Last issue, I talked about three trends in the Legend of Korra fanfiction, all three being Korrasami related. This makes perfect sense, as the general direction a lot of stories have been leaning in since the finale is Korrasami rather than Makorra or Masami or any other ship involving the two leading ladies. Being an ardent Korrasami shipper myself, I was very much surprised when I put some thought into the stories I'm currently reading and eagerly awaiting updates from; many, many more than I would have expected actually have Kainora as its main relationship. Since realizing this, I figured it would be fun to overanalyze this fact, as well as draw some attention to the better stories that I believe deserve some than they are currently getting.
First up, the origin. Jinora has been a difficult character to pair for the first two books, and as a result, she was often paired with Skoochy, the street urchin who appears precisely once and never shares the screen with Jinora. To quote Harry Stamper from Armageddon: "He's the only one in your age bracket [...], it's not a choice, it's a lack of options." So when Kai showed up in the second episode of Book 3 and had some actual chemistry with Jinora, Jinoochy was dropped like a stone and replaced with Kainora by many fans. And in all honesty, I can totally see why. Jinora's relatively sheltered upbringing along with her age means that she would be craving some rebellion like any normal teenager would, so when a handsome boy with a shady past get dropped in her lap, it's not a big leap. Kai meanwhile, in spite of his earlier ulterior motives, does become genuinely interested in the Air Nation, and by extent, Jinora. Even though they don't have any real development in Book 4, which is kind of a shame if you ask me, their long-distance relationship is hinted at, giving it legitimacy in the eyes of many fans.
Now, onto fanon. What strikes me as odd is that judging by the numbers, there is only one story that got anything close to the attention of any of the more popular Korrasami stories, and that is, in my humble opinion, the best one, as well as one of the best Alternate Universe stories ever written: What's Done In the Dark. Contrary to what you might think, the title isn't referring to any actual activities undertaken in the dark, but rather to the fact that Kai and Jinora have kept their relationship hidden for a long time, only to be outed as the story opens. What I really like about this is that it does not so much pose the question of 'will they get together?' (which, and let's be honest here, we all know the answer to in most given stories) but rather how they are going to overcome the difficulties their relationship brings them. Tenzin is disapproving, Ikki is being a brat, Mako and Bolin (who act as Kai's caretakers here) are struggling to make ends meet, etcetera. All of this stuff is great, it means that not only do we see their relationship develop, we also see Kai and Jinora develop with it. Most of the 'firsts' have already been taken care of in the year or so before the story proper takes place, so the focus really is on how to continue with their relationship. This has all the makings of a great story, aided by Kuno12's excellent ability to write well-rounded and very human characters, but it's not what makes it, in my mind, the best AU I have read. That can be summed up in three words: it portrays life. It makes no bones about it, that sometimes, life just sucks, plain and simple. Life can have its great moments, but it has its bad moments as well, and what makes this story so likable is how Kai and Jinora face these moments: together. This is a story I cannot recommend more highly, if not for the great Kainora stuff, then as a sort of 'how-to' manual on how to write an AU properly.
There are of course many more stories in the Kainora fandom, a few of which I'll discuss a little quicker than What's Done In the Dark. First of all, Anchor. This story is a pirate-AU, but it has two problems that the above doesn't have: it's mostly about how Kai and Jinora end up together, and it's fairly inconsistent about its own setting. Those seem like big issues, but they are overcome by two things: the Kainora is just too likable to care very much, and it developed something of its own mini-universe. There is a sequel, Compass, which deals with the post-getting together stuff (and consequently, I think it's the more interesting story) not to mention one-shots from the same author, words-with-dragons, as well as companion stories from the aforementioned Kuno12 and boasamishipper, who has many good stories under his belt as well. These include Sometimes You Hear the Bullet, a story that should be getting much more attention than it is, in which Kai and Jinora are surgeons on the frontlines of a total-war scenario, as well as Those In Peril On the Sea, a Titanic AU. This should logically be the lesser one, as it mostly borrows the storyline from James Cameron's eponymous movie and therefore feels a touch predictable, but it's still a good and very enjoyable story, even if it does bring up a touch of déja vu for those who have seen the movie.
In all honesty, I could spend all day here rattling off stories that I like a lot (Keep a Spur Handy and 20 Questions are worth mentioning), but I only have so much room to talk about the subject, so for now, I'll drop it here. Take care, folks.
