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One Winter Awakening (one-shot for FFQ Edition 3 challenge; G)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by AmericanPi, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    "One Winter Awakening"
    A one-shot for the Fan Fiction Quarterly Edition 3 (December 2015) Challenge
    by American--Pi​

    This one-shot is my response to the prompt in Edition 3 of the Fan Fiction Quarterly. The challenge was to write a holiday fic about a holiday that doesn't exist, with extra credit going to those who create a holiday that in no way resembles Christmas but is still very obviously winter-themed.

    When I saw the prompt, I immediately thought, "It will include Articuno" because Articuno is my all-time favorite Pokemon. As I brainstormed some ideas around that criterion, I came up with something that I'm quite proud of. I hope this fic fits the prompt - it's more about a festival and tradition than a holiday, but since the festival is celebrated by a good number of people in an entire Pokemon World region, I guess it counts as a holiday. :p

    As a side note, Supurna, the main character of this one-shot, isn't an OC - she's a rather obscure canon character from Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs.

    Without further ado, please enjoy "One Winter Awakening".

    Supurna remembered happier times.

    The Rainbow Festival, for instance. Three months ago she was still happily married, to the ex-husband whom she had no idea was a terrible person. They had flown to Cocona Town on Renbow Island together to take part in the Rainbow Festival, which was one of the four Gatherings celebrated by the people of Oblivia every year.

    That Rainbow Festival, which had taken place on the fourth of October, was like any other Gathering. As with every Gathering, the people of the archipelago of Oblivia had gathered for three days to celebrate changing seasons, show their appreciation for peace, and share news with each other. It was full of happiness and gratitude, as a Gathering should be.

    Supurna was happy then.

    Supurna remembered times even before then where she was happier than she was now.

    Seventeen years ago came to her mind. Before she even met the man who would become part of the reason why she was so unhappy now, she had assisted Pokemon Rangers Rand, Ben, and Summer in stopping the immoral activities of the Pokemon Pinchers and the Societea. Her understanding of Flying-type Pokemon had helped the Rangers greatly, and they had often asked her to summon Pokemon of the sky to assist in their endeavors. Supurna had always gladly helped the Rangers, and had received their deepest thanks after the downfall of the Societea.

    Supurna was happy then.

    The year after the fall of the Societea, Nema, Rand's daughter, suggested the idea of the Gatherings. During that year's Rainbow Festival, the young scientist proposed her idea to everyone who was gathered in Cocona Village. Supurna was living on Sophian Island back then and wasn't there to witness the creation of the Awakenings herself, but she knew of Nema's speech from Summer, her close friend.

    "We should do this more often," the bright, blue-haired girl had said, giving her speech on the ceremonial Rainbow Dais. "This year, things were changed up a bit by our visitors from Mitonga and Sophian. It was a good change, though! We had a lot of fun and learned about a lot of happenings. I thought it was really fun to connect with people on other islands. How about all of you?"

    The gathered crowd had let out a roar of approval. Then someone had raised his hand.

    He had said, "How about once every three months? We can gather here once every season to share news with each other, and stuff like that."

    "That's a great idea," Nema had said, as heads nodded in approval. "The Rainbow Festival is held in the autumn, so all we need to do is gather here on Renbow Island in the spring, summer, and winter."

    "Incidentally, Moltres awakens in the spring, Zapdos awakens in the summer, and Articuno awakens in the Winter," Leanne, a respected archaeologist who was also Nema's mother, had added. "Those three Legendary Pokemon bring us our weather and our changing seasons. If you ask me, it would only fit if we had our gatherings during the birds' awakenings."

    "We could exchange news with each other," Nema had finished excitedly. "We can also take the gatherings as an opportunity to celebrate the changing seasons and show our gratitude for peace. If you ask me, it's a great idea. Oblivia needs something to bind the people of the different islands together."

    "What does everyone think?" Rand had asked.

    A chorus of applause had answered him, and that was the beginning of the Gatherings, which since then were celebrated by the people of Oblivia once every season.

    Many aspects of the Gatherings had changed since then. For the first two years, every Gathering was held in Cocona Village. This changed in the third year of the Gatherings, when the Winter Awakening was held on Sophian Island, the Spring Awakening was held on Faldera Island, and the Summer Awakening was held on Layuda Island. This was done because Sophian, Faldera, and Layuda were the homes of Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos respectively, and Leanne felt that the birds' awakenings should be celebrated on the birds' home islands. Besides, Nema had added, holding the Gatherings on different islands was a great way for Oblivians to explore their region. These ideas were met with open arms, and from then on, the Gatherings were held like that.

    The third year was also when the name of the festivals changed - they became known collectively as Gatherings, but the Gatherings aside from the traditional Rainbow Festival were renamed into Awakenings because they coincided with the times where the three legendary birds awakened from their slumber. Articuno awoke from xir roost atop Mount Sorbet on Sophian Island every year from January 4th to January 6th; Moltres stirred from xir slumber atop Faldera Volcano on Faldera Island every year from April 4th to April 6th; and Zapdos left xir perch atop Mount Layuda on Layuda Island every year from July 4th to July 6th.

