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FRS Review - The Haunting Burden, by ATLALOK

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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!

Hey guys, I'm back for a brand new friendly neighborhood ghost review. Today I will be reviewing The Haunting Burden, one of the latest fanon series written by Avatar Wiki's own ATLALOK. Now, for the plot:

It's 167 BG and a family of four is now a family of three when the man of the house is killed during a battle. After the news is told to the family, it changes the way the family runs, the mother has something snap inside her, making her go a little...mentally unstable. This causes the sweet, beautiful and fierce Naomi and her try-hard and immature little brother Wakato to escape from their mother and start a new life outside of Chin Village. With her father being dead now, Naomi has to take on a lot more responsibilities, and as the days go by without her dad being around, the more major decisions get.

This story follows teenage siblings from the Earth Kingdom as they run away and from their home town and find themselves as they venture into the unknown. In essence, it's a coming of age tale. Not an uncommon plot, but perhaps uncommon for an Avatar fanon. So, the premise has told us where they started, and the story tells us where they will end up. Without further ado, let's dig in!

Plot - 8.0: The plot revolves around the experiences of Naomi and Wakato and their development along the way, from Naomi's perspective. A character-based story like this has real potential when the obstacles and challenges they face are timed and synced right. In order to get the best out of the premise, some aspects of the plot should be fixed. The pacing of the plot has a tendency to be inconsistent. At times, the story appears to rush forward, such as when Naomi and Wakato set out, having made their decision to leave their home and mother behind. Considering the premise, that's arguably one of the most important parts of the story. However, it feels almost glazed over. Also, the main characters seem to give this little to no forethought, considering how unprepared they are as we see during subsequent chapters. Also somewhat glazed over is the war which took place shortly before the start of the story between the relatively poor Chin Village and the relatively rich Gaoling. It's a conflict that just happened and impacted nearly all the characters involved, but very little is said about it.

At other times, the plot seems to slow to a crawl, and the overall story does not move forward much. This would not be as much of a deduction if there were more trials and challenges that the characters had to face in that time. Unfortunately, it doesn't help the reading experience when one is wondering where the plot is going and wondering when some real action will take place at the same time.

Execution - 7.5: With Naomi as the narrator, this story is told in the present first person, with occasional journal entries mixed in. This allows the reader to keep some close proximity to the main character, and it's relatable at times throughout. It goes without saying that the main character's thoughts should reveal significant emotion, but it was sometimes difficult to feel the atmosphere of grief that ought to take center-stage when so much is told and not shown. Especially with the first person, there should be so much more than information on what's going on present. And then, there are simple statements such as "it's a guy thing" that set out to sum everything up at once and substitute in an area where more revealing of what's going on in the characters eyes could go. Putting yourself in Naomi's shoes, if you were going through what she was, you would probably have much more to say while telling your story than describing what's going on (note: it's important to say that characters in your story should not be direct reflections of yourself, but in this case approaching it from that angle might liven it up.)

While categories like Description of Action and Setting have their scores more effected by the proper writing score, which I talk about below, it does also effect Execution here somewhat. Apart from that, the capitalizing of entire lines by the characters got distracting at times. I understand that they're yelling, but there isn't a need for it when there is already an exclamation point. Actually, ideally, the words themselves should convey the character's tone, but if an exclamation point is needed, it can be added. There's nothing really to gain by having caps AND an exclamation point, though. Later on, the execution gets more refined, with an illuminating flashback at the appropriate moment, cliffhangers to lead the reader along and nice language when a core character must make a choice. The relationships are portrayed well between the characters. However, there were some scenes which introduced romantic ideas that should have been hinted at earlier on, as some subtle foreshadowing would've brought them into the story more smoothly.

Proper Writing - 4.5: There were a fair number of mistakes that appeared throughout. First of all, the words for "mom" and "dad" were not capitalized in places where they ought to have been. If the word can be replaced with a person's name, it is capitalized, while if it cannot be replaced with a person's name, such as "our dad" and "my father", it is not capitalized.

  • At the end of the day, Sharon picked me up from school.
  • At the end of the day, Mom picked me up from school.
  • At the end of the day, my mom picked me up from school.

Secondly, there is punctuation. It's use was inconsistent throughout the fanon. Sometimes the placement was inappropriate and sometimes necessary periods, commas, question marks and apostrophes were missing. Every sentence clause must have a full-stop like a period or a semicolon. Since a semicolon is a full stop, it cannot go in a place where a comma might also go. Question marks and exclamation points are typically full stops, but can function just like a comma if the situation fits, such as with dialogue tags. So if they're used like a comma would be there is no need for a new sentence. A word like "said", just like "put", cannot go alone, and needs something (a line) to refer to within the same sentence clause.

  • "He's from Gaoling," she said. Right.
  • "He's from Gaoling." She said. Wrong.
  • "Is he from Gaoling?" she asked. Right.

Apart from that, there were numerous times - albeit not as numerous - where an incorrect word was used in place of a similarly-spelled one, such as putting in then for than, am for is, complement for compliment and earthbend where it should be earthbendER. On a final note, the paragraph spacing was off sometimes - not necessarily proper writing per se, but taking the opportunity to point it out.

