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Obsolete: Fic/Author of the Month

shame personified
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Last month we featured our Best Story winner. This month, I wanted to similarly highlight our Best Character winner, @Emma Prescott! Because without characters, there'd be no real story, after all. Without further ado, our interview focusing on Kimberly Fairbrooke from Land of the Roses!

dp876: First of all, congrats on Kimberly's Best Character award! How did it feel to get one of the top awards this season?

EP: It felt good, and came as a complete surprise. When I looked at the competition she was up against, I didn't think she had a snowflake's chance in hell.

dp876: How did the idea of Kimberly's character first come about?

EP: It's been so long since I've initially created her that some of the details are lost to time. I do remember where her name came from, and it may sound weird: Kim Bauer, one of the main characters in the first two seasons of 24, which I was watching heavily at the time I created her character. I don't quite remember where the rest of the details came in, other than burning desire to write a posh-yet-slightly-rebellious princess character. She's not quite a princess and not terribly rebellious, but she's close enough to the character archetype.

dp876: Which other character of yours has been your favorite to have Kimberly interact with?

EP: Her Blastoise, Juliano. Juliano doesn't talk, and like all other Pokemon in my stories, he doesn't even say his own name. His only forms of communication are the indecipherable noises he makes, his facial expressions and his body language. Getting him to communicate what he means and having Kimberly figure that out is a fun challenge that I always look forward to. Showing that she understands him on a deeply personal level and can get any sort of meaning out of his lack of communication is a big part of what I enjoy about their interactions. They truly are on the same wavelength, moreso than any other character and their own Pokemon, and that's what makes it fun to write.

dp876: What about your favorite human character interaction for Kimberly? I've seen quite a few fans of Kimberly and Andrea's friendship. Has their friendship changed from how it was in Storm Island as well?

EP: This is tricky to answer. She hasn't really had a chance to interact with anyone besides Andrea yet, and of her interactions with Andrea, I can't pick a favorite because I like them all, really. If I really had to choose one, it'd be the makeover scene in chapter 20. It shows how different the two are, yet how they're capable of giving and taking in their own little ways to work with each other.

dp876: So Kimberly's appeared in at least two of your works, including Land of the Roses and Storm Island. How did you manage her character development across different stories? Have you written her differently from fic to fic?

EP: This is where it gets confusing. The Kimberly seen in Storm Island is the same Kimberly seen in Land of the Roses, yet at the same time, they're not. Land of the Roses is not intended to be a sequel to (the unfinished) Storm Island, but a reimagining. So basically, her appearances in Storm Island are considered non-canon (how ridiculous is that to say in the realm of fanfiction?). They're practically the same character, but I made a few key differences in order to facilitate her development:
  • She is inexperienced as a coordinator in LotR, compared to her relative skill in SI.
  • Her team is somewhat different. She lacks her Wigglytuff from SI, and her Skitty has been given a different breed and name.
  • She delved into spirituality towards the end of SI's run, but is in the deep end straight from the start in LotR. Her faith will play a very large and important role in relation to her character development and the overall plot, far larger than her dabbling in SI would have.
dp876: Faith isn't often a trait you see in Pokemon fanfics! How exactly do you plan to have it influence Kimberly's character from now on in LotR?

EP: Readers are already familiar with her extremely friendly nature, something that has been shaped by the selfless and humble nature of her faith. If readers have been paying close attention, they'll notice that she's just about the only character in the story who isn't needlessly rude for the sake of being rude (an exception being Eliza, another follower of the same faith). This positive outlook on life will continue to shape her into the future, perhaps to a fault. We'll see!

She'll also look to her faith for answers to every major problem she is faced with if friends and family aren't capable of giving those answers first. It serves as a guide for her and will influence her personal morality in ways she (and probably the reader) won't expect. I'm not sure what else to say without getting into the spoiler territory.

dp876: Care to offer some trivia facts about Kimberly, maybe subtle ones that appear in the story? Or maybe even ones that won't make a story debut at all!

EP: Hmm... I'll try not to be spoilerific!
  • Much of her vast wealth comes from investment rather than inheritance. She has a major stake in several businesses that were able to get started thanks to her money: Misfit Angel (a gothic clothing line), High Falls PokeTech (a company that focuses in specialized trainer gear, and the source for her wacky collection of previously unknown Pokeball variants), and Visalia Solarwind (an alternative energy company that quickly grew to become the dominant power company all along the southern coast).
  • She is fluent in two languages and knowledgeable in three more: Glastonian (English), Kalosian (French), Cordón (Spanish), Romatti (Latin) and Shinikari (Chinese).
  • She is a student of the arts, something that is a great asset for her career as a coordinator. She can sing reasonably well, she is an excellent pencil artist, and she was one of the star members of her boarding school's gymnastics team. When she was young, she was also skilled at playing the piano, but that skill has faded with him and she has recently chosen another, more portable instrument to dabble with, the guitar.
  • Despite putting on the public persona of a refined lady, her sense of humor is actually quite twisted. Similarly, a few friends have gossiped that she has trouble keeping her eyes to herself around people in various states of undress.
dp876: Similarly, care to share your favorite scene involving Kimberly and/or piece of dialogue from her?

EP: I think my favorite is a scene that's in a forthcoming chapter. But since I can't use that, I'll go with the river crossing scene in chapter 19. I feel like it's one of the best examples that illustrates the deep understanding that she and her Blastoise have of each other. Their fluidity of motion says that they have a lot of experience with each other, and Juliano's dedication to getting her across completely dry exemplifies his unending loyalty.

dp876: Worldbuilding definitely seems to be a huge factor in LotR. How do you come up with ideas when expanding on the Pokemon world? How do you keep track of all the little details you come up with?

EP: Keeping track of all the little details can be a little bit cumbersome at times. Whenever I come up with a little detail or piece of trivia, I try to store it away in its relevant location. I have a whole collection of documents related to a region's geography, its culture, important people,

As far as the method goes... I don't have enough room here to properly get into my methods. I'll try to slim it down:
  • Identify a real world culture or nation I'm interested in working with.
  • Spend a few days (or weeks!) looking through their history and their culture. I'll pick out a few things I'm interested in to see if I can incorporate them into a modern setting. After that, I start to draw some inspiration from elsewhere, insert a few of my own elements, etc.
  • From there, I build a physical layout of the region using 8x8 squares to help me plot the cities, routes and landmarks. This is usually what the rough result looks like. I assign letters to each city/landmark and start working on names for each of them. The physical geography of the land between these cities and landmarks isn't terribly important right away, but that's also something I work on a bit before I start writing.
  • World building is the first thing I do, other than deciding on names for my main characters. I've always felt like the backbone of a good story was to have a world (partially) in place first, otherwise your first few chapters can feel kind of aimless unless you craft them very carefully.

    This list probably doesn't sound all that helpful, but if I really got into it I'd probably need several posts worth of information and explanation.
 
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This month, the mod team wanted to give the spotlight to an established author who's posted a myriad of different works and genres, including original fiction, one-shots, travelogues, slice-of-life, a chaptered journey fic, and more! Let's have a round of applause for @Beth Pavell. ;D

dp876: First of all, congrats on Author of the Month! We've seen a lot of different works from you over time, and from different genres like original fiction, one-shots, chaptered journey fics, slice-of-life... What would you say has been your favorite work to write so far and why?

BP: Hmm ... difficult to say. I think that old one-shot Star Mariner ought to take that title. Star Mariner was originally written as a present for someone. It was one of those rare stories where the idea and the execution flowed right from the fingers, fully formed. It's soppy and romantic - which reflects my mood at the time of writing - and I rather like that about it. There's something of WALL-E in there, echoes of Eärendil's ship Vingilot from the Middle Earth legendarium, a hint of A Wizard of Earthsea (A lot of influences, now I think about it). And I got to write about my twin loves, both the girl and the English coast.

dp876: I'd say your prose is the part of your writing style that's most highly praised. Does description come naturally to you? Is there a process you have for coming up with ideas for your British Johto?

BP: If description comes naturally to me, it's only because I have great influences. J.R.R. Tolkien is a massive influence on the way I treat the world of the story, of course, but I suppose I've also learned lessons from other works such as Non Non Biyori or Pixar's catalogue - animations that pay loving attention to apparently mundane settings. There's also that maxim of Terry Pratchett's I've often paraphrased, about creating a world that would keep going even if the story stopped. J.K. Rowling does this as well, with the wizarding world having the sense that it could function if you completely removed Voldemort and Harry Potter from it.

As far as "British Johto" is concerned, I can't really say it's anything especially clever. "Write what you know" is at the bedrock of it. I have a working idea of what parts of Johto correspond with what parts of Britain, or perhaps more accurately, England. It's easy enough to find images to write from based on that - so Azalea Town ends up looking a little like Henley-on-Thames, Violet reminds me of Warwick, Goldenrod is a kind of pastiche of London and Osaka ... being curious helps a lot. I've taken to carrying around a small notebook, so when I see something interesting, or stupid, or weird, I can keep the idea for future reference.

Being curious about how things work helps, too. I'll often conduct bits of research here and there about things like alcohol, or trains, especially biology ... much of what I find won't be useful or relevant but often there'll be little details that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise, like whether the trains on the Mulberry Town lines should be diesel or electric, or how a Gligar's flight would differ from a Pidgeotto.

dp876: You've also been known to use very obscure vocabulary words in your work. Where do you find these obscure words? How do you try to work them into your fanfics?

BP: I am anaspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused you such pericombobulations.

Being a logophile is the short explanation for it. I've never really liked the school of thought in writing that treats unusual words with a suspicion bordering on contempt. Don't get me wrong, rare words are not at all better than common words, but neither should rare words be left to gather dust just because they're rare. I collect words. If I see a word I don't know I'll invariably look it up. I like Word of the Day series in calendars, or dictionary.com. I'm lucky to have a free subscription to the online Oxford English Dictionary for the time being, so I can dig in to the unusual, archaic or obsolete usages of words.

I don't usually try to work these rare words into my writing. There are a couple where I'll hold up my hand and admit I really wanted to use them - probably the most infamous of these would be "callipygian" (adj. Designating a person who has well-shaped or finely developed buttocks; of or relating to such a person. Also: of or relating to the buttocks). I think I collected that about ten years agofrom the BBC program Balderdash and Piffle, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to use it in The Long Walk (Into the Wild). But those are the exceptions - for the majority of cases, I use a word because I think it is the best way of getting across what I'm trying to convey.

It does backfire sometimes. It's not unusual for AetherX to remind me that a word is not so well known as I think it is. And I do struggle with this, because it feels a little conceited to keep assuming that I know more words than my readers.

dp876: Kanto: There and Back Again is probably the work we know least about right now, given that it's still pretty early on in the story. What can readers expect to see in future chapters?

BP: The idea is that you'll be able to read Kanto in any order you like. Each chapter will be a standalone narrative, with minimal continuity between them. That being said, for the sake of my own sanity the story will be organised along more-or-less geographical lines. These first few chapters, for example, focus on coastal Kanto - thus Vermilion City of course, Maiden's Peak, probably Cinnabar Island, etc. There'll also be the odd "historical" chapter, telling excerpts of Kanto's history. I want to write those more in the style of the better kind of pop history, perhaps mimicking the tone of 1000 Years of Annoying the French. Throughout the plan is to keep the chapters focused as much in the style of an in-universe book as possible.

