Good news! I just got the last judge's rubric from the FCP Fiesta, which means that the results will be in very soon! Another massive thank you to everyone who participated. You're all awesome. :)
Special thanks to: Asami Grace, hayleybrown100, Ana-DaughterofHades, Anonymous Rex, NatNicole, DAve and Bob, Irako of the Desert, Sleeing Kangaroo, grizzlybairparty, Justice Tokidoki, aramiey, TheCresantMoonWolf, music4evah, and Forever Fyre for reviewing! Every review motivates me to work on these new chapters!
Chapter 13 – Stay IC with Mai, Who's Exciting Apparently
"Drawing on walls doesn't make you a bad boy."
"Who says it doesn't?"
Mai's expression didn't change. "My boyfriend is an arsonist. I would know."
Bryce held his bandana in front of his nose before shooting a stream of red paint across the stone column. Residue flew onto his paint-splattered work jeans. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, which further tousled his hair. As he continued his work, he told Mai, "I admit, arson is a bit more destructive than street art. But both are pretty permanent."
With a deep sigh, Mai absentmindedly spun one of her knives. "I didn't come here to debate the benefits of arson and graffiti."
They why did you come here, Bryce wanted to ask. Underneath Pineview's railway wasn't exactly a popular venue. The last person he expected to see amidst these graffiti walls was a girl with heavy robes and a stern expression that told him she liked to play by the rules.
Mai retrieved a crumpled scroll from her sleeve. She mechanically read, "Hello, Bryce McCoy. My name is Mai, and I will be your FCP host for today's lesson on staying IC. Insert friendly smile here," she said, not even remotely close to smiling. "To begin, we will answer a reviewer's question."
Nat Nicole: I'm writing a crossover fic, and I put a warning about a canon character being OOC in it. Is it acceptable to make a canon character OOC if it's necessary for plot?
"You're the author," said Mai. "Do what you want."
Bryce shook another spray can. "But they want to know if it's acceptable."
"It's acceptable if you give a good reason, but there are ways around it," Mai said dryly. "Use another character who wouldn't be acting OOC to do the deed. Respect the canon character's personality and leave him or her alone – Where do you think you're going?"
While Mai had been attempting to educate him, Bryce had stuffed his bandana in his back pocket then pitched his spray cans into his backpack. "Look around," replied Bryce, unruffled by her commanding tone. "That column was the last clear space of wall, and I need new canvas. You coming?"
Mai glanced at his column and was surprised by what she saw. A man in a twisted, break-dancing pose stood on one arm. His entire body was grey except for his hair, which was an eruption of flames. A blend of fiery colors encircled the column, which mildly impressed Mai. She thought about asking why Bryce bothered painting such nice work if no one saw it.
Then she remembered that she didn't care.
She was still bothered by his nonchalance and effortless charisma. But she obliged. "Fine. Anything to get out of this disgusting tunnel."
"So, why am I a fan rep?" Bryce asked as they strolled through Pineview's streets. "I haven't seen a single episode of Avatar."
Mai could only imagine the fangirls gasping in reaction to that statement. Then they'd probably take to the street with fiery pitchforks. "Apparently, your creative writing essays aren't awful," she replied. "Also, if everyone was a diehard fan, this story would be more boring than it already is."
"Got it. And you're the one dating Sokka, right?"
Without warning, flying scroll containing an educational list hit him in face.
Common Character Mistakes
Some of these may sound silly, but I've read actual fanfictions that have these changes…
Aang is not a completely mature teenager who enjoys others' suffering and eating meat.
Katara is not a cruel-hearted girl who holds grudges against every person who annoys her.
Sokka is not Zuko, but also not a complete goof who makes obnoxious jokes when things are clearly serious.
Toph is not a preppy petunia always looking for romance, love, and attention.
Zuko is not… there are so many things Zuko's not. He's not a lovesick puppy or swimsuit model (we established this in Chapter 1, thank you). He's not a popular jock or a complete social outcast who never speaks. Sure, he's an outcast but not the kind that never talks. He doesn't fall for all those girls who want to "change him," and he only talks about his feelings with people he trusts.
SPOILER ALERT – The series ended with these canon couples: Aang + Katara, Sokka + Suki, Zuko + Mai, Appa + Momo – Just kidding! Just wanted to see if you're paying attention.
"Wait – That's Belmont," Bryce warned when Mai crossed into the abruptly upscale neighborhood.
"It'd be OOC for you to suddenly want to follow the rules," she said without looking back. "Something tells me you've never vandalized any of these buildings."
Bryce raised an eyebrow. Maybe this girl wasn't as boring as she seemed.
