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Posts Tagged ‘antagonists’

You’ve been itching to begin writing, and are so nearly there. But, what is a story without characters? Not a very good one, I can tell you in an instant.

Now, you could be forgiven if you believe a good idea is all that’s needed to write a successful novel. After all, you may be writing an action story. What do you need character’s for? Aren’t they just well toned guys flexing their muscles while shooting up the place? Well, without believable and interesting characters, you’ll have nothing but a lifeless story. Although, if muscles are you’re thing, you may not care if there’s not story 🙂

Okay. For those that aren’t quite sure, I’ll quickly explain the difference between a plot driven story and a character driven story.

Character vs Plot

Plot Driven Story: Usually action-based. The action is what’s classed as driving the story forward. For example, Transporter, Star Wars, Jurassic Park.

Character Driven Story: Character based. The characters drive the story forward. For instance, Rocky, Cast Away, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Now, you may be a little confused. After all, the Rocky films have a lot of action in them. Well, if you look at the original ‘Rocky’ film, the story is about a fighter and his struggle to become a world-class boxer. That is character-driven.

Why do we need to know our characters?

Imagine Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I think we can all relax in the comfort of knowing this is a character-driven love story. But, if Austen hadn’t ‘known’ Mr Darcy inside out when writing him, would we, as love-struck, female fans, still be romancing over him today?

We like and love him (some even dream of him), because we feel we know him. And that is what makes a good character. Someone your reader can identify with and relate to.

So, how do we get character’s like this?

First, you need to create them.

Antagonists, Protagonists, and Supporting Cast (aka Minions)

NOTE: Let me just make this little snippet clear. The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a person. The antagonist is whatever hampers the protagonist (hero) from reaching his or her goal. 

However, as this post is about creating characters, our antagonist is going to be human.

So, where do I start?

Always with the antagonist, aka the baddie. They are the reason you have a story. Without one, your protagonist will easily reach their goal – leaving you with a dreary story and no plot.

First you have to decide the kind of character you want to create and make sure they get the correct label. A what? A Label. I made a mistake with the first story I wrote. My antag was a hitman who worked for the mob. But, as it was pointed out to me, the Mob Boss was the real antag. He was the guy giving the orders for the hit. Without him, my hitman would have been out of work. Thus, although my hitman was the main baddie, he was in fact a Minion. Confused? Good. Then, I wasn’t alone 🙂

To explain this a little better, I am going to use a well-know subject.

Jason Bourne. Girls love him and boys want to be him.

In the Bourne films, Jason is a killer. A hitman. Does that make him the antag? No. He is the hero. And this is because he’s trying to reach a goal, which is to remember who the hell he is.

Although it’s a variety of assassins who try to kill Bourne, it’s a CIA group called ‘Treadstone’ who initially orders the hits. This makes ‘Treadstone’ the antagonist. The assassins are mere minions.

And let’s not forget Marie, Jason’s love interest and the girl who helps him attain his goal.

Creating Your Characters

If I were to ask you to tell me about yourself, where would you start?

Five years ago? Ten? How about from the moment you were born?

That is where I want you to start with your characters… From the moment they were born. Write down who their parents were. What kind of upbringing did they have. Create family and loved ones they may have lost along the way. This exercise will run into pages if you do it right. It will round your

characters’ journey and define how they got to be the person in your story. Their likes and dislikes. Their flaws.

Use props – for instance, do they have a limp, or a squint? If so, how did they get it? Remember, Indiana Jones had a fear of snakes. We found out through a (long) flash back in the third film because he fell into a circus snake pit. Makes you wonder if George Lucas had already written it into his background, doesn’t it?

Research your character. If they attended boarding school. Research it. If they were in the army. Research it.

Basically, you are writing a biography. It has to be accurate.

Giving a Character Qualities and Flaws

If you are like me, they you would have rooted for Jason Bourne. Why? Because we liked him. But why would we feel like this? Remember, Jason Bourne is a killer. Does that now make us a hitman loving sociopath?

