Hello Workshop Writers,
In an effort to help some of our best fics gain more exposure and attract more readers, we are going to re-introduce the "Fic of the Month" event.
Each month we will highlight a particularly well-written or underrated fic that we feel deserves the special recognition. This will be marked with an exclusive in-depth interview with the author about their story, their characters and their writing process so we can see how their work was created.
Update: By popular demand, here is a handy index to every FOTM--just click the spoiler tag, and then click the story name you want to see:
Our October Fic of the Month is "The Surprising Adventures of Glaceon in Unova" by apenpaap.
For those who have not read the fic yet, "The Surprising Adventures of Glaceon in Unova" is a charming tale that masterfully blends two separate story lines simultaneously. The first is a flashback plot about a young Eevee named Boreas, who loses his family one dark day when predatory Pokémon attack them. Boreas is nearly killed in the attack as well, but is saved by the timely arrival of a trainer named Black and his smug, but witty and friendly Snivy named Octa.
Originally, Black wants to take Boreas to the nearest Pokémon Center so someone can adopt the cub, but Boreas ends up becoming friends with both of him and Octa and decides to stay with Black, who is on a quest to become the Champion.
But while Boreas learns to fight and discovers the value of a quick wit in a battle, a group named Team Plasma begins their plans to “liberate” all Pokémon from humans. While Plasma's grunts are weak and only a threat in large numbers, they are led by the Seven Sages, seven terrifyingly powerful Pokémon masters who are not afraid to kill anyone, human or Pokémon, who interferes with their plans.
The second storyline stars an older Boreas, now evolved to a Glaceon, who meets a Vaporeon named Aqua one day while pursuing Team Plasma and falls hopelessly in love with her. However, unlike Boreas, Aqua doesn't like humans at all and agrees with Team Plasma. So Boreas tells her about all the things he and Black lived through together and all the horrible things Team Plasma did or tried to do, leading to flashbacks that tell the first story line. At the point where the story is right now, the first story line is rapidly catching up to the second, only a few chapters from the end of the flashback.
Now, that we've heard a little about the story, let's hear from the author himself: apenpaap!
Legacy: Thanks for agreeing to allow "TSAOGIU" to be the Fic of the Month. Where did you get the idea for the story, the characters, etc.? What inspired you to come up with the idea of the story?
apenpaap: A short question, but it's going to have a long answer. Let me start with the story itself.
It started out more or less completely different from how it ended up. I first had the idea for it when I was playing Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and began wondering what a crossover between AC and Pokémon would be like. At some point I had this idea of Johto and Kanto being ruled with iron fist by Lance and the Elite Four, with the Gym Leaders being their governors in charge of each city. But there is an organization (based on the assassins in AC) that tries to stop Lance's tyrannical rule (several characters, like Professors Oak and Elm, Kurt, the Violet City monks, and Green/Leaf would've been members of this organisation).
However, after writing the first half of the story I began realising that while I liked this way to begin the story, I didn't really like the story itself. It would've been too long, too dark, too repetitive, etc.
Around this time, I was also playing Pokémon Black, and liking it a lot, especially the story. So then I decided to throw almost all Assissin's Creed influence out, switch the games the story was based on from (Heart)Gold and (Soul)Silver to Black and White, and essentially tell my version of the games' story from the point of view of Boreas, who was now Black's Glaceon.
As I began to think of how I wanted to adjust the story and what I wanted to do with it, I liked it more and more. There was a problem with beginning, though: since there was no sea to cross in Unova, I couldn't do the first chapter with Boreas seeing Aqua while crossing the sea and doing a flashback of the earlier parts of the story.
I considered not doing the flashback and just starting in or around Nuvema Town, but then realised that I didn't need a sea to begin in the middle: it could be on a river instead. With only some minor adjustments, the half of chapter one I had already written could be used for this new story, and so I did so and wrote a second half that properly set up the plot and Aqua's character.
Incidentally, all this happened in just three days, if you can believe that. I began writing an Assassin's Creed based Pokémon story one day, and 72 hours later I submitted the first chapter of The Surprising Adventures of a Glaceon in Unova to Fanfiction.net, Deviantart, and of course Bulbagarden's Writer's Workshop.
Well, that was the plot. Now for the characters:
The reason I chose a Glaceon as the main character of the story is mainly that it's my favourite pokémon. When I began writing chapter two, I had to actually think of a new backstory for him. I had a backstory where Falkner killed his parents during an attack on New Bark Town originally, but as mentioned I completely changed the story around within three days and just hadn't thought about the fact that Boreas' backstory would have to be altered too.
Another thing I realised as I began writing chapter two, that was even worse, was that he was essentially a blank slate. I had never even bothered thinking about what his character would be like.
