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2013 Fanon Fact Finders' Interview of the Year: Silent Hero in Emerald by Minnichi

ByBray October 6, 2013 User blog:ByBray

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Sokka as therapist This blog is an official interview of the Fanon Fact Finders. We hope you enjoy it!

Welcome to the first annual Fanon Fact Finders’ Users’ Choice Interview! Today, your hosts, ByBray, Fruipit and Kuir will be interviewing long-time author, Minnichi, on her fanon Silent Hero in Emerald!

SHIEcouple


Deep within the Earth Kingdom, hidden behind – or in – the great walls of the Impenetrable City, the Dai Li watch, and wait. In an expensive eatery in the Upper Ring, two pickpockets are apprehended. Forcefully. In the Middle Ring, a young bender – a prodigy – is watched from the shadows. And far below Lake Laogai, an agent of the Dai Li sleeps. This is not that agent. This agent is the one who began the whole mess in the Dai Li. Watching, just out of the picture; she has pulled the strings of every major player, and for every major decision that has taken place. Tonight, her true motives are revealed. In an exclusive interview, the elusive and enigmatic Agent Minni Chi will reveal all there is to tell about the Dai Li, and how they deal with traitors.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ba Sing Se is kept balanced by the Dai Li. Any signs of conflict or talk of war are silenced immediately by these elite earthbenders, under the strict eye of Long Feng. Brainwashing, imprisonment, execution... Anything's acceptable to maintain order. Those who disrupt the peace must be eliminated at once. ...Right? Yuhan, a highly talented converter of rebels (a.k.a. brainwasher), never had any problems with the Dai Li's reasoning. He lives to contribute to the balance of the city since he doesn't really have anything else to do, anyway. After an unexpected twist of events, however, a childhood friendship resurfaces - and blooms into love. It wouldn't have been so bad if the Dai Li hadn't deemed her a disruptor of peace.


How are you?

I'm...well, you know. The usual. *Strains not to get sidetracked or fall asleep* But also as usual, not that I care about my health or anything. I can totally do this. Bring it!!! >8D
Hold on! wait... what time is it there?
Oh! Well, it's 11am, but the panda eyes didn't go anywhere last time I checked in the mirror, so... ^^ *Twitch*
So the panditis has returned.. or rather... it never left?
Never left o.o

Everyone knows you love the Dai Li, but can you expand on why you wrote this?

Oh dear... I'm pretty sure I've ranted the same story on tinychat to countless users (cough Ty) but hey, never gets old to me! So! Once upon a time, an anonymous reader on Fanfiction.net thought the Dai Li were totally awesome after seeing their background in Escape from the Spirit World. She was all lyke, "Hey, I want to read fanfiction about the Dai Li now!" And she thought it would be such a simple/straightforward process. Then it turned out that no one writes about the Dai Li. And she didn't count grammatically disastrous oneshots. So then she got really mad, started thinking countless things that all started with, "Oh if only they had a story where this and this and this happened...that would be so cool..." At some point she realized the ideas she was coming up with could just be their own story. "FINE, I'll just do it myself you losers!!!" Anddd that's how I even became a writer of fanon. I'd have stayed forever anonymous otherwise, no joke.
So, I guess you could take the quote from Toni Morrison and change it up a bit, and it would fit your situation? “If there's a [fanon] that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
Oh wow, I didn't know such a quote existed! But yes, that sums up my situation perfectly.

So, you always have to write each chapter to SHiE with such emotion, power, and... well sheer brilliance. How do you think you learned to write with such eloquence?

