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Posts Tagged ‘hero’

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?

If you want more of me, try checking out FacebookTwitterGoogle+GoodreadsKloutBranchOut and Linkedin

Upcoming classes: via Webinar, where we can interact and you ask questions.

14th July: Getting To Know Your Characters

21st July: From Idea To Story

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James Lipton and the Actors Studio did it for fun with the actors…..Now, I’m doing it for fun with the writers.
 
 
Ooooh, it’s all turning romantic on the 30 Second Interview today.
 
Why?
Because Mills & Boon author, Nicola Marsh, has taken the plunge (all the way from Melbourne, Australia I might add), and answered the famous ten questions.
 
Okay, so as always, let us start at the beginning and find out how one can go from wanting nothing more than a career in Journalism – and ending as a  physiotherapist.
 
During Nicola’s tenth school year, she embarked on some work experience in a physiotherapy department at a rehab hospital. A girl after my own heart, she admits to not even knowing what physiotherapy was up until that point. But she absolutely loved it. And after four years at university, she happily skipped into a career within the health industry…..where she remained for thirteen years.
 
“I’m going to write a book one day”. Ha! How many wannabe writers have that nagging voice sitting on their shoulder? Well, Nicola decided to do something about it.
 
After reading an article on speed dating, Nicola wrote her first book, The Tycoon’s Dating Deal. In 2003, she not only sold this book to Harlequin Romance, but in 2004 it won the CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Harlequin Romance. Not bad going for your first novel.
 
Since then, Nicola has published a whopping 32 novels, selling over 3 million copies. I think it’s safe to say she is a firm favorite with Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance readers.
 
And it doesn’t stop there. Nicola has racked up a mountain of awards, including Bookscan, USA Today and Waldenbooks bestseller.
 
Now, I’ve done my maths. Okay, you guys know when I’m lying – I used a calculator, but I know that Nicola averages four novels a year. That’s a (wait while I hit a few more buttons) book written every three months! Heck, it takes me that long to plot my story and characters.
 
How on earth did this wife of one and mother of two find the time to answer these questions?
 
1.  What is your favorite word?  Mummy
 
2. What is your least favorite word? School-fees
 
3. What turns you on?   Flirting
 
4. What turns you off?    Sleaze
 
5. What sound do you love?   Laughter
 
6. What sound do you hate? Alarm
 
7. What is your favorite curse word?   Damn 😉
 
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?   Hairdressing
 
9.  What profession would you not like to do?  Politician
 
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “Angel!”
 
 
You can purchase Top 5 Best South Asian Fiction 2011, Busted In Bollywood here.
 
Special Ops short story Tag Team is currently free at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, all Romance Ebooks, and Smashwords!  If you like sparks, sizzle & suspense, this read is for you!
 
And, watch out for Not The Marrying Kind, a marriage of convenience story set in Vegas and featuring a desert bad boy made good. Release date to be confirmed shortly (will be within the next 6 months.)
 
Contact Information

For more information regarding Nicola Marsh, please check out her website, Facebook, twitter, blog.

If you want more of me, I can be found on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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Welcome back! Wow, you must be serious about wanting to be an author.

During this ‘So, You Want To Be An Author’ series, I’m using all my WWBC knowledge taught to me by author and social media Jedi, Kristen Lamb, to help you become a better writer.

Last week we talked about why we wanted to become a writer and what it was about writing that we love so much, we need to write ourselves? And there were some brilliant answers.

This week, I want to talk about genres.

How many of you know what a genre is? Pretty much every single one of you, right?

Well I’m not ashamed to admit there was a time way, way back when they baffled the hell out of me. Huh? Is this girl a thicko, or what? Hang on. Before I’m hung, drawn and quartered, let me explain what I mean.

There are two main categories in writing: Fiction and Non-fiction.

Non-Fiction

I’ll touch briefly on non-fiction as this post is mainly about fiction writing.

What is non-fiction writing?  Non-fiction is factual. It’s real. Under this heading we find DIY, health and beauty, sports, automobile, craft, autobiographies, etc, etc. Non-fiction shows, narrates, and even gives helpful little pictures of the topic we wish to learn more about. Got it? Good. Now lets move on.

Fiction

Right, now let’s get down to business.

What is fiction writing? Fiction is totally fabricated and made up – hence why I love it so much.

Now, I myself love writing thriller and crime novels although I’m currently writing a paranormal (but that’s whole other story). Fiction has many sprogs: historical, contemporary, western, romance, science fiction, young adult. The list is endless. But, how do we know which genre is for us?

For example, as I said earlier I am currently writing a paranormal novel. But, I recently entered a competition and paranormal wasn’t an option. Instead I found ‘supernatural’. Okay, close enough,’ I thought. Paranormal – supernatural…. same thing, right?