As you can see by the upcoming Maiden's Peak chapter, I'll be visiting some locations from the anime as well as the games. Which ones will get the most attention will really depend on a) How much importance they'd have to people in-universe; and b) Whether I can think of a lot of interesting things to say about them.

dp876: What are your goals for The Long Walk's tournament arc? What about after the tournament arc? What's next in store for Joshua and Eve?

BP: Nice try - no spoilers for the Tourney! I will say the Tourney is going to be the end of Part One (That's strictly three chapters-time).

After the Tourney it's away from Goldenrod City and back on the road again. The next destination will be not Eruteak, but Cianwood City! Yes, we're finally moving to the coasts and seas of Johto. I'm looking forward to writing this arc. There'll be a lot of influences from the wild West Country in the setting, and opportunities to expand the very sparse island we see in the games.

Of course, this will also be the start of Part Two - Growing Up. I'm still working out the details, but just as Part One was about new-found freedom, the theme of this greater arc will be about just that, the protagonists maturing. They've both got some growing up to do, even if they are older than the average journeyfic protagonist.

dp876: You've mentioned before about handwriting all of your work before typing it up. How does that process work?

BP: I can't create with a blank screen in front of me. I like to be able to see my scribblings out, the revisions, the alternative sentences all in one glance. If you look at my notebook you'll usually see a series of drafted paragraphs, some accompanied by redrafts, with arrowed annotations, the odd half-formed sentence in the unused spaces, that sort of thing. Every 100 words or so I usually end up rewriting all that as a "final" version, including all relevant revisions. Sometimes that goes through another round of annotation, sometimes it gets typed into the master document. As a result I do very little editing on screen. It's more practical to read a chapter from the master document, of course, so edits tend to be in regards to pacing.

The planning also goes down in a seperate notebook. It is slightly more cumbersome insofar as you can't as easily rearrange notes as in a digital document, but I like to be able to flip between notes rather than trying to scroll through several digital documents. It's easier to add annotations and join ideas together visually through the use of arrows as well.

dp876: Are there any other projects we don't know about? Care to give us a sneak peek if so?

BP: I've been toying with a few ideas for one-shots, or short stories, to write when I've finished Part One of The Long Walk. Before Kanto was conceived, it was going to be a spin-off story featuring Josh and some of the Workshop Club, entitled Kings of the River. That got shelved about halfway through planning once I realised how quickly it was going to balloon into a major story. The beginning ended up being recycled into The Long Walk as the majority of the rewritten Prologue.

Currently the top of the list is a possible Legend of Zelda story set in Breath of the Wild. I'm sure it would surprise no-one to hear that I'm thinking of having one of the NPC traders feature as the protagonist rather than Link. The game all but spells out the fact that the people of Hyrule have done a lot of surviving on their own without Link's help. Breath of the Wild has a wonderfully detailed map, and ironically, one of the most in-depth societies we've seen yet from the franchise. It's all scrummy fanfiction material for a gal interested in medieval social history.

The other candidate is The Young Lord, a Warhammer 40,000 story I began a couple of years ago (There's about 800 words of it lying idle). It's related to the setting I had slowly developed for my RPG group, and I've thought about how to finish it for a while now. So far The Long Walk and Kanto have taken priority. As always, it's time that's the main problem. I refuse to stretch myself so thinly that I never finish anything. Fanfiction can be quite hard enough to fit round studies and work without multiple projects jostling for space.
 
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Hey, all! It's the beginning of the last month of the year! I thought we'd wrap up things nicely with a new user who's not only posted and completed their first story already, but also has made edits to said story after taking all of the story's feedback to heart. So, this month, we're featuring @Antoshi and his work, A Blond Ray of Sunshine!

dp876: I want to start by saying congratulations on finishing up your first story here, A Blond Ray of Sunshine! It looks like this wasn't your first foray into Pokémon fanfiction, however. What other fanfics have you written? What other projects do you have planned to work on in the future?

Antoshi: Well, all I've ever really written was for this whole 'Antoshi' series. When I was much younger I actually wrote a "movie script" for some dolls that I used to have. That was my (embarrassing) first pass at fanfiction, and that was before I knew what fanfiction even was.

People who know me know I'm a serial procrastinator. I have mentioned in the first story's original summary (though removed later at the suggestion of others) that I want it to be a series of stories. That's why the first one ends on a mysterious cliffhanger. This series is really all I want to write for and I feel that focusing on only this series will help me get actual writing results.

dp876: It looks like A Blond Ray of Sunshine has been a project of yours for a while and has seen lots of changes. How long have you been working on the story, exactly? How has the story grown over the years?

Antoshi: I've been working on this project on and off (mostly off) since 2002. I've actually made a list recently in my spare time of what ideas and concepts I've retained (and didn't) over the years. The characters have rebooted several times, along with the stories. Everything was so much different back then, with no real focus on world building or character development, back story, history, no emotional conflict — no real sense of cohesion or continuity. It literally took place in the same canon as the Pokémon anime, as opposed to currently being a future fic that's ambiguous to either the game canon or the anime canon. I wrote about six stories back then before giving up on it around 2004. Fun fact: Antoshi's 'power' was originally described as being of the 'Psychic' Pokémon type. That is no longer the case.

In 2009, I went back to it and wrote what I now call 'Generation 2' of the series. It was my first real attempt in about 4-5 years to restart the series and write something meaningful. That ended up being the original 'A Blond Ray of Sunshine.' The plot line is nearly identical to the current ABRoS since I used it as the framework for the 2017 version. I tried to give the story more depth and seriousness but looking back at it now, it was bad. It was also much shorter back then at around 11,000 words. For 'Gen 2' I wrote four stories and had an unfinished fifth before giving up on it around 2012. More fun facts: Blaire actually IS Blaine's descendant in this version. Also, I also hated the idea of writing Pokémon battles back then. The entire battle between Antoshi and Blaire goes straight from the start and immediately skips to the end in-between chapters one and two.

I've technically been working on the current 2017 story since 2014. I just couldn't find the drive or interest in continuing, so I sat on about one chapter of content and gave up again until late 2016. I was talking with some close friends and the topic of fanfiction came up. I happened to mention that I wrote fanfics in the past and that I was sorta-kinda working on a new one. After that, I thought about it for a while and decided to finally hunker down, focus my attention and get into writing again. I slacked off through most of 2017 but by August I finally had a rough draft of the finished story. I wanted to make sure it was completely done before I uploaded the first chapter. I knew that if I ever made an upload schedule and then fell behind that I was going to either rush something out or just give up again entirely.

dp876: Similarly, how have your characters (namely, Antoshi and Typhlosion) changed and grown over the years?

Antoshi: Back in 2002, Antoshi started out as a roleplaying character for an AOL roleplaying group I joined called the 'Nonpareil Pokémon Confederation' or 'NPC.' The Antoshi character I built in my there was eventually transferred over when I started to write fanfiction for him. He was originally this obnoxious, sunny, energetic little doofus back then who couldn't hold a single train of thought yet somehow possessed miraculous powers. He was a Trainer that, I believe, had a full roster of Pokémon yet only used his Typhlosion. Fireball back then was really nothing more than a talking deus ex machina that Antoshi didn't seem to care about, and was called upon only whenever his Trainer beckoned. Antoshi was a horrible little Gary Stu in the sense that he was flawless and beloved. He ends up meeting canon characters Ash, Misty and Brock. Not only does he defeat Ash in a battle and get invited to join them on their travels, but Misty instantly develops a crush on him. Those were dark times, man. Dark times.

In the 2009 version, as is the case with the 2017 version, Fireball is constantly out of his ball, and travels alongside Antoshi. I made a really cumbersome habit of playing up Fireball getting in peoples' way or bumping into passersby — as if he was the only Pokémon anyone in the world ever had outside a Poke Ball. There was also this poor attempt at garnering reader sympathy for Antoshi by having characters talk down to him and make fun of him, either for his name or the fact that he talks to Fireball. He would consistently respond to that by getting really depressed. I tried way too hard to make Fireball come off as the comic relief, but wound up with a really cheesy partner that never ended up being taken seriously.

dp876: You recently mentioned a major rework of the story, too! What were the changes made? How did you decide what to cut, what to add, what to polish?

Antoshi: Oh, man, the changes were really numerous. I was talking with a friend during the end of the rework and I told him I actually should've kept a counter of how many changes I've done. It was undoubtedly over 200 across the entire story. A lot of them were just word changes/removals, some typos or other errors, or breaking up sentences and paragraphs.

The much bigger changes include the complete removal of chapter one, which readers helped me realize was like 90% fluff. I took the more important exposition parts from it, integrated that into chapter two and called it the new 'chapter one.'

There was also some extension of the battle between Antoshi and Blaire. A few people told me that Blaire came off as really weak and inept, especially due to the fact that Fireball was literally one-shotting her Pokémon one after the other. Also, as requested, I added in a few of the trivia questions Antoshi was forced to answer in the Cinnabar Gym.

The last major change was to Officer Jenny's character. I had at least one comment that she felt like a cardboard cutout. She talks about a past tragic event, but said event is never elaborated on and she ends up speaking her feelings rather than actually feeling them. I went back and added an emotional conversation between her and Antoshi that I think really fills the gap.

As mentioned, a lot of these changes happened because of the readers. I got so much response in the form of really long, detailed critiques that helped me understand what I was doing right and wrong. That definitely improved my confidence and my overall skill as an author. So, to those people that took the time out of the day to read and review my story, I am very thankful.

dp876: What's your process when choosing which details to include about your setting? What about your battles? Your plot?

Antoshi: I like to see through the eyes of my characters and sense what they sense. 'Where are they now? What does it look like? What are they thinking or feeling? What does the air smell like? What kinds of sounds are they hearing?' I really want a feeling of immersion for myself and for the person reading the story. So I'll include little things like the smell of sea air or the color of the sky or palm fronds waving in the winds.

As far as Pokémon battles, I actually go on Bulbapedia to plan them out. For example, when I was plotting the battle with Elise, I first looked up the different species of Ground-type Pokémon. Then I'll say, "Oh man, Gliscor would be a great choice. It's strong and it's competitively viable in real life, so it's a believable choice for a Gym Leader." Sometimes I'll choose Pokémon because I like them, such as with Steelix. Then I'll look at what their abilities and moves are. "Oh, hey, Toxic. Oh, hey, Protect. Wait, I can work that into a strategy." Then I jot down what Pokémon I chose, what moves are used on both sides, and any special notes like if they dodge or if it misses. From there, I use Bulbapedia again to help me describe the physical characteristics of each Pokémon, as well as to get an idea of how to describe the looks of the attacks. I usually use the images of attacks being using in the anime. The anime is much more detailed in how the Pokémon using the attack moves its body, the shape or colors of the attacks, and what it looks like when the attacks hit.

As for my plots, well, that's a much more detailed affair. I've been writing down plot ideas, general notes, character advancements, dialogue, exposition, interactions — tons of ideas, for many years now. I have pages upon pages of dialogue excerpts. I've written down lists of all the stories I want to do, the characters in them, abilities — I even have the dates that stories occur along with the weather/temperatures of each day. The only problem is I've never been able to actually write the entirety of these stories. So, here I am now in 2017, looking to finally get out those ideas I've had for all these years. A lot of times I wish I would've just written these stories years ago, but I am still happy to be working on them now.

dp876: What can we expect from future stories in this series?

