Our plotting stage is our testing area.
Everything in the plot should be tested for its effectiveness before we put in into our stories. If you believe something in your plot could be better, make it better.
Figuring everything out in your plot will save you time rewriting later.
So how do you test your plot?
Start with everything that has gone into it.
Are the events interesting?
Does your plot contain problems for the character to solve?
Have you given your character a goal?
Is the conflict strong?
Is the resolution of the conflict interesting?
Is the character interesting?
Is the setting of the story interesting?
Will the incident or situation be interesting to your readers?
Make a list of what your plot contains. Comb through it carefully and tick off each item. If you find that some things need to be worked on some more, work on them.
I know to some this might be tedious work, but…
“Every one-minute you spend in planning will save you at least three minutes in execution.” Crawford Greenwald
© Nick Vernon
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Writing is a creative process and how every writer chooses to create, is individual to them. Likewise, with plotting, every writer plots at a level they are comfortable with.Some just plot the bare essentials. They have a firm idea of the story they want to write and have a good memory to be able to memorize everything.
Others go into more detail. These writers prefer to figure everything out before they write the story.
How you plot will also depend on your level of experience. For the beginner, it’s recommended to plot thoroughly.
Before writing, think of every possible situation. Plot events thoroughly, plot scenes to the last detail and generally leave no questions unasked or unanswered. This way you will always know where you’re going.
Are You Using The ‘What If’ Technique When Plotting?
Your short story of 500, 2.000, 10.000 words or whatever word length you choose to write, will spring from a single idea - Perhaps a one-sentence idea.
So when you are still in that one sentence stage, using the ‘What If,’ technique is a good way of generating ideas to build on that initial story idea.
While you are in the plotting stage, experiment. Your aim should be to write the best story you can. Experiment to see what bits and pieces you can put together to write the best story ever.
So using ‘What If,’ ask yourself questions then answer them…
What if the character was like this?
What if this happened to him?
What if I placed him in this situation? How would he react?
What if I took this away from him?
What if his worst fear came true?
What if he doesn’t get what he wants? What will he do?
What if I placed this obstacle in his path? What will he do?
You’ll be surprised what you come up with, if you take the time to experiment.
© Nick Vernon
Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from ArticlesFactory.com
Write from the heart - that's all you really need to do.
Never try to second guess the market or try to be clever with your audience - or those who would help you achieve your aims.
Be true to yourself and be honest with your readers - because that's the only way to create anything of value and to sustain an artistic career of any kind.
It's easy to get fooled by the system into thinking that you work to get paid, therefore you can write anything for money - but it doesn't really work like that.
Not with art anyway. Not with anything creative.
Creativity requires more than just turning up and punching the clock.
Writing, painting, sculpting, playing an instrument, making movies, anything that requires personal expression, needs a soul at work.
Your soul - your time and passion and commitment.
That's what creativity of any kind demands:
It's intimidating, sure, when you see so much finished stuff around - you know, finished books, completed movies, and mastered songs that just glow with semi-perfection - all neatly packaged and oozing confidence and, well, some kind of stature.
And all available for sale...
It's hard when you want to be one of those people who has a book out there or a song or a film - and you know you haven't even started or worse actually, you're half way through something that feels like it's never going to be completed let alone recognized and available as a finished product.
It can be extra intimidating to see so many people with finished products who are social networking constantly - trying to get themselves and their own books, films and music seen and taken seriously.
Especially when on the same page some fabulously famous people are doing exactly the same - and they have the fame, the kudos and the riches to do it well!
How can you possibly compete in a world where just about everyone is shouting, "Look at me, look at me!"
Thing is, it's not about competing.
It's just about being there - and being yourself and being honest.
People might criticize you (but actually they rarely do).
Most likely people might appear to ignore you.
But that's okay too.
How many times have you seen people online and not said anything - just stored away their image or their 'thing' in your brain and moved on?
That's pretty much what everyone else is doing.
They may never contact you or involve themselves with you but they know you're there.
And there is just where you need to be.
You gotta be in it to win it, as they saying goes.
That doesn't mean you spout bollocks all day though.
People respond best to sincerity.
Consistent sincerity - the kind you can't fake.
Do what you do, feel what you feel, and write what you write...
Love what you do and do what you love.
And get it out there.
And the world, my friend, will know.
Trust in yourself and your dreams.
And write from your heart.
Till next time.
© Rob Parnell
It’s no use coming up with a theme and not using it. Short stories are about a character or characters and about one situation or happening in those characters’ lives.
By concentrating on that one thing, our stories are focused. You will need to focus to maintain a level of intensity and sticking to the theme enables us to do that.
Let me give you an example…
Let’s say your story is about a young man (main character) who is being harassed (one situation) by the school bully (secondary character.) Let’s place the setting in grade school.
