| Surefire Signs|
of a Self-Insert
A lot of us roll our eyes when we come across one. "Self-inserts" in writing are exactly what it sounds like: when an author places him or herself into the story as an actual character. This has gotten an increasingly bad reputation in fanfiction, but what if it's not as easy to avoid as you think?
I believe that self-inserting is more complicated than it sounds. Creating something is an expression of yourself, in some shape or form. Which raises the question, where's the fine line between "expressing yourself in a creatively epic way" versus "Ew self-insert"? Both have "you" in it, right?
With this in mind, I don't think it's entirely the author's fault when a creation goes wrong because, well, they were in it. I believe that an author's relationship with an original character is much like parenthood. Parents created us, and it's very common for children to inherit similar traits and talents. Yet, the two sides are never same person. Similarly, original characters tend to adopt parts of their parent author. The challenge is figuring out at which point they're too much like you to be original. You're original; they're just a clone. I would say that one of the first signs you're headed in that direction is when an insult to your character feels like an insult to yourself. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly normal to feel a sting when people criticize something that came from you, that you put hard work and effort into making. However, a direct insult to you as a person tends to hit way harder. If you find yourself extra sensitive about your original character and personally feel hurt when someone doesn't like him or her, there could be a problem.
The huge sign of a true self-insert, however, is probably how painful it feels to place a flaw on your OC. It's not that fun to have to write down everything bad about yourself, and now the public gets to read all about it, too. On top of that, it just feels off to add flaws you don't even have. It's uncomfortable and makes you kind of sensitive when a reviewer or some other critic goes into detail about what how the character could be better, as if you're not good enough.
A notable sign to consider is also when you find yourself making the environment adapt to your character more than the other way around. It's a delicate balance in real life, since our environment shapes so much of who we are while at the same time, our ingrained interests and traits pretty much govern every choice we make.
The universe of a story is bound to a character's personality, as much as our environment affects our own.Your story has a plan, certain events that have to happen believably, and the protagonist simply can't be you if you want them to follow that plan in a way that makes sense. It's a back and forth relationship of how the two elements, the character and their setting, will influence each other. Too much of one side sticks out immediately. So if you notice yourself having a certain inflexibility about tweaking your character, and especially if you always look for solutions that change the story instead of your character, ya might wanna think about it.
I'm not going to say that it's a guaranteed taboo to have a person who's 100% you in a story; who knows, maybe you're writing your honest reaction if you were in your character's shoes, and it so happens to be very interesting to read o_o But I do want to point out that this makes it tons more difficult to give your story a rich, well-rounded setup. You might not realize that maybe you're not being honest with yourself, that you're not actually presenting yourself as the realistic, unique person you are in the physical world. You'll be tempted to change your character into someone better than you, and then it spirals into someone much better than the rest of the world until they're no longer human. It's not a road I would recommend, and its bad track record should be a fair warning.
So, are you your "original" character? Are you one of those parents who try to impose their dreams and interests on their children without wondering if that's actually good for the kiddo? (Because that usually turns out so well...) Food for thought!
Agent Minn out~
Over the past few months, there seem to have been three major trends on fanon, specifically, in the Korrasami fandom: Equalist!Asami, Athlete!Korra, and Red!Lotus Korra. Now all of these have trends have produced good stories, some of which I want to discuss right here.