Antoshi: Plenty of character development for Antoshi, Fireball, and some new main characters that'll slowly be introduced over time. There's new obstacles for Antoshi to overcome and different sides of his personality will be on display when faced with new adversities. His powers will, of course, be delved into further as well. There was a handful of mysterious twists and turns going on in the first story — some of which still haven't been resolved — and there's going to be even more mysterious plot lines and characters to come.

dp876: Would you be willing to share an excerpt of an older version of the story? It's not very often that we get authors who have spent so long with their fics, and it would be super cool to see just how much you've improved over time!

Antoshi: Oof. This is probably the toughest question of them all. It took me a while to pick a 'good' except for this because a lot of it, to me, feels very cheesy and forced and bad. One thing I did notice when skimming through looking for a good excerpt was that I also made Fireball a hothead to go along with him being comic relief. I think I may have subconsciously referenced that by working it into 2017 Fireball's backstory. Anyway, here we go. This is from chapter one, near the very start.

That was one year ago. Since then, the young boy named Antoshi traversed countless miles of paths, fields, cities and caves all in his penultimate quest to reach the Indigo Plateau and challenge the Pokémon Champion. With six badges to his name and trips to Cerulean, a confusing stop in Pewter that led him back to Cerulean, Vermilion, Fuschia, Celadon, and back to Saffron for a badge and to revisit his family, he made his way to the hard-to-reach Cinnabar Island for a seventh badge. By that point, eagerness and confidence were guiding his spirit closer to the end of his journey.

"Good luck, lad!" a friendly fisherman named Fred exclaimed, having given Antoshi a lift in his tugboat from Fuschia to Cinnabar.

"Thanks!" he cheerfully replied as he stepped down the small ramp leading off the boat. "I hope you catch that Dewgong!" Fred smiled proudly at the bubbly young man, just before a tall, hulking creature stomped his way off the small ramp, nearly bending it in half. Fred slowly navigated away from the island, leaving Antoshi and his friend on the island.

"What's wrong, Fire?" Antoshi concernedly asked his best friend, a large Typhlosion named Fireball as he groaned and held his stomach.

"I don't like water," he weakly replied, "at all."

"It wasn't that bad!" the boy proclaimed with a laugh, patting his friend on the back, who stumbled forward with a loud groan.

"The ground won't stop moving," Fireball remarked. "I'm gonna be sick." He then dashed off, in dire search of a restroom, frightening people in his way as they saw a towering Pokémon, somewhat larger than a normal Typhlosion, charging toward them. Antoshi chuckled nervously amidst the terrified screams and shouts of the islanders. "Out of my way!" Fireball exclaimed in the distance. Antoshi sighed, deciding to wait on his friend as he took a deep breath of the salty air, brought to him by the cool breeze of the nearby seashore and sighed happily. He had a big grin on his face as his big, brown eyes took in the scenery of Cinnabar, which had been rebuilt to its former glory after the volcano had destroyed much of it nearly seventy years ago. Antoshi felt himself eager to explore the island, urged forward by the cool breeze and the warm sun shining down on his blond head.

A short time later, Fireball exited one of the public restrooms with a groan, making sure to close it behind him as he didn't want anyone to use it for a good while. He made his way back to his friend, who greeted him with a smile.

"Ready to go?" Antoshi asked. Fireball cleared his throat and stretched out a bit, going through a brief spurt of flexing, push-ups and jumping jacks in front of Antoshi before loosening his shoulders up.

"Okay, I'm good," he confidently said. Antoshi grinned from ear to ear as his eyes focused solely on the Cinnabar Island Gym in the distance.

"Then let's do it!" he exclaimed as the two of them charged toward the gym's doors.
 
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Every year, we kinda skip over January because the awards are happening. Things are busy. We've got holidays to celebrate. We've got a brand new year presented to us. We've got life to deal with, for better or for worse.

Maybe it's always been this way around this time of the year, but the amount of activity bustling here has amazed me. Whether you've been reading or reviewing or writing or chatting it up in the Written Word, I appreciate it. Whether you're a new shy face delving into our community or an old member returning or someone just dropping by for the first time in a while to say Merry Christmas, I appreciate it. It's all told me that this community means something to someone - more than one someone, even - and I can't put into words how it feels to know that this is a community people feel comfortable coming back to for one reason or another. Yeah, I'm a writer, and you've all got my speechless. This isn't the first time you guys have done this to me, and from the looks of it, it won't be the last.

The mods have tried to put together a couple things for you guys to show our appreciation. First off, a massive thanks to @canisaries and @golden3point14 for taking on some character requests and for the New Year's banner in this post! Thanks to @Soki as well for helping me put everything together and overseeing the project. The banner will be set as our Twitter header to show off these wonderful characters and to continue celebrating the new year. While I regret not being able to open requests to the public so as to not overwhelm our artists, I'm happy that there's a hard working team I can rely on and I hope to work with you guys more in the future. <3

Second, the mods wanted to give back to the community with reviews. The community's worked hard at it lately, and it was only fair that we try to return the favor. We've taken on as much as we possibly could over the last month or so, and we've managed a total of 32 reviews. That seemed totally off when I first counted, but it's true. That's 32 wonderful authors and 32 wonderful stories we have floating around at the moment. Most of them were eligible for the awards, too, we had an amazing amount of nominations out of those!

Damn right you're all authors of the month, and all your fics are fics of the month. Seriously. Keep reading. You never know what you'll like. You never know what friends you'll make or what inspiration you'll get. You never know whose day you'll make better just for taking the time to read their story and leave a comment or two about it.

Keep writing, too. There's nothing for us to read if you don't write. Write what you want. We might review and you might want to make your readers happy if they're not, but in the grand scheme of things, writing for an audience doesn't matter if you, too, don't love your story. Writing is intimate, and there's a certain amount of vulnerability and exposure just in posting a single chapter. In that sense, someone rejecting your writing can feel the same as them rejecting you. Our goal is to offer constructive criticism so you can come back and tell us your secrets in a new and better way... because writing is nothing but the act of spilling all your secrets. I encourage you all to write nonsenical stream of consciousness bullshit then not post it if that's your thing, too, but you don't have to hide if you feel discouraged. Whether writing's a craft for you or just a hobby, keep writing. You'll improve by just doing that, and you'll learn about yourself along the way.

Go out of your comfort zone and write what you don't want. Reward yourself for getting through that slog of description you hated doing. Reward yourself for finishing that chapter that took 6 awful months to write. Reward yourself for sticking to an update schedule or getting a chapter out faster than you expected. Reward your characters. But make them suffer more because it feels so goddamn good when we can see them happy again.

Write what you know because you're the only one who knows and thinks and feels the exact way you do, and sometimes, we just want other people to know what that's like, too. Write what you don't know so you can learn something new. Write everything. Write lists, poems, fanfic, original works, essays, memoirs... Whatever it is, I don't care. If you want to do it, by all means, do it. Just wanting to do it means you have something to tell us. I promise there's someone who wants to listen.

I'm gonna be real with you guys. I have no idea what I'm writing half the time. All of it's either depressing stuff I don't wanna live through again or more lighthearted things I hope to experience myself someday. Somehow I turn that all into a story about Pokemon. That might sound lame, but I love every second of it.

I don't know why anyone else writes, but I'm glad you're all here for the ride. So! Here's to 2018, folks. Let's make it a good one. :~)
 
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Happy new year, fellow writers! (*Reminds self that I gotta update Marvelous Journey and finish chapter 43. BIG TIME*)
 
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A new year is always a good time for reflection. It's been a few months now since I stood down from the modding team. It has been a little odd at times not being involved in planning anymore, though also a plus. This judging round has been quite nice so far as I am no longer in every judging chat anymore and therefore don't have the added stress of having to read every nuclear review bomb that gets dropped on my fics before things are tidied up for public (I'm kidding, that never happens... anymore...) Part of me knows that if some past circumstances had been different I would still want to be a part of all this, but leaving was the right choice as a series of events had meant I no longer had the energy to invest in making the Writer's Workshop continually great.

And I certainly know I would not have the energy or initiative to pull off what has been done over the last few months. I knew when diamondpearl first suggested the Review League I was planning on leaving things in the right hands, and have not been disappointed yet (well, except for once, but I'm far too insular to air all my dirty laundry ;)). Things are more polished, more inviting and more exciting than they have been for several years, and just seeing the amount of activity, from new chapters and stories to reviews to discussion threads, has been exciting to watch and definitely has me inspired. Those in charge rarely get the public credit they deserve, so I just wanted to thank you @diamondpearl876 and the whole mod team for putting together so many events like this and putting in the energy I wish I had. It's hard to believe it has only been four and a bit months when the stamp of a new era has been firmly planted over this section, and I am amazed to see what happens over the next twelve months - no pressure ;)
 
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Hey, all! With the awards finishing up at the very end of January, it's our tradition to feature the Best Story winner in February. That winner this round would be Rara Avis by @AetherX!

dp876: Congrats on both Best Story and Best Character! Rara Avis and its protagonist are a fantastic read. What about the story would you say you're most proud of?

AetherX: Thanks! This might sound a little simplistic, but I'm honestly most proud of how quickly I wrote it. It took me about a month from concept to the first episode being done, which is way faster than my normal snail's pace. I think it would have been way better if I had gone at my usual speed, but it ended up okay all things considered.

dp876: Rara Avis utilizes a more medieval setting, and you handle it pretty well. What's been your main inspiration for the setting?

AetherX: Rara Avis is a loose sequel to an old fic of mine called Locked in Battle. When I was originally writing that, I'm not sure I had much of an inspiration at all. Very much seat of my pants at the time, which resulted in a very flat setting. With Rara Avis, the world has become much more complex and detailed. The original idea for the story was a Monster Hunter/Pokemon crossover, but when I decided to make it in the world of Locked in Battle, I started to draw comparisons to the game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The setting of the game works very hard to be both a realistic medieval setting as well as a fantasy world. Both low- and high-fantasy if you will. I knew that was exactly the kind of world I wanted. There's grit and realism, but also a healthy dose of the magic of Pokemon, hopefully handled in a way that respects the setting.

dp876: What was your process for taking inspiration from your old fic, Locked in Battle? What aspects of Locked in Battle didn't make the cut? How has your overall writing style changed since then?

AetherX: Once I knew that I wanted to use the same setting, since I'd had so many unused ideas, I had to decide who the protagonist was going to be. I played around with the idea of using the same protagonist, or even coming up with a brand new unrelated character. But then as I was skimming through it I came across Avis. I realized she was perfect. She already knew a lot about Pokemon, and the planned climax would be a very intriguing place to start the story. In general, Locked in Battle was a rush job that I never finished, so there was actually a lot of room to play around in as far as worldbuilding goes. I'm hesitant to say it's 100% canon though, since I had to mess around with some stuff like timelines and geography.

I was actually surprised at how little my writing style has changed over the years. I still think I dive a little too deep on the emotional monologues and struggle to transition between them and the rest of the story. I plan a lot more now, though, and I put way more thought into settings. Description, worldbuilding, etc.

dp876: Only Episode I of Rara Avis is complete. What can readers expect to see in future episodes?

