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From the Editors: Welcoming a New Era

From Interim Editor AvatarRokusGhost:

Welcome to the first ghostly installment of The Candy Crush Times. Since this is the inaugural issue, all candy will be half-priced with no mining involved, but only for today.

Filling our brainwasher-in-chief’s shoes will not be easy, especially while we’re working out some of the details like who has seniority here . As the franchise expands and new films are on the horizon, I, the Ghost of Roku, with Bomochu by my side, will usher in a new era of Avatar: The Last Airbender related news and in time will expand the BSST as you know it to include three or maybe even four new sections. One of them will be solely dedicated to the best app game of all time, Candy Crush.

Let’s enjoy this interim period of peace together as a community. Starting next issue, the Candy Crush mines will be open!

From Interim Editor Bomochu:

Today, we stand on the precipice of history. The old ways of the Avatar Wiki are no more. Gone is the Ba Sing Se Times. Instead, a stronger and bolder newsletter has formed.

We are now The Zaofu Times – I mean, Crush. Yes, The Zaofu Crush. Since we still have candy… for now.

I, your interim Editor, along with AvatarRokusGhost, will lead this newsletter and the entire wiki into the glorious future I have envisioned. So sit back (attentively) and enjoy our first ever issue!

Do enjoy it. You've been commanded to.

Happy Reading! 🙂😃

Effective Immediately: New BSST Policies
100?cb=20210331230631 100?cb=20210331230631 100?cb=20210331230631


  • All contributors must select a ghost-themed nickname for themselves (subject to approval) before submitting an article.
  • Entering ARG’s secret candy stores is punishable by 24 hours of Candy Crush mining.
  • Cancer-Multiplying Chocolate must be quarantined at all costs!
  • Failing to send a Candy Crush life upon request will be punished by one week of Candy Crush mining, on a first offense. Those who fail to send a life over a second time will be fired.
  • Those who forget Spirit Appreciation Day will be sentenced to a full month in the Candy Crush mines.
  • Loyal staff members will eventually be given a transparent glowing form of themselves which they can turn into at will, but only after contributing for five consecutive issues.
Comparing the Shows: Fair or Not?
Something that comes up fairly frequently in the fandom, in fact, Minnichi brought it up in the previous issue of this very newsletter, is the notion of comparing Avatar: The Last Airbender with The Legend of Korra to determine the quality of those shows in relation to one another. Now, on the surface, that might sound like a decent foundation to build a review around. After all, most sequels and spin-offs are judged in some kind of relation to the thing that spawned them, but in this particular case, I think it's kind of interesting to take a deeper dive, and assess how fair that notion is.

For starters, the whole notion of comparative critique is one that has to be approached carefully. It's easy to say "ATLA is better than LoK" and call it day, but if you do that, you haven't actually said anything about the quality of either show. If I say: "The Dark Knight is better than Batman and Robin," most people would agree with that statement. But if I say: "The Dark Knight is better than Batman Begins," that statement is equally true, and yet, even when putting those two together, you don't actually know how I feel about any of those three movies. So the notion of comparative critique already takes a hit there: it requires nuance, something that a lot of hot takes of The Legend of Korra are frequently missing. It's easy to make a list of things of one show that you like and another show that you don't, edit it together, and call it a review, but that's missing the point. This is largely because in trying to compare ATLA with LoK, there are issues where the two just aren't compatible. It would quickly turn into comparing apples and oranges, something LoK itself points out in the opening credits: "Avatar Aang accomplished many remarkable things in his life. But sadly, his time in this world came to an end. And like the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the Avatar began anew." On the surface, this might seem like it's nothing but exposition, but there is something hidden underneath here, bolstered by a scene a little bit later, namely when Katara catches Korra while she is making her escape out of the compound: "Aang's time has passed. My brother and many of my friends are gone. It's time for you and your generation to take over the responsibility of keeping peace and balance in the world." This is just barely short of her breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience that the creators have moved on to something new, and so should they. So before the show has even cracked the ten minute-mark, it has already made two fairly explicit statements of differentiation from its predecessor, which is the first hurdle any kind of comparison between the two has to overcome. Now, I will give the nay-sayers this: it is slightly undercut by having both Zuko and Toph show up in later seasons, but then again, the writers didn't know that was a thing that was going to happen when they were writing the first episode, so there's a bit of a gray zone in that.