No. It means the writer has done their job. You want your audience to love your protagonist and cheer them on every inch of the way. If you make your characters too nice, your reader will tire of them and become bored. Likewise, if you make your characters hard-nosed and arrogant. They become unlikable because your readers cannot get close enough to start caring.

Jason Bourne is a man on a mission. He is a killer. And yet every now and then, a slither of emotion escapes and we see a man who cares about right and wrong. That is a character quality. He cares about the well-being of Marie, and this shows Jason’s softer side. Again, another quality, if not also a flaw. His ability to kill so easily, although it constantly saves his life, is a flaw. Having to suppress emotion in order to survive is a flaw. And flaws are what make us human. It’s these flaws that allow your readers to relate to your characters.

Steer clear of stereotypes. Make your character unique. A skin head with pink spiked hair and wearing Doc Martins is stereo-typical. Give him a unique quality that makes him stand out from the rest of the skin heads.

I’ll tell you a quick story I know my co-writer, Natalie Duggan, won’t mind. When I first paired up with Natalie to write the TV pilot ‘Legend’, I mentioned character backgrounds. Natalie thought I was nuts and that it was all a waste of time. She wanted to get to the story. So, I banged my head against the desk, argued until I was blue in the face, then just went ahead and wrote out the backgrounds anyway. I emailed them across and Natalie loved them. Her exact words? “Oh, wow. These are awesome. I really feel I know Roman and Nate (two of the MC’s).” Natalie now writes backgrounds on ALL her characters.  🙂

Okay, that should be enough to start you off.

So, do you create characters before you begin writing? What kind of techniques do you use when creating your characters? Do you make your characters too perfect? Are you plot-driven or character-driven?

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14th July: Getting To Know Your Characters

21st July: From Idea To Story

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A few weeks back, Karen McFarland asked if I could guest on her blog. And I thought you guys may like to read it, too.

Three years ago, I made a decision. To step away from writing articles and write that ‘book’ I’d always planned to write.

Okay, that wasthe easy part sorted out.

I sat down, and for a couple of months scribbled in my note pad and tapped away on my laptop. I gave my finished story to friends, all of who liked it, and began plotting the sequel.

Then I met Kristen Lamb.

Kristen stumbled upon the first chapter, which I’d posted on a blogger site, and proceeded to hunt me down. She pointed out where I was going wrong and offered to help me. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.

We stripped back my story to its very core, and I wrote a background for my antagonist – something I had never done before.

Kristen’s reply, after I nervously emailed it across to her. “Crap, do it again.”

And again I did. Several times in fact. Until, finally everything clicked into place and I created a psychopathic alter-ego.

  Be wary if Kristen invites you over for dinner.

I’m very good friends with Kristen now. She has the most amazing way of making you pay for her kindness (see picture). I’ve since written two teleplays and currently adapting one into a novel. I’ve plotted my second book, and lead WWBC Team Delta. I apply the Warrior Writer method to every story I plot and wouldn’t consider doing it any other way.

So, without further ado, here is the way to write – Warrior Writer style.

Your Story

First and foremost – you must have an idea of what your book is about. Knowing the genre is extremely helpful, and what your protagonist wants and who’s trying to stop he/she from getting it will also make things a lot easier for you. 

Log Line

Once you know the basis of your story, you can write that log line. Now, don’t be scared. They are easier to write if you follow this simple rule:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the ANTAGONIST before  SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

See my post on Log Lines

Backgrounds

A background is a little like a biography. Imagine you were writing your own life story. You’d start from the moment you were born and take the reader up to the current day. Well, a background is the same thing. Write all about your character from the moment they were born, right up to the moment you are about to start your story.

This is a fantastic way to get to know your character, and give you time to flesh them out. Once done, you will have no trouble writing them, or writing their dialogue.

Backgrounds – Who To Start With?

Antagonist – Why? Because they are the biggest problem. Without them in our story, we have NO story.

Protagonist – Yep, you’ve guessed it. Now do the same for your protagonist. Oh, and don’t make them too perfect. Flaws are good! Flaws make us human.

Love Interest and Supporting Cast – Mentors, Minions, Allies and Love Interests all fit under this section. Note: These are characters that aid your main characters. I’m not talking about the guy who shows up in one scene and delivers the post.

