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FRS Review - Sparkstoaflame's one-shots, by Sparkstoaflame: Part 2

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FRSimage
This review was conducted by the Fanon Review Squad and reflects our best judgment of writing and fanon authorship quality. Please don't take offense if the review wasn't positive. We always give advice!

Hello again. It's been a little while, hasn't it. Today, I will be sharing the second part of my review of Sparkstoaflame's oneshots, by Sparkstoaflame (I guess that's kind of repetitive). The first part was featured in the White Lotus Sentinel back in November. The first three stories were reviewed there, and now what's left is Answering Machine, When You Come Home and the overall scores. Let's take a look.


Answering Machine

Wherein Korra and Asami are just lost on a road in the middle of nowhere, and Bolin's just trying to order takeout, and the only thing Mako wants back are his pants.

Plot - 8.9: This fanon story is told through an answering machine for the telephone at Air Temple Island. Following a simple start, the slew of messages grow more ridiculous and entertaining as it goes along. And in the end, it's up to the reader to learn about what the events are through the lines of the characters describing them. Overall, the simple scenarios become more interesting to follow as it goes along. Daang, why don't any of these people actually pick up the phone? Well, there wouldn't be as much of a story told this way for us if they did.

Execution - 9.0: On it's own accord, this story was executed pretty well. With a high-pressure moment placed right at the beginning of the one-shot, it seems successful enough in keeping a given reader's attention in place from the beginning to the end. And, as a message machine itself can jump around when listened to continuously, we find ourselves leaving constantly coming back to separate parts of the story. Granted, it can be confusing at times, but Sparks sets it up so that it's not much hassle to figure out what's going on. There was also a problem with the line at the very beginning, even though it's not in the bulk of the piece itself, which caused a minor deduction. I'll come back to that in a later category.

Proper Writing - 6.7: There were not a whole lot of technical writing mistakes in this story. In fact, it was mostly perfect. Granted, it is easier to avoid spelling or grammar errors during spoken lines because that inherently has more flexibility than solid narration. That said, one has to keep a constant eye on the form of the words that they're using, so that everything in the sentence is reconciled with everything else. Such is also the case with the correct singular and plural forms. For instance, when Officer Jing mentioned an arrst "due to numerous complaints from passerby", it should be passersby. The errors were not too numerous, but they can be eye sores when trying to read a good story, so an extra read-through always helps to correct them.

Creativity - 9.5: Well, I can't honestly say that I've seen anything like this in a story before. That's right, in a story, be it a fanon, an original story, something read in school, anything. As far as I know, this answering machine medium is pretty much unique. Furthermore, the scenarios that Mako, Bolin, Asami, Korra and others find themselves in show just how much of Sparks's creative energy is at play. Granted, some of these settings are typical, just like the idea of an everyday answering machine itself, in fact. However, they are creatively handled, so that's a minor deduction.

Description of Action - Omitted I don't ordinarily omit categories entirely, but I pretty much have to with this one. Virtually the entire fanon was spoken.

Description of Setting - 8.7: There's not too much setting description to comment on either, but the dialogue from each message gets the point across, and (for the most part) does so while fitting the character who allegedly spoke the line. Albeit, I mean that whether or not I would picture them saying the line in an episode, which does not always sync 100% with whether it's in their character. Just like with the execution category, there was the part about the line at the beginning:

"Wherein Korra and Asami are just lost on a road in the middle of nowhere, and Bolin's just trying to order takeout, and the only thing Mako wants back are his pants."


Now, you may be thinking that I'm nitpicking with something that's not part of the main piece, let alone mentioning it in a review. The thing is...it told, and everything after it was showing. Part of writing is uncovering shards of a picture at the proper face, and outright stating - or spoiling - when someone first "opens" (clicks on) it takes some of the fun out of it. Preferably, the line could've just referred to Team Avatar's answering machine, and maybe hinted at some wacky gimmicks to come.

Realism - 9.0: Whether the idea of an answering machine existing in The Legend of Korra is realistic or not is clearly not the point of the story (they became common in their contemporary form starting in the 1960s, whereas Korra is set in a 1920s-style environment.) The score in this category is based more off of the spoken lines of the characters they fit as well as their alleged actions. For the most part, they were believable, with the exception of Korra. She's not always as over-the-top as she is in this story. Sure, we see Asami being more calm and collected by comparison, but Korra's overreacting felt more over-the-top than necessary.