AetherX: The idea of the story is that Avis becomes a sort of Pokemon hunter, if you will. Each episode revolves around "hunting" one particular Pokemon. Sometimes this will be in a very straightforward "[Pokemon] is terrorizing our village, please help us!" kind of way, other times the stakes will be more personal, like in Oak and Iron Bound. My goal for the next episode is to really set up the world, main plot, and a variety of long-term sub plots. There will be emotional turmoil, mysticism, political strife, violence, and plenty of adventure.

dp876: Avis undergoes a lot herself in the first episode alone. How did you get the idea for her character and the events that transpired in her arc? What can we expect to see in the future with her character?

AetherX: She originated as a bit of a throwaway character in Locked in Battle. I wanted someone who loved Pokemon and knew a lot about them in a world where they are seen as simple beasts (or outright terrifying monsters). I didn't want to go the straight raised-by-wolves route, so I opted for a girl who simply spent a lot of time alone in the woods. Most of the rest of her character grew from that simple concept. Her father was created as the reason she didn't want to stay at home, and her brother was created as the main reason she didn't outright run away. The whole fight where her father died and she was knocked unconscious was what was originally supposed to be the climax of Locked in Battle (although in the original unposted draft, both Avis and Peredur died). Peredur provided a convenient symbol to represent her father, and the rest of the plot kind of wrote itself. Killing Peredur gave Avis some temporary emotional catharsis, but she still doesn't completely have closure on her father, which is going to stay with her for a while. More than anything, she's lonely and uncertain of her path forward (kinda like the plot seems at this point, I imagine).

dp876: Many readers and judges pointed out symbolism in Rara Avis, including how Peredur the aggron symbolized Avis's father whom she hated. Can you tell us more about the symbolism in Episode I and give us a teaser of what to look out for in Episode II?

AetherX: I really enjoy putting symbolism in my stories, especially regarding Pokemon. For Rara Avis, I decided to go fairly heavy-handed with it. In Locked in Battle, I came up with the idea of battlers' armor matching their Pokemon to a point. From a writing perspective, this kind of thing makes it easy to drive home similarities between characters and the Pokemon they are partnered with, and use them as symbols. Peredur representing Avis's father helped establish the Pokemon hunter concept as well as provided a way for Avis to "confront" her father even after he had died. The only other significant symbol in episode 1 was the spear. It represents the combat training that Avis's father gave her. It's got a little piece of Peredur on it, and in the end it was her training that has and will allow her to overcome her challenges, just as it was the spear that ultimately killed Peredur. Moving forward there will be plenty of Human/Pokemon symbolism, so keep an eye out for that. Avis herself will soon get a companion that has plenty of aesthetic and thematic similarities to her.

dp876: I'd say Rara Avis is vastly different from your other fic, Unpredictable, both in terms of style and content. Do you approach the two fics differently? If so, how? What would you say have been the main challenges when it comes to writing Rara Avis?

AetherX: I think they're fairly similar, at heart. They're both about people who are struggling to find their purpose in a life that's not quite what they thought it would be. I definitely approach them differently, though. The main reason for that is that Rara Avis is the first brand new fic that I've written in a while. I've learned a lot since I started Unpredictable. Rara Avis has a much clearer plan. Early on, I decided I wanted to make use of an established story structure: the Hero's Journey/Monomyth. Not just on a macro, story-wide level, but also on a smaller episode by episode or even scene by scene scale. Unfortunately, I didn't spend too much time or effort on keeping the first episode to this structure, which I think directly resulted in most of its weaknesses. It's easy to say that sticking to an established structure like this can be limiting or unoriginal, but once I made some changes to the plan for episode two to make it more neatly fit the story circle I'm using, the episode was so much better than what I had originally come up with. This structure results in a plot that has an appropriate amount of conflict, is character driven, is well paced, and results in a feeling of closure.

The greatest challenge for me is appropriately portraying emotion. Avis's emotional state is vital to the story, so the whole thing can fall apart if that isn't done correctly. It's tricky, since I try to write from my own experiences, but I also know that everyone experiences emotion differently. I want my characters to be relatable and sympathetic. That can be tough when you're writing heavy stuff like abusive parents, grief, and life-threatening violence.

dp876: You've been around the Writers Workshop for a long time now. What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?

AetherX: 1. Read, 2. Listen

Your best bet at improving is to look to others. Writing a lot on your own will definitely help you get better, but all of the biggest leaps in the quality of my writing have come from either reading someone else's story, or taking criticism/advice on board from another writer. That means being critical of yourself first, but also being analytical of the stories you consume, be they fanfiction, books, TV, or movies. Figure out what you like and what you don't like about characters, plots, and styles. Learn what makes a good story good and you're halfway there.

dp876: What piece of criticism/advice from another author has been most memorable and/or useful to you?

AetherX: I'm not sure I've ever directly received this as a piece of advice, but I picked it up from reading Harry Potter, and a couple reviewers of mine have talked about it as well, and that's details. Overuse of details can drown the story in description, but an appropriate helping of them can really elevate a story. Details add charm and depth to characters and settings. Drop in a single little detail and suddenly this one-off character actually feels like a real person, or this scene reminds a reader of a real place they've visited. When you use details cleverly, you can start adding foreshadowing and symbolism with them without it being too obvious or hamfisted.
 
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For March, we've got an interview with one of our newest writers! She's certainly been busy writing up a variety of work oh high quality for us to enjoy, and the mod team was eager to hear some thoughts from her. Here's @canisaries! :)

dp876: Well, I'll open this up by saying congrats on Author of the Month! You've released a steady flow of one-shots and chaptered fics since you've joined us! Which would you say has been your favorite piece to write and why?

canisaries: Thank you! I was low key hoping for this to happen one day, haha.

My favorite piece would have to be the one I’m currently doing, Hunter, Haunted. It’s allowed me to experiment a lot and bring out lots of cool ideas. I’ve never tried to do anything with actual focus on horror before - I’ve never even read horror before - but it’s been really fun to dabble in.

dp876: Tell me more about the horror genre used in Hunter, Haunted. Where do you draw your inspiration from? What aspects of the horror genre have you utilized the most?

canisaries: Some months ago I had the joy of catching an airing of American Psycho on TV. I only managed to see about 80% of it, but I 100% loved what I saw. Its horror tag is mostly because of its gore, but there's also the more subtle "losing control" element that ties into its psychological subject. It was a big inspiration and gave me guidance on how to approach some stuff in my own fic.

Another serial killer character that has influenced my writing would be Yoshikage Kira from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (the anime, because reading is for nerds -- oh wait). He's a sick bastard, but still lives a normal life. Well, normal and normal. Not everyone has a disembodied hand for a girlfriend.

Among other things, I draw from my own personal fears (death, spiders, etc). Writing about them is very giving: I get to pinpoint what kind of fear it really is, what its physical effects on me are like, how they control me. When a written character fears something I fear, I don't feel quite so alone. As for the rest of my inspiration, it comes from a lot of places: TV shows, tropes, chat conversations, dreams I've had. Really from everywhere. You can never predict when inspiration strikes.

In Hunter, Haunted, there's horror that comes from both primal fears (gore, body horror, surreal imagery) and less in-your-face ones, like the uncertainty of if what's happening is really what is happening. I try to make Red's relationship with HELIX unsettling as well, but there was unfortunately no space in the fic for actual interaction between the two, so I don't get to play up that aspect. The oneshot Prayer has a bunch of it, though.

However, I should say that I don't feel like Hunter, Haunted is at all "a horror story". To me, it's more slice-of-life drama. It's just that the character's life is anything but usual.

dp876: Your main canon to write in seems to be Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP). Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into writing fanfic for that part of the fandom? Have you ever written for another kind of canon in the series (anime, games, manga, etc.)?

canisaries: I’ve been following TPP since the first and most famous run (=playthrough, we call them “runs”) of Pokémon Red. A lot of people dropped it and forgot about it after that one or the one after, which was Crystal, but I stuck around because the fandom was really creative and the whole concept of many different people writing a common story (though with their own takes) felt really unique to me.

Around FireRed, which was the fourth run, I posted my first artwork to the TPP subreddit, which was this meme comic. It was my first reddit post ever, and when it got 900+ upvotes, I was blown away. After that, I slowly became a frequent contributor with art, comics and memes. It was only after about a year, though, that I first wrote some fanfiction for TPP. It was terrible, but I had fun with it. Then after another year had passed, I had the idea of Dear Nemesis, a lighthearted fanfic that was sort of a slash fic parody, starring the first run’s protagonist Red (yes, him) and the second run’s protagonist AJ - two characters with extreme grudges for each other. I had even more fun with it (as this time I actually planned stuff ahead) and other people seemed to like it, too. By that time, I’d rediscovered the joy of writing and this time it was to stick around, leading me to write even more stories afterwards.

I don’t think I’ve actually written Pokémon fics outside the TPP canon, though. I haven’t really had any ideas and for the longest time, my only audience was the TPP fandom.

dp876: Your work also mostly features Red, the protagonist from TPP, and he's portrayed as a sociopathic human looking to transcend into something greater to prove his loyalty to his god, Lord Helix. Is this portrayal of Red a common one in the TPP canon? What about writing Red's character do you like and dislike the most?

canisaries: My Red has definitely become my Red over the years in the fandom. I was still pretty close to the mainstream when I drew him in my comics as just a guy who’s really really passionate about his religion, passionate enough for human sacrifice, but I started drifting off when I began to flesh the idea out beyond just a quirk. He went from “Helixism made him violent” to “his violent nature made him a Helixian”. The nature of Helixism in the mainstream fandom I think is just “chaos/anarchy/freedom is good”, while I essentially changed it to be fundamentally designed for society-hating merciless killers so that the human sacrifice aspect made sense. So shortly put, my Red is pretty far from the “canon” TPP Red by now, and others in the fandom agree: they call my Red “edgy Red” or “Canis!Red” to draw the distinction.

What I like about writing Red, oh boy. Well, almost everything. His delusional view of the world and society as being divided into “prey” and “predators”, his intense love and fear for his god, his poetic yet crude internal monologue, his obsession with being “strong”, his complete disregard for everyone else and their problems and feelings, his secret insecurities and fear of death… and on a more superficial level, his violent fantasies. This is inevitably going to sound alarming, but I really like violence and gore, and my prose likely already shows it. It’s just really powerful and visceral (HAHA) to write and read about. I guess in a way it’s similar to what superhero stories have: escapism, things you can’t do (and wouldn’t do) in real life being done.

As for what I dislike… well, sometimes it can be really hard to write him in a way that can actually be taken seriously. I try to keep him at a restrained level of pretentiousness, but occasionally his edge gets too cheesy and he comes off as a total chuuni tryhard. At those moments, I feel like I’ve regressed back to being a 13-year-old showing off her supor scary n edgy character with a tWiStEd MiNd wHoA and a little voice in the back of my head goes “come on, now. you’re better than that”.

dp876: As one of your readers, I've noticed a vast improvement from your first posted work to your most recent. Do you think your writing style and/or process has changed at all since you started writing fanfic? If so, how?


canisaries; Absolutely. I’ve not just made the leap from third person to first, I’ve changed a lot more. The critique I’ve received on the forums and my friends in the TPP Discord has helped a lot, and so has picking up and reviewing other people’s stories. The biggest change is probably in how I plan my stories. I’ve gotten much better and detailed at it, which has improved my stories’ pacing and direction a lot. I do still have a lot to learn, though.

dp876: What's been the main difference between writing first and third person for you? Which do you prefer and why?

canisaries: Definitely first. Back when I did third person, it was basically just first person with the pronouns changed, and after realizing that I just decided to cut out the filter and write in first. I also changed the tense from past to present, because I felt like present was more personal and would fit first person better, while present in third person just... sounds off. On a different note, present is also way easier than past when it comes to grammar.

