|The Avatar Wiki Fanon Awards – |
Are They Back?
Some of you may have noticed that applications for the Fanon Awards Council opened on the 5th of June this year. There are five positions to fill on the Council, and so far, there have been two applicants; Minnichi and AvatarRokusGhost, two of our very own BSST staff members and both of whom have served on the Council previously. However, at the time of writing there haven't been any other applications.
It's been six years since the last Fanon Awards ceremony back in 2015 and chances are some users may not have even heard of them before. The Fanon Awards, as the name implies, are a way to celebrate and honour those on the wiki who are involved in the Fanon Portal. Originally conceived by The Avatar and founded by Superflash101, the Fanon Awards have gone through several cycles and include categories such as Outstanding Author, Outstanding Short Story, Best Main Character, and Outstanding Editor. Even users who aren't fanon authors may find themselves able to take part in nominating others.
So will the Fanon Awards be coming back? I for one think the awards can be a great way to bring the community together and would love to see them continue. Obviously there are other places that cater for fanon such as Fanfiction.net and AO3, but celebrating our own fanon portal is something pretty neat. Although there's only been two applicants for the council since opening, there does seem to be reasonable activity in the fanon portal. One only needs to look through the recent wiki activity to see fanon pages being published or edited every so often, and having a Discord channel dedicated to fanon has made discussing new ideas and seeking advice far easier.
But what do you guys think? Comment below, or better yet, go and apply for the Awards Council if you're interested!
An idea I've run across a lot recently is "Mako should've died in the series finale," as if the story would've been improved simply because a character died. Another justification for that is that nothing of value would have been lost because Mako is an extremely underdeveloped character. At face value, it's easy to understand these ideas. We probably all have examples of death scenes that resonated with us emotionally, which made the threat of the story feel more credible, or maybe even gave us relief at being rid of a boring or annoying character. However, I think that cavalier attitude toward character death is ultimately misguided and serious thought should be put into whether or not to shuffle someone off your story's coil: You should have not just one, but several good reasons before doing it.
Let's start with the central myth that a story is automatically better if a character dies. It's certainly true that an easy trap to fall in is getting too attached to characters and not being willing to let anything bad happen to them, which saps the story of drama, but it's also possible to overcompensate when overcoming that weakness and start to use character deaths as a crutch, like a shortcut to get a quick emotional reaction from the reader that a writer becomes overly dependent on. With how beloved the original series is, does anyone really think it would be improved if Toph or Sokka died in the series finale? It would certainly feel sadder, but would it feel right? Is that somber tone necessarily better than seeing the characters triumph? Now, this is where an astute reader might point out that my examples distract from the fact that Last Airbender DOES have a very well-known character death in the form of Jet. However, just because the death scene is there, does it necessarily help the story? I would argue Jet is a good example of a bad death scene because the characters barely even notice he died, which even becomes a joke later when Sokka says "it was really unclear." If death scenes are supposed to be huge emotional points in the story, you probably don't want them to become literal punchlines, but that's what happened with Jet: The audience didn't really care because neither did the characters. Jet died, but it lacked purpose beyond a fleeting moment of sadness or shock.
To avoid writing a forgettable scene, you want it to really have a lasting impact. The first thing you want to ask yourself is what the death does for the story. Maybe you want to demonstrate the villain's threat; that's a good starting point. But the problem here is that Long Feng's threat doesn't come from physical danger, and in fact his weakness is his undoing when he knows he can't fight Azula, so Jet dying does nothing to build up a threat that's just going to be torn down soon anyway. That's why it's important to take the broader context into consideration. You don't want to have the villain killing his minions left and right and then finding your readers wondering why anyone still works for him, or killing someone to try to shake up the protagonists and then they don't even notice.
What makes a death scene impactful is that the audience has a connection to that character and that comes from the connection the characters have with each other. We don't know Jet very well, since he's only in a handful of episodes and is usually pretty aloof, but we do know Katara, and if there had been an extra episode about how she was upset over his loss because she was starting to have hope that he'd redeem himself and maybe even that they'd rekindle their old friendship and alliance, that would have made an enormous difference. We would have really felt Jet's loss because we would have felt what it meant for Katara. That's why Lu Ten’s death bothers us more, even though we never even met him: Because we relate to Iroh's grief, which is something much deeper than momentary sadness. This is also why it isn't really an ideal solution to use death as a way to get rid of unwanted characters: It's preferable to fix what's wrong with the character instead so that we actually feel invested in that character's fate.
