Blade of Dragons Update: Blurbs, Taglines, Longlines, and more!

Hello, my readers, I’m back with another update on my manuscript, Blade of Dragons! It’s been a stressful month (for all of us I would imagine), but my manuscript is approaching the end of the beta stage—at least I hope.

Anyway, I have some items to share that involve general manuscript preparation. Most any author follows this formula.

There are several tools an author uses to promote or describe a book. These include: blurbs, taglines, loglines, cover descriptions, and synopses.

Blurb

A blurb is a brief statement designed to promote the book. The blurb may be by the author, a reviewer, an editor, a publishing company, or anyone else. A blurb is designed to perk interest and add a silver-lining to the book’s appearance. A blurb may appear on the front or back cover.

Logline

A logline is a book compressed into a brief paragraph. It should be concise while packing a punch. The main character, antagonist, conflict, and any other relevant detail is included, giving the reader an idea of what the story is about.

Tagline

Short and witty, a tagline is a statement that doesn’t tell anything about the book. It’s more of a catchphrase or trademark to the author’s story.

Description

Book descriptions are like an expanded logline, often around 150 to 200 words. Besides the tagline and blurb, a description is meant to lure the reader into opening the book. First sentences are crucial in descriptions, as this will convince the reader to read the story.

Synopsis

Designed more for the eyes of an agent, a synopsis is a larger description, varying anywhere from 500 to 2000 words. Short and long synopses are both viable, but modern agents err more on the shorter side. A synopsis should mention the protagonist’s arc, showing the agent that you’ve built a complete, alluring story.

I’ll give examples of the manuscript tools I mentioned above using ones from my book. Mind, these aren’t official, nor are they polished. Still, they should give you an idea of each category.

Blurb

Exciting, hard-hitting, and exotic. Blade of Dragons is an action-packed story filled with vivid storytelling and likable characters that will hold you spellbound from start to finish.


This blurb reads promotional, coming from a reader who enjoys the story.

Logline

Pepper, a cursed farmer’s daughter, inherits her father’s sword, ancient technology that can save her planet from a dark goddess. But her draconic blood seeks to undo all she holds dear.


I kept the logline short. In a more compressed form, it almost gives a stronger punch, I noticed.

Tagline

The legend of a farmer’s daughter, cursed with the blood of dragons.


Perhaps not the shortest or wittiest tagline. Still, this one stuck with me, and it’s consistent with the other items mentioned above. It also invokes a good degree of intrigue.

Description

Whimsical Magic. Arcane Technology. Romance.

Can Pepper Slyhart use her father’s sword, a weapon with unfathomable power, to save her planet? With her childhood friend, Tarie, Pepper embarks on a dire quest. She enters a war against a dark goddess that has scoured grasslands, scorched forests, and devoured great cities.

Pepper unravels the terrible price of her sentient blade, a connection to the Ethereal Seals Gate, which powers technology and sustains her planet. 

But her half-dragon heritage seeks to betray Pepper, and Tarie may be the only one who can save her.

Are they able to fight a war on both fronts, or will the Shadow claim their souls?


Notice that I include certain keywords in the blurb. The reader will know that there are: swords, a dire quest, a dark goddess, a heroine, technology, and a dragon-like race. This suggests a science fantasy genre, the type of message I hope to convey. The beginning ‘trio-word’ technique I used is a popular strategy to create rhythm and intrigue.

Synopsis

Uhh, no, I won’t post that here—it’s way too long. Regardless, I do have a short (two page) and long (seven page) synopsis written if I need it. My synopses break down the story piecemeal, proving I have a solid and complete book. Any agent or publisher who reads it would get a good idea of what the story is about: the characters, conflict, the driving force of the story, and so forth.

Additional Items to Consider

My cover art (my own work) you can view at the top of the page. It’s still unofficial, and I may reach out to a professional to spruce it up. I included a map and glossary with my manuscript to provide additional reference material for readers.

When you design your own world, including a glossary or world map can help add depth to the story. I highly recommend it, especially for epic fantasy worlds.

Publication

I am unsure if I will go traditional or epub, but I am leaning more towards the latter. I may still find an agent to help me represent my book, as I am underread when it comes to marketing.

With that said, I hope you found this post to be informative and enjoyable. Good luck with whatever creative projects you might be working on.

Thank you for reading and stay safe out there.


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Disease in Fiction

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Hello, my readers. Today let’s discuss something that’s been on all our minds recently. Yup, that’s right—diseases in fiction. Right now, the world is in flux over the Coronavirus. It has created a bizarre, paranormal society where we’re all confined to our homes, some of us without jobs. The Coronavirus is like this invisible antagonist, challenging all of us right now.

“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people…” —Gabriel García Márquez

This makes one think: how would such events play into fictional stories? What examples do we see in published works for diseases in fiction?

—A List of Fictional Viruses—

Below is a list of diseases in fiction. These should give you ideas of how authors design them, both in fantasy and science fiction.

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1. Greyscale

If you’ve read Game of Thrones, you’ve run into this ailment. It’s a horrible disease that cause a person’s flesh—and later internal organs—to harden and die. Necrotic flesh coats the victim’s body, offering the appearance of cracked stone.