I was pretty ashamed of these rather bad mistakes, and so I went to think of a way to adjust the backstory so it would work in this new setting, and more importantly I gave Boreas a personality. Boreas' backstory is of course what chapter two is all about, and I think that if I could do it over again, I would've done it differently. As it is, his backstory is still heavily influenced by the Assassin's Creed based story I was originally going to write, and you could really sort of say that chapter three is the first chapter that is fully The Surprising Adventures of a Glaceon in Unova.
Now, while I'm not a big fan of the way I handled Boreas' backstory, I do like the personality I thought of at this point. First I reread chapter one to see what kind of personality would work with it, and realised Boreas was acting pretty rash and impulsive in the chapter. I liked that, and decided to make him a very impulsive Glaceon. I also decided to make him curious, impatient, and intelligent. How important that last trait was, I didn't really realise until chapter seven, when they fight their first Gym battle. I realised at this point that Eevee's moveset is horribly boring and weak.
So I figured that Boreas would use his brains to battle, using all kinds of cunning tricks. Not only did this make him actually useful in a battle, but it also meant battles would be much more fun as Boreas would win them creatively, using the environment to his advantage and tricking his opponents. Boreas is also a bit of a liar and occasionally untrustworthy.
Several characters inspired me for Boreas, actually, there is not a single one that he is entirely based on. In Dungeons&Dragons terms, Boreas is Chaotic Good, and quite a lot of characters with that same, or a similar, alignment inspired me to him, like Sherlock Holmes, Golan Trevize, Jack Sparrow, The Doctor, Zorro, Guybrush Threepwood, Sirius Black, and others.
Octa, whose full name is Octavianus, is Boreas' best friend and Black's starter. Unlike Boreas, I can actually name a few very specific characters that I based him and his friendship with Boreas on. The main inspiration would be dr. Watson, next to Boreas' Sherlock Holmes. To be precise, the portrayal of these two characters from the 2009 movie with Robert Downey, jr and Jude Law.
The characters and their friendship share quite a lot of similarities, as well as quite a lot of differences. While not as clever as their friend, Octa and Watson are both intelligent men, and quite a lot wiser and more mature than their more impulsive friend, and they both end up frequently having to save their friend from trouble he got himself into. Another inspiration was Janov Pelorat from Isaac Asimov's Foundation books. While the characters aren't that similar, the peculiar way Octa speaks was inspired by Pelorat.
This is also where his habit of adressing Boreas as “my dear fellow” comes from. Octa's arrogance and his belief that he is better than others because his ancestors are the pokémon equivalent of nobility isn't based on any particular character. It is partially because of the smug looks the Snivy line always has on their official art, partially because I figured it would be pretty funny, partially because it offers character development options later in the story, and partially because this type of character is usually a villain and I liked the idea of having such a character be heroic instead.
There is not really any specific character that inspired me to Aqua. What inspired me to her was this drawing on deviantart:
When I saw that picture, I just sort of thought up a character that would fit with it, and decided she would be a fun character to write and made her Boreas' love interest. I think this was after I changed the story's main character to Boreas, but it could've been before it. When I completely threw the story around and changed it to the current story, Aqua, was the only character, aside from Boreas, that stayed in place.
Her dislike of humans and agreement with Team Plasma came later, when I had changed the story to Unova. I figured it would be nice to have a non-evil character actually agree with Team Plasma, and it would make a good source of conflict between her and Boreas, which we will see later.
Black and the rest of his team
Black is, quite simply, based on my view of Black in-game. At first, I was going to write him as being able to usually understand more or less what his pokémon are saying, not to the point of actually being able to understand their speech, but usually getting the general idea. Then I realised it would be funnier to have him be really bad at that instead.
I'm not really sure what inspired me to the rest of the team. Maybe something inspired me, but I forgot, maybe not. I do know what inspired me to the "Friend Versus Lover Conflict" between Boreas and Toxica over Octa: it was the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie again, in which Holmes acts very jealous and childish about Watson being engaged. I personally thought it was hilarious, and it seemed to fit with Boreas' slightly childish personality, so a few chapters after I introduced Toxica I decided to throw that in.
Whew, that was ridiculously long answer.
Legacy: Haha, no worries. Next question: What were some of the main challenges you faced when planning and writing this fic?
apenpaap: Firstly, there was the stuff I talked about earlier, with the story very rapidly changing radically within days. This was a big problem in Chapter Two, because I hadn't realised Boreas' backstory would have to be heavily readjusted.
Another challenge lay in how I would portray Team Plasma. The main problem was in making them credible threats. It's very hard to make nameless grunts into credible threats, especially if they kept being defeated. Then I realised there was a solution to this problem: the Seven Sages. We only battle Ghetsis in-game, but he's even more powerful than the Elite Four.
So, I thought: what if we battled the other Sages too? And what if their power was comparable to Ghetsis'? In-game, that would of course just lead to endlessly losing those battles, but in a story it just means the heroes have to use very unconventional tactics to win.