But it has to be said that simply stating "We won't be doing the same thing as the previous one," isn't much of a defense to hide behind if you don't end up following it through, and that is where the second issue comes in when comparing ATLA to LoK. That issue is one of theme, and to a lesser extent, target audience, though the former is rooted in the latter. The primary target audience for ATLA is roughly 12-15 years old, and this is simply a neutral statement of fact, derived from the ages of the main characters. It's not a judgment either way, or the fact that it has things that can appeal to the whole family, it's simply true in the same sense that Disney movies - at least the good ones - are aimed mostly at children, but are made in such a way that an older audience can enjoy them too. LoK on the other hand is made for a slightly older audience, ranging from about 16-18. There are a handful of moments dark or graphic enough that ATLA probably wouldn't have gotten away with them, like Korra's poisoning or the death of the Earth Queen, but the main way this difference in target audience manifests itself is in the themes. Put simply, The Legend of Korra always has a political undercurrent and The Last Airbender does not. Individual episodes might, but on the whole, ATLA doesn't have much more to say about politics than "Take it easy on the imperialism, guys." LoK on the other hand... where to start? Amon is a communist, running a movement called The Equalists, wanting to overthrow the government - that is treating some citizens as second-rank - through violence and forcibly making everyone equal. Unalaq is a religious zealot, hating the way the Southern Water Tribe (which he may or may not see as a rebellious province of the North?) has let spiritual matters decay and become mass entertainment. Zaheer is a literal anarchist, wanting to overthrow the world's governments and just let chaos rule, which he is surprisingly successful at. And Kuvira... She started her career in the arts and the military, but neither quite worked out for her, took control over her nation, bolstered her power through excessive militarization under an often-used nickname, forcibly restored order by suppressing ethnic minorities, seized power definitively through trickery and intimidation, and wants to reclaim land she considers stolen from her nation during and after the previous war. Honestly, the only way that could have been more on the nose was if they showed her combing her toothbrush mustache in the morning.

here is a reason I'm getting so hung up on theme. In the long run, theme and gradual development stick more clearly in the mind than the immediate visceral enjoyment of a piece of entertainment. If you don't believe me, go watch The Last Jedi again and tell me why Snoke's death was a good thing. This is also not to say that ATLA doesn't have any themes running under it, quite the contrary. They are all over the place, like trying to make family work, be that surrogate or otherwise, learning to accept responsibility, being forced to grow up fast due to circumstances, learning how to deal with abusive parental figures, that's a very long list and I don't have space for it all. But because of the political connotations LoK has, that automatically makes it feel more contemporary, because it has something to say about what is currently going on in the world, as opposed to the more timeless feel of ATLA. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate, but it is yet another issue you'd have to rationalize when comparing the two.

But with all that said, there is one area where the comparison is not just fair, The Legend of Korra is practically begging for it to be made, and it's in the assembly of Team Avatar. Literally, Bolin says this out loud, and that is always the kind of comparison sequels should be avoiding, at least when the predecessor is as widely known and beloved as it is here. Mako is Zuko but without the charm, Bolin is a thinly-veiled attempt at capturing the same goofy persona they did with Sokka, Asami is equal parts Suki's non-bending fighting prowess, Sokka's ingenuity, and Toph's wealth and good name. Korra is the one who fits in the least with this comparison, because while there is something to be said about her being closest in personality to Toph because of her tomboyish nature, I don't think they quite line up. Toph was more aloof than she was eager to jump into a fight, but now I'm getting nitpicky.

Are there more issues? A few, but not that many. The biggest remaining one is the applicability of metalbending, which NeoBahamut once pointed out to me, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it in this context: it still has the same limits. In ATLA, nobody can bend metal until Toph figures it out at the end of Book 2, and even then, her skill is fairly crude up until the finale. So whenever there is something that the Fire Nation plans to beat earthbenders with, it's made out of metal, fair enough. But in LoK, everything that needs to be conveniently unbendable to metalbenders is made out of platinum, regardless of the quantity or practicality of it. (Platinum is fairly pliable and extremely heavy as metals go, so Hiroshi's mecha-tanks would 100% collapse under their own weight, let alone Kuvira's Colossus.) Point is, we haven't gone anywhere, because in the context of the shows, metal and platinum are nominally different, yet functionally identical. But after that, the list of direct comparisons starts to run dry quickly. Is Beginnings comparable to The Avatar and the Fire Lord? Maybe, they both involve the Avatar taking an extended journey into their past lives for a revelation, but then again, Korra has basically no choice but to take that trip down memory lane, while Aang willingly does it. And lastly, one that frequently comes up is the world design, ATLA's being more classical while LoK takes inspiration from more modern times, which makes a lot of sense, given the period ATLA ended in and the time jump afterwards. Outside of that, it's mostly stylistic choices there.