Your Story

You need to ‘bullet point’ your story from beginning to end. Walk yourself through your story step by step. It’s better to hit your dead ends now so you can re-plot, rather than get 40k words in and realise you have to axe 10,000 of them.

Start with:

Normal World
Inciting Incident
Turning Point Act I into Act II
Turning Point Act II into Act III
Darkest Moment
Dénouement 

Get to this point and voila! You have a story to write.

I know most of you may read this and think “Huh? What a waste of time.”

I’ve met people like this and guess what? They are still at the same stage they were a year or so ago. My team mate Piper Bayard and I are living proof this method works. Agents have requested fulls on both our manuscripts.

It’s like building a house. Do the prep-work: dig footings, add cement, lay bricks, and your building will be standing for decades to come.

Good luck with your writing.

Now, let me know if you are a ‘plot and plan‘ writer, or if you just ‘make it up’ as you go along. What works best for you? Have you ever written yourself into a corner?

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At the moment, my life is busy.

Scripts, Warrior Writers, Social Media, and blogging – and that’s not to mention my kids, school runs, after school activities, the house, etc, etc, etc,…..it leaves me – yes, extremely exhausted and very little time to write my novel.

Still, we’d all rather be busy than have nothing to do, right?

So, last weekend I sat down to write and this is where I hit a snag.

I have three POV’s (Point Of Views) in my novel and all are from protagonists. I don’t use my antagonist POV – I prefer to show his evil ways through his actions. That leaves one other character; Billy the cop.

Up until now, Billy has always been in the company of a protag. But now I need him on his own and that means adding his POV. I’ve looked at approaching this scene from different angles, but there is absolutely no way around it: Billy has his fifteen minutes of fame and his own scene.

I feel totally comfortable with Billy having his own POV. He is a strong character with a main part to play in my story, but it did raise the question of how many POV’s are we supposed to have? Is there a limit?

I’ve trawled the internet tirelessly and this is what I’ve found:

* Most authors (writing in third person) use no more than three or four POV’s.
* Each scene should only have ONE point of view.
* There should be absolutely no ‘head-hopping’.

But, there are also downsides to multiple POV’s. Many readers find them confusing. But, Lord of the Rings managers to pull this off, so, are multiple POV’s really the problem, or just down to poor writing?

My view now? I am very nervous about adding a fourth POV, but as long as it’s justified (which it is), and keeps the story moving (which it does), then I think I’ll get away with it.

So, how about you guys? How many POV’s are you using in your current novels? Does the genre make any difference to how many you use? What is the most/least you’ve used in third person? What about when reading? How many do you prefer the auther to use? Does multiple POV’s confuse you. What limit do you think is the right amount?

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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Recently, I was researching something for a character of mine and I came across a really interesting article by Steven Aitchison. So, I quickly emailed and asked if he would be a guest blogger. And guess what, he was more than happy to.

Over to you, Steven:

Your eyes can tell a lot about you and tell others even more simply by the way you use them.  Eye communication is a great skill to have and eye contact is a great tool to master.  We all use it and we all give away vital clues as to what we are thinking with our eyes.

References are made to our eyes in everyday conversation such as ’she has bedroom eyes’, ‘don’t give me those puppy dog eyes’, ‘giving me the evil eye’ and many more such phrases.

If you can learn the skill of reading eye signals and mastering the art of using eye contact it can make a huge difference in your personal and business life.

The Pupils

Your pupils and the size of them will give away a lot of secrets, and it’s something we can’t do much about. The pupils will either constrict or dilate depending on our state of mind. If we are aroused by something, or someone, our pupils will dilate and if we are turned off by something or someone our pupils will constrict.

Skilled street traders across the world look for the size of the pupils when bartering with their customers. If a customer sees an object and their pupils are fully dilated, then the trader knows they can keep the price of the item at the higher end.

When we are excited by someone we like, our pupils will dilate, and when we are in the company of someone we don’t like, our pupils will constrict.