Third person is great for stories that follow many characters and need to have an external narrator for expositional purposes. Many fantasy stories are like that, for example. If I ever end up writing a fic like that, it'll most likely be in third person, but for the types of stories I'm writing now, first just works better.

dp876: What's your strategy for planning out your writing? How do you organize your notes, and just how detailed are they? Do you ever deviate from the plans you make for your work?

canisaries: I would call them pretty detailed, but on organizing... it's a mixed bag. I can be a bit of a list nut, but my bursts of inspiration are spontaneous, so I end up with multiple structures instead of just one clear one. I have an "idea doc", and the start of it has the story's main outline:


...but right below it, I have tons of brief text fragments, ideas I've just quickly typed down and scene descriptions like these:


And yes, I always write my notes like that ;P keeps it natural and not too high-brow.

In my actual story doc, I also write down what's happening in short phrases in brackets and then substitute them with the actual prose gradually as I advance. I like doing so, as it feels like I'm checking things off my to-do list real-time and actually progressing.

As for deviation, it definitely happens, as some of my readers can maybe tell when comparing these notes I've shown to the final product. In the idea doc, I still have my old story outlines as well, and they show how Hunter, Haunted had a big change during the beginning stages of planning.

The story was actually going to end at what is currently Chapter 6 (named "Death", as a spoiler-free hint), but it was going to play out a bit differently, incorporating something that's been reserved for the very end of the current plan. I, however, changed it after coming up with a bunch of additional cool ideas for the ghost element and realizing that the story would be really simple and bare-bones if it ended there and so easily. I'm very happy that I did change it, as now the story has much more depth and substance to it as well as some scenes and imagery I really enjoyed writing.

dp876: You mentioned recently that Hunter, Haunted is coming to a close, which would complete your third chaptered fic. What's been your process to ensure you follow your projects through to the end? What projects are next in store for you?

canisaries: I take my stories to their conclusions because there are lots of scenes I still really want to write ahead, and that makes me power through the slower parts. Although, I have been trying to make it so that I simply don’t have slower parts. I try to always find some aspect of a boring scene I can make interesting so that both the reader and I can still enjoy it and not just feel like your regularly scheduled exposition/plot development hour.

For future projects: I do know what’s in store for Red after Hunter, Haunted, and exploring that is what my next fic would be about. However, I’ve been thinking a lot about rewriting Agápe, as there are things there I’d like to change and/or generally do better in it. It would also give me something to do while I flesh out that new fic idea more, as it’s still in its beginning stages of planning. I also have one or two oneshot ideas I’d like to try.

dp876: Care to give us a sneak peek into what's next in store for Red, then? ;)

canisaries: I can say that Mr. Akai is due for a date with reality. He's going to have to change his plans to cope. That's really all I can say without spoiling the end of Hunter, Haunted, though.
 
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It's May! AKA spring and winter and summer all mixed into one! This month, we're featuring @Ambyssin, one of our newest members of the Writers Workshop! A fantastic reviewer and a fantastic writer, let's gonna a peek into his writing process~

dp876: Congrats on Fic of the Month! Now, I know you've mentioned in Guiding Light's thread that you've posted elsewhere and are making edits as you go along posting here on Bulbagarden. How has that process been going for you? How did you decide what to edit? What are the biggest changes you've made to the fic so far?

Ambyssin: Well, thank you kindly. And my thanks to the mod team for offering this. ^^

As to revising, hoo boy, it's been... uh... eye opening. Going back to look at the early chapters has made me realize that there are some pretty obvious signs that this is the first chapter story I've ever written (fan fic or otherwise). My pacing was pretty slow out of the gate, which I'm sure cost me a number of potential readers. Not helping things is the fact that the first eight chapters are rather comedic in tone. See, I had started with the vision of writing this as a comedy. One that walked the fine line of being a full-on parody of PMD stories. With this mindset, the first four episodes were drafted in their entirety before being posted anywhere.

But the initial feedback I had gotten to Chapter 1 warranted a turn from a purely comedic fic into one that certainly has comedic overtones, but has a significantly dark theme bubbling under the surface. I suppose it's like the games in that regard, but the story's a lot more direct (and not bound by trying to be 100% child-friendly). I guess the best way to think of it is that I started off intending to write "Alolan Form PMD." And while that's still there, the story is most definitely now a look at the power and impact of relationships, and what can happen to those who lack positive relationships in their lives. Except it's told through cute magical creatures instead of humans.

That's made revising difficult. The first thing I had to do was adjust some of the prose, which I was flat-out told was very clinical-sounding out of the gate. I'm a medical researcher and frequently have to write reports using medical jargon. It bled over into the story. Once I fixed that, I tried to tone down on the slapstick, make certain character traits more apparent (e.g. that Tessa's depressed), and not be too stingy with holding back plot details from readers. While some folks have liked the revisions, overall this is a hit or miss story. I mean, I was already in an uphill battle from the start. From my limited experience with the fandom, it seems that forums like this tend to prefer stories focused on humans, with the Pokémon playing much the same role they have in the anime. So, when a fic is, in some regards, humanizing them, it's going to have a shakier reception. And my chapter length doesn't agree with many users here, to boot. I'd like to think that if you're willing to give this a chance, you'd be very surprised, but I wouldn't want to force anyone to read something they won't like.

dp876: I don't think I would've noticed this was your first fic if you hadn't pointed it out, honestly. Welcome to the fanfic world! What projects, if any, do you have planned for the future once Guiding Light is complete?

Ambyssin: Oh god, that's a bit far into my future. I, uh, guess you could say I went all in with this, because this is going to be a long-runner. My personal goal is to try and finish drafting the story before the end of 2018. I'm averaging about one chapter a week on the drafting front, but I'm still a fair ways off from the ending. So, if I can't finish the rough drafts by the end of the year, then I'd like to finish drafting before the Switch is released... assuming it's coming in 2019, of course. There's no way I'll have every chapter posted anywhere on the web before it, which is a bummer. But I'm hoping anyone who supports the story is willing to stay on board even when the Pokémon Switch hype train leaves the station. I suppose it helps that it's looking very likely we're not seeing a real Gen VII PMD. ^^;

Because of this, I haven't given much thought to future projects. I have one idea in mind: a trainer journey fic heavily focused on around chronic and terminal illnesses. The main character would initially be denied his trainer's license because, in getting his mandatory medical exam to earn the license, he'd learn that he has the gene for a fatal degenerative disease. So, the story would deal with themes of death and dying and tackle some of the issues involved in disability and chronic disease management. Things could change, of course. As it stands, I don't want to try planning another story while I'm writing my current one.

dp876: PMD fics generally follow the pattern of a human-turned-Pokémon losing their memories. Is there a deeper meaning as to why Shane's retained a lot of memories about the human world?

Ambyssin: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Initially, I had outlined it to A) mock self-insert characters and B) poke fun at the PMD games' love of giving its player characters amnesia. But when I got around to drafting the opening, I abandoned that idea. Now, it's significant for a different reason. Central to Guiding Light's story is the alchemical tria prima of mind (mercury), body (salt), and spirit (sulfur). And the intro makes that pretty clear. The fact that Shane's retained every memory but his final day as a human suggests there's foul play involved in his arrival.

At the same time, a big part of his character is this combination of "fish out of water in more ways than one" and "wrong genre savvy." Sure, he knows all about Pokémon from playing the games. However, he leaves the human world in roughly December of 2015, so he has no idea about anything in Generation VII.

dp876: Shane likes to complain he's not, say, a Riolu, and instead, he ended up as an Alolan Vulpix. Was there a reason you chose him to become an Alolan Vulpix in particular?

Ambyssin: Aha ha, it's a bit of a funny story! Shane was originally going to be a Popplio because I was super committed to having Gen VII at the forefront of the story. However, I thought it would be better for his characterization to pick an Alolan form. That way he'd literally be the embodiment of his thoughts: "This is familiar, but at the same time it isn't." Then it really became a matter of picking which Alolan Form to use. I say that like I really gave it more than a second of thought. But, in reality, Vulpix and Ninetales are by far my favorite Alolan forms. And Vulpix/Riolu was my first ever team combo when I first played PMD with Explorers of Sky. I have no shame in admitting I'm an extremely biased individual and most of the Pokémon with recurring roles are ones I like. Above all, I wanted to have fun writing this. And that would've been hard if I had picked 'mons I can't stand to star in this.

dp876: A ton of worldbuilding tidbits are hinted at throughout the chapters released so far. What can we anticipate in the future about the Tapus affecting the Horizon region, Tessa's mother's mission to protect a Pokémon from danger, or anything else you might want to share?

Ambyssin: Actually, the chapters that have been posted here have enough details scattered between them to raise an enormous number of red flags... especially with Tessa's mom. Because her first proper appearance in the story contains a huge contradiction to both the story's opening and the opening scene of Episode 4. And, if you check Chapter 10 out, you might just figure a very shocking secret out about Lucario. ;)

In general, a huge part of the overarching plot is dedicated to two themes. The first is the nature of relationships. Both of the fic's primary antagonists are motivated by their past relationships. And, in stark contrast to the games, they bring some very personal stakes to the table for Shane and Tessa. The other theme is challenging the idea that, after four near-apocalyptic events, the PMD world can just go back to being a happy, peaceful place full of sunshine and rainbows. The Legendary Pokémon of the PMD world are absurdly bad at their jobs. If they didn't stand by and let the world get brought to the brink of ruin, then they were the ones causing it... either by choice (Darkrai) or by force (Dialga, Kyurem, Yveltal). Our heroes will especially have to contend with emotional scars that the Bittercold and Dark Matter left behind. In fact, two prominent GtI/PSMD allies have already popped up in the story... as recurring antagonists.

dp876: The relationship between Shane and Tessa has been strained thus far. It's a miracle they've made it back to actual missions with their haphazard teamwork and disdain for each other's idiosyncrasies. What inspired their character dynamics?

Ambyssin: The PMD games themselves. In approaching their relationship, I wanted to make something that stood in direct opposition to the games' idea of, "Meet a stranger by a body of water? They're clearly my BFF!" I'm sure other PMD fics have played around with this, too. But the ones I read either made the disagreements relatively minor or opted to start with an existing team that already had a dynamic. In both cases, it tended to be external circumstances that caused drama (or shipping). In Tessa's case, I wanted to challenge as many of the clichés associated with Riolu and Lucario as I possibly could. So, from the start, I knew I was going to write her as having depression. Her anxiety and low self-confidence are part of what enables Shane to browbeat her into joining the guild with him.