In conclusion, drawing a one-to-one comparison between the two is way more difficult than it would seem at first glance, and that hinges on more than 'ATLA has one big story and LoK four smaller ones'. There are conflicting issues where comparisons just can't cover it because of the incompatible natures of both shows. And being pre-determined to make that comparison at any cost will frequently lead to the author missing the forest through the trees. It's always worth remembering that the purpose of criticism is to deconstruct, not to destroy. And part of that deconstructive conversation is to acknowledge that not every form of criticism is ideally suited to every situation. Avatar and The Legend of Korra are just so different in terms of theme, story, structure, and even target demographic that comparing them just won't tell you anything meaningful.
Avatar Trivia Showdown: Round 1
Episode Highlights
Korra2000 vs. Typhoonmaster


Each round of the ATS features 2 challengers who have mutually agreed upon entry and contacted the BSST staff to confirm their placement in the lineup.

During a contest round, the Gamemaster PhoenixWright12321 will select 25 Avatar trivia questions submitted from the community and allow the two challengers to submit their answers separately within a time limit. Questions are divided into the following five categories, in no particular order:

  1. Power and Domination
  2. Flora and Fauna
  3. Society and Culture
  4. Who Said It?
  5. Sting

Questions within a single category stop once a user scores the majority (3/5) and whoever wins the most categories (first to reach 3) categories wins the contest round. Each question will have an individual time limit depending on the complexity of the answer and/or the mercy and entertainment of the Gamemaster.

The show is broadcasted live on the ATS-voice channel in the Avatar Wiki Discord while trivia questions are presented in #avatar-trivia-showdown. Current scores and ranks are tallied in #ats-commentary, and this channel can also be used alternatively for contestants who do not wish to utilize their microphones or audio.

Those who are not competing or are not a member of competition staff will have listen-only access and restricted to emoji reactions only in the text channels. Want to be heard loud and clear? We recommend that you sign up to compete and wait til the next round for your moment ;)


Minn: Uh, sorry everyone but we're having technical difficulties and can't start yet. Cuz we need music.

Ty: For sure! You just can't have a competition show without music. But I'm not an expert on this, so I don't know.

Minn: ...Someone help.

Ty: I did all that I could do.

K2000: You didn't do anything!

Minn: Yeah, that's pretty much the norm.

K2000: Weak.

Ty: I know. I'm so weak. (sings) I'm too weak ~

Minn: Good! I don't want to see your face here to compete again. I hope you're destroyed.

Ty: Should I turn on my camera, then? Is that against the rules?

Minn: I will make it against the rules! But I'm actually more angry at my minion, the Ghost of Roku, who's supposed to be my trusty scorekeeper! I'm about to go harass him on every platform to figure out where he's hiding.

K2000: *Laughs nervously*

Minn: Oh, and for spectators who are unfamiliar with Avatar Wiki, The rambling one is me: I'm the Editor-in-Chief of the community newsletter. AvatarRokusGhost is my mainspace Deputy Editor - mainspace being the encyclopedia domain of Avatar Wiki that serves its actual purpose of updating constantly on the latest franchise information. Bomochu is my fanon Deputy Editor, who's also absent but will not be penalized as severely as the Ghost of Roku since, well, it's 6am or 7am in New Zealand. Just some background info.

Ty: Was that an advertisement or background information?

Minn: Both! And everyone should contribute articles to the Ba Sing Se Times. Always. *Pauses and glances at chat messages* Oh crap, ARG's been here the whole time. Whoops.

ARG: (Typing) No one can hear me!!!

Minn: ...Well, maybe we should just try to start the show.

HammerofThor appears. Music suddenly begins playing - "The Spirit of Competition."

Ty: NOW we get started.

K2000: *Listening to the music* Oh, you're kidding me.

Ty: No.

Minn: Yeah, no. This is what it be.

ARG: (via audio) Ugh, well I guess nobody can hear me -

Ty: Wait, I can hear you!

Minn: HELLO, my minion!

ARG: Heh.

Minn: So, anyone wanna make bets before the show begins?

