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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!
Today, I had the interesting experience of reviewing ARG Presents, which is basically all of AvatarRokusGhost's one-shots wrapped up in a nice, neat bundle. They differ in characters and style, and made for an interesting first official review.
I obviously like one-shots, and believe they should be complete stories. With that in mind, I have looked at each story individually and reviewed it like an individual story, and will have a final section down the bottom for organisation, coupled with a final score that encompasses the entire series. Onto it, shall we?
Tired, sore, and sick of Azula, it falls to a strange man—The Consultant—to help out and show Team Avatar how to defeat the powerful Fire Nation princess. Unfortunately, he's not all that he seems...
Creativity = 9.7: This section I attributed more to 'originality', and let me tell you, ARG may just have redefined the genre. This story is sort of a mix between a parody of something and the ravings of a madman (which it might be), and references that permeate throughout the entire story don't even need to be understood by everyone, for one reason in particular. ARG enables those with video game knowledge to connect with The Consultant, and every person who has ever become confused by them to understand what Team Avatar is going through. The story draws people in with its utter ridiculousness, and was quite a fun little ride.
Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to, I wasn't able to give this full marks. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the plot at all—there were no plot holes or anything too extreme that would compromise this. It was the addition of a line of dialogue that was originally spoken Long Feng. To have such a wonderfully thought out and worded story, it was a bit disconcerting for me to read a line that I had heard before, and recognised. I wasn't able to stay submersed because, while it did fit the context, I read it in Long Feng's voice. Other than that, fantastic job.
Characterisation = 6.9: I will elaborate on this a little later, however when it came to characterisation, I just didn't feel it. Katara would not let her brother die. Aang would not senselessly kill animals. When writing a parody and a crossover, care has to be taken not to miss important elements from either inspiration; while the generic video-game style was interesting (and The Consultant couldn't help but remind me of Professor [insert tree here] from the Pokémon franchise), I did feel as though the characters from Avatar suffered a little in order to make him realistic.
Writing = 7.9: There were no outstanding grammar or spelling errors that I could find (only one spelling error, actually). There are a few lines of dialogue that needed a comma or period, but instead used the other, and a couple of missing punctuation marks. I noticed that at least one proper noun wasn't capitalised, and cumulatively, these errors were a little distracting. As another note, the speaking verbs (said, yelled, asked etc.) became rather repetitive; by changing them, readers might be able to get a little more insight into the minds of the characters.
Moving away from the mechanics of writing, I found ARG's style, while it had humorous elements, was lacking depth. The sentences were short and had very little description; actually, the only scenery the reader is given is in the introduction, when he states that it is set in "The Chase". It felt more like someone was recounting something that had been told to them, rather than them being witness to it. A few lines did not match up, such as when (spoiler alert) Sokka died; one moment, Katara was "sobbing onto [Aang's] shoulder", but the next she was "clearly annoyed" with The Consultant. There was little emotional recounting beyond the actions, and by the end of the story I was wondering why it took until the death of Sokka for the Gaang to 'fire' The Consultant.
Believability = 7.0: This was hard to judge. It was a parody, so by its very essence, it wasn't supposed to be especially believable. There is absolutely no way that 'realitybending', as ARG called it, will summon a guide from a video game to help Team Avatar. For the very reason that this is a parody, however, that is easily overlooked. It's not supposed to be believable.
The deduction in score relates, not to the believability of the story, but more the actions of the characters. They would kill harmless boarcupines with merely a shrug because The Consultant told them that it would help defeat Azula. The actions needed to be justified with more than a simple explanation from The Consultant. I do not believe that the Gaang would completely forgo rudimentary healing on a dying Sokka, all because a mysterious stranger told them not to.
Organisation = 9.5: This story was fairly well organised. The deduction comes more from the fact that the time skips seemed a bit clunky., but, all in all, it was very well organised.
Total score = 8.22
My advice: I can certainly see that you've become a better writer (this was released over three years ago), so my advice really sits somewhere on the 'don't forget to use what you've learned to improve past stories' line. There isn't a lot to say, except just rereading over it now that you have all the experience under your belt would in no way hinder, or reduce the effect of, this story.
Why I enjoyed this story: The originality. As someone who grew up on video games (and with a sister who could never even grasp 'Mario Party 4—oh the shame), it was fun seeing it crossed with Avatar, and thinking about how those who understood games and those who didn't would see this. The utter ridiculousness of the theme was definitely what hooked me. Good job, ARG!
The Legend of Ong, Part 1
Well, there's no harm in getting excited about some things. Even fake relationships (but as long as the chores are done).