In the first category, there have been stories like We Are Not Who We Seem, Blueprints, and Unstable Equilibrium, which is probably the most notable and the best known in this category. Why is it the most notable? Mostly because it actually moved beyond the set-up. I do think think this is an interesting idea, as it was originally something the creators have played with in Book 1, but ultimately decided to discard. In fact, I distinctly remember thinking that either both Asami and Hiroshi, or just Hiroshi would turn out to be working with the Equalists, and lo be it so. Funny thing is, because of this early ambiguity, this storyline isn't a stretch, and it fits surprisingly well into the established story. The problem that every story I've encountered so far runs into is that Asami is hiding her true intentions, which, and let's face it here, are always deceptive. All of these stories start out with Asami wanting to get close to the Avatar for strategical purposes, and end up with them falling in love, which is exactly why I think they quickly fell out of fashion. With the rise of Unstable Equilibrium, the only story I found to make it beyond the first ten chapters, the others fell into disgrace and subsequently were discontinued. On the one hand, this makes sense, since they were a touch samey at times, but they could also offer up interesting new perspectives on the same subject matter. Unstable Equilibrium was discontinued in the wake of the Bataclan terrorist attacks, which makes sense for those who have read the story. Asami is a terrorist, plain and simple, and I did find that sympathizing with her side of the cause became increasingly hard over the course of the story, which, I'd imagine, is the whole point of writing an Equalist!Asami story. After all, one of the things I like most about the Legend of Korra is that the villains are very sympathetic, they have righteous causes that you can definitely identify with up to a certain point (I even agreed with Kuvira until episode ten of Book 4), they just overshot their ideals. It's a real shame the author didn't explore this aspect a little more, because I think this could have elevated the story from 'good' to 'genuinely great'.
Next, there's the Athlete!Korra prompt, which lends itself to a a little more diversity, which is a marvelous thing. After all, variety is the spice of life. These have come around with virtually all sports, including American football, ice hockey, soccer, snowboarding, surfing, and probably more that I haven't read. Now the origin of these stories is simple: Korra's very atypical design. Unlike every animated female character ever, Korra is relatively short, with short legs, muscular, fairly square in build, and with proportionally small eyes. All of this points to a more realistic portrayal of a human being, and therefore, the assumption that she is very athletic by nature, which she is. This paves the way for alternate universe fanon writers, who use this athletic build as a basis for her career. A few of the more interesting stories are Blue, which arguably starts out as a simple smutfic but quickly develops into a more elaborate piece, having a stronger focus on Korra's athletic side. In this story, she's a professional soccer player, having just won the world cup (the US women's team did actually win the world cup, in case you're wondering) who has a one-night-stand with Asami. Then there is probably the best and most popular Korrasami story at the moment of writing: A Long Time Ago We Used To Be Friends. This story, while leaning mostly on the upbringing of Korra and Asami from pretty much pre-pubescence to adulthood, has a strong focus on Korra's athletic career later on. Probably the most focused one is Forbidden Love, a studentXteacher story, with Asami taking the place of the teacher and Korra the place of the star ice hockey player. What I want to illustrate here is the very diverse nature of these stories, and just how far a good writer can take this premise, and a recurring one is that Korra falls into disability. Obviously, this is in the wake of the Book 3 Finale, with her ending up in a wheelchair. This is something that does happen in real life: if someone makes their living with his or her body, how do they handle not being able to do that anymore? All in all, I'm a huge fan of this premise, mostly because it offers up such a wide array of directions the story can take, while remaining within the realm of reason for what the characters would do.
Now the third one, I will admit, I haven't read a lot of those, but that doesn't mean I haven't noticed the trend. The basis is very simple: what if the Red Lotus had succeeded in kidnapping Korra when she was four? This is also a very interesting premise, and definitely one that has a lot of possibilities to work it out. How would Korra react to being raised in such a harsh environment? Would there still be a hint of Raava's inherent goodness? Would the Red Lotus still go through with its plan of murdering her in the Avatar State, or would they use her now that they have the opportunity to mold her to their own image? All of these questions (and therefore storytelling options) can easily make for very appealing fanon, and some of them even are. Stories like Red (it's not related to Blue, don't worry) go even further, combining it with the Equalist!Asami prompt, making the stakes even higher for both of them. There are even stories that deviate even further from this set-up, ranging from Doctor-Patient Confidentiality being one of the darkest stories I have read in The Legend of Korra fandom, to Hellfire, a Hunchback at Notre Dame-esque story in which Korra is merged with Vaatu too, turning her into a psychopath without mercy, and lastly to one of my personal favorites, Rogue Avatar. In it, Korra escapes from the White-Lotus compound, sick of the bonds laid upon her. Instead, she goes completely care-free, becoming muscle-for-hire to bring her own version of balance to the world. The writer's sense of humor paired with Korra's naturally sarcastic personality make for one of the most entertaining stories in the fandom, and I think it's a shame he never got around to posting it here on the Wiki.