D'aw, 'sheer brilliance?' *Waves hand and shoos off comment* I don't think of it as such, heh. *Pulls Dai Li hat down to hide blush* But well, if you're asking how I went about learning to write or improve, I actually started off with a sort of idol on fanfiction.net to look up to for all that is great in writing. Her name's Pureauthor, and while I did develop my own style, I went back later and realized that she and I still have so many similarities. She was the first to set my mental standard of how action scenes should be, too. (And I still consider my own fight scenes a joke compared to hers @_@) Other than that, I believe I improved mainly because I don't forget a single criticism from anyone when it comes to writing. As soon as someone says something and it dawns on me that they're right, it sticks forever. Then I go back and fix the flaw wherever it is in my story.
Do you think you'd enjoy writing as much had you not learned from Pureauthor?
Hm well, Pureauthor was there more as a standard and not so much a learning experience. I enjoy writing just for what it is - even in school, English was always my favorite/best subject you could say. I can find something to enjoy even in an essay explaining the symbolism found in 'The Grapes of Wrath' (Which is saying something, if you've read that book.) To me, it's all about making something interesting with what you have. I've always been able to do it so long as I'm writing. Even for the SAT tests and stuff. So no, I probably would've enjoyed writing just the same with or without Pureauthor.
... If it's anything like Walden: Life in the Woods, I feel your pain. D:
Oh gawd, Walden. Don't even get me started @_@ (Ahem) Moving on!

How do you justify having a traitor agent?

I think I've answered something similar in a previous interview with you, Frui, but I can probably elaborate better/stick more to the point this time. That was a major obstacle starting out SHiE, actually. My first thoughts: "The Dai Li are too cool not to have a good guy! ...Wait, how would they have a good guy?" ...Until BAM, the power of love! Also referred to as the most powerful force in the world. SHiE became a romance because love is how you make a treacherous Dai Li agent possible. Nothing would be worth betraying the Dai Li, with all the good stuff that the agents have going on for them...unless it's to save a lover. So yeahhh...
Nice language choice; "lover". Now, how many times do Yuhan and Riya kiss?
*Eyes the room suspiciously for a snickering Lady Lostris hiding somewhere* Well...they kiss "on screen" a total of 2 times. But hey, I'm assuming the readers know that they get more chances in between the chapters!
Why are you against physical intimacy? There are 21 chapters and how many words?
It's not that I'm against physical intimacy. What I think people just fail to realize sometimes is that love isn't defined by kisses...or anything beyond kisses. (Go away, Lostris!) I had to consider the time period of Avatar and the nature of the SHiE couple, and then love itself. Certain...er, physical intimacy is basically a taboo before marriage during this time. And furthermore, Yuhan and Riya are quite shy. The former is also constantly poked at enough just for having a girlfriend, because his organization knows him well and in general the citizens of Ba Sing Se probably find it unusual for an agent to display any emotion at all. Yuhan doesn't like being teased (by Hiroshu especially) or sticking out in public, while Riya is just shy in general. For them, I feel like the amount of intimacy they have now (just nice hugs and kisses, people!) is right for their situation. There's timing involved with these things, and any amount of intimacy that's thrown in carelessly/too early can really kill the romance you've been trying to build up believably.
Oh, but having him think she killed herself in front of him is okay?
That wasn't her fault!!!
I sense a disturbance in the force. Shall we move on from this.. erm.. interesting topic?

Will the story give Hiroshu a little more focus now that Yuhan has been put in such a bind?

Oh, definitely. The last chapter (21) actually started off the "higher focus" on Hiroshu. He played a pretty major role in the story just from that chapter alone. Throughout the story, I had him more or less "meaningful" because it also reflects his situation. He was fine with the Dai Li and its system and found his patrol partner silly/overreactive for a lot of things. But the more Yuhan began to suffer due to losing Riya and betraying the Dai Li, the more Hiroshu realized that it was no longer about staying loyal to the organization - and that Yuhan being his best friend was more important. You'll be hearing a lot more about Hiroshu, don't worry!

How do you keep the story so canonical, yet still retain the originality factor?

Hm... It all honestly revolves around that original obstacle I had: "How do you make a Dai Li agent a good guy?" I didn't just want to write about the Dai Li, I wanted to imagine that behind the scenes, there actually *can* be a good guy in the show. My story's 'purpose' is virtually to fill in wherever A:TLA didn't expand, in the most epic way I can manage. I just looked at all the things about the Dai Li that they never answered, and realized that there are just so many possibilities even within the canon storyline. So it's like I look at the canonical events, and then think of all the "original stories" that could exist behind the scenes. It all honestly stems from my hopeless desire for an epic Dai Li agent to be *real,* heh. The more believable you make it, the more you could watch the show and be like, "Hey, he COULD exist!" And in conclusion, that's basically Minnichi's attempt to create her own 'canon' ;_; And actually, trivia! I don't think I made it clear, but I literally picked an agent that exists on-screen to designate as Yuhan.
’’How did you designate said characters from scenes in the show? ‘’
I wasn't purposely planning that "and it shall be decreed that Yuhan exists in the show because I said so!!!" It just so happened that certain situations seemed to fit him so well. I was going over some Dai Li scenes and then this here...

