Thank you so much to everyone who has submitted to the FCP Fiesta Writing Contest! I am super thrilled with all of the stories! You all are so talented and creative – it's going to be super hard picking favorites. Ty Lee would be proud. ;)
I'm EXTENDING THE DEADLINE to the end of this week (January 3rd)! Remember, all you have to do is write a oneshot based on a prompt from Chapter 10, write "FCP Approved" in the summary, and PM me to submit! You are allowed to submit as many times as you want.
Special thanks to: Guardian's Solace, Ana-DaughterofHades, Anonymous Rex, AthenaLesage, Bokmal14, Sleeping Kangaroo, Melody Sparrow, GrayShoedWonder, Justice Tokidoki, Guest, Irako of the Desert, allofthesefeels, EllieRicci, deaths lovely nightmare, TheNightFury, Julie319, AbsolutelyAbbie, grizzlybairparty, TheCresantMoonWolf, Guest who are all Azula-approved reviewers!
Chapter 12 – Start and End with Zuko (again!)
"In trigonometry, you use these to find values in right-angle triangles –"
"Can we wrap this up? Zuko was supposed to be here two minutes ago to teach me how to start and end stories."
Zach glared at her over his textbook. "Do you want to pass math or not?"
Ellie glared back. "You know I do."
"You haven't taken this seriously since we started," he replied, glancing at the clock on the wall, "which was five minutes ago."
Ellie rose to her feet. "When I asked you to hang out, I didn't think you'd want to hit the books. Don't you do anything fun?" she complained, and Zach angrily stood as well.
"Okay, Miss Fun Police, what did you have in mind?"
"We could get food, watch a movie, bother Sokka – heck, we could go bowling. Anything besides trigonometry!"
"Bowling isn't fun!" he protested, and she gasped dramatically.
The door to the FCP study room opened, and Zach and Ellie froze, mid-screaming match. After taking in the scene, Zuko decided, "I'll come back later…"
"No, I was just leaving. Bye, Ellie." With that, Zach packed up his books and left in a huff.
In an attempt to ignore the awkward, Zuko set Summer's color-coded binder with his lesson plan on the table. "What is going on between you two?" he questioned.
Ellie was still fuming. "You're late."
Zuko glanced at the clock and rolled his eyes. The only reason fangirls were obsessed with punctuality was because they had so much practice getting to the television when Avatar was playing.
After another look at his pupil, who was trying to swallow her lingering frustration, Zuko knew he had to change his approach. "It looks you're in a bad mood," he said. "I'm always in a bad mood. I think it'd benefit both of us if we went on a field trip."
Ellie skeptically raised an eyebrow. "Where?"
Frankly, Zuko was surprised that she hadn't freaked out about going on a much-coveted Zuko-field-trip. Or maybe the attention was getting to his head. He'd only helped create the FCP because he wanted people to get his character right. Now, this Avatar federation was enormous, and it was growing every day.
That was why he put aside Summer's colorful binder. He opened the study room door and asked Ellie, "Are you coming or not?"
Naturally, Ellie followed him. As they walked past the meeting rooms, he explained, "You've seen the parts of the headquarters where we air chapters and write lesson plans. But there's another side of this federation where the real magic happens…"
Zuko stopped at a door that Ellie had always thought was a closet. "Ellie, welcome to the FCP."
When they stepped through the door, Ellie still expected a closet. At the very least, she thought that it'd be like Narnia where they'd move some jackets and step into a snowy wonderland. The FCP Headquarters was no snowy wonderland. It was an organized, chaotic paradise. It was an enormous fusion of the four nations with the modern world. It was every Avatar fan's dream.
The four nations' banners were suspended from the ceiling. Messenger hawks soared above their heads, delivering notes to FCP members who worked diligently. Colorful books were stacked around the foyer. Televisions that aired different scenes from the show were scattered across the walls. Even the shiny floor tiles had the four nations' emblems engraved in them. Inspirational Avatar music played, and Ellie could smell Iroh's warm tea brewing. She wanted to curl up in one of the cushy Appa-themed chairs and just write.