The men and women in Armani suits and Nordstrom dresses greatly contrasted Mai in her Fire Nation garb and Bryce in his grey t-shirt and sunglasses. Regardless, the Belmont aristocracy – as Bryce's friends called them – had been trying to merge their neighborhoods for "community betterment." If anyone thought Mai and Bryce were unusual, they kept their mouths shut.
"What about here?" Mai suggested.
Belmont Prep looked more like a castle than a high school, standing several stories tall with elegant red bricks and white columns. It was known for its pretentiousness, and Mai was right to assume that it was untouched by anything "inferior."
Just standing in front of it filled Bryce with resentfulness.
That was why his eyes sparkled when he said, "Challenge accepted."
Careful to avoid the weekend janitorial staff, Mai and Bryce scoured the halls of Belmont Prep. Mai thought that any of the clean walls would work, but Bryce was pickier. Boredom seeped through Mai's body as he raced to the fifth floor.
"Are you done wall shopping?"
But Bryce had already pulled down a rusty safety ladder that Mai assumed led to the roof. "Race you to the top," he called.
"In your dreams."
Sighing, Mai climbed the ladder. A gust of wind rustled through her clothes when she reached the top. A large, run-down wall stood behind her, reflecting the sun. The flat roof overlooked a stunning view of Belmont. Daylight cascaded off the Victorian roofs, and decorative flowers lined every sidewalk.
Mai was still bored. "Draw a smiley face, and let's go," she instructed, but Bryce retrieved his tape measure to get the wall's dimensions.
"I could do a smiley face. Or some kind of optical illusion. Maybe a self-portrait!"
"Perfect," Mai agreed with as much enthusiasm as a brick. "They'll know exactly who to arrest when they find it."
"Noted." He retracted his tape and admired the blank wall. "I can't waste this brilliant space on a mediocre painting. No, this will require more thought…"
Bryce thought he'd sooner be trampled by a unicorn than have an Avatar marathon with Miss Hospitality.
"I didn't know if you liked fruits or veggies, so I brought both," Summer said cheerfully. She placed two immaculate trays on the couch then started the first episode.
After seeing Mai slump into a Momo-themed chair beside him, Bryce decided that if she had to suffer through this, he could too. Part of him wanted to leave and draft more ideas for Belmont's wall. Binge-watching this cartoon seemed like a royal waste of time. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of stealing another glance at Summer. He couldn't pretend he didn't want to make her happy. Her bright smile was contagious, and her entire face lit to life –
Whatever. That was irrelevant. He stayed because she was re-watching this entire series just so he could help other people write. He had to try.
His attention returned to the show just in time to see Appa sneeze a wad of snot onto Sokka. Bryce winced but attempted to make an intelligent remark. "These characters have such distinct personalities. How do you tell if you're writing them in-character enough?"
Eyes still glued to the show, Summer handed him a list.
Irako of the Desert is a wonderful reviewer who is always ready to touch upon the IC-ness of my characters. She provided this useful IC scale for you can rate yourself:
-Tier 4: They aren't in character at all, and now I want to scrub out my eyes.
-Tier 3: They're in roughly the same ball park, but sometimes they use words that I don't think they would normally use. Like Zuko using "absolutely" repeatedly. He just doesn't seem like the type to use extreme words, you know?
-Tier 2: You're doing very well with keeping them in character. In my mind, I hear Dante Basco and Mae Whitman and friggin' Grey DeLisle. (but I don't actually see them moving yet)
-Tier 1: Mastermind of being in-characterness, you have achieved the most difficult level! Not only am I hearing voices, I'm seeing them interact as if I was watching an actual episode. Continue to work hard and do your best!
Bryce watched with indifference as Kyoshi warriors fought Mai's boyfriend, who was bald with a ponytail (which he still didn't understand). Pirates chased Team Avatar through the marketplace, destroying a poor cabbage merchant's cart. The fighting was cool, but it was cheesy how every episode neatly ended with a solved problem and a learned lesson.
When Aang burned Katara and vowed never to fire-bend again, Bryce's spine straightened. "But he's the Avatar. Doesn't he have to fire-bend," he protested.
"Just you wait," Summer replied.
"How long do I have to wait?"
Mai smirked. "Two seasons."
"Could be worse."
The next day, Bryce sat outside the FCP tea station. His sketchbook was open, and a pile of discarded drawings lay at his feet. "I've been at this for hours! Why am I having so much trouble coming up with a design?" Bryce barked, tearing out another unworthy sketch.
"You're an OC," Mai informed him, leaning against the counter. "If everything came naturally, you'd be labeled a Gary Stu."
"Thanks. Now I feel so much better."