Creativity = 9.1: Once again, ARG shows off his creativity with an Avatar fanfic. And I mean that literally. Tenzin receives the latest chapter of The Legend of Ong and the Crystalbenders. It's a fanfic within a fanfic. How meta. I am a fan of meta. As with all of his work (and I do mean all of it), this story was interesting and the plot fairly creative. My only thoughts are that the Avatar-meets-fanfic idea has been written (and read about) before, on a number of occasions. While it hasn't, to my knowledge, been done in the same way, it's still extraordinarily similar. Other than that, it's a very good story.
Characterisation = 7.0: This category was the hardest for me to review. In all honesty, it was probably one of the hardest out of all the categories in all the stories. These characters didn't feel complete. A one-shot is a complete story or idea. There has to be at least some form of development; unfortunately, you can't develop a character who isn't all there. These characters felt more like shells in order for the author to tell the story he wanted to tell. I cannot imagine, after being away from his family for x amount of time, that Aang would greet them with a simple 'Hello'. No, he should be bouncing on the balls of his feet, desperate to see his wife and children again. And they should be just as excited to see him. One line got to me; "How's your mother doing?" Aang asked Kaddo and Vameira.
That line is far too formal for a father to ask his children. Why isn't Katara there to welcome him? When he finally meets her again, it's with a simple 'Hello'. Once again, this flies in the face of everything anyone ever thought, knew, or expected of Aang, and the story suffers just by how unbelievable the characters are. The only exception are the interactions between Tenzin, Kaddo, and Vameira. These feel more light-hearted, and certainly how children would react.
Writing = 8.3: There was nothing technically wrong with the writing. Actually, that should be a standard. ARG knows how to write. He can spell, has good grammar, and knows what punctuation is and how to use it. I only noticed a single punctuation error. That being said, I do feel somewhat cheated of a story. It had a very synopsis-y feel to it; there was little emotion expressed by the characters, whether in thought or action. The plot was very straight, and while I'm all for one-shots truly being a moment in time, I felt this story ended on a rather bland note. I couldn't envision anything, and for someone who has not read Energy Saga, I have absolutely no idea what Vameira or Kaddo look like; even Tenzin. This is a one-shot, and while it is tied to ES, proper introductions have to be made for those who didn't read the other story.
Believability = 6.8: This story was marked as another parody, and I can see why. It wouldn't happen in canon; ARG mixed two completely different elements. The deductions once again were for the same reasons as in The Consultant. The actions and attitudes of the characters were just not how they would act, as I mentioned above, and for that reason, I can't just get behind it. The interactions between the children certainly helped this category, and the mild fighting and rivalry between Vameira and Tenzin was very well-written. The over-arching plot of Tenzin getting the 'latest update' on The Legend of Ong was also believable; it was just the little things that, when grouped together, turned into big things.
Organisation = 8.7: There's never much to say about organisation within one-shots. The structure was clear and concise, but there was little rising or falling action that lead up to, and away from, the climax. The lack of a climax gives the reader a sense of unfinished business.Other than that, it was easy to read, and easy to understand.
Total score = 7.98
My advice: The lowered scores on characterisation and believability really come back to the writing. More description and introspection will certainly help the other two categories, and your latest writing definitely shows that you've been doing this. Once again, I just suggest re-reading and rewriting these older stories.
Why I enjoyed this story: Once again, the creativity really shone through. I don't think ARG will ever write a truly unoriginal story, and this story once again shows the random rabbit holes in the forest of his mind.
Live Another Day
This is Hakoda. You don't mess with him.
Creativity = 9.8: This is definitely the radical story in the group. To begin with, it's based almost entirely around action, and is the only one of the six to have explicit bending. ARG took the prompt given to him and once again ran with it. The serious-but-not tone followed all the way through the story, and the ending was a surprise, but not because it seemed random and out of place; rather, the author had spent the story explaining each action taken by either side in a desperate attempt to win the battle, and for it to end of the light-hearted note that it did truly shows the skill of the author.
Characterisation = 8.7: I can definitely say that Hakoda was characterised rather well. ARG was spot-on with his assertion that Hakoda was a war veteran, with years of knowledge and experience that would never leave him, and never forsake him.
That being said, I felt that the only thing missing was more description of the waterbender before we learn who he is. He is a truly faceless, nameless person, and it makes it difficult to imagine who he is. Hakoda could be dreaming about fighting a snowman for all the audience knows. It's only at the end that we find out who it is, and though his final remark is clever and witty, the anti-climax of suddenly learning who he is, with no hints to help the audience beforehand, means that the effect of the clever surprise is lessened.