Zuko smirked at her expression. "Impressed?"
"This is almost as cool as Harry Potter World! How can this all be in Summer's basement?" Ellie replied incredulously as Zuko led her through the crowds.
His eyes shifted. "Uh… magical realism?"
They passed a room with steam billowing beneath the door.
"Guru Pathik hosts stress-relieving retreats," Zuko explained. "The only way Aang convinced him to join us was to recreate his nomadic temple."
Ellie looked longingly at the room. "I need a stress-relieving retreat."
"I hear his strict onion and banana juice policy hasn't changed," Zuko warned her.
Continuing on, they came across a modern computer lab. Focused young women typed with amazing precision, and Ellie immediately recognized them as the Kyoshi Warriors. One girl with short auburn hair and stormy blue eyes greeted them at the doorway.
"Would you mind telling Ellie what you're all doing here?" asked Zuko like the perfectly IC tour guide he was.
The girl smiled and introduced herself. "Hi, Ellie. I'm Suki, and –"
"You are such a boss," Ellie said before she could stop herself. "That scene in the Boiling Rock when you jumped on people's heads and scaled a freaking wall was incredible. You're just the epitome of a strong, independent woman, and I'm going to shut up because I'm turning into Laura, but you're one of my favorite characters and okay, I'll stop talking."
Suki blinked. "Thanks!"
"The Kyoshi Warriors help Summer manage The Avatar Elite community," Zuko told Ellie. "There are 34,700 stories in the fandom, so she needs all the help she can get."
"Sometimes, other fans help us by sending Summer their favorite stories," said Suki. "We can usually spot a good fanfiction just by reading the first few paragraphs."
Ellie nodded thoughtfully. "How?"
Remembering that he was hosting a chapter, Zuko pulled out a list. "I'm glad you asked."
A good beginning…
Sparks interest – Make your readers want to keep reading! Your opening should contain something unique, something unexpected or funny or dramatically gripping that grabs someone's attention.
Raises Questions – How do you make your readers want to keep reading? The opening should raise more questions than answer them. Don't give everything away in the first paragraphs!
Prepares the audience – Think of your opening as setting up a contract with the audience. Your reader should know by the end of the first page what kind of story this is going to be. A comedy, drama, possible romance?
Gives just enough premise – Great opening sentences give the readers just enough to get engaged but not enough to spoil everything.
Sets a story in motion – Why is this day different from others? Why does your story open here and not a chapter later? An event should be occurring that sets up conflict and character involvement.
Can be a charged moment – A highly emotional scene is a surefire way to start your story out with a bang! Just make sure that it's not so charged that you have no room to raise and lower tension later on.
Can be in media res – You can possibly start in the middle of a scene. Details as to what is happening can be revealed as the action continues.
***Struggling to find the best place to begin your story? Think of five different places in your plot where you could open. Then ask yourself which of these is the most interesting?
After thanking Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors for their work, Zuko and Ellie continued the tour.
"Come help us look for stories any time!" Suki called after them, and Ellie waved.
"I definitely will –"
An explosion burst from a neighboring office, and Ellie jumped in alarm. Smoke wafted into the hallway. A fire detector beeped, but after another blast, the beeping ceased. Ellie cast Zuko a meaningful look, demanding an explanation.
"Let's go over there…" he said, pointing ambiguously to an area far from the exploding office. But Ellie squirmed away and ran straight toward it.
"What's going on in there?"
As the smoke cleared, Ellie could make out the messenger hawks soaring above Azula's head. One hawk dropped a scroll onto the princess's lap. After reading the message, a small blue flame hovered above Azula's fingers and torched the scroll.
Azula's gold eyes rose to Ellie. "What? Never seen somebody flame a flame before?" the princess asked, and Ellie stared back at her.
"Summer's Day gets flames?"
"No, we don't." Zuko joined Ellie in the doorway and stared at the burnt remains of several reviews. "We get ashes."