Now of course, these aren't the only stories within these trends, nor are these the only good stories out there. These are just a few I wanted to draw some attention to, mostly because I think they really deserve it. There are undoubtedly a lot more, and I want to read as many of them as I can.
|| Avatar Jigsaw|
What's a newsletter without random, time-killing puzzles and games? This here is an interactive puzzle that allows you to move the pieces of the image around until they all click together. Try it today, see which iconic image we've pulled from the series, and see who gets the best time!
Note: The image above is not the actual puzzle.
Click here to complete the jigsaw puzzle.
|| Fanon Fact Finders Interview:|
Team Player, by AvatarAang7
Hello there! It's Tono555 here, and today It is an absolute honor to present you the interview for an amazing fanon: Team Player, written by AvatarAang7! Now, if you know me, you also have to know that I can't get enough of this fanon. I think it's safe to say it's my favorite fanon; I really enjoyed it when it was still in progress and I beta-read many, many chapters. Now let's begin!
- Hey there, AA7! How are you doing?
- Very well, thank you.
- Okay, I really, really like how you made Korra. She is very hot-headed and exactly as I would imagine her if she were from our world. How do you feel about how her attitude problems progress during the story? Do you feel her becoming a more mature person?
- In a word? Yes, her main arc results in her being more mature, but that's not the full idea. What is slightly more important is that Korra ultimately learns to love herself. When the story opens, she really just thinks of herself as a loser, and that everything that ever goes right for her is sheer unadulterated luck. What it's about is that she comes to realize that she can make it happen, and doesn't have to rely on chance, but also that she isn't a total loser, and that she is indeed very capable when she puts her mind to something.
- Did you have at first the idea that Korra would end up with Asami or were you always leaning toward someone else? I am asking this because Korra is obviously head over heels for her and you make it very clear that Asami is fit, athletic, and absolutely stunning.
- At first, I had the idea in my head to make her end up with Asami, you know, it being canon and all, but then I actually started writing it. Many chapters were written out of order, and one of the first chapters I wrote was Korra and Opal's first date. Like said in the final author's notes, my original plan was to break up Korra and Opal at some point, and instead have Korra hook up with Asami, but the more of the story I wrote, the less I liked that idea, so I binned it and instead kept Korra and Opal together.
- When Asami was drunk, why did you make her kiss Korra? Were you looking to change the plot completely or were you just hoping to scare the crap out of us? :p
- Well, it was partly to give you a nice little jolt, but it was really to both solidify the relationship between Korra and Opal and to make Mako seem like more of a bastard. Also, what I wanted to do is to show that Korra's feelings for Asami were merely dormant, and not completely shut down. Life isn't black and white, and I wanted to demonstrate that with this development. On top of everything else, it seemed like a good way to add some drama. (Which worked, chapter 25 is the most reviewed chapter on FFN.)
- Why did you decide to break Asami and Mako up?
- I've never made a secret of my opinion on him, and making him cheat on Asami (which he does twice in the show, and never really gets chewed out for, amazingly enough) seemed like a good way to do that. I figured he should get what he deserves, not to mention that I wanted a good reason for Korra to sucker punch his lights out.
- When you were first writing the story, did you always plan on making it as NSFW as it is?
- Pretty much. My main inspiration was making this a Legend of Korra version of Elsa is Suffering, which never moves beyond first base, though it's just as liberal with the course language as Team Player is. A large part of the reason can probably be retraced to origin, most fanon stories originate in the US, which is much more liberal towards violence than sex, whereas I hail from Europe, where the opposite is true. I think that sex is a large part of someone's development, and for someone like Korra, who was never very comfortable with her own body, this is a big step. Sex and sexuality are taboo subjects to talk about in many cultures, especially in the US, and if this gets people to discuss it more openly, then it's mission accomplished for me.
- Now, you've told me over time about references you make to different things. Could you maybe tell us where you get them from?
- Mostly from memory. I've wasted a lot of hours playing Call of Duty 4 (Korra's main killer of free time, no pun intended) and watching Top Gear, and those two cover most of the references. There is also House of Cards, Need for Speed Most Wanted, GTA IV, Lord of Rings, and many others, but basically all of these refer to shows, movies, or games that I simply like a lot and was familiar enough with to reference them from memory.