I was a latecomer to Avatar: The Last Airbender, seeing my very first episode two full years after the series ended. I was soon hooked into it, though, and I finished watching Sozin’s Comet before the end of 2010. It was not long afterwards that I visited the encyclopedia on the wiki and began doing my own worldbuilding within its universe. My first fanon that I wrote on here, Energy Saga
, largely arose from that initial worldbuilding. Looking back that really stands out to me, given how many details I included and how I introduced a couple of plot points which I never really bothered to expand upon later. As I said, it was my first fanon on here, and my debut into that part of the site, as well as my reentry into the world of writing in general.
Shortly after I started that, I branched out into the community on here. For the rest of 2011 and most of 2012 I had what I considered to be a busy life at the time but I also had an abundance of free time. Then I got a new job, which made me busier. And then a second job. And then I started taking online courses. Throughout the past few years there has also been the occasional personal drama spurt, during which I have to put everything else on hold pretty much until its resolved. I started to step away from the wiki, my roles there and a lot of my writing. While I would still lurk and occasionally dive in for a bit, most of the newer users these days I haven’t really interacted with.
Nevertheless, I have a lot that I still plan to do. My current fanon I’m about halfway done with writing. Having written over 200,000 words of it, that’s not something I would ever leave unfinished. I will see it to the end regardless of how long it takes or how active I am or how active the wiki is in the future. Something that I realize with the help of others on here is that writing anything requires putting in the effort to make time for yourself to write. We’re all busy to some extent. Time management is part of it, though I don’t really have any business writing an extensive article on that, as that’s not the strongest suit of mine.
Writing regularly and often reinforces the habit, going for a daily word count. At the busiest of times, that hasn’t always been feasible. Rather than write constantly at a time like that, I sometimes try to write a lot all at once, such as when I did NaNoWriMo in 2013, 2014 and 2015. I will not be doing it this year, not just because of being busy, but also because I’m currently editing and revising some of my writing, and that’s something I have to concentrate on as well. I typically edit only after setting something aside for a little while first. Personally, I can never even write and revise in the same sitting, even if it’s different projects. It’s a completely separate mindset when I do each one. Fortunately one doesn’t have to do a full NaNo to get some of the spirit. It could be a week of writing extensively every day, or a blast weekend of writing, which I’ve often done whenever I’m behind. After the initial word vomit, to borrow words from Veronica Roth, its ready to edit before posting. This patience took me time to develop, as for the first several chapters in Energy Saga I posted literally after I finished typing it.
Whatever one’s routine, it’s important to open time regardless of how busy one is, and if one steps away for a while, always come back to it. We all have our own habits and styles, but whatever our pace, its all a matter of remaining persistent enough to stick with it. Stay the course.
|| 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. Find out which iconic image we've pulled from the series, and see who gets the best time!
Trivia: Today's puzzle art was drawn by Nazgullow!
Note: The image above is not the actual puzzle.
Click here to complete the interactive jigsaw.
| Interview with Nazgullow: |
The Artist's Side of the Story
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Nazgullow, a good friend and epic illustrator hailing from DeviantArt.com. Many of you are familiar with his work in the fanon portal as a contest prize illustrator, and today he'll be sharing with us the joys and challenges of being a story artist.
Every author's dream is to see his or her story come to life; the artist who makes it happen has a journey of his own.
All fanon artwork by Nazgullow can be found here. See here for his deviantART gallery. See below for his accurate interview drawing.
Hi Naz, thanks so much for coming! How's it going?
- Hi Minn, I'm good! Thanks again for inviting me on here.
Glad you could make it! Ready to share the magic behind your drawing wizardry?
- I'm afraid there's not much to show, but yeah! Let's do this.
Awesome! Let's start from the beginning, then: Why drawing? What drew you to it and makes it special to you?
- As a kid I was always somewhat infatuated with the idea of living as someone with magical powers (like flying or earthbending!) and drawing was my way of bringing something fantastical into the physical realm. Over time it also evolved into a kind of vehicle for me to spread my message to the world, which has been working great since I'm not very social to start with, hahaha!
That passion really stands out in your work! It's amazing what you've done for our fanons here. Do you ever find it scary whenever you're the first artist to visualize someone's original character purely from text? How do you capture a story without using words?
- Thanks, I'm glad you think so! And weirdly enough, I've never found it difficult to draw from plain text. The more detail people can give me about a character's appearance and personality, the easier it is. The only difficult part of visualizing someone from scratch is when the commissioner has an incredibly particular idea of the OC but somehow can't communicate it, whether through words or a mood board. Fortunately, that hardly ever happens.
- Creating a narrative using a single image is still something I'm working on! Not all scenes translate well into a single artwork; I find it's difficult to convey those kinds of stories without resorting to sequential art (like what you find in comics and manga). But even so, I always refer back to my (rather crude) foundation in every drawing I do: facial expression + lighting = mood.