2. White Blindness

In the book, Blindness, by Jose Saramago, the disease robs its victims of eyesight. The protagonist is a woman who is immune to the ailment. Able to witness the world around her, the heroine must guide her comrades to safety.

3. Inferno

Created by Dan Brown, the Inferno virus renders people infertile. Used by the antagonists as a waterborne agent—and later an airborne one—this disease serves as a potent vector for conflict.

4. Nanoprobe Virus

No so much a biological virus as a form of nanotechnology, the Nanoprobe Virus is used by the Borg in Star Trek to gradually assimilate organic life forms. Victims become drones for the Borg Collective as nanotechnology slowly takes over their bodies.

5. Tyrant Virus

Also known as the “t-virus”, this disease defines the Resident Evil series. Developed by the Umbrella Corporation, the virus was designed as a eugenics project to cull world population and build an army of bioweapons—namely zombies. Umbrella eventually designed variants of the t-virus that affect victims in different ways.

6. Flare Virus

Found in the Maze Runner movies, the Flare Virus eats away at a person’s brain until they become mindless zombies. Like the Tyrant Virus in Resident Evil, the Flare Virus was designed by scientists to reduce world population.

—What Does a Disease/Pandemic Do to a World?—

Diseases are—surprisingly—versatile and useful in fictional worlds. An author, if clever, can use this disease as a plot device to strengthen characters and move the story forward. Disease can also be used to create conflict and established a degree of worldbuilding.

1. An Invisible Antagonist

Heroes can defeat a villain they can see and touch—but what about an antagonist that is invisible? Nothing evokes fear in a character like impotence. Finding a cure, or elixir, may be the only hope in defeating this intangible opponent.

2. Atypical Conflict

Diseases in fiction offer an unusual form of conflict—even better if the disease afflicts characters that the hero cares about. Mental illnesses can add further depth to the conflict, as the victim may experience situations that alter memory or cognition—even turning them into an aggressive mutant or monster. Now the hero may have to fight a loved one, offering moral conflict in the protagonist’s conscious.

3. Worldbuilding

A pandemic forces a society to explore its resources, introducing the reader to what’s in the fictional world. An economic slowdown—like we see in the real world—causes shortages of goods and services, forces people into a different state of mind, and encourages innovation in characters.

In short, a virus exposes the innards of a fictional world and allows a reader to become intimate with it.

—Summary—

Diseases in fiction—whether biological, artificial, or magical—drives plot and character progression in a fictional world. It creates atypical conflict that exposes the underbelly of a society—not just in the protagonist—and allows the reader to dissect the morals, financial resources, and technology of an afflicted civilization.


Thank you reading, as always! During these troubling times, perhaps we can derive some meaning from the Coronavirus and how it is exposing our society. Like the heroes of old, we too can defeat this invisible foe and establish a stronger, more orderly world if by learning from our own mistakes and what habits we have buried throughout the years. That said, maybe this virus can be seen as a good thing—a source of inspiration and growth for the human spirit.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And remember, we’re all in this together. 🙂

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Describing Sounds in Writing

brown and black gramophone

 

When we think of the word sound, the last thing we may associate it with are words and phrases. However, sound and writing go hand-in-hand. Recently, I learned from a writing class how important sounds can be for strengthening prose—what a shocker!

In this article, I’ll discuss the various definitions and techniques that are often used. Many thanks to Mark Nichol for the awesome advice!

 

—Sonal Techniques in Writing—

1. Alliteration

Alliteration is the pattern of multiple words in the same phrase with the same consonant sound. Here’s an example:

“Squaring our performances with our promises, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the party’s mission.”

Notice how performances and promises ring together? It provokes the reader subconsciously, so to associate those two concepts together and highlighting a theme of success. Process and party could also be associated.

“They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places.”

In this passage, distant, different, and difficult highlights the arduous adventure being described.

2. Assonance

Similar to alliteration, assonance involves the repetition of certain vowels, especially in stressed syllables, but with different consonant sounds.

 “Men sell the wedding bells.”
Go and mow the lawn.”

In the above examples, sell and bells followed by go and mow are what highlight the assonance.

3. Consonance

Can you guess what this term implies? That’s right, the repetition of consonants, particularly at the end of a word.

“Their maid has spread the word of their deed.”
Cheer and beer go with sorrow and tomorrow.”

Here, you have maid, spread, word, and deed. Cheer and beer with sorrow and tomorrow make another pair. The word pairs doesn’t have to rhyme, only share the final sound—rhyming comes later. 🙂

4. Onomatopoeia

When you have words that translate as sound effects, this is onomatopoeia.

“A splash disturbed the hush of the droning afternoon.”
“Her heels clacked on the hardwood floor.”

5. Repetition

Repetition is, well, repeating a word or phrase to emphasize the message of a passage.

“When we arrive at the store, we will buy something. When we buy something, we will pay for it. When we pay for it, we will take it home.”
“When I find you, I will catch you. When I catch you, I will cook you. When I cook you, I will eat you.”

These examples creates a percussive effect on the reader’s mind to push the meaning of the passage.