Well, I don't know, I just saw the guy run up and thought, "Oh my goodness, that's Yuhan." He was just perfectly awkward! And because of that, I decided later on to make Yuhan the one holding Aang captive at the Palace in Chapter 11 and such. I did pull something similar from watching "Lake Laogai," though that was more because Toph's agent-butt-kicking just set up some great plot ideas. Like Hiroshu breaking his rib:

Not to mention that was just a cool pair of agents to designate as the patrol partners anyway, hehe. (Yuhan is the one on the right, btw)

You planned on killing Yuhan; why? And how did you plan on doing it?

The prologue of SHiE actually used to be a very somber one. I believe the whole Yuhan-death thing is due to fanfiction.net's tendency to love tragedy or tragic romance, and well I did have my fair share of author mentors there...so they had a lot of influence. They are great writers who I still owe a lot of SHiE's quality to, but basically the message was: "Yuhan can't live! That shows weakness as an author, the inability to kill your own character!!!" And I really was going to do it. It all seemed so canonically accurate at the time, and I felt like I had "no choice" and was actually quite down when I first realized it, heh. Anyway, what would've happened was basically: Azula gets mad and kills Yuhan after he turns on the organization at the conclusion of The Crossroads of Destiny. She...would've done it with lightning, too. Heh. Then KMP pointed out such a simple fact that ended up changing everything: "Um... Isn't quick death too kind for Azula?" Thus, Yuhan lives! But er yeah, that's how it would've gone down. SHiE would be over right now without KMP.

What sources inspire your writing? How about from other writers on this wiki?

Heh well, the Dai Li alone are motivation enough for me to write. But aside from that, it's really A:TLA in general. It's such a great show with a phenomenal universe to adopt a story from. As for influence from other writers, I don't think it's so much their ideas that affect me but their writing style. I often pick up things I admire about others' writing, not word for word but just the concept and think about how it could help my own skills.

Minn, you're known for your love of writing, specifically your precise action scenes. Why do you think action plays such a vital role in both SHiE and other works?

Hmm... It's not that I favor action scenes in particular. They're just a little tricky and tend to be easy to screw up, so I rant a lot about them. But how I am around action scenes in SHiE is really just how I treat everything else; I try to make them as believable as possible and really capture the mood of the moment. Action scenes are just real fast-paced and intense, and sometimes it's hard to keep that pace going without being vague. But in any story, including SHiE, the importance of certain events depends on your plot. Some stories don't need action scenes to progress, but SHiE in particular has very pivotal moments that you can't really play off without a fight. Action scenes just play a vital role when the story calls for it, and sometimes I think people forget that it's not the other way around.

Are you ever happy with a chapter you publish, or are there always things you think you could have done better?

Oh, boy. My most common line preceding the publishing of a new chapter, I think:"I am just going to hit publish now or else my brain will never have a sense of closure and I will just keep finding more and more things to fix and I need to move on with my life ARGH!" ...Something like that. I do consider SHiE a constant revision, after all... Sometimes you'll still see some random chunks of rewrites even in my chapter edit histories. So overall, I do allow myself to be proud of what I accomplish in a chapter, and I do feel happy and recognize when I've portrayed a mood well, but yeah... There will always. Be something. To fix.

Given that you have such well-received work and a list of readers that more resemble an army of fanatics, what are your plans for post-SHiE, heaven forbid they come soon(ish)?