    During every Awakening, one of the three legendary birds woke up from xir hibernation and flew around Oblivia, performing the magic that would maintain the weather and seasons in the archipelago.

    Supurna remembered the changes Oblivia had gone through since she was born. She knew that during all those changes, she had her ups and downs, but thought that there was never a time where she was as miserable as she was now.

    In addition to the creation of the Gatherings, Oblivia had gone through quite a few changes in the past seventeen years. For one thing, the Gatherings had grown bigger and bigger since their inception - as Oblivians spread the word about the Gatherings, more and more people attended the Gatherings over the years.

    Supurna's first Gathering was the Winter Awakening of fourteen years ago, and she had enjoyed the festivities so much that she knew she had to attend every Gathering from then on out.

    Supurna was happy then.

    The second change in Oblivia since the inception of the Gatherings was the general increase in population. Seventeen years ago, only Renbow, Mitonga, and Sophian Island were inhabited, and the villages on those islands were quite small. Now every island was inhabited, Oblivia was becoming more developed, and more people were visiting the archipelago for business and pleasure.

    Aqua Resort on Sophian Island was renamed into Aqua Town, because the settlement had become quite large. Cocona Village and Tilt Village were renamed into Cocona Town and Tilt Town, respectively. To this day, the towns were still expanding. Faldera Island now had Magma Village at the base of Faldera Volcano, and Layuda Island now had Spark Village at the foot of Mount Layuda.

    Even Tilikule Island, the smallest island of Oblivia that was only the size of several Wailord, was inhabited, but it only had one house - a quaint little settlement that belonged to Supurna herself. Supurna once lived in Aqua Town, but decided to settle on Tilikule Island ten years ago in search of peace, quiet, and solitude.

    She quite enjoyed her little island - if she wanted supplies or company, she would easily fly to one of the other islands on her trusty Pelipper's back. Besides, the island had a strange characteristic - it was a vagrant trap. Lost or injured Flying-type Pokemon often ended up on Tilikule Island, and Supurna absolutely loved taking them under her wing and nursing them back to health.

    Supurna's husband often helped her care for the Flying-type Pokemon in need of help. Her ex-husband, that is, who was now Arceus-knows-where. He had left Supurna and their two-month-old baby boy a month ago, and he was definitely someone Supurna did not want to think about.

    What he did made her miserable - very, very miserable.

    Supurna suspected that her son Sparrow, who was born blind, was part of the reason why what happened, happened. But Supurna didn't want to blame her son for her troubles, and knew that it was definitely not the two-month-old baby's fault that she was depressed.

    Her beloved son was permanently blind and would never be able to live a normal life. Her husband was permanently gone and would forever leave a bitter stain on Supurna's memory.

    No, Supurna was not happy now.

    Presently Supurna was lying in bed, feeling angry, depressed, and all-around horrible. On top of all her struggles, she had recently come down with a nasty cold that left her feeling worse than ever before.

    So here she was, lying half-dead in the queen bed that she used to share with her ex-husband. A trash can, overflowing with used tissues, sat next to the bed, and an almost empty tissue box was perched on the bedside table.

    Supurna broke into a coughing fit and sat up to clear her chest. She then used a tissue to blow her reddened nose.

    This is going to be a long day, she thought miserably as she lay back down and snuggled deep into her warm quilt.

    She turned her head and checked the date and time on her bedside clock: 10 A.M., January 5th. Supurna sighed heavily. This year's Winter Awakening was halfway over. She wondered what event was taking place now, as well as what her friends were doing.

    Not that she had any intention of contacting them. She was so sick that she couldn't make the trip to Sophian Island, anyways, but even if her physical health was satisfactory she knew she couldn't bear to face everyone. Supurna simply felt too depressed to socialize and take part in the festivities.

    Besides, what would they say when they found out that she had given birth to a blind son and she wasn't married anymore? What would they do when they found out what had happened?

    Supurna sighed again and realized that she was crying. Using a tissue she wiped away her tears. She wondered how Sparrow was doing and if Pelipper was taking good care of him.

    As if to answer her question, her trusty Water Bird Pokemon flew through the open door into her room. He landed on the bed and nuzzled against her face.

    "Hey, Pelipper," Supurna croaked hoarsely, scratching her Pokemon's head. "Are you taking good care of Sparrow?"

    "Pel," Pelipper chirped, bobbing his head up and down.

    "Thank you," Supurna said gratefully, stroking Pelipper's back.

    Fearing that Sparrow would contract her illness if he was too close to her, Supurna had asked Pelipper to move her son to another room. The Water Bird Pokemon had obliged, understanding his friend's situation. He had also taken excellent care of Sparrow while Supurna was sick, ensuring that the two-month-old baby was fed his infant formula regularly. Pelipper even changed Sparrow's diapers, a favor Supurna was very grateful for. Once a day Supurna would drag herself out of bed to check on her son, and she was always relieved and warmed to see that Sparrow was comfortable under Pelipper's watchful care.