6. Rhyme

This one should be a given, or else the writer may be forgiven (hahaha ehem…). Poetry often makes use of rhymes, but normal prose can too!  In fact, here’s a nifty tool I discovered that helps with rhyme words. Enjoy.

7. Rhythm

With rhythm, the prose is altered to create tempo.

“The eager coursing of the strident hounds
And the sudden pursuit of the mounted men
Drove the bounding prey ever on.”

Here’s an example taken from Dr. Seuss:

“I’m Yertle the Turtle!
Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler
of all that I see!”

Shorter tempo creates a faster rhythm, and vice versa. With the proper rhythm, sentence length, and prose structure, a writer can add depth and even emotion to prose.

 

—Describing Sounds—

When we describe sounds, we lean on the other four senses (touch, taste, smell, and sight) to paint a picture. Here’s a list of ways to describe sound in writing. Credit goes to Amanda Patterson.

General Words Describing Sounds

  1. audible – a sound that is loud enough to hear
  2. broken – a sound that has spaces in it
  3. emit – to make a sound
  4. grinding – a sound of one hard thing moving against another
  5. hushed – a sound that is quiet
  6. inaudible – a sound that is difficult to hear
  7. monotonous – a sound that is always the same and never gets louder or quieter, or higher or lower
  8. muffled – a sound that is not easy to hear because it is blocked by something
  9. plaintive – a sound that has a sad quality
  10. rhythmic – a sound that has a clear, regular pattern
  11. staccato – a sound where each word or sound is clearly separate

Describing Pleasing Sounds

  1. dulcet – soft and pleasant
  2. lilting – a sound that has a rising and falling pattern
  3. listenable – easy to listen to
  4. mellow – a soft, smooth, pleasant sound
  5. melodic – beautiful sound
  6. musical – sounds like music
  7. pure – a clear, beautiful sound
  8. rich – a sound that is strong in a pleasant way
  9. soft – quiet and peaceful
  10. sonorous – a sound that is deep and strong in a pleasant way
  11. sweet – a pleasant sound

Describing Noisy Sounds

  1. at full blast – as loudly as possible
  2. almighty – used for emphasising how loud something is
  3. brassy – a sound that is loud and unpleasant
  4. deafening – a sound so loud you cannot hear anything else
  5. ear-splitting – extremely loud
  6. explosive – a sound that is loud and unexpected
  7. howling – a continuous, low, loud noise
  8. insistent – a continuous, loud, strong noise
  9. loud – a sound that is strong and very easy to hear
  10. noisy – a sound that is full of noise
  11. percussive – a sound that is short, like someone hitting a drum
  12. piercing – a sound that is very  loud, high, and unpleasant
  13. pulsating – strong, regular pattern
  14. raucous – rude, violent, noisy
  15. resounding – a sound that is loud and that continues for a while
  16. riotous – lively and noisy
  17. roaring – a deep, loud noise
  18. rowdy – noisy and causing trouble
  19. sharp – a sound that is sudden and loud
  20. shrill – a sound that is loud, high, and unpleasant
  21. thundering – extremely loud
  22. thunderous – loud
  23. tumultuous –  a sound that includes noise, excitement, activity, or violence
  24. uproarious – extremely noisy

Words That Help You Show And Not Tell

  1. babble – a gentle, pleasant sound of water as it moves along in a river
  2. bang – to move, making loud noises
  3. beep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  4. blare – to make a loud and unpleasant noise
  5. blast – to make a loud sound with a car horn
  6. bleep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  7. boom – to make a deep loud sound that continues for some time
  8. caterwaul – an unpleasant loud high noise
  9. chime – a high ringing sound like a bell or set of bells
  10. chink – a high ringing sound when knocked together, or to make something do this
  11. clack -to make a short loud sound like one hard object hitting against another
  12. clang – a loud, metallic sound
  13. clank – a short, loud sound
  14. clash – a loud, metallic sound
  15. clatter – a series of short, sharp noises
  16. click – a short sound like the sound when you press a switch
  17. clink – to make the short high sound of glass or metal objects hitting each other, or to cause objects to make this sound
  18. cluck – to make a short, low sound with your tongue
  19. crash – a sudden loud noise, as if something is being hit
  20. creak – if something creaks, especially something wooden, it makes a high noise when it moves or when you put weight on it
  21. drone – to make a low continuous noise
  22. fizz – a soft sound that small gas bubbles make when they burst
  23. groan – a long, low, sound
  24. growl – a low, unpleasant noise
  25. grunt – to make a short low sound in your throat and nose at the same time
  26. gurgle – the low sound water makes when it is poured quickly from a bottle
  27. honk – to make a loud noise using a horn, especially the horn of a car
  28. hoot – to make a short loud sound as a warning
  29. mewl – crying with a soft, high sound
  30. moan – a long, low sound
  31. neigh – to make a high loud sound like a horse’s neigh
  32. peal – if a bell peals, or if someone peals it, it makes a loud sound
  33. peep – if a car’s horn peeps, it makes a sound
  34. ping – to make a short high sound like the sound of a small bell
  35. pipe – to make a very high sound, or to speak in a very high voice
  36. pop – a sudden noise like a small explosion
  37. putter – a short, quiet, low sound at a slow speed
  38. ring – to make a bell produce a sound
  39. roar – to make a continuous, very loud noise
  40. rumble – a continuous deep sound
  41. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  42. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  43. screech – to make a loud, high, and unpleasant noise
  44. scrunch – to make a loud noise like something being crushed
  45. sigh – a long, soft, low sound
  46. squeak – to make a short, high noise
  47. squeal – to make a long high sound
  48. squee – to make a loud high noise because you are excited or happy
  49. thrum- to make a low regular noise like one object gently hitting another many times
  50. thud – a dull sound when falling or hitting something
  51. thump – to hit against something with a low loud sound
  52. tinkle – to make a high, ringing sound
  53. wail – to make a long, high sound
  54. wheeze – a high sound, as though a lot of air is being pushed through it
  55. whine – a high, loud sound
  56. whirr – a fast, repeated, quiet sound
  57. whisper – to make a quiet, gentle sound
  58. whistle – to make a high sound by forcing air through your mouth in order to get someone’s attention
  59. yelp – a short, loud, high sound, usually caused by excitement, anger, or pain
  60. yowl – a long, loud, unhappy sound or complaint