Writing = 9.3: The description in this story was just superb. The descriptions of past events, remembered by Hakoda to draw parallels with his current situation and how to effectively combat it, really helped the audience to get a feel of what he was experiencing, as we now had two descriptions to go on for the same event. It was a creative way of going about it, and I'm impressed. There is a reason this story placed 3rd, and that was because of the excellent writing. Action is definitely something this author excels at when focussing on a larger project such as this. The only notes on this really relate back to the character and setting descriptions. Just add a few more in to help your reader see what the characters are seeing.
Believability = 9.5: I can see this happening. Whether in an AU canon or not, I can see Hakoda having this relationship with his grandchildren, and I can see his grandchildren behaving in such a way around him. The only thing I noticed that reduced the score was the actions of the characters at the very end. Until that time, while it had been a serious fight, it still had several light-hearted elements. The waterbender's final expression and Hakoda's actions seemed a little out of place. I expected a smirk from Hakoda, and a faux-growl fro m Kaddo because he lost. The ending seemed almost as though Hakoda was berating his grandson, and it feels out of place.
Organisation = 9.8: Wonderful, yet again. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the organisation of this story. Action can be difficult to write in order to keep it logical and as believable as possible, but ARG managed to do it—and he did a good job, too. I feel as though some smaller aspects could have been elaborated on (such as the setting), but that really is only a small part. Great job.
Total score = 9.42
My advice: One of the best points about this story was the secrecy of 'who of this tribe would attack the former chief', however you also have to be careful not to make it too subtle, otherwise a reader will spend too much time looking back over to find where you mentioned who it is, or wonder so much that they aren't properly submersed. The ending, which you have spent so much time and effort on keeping a surprise, will be ruined if, by the end of the story, the readers just want to know who it is and care about little else.
Why I enjoyed this story: The creativity of the prompt. This was a wonderful one-shot because it was, as I keep harping on about, a moment in time. It was a snapshot into the life of Hakoda, and what being a grandfather is about. It was a cute moment filled with description and action, and basically what one would expect from a western writer with fantastic skills. He even added a plot twist.
The Legend of Ong, Part 2
Tenzin really is far too invested in this 'Legend of Ong' thing...
Creativity = 9.9: I saw elements that were very similar, not only to the previous Ong story (unsurprising), but also similar to The Consultant and DSV with the explicit reference, not only to an out-of-universe object, but the wiki itself. This was not to the detriment of the story, but I think it's interesting to note. This story may have been the first to explicitly reference the wiki, but it certainly wasn't the last. I do enjoy this kind of continuity in ARG's work, and I find the idea of Tenzin being a bit of a troll to be rather humorous.
Characterisation = 8.9: This was one of my favourite stories for characterisation. I had a better feel for the characters, and they fit better together like Lego™. The only issues I found were with Aang and Tenzin (as I will talk about in the 'believability section). I feel as though this ties in with ES a lot more than the previous chapters, and so his characterisation may be fine in that canon. However, I'm not marking Aang or Tenzin as their ES counterparts to the series; as a one-shot, this was not completely in-character. The lack of a response from Kaddo and Vameira after Aang allowed Tenzin to do what he wanted also affected this score; they are children and siblings—rivalry and jealousy come with the job of having brothers and sisters, and I just didn't see that.
Writing = 9.1: Once again (again), there was nothing wrong with the writing. I'm going to stop saying that, because you should all by now realise that ARG is pretty excellent at that facet of prose. One noticeable difference was the addition of more varied speaking verbs. This improved the writing dramatically. I think there needed to be a few more scene descriptors, and the lack of elaboration on either side of the story (Aang's adventure, or Tenzin's), was the cause of the deduction. If the audience is only going to be given an explanation of what did happen to a character, then the actions of the other characters have to be accounted for. Other than that, though, he did really well in this category. Fanontastic, even!
Believability = 8.7: The actions of the characters were a lot better than the previous chapter. Each character acted more as I would expect, from the sibling rivalry and mocking, to Aang's interest in the City of Walls. I did find the fact that he allowed Tenzin to go to the Infodex alone, especially after refusing the other two children a chance to see what they wanted to see a bit unfair and biased (especially for Aang), and his lack of an emotional response to Tenzin stating he had been banned from the infodex for two weeks because of harassment and vandalism was a bit strange. Surely Aang, the Avatar, did not raise his son (his airbending, monkish son) to be so confrontational and unrepentant?
Organisation = 10.0: Short, simple, and to the point. This story was easy to follow, and follows on nicely from the previous Ong one-shot. As with all of these, there is nothing really to say.