    "I'm so glad you're here," Supurna said to her Pokemon. "Thanks. Thanks for all your help…" She broke into a coughing fit, sat up, and slowly drank some warm water from the cup on her bedside table.

    "You should take a rest, Pelipper," Supurna croaked as she lay back down. "You must be exhausted, taking care of Sparrow and me."

    Pelipper shook his head, and Supurna smiled, admiring her Pokemon's dedication.

    The doorbell rang.

    "Pel, pel," Pelipper chirped, rising slowly into the air and flying out of Supurna's room. Half-heartedly, Supurna wondered who had possibly bothered to come to her little house on Tilikule Island. With a cold dread she realized that whoever it was, she couldn't face him or her now.

    Not when I'm half-dead and miserable like this, she thought wretchedly, covering her head with her quilt. A slight chill filled the room, and Supurna shivered. But the cold was gone as quickly as it came.

    Supurna could hear Pelipper greeting the visitor at the door. There was a rattle, and the front door creaked open.

    "Pelipper!" Pelipper exclaimed, clearly taken aback by whoever was at the door.

    "Hello there, Pelipper," a voice said gently. Supurna recognized the bubbly female voice as belonging to Summer. Supurna sighed. Summer was always so heroic and willing to help any human or Pokemon in need. Supurna appreciated this, but wasn't sure if she was ready to share her grievances and bad news with the Ranger. Besides, what was Summer even doing here? Supurna hoped that, whatever the reason for Summer's visit, it wasn't one that would make her even more depressed.

    "Is Supurna in?" Summer asked at the front door.

    "Pel, Pelipper!" Pelipper exclaimed, obviously still very surprised.

    "Oh, yes, I flew here on Articuno," Summer said calmly. "Early this morning everyone was getting ready for a performance. That's when Ben spotted Articuno, who was flying downwards towards us! Then - you won't believe what happened - Articuno landed in front of me! I felt so grateful and amazed. Articuno looked up at me as if xe needed help."

    This bit of explanation took Supurna by surprise. Did Articuno - the beautiful, mythical Freeze Pokemon - really approach Summer? And was Articuno here on Tilikule Island xirself? Supurna couldn't believe her luck. She sat up abruptly upon hearing Summer's words. That would explain the chill Supurna felt as Pelipper answered the door.

    "Pel," Pelipper chirped at the front door, sounding like he wanted Summer to continue.

    "I asked Articuno if xe needed help," Summer continued, "and xe nodded. I asked xir what xe needed, and guessed that it might have something to do with Supurna - everyone was really worried about her, because she hadn't shown up at the Winter Awakening and was unreachable by phone. Articuno nodded and let me climb onto xir back. We took off, assuring the others that we'd come back soon, and that's how we got here. I told Articuno that xe could leave if xe wanted to, but xe shook xir head, wanting to stay here." Summer paused. "Where's Supurna? I've gotta make sure she's okay."

    I'm not, Supurna thought as she heard footsteps. Pelipper was probably leading Summer through the small, quiet house. A few moments later, she heard a knock on her open bedroom door.

    "Supurna?" Summer asked. "Are you in there? Can we come in?"

    Supurna briefly considered ducking back into the covers and not answering the Ranger, but she wasn't a liar.

    "I'm here," Supurna croaked, grabbing a tissue and blowing her nose.

    "Supurna!" Summer exclaimed with concern, dashing into the room. The Ranger was wearing an orange winter jacket and warm blue pants. Following behind her was the majestic Articuno xirself.

    "Summer?" Supurna said. "Articuno is behind you!"

    "Supurna, you should have told us that you were sick!" Summer exclaimed worriedly, placing her bag on the ground next to the bed and ignoring Supurna's observation. "We could have sent medicine to you! You know that we're always willing to help." Summer sat down at the side of the bed, and Articuno landed next to the bed and looked at Supurna with a concerned expression.

    "What do you need?" Summer pressed. "Do you have a fever? Your nose looks so red! Where's your husband? I'm so sorry, I'm forgetting his name right now. Isn't he taking care of you?"

    Supurna sighed, closed her eyes, and leaned back against the headboard. "That's the thing," she said quietly. "He's done something awful, and he's gone. Arceus knows where he is now. He's left me all alone to raise Sparrow - that's the name of my son, my wonderful baby boy. But Sparrow is blind…" Supurna sighed for what felt like the millionth time today and looked away. "And I'm miserable thanks to everything that has happened to me in the past month." Supurna coughed. "On top of all that, I've come down with a nasty cold."

    "Ar," Articuno murmured, and bowed xir head.

    "Oh, Articuno, I'm so honored that you're here," Supurna croaked, staring in awe at the graceful icy bird. "How did you know that I needed help?"

    "I think Articuno cares about you," Summer, who until this time had been silent, said. Articuno nodded, and Summer continued, "Oh, Supurna, I'm so sorry you have to go through all of this. I really am."