Azula looked amused. "I discard the reviews with bad spelling and grammar."
"That's a lie," her brother contradicted. "You discard the reviews that criticize us for no good reason."
"Then why is this pile of ashes so big?" Ellie protested.
Another hawk flew in the office and dropped a packet onto Azula's desk. She read the top sheet then crumpled it into a tiny ball. Tossing it in the air, she shot it with a lightning bolt. "I also destroy first drafts," she said, eyes glinting. "In due time, I may destroy other authors' stories, but for now, I practice my technique on Summer's."
Zuko glared at her. "If you don't have anything useful to add to this lesson, we're leaving –"
"Not so fast," Azula said. She retrieved a list from another pile on her desk. "Something tells me that you're not following the lesson plan for this chapter, Zuzu. Looking for this?"
Snatching the paper, Zuko retorted, "I have everything under control. Let's go, Ellie."
Glancing back at Azula, Ellie saw the princess smile a sinister grin.
Ellie shivered as struggled to keep up with Zuko. When they were a safe distance away, he passed her the paper that Azula had given him.
"We actually do need this," he mumbled. "It's the next list."
A good ending…
Solves the conflict in some capacity – The overarching conflict doesn't have to be resolved, especially if you're planning a sequel, but a good ending gives the readers a sense of conclusion to the plot.
Concludes a moment – Again, you don't have to conclude the characters' entire story. A good ending finishes a scene, though. There is a difference between a cliff hanger and a poorly written ending!
Is as memorable as the beginning – The opening and closing moments can define a story. How are the characters different at the end as opposed to the beginning?
Hints at a future – Where do the characters go from here? A good ending can be though-provoking. It should leave readers with the sense that the characters' lives don't end after the series is over. Hence, FanFiction!
Can surprise readers – A memorable ending may catch everyone off-guard! Even so, it should give readers a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Can leave some things unsettled – In Avatar, we didn't find out what happened to Zuko's mom. But the overarching conflict was defeating the Fire Lord, and that was resolved!
"The Jasmine Dragon has been taunting me this whole time," Ellie said. The sweet scent of lychee entranced her. "How do you stand it?"
Zuko breathed in the tea as well. "Uncle says that tea relaxes you so you're open to clear thinking. Granted, Uncle also believes that tea can stop global warming and end world hunger."
"Maybe one day it will," a new voice joined the conversation. A girl in a peach dress smiled at them from behind a bar. Cups of steaming tea lined the marble counter. Another girl with a layered ponytail grinned and handed them both a jade cup. If Ellie didn't know better, she'd swear Zuko blushed.
Ellie took a sip of the tea. Perfection.
"Have a great day, and good luck with your story!" said the ponytail girl.
"Song and Jin," Zuko said as they entered a secluded hallway. "They're Uncle's tea-making apprentices, so they're around a lot."
"And Mai's okay with that?" Ellie asked.
Avoiding the subject, he said, "This is our next stop. The List Archives."
Zuko retrieved a key from his tunic and unlocked the door. Inside, there were rows and rows of filing cabinets that Ellie assumed held countless lists.
Suddenly, a guy in baggy clothes popped out of nowhere. His curly dark hair peeked from beneath his sideways baseball hat. "Yo, word! I'm DJ Lala."
Ellie raised an eyebrow at Zuko, but he looked just as surprised as she was. This guy was not an FCP member.
"Only authorized personnel are allowed here," Zuko told the strangely dressed DJ.
"Chillax! Summah hiyah-ed me to guard the lists," DJ Lala said. "I'm supposta help with the comic relief in this chappie too dawg!"
Ellie stared at him. "You did not just call my best friend 'Summah.'"
Zuko shoved past DJ Lala into the List Archives, but the excited DJ wouldn't be forsaken so easily. "Wanna hear somma my rappin' yo?" he asked. "Wanna hear mah flow? The fi-yah alarm was mah mixtape droppin'!"