Take a look at these two photos. Which one do you prefer?

eyes1

The first photo shows the pupils constricted and the second photo shows the pupils dilated. The one with the pupils dilated would normally be the one that people picked, as it is more seductive and deemed more attractive when the pupils are dilated.

Next time you are talking to someone pay attention to the size of their pupils, don’t go right up to their face and make a nuisance of yourself, but just casually watch the size of their pupils. This will tell you what excites them when they are talking, it might also tell you if they like you or not as we can rarely hide our emotions with our eyes.

Different Types of Eyes

Wandering Eyes

Have you ever noticed when you are talking to someone that their eyes are looking everywhere and not at you. This in itself is an obvious sign of distraction or boredom however, it also means that the person is looking for a way to get out of your space. Looking out a window when someone is talking to you could mean they would rather be outside.

If you do this, be careful of the signals you are giving to the other person, unless you specifically want them to know you don’t want to be with them.

angryWhen we are angry our eyes become narrower, brows are furrowed and our pupils constrict. It’s quite easy to tell if someone is angry when they have all of the above. what if they don’t show the above body language signals? Well, we have to look for other body language clues such as constriction of the lips, flared nostrils, staring, clenching of the jaw etc.

When you are speaking to someone who is displaying signs of anger you can either back down or stand up for yourself, depending on what the situation warrants.

If you stand up for yourself you should be holding eye gaze and not break it. This shows the other person that you are not intimidated by them. If you are the one to break eye contact in a heated argument you have all but lost the argument.

The Seductive Eyes

It’s quite easy to tell if someone likes us by the size of their pupils. In a well lit room, if you are speaking to someone face to face you can see the size of the other persons pupils. If the eyes start to dilate they are interested in what you have to say or they find you attractive.

seductive eyesHowever, this is not so true in a darkened room like a nightclub as the size of our pupils will dilate to let more light in, in order to see better in the darkened room. So be careful to read the signals correctly before making a fool of yourself.

There are other ways to seduce someone with your eyes. The classic Lady Diana look with her head down and eyes looking up was one of the reasons so many people warmed to her. This type of look makes the observer feel more maternal or paternal and also brings out the protector in men which made Lady Di more attractive.

Your Gaze

When we are talking to our friends and in social situations, and are looking and talking with another person for some time we unconsciously gaze at the persons face in a controlled manner. However, if we have lost confidence or we are not yet socially adept we can lose this ability.  Here is a quick guide on where to focus your gaze when talking to someone.

Social Gazing

When you are speaking in a social setting you don’t want to stare into someone’s eyes as this is a bit strange for someone to do, and a bit off-putting for the talker. To get over this, use a triangle approach. First look at one eye of the talker, then look at their mouth, briefly, and then move onto their other eye. This shows you are still interested in what they have to say as you have not looked away from their face.

The Flirty Gaze

When we flirt with each other the eyes still move in a triangular way but with more range, downwards. I know the women reading this will have experienced men who think you are talking from your breasts, which is quite disconcerting, and I’ll explain a possible reason for this, apart from the obvious. However, we all do it, men and women, only women are better at it.

It has been shown that when we are walking toward each other from a distance, men and women, automatically check each other from head to foot. First time to check the sex of the person and second time to check the sexiness of the person.

Men are more likely to get caught checking out a females body, rather than looking them in the eye, because they have less peripheral vision than women. Women can look you in the face but still look at your body  because their peripheral vision is much better.

Our eyes contain two types of photo-receptors; rods and cones. Rods are responsible for scotopic vision, dark adapted vision. They also predominate the peripheral vision and women have more rods in their eyes than men do; hence why they have better peripheral vision and are better at seeing in the dark.

The Controlling Gaze

If you are looking to intimidate someone when you are talking to them, or are trying to control the conversation look at the area known as ‘the third eye’ which is the spot just between the eyebrows.

Many men do this to try and intimidate the people they are talking to and to try and control a conversation.

Can you tell if someone is lying with their eye movements?

Short answer to that is no. However, by looking at other body language signals and looking at their eyes you can get a good idea if someone is lying or not.