    She spoke with so much sincerity that Supurna slowly began to feel that she no longer had to hide her problems.

    Summer took Supurna's hand and continued, "Why didn't you let me, or Ben, or Nema, or anyone know that you were in trouble? We could have helped you. We're always here for you."

    "You would really help me?" Supurna asked, using a tissue to wipe away her tears.

    "Of course," Summer said, smiling warmly. "We're your friends."

    "I thought… I thought… I was afraid of how everyone would react when they found out what had happened to me," Supurna said truthfully. "I was feeling very depressed, and I didn't feel like calling people - partially because I was just feeling so bad, and partially because I didn't want to dampen anyone's mood."

    "Supurna, don't be silly," Summer said, smiling. "We're your true friends, and true friends never, ever judge each other when bad things happen. We're all in this together, am I right?"

    "I guess you are," Supurna said, smiling back. Her heart was warmed by her true friend's words, and she felt that she had awakened from a long, sad slumber.

    "If you need me to do you any favors, just let me know," Summer said helpfully. "I'm here for you. Do you need anything right now?"

    "Can you stay for the Winter Awakening?" Supurna asked. "If it's not too much for you. I can't make it to Sophian Island in the state I'm in, but you can really make this festival wonderful for me by keeping me company, or something. I've been… pretty lonely lately. And let everyone know that I'm sick, but I hope I'll recover."

    "I'm sure you will," Summer said honestly. "I'll take care of you and make sure you're okay while you're recovering. Do you… want to talk about what's happened? I'm willing to lend an ear."

    "Yeah, I need to get some emotions off my chest," Supurna said, taking a gulp of warm water.

    "I'm going to make you some hot chocolate," Summer declared, rising and taking her bag with her. "I brought some powder here. You can drink some warm hot chocolate while we talk, if you want."

    "Thanks, Summer. You're too kind," Supurna said gratefully.

    "No problem," Summer said cheerfully as she left the room.

    Left in her bedroom with Pelipper and Articuno, Supurna realized that her cold felt like it was getting better.

    "Cuno," Articuno chirped, bowing xir head and taking a step back.

    "Do you need to leave now?" Supurna asked.

    The Freeze Pokemon nodded slowly.

    "It's okay, Articuno," Supurna said. "If you want to go, go ahead. You're needed to help maintain the weather, anyways. Thanks for realizing that I needed help and bringing Summer here. It really means a lot to me."

    "Arti," Articuno chirped, dipping xir head and turning away. Xe walked out of the room, xir tail dragging behind xir on the ground.

    Supurna could hear Summer humming as she made hot chocolate. Contentedly, Supurna stroked Pelipper's back, and the Water Bird Pokemon chirped happily.

    Supurna remembered happier times - times where she wasn't sick or dealing with unfortunate events in her life. But Supurna now knew that her friends were always going to be there for her, and her unhappy times would not last forever.

  2. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    Heyyo! I am here to give you the modly review for the FFQ! First off, I’d like to say congratulations on being the first to finish a fic for this quarterly’s challenge. Although it’s after the holidays, one can only hope this is just the first and not the only. Still, high five for working through holiday shenanigans to complete the challenge!

    That having been said, I’ll start off with the crit and then move into the good bits. There were two major things that kinda nagged at me while I was reading, one a little more obvious than the other. The more obvious one is the general characterization. While it’s neat to see the village coming together to plan this event (it reminds me of the way we plan things around here, which is delightful), the story almost seems to imply that this is a speech given as part of one of the festivals, which is … odd. You don’t really announce suggestions or do organization for another event during an event because the whole point of throwing a party is to kick back and relax, rather than focus too much on your responsibilities (at least, responsibilities that don’t have to do with the event itself). That and a lot of the voices seemed a little casual and uniform—as if you could lump all of what’s being said into one giant paragraph and give it to one character and still have it make sense. Both of these facts combined make the planning scene feel a little bit awkward.

    But … that’s not quite as important as the rest of the fic. It’s just the first impression, so that’s why it’s a little bit difficult. What’s more important, though, is the way Supurna and her situation are handled. While it’s totally cool to have a character who descends into abject depression (especially given that postpartum depression is an actual, serious condition), it was difficult to buy a lot of what was going on with her.

    For example, her husband disappeared, and she immediately jumps to the conclusion that he left her. Like, there’s no mention of a note or a fight, and it’s very apparent that they were a happy couple before this. Moreover, given that Articuno’s festival is just about to happen, one can safely assume this is winter, and either way, it’s made absolutely clear that it’s been three months since her husband vanished. So … why did she think he left her? One would think that her first thought would be something along the lines of, “Oh, my husband went out for a reason and didn’t come back, so what if he’s hurt or dying somewhere?” Yet there’s no search party, nor any movement to form one as soon as the villagers learn that Supurna’s husband isn’t with her anymore.