Ignoring him, Zuko rifled through a filing cabinet, desperate for a list to interrupt DJ Lala's awful spelling and grammar. Unfortunately, he wasn't fast enough. DJ Lala cleared his throat and began, "I'm DJ Lala. I like Lady Gaga. And drinkin' agua from those little wata fountas."
"Please let me set him on fire," Zuko said.
"Not until you give me that list you're holding," Ellie replied.
How to Start a Story
There are countless ways to creatively begin a story! Here are some structural ways that you can consider if you're stuck...
1.) Character action – One example of starting a story in media res, or in the middle of a scene. Something happened before this moment that is making a character react.
Direct – Zuko stormed through the doors in a fit of rage.
Indirect – He flung himself into a room, simply throwing the doors out of his path.
2.) Direct Dialogue – Immediately begin a story with dialogue! This raises questions like, who's talking? Why are these characters having this conversation? Why is this important now?
Ex. "You know I'll always love you. Until the end of time."
3.) The Narrative – This is simply starting a story with a solid sentence. You can begin by describing a setting, character, or emotions:
-Setting – The sun beat down on the fire lord's tall palace.
-Description – Her silky white locks billowed down her back.
-Feelings – Never had she been in a position of such fear.
4.) Single Word – This is gradually becoming more popular, especially in adventure stories. When you begin with just one word, the reader is going to automatically read the next sentence. Got 'em!
She left me alone.
"You wouldn't dare!" I yelled.
5.) Quote – This sets the scene for the story and gives it a sophisticated feel. It may be a lesson the character needs to learn or just a quote that appropriately relates to the story. The next example is one I used in my other story, Price of Victory.
Ex. ~Just because his eyes don't tear doesn't mean his heart doesn't cry. And just because he comes off strong, doesn't mean there's nothing wrong. ~
"Yo, I'm DJ Lala."
Zuko groaned. "I know. You told me already."
"Wanna hear me rap and chizz?" Before waiting for a response, DJ Lala began to rap anyway, "I'm DJ Lala. I like agua. And takin' showas that smell like prittay flowas…"
Ellie was actually entertained by DJ Lala. She was even more entertained by her splendid view of Zuko's throbbing brain vessel.
"Who are you, and why are you here?" Zuko demanded.
"You just mad, yo, cuz I be takin' more showas than you, dawg. You no take no showas."
Finally, Zuko slammed the filing cabinet shut. With a deadpan expression, he wheeled on DJ Lala. "I'm calling Summer."
"Please let me stay! I'll bake you a cake, sing you a song, let you borrow my gangsta pants!"
Pressing his temples, Zuko muttered something that sounded a lot like, "Why me?" before shoving another list at Ellie. "Let's get this over with."
How to End a Story
1.) Cliff Hangers – These are thought-provoking endings that leave questions unanswered. It can make a story more memorable since the reader is forced the contemplate the plot long after it has ended!
2.) Short and Sweet – A quippy sentence that ends a moment.
3.) Direct Dialogue – Ending a story with direct dialogue. It can be something new that closes off the conversation, or to be extra cute, it can repeat a quote from earlier in the story.
4.) Character Action – This just ends with something the character does. It could be symbolic or just something that closes off the story.
Ex. They ran into the sunset, holding hands.
He felt his pulse one more time and then turned to face the rush of the wind.
Ooh, I like that one. I might have to keep that!
5.) Good Old Narrative –Basically, this is the same as the Narrative beginning, only for the ending. This is a simple ending. Just keep in mind that you have to sum everything up, even if you're planning a sequel. You can still leave some loose ends, but the main plot should at least be over. Other than that, it's up to you!
Zuko braced himself for another pathetic attempt at rapping… but it didn't come. Surprised, Ellie peered around the filing cabinets, but DJ Lala was nowhere to be found.
"That was so weird…" she said. "Even by Summer's Day standards."
Zuko called to the sky, "I get it, Summer! I won't go off the lesson plan again!"
Back at the main part of the Headquarters, The Nomads were giving another live performance. Everyone was gathered in the main lobby, cheering wildly despite the fact that they only seemed to know three songs. Over the miscellaneous female characters' fangirling, Ellie shouted at Zuko, "Did we see all the FCP on this field trip?"