With the work of Bandler and Grinder and their excellent work on NLP we have an idea of how our eye movements relate to how we access information from the brain, which can help to tell is someone is lying or not.

Visual Accessing cues

(VC) Visual Construction: Looking up and to the left. The person is accessing information from their imagination andmight possibly be making it up. For example, if you asked someone what their dream home would look like they would, more than likely, look up and to their left.

If someone is lying about something and making stories up they might be using this eye movement.

(VR) Visual Remembering: Looking up and to the right.  This is when we are actually accessing a memory and picturing it in our heads.  It is more than likely that this is a memory that actually happened.  Ask your friend what they had for dinner yesterday and they will most likely look up and to the right.

(AC) Auditory Construction: Looking middle and to the left. This is where our eyes might go if we were constructing a sound in our mind.  For example if you asked a friend to think of what their voice will sound like when they are 80 years old, they would more than likely look in this direction.

(AR) Auditory Remembering:
Looking middle and to the right.  This is where our eyes might go if you were remembering a sound that you have heard before.  For example ask your friend what the sound of their partner sounds like and they will more than likely look in this direction.

(K) Kinesthetic: Looking down and to the left.  This is the direction your eyes might go if you were accessing your actual feelings about something.  For example, if you ask a friend about their feelings on the issues of capital punishment their eyes might go in this direction.

(AD) Auditory Digital: Looking down and to the right.  This is the direction our eyes might go when we are talking to ourselves.  We do this all the time and it is called self talk.  Believe it or not we talk to ourselves a lot and we can learn a lot about ourselves by paying attention to our self talk, but that is for another article.

The information above represents the majority of people, but it may  be different for some.  However, it is still possible to work out a persons representational system by observing them when you ask them questions.

Using the information above should get you started on the road to being able to read people using their eyes as signals. Remember, as with all body language signals, that they should be read together and not separately.

About Steven Aitchison

I am the creator of Change Your Thoughts (CYT) blog and love writing and speaking about personal development, it truly is my passion. There are over 500 articles on this site from myself and some great guest posters.

If you want to learn more about my products you can check out CYTGuides.com or check out my books and Kindle books on Amazon

* * * * *

So, writers. Do you use these signs when writing your characters? Did you even know what most of them meant? Do you look for these signs when speaking to others?

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I had never heard of the author, Ken Bruen. Perhaps not the best of starts, but I honestly don’t know where to begin with reviewing this book.

I picked ‘Blitz’ from the book shelf purely because it had Jason Statham on the cover. Okay, so I’m shallow, but Statham’s rugged stance was too persuasive and I buckled in a moment of weakness. It would appear this 2002 book was picked up by Hollywood and hit our screens in June of this year. I confess I totally slept though this period, but the promo on YouTube looks pretty good.

So, what’s this book about?

Basically, a tough cop has to find and stop a psychpath from killing police officers. It’s neat and it’s simple.

Then, I turned to Chapter One. The first paragraph reads:

THE PSYCHIATRIST STARED at Brant. All round the office were signs that thanked you for not smoking.

      The psychiatrist wore a tweed jacket with patches on the sleeves. He had limp, fair hair that fell into his eyes, thus causing him to flick it back every few seconds. This doctor was convinced he had Brant’s measure.

So, nothing wrong with that. Then it continued –

    He was wrong.
    Said:
    ‘Now, Sergeant, I’d like you to tell me again about your violent urges.’

‘Huh?’ I had to back up and re-read. I’d never seen a layout like this before and it threw me. In fact, for the first thirty pages it kept throwing me. Eventually, I came around to Bruen’s way but it wasn’t without a fight.

So, what kept me interested?

The story. There are three stories going on here. Well, actually there are four if you count the killer. And each story lets its character have its own point of view. There is Brant, who I thought would be the main character given the picture on the cover and the blurb on the back. How wrong was I! It’s a bit like Tarantion’s Pulp Fiction and, fortunately, I like this format. Plus the stories drew me in.

What I didn’t like was the ending. I won’t reveal what happens, but I felt very let down.