    There’s also the fact that while it’s not unheard of for a woman to get so depressed over having a baby or being in this kind of situation that they can’t function, it’s odd that the village, which is implied to be close-knit, didn’t notice that she had been holed up in her house for three months or that she had a baby. These are kinds of things that you kinda notice right off the bat, and either way, it leaves the uncomfortable question of where’s the baby right now? As in, sure, Pelipper’s taking care of the baby while Supurna’s out of commission, but although Sparrow’s blindness is a plot point, that … kinda feels like what he is in general. He doesn’t really impact the story, which is odd for an infant in a house where you have a lot of noises going on. Like, Supurna’s not really keeping her voice down when she realizes Articuno’s in the room—nor is Summer when she realizes Supurna was in trouble, never mind the fact that there’s a legendary Pokémon speaking, a doorbell, and a lot of noise, and not once is Sparrow mentioned besides as something that’s giving Supurna more grief. I’m not all that into babies myself, but I kinda feel like this baby especially should get some screentime if it’s going to be a huge part of Supurna’s story.

    Speaking of, while this isn’t a bad fic in terms of plot, it’s also a little borderline in terms of answering the challenge, which was the second thing that nagged at me. Granted, you see Christmas fics about characters dealing with depression around the holidays, but the reason why those are still considered to be Christmas fics is because the symbols are recognizable. You can have a fic that’s barely actually about Christmas or a fic that actually focuses on a character but just so happens to take place during Christmas because if you add in those symbols, the readers will recognize it as being a Christmas fic, regardless of whether or not you go into the whole “meaning of the holiday” thing. When you’re making up a holiday, however, or when you’re dealing with an obscure one, you don’t exactly have that luxury because the things you’re doing won’t ring a bell for the reader. So if you have a fic that focuses on a character and happens to take place around this holiday you’ve created, it’s not going to work the same way as a Christmas fic because the readers don’t look at your story and automatically go, “Oh, I see all this stuff. It’s clearly a holiday fic.”

    What I’m saying is this doesn’t quite feel like a holiday fic or a fic focused on world-building (which the challenge was about). You started in that direction when you had the meeting between the villagers take place, but then Supurna’s troubles took over the story. What I would’ve loved to see more of is this festival in action: what it’s actually about to them, how the people celebrate it, and so forth. You have the basis for some interesting bits of world-building (because aww yeah, a culture that worships the legendary birds); it’s just that it really should be at the forefront for a story like this—or at least a story that meets the challenge at hand.

    But! That isn’t to say there aren’t good bits to this story. Like I said, you have the basis for a really interesting culture. I loved the Ranger games, not only because they’re so much fun but also because there are all these little places I really wanted to know more about. (Granted, I’ve yet to play Guardian Signs, but the first two were still good examples of this in action.) And you’ve captured that small-village-on-an-isolated-island kind of feel, especially in that meeting scene. Sure, I said the conversation could’ve been improved (and moved to a day that wasn’t the festival), but the idea that everyone knows everyone on the island and that everyone wants to pitch in to develop and uphold part of their culture has that kind of close-knit, back-to-basics kind of feel. You just know that the people of this island have a story of their own—that they’re close and loyal to their mythology and cultural identity. It’s difficult to describe, but whereas in a big city, you might have multiple cultures that don’t entirely resonate with every single person, when you have a small, close-knit community, the internal culture becomes a living, breathing thing itself, like a mass identity that everyone shares because every single person is a part of it. And here, you can feel that mass identity nearly coming through; it just needs a little space.

    Moreover, how can I say no to that characterization of Articuno? That’s the other thing that’s always been interesting to me when it comes to Ranger, and it’s a thing you bring into this story rather well. Pokémon are autonomous beings. Rangers ask them to help (by way of their rings and symbols), and they help and then leave. So Pokémon are allowed to have more of a personality in fanfic related to Ranger, but it’s not really something you see a lot of going on (besides when it comes to partner Pokémon). But here, you have Articuno, who clearly has a personality of xir own. Xe cares deeply about the people who worship it, and that is why xe personally came to see what xe could do for Supurna. And what’s even more fascinating about this is you don’t forget Articuno is technically a god-like being to the people of Sophian Island, especially Supurna, but this is just from the human characters’ perspective. Humans still revere xem, but at the same time, Articuno is just so chill (no pun intended … except, no, it totally is). Xir body language is very relaxed and very earthy, so the conversation between Supurna and Articuno more closely resembles the meeting between a fan and a very chill celebrity than a follower and a god. It is, in short, extremely refreshing to watch, not to mention a fun interpretation of Articuno in general. I mean, it just feels very real, like you’re talking about a sapient entity that, quite frankly, isn’t full of itself.

    (I mean, it’s odd that you didn’t really have Articuno do too much in this fic despite the facts that xe’s a legendary—meaning, you’d think xe’d just do more in the scene where xe shows up—and that you say you set out to tell a story focused on xem, but what you do have right now still works.)