—Final Words—

Writing sound is a fun process that adds depth and life to prose. Becareful not to overdo it, though. We should make sure sounds make sense, have a purpose, and relate to our writing. In more serious genres, less is better. Poetry and inane novels (like Dr. Seuss) can get away with it more.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the lovely Spring weather—well, it’s gotten warmer where I am at least. 😛


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The Tolkien Hypothesis: Is Originality Dead?

 

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Hello, my readers, to another blog post from yours truly. Experts believe that everything has “already been written” or that originality no longer exists in the writing world. To abbreviate this notion, we’ll call it the Tolkien Hypothesis for this article—yes, I made it up, but bare with me.

 

—Originality in Writing—

What is originality, and how does it come about? If you look at stories written today, you can find several Harry Potter doppelgangers, a LOTR inspired tale here, and maybe a Star Wars look-a-like there. Even romance novels are produced mechanically with an almost predictable formula.

 

—Enter the Tolkien Hypothesis—

How do we explain this phenomenon? Are writers taking the “easy way out” and piggyback riding on successful, legendary writers? Is it true that authors are struggling more and more to produce original, creative content? Where do we draw the line between a story that is inspired and one that is copied? Whew! That’s a lot of questions to answer, so, let’s take it nice and easy….

 

Creativity and Springboards

Many aspiring writers, like yours truly, become fascinated with certain authors (ahem…Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, et al.) In our excitement to share in the celebration of creativity, many authors based part or—god forbid—all their story on these authors.

The intention may not be to copy, but we enjoy using these successful stories as springboards for our imagination. Sometimes, we may jump a little too high and hit the ceiling, so to speak. I certainly did when I finished my alpha manuscript of Ethereal Seals book 1 (which is now called Blade of Dragons).

After reviewing my rough manuscript, I realized—much to my horror—that I had basically written a sloppy LOTR with Star Wars themes inserted haphazardly. I had committed a Tolkien Hypothesis crime! After several revisions and harsh critique from readers my manuscript is now on its own path. It still has similarities to LOTR and Star Wars in it, but Ethereal Seals has a unique feel, something that makes it stand out.

Does this mean I regret creating my alpha manuscript? Certainly not. I actually cherish my old writings, because they were the springboards that I needed to get my own creativity juices flowing.

 

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Writer or Robot?

Some writers may intentionally copy story structures because they are employed by certain companies. There becomes a robotic need to churn out XYZ number of novels a year for a profit. In this sense, originality is purposely ignored for financial gain.

The other day, I was at the supermarket and I scanned a dozen romance novels on the self. They all had classy catchphrases like “The Italian Prince’s One-night Stand” or “The Duke’s Scandalous Heir”. It was almost as if I was looking at the same book reprinted with slightly different wording.

Even in the fantasy section, books with “Dragon-this” or “Dragon-that” seemed a little less than original. This is actually the reason why I changed my book title from Dragonsblade to Blade of Dragons. To me, it reads more original and still has a strong punch.

Anyway, I prefer to read books that have life in them—novels with heart and soul, not replicas retelling the same story with a few different plot devices. Not to say all mass market books at like that, but most that I’ve read are.

 

—The Road to Victory—

What is Success?

How do we, as writers, define success? An aspiring writer can finish a 2,000-word short story and consider it an achievement. Other authors don’t feel satisfied until they have an entire epic trilogy published—and then some. For me, success is subjective, and the milestones we set are our own. But it’s also important to pace ourselves and be patient with who and what we are.

 

The Whimsical Muse of Creativity

After years of pushing myself too hard, I’ve realized that my imagination is whimsical and volatile. Sometimes I enter a “writer’s zone” and can easily churn out a few thousand words within an hour or two; other times I struggle to get down a little as 300. It’s important, in my opinion, that we discover and nurture the personality of our inner muse. Once we do this, success is only a matter of time.

 

—In Conclusion—

From my experience, originality doesn’t come from copying off successful writers; nor does it involve a phobia of inspiration. We, as original authors, must forge our own universes through the springboards we acquire from others, while keeping the Tolkien Hypothesis in mind.