Well, I think you've nailed it! Out of all the factors you take into account during the process, what's the first piece of information you look for in a request?
- I'm a stickler for narratives! So after sussing out the appearances of the characters, one of the first questions I always ask my clients is, "What do you want your characters to be doing?" I'm not so much of a concept artist, so I don't usually enjoy drawing a character just...standing there.
- When it's a scene from a fanfiction I usually get a written excerpt, which is a great way for me to imagine the overall mood or composition of the final artwork. Composition is important too (when in doubt, just go with the rule of thirds!), but it's something I have to treat as a secondary factor when I have to limit my drawings to a waist-up shot, or when clients want a particular focus on an element I don't personally find important in the picture!
Wow, it must be an adventure to bring it all together in one picture. How long do commissions usually take you to draw, planning and sketching included?
- It's a fun process, indeed! I've definitely learned a lot since the first time I drew for someone other than me, and thanks to exposure to other people's brainchildren (so to speak, haha) I'm learning more about how people think as well.
- On average a single commission would take me around 3 days, give or take 1 day depending on how fast we reply to each other's messages. That is, if I seriously knuckle down and concentrate.
- Back when I juggled school along with commissions I take on too much on my plate, end up faffing around, and so some take months... Luckily my clients have been very patient and understanding! I'm currently doing a total overhaul of my work ethics now that I'm basically freelance. I sure hope I'm up to industry standard now, yikes.
I'm pretty sure you are, man. And speaking of the industry, what are your tools of the trade? If you don't mind me asking.
- Oh, I've got a vast variety of tools. They're all in my laptop bag...which only fits my laptop and my Intuos4 tablet...
- Haha, but yeah I'm not very versatile with traditional media. I only use a physical paper when bouncing ideas with myself or when I'm creating conceptual sketches for my own projects. I'd say an ink pen and my sketchbook (I'm in love with Hahnemühle) are all I need for anything like that.
Do you find it more enjoyable to draw for a series you know well? Or does it depend on the idea behind the request?
- I find it way more enjoyable if the idea behind the picture intrigues me! So it doesn't matter to me if it's a fanart or original art. PSA: If the artist finds your characters or ideas interesting, chances are your picture turns out better. True story! A client has also mentioned this to me before.
- So if you're looking to commission an artwork, try hunting around for an artist that would suit the style and theme of your idea and don't use price as the only factor in your decision. You'll thank yourself later!
Words of wisdom! Your author clients must be very happy. What part of a story do you get requested to draw most often? Any trends?
- Oh...romance. A LOT of romance. You know, for obvious reasons, hahaha. Romance in bed. Night time, day time, snuggles and kisses. I get a lot of those.
How about the protagonists? What kind of person are they usually? You know, like... dark and brooding, armor clad, crazy, superhero, hopeless romantic, etc...you get the idea haha!
- They're usually witty and smart and sport leather armour. Weirdly enough, I hardly get the brooder or a bloodthirsty ravager or anything! And I get a lot of female original characters as opposed to the other genders. Which is great, because ever since I started offering commissions, I've grown better at drawing feminine characters, hahaha. When I was a teenager I used to only draw masculine faces and figures which led to an automatic 'manli-fying' of anything else I tried to draw. What a terrible era it was...I'm glad I'm past it!
What do you think of shipping fan art requests?
- I don't get many requests for shipping fan art, surprisingly! Most of my audience are writers or roleplayers who have created original characters and therefore any form of shipping involves an OC plus a canon character.
- In the rare cases where I do get a shipped pairing of two canons though, I, uh, tuck my judgements away (if any!) and proceed to draw. Must. Separate. Personal. Feelings. From. Work.
Can you tell what kind of writer someone is based on their request? Or...what it says about them? o.o
- Hahaha...well. I swear I try not to get too textbook about it but yeah, you can actually tell, sometimes. Just from a description of their characters you can usually get a feeling of whether they're a writer that keeps in mind the flaws of their original characters. Just as well, through a short description of the events leading up to the scene you're supposed to draw, you can also tell if the story is an epic adventure tale or a Jane Austen kind of romance or a tragic tale etc.
- All in all, yes, I do think what a writer requests says a lot about what they value in their own stories! Sometimes a chase scene may communicate a lot more about a relationship than a hug or a kiss, and some writers are aware of this, too.
And you've probably got lots of commissions from those writers to work on right now! It's time we let you return to the palette, and we're all thrilled to see what you come up with next. A thousand thanks for taking the time to share the creative process with us!
- Thanks again for having me here, it's been real fun! Keep on creating! :D