    P.S. I like the courage you’re displaying with using an actual gender-neutral pronoun. Most writers would just resort to using “it,” but by giving Articuno a pronoun normally reserved for humans, you’re recognizing xir sapience and the validity of xe as a pronoun in lit. And some might consider that awkward or too Tumblr, but I dunno. I personally think it’s nice to have someone acknowledge and use those pronouns, and I hope that it’s something you carry on in the rest of your body of work, if only to give it more of a sense of normalcy.

    On top of that, I do have to give you credit for your handling of depression. It’s absolutely true that if someone has a breakdown, they have a breakdown. As in, they don’t think about turning to others, they alienate themselves, their priorities are all over the place, and … it’s just, in general, extremely messy. While I thought the reason why Supurna is acting the way she is could have used work, I didn’t think how she felt the way she did was all that over-the-top—at least, not considering that list of reasons you gave her. If her reasons were just developed a bit more, I think it could still work. I mean, at the very least, like I said, postpartum is a real thing. You can feel this abject sense of misery in which you blame yourself or your baby for whatever complications happen. And it’s awful, but the point is, Supurna’s depression could work, and you actually do have a pretty simple way to make it work without needing to take her husband out of the picture or even making her as sick as she is. Or, I guess what I’m trying to say it’s okay that she’s feeling depressed, and honestly, I think this story works with that element kept in because it’s not this extreme deluge of angst. You do show how depression can make a person completely dysfunctional, and you show it pretty well. And sure, the narration goes on about how bad Supurna has it, but her body language and the general word choice used throughout this story isn’t really over-the-top or melodramatic. It’s clear that Supurna just can’t function properly and that this is just how misery works for a person. But, yeah, the reasons behind it could be tweaked. *nod*

    But more than that, I like how there was that note of hope with Summer’s visit. See, when you’re stuck in the middle of an episode, you don’t even think that the people you care most about care about you—in fact, you’re terrified that they don’t. But the reality is really a lot sweeter: you always have that net of people who love you and would do anything for you. And that’s represented by Summer and a little bit by Articuno. The moment Summer realizes just how bad Supurna has it, she sits by and listens first and then runs around to take care of her—the complete opposite of anything Supurna thought would happen during her breakdown.

    So in all, it’s actually a rather cute and fluffy fic—one that tackles the nature of friendship in a pretty sweet way. You also have the start to a lot of neat ideas all at once here, and given a little more space and a little more time to cook, I honestly think you could come up with ways to bring out that legendary-bird-focused culture and to strengthen Supurna’s reasons for being in the state that she’s in. In other words, it’s definitely, definitely a good start and an enjoyable read (don’t get me wrong on that!), it just needs a little more elbow grease to make it really shine.
  3. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    Hello Jax, and thank you very much for giving me a very detailed and helpful review of my fic. I do have several questions regarding your review however, and if you can address them that would be really nice. :)

    Do you mean organization? I thought characterization referred only to the way you write your characters.

    I could definitely see why the beginning Rainbow Festival scene read as a bit awkward. I do have a problem of writing awkward dialogue (I gave Shifting Game as an example), and looking back the Rainbow Festival scene was full of it. Maybe instead of having Nema give her awkward speech, I could briefly summarize the organization of the Gatherings? As in, I'd mention Oblivians making plans for a Quarterly (in the time sense, not the fan fiction sense) event without going into the details and loading the planning scene with awkward dialogue.

    Ah, I was expecting people to bring up the issue of the shaky reasons behind Supurna's depression. The three reasons are herself being sick, her husband being gone, and her baby being blind. I'll address them one by one, because honestly as I was writing this I felt that the reasons were shaky myself.

    The reasons as a whole: I do admit that there may have been too many reasons, but I wanted to give Supruna many reasons to be depressed. The thing is, this fic was pretty personal in that I myself have been struggling with on-and-off depression for more than three years now. I originally got depressed not because of one reason, but because of many things in my life piling up until I reached my breaking point. That's why I gave Supurna three reasons for her depression, but I admit that as I was writing this story I was aware that the reasons themselves were rather shaky.

    The first reason: Supurna's sickness. This one's the most straightforward; I just made her sick because I've been physically sick while depressed before, and hoo boy, it is horrible. I just felt that, by adding a sickness to the picture, there would be a foolproof reason for depression. Because sickness makes people sadder, period.

    The second reason: the missing husband. To be honest, I actually had no idea of how exactly to write what exactly happened between Supurna and her husband, so I just threw my hands up in the air and left it ambiguous. Now I realize that I shouldn't have done that; I probably should have given a lot more explanation of what exactly happened between Supurna and her husband.

    The thing is, in the past I've handled a sensitive, mature subject poorly (the example is, once again, from Shifting Game.). The sensitive, mature subject was suicidal thoughts and helping people out of them. Despite experiencing depression firsthand, I had no experience or grasp on suicidal thoughts and helping people out of them, and when I put those sensitive subjects in my story, I handled it quite clumsily.