Ty: I already have some people who'd bet on me, but I'm not going to specify the amount.

K2000: Well, I have some pretty good connections.

Ty: I have a feeling this is rigged.

Minn: Yeah, only Typhoonmaster would accuse anything of being "rigged." He almost tricked everyone into using his own form to submit questions, and I had to make him change it into the staff-created one.

Ty: Well, I wasn't sure the Ba Sing Se Times Staff would try to hijack the event against me, so I was just trying to make sure that wouldn't happen -

Minn: Excuse me - you're accusing us of being the hijackers? EXCUSE ME?

Ty: *Laughs candidly*

Minn: May every single odd that there is in existence be against your favor for that!

Ty: ...So it's clearly not rigged.

Minn: I'll say whatever I want!

K2000: Hey, it looks like people are starting to bet in #ats-commentary via emoji reactions.

Minn: Oh, this is hilarious.

Ty: Oh, God.


Minn: This is lovely!

K2000: I'm going to vote for Phoenix.

Ty: Yeah, I'm not feeling the love over here.

Minn: Now the real question is, who's going to get the most bets - Korra2000 or PhoenixWright the host?

K2000: He already has more votes than Ty.

Minn: This made my morning. I'm so happy, you guys.


Question 1
Written by Quamboq 300?cb=20210401042443

Question 2
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401040723

Minn: And y'all thought I could only ask about the Dai Li.

Ty: I'll take two hits there. I'm impressed.

PW: Korra2000 gets full points, and Ty -

Minn: Ty goes home with NOTHING!

PW: Hold on, let me calculate...

Ty: Wait, so I get some points?

Minn: WHAT?!

Ty: Gimme that credit!

  • Korra2000 = Full points
  • Typhoonmaster = 7/9

Ty: Slowly working my way towards 1.

Question 3
Written by AvatarAang7 300?cb=20210401040904 K2000: I actually had to think about this one. Thanks, AvatarAang7.

Questions 4-5 are not included in the Discord log. Category 1 is a tie.


Question 6
Written by Zacatero 300?cb=20210401045045 Ty: Well, technically it wasn't a "dog" but I saw them running around Republic City and I left it out at first to avoid speculation.

Minn: Speculation is fun!


Minn: Looks like our contestants have their work cut out for them! Zacatero turns out to be quite the savvy question-writer himself. I wonder when he'll join the competition...


Question 7
Written by jungoo#3787 (Discord User) 300?cb=20210401045119

Question 8
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401042304 K2000: Blindness?

PW: Yeah.

Minn: Blindness. It's a terrible thing.

K2000: So, blindness.

Minn: Blindness.

K2000: The state where you cannot see.


Minn: Blindness. It's a terrible thing, but if you develop seismic sense, you may become even more powerful than the seeing population.

Question 9
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401044407

Question 10
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401044654

Questions 11-12 are not included in the Discord log. Typhoonmaster wins Category 2.


Question 11
Written by Zacatero 300?cb=20210401050243

Question 12
Written by AirMasterParker 300?cb=20210401050430 The point is given to Ty.

Question 13
Written by AvatarRokusGhost 300?cb=20210401050637

Question 14
Written by PhoenixWright12321 300?cb=20210401050809

Question 15
Written by PhoenixWright12321 300?cb=20210401050842

Category 3 is a tie.


Question 16
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401063817

Minn: Hehe.

K2000: Oh, you're kidding me.

Minn: No, I'm not.

PW: This is a very easy question, by the way. Don't tell me you don't know this, Korra!

Ty: Easy. This was a gimme - thank you for the gift, Minn.

Minn: God dangit!

ARG: Yeah, Minn probably didn't mean it that way.

Minn: NO, don't give Ty the Dai Li question! It'll ruin my whole morning!

PW: Okay, the funny thing is, the question's asking which Earth King but Ty went and answered 'Chin the Conqueror.'


Minn: Chin isn't even associated with Ba Sing Se!

PW: Well, technically he was in power at the time so you could say he ruled everything.

Ty: That's what I was thinking!

PW: Well, it's wrong.

Minn: HA! The gift does NOT go to Ty!

The correct answer is 46.

Question 17
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401051253

Question 18
Written by Quamboq 300?cb=20210401051319

Ty: That's crazy!

PW: Well, it's not impossible to have children at that age, for an old man.

Minn: That's disturbing. I didn't actually know that, but that's disturbing.