I mean, most of the genres seem straight forward. Horror pretty much speaks for itself and you can’t go wrong with romance… Well, unless you write a romantic suspense. What does that make your novel? Romance or suspense?

If you plan on writing for Mills & Boon, then you’re pretty much covered. They have a gazillion categories for everything you can think of: medical, nocturnal, western, historical. You just can’t go wrong….unless you’re writing something that has zilch romance. Then forget Mills & Boon.

So I thought I’d try to simplify the genre dilemma a little.

Genres

Western: Howdy. If it has cowboys, horses, (maybe) a damsel in distress, a saloon and a heard of cattle being yee-hawed across a prairie between 1800 and 1890, then western is your partner.

Historical: Whether Victorian, Edwardian, or Tudor, these tend to be based around specific eras with a ton of knowledge to go along with it. If you like your history and you like your research, this just may be the one for you.

Horror: Slicing and dicing is the theme here. Lots of blood, gore, and frightening the bejesus out of your reader.

Children: Don’t confuse this with young adult. The children genre is usually aimed at toddlers and kids up to the age of eleven. So no bad language or sexual references. We don’t want mumsy-wumsy throwing a fit.

Here’s an example of how not to write for children – I warn you, it’s rude.

Young Adult: Probably the easiest way to describe this genre is to think Stephenie Meyers Twilight saga, or L.J. Smith’s (you can see her 30 second interview here), Vampire Diaries. All involving teenagers doing way much more than I did when I was their age. I was a good girl 🙂

Paranormal/Supernatural: This is a big genre at the moment. Vampires and werewolves are a hit with readers of all ages. So if it has fangs, claws, no reflection, rises from the dead, or wears a halo above its head – stick it here.

Mystery/Crime/Police Procedural/Detective: Firstly, if your opening page starts with your main character searching for her hair brush, not only does this NOT mean it’s a mystery, but I will brain you. However, if your story revolves around an unsolved crime, murder, or anything else that needs both the protagonist and your reader together searching for clues and piecing the bits like a jigsaw, then you may call it a mystery.

Fantasy: Not to be confused with science fiction, this one can be set anywhere; Earth or some made up land where unicorns, fairies, elves and trolls make an appearance – along with a magical maze and a spellbinding witch. Fantasy is totally make-believe, thank God.

Science Fiction/Sci-Fi: Futuristic aliens, robots, the distant galaxy or downtown New York; if you can explain it, no matter how far-fetched, using science, then you have yourself a genre.

Romance: Two people meet, two people fall in love, tragedy strikes, two people break up. reader cries – but then two people get back together for a happy ending and reader goes to shops to buy another box of tissues.

Chick lit: Ever read Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic or Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary? How brilliant are those books? Aim at the female population to provide nothing more than humor, romance, and good old-fashioned girl power.

Thriller/Suspense/Espionage

Action/Adventure: Similar to thriller/suspense for its car chases and fight scenes, this genre is usually aimed a the male race and often uses an expert of some kind: whether ex-military, police, bomb expert, or in Sly Stallone’s case a mountain guide. Then the story will bung said hero in a jungle, dessert, or on top of a mountain. Sometime, though, if the hero is really lucky he’ll stay in his own city.

Legal Thriller: A large part of the action takes place in a court room while we run through a did-she-didn’t-she scenario. If you haven’t ever read John Grisham, surely you’ve seen his movie The Firm? No? How about Judge Judy?

Commercial/Mainstream: These are of no specific genre but are whatever is trending in the ‘moment’. They are, more often than not, plot driven and are expected by the publishing powers that be to make a ton of sales and wads of cash.

Literary: Unlike commercial novels, these tend to be more character driven. But that about ends the description. Even publishers cannot pin-point what makes a novel – literature: use of language, ability to address human conditions, it’s ‘truth’, moral ambiguity…

Right, I think that about covers it. So now it’s your turn. What genre do you write? Have you ever chosen the wrong genre? Do genre labels confuse you? Do you have a story where you are unsure of the genre? Let me know in the comments and together we’ll crack it.

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

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I recently read a blog post ‘What Makes a Male Character Swoon Worthy?’, and loved it so much, I asked the writer, Jillian Dodd, if she would like to write more on the actions of the perfect man; for me.

Over to you, Jillian:

In my book, That Boy, the main love interest in the book is a boy named Phillip. Phillip is pretty dreamy. A lot of readers ask me if a man like Phillip really exists. I always have to answer yes. Phillip shares many characteristics with my own husband. In the upcoming sequel, That Wedding, Phillip shares a pros and cons list he made when deciding if he should tell his best friend that he was in love with her.