Creativity - 8.6: The centralness of the coming of age theme is a common plotline, but notsomuch for an Avatar fanon. Therefore, reading this is not like reading most of the works on the fanon portal. Plot twists did follow through into the larger plots pretty well, so it's safe to say that the base and the fabric of the subplots against one another is pretty creative. But there were times where the stars seemed to line up for the characters all-too-conveniently, and it seemed the author missed out on a creative chance to expand upon those areas. One of the subplots revolved around a minor antagonist with a lot of buildup that didn't have a lot to know about of in the end. Then there's the war, which seems a typical, basic backdrop to serve for any story taking place following a war. We know that it was between rich Gaoling and poor Chin Village, but what was it about? Was it about wealth, territory, revenge, plain hatred, irredentism? How did it start? How did it end? Who started it? At some times the characters are talking like Gaoling initiated the conflict and at others it sounds like it was Chin Village's choice to go to war.

Description of Action - 7.5: The describing of the actions of the characters did move the story forward, but it still could have benefited from more showing and less telling. Most of the phrases describing character actions get across what is going on. The fighting actions were clear, albeit sometimes confusing as to what exactly was happening. An example comes from when a character falls "humorously" during a fight. In this case it was difficult to picture what the fall looked like and also to pinpoint how exactly it was humorous. Then there were times when we're told of a "tragic death" but little other language is used to describe the sad event. Moving onto dialogue tags, there were many different ways to say "said", but at times the word variation seemed force, such as when "explained" was used, but the character was not explaining anything in the line they spoke, so the word did not fit. Apart from that and the writing errors described above in proper writing, until the most recent chapters a few sentences did not have proper clauses.

Description of Setting - 8.5: The settings of the fanon, like the actions, were described thoroughly the majority of the time, but could have benefited by more showing versus telling. Occasionally, there were similar words that were stated too close together and at times the story broke from its present tense into the past tense. The tense should always be consistent, not only for the sake of staying consistent, but because its also the proper way to write. Sometimes, the language used was a little awkward. As for the dialogue itself - including the narration inside of Naomi's head - the majority of the lines were fitting and realistic, but the capitalization, as mentioned above, was distracting. Some exclamation points were also misused, such as when a character was whispering.

Often, I tend to list positive points before deductions in categories. For this particular category of this particular fanon, though, I felt like doing a 180 on that. Why, you might ask? Well, because after a general look, there were times when the setting description really did shine through - really shined through. The stiff atmosphere of a dinner table was an excellent example of painting a picture with words and one case of food description actually did make me hungry as I was reading. The description of Ryoma's house as well as certain clothing was also well-worthy of praise. food, stiff atmosphere

Realism - 7.4: For the most part, the interactions of the characters with one another are believable from real people. As this fanon's plot revolves around its characters, the characters are essentially where its believability is derived from. The realistic value in the story fluctuated when the emotional turns of the story shifted angles. In some instances, the character's actions seem out of place for them, including when two characters exclaim on the fact that they are both earthbenders at what seems to be an inappropriate moment. A lot of the deduction here comes back to showing versus telling. The story begins after the father died, but it was difficult to feel the atmosphere of grief if it wasn't presented by the family in that manner. As readers, we were told that the mother used to be much better, but since we were never shown her as anything but crazed and angry, it becomes difficult to picture her otherwise. Then there was the time when Ryoma invites Naomi and Wakato to stay at his house as a token of apology for his earlier rudeness. Considering that he is a boy they just met around Naomi's age, it seems off that she is not more suspicious of his motive in doing so.

Character Development - 7.7: Naomi steals center-stage as far as character development is concerned. Most of the development so far in the story has been hers, though there are hints of some from Wakato, Ryoma and later Avatar Kentaro. Naomi's quirks are timed well and she opens up the the reader more in the relatively recent chapters, but she did take her time in doing so. It did seem off that she was not an open person, but she was open to the idea of a new family fairly easily. What her development could have used more of was her reactions to pivotal events, with that she reveals as narrator as well as her perceptions of other characters' perceptions. This is especially appropriate with the first person! It's a style that begs to reveal more, but without being used this way where appropriate, it seems muted. Wakato, meanwhile, shows spouts of oncoming maturity and develops sporadically with regards to his interactions with Naomi. What could have been beneficial for his end would have been more fleshing out of key moments, such as the part about his and Naomi's past relationships with their parents, which likewise should have been fleshed out more itself.

There's not as much from the minor characters to expect, but they too could have used some more depth. For instance, the culprit, who was mentioned and referred to so often, does not receive as much attention outside his little dice of action in the story, and seems more like a prop than a minor character. As for the mother, why is she so overly upset and why only with her family? Instead of witnessing her grief and a clear, believable path to overreaction, she just seems insane and unable to be justified.

SCORE: 7.46

Constructive Criticism: Work on your showing instead of telling. A simple way to do this is "tell yourself, show the reader"; i.e., write down the essential things you want to tell in the story, and then brainstorm ways to show them to add in as you go along. Apart from that, work on building characters consistently and adding more varied language to your background. It's already clear from parts of your story that you know how to describe, so it comes down to adding those "layers" elsewhere, by fleshing out key parts and paying attention to detail.

To whom I would recommend: Anyone ready to meet a fresh gang of OCs and grow closer to them over time.

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