PW: Yeah, the Fire Lord should technically get started sooner you know, to have a successor.

Ty: This guy.

Questions 19-20 are not included in the Discord log. Korra2000 wins Category 4.


Question 21
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401051821

Question 22
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401051846

Minn: I just love the way that line was delivered.

Ty: I know, right?

Question 23
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401051908

Minn: The delivery of that line was golden, too.

K2000: Why are all the questions from the series? There needs to be more novel!

PW: Awwww...

Ty: Well, I'm sorry for being an actual fan of the canon! Ha!

Minn: Yeah, most question submissions are probably going to be for the animated series.

Question 24
Written by Minnichi 300?cb=20210401051938

Question 25
Written by AvatarRokusGhost 300?cb=20210401052007

Korra2000 wins Category 5, breaking the tie and becoming the victor of the Avatar Trivia Showdown premiere.

Congratulations to Korra2000 for being our first ATS victor! Round Two took place last month between KingBumisHeir and NeoBahamut and coverage will be delivered to you next issue. Look forward to Round 3 this month!
Representation of Disabilities in the World of Avatar.
There are alot of powerful characters in the world of avatar. Like, ALOT. But just like in real life, there are people with physical or mental disabilities. But that doesn't stop them from being unstoppable forces, some of the strongest characters we know of, and some peoples favourite characters. The first character we are gonna talk about is the one and only blind bandit herself, Toph Beifong. Her disability almost never gets in her way, most of the time even harbouring her. Her disability has led to the invention of seismic sense, metal ending, and more. We often see people acting over-caring and underestimating of her just because she can't see, like people do in real life. But she shows and anything can be possible for anyone.

Now lets talk Teo, the wheelchair character. The shows characters barely ever mention his disability, like how you never mention that someone has a specific race. Teo is shown to have not limits from his disability, even having a glider. He's shown not as a wheelchair kid, rather as a creative kid with the spirit of an airbender.

Lastly, we have Ming Hua. Similarly to Teo, her disability is never directly mentioned. She's shown with waterbending prosthetics, once again showing that disabilities don't affect you capabilities. All in all, I don't think people talk about this enough and would like to see more discussion on the topic.
Team Avatar and What They Teach Us About Life
Fire avatar 7
ATLA taught us lessons which resonate til today. Some of us may have seen the show in 2006, while others have seen it just now.

Aang is a relatable, fun loving 12 year-old with a character contrast of being peaceful and waking up in a time of war. He struggles to tackle the problem of war with the airbender ideals he holds dear. He just wants to be normal. This probably gave us hope that enjoyment and studies can coexist and you can have a ton of fun defeating Ozai (Exam).

Sokka and Katara are a bit more serious. While Katara is definitely not a preachy crybaby giving overly emotional speeches about hope all the time, Sokka is always right back at ya, like his boomerang. The comedic Sokka is like that guy from high school who was cool enough on his own but became your friend(sidekick) for you. Katara is much more of a moral compass.

The Boulder is surprised at your lack of earthbending knowledge and the boulder orders you to talk about Toph Beifong.

Whoa, Boulder! Supporting Toph? The worlds changed all right.

Toph is the rocking expert and teaches us disabilities don't define you, your character does. Also, scammers always end up in tight situations.

Zuko, the scarred prince, burnt by his father. Unsure of his destiny. He wants to capture the avatar and regain his honour. He teaches us to take the right path and never be manipulated by others.

At last, Iroh. Uncle Iroh is the person everyone wants to have in his or her life. The impact he has on us is isn't just leaves from the vine, but how he is so selfless yet he enjoyed life so much. He gave us the formula to live life at the fullest.
Survey: Your Favorite Avatar Joke
Avatar Wiki Community
Here's our latest question for you lovely folks! A big thank-you from the BSST staff to those who participated. We typically reach out on the Avatar Wiki Discord channel to conduct surveys. Missed your chance but want to catch us next time? See you in the chatroom ;)
"What is your favorite Avatar joke or pun?
  • "If Zuko worries a lot about where Aang is, does he have Aangxiety?"
-- KingBumisHeir
  • "Quick question, can this ship help me get away from my crazy, waterbending ex-girlfriend?"
"Of course, why do you think I built the thing?!"
-- NeoBahamut
Urban Dictionary of
Avatar Wiki

Inspired by our lovely community and written by Yours Truly:


How to start a war in the Avatar Wiki newsletter. The randomness of the first trigger is irrelevant.
"The Line Wars have been going on since the founding of The White Lotus Sentinel." "What's that?" "Oh, the dispute between co-editors Minnichi and Omashu Rocks on whether to use solid lines or dashed lines for article borders." "...Really?" "Yeah, well, Minnichi won."