That's also where Shane's jerkass attitude comes in. Not to spoil too much, but this is not Shane's first time dealing with someone who's depressed like Tessa. And his handling of that previous situation plays a key roll in their relationship. As it happens, initial reaction to Shane strongly approved of his jerkass tendencies, even if it made him hard to root for. So, I actually accentuated those characteristics as I drafted and revised. I will concede he can come off as unlikable. But trust me, he will change... after things get a lot worse. But sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can make improvements. I speak from experience in that regard.

dp876: What's your process when it comes to writing the comedy in Guiding Light?

Ambyssin: I have a process? That's news to me! Aha ha... ha... ha... why are you looking at me like that?

In all seriousness, the comedy in the story is really a case of just throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks. There's no real process that I use to generate any of the humor. When I sit down and draft, I just see where the prose takes me. Of course, it helps making a relatively self-aware character like Shane. There's plenty of referential humor in this story, as well as backseat/grumpy gamer moments. And there are a few quirks that I plan on keeping through the story. Shane saying something incredibly snarky about a Gen VII Pokémon's design is something that never gets old for me. As is a quirk I established early on: Vulpix instincts bubbling up in him. When you have a Pokémon that's got a pristine white coat and has been canonically shown to be rather fussy about its appearance, you're pretty much asking to mess it up. And as the story goes on, Shane will continue to react and get frustrated. Which will also unsettle him, since he didn't care much about his appearance as a human.

Beyond Shane, though, I think a lot of the humor is just derived from the character interactions. I am not a social Beautifly. Most of the relationships I have contain plenty of snark, sarcasm, and friendly teasing. So, there's a fair amount of that showing up in this story. I also unashamedly like puns and wordplay, even when they're really lame. I may have snuck some of that stuff into the story to induce a few groans here and there. That's especially the case with most of the Chapter and Episode titles, as I use the Pokémon anime's dub as inspiration.

I suppose one thing we haven't seen on BMGf yet is the crude humor. That starts to come up later in the story. And that's because, originally, I was trying to write this is as a PG/K10+ story. But around the time of Episode 6, I pretty much gave up on that. That also seems to be where other folks felt the quality of the story really started to pick up. So, I think it was a good decision.

dp876: What's been your favorite part to write about in Guiding Light? The dialogue? Characters? Battles? Something else?

Ambyssin: Easily dialogue. I just love writing it. Especially some of the story's quieter scenes where the characters hash it out. And, believe me, there are plenty of those in the pipeline. I suppose that enjoyment stems from the games I played a lot growing up. Aside from Pokémon, which has a huge amount of dialogue, I'm a big Ace Attorney fan. The character-driven humor there has always been incredible for me. But I also spent a lot of time with more cartoony game like Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet & Clank. All of them have a considerable amount of dialogue, a lot of which is incredibly hilarious for me, even today.

So, when I started writing, I just naturally gravitated toward writing dialogue. I'd like to think that shows in the fic's quality, because a lot of criticisms were levied with my narration. But the dialogue has gotten a lot of praise for sounding real and genuine... aside from some of the characters with weird dialogue quirks, of course. I'm definitely channeling RPGs and visual novels in opting to do that. For example, Magearna has a tendency to combine words, or distort ones so that they look like they're completely made up. I actually based that off of Stuffwell, a talking suitcase who serves as the exposition fairy in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. Braviary has a southern accent just like Nuzleaf from Super Mystery Dungeon. And that's very much intentional.

dp876: Any advice you'd give to other new fanfic writers such as yourself?

Ambyssin: I'd like to preface this by saying that, in all likelihood, I'm much older than your average starting fanfic writer. So, if anything sounds silly, my bad. *nervous laugh*

I think the first piece of advice I have is pretty simple: get involved in the community before going to post your first story. And stay involved after you start posting it. A good way is through reviewing other people's stories, but I suppose there's other stuff you could do. For example, participating in Written Word topics here. I say this as someone with a lot of anxiety. I think it was helpful to start as a reviewer for a number of reasons. Reading other fanfics (and some of their reviews) could help out your own writing, by showing things that work (or don't work). Reviewing brightens an author's day... assuming it's not just flaming/trashing someone, of course. And they may reciprocate that kindness. It also gets your foot in the door. I know in my case, seeing author's responses eased my nerves about posting an actual story. And it felt good to make them happy. ^^

As far as writing advice? Get the basics down pat. If a story is riddled with improper spelling and grammar, it's going to turn people off right away. I was fortunate enough to have someone willing to tell me that I messed up basic dialogue attributions when I posted my first chapter, so that I could fix that mistake going forward. But other times, folks might not be that patient or willing. The only other thing I can offer is to try and be consistent with your updates early on. If you have longer chapters (like I do), definitely don't post more than one a week. If your chapters are short, you might be able to get away with it. But you still risk burning your audience out.
 
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That was a great read! I was already intending to read Guiding Light but now I'm intent on it. Thank you Ambyssin for your expansive interview answers and for your advice towards the end, which I will do my best to heed.
 
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You're welcome Ambyssin, and we're glad to have you around.

Stay tuned for the next month's interview coming very soon
 
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Early in the month of June, we're featuring a familiar face to the Workshop, @kintsugi, with another one of her typically unusual stories, spectra

BP: What were the major challenges and considerations when it came to writing a story about pokémon in the real world?

k: There are a ton of considerations! I probably didn’t even make enough of them, so don’t treat this as comprehensive. The shorthand breakdown, since my notes for worldbuilding are handwritten and on the other side of the world, but, to the best of my ability, they would be summarized in rough stream-of-conscious kind of like this:

0. premise: a wormhole opens up and releases a bunch of pokemon over a city in our world. chaos ensues This isn’t the final premise of the story, but I wanted to give an idea of where I started. So there are a lot of questions here, such as “why is there a wormhole?”/“what happens to the pokemon that can’t fly?”, but those were more plotty. When I wanted to write about the worldbuilding, I focused on the background details.

1. people need to go somewhere
I set up the idea of safe zones pretty early. Communities of survivors in respective cities would congregate. (Subbullet: there would be the very grim reality that you’d probably never see your out-of-state friends/relatives again and would never know if they were alive; reunions/farewells between characters who haven’t seen each other in a while would have especially heavy weight/joy to them.) This is America, and everyone has guns, pressing argument to have this set somewhere that isn’t California is dismissed because I wanted coasts so armed groups of survivors eventually being able to hole up in secure areas is posed. This develops into military-run safe areas with martial law/defense in place (can’t have some idiot college kids smoking near the fence and drawing the nearby flock of skarmory), which naturally lends itself to some sort of anarchy movement. Team Skull parallels were pretty promising here with the idea of a bunch of runaways/sheltering, which in turn tied back to a sense of people sticking together, in a sort of reverse way.

2. someone is always going to try to figure out what’s going on
The science group came next. People are curious, fatally so. So when the sky starts filling with monsters, I like to think that science will still trudge on. Classification, research, attempts at replication—these would still be happening, and around the world. The idea of a main character with a silvally companion came next (I wanted the Memories to be a key part of things even early on), and that fit in well with the idea that science would try to find a counter-solution to these things barring the incredibly easy “tank missile everything” that probably should’ve been tried first, and that led to Wren’s occupation of needing to smuggle things between survivor communities. And also key: some of these scientific advancements failed. And badly. And with horrible effects. This wasn’t originally in the old worldbuilding, but I think it lent a sense of realism to what I was trying to establish. I tweaked some of the smaller dynamics between these groups, gave the science squad and the rebel squad some more realistic functionality, and basically kicked them around until they worked.

[There was a subbullet here where I decided to use Japanese names. One, to give the feeling that the entire world was doing research, not just California; and two, because some of the English names/puns would be ridiculously senseless in a “these creatures are murdering us” scenario. This led to delicious foreshadowing.]

Then I remembered people had to go outside.

3. the apocalypse is green
This was a smaller, more aesthetic consideration, but I think it was important. There’s the idea that once the world ends it’s all rusty tin can rations and people living in dark caves and the only real color is the blood of all the slain, but I wanted unchecked forests and overgrown buildings as well—a more colorful apocalypse, if you will. These were harder to work into the story because characters spend a lot of time thinking about themselves instead of the world around them, but I tried to keep it in the background when I could. I started mapping out which species of pokemon would do best in Alola-California, what the biggest threat on a West coast redwood forest might be, what the terrain would look like for people backpacking on foot. Having a multitype Silvally here put a lot of shortcuts in place for the squad, and I decided to use that as an explanation for why Wren is everyone’s go to—no one else can really do it.

4. Diseases? Medical technology? Subplot where Violet gets ill? [arrow drawn to] secondary subplot where all of the antagonists anticlimactically die of the common cold???

This actually went on for quite a while. I promptly didn’t fit most of it into the story because I’m clever like that and can’t juggle. It’s… not really a story about the apocalyptic world at the end of the day.

BP: The spectrum motif is heavily weaved into the structure of the story. Why was it chosen, and what was the inspiration for it?

k: Yaaaas. I love having disgustingly symbolic titles and this one had a lot of quirks to it, so I’m more than happy to brag. There’s a lot of meanings here, some of which are more obvious/applicable than others. This is a bit of a doozy; sorry for the wall of text but I quite liked this title <3

0. spectrum of a matrix
Don’t laugh. I initially got the idea for something in this vicinity of title from my finite element class. I liked the word “spectrum” because it’s cool to say and because it refers to the set of eigenvalues of a matrix, which are basically how you can characterize what that matrix means. I evolved the idea over time to take on a bunch of other meanings, but this is kind of the start.

1. that band of visible light that you typically see on Pink Floyd albums.
This one is the first and primary reason that I picked the title to be what it is; I won’t pretend to be a supergenius and claim that some of the secondary connotations of spectrum were all according to keikaku or anything. The color motif was pretty ingrained into the story from the onset—Dodger has his colors/memories, Maia has her core, Violet’s eyes mark her as a foreigner—but the chapter-color-narrators was a late addition (it was instead all from Wren’s POV). Some parts of the story, such as literally everything Maia/Violet do, just don’t fit Wren’s narration and led to characters sitting around a campfire and telling their backstories, which I couldn’t pull off with the pacing of the story. So I started writing the Yellow chapter as an experiment, and tried to make it everything that Wren wasn’t—Dodger is instead openly defined by his Memories (to the point that he writes his past experience in present), and they change his color, which sparked the color idea.

From there, I solidified the color motif a lot more. Spectra had seven letters and there's seven colors in ROYGBIV illuminati confirmed, so I poked down that route a bit. Color is one of the things that I love about visual art and one of the things I convey the least in my own writing, so it was a nice challenge. I like the idea of what color represents—this weird, visceral thing that makes up a lot of how we see the world, conveys similar messages to us on a basic level for reasons we all understand but can’t explain (danger! serenity contrast), and is a primary method of expression. The idea of a rainbow after rain came next, and this was natural to tie to the idea of a thunderstorm/grey clouds as a symbol for disaster. At its core, this is a story about what makes these characters recognizable as themselves, and color seemed like a perfect motif for that.

2. dat one letter difference from the word “spectre”
There’s a reason people use the phrase “haunted by the past”. I wanted to convey the uncontrollable, almost supernatural qualities that loss can have on a person. The idea of the past defining you is heavily prevalent as well: Dodger quite literally via his Memories, Maia’s shell, Violet’s “shell”, and everything about Wren. Spectres are one of the less-friendly ways to describe ghosts; there’s lots of connotations of danger and not-leaving-you-alone and influence that I thought worked really well in a story focused on loss/whose inciting incident was a death.