Much of the world is only focused on profits or time-constraints and may have lost sight of the human imagination. This doesn’t mean we, as writers, cannot express our inner muse to society. The more fun you have with it, the better—and we set our own milestones and victories. We don’t have to buy into the mechanical urges of corporations, nor should we forgo imagination for worldly success and money.

Originality and creativity go hand-in-hand, and neither can be rushed, lest we fulfill the Tolkien Hypothesis. Writing is as much of a growing process for the story as it is for the writer :). And with that, I’ll leave you a quote…

Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.
– Joseph Conrad

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My Favorite Music While Writing

woman sitting on grass playing ukulele

Music has a powerful influence on the human brain, particularly with creativity. The mileage varies from person to person, as some prefer silence—which is its own type of music. I’ve found that my creative process increases when I play certain tunes. In this post, I’ll share with you some of the genres and bands that I listen to.

—My Favorite Genres—

I listen to different types of music depending on my mood, activity, and environment. In this way, I view my playlists as a toolbox, allowing me to select particular tools to help me with an activity. That said, sometimes I deviate, but the list below gives a general idea of what I prefer and why.

1. Epic Music

Who doesn’t like epic or opera music? These tunes encourage excitement, creativity, and wonder in my brain. When I’m writing a jaw-dropping scene or a tense battle, this music is ideal. I like the bands: Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, and Ivan Torrent.

2. Chill Lounge

This is a slower, melodic music that allows me to space out and relax. When I’m talking with friends, co-writers, blogging, or writing a soothing scene, chill lounge is my first choice. Bands I like here are: Jjos, Alexander King, and Electro Pump.

3. Smooth Jazz

Smooth jazz speaks for itself. Like chill lounge, this genre helps me unwind, but without losing too much concentration in my writing. I view it as the middle way between epic and chill; it is also great for romance scenes between characters. I don’t have a particular band that I listen to with this genre—all smooth jazz is good!

4. Lofi

A genre of music that I discovered recently, lofi has happy tunes with a steady beat. I find this music to be best for travel or adventure scenes without a lot of action. Some lofi is very beautiful and helps me when I’m in a creativity jam. I find myself listening to oriental lofi when I write Tempest of the Dragon for that East Asian feel. There’s also video game lofi that I enjoy. No particular bands here.

5. Classical

Classical is a nice way to unwind while, like smooth jazz, keeps a steady beat to maintain concentration during writing. Sometimes I alternate between smooth jazz and classical. I enjoy: Chopin, Mozart, Vivaldi, and many more.

6. Anime/J-pop

This is cartoony, upbeat music that is perfect when writing comic scenes between characters or working on Tempest of the Dragon. Some of these tunes can also be similar to epic music. Favorites are: Kogarashi, Senso, Sakuzyo, and Konbanwa.

7. Progressive House

Progressive house is a melodic, curious genre (somewhat like trance in my opinion) that “raises my spirits to new heights” and gives me energy. I find this genre to be good when I need to brainstorm or work for very, very long periods of time. It’s basically audio coffee—if that makes sense. I like: Shingo Nakamura, Epicuros, and Gregory Esayan.

8. Chiptune

Remember that music you heard when playing Mega Man, Zelda, or Mario as a kid on your NES? That’s chiptune! This genre had been forgotten for years since its introduction in the 80s and 90s, but now it’s making a comeback. Chiptune has a comic flair like J-pop, but with a swift beat. It’s a good music for fast-moving, action or battle scenes. My favorites are: Tombofry, Rolemusic, and Sasakure.UK.

9. Psybient

Psybient is an…acquired taste. It has a deep, alien feel that works for bizarre or mysterious scenes. The music may leave you wondering about yourself, your characters, and where they are all going. My top choices are: SiebZehn, E-Mantra, and Johnny Blue.

10. Dark/Deep Tribal

I listen to this genre if I need to write a shocking, or dark atmosphere to encourage visceral emotion in the reader. Most deep tribal also have a steady drum beat, likened to the heart, and are mysterious like psybient—or even pseudo-erotic for intense romance scenes. Some artists I’ve listened to are: DJ WOPE, Moshic, and Mundeep.

 

—Let’s Wrap Up, Shall We?—

Yes, I listen to a lot of music. Each genre holds a unique function to me, as I connect with the tunes on an intimate, and almost spiritual level. The music alone can transport me to another reality, engrossing my mind in its creative juices. I love music, as much as I enjoy writing.

What types of music do you listen to? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

 

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10 Tips on How to Write a Protagonist

 

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A protagonist is the central character of a story. Unlike side characters, the hero influences the story the heaviest. Because the hero holds the plot together, developing a solid character is vital.

Below, I’ll discuss some tips on how to write a protagonist; things that should assist you with your hero’s development. These are guidelines, as the majority of the hero’s creation comes from the author.

How to Write a Protagonist

When learning how to write a protagonist, there are several things to keep in mind. How each parameter lines up can influence both the protagonist and the plot.

1. Gender

This is one of the more prominent points when you write a protagonist, as the POV can change considerably with the hero’s gender. I read an enlightening series of forum posts that discusses male and female characters. You can check this and this for additional information.