Total score = 9.32
My advice: I actually don't have much to say on this story. It's set a number of chapters after the original, and it was fun seeing how ARG had improved, even within the same timeline. Just work on character reactions and revelations to truly make this story believable. Other than that, superb effort!
Why I enjoyed this story: Honestly? Just seeing how ARG improved from the last one was fun. I enjoyed, as I always do, the references to the wiki, and his creativity honestly knows no bounds. I truly hope he doesn't cancel the rumoured 'The Legend of Ong, Part 3'.
Life as I know it
Because Pakku loves fortunetelling. That, and everyone needs a holiday.
Creativity = 9.1: This story sprung from a TAD Writing Challenge, so naturally, it's going to be creative. ARG's actual prompt was 'I had my fortune told with Pakku on Ember Island because I realized I was a bender', and he ran with it. That being said, after the other stories I had read in this little group, I had expected something a little more... well, a little more exciting. An interesting plot twist, or something terribly out-of-universe to make me giggle a little. That's not to say the story wasn't creative, but I felt as though all the different elements (Pakku + Ember Island + Fortunetelling + bending) didn't quite align.
Characterisation = 8.8: The narrator (who is interestingly unnamed) was characterised beautifully. He had a few quirks and mannerisms that I found to be quite fitting, and he had a complete personality, and a life. It was the minor supporting characters of Sung and Dung that I was interested in, though. What happened to them? Their friend (who just saved Sung's life), was being led away by a mysterious man claiming that the narrator had bended, and they just seem to vanish.
Writing = 9.0: This story was the shortest out of the six, and while the description, as I noted in the last story, is getting a lot better, it was still lacking in some areas; I found that, particularly with the surfing section, the actions of the characters was not explained in enough detail. It seemed almost like a cut-scene from a film where, one moment, they are on the shore, and the next they are already out in the surf. I noticed a few misplaced dashes where there should have been commas, but that's actually about it. The initial description of the unnamed narrator's likes and dislikes was a nice touch, and helped me get a feel of, not only the character, but his world.
Believability = 8.7: Due to the very nature of this prompt, it was difficult to clearly review this category (he seems to be doing that a lot ^^"). This story was completely unbelievable in most aspects, however there were some really positive points. I think it's entire believable to have a friend who isn't fantastic at swimming or surfing. It's entirely possible for someone to discover their skills when trying to save a dear friend (as we see so often in literature). And to be given a special task because of said powers is another major aspect in fiction that ARG conveyed quite well. It was the little things that made this unbelievable, though. Why was Pakku on Ember Island. Why was Aunt Wu? When is this set? Is it an AU where there is no war and both non-Fire -Nation citizens happened to be on a holiday? These are the questions I couldn't help asking as I read thorough this story, and ones that weren't answered.
Organisation = 9.2: All in all, a fairly well-organised story. The only thing that I could see was, due to the short length, everything seemed to happen too fast. I had to reread a few lines, and the story felt as though it was trying to rush me—push me towards the ending, because that is where the prompt lay.
Total score = 8.96
My advice: This time, it was the action that I first noticed. You used wonderful description, but this was the first chapter with bending. I understand that the narrator had no idea what he did, however there would still have been an action to accompany that.
Why I enjoyed this story: Just the utter ridiculousness of the prompt got to me. ARG thought up an interesting story for a, what I first thought to be, an impossible prompt, and he did it without confusing the readers too much. Good job!
The Brothers of Jang Hui
Two-headed fish can be such a drama *sighs*...
Creativity = 9.4: To my knowledge, no story has ever been written about the Dock/Xu/Bushi conundrum, so this was rather refreshing. Unfortunately, the actual plot fell a little short of my expectations. I expected some mad rambling, perhaps a Gollum/Sméagol-esque conversation. I suppose the readers were given one towards the end, and as I elaborate on a little later, I did enjoy the small flashback we had of Dock's past. The only thing I can really suggest on this part is to get creative with the minor characters (which I will expand on later).
Characterisation = 8.9: I can't imagine trying to write about a character with split personalities, so kudos! The only issues that were found relate, once again, to the 'completeness' of the characters. I also felt as though the smaller characters needed to be elaborated on a little more. What you did with Dock's mother was perfect. I loved her, because she had the little quirks of a real character. She had the depth I was looking for. Buzai, a character who was arguably more important to the plot, however, didn't. I didn't really care about him, which I think reduced the effectiveness of the story.