"There is one room that none of the fans have seen yet," he shouted back.
"Take me there!"
At the end of another secluded hall, Ellie and Zuko came upon a dark, sketchy room. Screens with surveillance videos covered every inch of the walls. Sitting in the swivel chairs, monitoring the footage, was the Dai Li. In the corner, a girl with familiar strawberry blonde curls whispered instructions to one of the agents.
"Summer, how did you find this room?" Zuko demanded.
Summer's eyes widened, and she elbowed the Dai Li agent. Immediately, his computer screen changed to the Nyan Cat video.
"It's my basement," she said. "Why are you two here? You're supposed to be bowling."
Avoiding the subject, Zuko cast Summer a meaningful look. "What were you looking at?" he asked, gesturing at the computer screen that now showcased a cat pooping out a rainbow.
"What is this place?" Ellie interrupted, peering at the surveillance videos. Several showed the different parts of FCP Headquarters, but there was one screen that showed the room they were in. Green arrows pointed at Ellie and Summer. Another video had an arrow pointing to Laura in a National Honor Society meeting, while another arrow pointed at Zach who was reading his trigonometry book for fun.
Ellie gasped. "Is this how you stalk us?!"
"Summer, what were you looking at?" Zuko pressed.
"I wanted to see why Zach hates Bryce!" Summer matched Zuko's intensity. "If you expect me to incorporate drama, I need to know backstory."
Zuko glared at her but admitted, "Touché."
"What did you find?" Ellie tried to sound disinterested.
"She didn't find anything because it's not strategically time for that information to be revealed," said Zuko.
Summer nonchalantly whispered to the Dai Li agent, "Thanks for trying." At full volume, she requested, "Could you please pull up the last list for this chapter? Zuko went off the lesson plan."
"I didn't want to go bowling," Zuko told her, and Ellie gasped dramatically as the final list appeared on the screen.
Starting and Ending Tips
Here are some general tips for starting and ending stories!
Know what you want – You probably have an idea of what kind of beginning and ending you you leave it up to random ideas, it probably won't be as strong!
Read the entire story –Before you end a story, it helps to know how your readers feel. As you reread everything, write down all the questions that you've raised as the author.
Don't get stuck there – Even though this entire chapter has stressed the importance of a solid beginning and ending, try not to stress about it too much.
But think it through – Be purposeful in your choice, but let it flow naturally with the plot.
Be unique – Memorable stories have strong bookends. Memorable change occurs within the plot, and your readers should vividly remember how this change began and ended! What makes your story different can be evident from the second it opens.
"That was productive chapter," said Ellie. "We toured the FCP and learned about starting and ending a story, which is definitely a hard concept. With the exception of DJ Lala, this was one of my favorite chapters."
"I'm so glad!" Summer exclaimed, hugging her. "Wait – who's DJ Lala?"
"You hired him to guard the List Archive," said Ellie. "He randomly rhymes things with Lala."
Summer still looked confused, so Zuko supplied, "He said, 'I'm supposta help with the comic relief in this chappie, dawg!'"
The girls stared at him.
"Never say 'dawg' again," Summer commanded. "And I would never hire someone who so desperately needs a dictionary… and a therapist."
As Summer instructed the Dai Li to review surveillance tapes for the List Archives, Ellie and Zuko both wondered if they'd imagined DJ Lala. If they did, this federation was taking a toll on their sanities. But if they didn't…
Who was he, and why did he infiltrate this chapter?
Sokka: The name is Sokka. I like to talk-a. And go on walk-as – Okay, I can't do this. Who are you, DJ Lala, and what do you want with Summer's Day?!
SNEAK PEEK… Bryce meets his match when Mai shows him how to stay in-character!
REVIEW PROMPT... What was your favorite part of the FCP tour?
BONUS PROMPT... What's your favorite genre of FanFiction to read? Recently, I've been super into crime dramas, and I have absolutely no idea where this came from...