Er well I don't really think about my um, fanbase I guess, when my mind starts drifting off into that post-fanon abyss. But the truth is, I'm really terrified because said abyss just has...nothing. Nothing at all. I have no idea what to do. I'm just hoping some idea strikes me before SHiE ends so that I will have another story to invest in and not have to wallow in my post-fanon depression for too long. It's just at the moment I can't imagine being attached to any other OCs as much as I am to Yuhan and Riya. I'll just...not think about it for now ^^

How much longer will we have to wait to conclude this story?

...I'm really not sure. I think that if I actually had all the time I wanted to write, it would be over by the next fanon awards. But my update standards consider 1 month insanely fast, 3-4 months a 'delay,' and 2-3 months 'normal,' so...it could take a while. I'm not sure how my schedule/life will be during the next year or so, and thus I really can't give you even an idea of the conclusion time. The only definite thing is...yeah, it's not happening for a long time.

Do you think specific things such as choices, decisions, etc., altered Yuhan's views and opinions? Or do you think he had some form of an awakening within the Dai Li? Or possibly a little of both?

Oh, it was definitely Riya that drove most of the changes Yuhan went through. But it wasn't that she introduced the ideas to him for the first time - it was more like he could ignore it all until she became a part of his life (again). The Dai Li seem to have a sort of "bubble" within their organization, where all their ideals make sense to them and they don't concern themselves with the world outside or the people they brainwash. But Riya returning seemed to bring back Yuhan's life before the organization, and he was suddenly aware of just who the Dai Li were affecting and how the city felt about him. It was kind of a bad wake up call when Riya was taken from him, because only then did he truly feel the horror of the Dai Li's antics.

How has the story changed as it’s grown? Aside from the not-killing-Yuhan aspect…

A lot of characters I thought were added randomly ended up having much more influence than I'd expected.One named Mr. Huang, for instance, went from being the guy Riya helped out to a pretty close friend and neighbor in the Lower Ring, then ended up playing a part in the Resistance plans later. On top of that, his young son that Riya saved turned out to be a good parallel of childhood Yuhan; readers could really get a glimpse of how Yuhan used to be and see how the Dai Li drained his former spirit. Hiroshu was the most surprising 'big influence,' even before Chapter 21. To have him there helping Yuhan through hard times expanded the story more, and I think it contributed to a more natural feel - because it kind of reminds me and readers at the same time that just like in real life, a story will not be angst 100% of the time and that other things are always going on.

Canon-wise, what do you think happened to the Dai Li after they were exiled? What would you like to have happened to them?

Well I did ask Gene Yang once... (What? I was curious!) And he made it sound like they sorta just stayed on the down-low and slowly vanished since they weren't welcome anywhere... However, he did hint "perhaps they'll even appear in later comics?" Whether or not that was just to make me feel better, I will not give up hope! I'd like to think that they weren't just exiled completely, but reformed in Ba Sing Se under a good leader like Toph or something. They're still effective police, after all.

Minn, SHiE is inarguably one of the most popular fanfics on the wiki. How do you feel when you look at all the subscribers, fanon awards, and just positive feedback?

Oh geez... This is always awkward to think about. To be honest, it still surprises me whenever I look at my achievements as a whole. I don't think I've ever recovered from the mindset via fanfiction.net that "Shipping/canon will always win before OCs" and thus I'm always like "Whoa you really want to hear more about MY characters?" for every new reader. Then and now, all I ever wanted was just someone at all besides myself to "get" the story. And if not, even my own happiness with the story would be enough. That people would start yelling and crying and apparently hoarding tissues for my characters one day is still something I'm in awe about. It's not the awards/fancy templates I look at at all, it's really those moments you realize others actually...feel something for your story and your characters. That is just an awesome feeling, and that's what I'm truly proud of.

Will you write about the Dai Li in the Fire Nation during Book 3?

In light of Chapter 21... Yes. Definitely.

Some writing is full of symbols and, in some cases, reeks of symbolism. Do you think SHiE is symbolic in anyway? If so, can you give an example?