The Zaofu Crush

A war in the making between co-editors AvatarRokusGhost and Bomochu. It's a science versus candy kind of matter.
"I don't understand why you need 5 greenhouses and an entire indoor field for your herd of sky bison." "Well, same reason I don't understand why you need an entire mine when your office is already stacked high with Candy Crush Candy!"
"Okay, we have to agree on at least one thing." "Hmm... Minnichi sucks?" "Yeah, that'll do." "But I liked her supreme dictatorship style." "So did I..." "..." "Someone's gotta do it. And it's not going to be you." "Says who?!"
Kuvira's army icon.png
Kuvira's army icon.png
Effective Immediately: New BSST Policies

Maintaining peace and balance is my top priority for the BSST. Here's a few of the rules that will now be in place:


  • Users wanting to submit an article including any negative opinions will have to apply for a special permit.
  • Any comment on the newsletter MUST include at least one smiley emoji to maintain everyone's well-being. Comments that do not comply may get deleted.
  • Any feedback about the new Interim Editors is NOT permitted unless glowing and overwhelmingly positive.
Fanart Showcase
Avatar Wiki Community
Check out some recent artwork from our very own community!

Original artwork by Mmozart [1]


Original artwork by Skyfirewolf: 300?cb=20210401012101

Original artwork by KingBumisHeir:

Fanon Highlight - Age of Space and Spirits: Blue Lotus Inquiries
Ever wondered what space travel would be like in the world of Avatar? Well, Age of Space and Spirits: Blue Lotus Inquiries, written by Neo Bahamut is a sci-fi fanon that explores mankind's first attempts at venturing into space. Set twenty years after the fall of the Earth Empire, the world has now entered an age of spirit and space research, with a number of organisations exploring these new frontiers.

But not everyone is on board with these new ventures, and there are those who believe that the advancements in spirit and space research are an abomination. Neo Bahamut is an accomplished author on the wiki with several other works, and this latest addition to his Neoverse is sure to intrigue anyone.

Age of Space and Spirits:
Blue Lotus Inquiries
Plot Overview

The Earth Empire shattered, but 20 years after, society marches on. It's the age of space and spirits, with SSI organizations flowering worldwide to study new worlds, meeting resistance from the Neo-Spiritualists. They claim the SSIs conduct shady experiments on humans and spirits alike, with researchers countering that the NeoS are fanatical terrorists. With Avatar Korra away, preparing for the return of Sozin's Comet, it falls to an unassuming group of young people to discover the truth and follow her example of Balance.
Avatar Jigsaw
BSST Staff
What's a newsletter without random time-killing puzzles and games? This here is an interactive puzzle that allows you to move the pieces of the image around until they all click together. Find out which iconic image we've pulled from the series, and see who gets the best time!

Click here to complete the interactive jigsaw.

Note: The image above is not the actual puzzle.
Fanon Noticeboard
Avatar Wiki Community
Here you'll find the latest fanon news and requests from the community. You can also visit the FRRS for an interview or technical review, or the Fanonbenders for help.
Underutilized Genres: Mystery
Neo Bahamut
Mystery is a surprisingly uncommon tag for Avatar stories on AO3. At the time of writing, my search only turned up 121 results, even less than either horror (134) or science fiction (283). For comparison, there are 2209 hits for romance, 621 for crossover, and 692 for adventure. Part of this might have to do with--besides the inefficiency of the search function--how we just don’t think of certain tags because we do them unconsciously. After all, you tend to lay hints for people to “figure out” your plot just as a general rule, since we all intuitively understand that foreshadowing is an important story element. Still, I think there’s something to be said for writing a dedicated mystery story--a lot of somethings, actually. It is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult genres to write because you need such specific ingredients; a clear solution, enough red herrings to be distracting, and for everything to come together in a way that makes sense and feels fair.

