into legend. The main characters will be descendants of those present in PMDLU, but I will not say in what way. Oh one more thing: The chapters will all start with an entry about Equivos written by a certain character we know...

The second project I have in mind is inspired by the plots usually present in PMD, where a human is turned into a Pokemon and he partners up with someone to explore the region. The same sort of case happens here, but with a twist: the human is brought there by the region but is instead sent there by scientists in the human world! Think on it...

Before I consider working on the former idea, however, I'll give myself a break from writing; if you've ever tried writing at the pace I have, you'd know what I mean. I'll finish the story by Saturday, and will begin work on PMDFI, 'Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: The Forgotten Isles' sometime next week. I'll work on the plot and characters throughout next month, and will have the first chapter done by my proposed end date of PMDLU, Memorial Day (May 26th).
 
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Today marks the first day of summer and winter for everyone, but it also means it's time for a brand new Fic of the Month! This month, we shine a spotlight on a long running story in the Workshop, one that takes place in it's own original region and follows a delightful mix of characters, led by the ambitious Jacob and his Aipom, as they take on contests, gyms and the criminal underworld tainting their wholesome country.

So let's all put on our best coordinator gear and head on over to Accelia in @JayGaymes Pokemon Spectrum

Firstly, your story is rather an oddity as it follows a coordinator - a male one, at that - instead of a gym challenge. Why did you decide to go down the contests route?
I decided to follow the story of a coordinator after falling in love with the anime's portrayal of them. I really liked the idea of performing and battling at the same time since I'm a natural entertainer myself. When playing the games, I felt the contests fell a little flat so when the anime started writing them in, I thought the goal seemed a lot more fun than it would have been if it were an actual quest in the games. I also based the main character off of myself, and if I were in the Pokemon World, I would definitely head out on a contest journey of my own... probably through Sinnoh since I felt they had the best way of showcasing the coordinators and their Pokemon.

How do you try to make contest battles stand out and be different to gym battles? Are there any particular contest battles from the anime that have inspired your work?
When it comes to writing contest battles, I try to make them stand out by having them go in a sort of dance. One attacks and the other parries with a move to help it dodge and counter, or utizlize the move for their own benefit in points. Two battles that really inspired me are Nando vs. Zoey, and Dawn vs. Zoey. Both battles featured trainers battling their hearts out, and Zoey knew just how to make her Pokemon shine, while also finding ways to counter her opponent once they gained an upper hand.


Your story is set in an original region, Accelia, as opposed to any of the canon ones. Why did you choose to create your own world, and what have been the challenges?
I chose to create an original region as opposed to an already created one because I knew it would take forever to flesh out the story. If I want to change up the story farther down the line, having an in progress region makes the story much more flexible in terms of creating themed cities or extending the journey for whatever reason. I also felt that sticking to an already created region would suppress the story, since each of them are already set in stone with minimal room for change. I guess to make it simple, it's like creating a whole house and decorating it yourself, instead of just moving in with some of the furniture you already have.

Every region has something - mythology, geography, villainy - that sets it apart from all the others. What makes Accelia different from Kanto and Hoenn and all the rest? Were you inspired by real countries and cities like the game developers were?
The mythology and villain teams are what sets Accelia apart from other regions. With the villains, its already stated there are three major groups that make up the leaders of the criminal underworld in Accelia, known as Hell's Trinity. Accelia seems all nice and friendly, but underneath its a much darker world. With the mythology, there's a story that will be revealed in the coming chapters as to what Team Element actually wants, and to keep from spoiling, it involves the extinction of certain Pokemon, which led them to be left out of the Pokedex. Originally, I had planned for Team Element to seek out Arceus, but that seemed to general and overused... so this new plot line will work out a lot more interestingly than originally. Some cities were completely made up from random bits I thought would seem cool, like Kimpier City and their fake volcano that serves as the center of town and the gym. When it came to Seavaille Town, I imagined the setting as a smaller Japanese themed town, with pagoda-esque buildings and rock/paper walls. For Breezeville City, it was based off airport-based economy cities, where they rely on the airport for income.