The tone of grief is another reason you might want to kill off a character, but you have to ask yourself if that fits the tone of the rest of the story. In the case of the series finale, Mako's death would've clashed with the tone of the epilogue. On one hand, it would require a prominent funeral scene to send off such a major character, which would be a depressing note contradicting the hopeful tone of the wedding and Korrasami's vacation. A character should not be remembered for killing the mood and sucking the joy out of the happy ending the other characters were trying to earn. While bittersweet endings are very popular for feeling like they hit a Goldilocks Zone where things feel neither pointlessly depressing nor unrealistically happy, it takes a balancing act to keep the bitterness from overwhelming everything. It's not impossible to kill a character and still pull this off, but it becomes a lot more difficult. We need to feel like Mako's sacrifice is a necessary one and doesn't loom larger than what is gained. This is really hard to do when his death is simply because he couldn't escape in time, Bolin's lost a brother, there was no emotional release from confronting the murderer, the city's in ruins, and we're supposed to be happy about a wedding and a vacation.
What this keeps coming back to is that the story elements should work together. To see what I mean, let me go through my process in writing a major death scene for Republic City Renaissance. The major focus of that book, called "Void," had dealt with a very violent street gang. They'd attacked police, burned buildings, and even murdered rival gang members. It became increasingly obvious that they could not go down without something important being lost, or else it would just feel like the story ended randomly after another arbitrary attack, so this was likely to mean a major character death. This, of course, is an example of raising the stakes. When I considered whom to strike down, I didn't want someone with too many story options ahead of them that I'd have to cut short, but I also wanted their absence to be felt, so it wouldn't work to kill off some random side character who barely did anything. I chose to kill the character of Lilith, who was sister to one of the protagonists and had spent several chapters bonding with the rest.
I made her sister the main protagonist of the next book, called it "Grief," and chose to focus on how each character dealt with the loss, because it's important to note that people handle loss differently. When you write your cast's reactions, you might consider which characters are more likely to bottle things up, who might be openly emotional, if they will seek out or avoid other people, if someone might react with anger, etc. It can also be useful to explore an aspect of the character people might not normally think about, like Katara's vengefulness toward her mother's killer.
The main focus of Grief was obviously the sister, who went through stages of depression, anger, and even tried to bargain with another villain to get rid of Lilith's killer. She went through a lot of lows in that arc before ultimately coming out having learned something, which she demonstrates when she saves the life of a person she previously wanted revenge on. It doesn't always have to be this extreme, but you can see how I'm thinking beyond that individual scene and how this will affect the rest of the story.
It's also good to keep in mind that you can explore themes without necessarily shedding blood: Later on, I played with the expectation that raising the stakes further requires killing a larger amount of characters by seeing if I could have the protagonist of the final book lose something else important to him. The emotion you're trying to invoke, grief, is fundamentally about loss, which can take forms besides death specifically. Your characters could also experience loss in other forms, like major injuries, a loss of status in society, a loss of innocence or morality, a friend becoming an enemy, or many other scenarios.
Having come this far, a few assumptions I've made need to be addressed. Firstly, you might not be aiming for a serious or sad tone. You might instead have the idea of killing off a large number of characters as a work of parody or satire. This brings to mind the phrase "know the rules so you know when to break them." You should still think about the overall context of the story because you don't want the effect to be ruined because the parody gets lost in a particularly disturbing scene or because nobody can figure out what the joke is. Likewise, if you're aiming for a very dark tone, a problem a lot of readers have is that they get to a point where they stop caring because they just expect everyone to die anyway. The real concern and feel for these characters comes from not knowing what will happen to them; being invested in their well-being, having hope that they will be okay because it's happened before, and reading with excitement to find out. This is why it really pays to think through how every decision will impact the tone.
Up until now, I've also only addressed protagonist deaths, but antagonist deaths often get overlooked in these conversations even though they're much more likely to bite the dust. I find it's generally helpful to think of the antagonist as the protagonist of their own story, and here is no exception. The antagonist's death should close out their character arc, for better or usually worse, and show how their loss affects the story's world. An obvious canon example is P'li, whose death causes Zaheer to lose the only thing in the world he really cares about, giving him the power of flight. Book 3 has an interesting theme in how authority figures try to weaponize people, which a warlord did to P'li and the Earth Queen tried to do to the airbenders. I used this as the basis for my own combustionbending character, and the experience caused him to become very cruel and pragmatic, appointing people to positions of power so he could use them and having them assassinated if they stepped out of line or were no longer useful. Because of this, there were a lot of people who wanted him gone, even among the antagonists, and they variously either worked with or manipulated the protagonists until he was killed off in battle. You could think of it a bit like an ironic punishment, that his downfall was the way he used others. But he did have one companion through all of that, who genuinely saw him as a friend, and this split a rift between the remaining villains. Hopefully you can see that I'm treating this a lot like a protagonist's death, asking how his demise fits in the story and how it affects the remaining characters.My goal is to make the antagonists feel like their own characters with their own motivations and places in the world instead of just disposable punching bags for the protagonists to take out.