Another challenge is to get the story's pace right. I don't want to jump from battle to battle and not leave a single moment for characterisation, humour, and rest; but neither do I want things to get boring and drag out too long. I think I found a decent balance between the two.
Lastly, the fact that my main characters can't talk to humans leads to some problems.
Legacy: One of the unique things about your story, which I love, is that your main character is a Pokemon and not a human, and you handle that amazingly in my opinion. Do you think it is more or less challenging to write a story with a Pokemon main character as opposed to a human? Why?
apenpaap: Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it is tricky because most of my characters can't directly interact with humans, which they have to leave to Black. That's a real shame, because it means little interaction between heroes and villains, and with the Gym Leaders and rivals and all. On the other hand, I find it makes it easier to make more distinctive characters by having them all be different species. I'm not sure if I could achieve the same kind of diverse cast with humans.
Legacy: How would you describe your writing style?
apenpaap: I'm not quite sure how I would describe it. I suppose I write somewhat humorously, as I often throw little jokes and amusing things in. I use a lot of metaphors and similes, and write actiony battles with lots of things happening.
Legacy: As a writer, what would you say are some of your biggest strengths?
apenpaap: I've been told I write very good battles and have some good characters.
Legacy: What are your biggest weaknesses as a writer?
apenpaap: I only rarely describe characters physically, which, I think, means that in people's minds they just look like generic members of their species. For that reason, I've lately been drawing quick portraits of them on dA, which has helped me get their looks more consistent. The exception to this is Aqua, who I've described quite a lot because the story is essentially told from Boreas' point of view and he's madly in love with her.
Legacy: What aspects of "The Surprising Adventures of Glaceon in Unova" are you most proud of?
apenpaap: I'm rather proud of the battles with the Seven Sages so far. I think they really succeed in showing how incredibly powerful the enemy is, and that a single misstep during these battles could easily cost Boreas' life. I've also been complimented a lot on the romance between Boreas and Aqua, and I think I agree with those comments, I handled that pretty well so far.
Legacy: Who is your favorite character from your story and why?
apenpaap: Octa is my favourite character. He's a great deal of fun to write, and he allows me to get my tendency to use elaborate language out of my system. You see, like him I have a tendency to use obscure, archaic, and polysyllabic words a lot. I'm not sure why, mainly because I like how they sound, I think. Anyway, when I'm writing Octa's dialogue I can allow myself to fully use this tendency, and as a result I can keep others' dialogue more realistic and normal.
Another thing I like about him is that he leads to a lot of funny situations. Not only does he talk funny, but his pride and snarkiness lead to more fun.
Legacy: For new or less experienced writers out there, what sort of advice would you offer to someone who wants to improve as a writer?
apenpaap: First of all, make sure your story is legible. Look into a real book, and take a look at how it's written. I'm talking about things like going to the next line during dialogue whenever the person speaking changes, proper use of quotation marks and commas, proper spelling and grammar, avoiding massive walls of text in descriptions by occasionally breaking the paragraph, that kind of thing. It's very basic, but it's surprising how often people do it wrong, and that really makes it much harder and more annoying to read.
Another important thing is to proofread. When you've finished writing a chapter, don't just post it immediately. Proofread it, correcting errors, improving sentences, adding stuff you forgot, that sort of thing. Preferably you shouldn't do this immediately, but wait a day to do it so you can look at it as one of your readers instead of as the writer. You'll be surprised how much the quality improves if you proofread.
Legacy: What would you say to people who haven't read your fic to try to convince them to read "The Surprising Adventures of Glaceon in Unova?" In other words, why should people take a look at your fic?
apenpaap: If you haven't read it, and the rest of this interview hasn't at least made you curious, let me tell you it's a fun story of adventure, humour, romance, friendship, action, excitement, and other things. Try reading the first four chapters and see what you think (The first four because, as I mentioned earlier, I'm not too crazy about the first two chapters, which I think are a bit rushed and shaky. I'm proud of chapters three and four, though, which I think I did very well). Or try reading all twenty-eight and see what you think, if you prefer.
Legacy: Thanks so much, apenpaap! It was great to hear about all the insight and work behind your great story!.
One of the great things about this story is that it features Boreas, a Glaceon, as the main character as opposed to a human. This was a delightful change to me as I read this because apenpaap handled it very well.
The story is engaging and the characters are deep. All too often, stories that star Pokemon as main characters end up coming off childish and uninspiring. But apenpaap's skills as a writer made this story simply a joy to read.
The way he intertwines the two very lively and genuine story lines is really cool to read, and I think everyone should give this fic a chance!
So there you have it.
The Writer's Workshop Fic of the Month for October: "The Surprising Adventures of Glaceon in Unova" by apenpaap.
Here is the link: http://bmgf.bulbagarden.net/f227/surprising-adventures-glaceon-unova-chapter-30-a-108019/