"I have that effect on people."
Keeping OCs In-Character
Keeping your own characters IC may sound easy, but unless you want confused readers, be consistent. To ensure your OC's personality is distinct, fill out the form below. An insincere example has been provided for Bryce:
Name: Bryce McCoy
Physical Qualities: "He had careless hair and cool, thoughtful eyes. He carried himself with a refined confidence" (Chapter 10).
Dominant Traits: Creative, Rebellious, Charismatic
Character Flaw: He likes breaking rules and is bitter at anything associated with Belmont. He also doesn't like Avatar, which is a crime.
Soft Spot: Summer – or is it?
Does this character change? Let's hope so.
When? Why? In a list or two. Because reasons (that'll be revealed later in the chapter).
Why will readers believe the change is realistic? Because Avatar changes freaking lives.
Ambition: To make Belmont's roof "the greatest project [he's] ever done."
Does he/she achieve it? Time will tell...
"Do you have more lists?" Bryce asked.
Mai shot him a glare. "I just told you how to stay IC. Being interested in this lesson goes against your rebellious character."
"I'm so done with this dumb painting," he replied. "Anything to keep my mind off how uninspired I feel."
Mai pulled out another list. "You'll get used to it."
What Not To Do
1. Have them Go Crazy – Unless we're talking about Sokka, you'd better give some justification. Being withheld food and water? Being trapped in another dimension? Good reasons. Being beaten in a duel? No one would go crazy with the exception of Azula.
2. Do Other Things for No Apparent Reason – Giving legitimate reasoning behind actions is especially important when you have an OC or are making a change in a canon character's personality.
3. Make them Cry Over Everything –Only make characters cry at touching moments, and it'll make those moments more powerful. If they cry too much, it won't mean a thing.
4. Make them Never Cry – Unless it's in their character not to cry. But really, Zuko and Azula are tough, and they cried at least once in the series. Certain things touch certain character's hearts. You have to distinguish what those things are.
5. Have them be Their Opposite – This is going to sound stupid to most of you, but it's been done.
6. Never Refer Back to the Show – You want to see how the characters interact with one another? You want to see their relationships? It's all written in gold in the show! It shows the characters at their peak! You should ALWAYS REFER TO THE SHOW! Oops, my caps lock was on.
Still a little out of character, Bryce and Mai joined Summer in the lounge to watch the end of the series. They found her preparing Fyre for the next chapter.
"You can deploy your parachute by pulling this rip chord," Summer explained, pointing to a string on Fyre's backpack. Fyre reached for the string, but Summer swatted her hand. "Not inside!"
With a crazed grin, Fyre joined Sokka in the hall. "See you losers at the Taj Mahal!" she called as they ran off.
"Oh, you're early," Summer said, rushing to clean up the room. "I brought healthy and unhealthy snacks this time. I thought it might make this a more enjoyable experience…"
"Summer, don't worry about the snacks," Bryce comforted her. "You make this an enjoyable experience."
"Are we going to flirt all day or finish the lesson?" Mai demanded, settling into her Momo chair.
Maybe it was his change in perspective. Maybe it was the unhealthy snacks. But Book 3: Fire was the greatest television Bryce had ever seen. Aang had grown up, and his issues were engaging and real. Katara was still compassionate, but she also showed her darker side. Sokka was hysterical (Wang Fire? Sapphire Fire, anybody?). Toph slayed in the best way possible. And (SPOILER ALERT!) when Zuko joined Team Avatar, Bryce nearly lost it.
"All this time, I thought fire-bending was destruction," said Aang from the screen. "Since I hurt Katara, I've been too afraid and hesitant. But now I know what it really is… It's energy and life."
Bryce heard Summer sniffle, "It's just so beautiful."
"The dragons are pretty cool," he agreed.
"No, silly." Summer nudged him. "Aang overcame his fear of fire – a fear that festered for two seasons – after dancing with the original masters of the art. He can now fulfill his destiny of being the avatar. Yes, fire can be destructive. But destruction can be inspirational."
"Like your street art," Mai put in. "People, myself included, see it as destruction of property. But sometimes, it's inspirational too."
Bryce watched as Zuko and Aang demonstrated the dance for their friends. "I guess it is."
Next came the Boiling Rock episode, and Mai perked up a little. At the climax, screen-Mai boldly told Azula, "I love Zuko more than I fear you," and Bryce nearly flipped a fruit tray.
"See, this is why I don't understand people who hate on your character," he said. "Look at that love. You care about things, Mai. You care."
Mai thought that this was an overreaction, but part of her hated Bryce a little less. She handed Summer a sheet of paper. "I took the liberty of writing a rant for the last list," she said.