Stay true to your character’s quirks and personality. Don’t let traditional stereotypes interrupt that creative flow. If you hit a roadblock, ask a reader of the opposite sex. Often, he or she can add some insights to your character design.

2. Race

Whether your hero is Caucasian, African, or some fictional alien race, have that racial background define who they are and their ordeals. Maybe a particular breed of space elves are hated in society, or they lack a specific trait that humans take for granted.

3. Height, Weight, Body Mass

Maybe your hero is a short, fat dwarf or a lanky human. How they appear to other characters can influence how the hero comes off. Perhaps a tall protagonist looks formidable and therefore commands respect.

Maybe give your hero some facial scars, a distinguishing feature that sets them apart. Make them unique, as the main character should be.

4. Secrets

Any reader enjoys secrets; even better are secrets within secrets. What I mean is, wrap your main character in mystery. Give them an enigmatic past and don’t give out the answers too quickly.

Have your secrets evolve as the hero progresses through the plot. This evokes intrigue and helps pull the reader in.

5. Character Flaws

“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

DrosselmeyerPrincess Tutu

Tension is fundamental on how to write a protagonist. Incorporate conflict into your characters, whether in their backstory, gender, race, or physical limitations. You can also give them technical flaws, like the inability to perform a skill or a specific action.

Giving them too many perks and too little flaws result in a bland, uninteresting hero. You want to challenge your hero, not make them a god; nor do you want them to fail in their quest.

6. Attributes

As in video games, especially RPGs or tabletops like D&D, a character in a story has a given set of attributes. These parameters define what the actor is good at, what he or she may fail at, and perhaps unique modifiers that make the character stand out from other characters.

First, define what kind of a character, or class, the actor is. Take your stereotypical warrior: they—usually—have high strength and resilience to trauma. Warriors may not specialize in other fields of ability like magic or stealth, but they have their toolbox of skills to make up for it.

Characters like the warrior fit a niche in a company of heroes, whereas others party members address their shortcomings. Having one character do all the work often comes off as lazy and boring. Give your characters a challenge that pushes them to their limits.

7. The Hero’s Journey

The hero should be someone who struggles through the impossible. The protagonist should suffer but persevere. This is a reflection of the journey we all go through—the Hero’s Journey.

It is vital when writing a protagonist that the hero is relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with the hero. Plot out your story using the Acts found in the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell did an excellent job in his novel, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I highly recommend this book.

8. Antagonist

An antagonist complements the protagonist, forming a wholesome plot. The villain often provides the tension and challenge to the hero. In traditional works, the antagonist is a reflection of the hero with exacerbated personality flaws. It could also be a father figure.

9. Leveling Up

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As a character progresses through a story, they level up or gain additional attributes. With games, the hero adds new parameters to their character sheet. In a novel, leveling up is more subtle. The author may demonstrate this as a character acquiring a new artifact/weapon for study, graduating from school, or finishing a spellbook.

The development of new experience enriches the character’s worldview and the way they handle problems. A rookie fighter may view a few brigands with horror, while a veteran would display confidence.

This system of progression enhances characters and leaves a player or reader with a greater sense of appreciation by the end of the story. Typically, characters begin with little to no experience and graduate to seasoned fighters by the end of the plot.

10. Tropes

If you’re still struggling with how to write a protagonist, check out TV Tropes here to browse a list of familiar character tropes. That may give you some idea of what you’d prefer in your character.

As an example, the farmer hero trope is heavily used in fantasy settings, but it still works. My main hero of Ethereal Seals starts out as a half-dragon farm girl who trains into a knight by the end of the story, yet she fails at some tasks that others take for granted.

There are endless variations to this trope alone, and putting your original spin on it will help it stand out.

Conclusion

Learning how to write a protagonist can be a complicated process. There are certain factors to keep in mind, like gender, race, body proportions, and flaws. Tropes provide a convenient starting point for character creation. Remember to challenge your hero—introduce some tension.

I hope this article has provided a good idea of the thought and time put into a character. For more information, please check out the provided links throughout the page.

Thanks for reading. Much love and gratitude. 🙂


Like what you see? Click that follow button to keep up with blog updates.

I’m looking for beta readers in my app here. Click it and read about my ebook if you’re interested. My book cover has a green gem on the cover, titled Ethereal Seals: Dragonsblade. Thanks.

 

Making Maps for Fantasy Settings: A Tutorial

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Crafting a map for your fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, it dramatically compliments the space where the story takes place. When done correctly, a map benefits to both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

—Some Startup Info—

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP, which is like an advanced version of Microsoft Paint, last I checked.

—Creating a Digital Map—

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this.

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth—go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

That may be a doozy of a step forward, but allow me to explain. I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. One suggestion I have is—if you’re doing this method, select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

In this example, I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever you need to.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy.

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Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also essential.

AtlasMapTutorial7

 

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

—Conclusion—

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just one of them. I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Thanks for reading and click that “follow” button below if you like what you see. Cheers. 😎

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

 

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or screenwriter should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

—What is the Hero Journey?—

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic that centers around the protagonist’s progression through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey, from which the audience witnesses the evolution of the hero.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero, while the second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act; these are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey—and some are necessary to flesh out the story.