3. spectra -> spectrum, being the idea that things aren’t black and white, but a gradient
This is kind of a subbullet of (1), but I’m listing it here because this is more true to the order in which I thought of meanings. There’s a lot of grey areas in the story, some of which get more fully fleshed out than others. Morality is one of the bigger ones: Gladion/co are kind of bioterrorists but they do good things for children; Turner is a manipulative smuggler who genuinely cares for his employees; Wren and Dodger have a ton of blood on their hands, both human and pokemon; Violet is a teenage girl who might accidentally doom an entire planet. Honestly, I don’t deal with the implications of any of these in detail, and I didn’t fully want to—a lot of stories handle the grey morals better than I could’ve and I had limited space, so I kind of laid these out and let the readers decide where the characters should stand. The most important gradient, and the one I focused on, was the idea of recovering. You don’t magically go from a stage of not-over-it to over-it. The world doesn’t get better overnight. It’s a long, difficult process, and sometimes you go backward and sometimes you go forward, and most of the time you never actually make it across the spectrum but end up stalled at some vague point in between.

4. mass spectrometry
yes i really did go there for fanfic

At the risk of messing up some basic chemistry magnets and getting ridiculed for it for years, the simple version here is that you shoot energy at things and see their mass-to-charge ratio, which you can then use to identify the molecular composition of a sample. In other words, you vaporize stuff through trauma and then you get to see who they really are.

5. misc
There's a few other fun ones: rainbows and the LGBT community; the word spectrum coming from the Latin specere (to look) (Mira); electromagnetic spectrum being used to track astral objects/things from different worlds; the psychological definition of spectrum, which attributes many conditions/traits/symptoms back to a singular issue. I consider these are fun coincidences more than intentional meanings, but it does make the title more fitting for me.

There you have it; the most tl;dr explanation of a single word.

BP: You mentioned that you're a believer in death of the author. How does that relate to spectra?

k: Death of the author is a concept that I originally tried to hold to in fanfic—readers can read my stuff however they want, and my ideas shouldn’t get in the way of it. This idea actually falls to pieces quite readily in a community like the Writer’s Workshop because the main appeal is our ability to talk to each other (which I absolutely love), so I abandon it pretty readily. Heck, here I am talking about why I consider death of the author in my story, which should be listed as a dictionary definition of “completely missing the point”. Oops.

Two reasons that I wanted to hold to this a bit more strongly for this story, though. The first is a bit more based in my own tastes: when I read a story here that I think is based in someone’s (potentially painful) personal experiences, I review with gloves on. I try not to bash people’s works if they’re clearly based on real life because the line between the fiction and real life can be incredibly blurry, and it’s too easy to stomp all over that boundary. I wanted to make it clear that, for this story, I’m pretty removed from the boundary, and that readers can view/critique it however they want.

And secondly, my gut instinct when I read reviews and people have questions is “SHHHH, THIS [character flaw/plot hole/complete failure of internal logic of the universe] WILL BE EXPLAINED LATER. The entirety of some rise by sin is based on a massive logical leap that I’m not going to explain for another ninety chapters and that I’m silently really glad that no one has explicitly asked about. But spectra is the whole shebang. If Violet’s character arc doesn’t make sense, if Gladion’s backstory is confusing, if anything—that’s it. That’s the whole story. There are seven colors in the visual spectrum and seven chapters here; the story isn’t going to say any more about the topic, so it feels weird for me as an author to try to add more explanation after the end.

BP: Is this a story about an apocalypse, or a story about grief that just happens to be set during an apocalypse?

To cop out of a straight answer, it’s a bit of both, although it’s more of the first than the second. The focus of the story isn’t on the functionality of a world attacked by pokemon, or an exploration of the human settlements that came after, or even a recounting of the main characters trekking through the wild to save the world. At its core, you’re right, and it’s a story about all of characters losing something and coming to terms with that loss.

But the backdrop of the apocalypse, while not well explored, was pretty critical and wasn’t just me slapping things in an end-of-days scenarios (which, I admit, I have definitely done before). This is a story about permanent loss. Things have changed in a major way somehow, and there is no returning to the way they used to be. I wanted the setting to reflect this, and the best way I knew how was to have a permanent, ongoing disaster in the background. And, yeah, on a smaller scale, sometimes grief makes you feel like your world’s ended, even if the rest of the world hasn’t.

BP: What have you learned from the process of writing spectra, and do you have any advice that you could share to other writers?

k: I’ve already given the obligatory "read everything, always, by everyone; don't be afraid to give and receive criticism" bit, but that stands out to me as one of the most critical bits of advice I can try to give. It even shows here—multiple narrators was a really ambitious change from my typical, heavily fixed narration method, and I only really got the guts to try with heavy inspiration from other authors, especially here, such as dp876 and Athena. But, as mentioned before, I’ve done that song and dance already, so let’s talk motivation.

Gonna steal my own author’s not real quick
two years ago, I stopped caring what I wrote about and started writing what I cared about.
There’s this giant year-long gap between when I published the Green chapter and when I finished the rest of the story. It’s really easy to lose motivation and abandon things, and I’ve struggled with that a lot. That I’ve been here for around five (?) years and only now finished a story should be evidence enough. And this wasn’t a particularly easy story to tell. From a technical standpoint, it’s hard to juggle the plot alongside everything else I tried to cram in such a confined space; from an emotional standpoint, it’s a lot of heavy material to slog through. The seed of the story (a girl skipping rocks out of frustration as an outlet for loss; someone playing Fetch to bring them/her back; a silvally gaining a new Memory) was always there + I started off with a solid idea of what I wanted in mind, lost interest/faith in its efficacy about halfway through, and really struggled to pick the story back up for a while. The defining factor was that I’d a) already written the ending and b) believed that this was a story that I actually wanted to tell, which was pretty much the only reason I finished.

Plots evolve, things change, your worldview and skills mature over time. Stories are hard to start and even harder to finish. I’d say something like “don’t give up”, but that’s wildly hypocritical given my approach to writing, so I won’t even pretend. Instead, I’ll stick to the less optimistic stuff that ended up working out for me: know and remember what you’re writing your story for. Is to have your character one day become badass enough to ride a Lugia into battle? To have that plot twist revealed in chapter 115? To write a satisfying arc between three characters where each of them can grow and learn from one another without having buildings explode around them? There’s no right answer, and you don’t have to be able to say it in words (these are all BS examples, by the way), but one some level, you still need to be able to answer that core question: why am I writing this? And the rest becomes a lot easier.

BP: Lastly, for people who haven't started reading spectra yet, how would you introduce them to it?

k: Imagine that new God of War game except instead of a really cool god of war you’ve got a middle-aged woman with a pistol and a giant puppy, and instead of that cute talkative kid you’ve got an edgy teenager, and instead of a rich world filled with interesting monsters you’ve got… actually, never mind.

This is a story about the world ending, and everything that happens when it doesn’t.
 
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Hi, WW! This month, we're bringing you an interview from the author of Walking With Gods, After the Ashes: Sasha's Story, and After the Ashes: Ailette's Story, @Twilight-Kun! These fics have a fair amount of overlap and work to actively defy some of the cliches in the fandom, so let's see hear about how that all works from the author, shall we?

dp876: How do you deal with power creep when dealing with god characters?

Twilight-Kun: I tend to focus on much smaller events, such as relationships between two unlikely partners rather than ever-increasing threats against whomever the story is following. Although I have exceptionally tentative plans to explore that in Ailette's Story, which is also the first story that is going for a linear, chronological narrative instead of leaping all over the place.

dp876: Many times, we are often told not to give a character a Legendary Pokemon in a fic. How did you balance Arceus' power without making your human character overpowered?

Twilight-Kun: A tricky question with no good answer, it feels like.

For the most part, Arceus doesn't care about conflicts unless they present a danger to itself, its children, or the planet as a whole. Since its children are usually more than capable of handling whatever idiot decides poking them with a stick is a good idea, that frees up Arceus' attention to other things, whether it's spending time with its lover, keeping tabs on the timestream and fixing what damage it can, or withdrawing its conscious from the vessel it's made to focus it elsewhere in the omniverse. Keeping Ezra from feeling overpowered, however... Well, as someone elsewhere noted, he's similar to Tobias from Sinnoh, except he's not out grinding main characters into the dirt and ruining the fandom's enjoyment of a League because of a deus-ex machina or foregone conclusion that a main character isn't allowed to win a league. Hence why lately Ezra has taken to using regular pokémon instead of legendaries in his battles. There may be a scene or three about that at some point, actually.

dp876: Is it harder working with Legendary characters? Why or why not?

For the most part, it's simple enough to show them off hanging around and interacting with one another in the Hall of Origin, whether it's in Sasha's Story or Walking with Gods. Then there's their personalities, which for the most part are quite simple, so you take a little bit from the games' lore, the anime's lore, and/or the many different manga out there, and throw most of that out the window so you can turn the revered Kalosian Bird of Death into a lovestruck teenager mooning over their attractive counterpart, or what have you.

dp876: Are Sasha's story and Ailette's story connected? If so, how? If not, why not?

Twilight-Kun: I've been meaning to showcase how they're connected for a while, but kept getting distracted by new ideas. The short version is that in one universe, Sasha and Ailette knew one another, whereas in another, they didn't, and at some point, their timelines crossed over and things happened. Some day, I will hopefully get around to showing that.

dp876: Could you tell us more about the settings of your stories, like the Hall of Origins? How are the settings different across your stories? How are they the same?

Twilight-Kun: Here's where the lack of description comes to bite me... For the most part, places like the Hall of Origin can be whatever it needs to be to suit the whims of those in it. It's a place outside of time and space where pokémon can congregate in safety and usually requires being in the good graces of someone like Mew, Celebi, Arceus, or anyone directly under it, such as the Lake and Creation Dragon trio. Beings such as the various missingno. can also pop in if a "window" in the space-time continuum opens up, but it's a rare phenomena.

It's pretty much the same in all of my works it's mentioned, although the one in Sasha'sStory tends to be much more crowded at any given point due to everyone pitching in to help fix the time stream.

Other notable locations would probably be Mewtwo and Sasha's apartment, which is a three-room studio setup, and the many sprawling forests of every region that the likes of Ailette and Ezra frequently travel through in their stories, although the former is taking it a lot slower than the latter due to events plaguing her.

dp876: Why do you choose the ships you do?

Twilight-Kun: There's probably a couple hundred thousand fics out there starring main characters, or popular pokémon, so it's more fun to go for the unexpected/obscure/unlikely ships since there's less expectations going into it. Then you have to take some time to flesh out how the ship would even begin to work, which leads to exploring your characters more and coming up with more ideas for them.

dp876: Which is your favorite character to write, and your favorite ship? Why?

Twilight-Kun: It's a toss-up between Shin "Sara" Lee and Ezra, the first of which is excellent practice for forcing myself to be more descriptive with everything, which is a common complaint about my writing, and the latter of whom lets me explore dumb fluffy romantic dialogue that's nigh-incomprehensible because it's probably not something you'd get away with saying to a human romantic partner.