"Great! I'll definitely include it."
"That wasn't a choice."
Everything Mai is Not
I won't give an entire spiel about how terrible Zutara is, but I will defend myself from people who bash my character just because you like it. I am not…
-A silent onlooker – You can't say you've never heard me speak before. Sometimes, though, it's just not worth it.
-A delinquent –The only crime I've committed is saving Zuko at the Boiling Rock. The rest of the series wouldn't be interesting for a few drooling fans if he'd fallen in the boiling water. You should thank me.
-Someone in desperate need of anti-depressants – Everyone in this world hates things. I hate being bored. If Katara complained she was bored all the time, would you bash her character? I didn't think so.
-An ugly, angry partner – You wish. Zuko makes me happy, and he thinks I'm beautiful. What more can I ask for? What more can you ask for?
-A cruel, raving lunatic – I don't go out of my way to insult people. If they had it coming, that's their fault. If you think about it, I'm the opposite of crazy.
-Ty Lee – Enough said.
"I know you must have mixed feelings about seeing me," Zuko said, kneeling by his uncle's bed. "But I want you to know… I am so, so sorry, Uncle." His voice broke. "I am so sorry and ashamed of what I did. I don't know how I can ever make it up to you, but I'll –" The music flared as Iroh pulled his nephew into a hug, tears filling his eyes.
As the scene continued, Zuko and Iroh weren't the only ones weeping.
"Bryce?" Summer whispered. "Are you crying?"
"No!" he protested. "I just have something in my eye."
As Aang and Katara kissed and the series came to a close, Bryce slowly applauded. Before leaving the room, Mai yawned and said something about needing to practice throwing knives to feel tough again.
"What did you think?" Summer asked.
Bryce leaned back. "Monkey-feathers. I need to re-watch it all right now."
"Oh goodness, you're even saying Avatar-isms. It's too late to go back now," she teased. "Mr. McCoy, you're officially an FCP fan representative."
A slow smile spread across his lips. "Could be worse."
"I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'm going to –"
"Summer, you're not going to die," Bryce whispered. After climbing Belmont's ladder for the past several weeks, he flew up the rungs with ease. Summer, on the other hand, gripped the ladder so tightly, he thought she might crush it. "Pretend you're Ty Lee or something," he encouraged her.
"Ty lee isn't afraid of heights," she shot back.
He hoisted himself onto the roof then extended a hand to help her. "Watch your step."
Once her feet were on solid ground again, Summer exhaled. Bryce threw off his black jacket and grinned. "That wasn't so bad."
"We just illegally climbed onto the roof of my school in the middle of the night. Define 'bad.'" Then teasingly, she said, "I should've listened to Sokka when he said you were a bad influence."
"You should've," Bryce agreed. "But then, you wouldn't get to see this."
He gently turned her around, and Summer's heart nearly stopped.
Even though the world around them was dark, the wall was illuminated by the full moon. Reds and blues danced before her eyes. The magnificent bodies of two roaring dragons elegantly intertwined. Their piercing gold eyes were startling but warm. An enormous vortex of blending colors burst from each dragon's mouth, and the flames were so vivid, Summer could feel their heat radiating off the paint.
She involuntarily stepped back, overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the masterpiece. What had once been a desolate wall was now enveloped in fire and intensity and energy and life.
"Holy mother of –"
"– Azula," he supplied.
Bryce frowned. "Too soon?"
Shaking her head, Summer stared in disbelief at the wall. "I can't find the words to describe what I'm feeling right now…"
"I've rendered an author speechless," Bryce said triumphantly. "My life is complete."
"How did – Why did you – Forget it, just come here."
She embraced him in a sudden hug, and it was Bryce's turn to be surprised. Her hair brushed his cheek, and he slowly wrapped his arms around her as well. Admiring the wall for himself, he said, "Someone taught me that destruction can be inspirational too."
Bryce was a little disgusted with himself for succumbing to a cheesy one-liner that neatly wrapped up the chapter's moral. But it felt appropriate.
A breeze whistled through the air, and he draped his jacket over Summer's shoulders. Maybe, he thought, this FCP thing isn't so bad. As they admired Ran and Shaw together in the dead of night, Bryce felt a lot like Zuko and Aang must've felt as they were engulfed in the dragons' flames.
Inspired, passionate, and alive.
Sokka: The FCP – changing lives one author at a time. This is one of Summer's favorite chapters, but I still say he's a bad influence.
SNEAK PEEK… Learn dialogue with Fyre and Sokka!
REVIEW PROMPT… What are your favorite books? A master list of your recommended picks will be featured in Chapter 15!