—Act I—

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incidence like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

—Act II—

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is truly ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

—Act III—

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest. This brief respite offers another connection between the hero and the audience as both understand the danger and gravity of the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist, risking life and limb to complete the ordeal. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. S/he must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive against the antagonist.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

—Act IV—

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the final Threshold—likened to the supreme ordeal on steroids. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero immensely, evoking his/her greatest fears and requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person–transmuted into the true hero, and no longer the false facade from before. Following the brush of death, the adventurer conquers the final ordeal, or the Dragon at the Final Threshold, seizing the Elixir. Reconciliation with the Father is obtained and the hero is purged, fully equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the ordinary world as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the final ordeal, s/he improves upon the ordinary world and a new era of peace and reflection results. The prize is multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey back to the ordinary world, but things will never be as they were.

—Conclusion—

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

While the hero’s cycle is a general formula for a fictional plot, there is a multitude of additional elements, such as sub-cycles that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing a form of exile to live a new life more suiting to his or her needs.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey repeats in every good fiction; it’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is a blueprint from which anyone, as a soul, can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.


Thank you for reading, and Merry Christmas!

christmas tree with decors under the staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POV in Prose and Writing

Hello, my readers, to another article on writing. I’ve been a busy bee this month, but I always have time to slip in another post for you guys. 🙂

antique book hand knowledge

—Points of View—

POV (point of view) in prose is a vital storytelling element, likened to the camera of the reader. Imagine looking through the eyes of one person for the entire story. Maybe it switches to another character as the story progresses.

This article will give an introduction to narratorial perspectives, the different types of POVs, how to use them, and the attributes associated. If you’re a new or aspiring writer, mastering POV is crucial—and this article is for you.

left human hand photo

—First-person—

In nature, we are all born in the first-person perspective. Even as you read this article, your brain absorbs it from this POV. I, me, my, we, ours—these pronouns define the viewpoint.

When using this POV in prose, it can be useful for exploring the character’s inner universe. Stick to one character’s perspective per scene, if possible. Avoid head-hopping, which is jumping from one character’s thoughts to another without a scene break.

Show the character’s emotions, why they do what they do. First-person is also popular in articles (like this one), as it adds anonymous credit to the author when needed, without specifying who.

Examples of First-person

I woke to the strident calls of my alarm clock as the morning rays stung my eyes. My heart pounded in my ears.

Flashes of my previous day returned. I was with my friends finishing our activities at school. Then, we saw it, the one thing a highschooler wished he would never see.

Attributes of First-person

  • The narrator becomes the character
  • Creates an emotional and intimate experience with the reader
  • Makes prose more objective
  • The plural of first-person is “we,” the singular is “I”
  • ‘We’ or “our’ is an anonymous way to strengthen formality in articles
  • Avoids “head-hopping” from one character to another without scene breaks

woman crouching on dock pointing at water

—Second-person—

You are reading this article. I am talking to you or you all in second-person. This is second-person POV. The narrator, instead of jumping inside the character’s head, dictates to the protagonist what is happening. In this way, the actor “hears” the narrator rather than becoming one and the same.

Second-person is often used in emails, tutorials, and other dictatorial pieces. The narrator brings the reader into the story and encourages them to engage in the plot or prose rather than from the remote standpoint of a character. In this way, second-person is more intimate than first-person.

Attributes of Second-person

  • Dictatorial POV in prose, more often used in the present tense
  • The reader is in the story rather than inside a character’s mind
  • The pronoun “you” can be singular or plural—can also use “you all”
  • More intimate and emotional with the reader than first-person
  • Excellent for tutorials, certain novels, and articles
  • Perspective strictly limited to the reader

Examples of Second-person

You woke to the strident calls of your alarm clock as the morning rays stung your eyes. Your heart pounded in your throat.

Flashes of the previous day returned. You had just finished school activities with classmates. Then, you saw it, the one thing any high schooler wished they would never see.

person standing on top of rock

—Third-person—

This perspective pops up in many kinds of novels, particularly romance, sci-fi, or fantasy. The narrator refers to characters by their name or as “he,” “she,” or “it.” Third-person finds popularity in news reporting and business writing.

There are a several types of third-person perspective, as it’s one of the more complex perspectives. I’ll break them down for you below.

1. Third-person Limited

With this perspective, the reader is a separate entity from the characters. The narrator tells the story from the perspective of a single character.

2. Third-person Multiple

Third-person Multiple opens additional information that Limited cannot convey. Multiple character perspectives are included, rather than just one.

3. Third-person Objective

This perspective comes from a neutral perspective as if the reader is an invisible spectator at the scene. The reader—separate from the characters—watches the scene play out. Descriptors that describe internal emotions are to be avoided here.

4. Third-person Subjective

Subjective perspective can use internal dialogue strictly through the words of the narrator. In subjective, the narrator takes a larger role in telling the story, rather than letting the characters do all the work. This creates distance between readers and the characters but may improve pacing.

5. Third-person Omniscient

This POV is a more extreme version of Subjective. The narrator acts as God here and reports any and every thought or development between characters. This is perhaps the most difficult POV in prose, as it includes a large amount of detail and multi-tasking, or mandatory head-hopping without scene breaks.