If done extremely well, people might even feel sympathy for the antagonist meeting such a sticky end, just like they would with a protagonist.
Of course, in Avatar, it's also not uncommon for a villain's end to be just going to jail or otherwise defeated without being killed, which is perfectly fine too. This is particularly effective if you want to advance a theme of rejecting violence, so long as the characters' decisions still feel natural and not like they were turned into empty props to advance the theme. This is a major problem with Ruins of the Empire, where Kuvira is largely forgiven and given a slap on the wrist punishment for her many, many crimes. This comes across more as the authors trying to force a redemption arc than something that would naturally happen in the story's world. It's something I tried to avoid in my own story, by showing that those who have done horrific things might not be so easily forgiven even if they try to change, that the past can't be erased, and that the way forward is often messy. Just like killing a character, sparing them should not be viewed as an easy button, and you should still think about their role in the story.
So, it's fair to end by addressing the opposite question: Where might you choose not to kill any characters? Above all, you shouldn't feel obligated to shove a character death in every single story. One that's shorter or with lower stakes might not particularly need one. You also need a certain number of characters for a story to function at all, so deaths in a small cast can severely handicap your story. In general, I think it's best to avoid death scenes where either the scene itself would not get the necessary spotlight or it would detract from something more important. Instead of sprinkling them on to "spice up" a story, I encourage you to always have well-thought-out reasons if you want to kill characters, even if you're going for a darker, "anyone can die" style story. Raising the stakes is a good starting point, but it should go beyond that. But I don't want to discourage you either: Pivotal moments like death scenes are hard to do, but don't lose hope just because they might not turn out perfectly. After all, even the Avatar writers missed a step with Jet, but that didn't ruin the whole story.
"Final Disclaimer: "Kill your darlings" technically means to get rid of something you worked hard on and are really passionate about but doesn't fit with the story. It's not necessarily about killing off characters, although it can be. However, it was simply too good of a title to pass up. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, given what I'm arguing, I did not kill my darling."
|FRRS Fanon Review:|
Aevum, by Fruipit
This evaluation was conducted by the Fanon Research and Review Squad. Please do not take offense in the case of negative feedback. We offer advice and want your story to succeed!
Greetings Avatar Wikians! Bomochu here with another FRRS review. Today I have the pleasure of reviewing Aevum, by Fruipit. Fruipit has published an extensive list of fanon in their time on the Avatar Wiki, and Aevum is another stellar addition that tugs on all the heart strings.
Aevum tells the story of Asami Sato encountering her guardian angel, and the growing bond they both share through Asami's grief and hardship. Though the more Asami gets to know her spiritual companion, the more she realises everything's not quite as it seems.
"Some things are worth dying for; this one is, by far, the greatest reason of all."
Please note that this review will contain spoilers, though given it's a BSST issue I'll try keep them to a minimum.
Without further ado, let's dive in!
The story guides us through several events in Asami's life, and every scene felt fully fleshed out and captivating to read through. The running theme through Aevum is illustrated through carefully worded scenes or lines, yet crafted in such an organic way throughout the fanon.
The way the story was organised and the direction it took was also something that worked really well. Along the way, there were moments where certain events took place or segments of narration where it wasn't entirely clear why these things were happening, or what exactly it meant, until we reach the reveal at the end. What this does for the reader is it creates a more active reading experience by encouraging readers to question and theorize about what's happening to Asami. Not only that, but it almost guarantees a second read through (which has happened to me each time I've read Aevum XD) as things that may not have stood out or been slightly unclear nearer the beginning when first reading, suddenly carry more weight and meaning to them reading a second time.
There's only a handful of critiques in terms of the plot. Towards the middle of the fourth part, some of the scene transitions weren't as clear as the others in the story. On the one hand it does fit with the overall tone of the piece and where Asami is at in this segment, but on the other it did make the time skips and transitions a little hard to follow. This occurred in a few other places as well, but predominantly in the fourth part.