SHiE does have its fair share of symbols, but they seem more story-oriented to me rather than some allusion to the mystery of life. Certain things are symbols to certain characters. A big one is probably just the Dai Li uniform to Yuhan, which he wears all the time sorta like how he's constantly bound to his duties. It's also a glaring symbol of hate and oppression to most the citizens in Ba Sing Se, if anything. Riya herself is a symbol of 'life outside the Dai Li' to Yuhan, since you could say she draws him back into society and makes him more aware of those within the city. But aside from that, the SHiE main image itself was supposed to be symbolic. There's lots of rain sort of to hint at what Yuhan has to go through for Riya. Most importantly, though, he's taking off the hat of his very uniform - specifically for her. Everything in the picture is just very radical for a Dai Li agent, or basically shows how much he's not acting like an agent at all. I guess an overall theme to think about, though, is the concept of having everything 'perfect' in your life and still not being truly happy. Yuhan is talented and very respected as an agent. He's pretty much living the life in the eyes of others, but there are times a great, wealthy, fabulous "career" just isn't the answer to everything...yeah...

Do you think the Dai Li became the treacherous order they were when Long Feng came or long before that?

I would think that such a transformation in the organization had to have taken a long time, especially when it comes to figuring out how to brainwash. It's common for things to fall out of hand following the death of an Avatar, such as how Republic city became after Aang passed. To me, it was probably easy for the organization to let the power get to their heads over time, and even a few ambitious individuals could probably influence the others with the temptation of greed. Lots of things can happen to a powerful group of earthbenders whom Kyoshi specifically trained to be "feared by all."

You always talk about loving to get in your characters' heads and writing them like they were real people. Which character is your favorite to write about?

Yuhan! I mean, he's the protagonist heheh. But it's just because he's experiencing the most changes out of all the major characters that he's so fun to write for. He gets to see and encounter so many things (not all of them are bad, people!) and it's been a blast writing the story through his eyes.

To be blunt, it is well known, that chapters are posted with months apart, often heightening anticipation, is this all because of school and other things, or does it take you that much time to check your writing before you are sure it’s ready to post?

Yes, everyone knows about my punctuality. But if there's something else everyone should've picked up by now, it's that my sleep schedule doesn't differ much from Yuhan's. And it ain't because of writing. *Twitch* I've mentioned before that each chapter is written entirely in one go, which could range from 8-12 hours straight. All those other days inbetween, though? Yeah...school... Unbelievable how much time academics can kill! And on top of that, well I'm sort of in 5 usergroups on AW and am still channeling art trades back and forth on dA for authors here and all...I really wish I had more time...

Do you plan everything that’s going to happen, or do you play it by ear?

I think a good way to describe it is that I plan everything that'll happen...that "matters." Basically every event that would change the course of the whole plot if altered. But to me, the real joy of writing is 'filling in the blanks' between the major events. There are so many quirks, side characters, and minor stories that can suddenly occur to you as you write. And because of that, I can't do the whole mapping-out of every chapter ahead of time, because I really don't know exactly when one arc of the story will conclude with all those added details. It makes the process more lively and open to possibilities, but still retains a solid plan and direction underneath.

Art has become a reoccurring hobby of yours - do you gear it towards SHiE very often? And how often do you draw?

Art was always a hobby of mine - it's really drawing that became more prominent later. SHiE and Avatar in general are what motivated me to draw "seriously" in the first place, because it made me realize how much I'd love to make art like that and how great it would be to be able to illustrate your own characters. Well, I take a figure drawing class that runs for 3 hours on Tuesday, and then I go to an "open drawing session" for practice on Thursday nights that's 2.5 hours. Outside of that, though, I try to spend at least 1-2 hours a day practicing. (And this is just referring to skill-building, not necessarily 'whole pictures' like my FII requests). It's been really tough trying to improve my illustration skills with this glaring Bio degree sitting there in the background with all the exams, but I'm still working on it!

Apart from Vortex, do you plan to write anything else out once you do finish this?

As I said earlier, I am terrified of having absolutely no 'big fanon' plans after SHiE ends. However, I could see myself engaging in oneshots to keep myself distracted or if the ideas I come up with can only be short-term. Either that, or I'd resort to just...playing out that ridiculous Pu-on Tim concept I had. As in start covering the whole A:TLA series through his eyes. It's a pretty random backup plan, but hey, as long as I have something to write!

So, what is this esteemed *theme song* I've heard so much about?