Let’s start with the obvious: Whodunnit? If there’s a murder, you need a killer. If there’s a theft, you need a thief. If someone superglued Tenzin’s monk hood to his head, you need to figure out who that someone is. As the last example shows, a mystery story doesn’t always have to be dark and serious, but we can still take a concept from criminal prosecution that will help us with this task: Means, motive, and opportunity. This means that your culprit should have had the ability to do the thing (means), a reason to want to do the thing (motive), and be in the right place at the right time to do the thing (opportunity). Who would have access to super glue in the Avatar world? If it’s rare, your prime suspects are rich people like Asami and Varrick; someone like Bolin or Mako is unlikely to have access to it unless they stole it from Asami. So, let’s say you pick Varrick. His motive could be that he was trying to use super glue as a way of stimulating hair growth and Tenzin was his test subject. So, you would establish the characters that own or have access to super glue, and that Varrick wants to develop a hair growth formula. For the opportunity, you would establish how the characters could have had access to Tenzin’s robes without his knowing; maybe they were all invited to Asami’s dinner party and Tenzin left his robe unattended on a coat rack. With those three elements established, you have your outline for how to determine the culprit.

Perhaps this all sounds simple so far, but the trick is that you have to make the story seem much more complex than it actually is, and that’s where it becomes more complicated for you to write as well. You need to not only give other characters means, motive, and opportunity as well as the actual perpetrator, but also reference them about as often as you do Varrick’s so that it’s not immediately obvious that Varrick did it. This means you need to keep track of a bunch of specific details for several characters and know exactly when to introduce them into the story to distract from the fact that Varrick is the perpetrator. The rule of three is a good approximation here: If you have at least three suspects, the chances someone will guess the right one are only about 33%. To further reduce that, you need to lay clues without making it too obvious who did it, and some of these clues need to be false distractions, AKA “red herrings.” For instance, Asami’s boots were found abandoned at the coat rack--but this is simply because it’s her house and a later witness reveals they actually noticed she was wearing stockings at dinner. Or Mako had glue on his fingers--but the audience doesn’t remember that, ten paragraphs back, Varrick had actually shaken Mako’s hand, thereby framing him before the glue dried. All of this should create competing theories in your readers’ minds, thereby keeping them engaged.

But here's where a frustrating number of stories stumble before the finish line: They don't have fair solutions. The fun of a mystery is trying to figure out what happened. If a clue is introduced at the last minute or, worse yet, completely offscreen, the audience has no chance to figure it out along with the characters. The audience has been cheated and, thus far, only reading filler that padded time before the author decided to reveal the actual plot. The reader doesn’t get that “eureka” moment, the moment where they either suddenly realize how everything fits together and don’t understand how they didn’t see it before or gain the satisfaction of realizing their theory was right. Yes, it’s okay to not fool the audience in a mystery story. Ideally, you want most of the audience to be fooled, but some portion who really pay attention and think about it should be able to solve the mystery, and it doesn’t really make sense to punish them for caring. For this to really work, your explanation needs to make sense. If, instead of the scenario I laid out, the culprit was Bolin, who wanted to punish Tenzin for saying something rude about Pro-Bending, so he bought the glue from a store and slipped it into Varrick’s pocket to frame him, that wouldn’t make sense. The motive is out-of-character for Bolin, plus he isn’t even a Pro-Bender anymore. The argument wasn’t that big of a deal. This contradicts what I established about superglue being expensive. It doesn’t explain how the glue got on Mako’s hands. Of course it’s easy to to fool the audience by picking a solution that they wouldn’t guess because it doesn’t make sense, but also, why would you do that? It’s deliberately sabotaging the story to feel clever about something that isn’t.

Truth be told, I’m also guilty of avoiding mystery stories. I only wrote a dedicated mystery story once (as opposed to a story with some mystery elements) and, while I’d like to think it all came together well enough, it was pretty hard. One reason it was so hard is that I decided on having three characters all be culprits, which therefore meant I needed about nine suspects for a sufficient distraction (as per the rule of three), which obviously meant there was much more to keep track of. Not only did everyone’s motive, means, and opportunity have to make sense, but it had to feel fair that someone could guess the three characters in specific based on the information I provided. As I am trying to strike a balance between demonstrating the point vs. avoiding spoilers, I won’t tell you exactly what happens or which story this is, but I want to make it clear that a mystery story can be a lot of work to pull off, and it can also be hard to tell if it makes sense to your audience the same way it does to you. But if one of your motives for writing is challenging yourself, a mystery story gives you the opportunity to do it, and hopefully this explanation provides you the means. Just try not to get caught--at least, not before you reveal the solution.