    What I'm getting at is, as I was writing this one-shot I was terrified of mishandling a sensitive subject, so I danced around it and left what happened between Supurna and her husband ambiguous. Was there a divorce? Well, I've never experienced divorce firsthand before, so what if I totally messed up the complications of divorce? Did Supurna's husband cheat on her? Well, I've never experienced infidelity either, so I was scared that I'd mess something up. Did Supurna's husband disappear mysteriously? I've never experienced people suddenly disappearing, and I had no idea of how exactly people feel when their loved ones disappear.

    So basically, I was scared of mishandling sensitive, mature subjects (and still am), so instead of trying to handle those sensitive, mature subjects I danced around them. At this point I'm going to ask you for a bit of advice: What is the best way to handle sensitive, mature subjects? Would it be better to just avoid them altogether if you don't know how to handle the subjects? Or should I just stop being lazy and do research on how to best handle a sensitive subject?

    Oh wait, I just realized that I didn't make Oblivia's geography apparent. I did mention that Supurna lived in her own house on Tilikule Island, the smallest island of Oblivia, but I guess in the story I didn't mention that Tilikule Island is pretty far away from the rest of Oblivia. In fact, most of the islands of Oblivia are pretty far from each other (aside from Renbow and Mitonga, which are connected by a bridge), which was the entire purpose of the Gatherings - since the islands are so spread out, the inhabitants of the islands wouldn't have that many chances to interact with people on other islands. But I guess I should have made it clearer that Supurna's island was far away from pretty much everyone, which is why it was harder for everyone to contact her.

    Thank you for the feedback on Sparrow. I thought I made it pretty clear that Supurna had lost her voice anyways, but I guess I could have had Supurna ask Summer to keep her voice down. Also, I thought that most two-month-old infants did very little other than sleep. :p But yeah, I do agree that Sparrow could be a bigger part of the story.

    Very much noted. The thing is, this fic just so happens to take place during a winter holiday - it isn't exactly about the winter holiday itself. The whole point of the Gatherings was to celebrate friendship, and this story is a celebration of friendship, but I think I could have made it clearer what the Gatherings were about.

    Thank you! I really liked that aspect of Oblivia - a small region where, on each island, everyone knows everyone. I made it clear that Oblivia expanded, but still had that close-knit community feel to it that is really important.

    Thank you very much on your comments regarding Articuno. I got the gender-neutral Spivak Pronouns from Dragonfree a few years ago back during the Interpretations contest, by the way. I just love Articuno so much, and I always like to humanize Pokemon and emphasize on the importance of treating them well. I've always imagined the legendary birds as guardians of Oblivia - they can't stand each other, and they spend most of their days in hibernation, but during the Awakenings they do whatever Pokemon do - perform magic that's part of their legendary-ness, sure, but also see what's going on in the region and connect with the people they care about.

    I'm glad that Supurna's depression itself was well-handled - but then again, I do have a lot of experience with depression, so that probably helped, haha. And like I said before, the reasons behind the depression could definitely be tweaked - like I mentioned before, however, I'm not sure how.

    Thank you very much for your very detailed and helpful review!

    - Pi

    EDIT: I just realized that I brought up some of Negrek's posts... I hope that's okay, considering that they are relevant to the issues we're discussing here (namely, awkward dialogue and mishandling of sensitive themes.).
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
  4. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    *high fives!* I'll do my best. :D

    Haha, I actually did mean characterization. Sorry for the confusion! XD Like, while some bits of characterization were cool (like Articuno's and Summer's), others could use a bit more work (like the villagers' and, on a level, Supurna's).

    Haha, it happens. XD And takes a lot of practice, so I can’t really blame you there!

    That could work, although it might work better to show the festival in action. As in, rather than have that part of the fic take place during the Rainbow Festival, have everything take place during the Winter Festival and show the villagers celebrating it. That would not only give readers a better idea of what’s going on, but it’ll make Supurna’s absence more significant because we’d have a better understanding of what she’s missing.

    Fair enough there! To be honest, I can see the illness working, now that you mention it. Under a sufficient amount of stress, it is possible for the immune system to weaken, which is to say there’s definitely a link between your mental health and your physical health, and it’s entirely understandable for her to be that sick. It’s still a little alarming because of the baby (which doesn’t have a developed immune system, meaning it’ll get sick easier than Supurna), but I can buy that Supurna’s not thinking about that or otherwise doesn’t realize she could get the baby sick if she doesn’t seek help.

    In short, that’s totally understandable, in that case! And I can’t really discourage using fic as an outlet either. I’m really sorry to hear you went through a lot this past year, and I hope things are getting better for you. But in the meantime, I’m glad you found the outlet you did through writing, and it certainly explains why the depression Supurna feels is probably the strongest part of this story.

    Haha, I wouldn’t call it laziness so much as fear, but it’s an understandable fear because we’re right now in an era where the in-thing to do according to sizable groups on the internet is to claim experiences and ban people from writing about them (despite the fact that we want more representation for certain stories). But while I don’t encourage people to write stereotypes or do absolutely no research whatsoever, it’s definitely possible to write about an experience you yourself haven’t experienced. “Write what you know” is a vague statement, after all. While people will generally find it easiest to describe something they actually went through, “what you know” just means “what you know.”