Dude, I wish more people would notice that theme song on SHiE's main page! I know that the story is what everyone really pays attention to, but sometimes I wish they would try seeing how the song plays into it as well. Oh - this by no means makes SHiE a songfic, just throwing that out there xD But this song was really just one that I've listened to obsessively for years already. I was big in orchestra back in the day, so I appreciated instrumental pieces and violin solos and such. It wasn't til mid-SHiE, though, that "Nightingale" by Yanni played on my headphones one day while I was writing and caused a "that song is perfect!!!" revelation. It somehow fits the mood of what I'm trying to write because it has this Eastern and almost Avatar feel to it, but with a more romantic vibe than the show. What I like most is that there's just this recurring tune that starts off real sweet and shy like the SHiE couple when they first met, but as it keeps repeating it grows more powerful each time. The conclusion is the same tune, but swelled with emotion and instrumental epic-ness to parallel how powerful the love grows and how much Yuhan is willing to fight for it. Well - at least that's the way I see it. (Yeahhh sorry if that's totally not what you had in mind, Yanni ^^)

Is there anything you want to say to fans/critics/lurkers?

To my fans: You continue to amaze me every day with your support. I can't describe how wonderful it is to have you guys there enjoying this little Dai Li love story with me. Thank you so much. To my critics: Without you guys, I'd be nothing. Thank you for catching every flaw and for bringing SHiE that much closer to the best quality it can be. To my lurkers: I am forever grateful that you're reading my story, but well...I kind of don't know who you are! Feel free to say hi or point out anything wrong with SHiE, and well... Want to join Avatar Wiki? It's fun!

The mysterious agent in green rose to her feet, flattening the wrinkles out of her robe. She kicked the chair back, just before tripping over the circular table’s leg, nearly falling to the floor. “I have to-“ she started, redressing herself, “have to study… for my test… tomorrow.” It seemed as if the two interviewers had drained the Dai Li agent, as she stumbled towards the door and slammed it open with a heavy punch to the metal entrance, which had been locked (to prevent a certain rebellious agent from escaping, if she had dared). But instead of the lock simply breaking, a giant hole erupted from the dazzling punch, sending stray bits of metal in every direction at a rapid rate.

“That’s gonna ruin our deposit!” Fruipit hissed at Bray, as he stroked his recently-shaven beard. Minnichi seemed to ignore the whispers as she stepped out of the now gaping door, glancing over her shoulder, panda-eyes dark and very much noticeable.

“Thanks for the…” she murmured, “interview.” With that she turned and walked away, mumbling organic chemistry facts under her breath.

“That girl is honestly something else,” Bray said, examining the damages after the agent left the scene. He cleared the table with a twisting burst of air, the bits of scrap metal flying against the opposite wall.

“I agree…” Fruipit mulled over her thoughts, the interview, anything. “Well, there was a friend of mine who said that agent was totally a vampire.” She chuckled to herself as the thought escaped her.

“A vampire, eh?” Bray questioned. “I can believe that.” They both stared at what used to be the door, the outline of the agent fading fast in the distance. “But I know one thing is certain,” he started, turning and glancing at Fruipit, “whatever she is, she can write brilliantly.”

Ah, the climactic ending to a wonderful interview, no? Okay, so not very climactic, but regardless, this was one hell of an interview, accompanied by one hell of a story. Minnichi is an awesome author, a great friend, and a severely sleep-deprived artist; this combination is what makes her the cool, friendly author we know her for. The interviewers, Bray, Fruipit, and Kuir, would like to thank both Minnichi and the Wiki – we loved having this opportunity, and for the users who supported the voting process in the FFF, we owe you our gratitude as well. But, before we part, we have to ask, have you read SHiE yet? If you answered no, you’re bound to have some angry interviewers right on your trail. So read it, lest ye suffer thy wrath. And by that we mean you’ll be forced to watch “What Does the Fox Say?” on repeat for 24 hours. Just do it, okay? You won’t regret it.

Be sure to stick around the fanon portal, and you could help pick next year's User's Choice Interview! This is ByBray, Fruipit and Kuir, signing off!

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