Setting & Context: 9.7
The setting was often described in such an immersive way, drawing the reader in by not only describing what was there but helping us feel and experience it. There was never a moment where an environment felt unclear. Not only that, but given that the story is told from Asami's perspective (in second-person form) there were instances where it really felt like it was Asami was the one examining her world around her.
Even though the story takes place in an alternate universe it is still set in the Avatar world, and there were details sprinkled in that made this connection stronger, such as the fur on Yasuko's coat coming from a hybrid animal. In terms of spirituality, it still wasn't entirely clear how angels fit into this world however. Perhaps when Asami first sees her guardian angel she thinks she's a ghost of a water tribe woman, or a water spirit of some kind, before settling on guardian angel? Either way, having a little more connection to the spirituality of the existing Avatar world may help tie it together a little more.
Asami is in the spotlight for this fanon, and so we get to spend the entire story learning and living through her character. So much of Asami's characterisation is given to us through inner narration and action rather than dialogue, which is an effective way to 'show not tell' in a story. The same can be said for Asami's spiritual companion, who has even less dialogue yet is incredibly captivating with her expressions and gestures that make her such a complete and intriguing character.
It's understandable that these characters differ a little from their real-world counterparts since they have different experiences that shape them into who they are, but at the same time there could have been a little more connection to their canon-selves. For example, Hiroshi didn't quite seem like the devoted father that he was in the series, and while his distantness was an interesting take in the story, perhaps making him a little more like his canon-self might have helped with realism. Also, Mako's character was both intriguing yet a little unclear. Given his role in the story, it might have been good to mention what happened to him or why he wasn't present at the end, even if he was a minor character.
With all that said, I do want to reiterate that the characterisation in this story was done superbly on the whole, especially the dynamic between the two main characters which really shone through.
There were only a couple moments in the story where the actions or movements seemed a little unclear, one of which was in the opening scene. Other than that, each scene was detailed and captivating in its execution in terms of action. Throughout the story there was emotion woven into each movement, giving the characters and the scenes more of an impact.
I only found a couple typos in the story, so well done!
General Writing: 9.4
There are definitely some gems within this story in terms of writing (which made choosing the introduction quote much harder!). The descriptions and language used invoked such a deep emotional connection to what was happening, which worked brilliantly with the use of second-person perspective.
Although the story carries this almost ethereal or mysterious feel to it, there were a few instances where more direct language could have been used for better clarity. The end of the first scene is one area where this occurred, though there are only a few other examples later on in the story.
Aevum takes something so integral to what it means to be human – the longing for genuine human connection – and explores it with such creativeness and reverence. The way that it taps into these emotions and draws the reader in is something that makes this fanon so memorable and a true hidden gem on the fanon portal. Fruipit certainly knows how to connect to their audience and keep them invested, and I'd recommend Aevum to anyone who enjoys stories that explore deeper themes in a unique way.
|Fanon Highlight - Avatar: Civil Strife, by King Bumis Heir|
King Bumis Heir
is a fanon portal regular who started his first series back in 2012. After completing Avatar: The Legacy of Rong Yan
, King Bumis Heir now brings us a new story featuring another past avatar. Avatar: Civil Strife
tells the story of Avatar Avani, a fully realised Avatar born into a time of war between rival Earth Kingdoms.
With a vast number of character pages, historical events, and original artwork accompanying his fanon, King Bumis Heir spares no expense in creating a deep and intriguing universe for readers to be immersed in. Have a read of the synopsis below!
Avatar: Civil Strife
The war has brewed in the Haijun and Omashu Kingdoms for as long as anyone can remember, the four-hundred-year-old war continues to rage on. However, the war is almost over the Haijun Kingdom losing territory to the merciless Kuiwu Dynasty ruling in the Oma Kingdom.
Twenty-six-year-old Avani the successor of Avatar Keirou is born into the Haijun Kingdom to a noble family, where her generation serves the Earth King and the royal family. Avani is tasked to help end the war, while she expects to be at the helm of the operation she's instead cut down to size and is placed amongst the commoners all with the common goal in stopping the Oma Kingdom from ending the war. All while the Oma Kingdom's newest king Yeman Kuiwu AKA Manzujichengren, lives up to the legacy his father held.
His eyes and ears alert him of the danger the young Avatar poses, and Yeman employs a skillful mercenary of the barbarian clans that live in the Oma Kingdom. Gan works for the highest bidder, and he's perfect because he will complete a job without ethics getting in the way. Will the Haijun Kingdom get the Oma Kingdom out of their yard? Or will the Oma Kingdom finally end the war?
Original artwork by Parker Spider Dude:
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