Favorite ship would probably be Sasha/Mewtwo or Arceus/Ezra because of the inhuman (meaning not human, rather than cruelty in this case) elements to them, which allows for something different than the usual human x human options.

dp876: What challenges does writing chapters out of chronological order present?

Twilight-Kun: The largest challenge is making a coherent story out of it. Showing what happens weeks or months later also has the potential to rob any earlier scenes of tension since you know the characters make it through all right. It's part of the reason I don't have dates or locations beyond vague mentions here and there, which suits me just fine, since descriptions tend to be my weak point when it comes to writing. Sure, that means my readership is low, but I don't mind, as I'm doing this mostly for fun.

dp876: Do you have any other projects you're working on? How do you juggle multiple at once?

Twilight-Kun: I do have other ideas for stories set in the world I've inadvertently made, but sometimes I like seeing if they'll fit with pre-existing works first. If not, I stockpile them and once I have enough material, I'll post a new story. Either that or turn it into an omake chapter to avoid having to juggle multiple threads and websites, which is probably the most tedious thing about writing, especially if they have different ways of implementing italics, and bold text.
 
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This month, we're featuring a story belonging to a unique sort of genre: pokémorph fics! A long-time member just recently returning and livening up the place with in depth and insightful conversations, here's unrepentantAuthor and their fic, Different Eyes! :~)

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dp876: Different Eyes is a Pokémorph fic. What inspired the Pokémorph aspect? What do you think the essentials are for writing a good Pokémorph fic?

uA: I have complicated feelings about the word 'inspired', but the most direct influence was finding other pokémorph fiction on FFN and learning about Pokémorph MUSH (albeit never actually participating) way back in 2005/06. After that, I wanted to write my own, and I did write a 100k word low-quality fic, and after that I wanted to write my own that was actually good!

However, there's always a deeper root to find. I found pokémorphs because I was interested in stories like that of Mewtwo in the first movie. Artificial life, nonhuman sapience, genetic engineering, powerful demihuman beings with no place in the world. But before that, I was already interested in those things and just hadn't seen them in one place before. I read about intelligent animals as a little kid, and I was interested in science, and I felt isolated and disconnected. You can trace Different Eyes way way back, depending on how many degrees removed something can be and still be 'inspiration'.

As for good morph fic — you let me know when you find some. I'm not being deliberately disparaging! It's just that the only complete, Standard English-conforming, unambiguous morph fic I've ever seen was a deconstruction of the 'genre' that explicitly rejected the idea that morphs are more than the sum of their parts. Lots of people are drawn to pokémon-human hybrids, but apparently almost nobody has the desire and ability to write an entire story to a decent standard.

I think the hypothetical 'good morph fic' ought to have all the qualities of good fic in general. That might seem obvious, but if someone wrote a morph fic with the care and passion and discipline I'd hope for from any good writer, they'd probably seek out or stumble across all the genre-specific elements they need in any case. As for what those are, well, there's some subjectivity there to be sure.

I'll tell you what I want out of morph fic.

The focus should be on the "pokémon-human hybrid" novum, or speculative premise. What is it like to be one? How do other people treat them? Does their existence confer rights, privileges or responsibilities on them or their creators? What does it mean to be a morph, to create one, for one to exist? Let alone many. I'm not interested in morphs happening to exist in an innocuous fashion, or as an excuse for being superheroes, or for the sake of some kind of transformation and/or angst kink. Think it through! I want to see morph fic where you couldn't possibly replace the morph characters with anything else and still have it make sense. Oh, and having Team Rocket create morphs out of teenage trainers only to abuse them for no good reason is played-out. So is the word 'freak'. Come on! This genre could use some nuance, friends.

dp876: Why did you choose the Purrloin species for the protagonist? Can you give us a sneak peak into other Pokémorph characters that will be showing up in the story?

uA: Originally, Salem was a meowth, way back in the 2012 edition. I chose meowth because I'm familiar with and fond of cats, and because it was a sort of shout out to Team Rocket's Meowth and the character Errol from a fic I once read called Ultimatum. I ended up having some reservations about how close 'homage' was to 'copy'. When the time came to reimagine my own fic, I decided to go with something less derivative, but Salem was permanently a cat by this point. Purrloin is an underused feline pokémon with an evolved form I think is pretty cool, and the line's thieving and deceitful tendencies work well with some of my plans for her.

Some of my 2012 readers may remember an emerging cast of characters in the old edition. They may not be quite the same, but several of them are sure to return! If you don't mind knowing things ahead of time, then...

dp876: Different Eyes in its current form is a rewrite. What did you intend to change in your rewrite? Have you deviated from your plans or intend to make further changes based off of feedback?

uA: The original reason for rewriting was that after a few years of absence, I felt that I'd become too distant from the existing material, and that I could certainly do much better than I did the first time round. After starting from scratch, I found myself having different priorities and intentions in some respects. Doing better isn't just about writing better sentences, it's about writing a better story.

For example, 2012!DE has something of a focus on characters who were just so sad, you guys! Angst was the order of the day, and everyone was arbitrarily dysfunctional and ridden with remorse. In 2018!DE, there's still plenty for characters to feel badly about, but I have a better handle on how people actually work, so there's less of an 'uncomfortable and hostile adolescent' vibe to everything, and there's a more healthy mix of character motivations and attitudes. Salem doesn't have most-morphing amnesia this time, because I didn't procrastinate coming up with her backstory! (You know, like a moron.)

Perihelion themselves have changed from being a sinister corporate entity hungry for power, to being more of a green technology research organisation with more specific objectives. I've abandoned silly tropes like teams of morphs grouped by home region competing against eachother or morphs sassing eachother as if they'd attended high school, and focused on more relevant stuff that should have been there from the beginning, like Salem being deathly afraid that she won't be able to learn how to speak or use her hands properly, and morphs in general being cognitively advanced for the first time and that being weird for them, instead of always having been pretty smart and even literate as pokémon.

In short, I hope it's a generally more mature and more well-rounded story.

dp876: How long have you been working on Different Eyes? What advice would you give to fellow authors about seeing a writing project through in the long-term?

uA: 12 years if you count my old garbage fic, 6 years if you count only the previous version, about a year if you count only this version. The fact is, I think about my projects an awful lot when I'm not writing them, but sometimes other things take me away from my writing for a long time, so it's difficult to provide a meaningful explanation of how long it takes, especially as I've not yet got past chapter five!

I have, however, written the most part of a novel manuscript, and that took proper years of actual work, even if most of the writing was done in NaNoWriMo-incentivised bursts. That's the experience I'm drawing on when I give advice about long-running projects.

If you want to see a project through, don't aim too high. Have small, achievable goals. This chapter, then the next. Write them, complete them, and you'll find you progress faster this way. Don't take on a ton of other projects as well, either, you can only split your attention so many ways and still make meaningful progress. Write regularly — nothing's more useful to you than a daily habit, if you can keep it up.

Don't pressure yourself, be kind to yourself. Set aside specific times, like your bus trip or right before bed, and always-but-always write at those times. I'm still trying to achieve this one... Love your writing, if you can. Be prepared for it to evolve in ways you weren't anticipating, and to let go of your original plans when they no longer suit.

Deadlines can be a pretty useful thing so long as they're reasonable and achievable. If you ever fall short, don't fret about it, or give up, or consider your work somehow marred. Just pick it back up again the next chance you get. If you can't update, discuss it. If you can't discuss it, write some plans. Engage, engage, engage.

Always take your criticism well, but never let it discourage you. Remember, always remember, that an imperfect but complete story is worth far more than a perfect story that never makes it out of your head to the recorded word.

Good luck.

dp876: You have Salem signing a lot to communicate with humans, and a human's ability to be able to communicate with Pokémon also seems limited and varies from person to person. Can you explain more about the language aspect of Different Eyes?

uA: Communication is a major theme of the franchise, and it's all the more important in Different Eyes. Communication between humans and pokémon, between humans and part-human morphs, between different pokémon, and even intraspecies communication between imperfect people struggling to understand one another.

Lots of fics simplify the obvious language barrier with translators, telepathy, letting all pokémon speak English, trainers that understand "pokéspeech" or whatever other quick fix. Not only do these facilitators of communication radically change the dynamic between humans and pokémon, removing the challenges they should be facing, but they also generally imply that pokémon communicate essentially in just another language. I prefer to interpret the majority of them as especially smart and cognisant animals, which means true translation is impossible, only interpretation of motive and intent.

In Different Eyes, the easiest communication ever gets between humans and pokémon is with humanlike or otherwise highly sapient pokémon, and they nevertheless have their own dialects, cultural expectations, and nonhuman perspectives. You can get an absol or a gallade to speak English words, but you'll struggle to understand eachother all the same. Pokémon like Team Rocket's Meowth are a fantasy that doesn't exist here. Pokémorphs alone have the potential to be on the same communicative level as humans, and each and every one of them has to figure that out from scratch. Wish them luck, they sorely need it.

Every morph character in this fic is related to animals. Very few of them have morph relatives. How each of them processes the questions that come with that reality is a key part of what I'm engaging with in writing this. Later in the story, you're going to read about a morph who used to be one of those humanlike species, and contends that they were just as sapient then as they are now. Are they right? If they are, then should humanity reexamine how they treat certain species of pokémon? I want Different Eyes to be a story about issues like these. Issues unique to the pokémorph concept.

So, how does all that help to explain pokésign?

It started with a .gif.



I've always struggled with the difficulty of writing pokémon characters like Salem pre-morphing communicate purely through vocalisation and body language. It's possible, but it's a pain in the ass to do it well for long. Some time ago, I saw a .gif of a cat signing "food" to their deaf owner. I realised I had another option besides that and making Salem articulate, Meowth-style. If pokémon are so smart, why not have standard simple signs they can use for important concepts? The more cognitively sophisticated they are, the more fluent they can become. It's unique, it's plausible, and it bridges the gulf a little bit without going too far.

Essentially, pokésign is a way for me to have variable degrees of communication according to species, to keep some pokémon and humans unable to understand eachother if they haven't learnt to sign, and to give pokémon a way to communicate that doesn't involve speech or literacy or "what's that, Lassie? Timmy fell down the well?" nonsense.

Please excuse the lecture! As you can tell, I care about this very much!

dp876: You clearly do! What keeps you so invested in Different Eyes while you have a novel, among other things, to take your attention away from it?

uA: I'd be deceiving myself if I said it wasn't partly to do with the feedback I get. It's very motivating to receive comments and reviews! However, I guess I've just spent so much of my life waiting to write the entirety of this story that I can't bear to stop now. I can't turn my back on the content to come.

dp876: Now that pokémorphs have begun to appear in the fic, it's sure to be somewhat different than we're used to, going forward.Can you tell us a little about what's to come?

uA: Sure.

You're going to see morphs creating or discovering their identities as hybrids, forming relationships and factions without so much as a shared culture to guide them, physical challenges to their safety, emotional challenges to their wellbeing, and an ongoing search by a certain purrloin-morph for answers — why were the morphs created? And how much control can they truly have?

I am genuinely looking forward to writing and posting everything I have planned, and I hope not to let my readers down!

dp876: Thanks so much! Anything else you'd like to tell us today?

uA: Thanks for having me, it's been a pleasure and an honour. Anybody reading this, feel free to hit me up here, in PMs, or in the worldbuilding thread in my signature below with any questions or comments you might have. I'm always ready to listen!
 
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