Character Development - 8.4: Even without the use of any dialogue tags, we did manage to get a feel for the characters in place. Mako's in a crisis of his own, Bolin's approaching his obstacles in a less-than-serious manner, Asami has the attitude for managing the situation, and Korra is in a sticky situation with Asami, and we can clearly see that. Although Korra's lines were consistent and followed no progression, it was fun watching Asami's calm melt away as she grew closer and closer to Korra, but she wasn't quite panicking that much by the end of it.

SCORE: 8.60

Constructive Criticism: This was a cool little piece that there was no precedent for, to my knowledge. I don't have a lot to say, as you're already making great use of the characters, except maybe work on Korra's portrayal and the line at the top. Her yelling wasn't all out of character, but the fact that it never changed seemed off. It would've been more spot on if she followed a progression of sorts, like Asami did.

To whom I would recommend: Anyone looking for a good laugh who is ready to try something original.


When You Come Home

In a soft whisper, she murmurs, "Found you," before she takes you away with her into paradise.

Plot - 9.2: The story is powerful and intricately woven together, with the events and the sections portrayed tying into each other well. Sparks actually gets quite a lot across in a one-shot scarcely over two thousand words in length. Well, I don't want to spoil it, but to clarify enough for the purposes of this review, this fanon stars the characters from The Legend of Korra, and it deals with death. The pacing of the events was more on the choppy side, slowing down and speeding up at times. Granted, that's tough to get spot-on in a short one-shot. Overall, the plot stands out in a way that you have to really see for yourself.

Execution - 8.5: While the progression of this story is managed with elegant organization, there were some parts that can cause a reader to jump out of the moment. For instance, there was a sudden time skip later on, which felt jumpy, like it could be smoother. Also, this story is told in the second person. This means that the reader is called "you" by the author as though they were one of the characters in the story. Since this takes place in the Avatar world, this is going to be one of the characters there. When the reader is reading, they first have to figure out who this person is, which turns out to be sometimes one character and sometimes another. Inevitably, any author who writes something from the shifting second person where they show and not tell the reader whose perspective it is is setting up a huge challenge for his or herself to keep it smooth and clear. I'm not saying that Sparks doesn't utilize the advantage of such a style, but there was some almost unavoidable confusion that arose from section to section, which distracted from the mood.

Proper Writing - 10.0: Nothing. Well done.

Creativity - 9.2: Essentially, what Sparks does here is take the journeys of the canon characters that we know from the show in a new, heart-wrenching direction, and describe her composition in such a way that the reader feels very much a part of the journey. Coping with the death of a close one is not an unusual theme, so it really comes down to how its handled. I once read a story where two members of Team Avatar from ATLA died violent deaths in the same scene and I didn't even feel bad, due to the quality of the writing and the way the story was handled. That's not the case here, though. In the end, the way that Sparks chose to handle it stands out.

Description of Action - 9.2: All of the actions taken in this story are shown with an involved, emotional viewpoint in mind. With the second person in place, the author is saying that "you" are the one living this story and experiencing these emotions, so Sparks uses each new sentence and paragraph to reinforce this in the actions that "you" and the other characters take. For the most part, this setting is executed well. The small deduction in this category stems from static changes from section to section and the downsides of the second person style employed, which I described above.

Description of Setting - 9.5: In general, the background is described well, save for sometimes when this category is effected by the choppiness factor from section to section. The deduction in this category is not a large one, though, as the high quality of the writing Sparks gives us is on a similar level to her other one-shots. In fact, I'd go as far at to say some of the scenery description doesn't get much better, as far as the wiki goes.

Realism - 9.2: This story does feel realistic, and by that of course I mean realistic as far as the Avatar world is concerned. Each of the canon characters holds to their established personalities, the setting is one that is believable, and of course, the writing reminds us of that. The majority of the story immerses the reader well enough to get the point across.

Character Development - 9.0: It's Mako and Bolin that the reader is set up to identify with perspective-wise, as its their eyes that we witness the story through and are through the second person style of the story, we take turns witnessing one and seeing through the eyes of the other. With Korra and the other characters involved, we don't see as much depth in because they're not the main focus of the story, but there's a clearly-painted picture of Mako, Bolin and what's going on around them.

