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On Writing, pt. 2

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How did it happen that the title of the second episode was changed, and why Tenzin plays pai sho? And by the spirits, why there’s so many dialogues?

Here's the second blog post, containing all the answers.

The title

Three days ago I published the second episode of Phantoms, called The Game. As Henryjh98’s already mentioned in his comment, the title I had announced before used to be The City. That’s right. But the more scenes of the episode I wrote, the more I realized that the title didn’t quite match events that took place in the chapter. In my initial plan, it focused on the political and economical mishmash of Republic City and would contain all those important conversations (Tenzin — Asami — Mohandas; Tenzin — Iroh; Asami — Zuzhou — Beiphan; and some more).

However, I quickly felt that it would be too monotonous; there’s already a lot of politics in the fanon, and I started to wonder if such an amount of it in one place would be an overkill to readers. So I moved the Mohandas scene to the first episode and drafted a few more POVs to the second one while writing it. It felt better than before, that’s for sure, but there was a problem.

The title wasn’t accurate any more. I had to find a new one.

And I started to think intensively. I had to; all of the scenes were completed and ready to publish, but I still had no framing device at all to conclude the meaning of the episode. So, I reread the entire thing again, looking for a grip to base. And I found it. Twice.

“You simply can’t deny yourself playing those little games of yours, don’t you?” asked Iroh, when Tenzin joined him again few minutes later.

And:

“You are free to think so, Mohandas. But the fact I am here disproves it.”
“The fact you’re here proves they’re an important factor in your game.”
“Game of what?”
“Survival.” The little man turned around. His hair short and receding, he was obviously balding. A pair of rounded glasses was lying on his hook nose. “I see you brought guests.”

It became obvious. It simply had to be “The Game”.

By the way, the second dialogue is my favorite so far. Curious to hear if you agree.

The development

Nevertheless, the episode still lacked something. You see, I believe that every chapter should be a good standalone piece on its own as well as it should fit into a bigger vision — a vision of the whole story. The Game is certainly important to the whole fanon — you’ll see why in later episodes, don’t worry — but it was not good as a piece. It wasn’t bad either, it was just… too casual.

Thankfully, with the new title I gained a new perspective. Yes, Tenzin plays a game, for sure. But my question was, what would he play if he existed in our world? I believe the answer is really simple.

Chess.

Councilman Tenzin, Tenzin the Politician that Phantoms introduced, certainly would play chess. At least figuratively.

Sadly, chess doesn’t exist in the world of Avatar series. But pai sho does.

I quickly explored the wiki’s article about pai sho, which I found very helpful, because one of the commenters provided me with a link to The Pai Sho Project. It would be extremely hard to recreate rules of the game on my own, but thanks to that site I was able to immediately write an introduction fragment that compares life to pai sho. After doing so, I felt that the episode was completed.

However, it gave me another idea. I’ve read a lot of fanon reviews lately. Every one of them contained a reviewing category called “character development”. But none contained a category I call “world development”. I agree that it’s crucial to characters to develop during the story, but it’s important as well that the world they live in has to grow and expand, too. And that’s why I think the pai sho introduction is so important, even if it’s not related to the plot itself. It’s an extension of the world of the series. I was trying to do my best in order to make it as Avatar-ish as I only could. But only you can tell if I succeeded, of course.

The same reasoning created quotes on the beginning of each episode. Their authors are characters of the Avatar world — I thought it would be a funny reference — but the content is entirely real. Yes, that’s right; those are actual quotes.

It’s a little game between the author and the reader — can you guess who really told those words?

Dialogues

There’s a lot of dialogues in The Game, but it’s done by design. A lot of things happens between the characters, and I didn’t want to show it using neither description nor reported speech. I wanted the reader to see it in the way how they talk to each other. That’s why I put a lot of effort in dialogues and tried to create an unique way of talking for everyone.

Tenzin speaks in a very formal tone, he’s also very polite and careful, just like in the show. (And Asami can speak in the same way, because she was raised in a wealthy environment). Faan Dou does the opposite. I usually write in British English, which I was taught in school, but his dialogues — as well as many Mako’s and Bolin’s lines — are written in American English. He’s a sportsman and it is clearly visible. Zuzhou Meiyou, Asami’s interlocutor, certainly seems to be a choleric, impulsive and emotional person. That’s how he talks. But there is not a word about him in the narration; he speaks for himself. As well as Beiphan. It was also a lot of fun to write Bumi’s dialogues; he’s witty and I like it.

So, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed the episode and the blog post!

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