Omniscient is a powerful perspective that can shorten prose and travel anywhere in a character’s history, but it can also be overwhelming for the reader if done wrong. If you use this perspective, watch out for data dumps that slog the pace or may confuse the reader.

Attributes of Third-person

  • Places the reader in spectator mode, watching characters
  • May offer a variety of perspectives to suit the narrative
  • Provides a higher volume of information for the reader
  • Less intimate than first-person or second-person
  • Easier to confuse multiple third-POVs

Examples of Third-person

Tom woke to the strident calls of his alarm clock as the morning rays stung his eyes. Tom’s heart pounded in his throat.

Flashes of his previous day returned. Tom was back with friends, and they had just finished their activities at school. Then, Tom saw it, the one thing a highschooler wished he would never see.

black and white business career close up

—FAQ That Are Helpful for POV—

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to include your own questions as needed. These are designed to help you think about your POV and which one may be best for your story.

  1. How does the story relate with the perspective of the characters? The reader? The narrator?
  2. What do I (the author) feel from watching the characters from a particular viewpoint?
  3. What emotions or traits should be presented in the story? What POV best suits this?
  4. What should readers feel as they progress through the book?
  5. How should readers connect with the characters?
  6. Is there an underlying message associated with the perspective chosen?

—Conclusion—

I hope this article has provided you with a good introduction about POV in prose and how to select one appropriate for your story. Knowing your characters and how they relate to the plot—and to your audience—is the gist of it.

It’s almost worth mentioning that other forms of POV like first-person multiple or deep third-person appear in prose. I encourage you, my readers, to examine the links below for further information.

Thank you again for reading, and enjoy the holiday weather. Cheers. 🙂

candle celebration christmas christmas decoration

—Sources and Further Reading—

https://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-first-person-pov

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/first-second-and-third-person

https://writingcommons.org/collaborate/common-comments/point-of-view/522-avoid-second-person-point-of-view-

https://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-third-person-multiple-pov

https://www.thoughtco.com/third-person-point-of-view-1692547

http://www.thebeginningwriter.com/2012/03/look-at-different-types-of-point-of.html

NaNoWriMo 2019: Tips and Preparation

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Hello, my readers, welcome to another exciting blog post! Today’s topic is—you guessed it—NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event celebrated by writers the world over since 1999.

What is NaNoWriMo?

From November 1st to the end of the month, each writer must produce a 50,000-word novella—first draft version of course. Nobody expects a masterpiece as this is more of a rush-rush creative exercise.

What writers decide to do with the novella after NaNoWriMo is up to them. I’ve heard of some amazing stories emerging from the ritual. I might attempt it myself this year, if time and energy allow. The seasons is a busy interval for most people, and scheduling your NaNoWriMo time is crucial.

—NaNoWriMo Preparation—

If you’re brave enough to undertake this challenge, then there’s some important steps you should take days before November arrives.

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1. Determine Your Writing Medium

Do you plan to write on a desktop computer? What about a laptop? Maybe pencil, pen, or even a typewriter? Figure out your medium for creative writing beforehand so you can set up your workplace appropriately.

Stock up on fresh pencils, printing paper, coffee, or whatever you might need.

2. Plan and Outline Your Story

Days before, begin thinking about what you want to write. Will it be a romance novella or maybe fantasy-adventure? Consider the protagonist and antagonist—the actors that drive the story forward. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect for NaNoWriMo. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be good as a first draft, but it should be coherent and have potential.

3. Have a Plan

Create a diary or calendar, something that can set milestones, deadlines, and objectives. Remember, you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s around 1,700 words a day. Scheduling your progress will improve your organization and help you stay on track.

4. Write, Don’t Edit

For those seeking 1,500+ words a day, you won’t have time to edit or revise. Focus on the writing process only and don’t backtrack, otherwise you may ruin your momentum.

5. Get Excited and Motivated

Nothing kills a project faster than boredom. Be thrilled about your project, just like a sky diver about to plunge from a plane. Remind yourself the reason you’re writing. Is it to improve your writing ability? Maybe you’re finally blocking out time to write that belated story. Use that focus to propel your efforts and stay on top of your game.

6. NaNoWriMo Is What You Make of It

Ultimately, this event is determined by your goals and objectives. Some participates use it as a means to get motivated and don’t care about reaching 50,000 words. Others see it as a challenge that must be completed, up until the final letter.

Set goals within your means and remember to enjoy the process. If it becomes too hectic or stressful, that will hinder the creative process. Turn it down a notch.

—Final Remarks—

NaNoWriMo is a time to get motivated and to explore one’s creative potential, in whatever way chosen. Some writers use it as an excuse to work on belated manuscripts, others on poetry. Then there are those who take the hardcore challenge of developing a whole novella in a month.

Think about what you, as a writer, want out of NaNoWriMo. That goal will be what shapes your experience and what you get out of it. Below are some additional resources for those interested. Thanks for reading and good luck. 🙂

https://www.eadeverell.com/nanowrimo/

https://nybookeditors.com/2017/10/nanowrimo-prep/

https://aspiring.org/2019/10/20/nanowrimo-prep-2019-im-not-racist-but/

 

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