I got to thinking about my husband’s pros. So many of the things he does just make me melt.

He was so proud when our daughter was born

He’s the best kisser. Ever. We had a scheduled first date. I had met another guy that I was kinda going crazy about and almost cancelled our date*. I’m so glad I didn’t. When he kissed me, I knew.

He rubs my face to relax me.

He lets me pout to get my way.

He’s okay with the fact that our daughter has him wrapped around her little finger.
 
His muscles.

The way I feel safe in his arms.

How he always rescues me; Flat tires, snow storms, big spiders.

I’m horrible to buy presents for. I snoop. I look at our online banking. I try to trick the kids into telling me, but somehow he manages to surprise me every year.
 
He’s always warm.
 
He always gives me his jacket or sweatshirt if I’m cold, even if it means he gets cold.
 
He’s like my very own Ken doll. He lets me pick out all his suit, shirt, and tie combos.
 
When we were dating, we went snow skiing. It was my first time, and it was super cold. I hate cold. He took my mittens off on top of the mountain and blew warm air into them to warm my hands up.

Enjoying life with my brother at a Husker Bowl game

He’s a busy stressed executive, but he always puts our family first.

He lets me wear his sweatshirts when I’m sick.

He always smells amazing. Specifically his neck.
 
He lets me sleep in late.

He supports my wild ideas.

He didn’t laugh at me when I told him I was going to write a book. He made me finish.
 
He brings me real hot chocolate, the steamed milk yummy kind, in bed.
 
He drives me around to see Christmas lights every year, even though he doesn’t get the big deal.

He makes me laugh.

He puts gas in my car. My car is always empty.

He takes my car to get washed.
 

With my daughter at the lake, after she caught her first fish and she wanted to eat it. He talked her into throwing it back after the photo.

He orders pizza for the kids when I’m tired.

He lets me take really long baths with no interruptions.

He spends numerous hours with my son, working on his go kart, so my son can live his dream.

He buys me chocolate.

He looks equally sexy in a suit as he does in a tshirt.

He loves football as much as I do.

He celebrates life.

He never lets a waiter take his order first. Ladies always order first. Same thing for doors.

He is the dish fairy at our house. I hate emptying the dishwasher and love it when I open it up and the dishwasher is empty. He always tells me the dish fairy came.

He folds a perfect towel. Mine are always messy, whereas his look perfect.

With my son, spending lots of time so he can pursue his dream of racing professionally

He cleans out the shower drain.

He sold his race car to buy my engagement ring.

He doesn’t put up with my shit.

We’ve lived in many homes and in numerous cities, but it never matters. Home is where he is.

.

*You can read that story at http://jilliandodd.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/first-kisses/

For more information on Jillian, check out the following:

Website www.jilliandodd.net
Twitter www.twitter/JillianDodd
Blog: http://www.jilliandodd.wordpress.com


If you want more of me, you can also find me on
FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

So, what special things does your partner do for you? How many of the above can you tick off? What qualities do you find attractive in a man? What/who is your ideal partner? Let me know. Let’s see if we can find someone more dreamy that Jillian’s hubby 🙂

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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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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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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We often forget about the things we did as kids, maybe because our memories are not as sharp as they used to be when we hit middle age, but probably because these memories are so embarrassing, we choose to block them from our minds.

A couple of days ago, I was searching for some photographs. Now, if your parents are like mine, your whole life is packed into boxes and stored in the attic, and when I say your whole life I mean it. From the love letters you wrote to your first crush in maths class to the hideous video footage of your first sports day when you won the 100 metre sprint but all you really see are my skinny legs and knobbly knees. Anyway, my mum retrieved some of these boxes and, together, we began to go through them. I can tell you, while a mystery to me at the time, I look back at my school photos and now fully understand why I couldn’t get a boyfriend! Just when I didn’t think I could feel any worse about myself, I found something I really couldn’t remember writing. Of course, my hubby quickly took a photograph of it and threatened to publish it on Facebook…Who said a relationship stales after marriage?

So as a bit of fun (and I wanted to beat him to it), I thought I would share it with you.

 

In case you cannot read it, it says, “Dear John Travolta. I like your records very much and I like Grease. Love Donna. xxxxx”

Oh, how I can feel myself regretting this already. Notice there is no date. This is so I can adamantly deny I was older than five when I wrote it. Unfortunately I was 8 when Grease hit our cinemas, so I reckon I had to be 8 or 9 when I penned it. It reads a little like my query letters now, actually.

Ok, that’s enough laughing at me. I want you to comment with an equally embarrassing story or memory from your childhood. If I get over 15 replies, I will tell you of another TV couple who I do remember writing to, and I was a lot older too. 😀

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