There are four central characters to your story - do you have one you prefer to write about and why?
I really like Jacob, and his storyline that will continue to unfold as he opens up more to his friends. The same goes for each of them! All of the characters have things in their past that they have yet to reveal and I can't wait to give them their own story arcs for them to fully discover what they may not even realize about themselves. Originally, I really enjoyed writing Aries, especially since I had an amazing story arc planned towards the middle of region, but that got thrown out when it didn't really play out to her benefit as much. I also love writing Kyoko's blunt and informative lines, since he really doesn't enjoy putting on an extravagant act.

Maintaining a lot of main characters as well as their rivals can be a tricky task. How do you try and give them all different personalities and their own storylines?
MULTIPLE EXCEL WORKBOOKS. I have so many documents with information on each character and their Pokemon and personalities to make sure I don't forget or leave anything out when writing chapters. For their personalities, I go off of actual people I've met in real life and those I've seen on TV. For instance, Jacob's rival, Villa, is based and acts quite similarly to Nui from Kill La Kill. Kyoko's personality originally was similar to Khoury from the Johto Visitors Arc in the Diamond and Pearl saga, but I ended up changing him from a wimpy nerd to a blunt, serious braniac similar to Dr. Brennan from Bones. When it comes to their storylines, I try to think of what has and hasn't been done to death, then I consider how I can make it unique to that character.

You have given some of your characters Alola Pokemon despite the games coming out a few years after you started the story. I was wondering what your approach to planning is; how strict are you with how the plot will develop, and how loose are you when it comes to changing things as the franchise grows?
This is another reason why I created Accelia, as it contains Pokemon from ALL regions, not just the ones showcased so far. I knew that if I ended up writing the story a lot slower than most people, I'd be able to add in more Pokemon as they debut in the franchise. When developing the plot, I try to stick to the endgame as best as I can, while becoming much more flexible with the journey to the end. When writing my stories, I've always written the end, the beginning, and leaving the middle for last, since the middle is always changing, like the life of a human. Birth is the beginning of our story, death is the end. Right now, we are in the middle, and our stories are always changing, just like the universe of Pokemon.


On a similar note, you changed the title from 'Accelia Heroes' to 'Spectrum' - what was the reason for that change?
I believe the original title was Pokemon Excel, and then Pokemon Accel, then Pokemon Accelia Heroes, and finally, Pokemon Spectrum. I really cringed when I read the first few titles, since they just did not seem like a good name for a story. Pokemon Spectrum just feels right, like its a title I can stick with and appreciate and think "Whoa... that's an epic title. I wonder what that's about?"
I came to chose Pokemon Spectrum to keep the naming aspect that games have, but in a different way. Spectrums contain all visible colors, and Pokemon Spectrum will showcase all Pokemon in the world, in some way, shape, or form.

In recent months you've started doing weekly short stories to follow on from the chapters. What inspired this, and how has it helped your writing?
I started the weekly short stories because I felt like I was churning out chapters much slower than an average writer on here. When I noticed Lightning Topaz's prompts, I thought I'd utilize them to create weekly interviews or short, non-cannon scenarios where we could still learn a little bit about each character, while putting them in situations that never actually happened. I feel like they help me get motivated to continue on with the story, since I tend to go on hiatus from writing to either pursue a little more effort into my YouTube Channel or my college assignments.

Finally, what can you tease for the rest of the story? Do you know how long you want it to be, and have you considered setting any other stories in Accelia?
Well, hope you guys like the introduction of my own ideas for Pokemon moves, and types ;) Also be ready for more rivals, and criminal organizations aside from Team Element. Every time I planned the story out all the way to the end game, the story always surpassed 200 chapters, if that helps you guys picture how long the story could play out :whistle:
I also did plan to do other stories in Accelia, mainly a prequel story revolving around the various side characters, along with showing how Team Element came to be, and what drove them to seek the ultimate power residing in Accelian lore.
 
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Hello everyone! It's been a little while as we were so caught up in the awards, but we're back with a brand new FOTM!

This month, we turn attention on our latest Best Story winner. A globe-trotting adventure that is both an apocalyptic tale while also very low-key and slice of life. A mysterious meteor has landed on Earth, and very quickly the world's population is being turned. But what is driving the conflicted, lonely force so bent on destroying our planet? In a story that will move you, terrify you and make you afraid of golden eyes, valence was a worthy winner and the perfect candidate for FOTM!

While we wait on the interview from the lovely @kintsugi, make sure you head over to the Review League and claim your FOTM bonus for reviewing it!
 