Would I read another Ken Bruen book? I would have to say ‘yes’. The strange layout aside, I found the story engaging, fast paced and the characters very real. I just hope the next Bruen novel I choose finishes with more of a bang.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other Ken Bruen novels? Have you seen the movie version? Let me know.

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When I walk into a bookstore, the first place I go is to the crime aisle. I love crime. I love the pace of it, I love the urgency of it, and I love the mystery of it.

So, as an avid crime reader, I thought I’d review ‘Behind You!’ by Linda Regan.

Behind You! was Linda’s 2006 debut novel. She has since written three more novels; her fourth book, Brotherhood of Blades, has just been released by Severn House.

So, what’s this book about?

Well, it revolves around a murder at a local theatre and D.I. Paul Banham is called in to solve it. Simple. What? You want more? No way! If I tell you anymore, I may as well tell you who done it.

I read this book with great interest. Not only was it a good story with an engaging plot but, because the author herself is an established actress, I got an insightful ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes on in the world of acting.

I am a slow reader and, combine this with the fact that I only manage to read an hour or so a day (if I’m lucky), there are not many books I can confess to finishing in under two weeks. However, because Linda’s writing is so neat and effortless, Behind You! kept me hooked from the start and I finished it within six days. Not a record for me, but well below my average reading time.

So, what kept me interested?

Well , for one, it’s a good little story. It’s completely set inside a theatre and I found the further in I read, the more I began to know my own way around the back stage corridors and dressing rooms. Secondly, I loved the characters. D.I. Banham is a great protagonist with lots of baggage. And, fellow officer, Alison Grainger makes for the perfect love interest.

This book is sharp, sassy and humorous. A very good read from a very talented writer.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you like to read it?

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A log line is one short, sweet, grab you by the seat of your pants, sentence that explains your whole story. Simple 😀

“What?” I hear you gasp. “I can’t do that! It’s taken me over 70 thousand words to tell my story.”

Well, suck it up. You now have to tell it in less than 30. :p

“But why?”

Oh, stop whining :p  One very good reason is this: Agents and editors are extremely busy people. If you’re lucky enough to get ten seconds of their time to ‘pitch’ your idea, trust me when I say you’ll wish you had a log line. The last thing agents want to hear are ‘..and then this happened’ or ‘..oh, I forgot to tell you about so-in-so at the beginning’. You need to hook them and quick. A good log line will do that.

Don’t’ worry, though. Like every professional, and I’m going to use a chef as an example because I’m very hungry and cannot stop thinking about food – crumpets topped with cheese and tomato to be precise… DONNA! Back away from the crumpets! *cough, cough* where was I? Ah yes, log lines….your finished product will only be as good as the ingredients you use.

Here is what you’ll need (courtesy of author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb).

1 drop of protagonist
1 cup full of antagonist
1 spoonful of active goal

Mix well and leave to settle.

See, simple.

But, beware. If you fail to use the ingredients as instructed, your log line just won’t rise to the occasion. Oh, alright, I’ll tell you my first log line. No laughing.

An American socialite witnesses a murder and goes on the run from the MOB and FBI, but an attempt on her life leaves her with selected memory loss and it is up to a London police officer to uncover her past before they’re both assassinated.

And breathe. No choking. Excellent, lungs refilled? Then let’s continue.

There are so many things wrong with this log line, it would be easier to tell you what’s right with it….absolutely nothing. It’s too long, has too way too much back story, and blah, blah, blah.

So what went wrong? I followed the recipe. Well, yes that’s true, but then I just plonked everything on the plate and hoped no one would notice. Let me explain – Writing the words is only part of the processes. The order in which we place them is a whole different ball game.

The format for a log line should be something close to this:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the ANTAGONIST before  SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

Now, if I’d presented my log line correctly the finished product may have looked something like this instead:

‘A quiet museum curator suffering from amnesia must uncover her secret past to unlock the real reason the mob has put out a contract for her life.

Ok, I’ve embarrassed myself enough (something I seem to do a lot on this site), and now it is your turn. Be brave and mirror in the comment box your first/final log lines. Alternatively, if you have a log line you need help with, add that too. Everyone will be kind, I promise 😀

Now, I’m off to make some crumpets….

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