- I think Rude Awakening was my favorite chapter of them all. Did you have fun writing that one? Which chapter was your toughest?
- Yes, that one was the most fun to write by far. I'm still embarrassingly proud of my What's eating you-joke, and the lemon juice comes from another joke. Neatly brings me to the toughest one, which was Well and Truly. It was the most difficult one to write, so whenever I got stuck, or when an embarrassing joke popped into my mind, I simply wrote that. So yeah, 23 (Rude Awakening) was done long before 22 (Well and Truly), and probably had the most revisions as well. I had only written one smut scene prior, and actually did that just to practise it for the main story. I asked people for feedback, and a user on FFN, Marianamqb, gave me an extremely elaborate and very useful review, for which I remain very grateful. It took me quite a while to write, so when I was stuck on writing that, I tried writing in a few more jokes for the next one. Honorable mention for most fun goes to chapter 16, having Korra talk things over with her mother was very satisfying as well.
- Has Team Player inspired you to write other stories we may know from the Fanon Portal?
- Difficult to say, really. Yes, I have learned a lot from it. For instance, in the initial string of releases on FFN, I wrote chapter 10 through 13 in four days, and looking back, I think the quality of those chapters is notably lower than when I took my time, like I did with later chapters. As to creative inspiration, it sort of made me want to write All Are Equal, because in this one, no one has to worry about money, and I was wondering what would happen if I would create a world where the opposite was true.
- Why did you choose to make Mako and Bolin such minor characters in your story; especially the latter? Did you feel they just weren't needed in it?
- This wasn't really a conscious choice, I think. What doesn't help is that I'm not the biggest supporters of either one in the show, and it just felt more natural to focus on the characters where the problems would come from, mostly Asami, Opal, and Korra's parents. Mako and Bolin are pretty cool with everything, so there's no real drama to be had there.
- Did you ever expect Team Player to get the success it did?
- No, definitely not. More than a year after finishing it, and it's still the story with the most followers I have on FFN, and also has the most views by a country mile. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Also, and this is slightly embarrassing, I'm still a little proud that this is the only major KorraxOpal story I know of that is actually finished.
- Do you ever feel that you could have elaborated more on a chapter?
- Ah, the old 'could have been'-trap. I try not to dwell on this too much, because in the words of Bryan Konietzko, I don't want to end up George Lucassing the story. But, if I had to pick my least favorite chapters, I'd have to say Confession, Skeletons in the Closet, and Up, Up, and Away. Looking back, there are entire sections that I just think didn't turn out as well as they could have. (Mostly the conversation with Pema, Tarrlok's press conference, and Korra telling Senna about her meeting, respectively.).
- Any advice you could give people who want to write? How can they find out which writing method suits them best?
- Trial and error, mostly. I've tried a few styles before I started Team Player, but, and I just keep coming back to it, when I read Elsa is Suffering, just felt really drawn to the style of being able to constantly reveal the main character's snarky, self-depricating thoughts. The rest sort of followed, because I thought 'what if Korra was as cynical as that version of Elsa?' and basically went from there. It was at a point where Korrasami becoming real was hanging in the air (or rather, in the closet), but wasn't out yet, so making Korra have a rough time coming to grips with her sexuality wasn't a big leap. Overall though, I find it best to cling to the old Dutch saying of 'better stolen well than thought up poorly', so my best advice would be to just read a lot of stories, and see which style suits you best. One thing that Minnichi neatly mentioned in her BSST article, but I think is worth repeating, is the frequency trap. It's a quality over quantity issue, and I rarely come across writers who can pull off both, so I am often more drawn to quality. I'd recommend reading her article of the fanon myths, because that covers it much more elaborately than I can here
- Thank you for your patience and letting me do this interview. Anything else you would like to add?
- No, I think that pretty much covered it all. Thank you for doing the interview, because as it says in the blurb of the FFF, it's always fun to talk about your own work, especially with someone I know likes the story.
Well, that's pretty much it! I would like to thank AA7 for his patience; I took much longer than I had planned with this interview. Last of all, if you haven't read this story yet, please do so. I promise you won't regret it! That's it folks; until the next one.