Writing = 8.3: The writing was a lot better in this story, especially the more I read. I felt as though ARG was really getting into the spirit of Dock/Xu/Bushi, and the small reflection at the end was a nice touch. The story did begin on a less emotive note, and when introducing a polluted town that one has lived in for one's entire life, I felt as though this was needed. As an audience of Avatar, we only saw Jang Hui for one episode, and from only the perspective of an outsider. How does Dock, being home-grown inhabitant, truly feel about his rivered town? If he keeps working at introspection, I think ARG could go really far with it one day. I also quite enjoyed the small conversation between Dock and Xu regarding the one- and two-headed fish. My only other note on this section was the number of sentences that rhymed. There is nothing wrong with that, however just be careful that it doesn't jolt the readers from the story; unexpected literary techniques, while they can be good, may not always have the deserved effect, and can just sound as though the author ran out of other words to use.
Believability = 8.8: This was a pretty believable story. I can definitely see this occurring in the village of Jang Hui; my only note really is just develop those characters. Particularly that of Buzai, just because a story isn't focussed on that character does not mean that said character is unimportant or needs less developing. He was a means to an end, and it felt like it. Other than that, great job.
Organisation = 9.3: Nothing much to say here. There was a beginning, middle, and an end. The layout was clean and concise, and there was nothing terribly complex that confused me at all. The only thing that did trip me up was the introduction of new characters and scenes halfway through (notably, the paragraph on Buzai's grandfather and how the three brother's acted when they were younger). All in all, a job well done.
Total score = 8.94
My advice: Get those descriptive juices flowing! By talking more about what the characters are feeling, it adds to both the characters and story; you can't lose. I can tell, from how you'e developed through these six stories, that you're almost there.
Why I enjoyed this story: Once again, ARG's creativity drew me in. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this. I liked his original take on an already original idea, and the small snippet into the life of arguably one of the strangest characters in Avatar (excluding Foamy and Corncob Guy) made for a really interesting read.
A trend I noticed throughout all six one-shots is a lack of depth. To insert a metaphor, it's almost as though you're lying on one of the floating sunbeds that adults use in the pool. You can see the water, and you can trail your fingers and toes over the surface, but you can't quite get the feel for it. This is due to a number of factors, but the most obvious is lack of description. I know you have them, so put them to use! Description is more than just adjectives, and there are a wide range of literary techniques that fit into almost any situation. Let your readers see and hear and smell (and sometimes taste) exactly what the characters are seeing/hearing/tasting. The other, smaller variable, is the sentences. On occasion, the sentences because strangely-worded and clunky, wrenching the reader away as they try to decipher what you're saying. This is more a quirk of the author, and can really only be helped by a beta, reading the story aloud to hear what it sounds like, or leaving it for a while and coming back with fresh eyes.
All that being said, though, AvatarRokusGhost knows how to write. He has good grammar, and spelling, and punctuation. This, when coupled with his penchant for interesting, random, original stories, creates a rather pleasant world to immerse oneself in for a while. I thoroughly recommend this work to anyone with a few hours to kill, and wanting to read something light, interesting, and different.
Creativity = 9.5: ARG is one of the most creative authors on the portal; he never fails to come up with an interesting, new, refreshing story. The deductions that resonated through these stories really rest on the creativity of the minor characters, and ARG's penchant for using lines found in Avatar. There is nothing wrong with the second, but as I explained above, it can pull a reader from the story, because it's a line the recognise and read it in the original speaker's voice. It's the same concept as 'Hi, I'm Troy McClure...'. With the former, this comes back to description and truly building up a character.
Characterisation = 8.2: The main characters were usually well done, and had substance to them. It was the minor characters that needed more work, as they are the ones who determine what paths and actions the main character takes. In regards to physical description, ARG relies heavily on a fan already knowing what a character looks like. This isn't so serious with the canon characters, however characters such as Kaddo, who are present in three of the six stories, I still have no idea what he looks like, or how old he is. He is a name on the page, and this isn't what you want in a story.
Writing = 8.6: The description is what let this category down. ARG has brilliant technical writing skills, however it was almost impossible to envision any scenery. The Legend of Ong performed the best in this category with ARG's descriptions (both through Aang's dialogue and general description)really painting a picture of the bustling city. My advice for this category is to forget that people know anything about the setting; explain where your characters are as though the story will be read by someone who has no idea of the world.
Believability = 8.25: The plots themselves were, as parodies, believable. As
alternative universe', they were believable. It was the character's reactions to the situations they were placed in that reduced this score. Just work on building the characters, and this score will increase. I can already see improvement in The Brothers of Jang Hui from The Consultant.
Organisation = 9.41: Relating back to writing, ARG creates clear, concise stories that don't leave the reader with a muddled head, or rereading lines to try and figure out just what the heck is going on. These one-shots were all easy to follow, and easy to read. Good job!