    So the short answer is don’t be afraid to do research, yeah. And the best way to do that is to read other people’s stories. While people on Tumblr and other social media outlets have a tendency to make **** up for attention (meaning you should also take what you read with a grain of salt), those same places have a lot of stories being told by so many different people. Or ask someone you know. Either way, really, the only way to figure out how to navigate sensitive subjects (and, for that matter, the best way to build characterization) is by hearing about them from the people who lived through them.

    But ultimately, never be afraid to write something. That’ll basically tie your hands behind your back, as you’ve already noticed. It’s possible to write something with grace and sensitivity, but yeah, it’s going to require work and research if you want to do it.

    Haha, and here the fact that I never played Guardian Signs (and, in fact, fail pretty hard at judging distances between places, even if I have played the game) is showing. XD Still, I kinda wonder. Does anyone live near her? Like, was there a doctor anywhere near her who would’ve helped her through her pregnancy? A grocer who she might’ve seen once a week or so? Neighbors? While this definitely explains why she’s cut off from Summer and the other canon characters, are we talking about total isolation here (the type where there is literally no one for nautical miles) or just isolation from a group of people?

    *nod!* Also, I was wondering what type of cold she was coming down with. XD Thanks for clearing that up!

    Haha, sure, but they also cry at the drop of a hat. :p

    And that would be awesome. :D Like I said, you have the beginnings of a pretty interesting culture here, so bringing that into the fic more as a sort of explanation to the gathering element would add a lot more depth to what’s going on. *nod*

    Lmao, I really like your comment about how the birds can’t stand each other. There’s the legendary birds in a nutshell. 8D

    No, but forreal, aww yeah, Articuno and your headcanon.

    Well, admittedly, the story could work with Supurna’s husband in or out of the picture. Putting him in the picture would require a rewrite but also demands less research on your part. It’d also probably help you avoid any melodramatic airs. On the other hand, leaving him out of the picture requires some minimal tweaking, but you’ll have to do your research and reveal a lot more of what’s going on. Really, the main issue with her husband being out of the picture is just that there’s really no reason why Supurna automatically jumped to the conclusion that he left her instead of the conclusion that he wants to come home but can’t. This all causes trouble because you state that they were happily married beforehand, and even if they’re on a remote island, this is the universe where it’s a thing to ask Rangers for help, no matter what help you need. So! If you can find a reason for Supurna’s husband to be out of the picture while keeping all of that in mind, it can still work.

    Aaaaand I know that’s probably not a helpful response to “I need to tweak this but don’t know how,” but point is, there are definitely different ways of doing this, depending on what you’d like the end result to be. For example, if her husband died, then that adds a layer of drama, but that might feel a little over-the-top. If he walked out on her, she needs to know that that’s what happened, and in that case, her depression is justified. If they had a fight and wound up divorced (and he doesn’t want the kid), then while that is a stressful situation, the fact that he’s gone will probably be less of a problem than the illness (at least, if he was an absolute jerk when he asked for the divorce). Soooo … definitely think about it, play with options, do some research, and above all, don’t be afraid to experiment. :D

    You’re welcome!

    Haha, that’s not a problem whatsoever. :D If it’s relevant to the discussion, go for it. b)’’)b
  5. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    Hmm... I'm not sure whether your idea would work in this particular story. The thing is, as I wrote this story, I wanted it to be entirely from Supurna's point of view and memory - if other characters' points of view were added in I felt it would draw away from the depressed, isolated, and lonely feeling I was trying to convey. The idea is that Supurna's holed up by herself and miserable, so she really isn't thinking about the world around her. Maybe what I can do when I rewrite this is devote a larger section of Supurna's memory to a typical Gathering, both to show what Supurna's missing and fulfill the prompt a bit more by expanding on the workings of the Gatherings.

    Aww, thank you! *virtual hug* I'm glad virtual hugs don't spread germs like real hugs do. XD

    Thanks for your two cents on how to write on a mature subject. I just lost a little confidence after mishandling Zane's attempted suicide, but you're right (I actually accidentally typed "write" instead of "right", omg), never challenging myself would be very limiting.

    What I think I'll go with when I rewrite this is a sudden and unexpected divorce. Supurna thought that she and her husband were happy together, but then her husband suddenly wants a divorce. I'll have to do some research on the complexities of a divorce, but I think that reason would be the most logical one for Supurna's unhappiness.

    I actually never really put that much thought into Supurna's isolation, haha. Well, she is pretty isolated, but with Flying-type Pokemon people can relatively easily fly between the islands of Oblivia. In that case, when I rewrite this I'd better think of a really good reason for Supurna's isolation.

    "I can't stand you two and you two can't stand me or each other, but we have to fly around and control the weather so let's just agree to do our part about the weather and not get in each other's way."

    Thanks again for your advice, and since I've recently decided to designate Februaries as "Rewrite Months", I will rewrite this one-shot (sooner or later), keeping what you said in mind. :)
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016

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