SCORE: 9.23

Constructive Criticism: Work on your transitions for this style of writing. In other one-shots I've seen you write, your transition is spot-on, but this style you've chosen here is one that demands more clear transition by nature.

To whom I would recommend: Anyone who wants to have the wind knocked out of them.


Overall

Plot - 9.1: Each story stood out on its own merit. Not all of the story ideas were inherently original, but their separate genres and styles helped define them, both normal and AU alike. It's apparent that Sparks's mind has a host of plots to share, which I hope she'll continue to do on here for some time to come. If there's something common to work on from these stories collectively, it's the pacing and building transitions that are smooth for the reader. There's no one-size-fits-all way to go about this for every kind of writing, but there's an awareness that surfaces via trial and error.

Execution - 9.0: After reading and reviewing all five of these vastly different one-shots, I can safely say that Sparks knows how to work with different styles, use them in writing and tell the right story with the pros and cons of a the style understood, then use the advantages to her advantage. Each one-shot has a format to follow, and the character of each story reflected is revealed in its own way. Some of the styles suit their settings more than others and the rapid changing from sections to sections contributed to a deduction here.

Proper Writing - 7.4: In general, this was not a category that I saw Sparks struggle with. Although each of the stories I reviewed except for one had errors which stood out, they didn't stand out much against the quality of the pieces overall. I can't recall any spelling errors, though there were some incorrect word forms and placement. Then there was the punctuation, which seemed to sneak into the published versions the most, and can be more difficult to spot at first glance than obvious typos. None of this is anything that a more patient read through before hitting the post button can't eliminate.

Creativity - 9.1: Most of the premises for the one-shots are imaginative ideas to begin with, as I said in the corresponding creativity categories for each of the five stories. There were times when the natural course of action was followed, but there was more than a satisfactory amount of creative directions and twists to keep the stories interesting and hold the reader's attention all the way through.

Description of Action - 9.1: One of the best qualities of Sparks's writing is that all the words and sentences of the story just make sense together. The progression is rhythmic, but not repetitive and while some of the writing is generic, more often than not it's because the time calls for it. Just like with execution and description of setting, this category is partially effected by proper writing deductions, which also contributed to the overall deduction from every story except for When You Come Home.

Description of Setting - 9.4: Sparks uses words to form not only sentences, but the right sentences. She's done something amazing with twenty-six symbols with far lesser meaning on their own stringed together to form meaning. The same way that the letters form the words, the words and sentences form the paragraph, so that everything is part of a smooth, consistent whole and nothing is wasted. In a nutshell, this is what good writing is. In some parts, the same level of description doesn't fit one section or paragraph as much as the next and once again, some proper writing errors come into play, but that's only enough to justify a minor deduction here.

Realism - 8.9: For the most part, I could see each of these stories taking place in the reality that they're set in. There were some deductions for the realistic believability in each category that were largely "this and that". As far as somewhere you might improve your realism going forward, I'd make all the characters more consistent and the canon ones especially fit with their established personas. Most of the time, you're already doing this, with the exception of a few cases like Korra in both Our chemicals, they react and Answering Machine.

Character Development - 8.9: In the end, the main characters stood out much more than any characters with less of a role to play, which is to be expected in a story. However, a story always feels more complete with the minor characters in a clear view as well. They may not be as fully-fleshed, but it's always preferable to have defined, motivated individuals surrounding the actions instead of just extras. The canon characters were all spot on, and Sparks has a natural way of writing for them. In two of the stories, Korra's portrayal was more two-dimensional, but that appears to be confined to humorous pieces, as it was not the case in When You Come Home.

SCORE: 8.86

Constructive Criticism: As I've already made clear in this review, you got talent. Sure, there's lots to work on, but every author has room for improvement at the end of every day. I presume you've already been writing a while, judging by the different genres and the similar spirit of the style reflected in each, as one develops their own style over time. I would say that you should, above all, remain true to that style. It's working.

To whom I would recommend: Since these are all one-shots, they obviously will appeal to someone looking to read shorter stories, as well as something fresh in the realm of Avatar fanondom.

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