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Here we go with our August Fic of the Month! Thanks again, @kintsugi, forgetting to this despite the crazy tropical storm bombarding your area this month. And again, those who have reviewed valence at any point this month can claim the FOTM bonus points if they did not already - just make a new post to ensure I see it.

AT14: Firstly, congratulations on winning Best Story again. As you previously have won for some rise by sin, I’m interested to know how you compare that story with valence. Do you see them as being similar or utterly different? Apocalyptic stories seem to be quite a theme for you.

k: Thank you! They're pretty different to me. valence is about a series of events happening while the world ends, while srbs is about a series of events happening despite it. srbs is much more focused on things blowing up and learning to cope, while valence is more about things falling to shit, and what to do after that.

AT14: As a one shot, did this story require less time and planning then you would put into a chapter fic? I heard a rumour that you wrote this in only a few hours as part of a writing blitz; is that true?

k: It required less planning than I've put into my other chapter fics, but I poured a huge amount of time into srbs. The physical word document of the story was made in a fierce writing blitz featuring irl cameos from @Smiles and @Seppe, yeah, but I'd spent a fair amount of time toying with the elements in the story without writing anything down.

AT14: What was the inspiration behind this story, in terms of the concept, the characters, and the themes?

k: Inspiration is a tricky beast to track. In many ways, valence is one of the more personal stories that I've written, so I honestly don't know if there's a single inspiration. I had a lot of interesting conversations and experiences this year, and a lot of personal revelations for how I see the world, and those ended up being the basis for this story.

AT14: The story is almost a globe-trotting adventure, taking place in multiple countries around the world. Why did you choose the countries and cultures that you did?

k: [ironically apt comment about how you can't truly know a culture from the outside and how they're all just beats against the glass jars of borderlines that we'll never truly cross] Originally, the entire story was kept to a fictional city, but I realized that, beyond lacking the magnitude and weight I needed, it didn't make sense to write about distinctly human flaws and limit myself to a single location. With that in mind, I went for worldwide, which often leads to some awkward issues in portraying cultures with which you aren't super familiar, so I limited myself to countries I'd either spent a non-trivial amount of time in personally, or countries I knew someone really, really well from, and we'd spent time discussing what it meant to live at home. All that being said, I still goofed up once or twice -- tipping isn't common practice in China, for example.

AT14: With so many characters being featured, were there any that you thought you’d like to write more about in the future?

k: None of them are edgy enough for me I actually did a lot more building on these characters than I thought I would need, given how each of them are in the story for less than 1,000 words, but they're still very much driven by how they interact with the plot rather than anything outside of it. I considered doing a story revisiting them post-valence to delve into how people reacted to the catastrophic nigh-end of all things human, but it didn't really feel right.

AT14: Midas is an interesting character. He is a villain, but a complicated and almost sympathetic one at that. What made you want to write about someone like him, with such huge power but weighed down with such deep flaws?

k: Aether actually commented that Midas should've been in the 'Protagonist' rather than 'Antagonist' category, and I'm ashamed that I didn't think of that myself. I wanted to make Midas the central character of the story because those flaws he feels are pretty central to all of us. Going in, I realized pretty quickly character driven by fear, loneliness, and some sort of unforgivability complex made for an unbearably angsty hero, but a really compelling villain.

AT14: I think that, while valence was a popular choice amongst the judges, a recurring criticism was how the story ended. What was your decision around ending things that way? Did you ever have an alternate ending in mind?

k: Arguably, I should've been more clever in how I foreshadowed it, but the story was always going to end that way. The descent into despair is long and drawn-out, but the sensation of being loved by someone is often something that you should've seen coming all along but didn't. It hits you unexpectedly, sometimes when it seems like all hope is lost, and, while corny, this was the sentiment on which I wanted the story to end.

AT14: Will we ever see a sequel, prequel or any other form of entry in this universe, or is this a one-and-done world?

k: For now, it's probably done, but who knows?

AT14: Finally, what’s next for you? Will you write more one-shots in the future, or will your focus remain on your chapter fics?

I'm a hugely unstructured writer, which is objectively a bad thing because it's code for "I write when I feel like it", which is usually code for "tomorrow". That being said, I've written about one decent one-shot per year, and I figure that's a good number to dabble in.
 
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