Now if we focus on that single happening and in our story say….
• What started the bullying
• What the main character felt, confronted with this problem
• What the main character did to overcome this problem
• If the main character won or lost against the bully…
Then we’ll be focusing only on that incident which is what our story is about.
Now if we took that situation further and in our story said that this character grew up and was bullied in high school and then later by a colleague…
That will be listing three incidences, which will weaken our story because we are not focusing.
Remember a short story is short.
We don’t have too much leeway to develop too many things so we have to be selective with what we choose to concentrate on. Short stories work best when they span over a short period of time.
Like in scenario one, this incident might span over a couple of days or a week, where in the second scenario, it spans over a number of years. The shorter the time span the more intense the story.
Your theme should begin at the beginning, run through the middle and conclude in the end. So let’s put a theme to the first scenario…
‘Strength Comes From Within And In The End Prevails.’
How can I have this theme running throughout my story?
Initially I will portray my main character as a weak individual. But I will excuse his weakness, by saying perhaps that…
“He comes from a closely knit, loving family and initially doesn’t know how to deal with such a conflict.”
As my story progresses, I will gradually show his inner strength and I will do this through incidences, which will show his maturity, like…
• He helps out by caring for his younger siblings and contributes with the housework.
• I can show him cutting the neighbours’ lawns or delivering newspapers before school to show that he contributes economically too.
If I do this, my ending (when he wins against the bully) will be believable because I have developed his inner strength. My theme would have run its course.
Is your theme running throughout the story?
© Nick Vernon
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I knew a girl once who had lots of dreams. Lots of things she wanted to do. Lots of ideas for businesses, projects and strategies for becoming successful...But despite all the planning and sometimes the work, nothing happened.Nothing ever worked for her.
She'd get to a certain point in a project and always, and I mean always, something would happen that stopped her.
Watching her go through this process a dozen or more times, I could easily see that it wasn't the projects that were at fault - though she would swear every time that's where the problems originated.
No, it was something inside her head that made her stop.
Fear? Anxiety? Lack of commitment? Insecurity?
Any and all of the above.
But it was more than that.
I believe that in some odd way, she needed to be stopped - because failure fulfilled her worldview of what's possible and what isn't.
Because - and it sounds obvious but is no less true - that you are only capable of what you think you're capable of doing.
In other words, success is a state of mind.
If you think your project will fail, it will - because your mind will look for signs of failure from the moment you doubt it.
In turn, the signs validate your suspicions and your project collapses from within.
During all the time I knew this girl I had only one project - to be a writer full time.
She would often belittle my aspirations and say that she was the doer, the champion, the "succeeder" - and I was just a hopeless dreamer.
Difference was, I knew I wasn't going to stop nor would I lack the commitment to seeing through my goal.
It didn't matter how many people - friends, family, loved ones - told me (lectured me!) that being a professional writer was a silly dream, a waste of time pursuing, etc., because in my heart, I simply didn't believe them.
There comes a time when you have to sacrifice everyone else's worldview for something you know in your heart to be true.
You have to believe that if you want something enough, you can get it.
Inspiration is wonderful. It captivates and possesses you.
But inspiration has no value unless you pursue its ramifications.
It could be you take the first tentative steps on a path and start to feel that perhaps you were mistaken.
Perhaps you didn't want to work on the project as much as you thought you did.
That the kind of person you think you might need to become to finish the project is not who you really are.
This happens with long term goals too.
Many people have second thoughts when they realize that their success might require them to become a different person - one outside their comfort zone.
We all know that planning and strategizing is fun and safe and exciting until we get real world feedback - and realize that the consequences of inspiration often put you in the firing line - on the battlefield, as it were, to continue the metaphor.
We all want to be the commander, directing the troops from a safe distance.
Getting down and dirty in the trenches isn't really part of the plan!
But if you want to succeed, you need to make a commitment - and stay the course whatever happens.
It's the only way to know whether your inspiration was valid to begin with.
If you have a habit of stopping when you should be pushing on through, you'll find that your faith in yourself, over time, will diminish.
Success likes reinforcement.
And there's nothing like seeing one project, to the exclusion of all others, right through to the end, to help get your mind in the right head space to take on anything.
The more projects you finish, the more faith you'll have in your abilities.
But finishing that first one is where it all starts.
Don't let yourself get sidetracked by the myriad of possibilities.
Pick one project and go for it.
Even if you're not sure it's The One.
It won't always mean that the rest of your life will be taken up with it.
But it might take a year or two of total commitment.
And it's that total commitment that will change you - for the better.
Once you succeed in one thing, you'll know that nothing is impossible - if you believe in yourself.
And you can't really believe in yourself properly until you've seen something through, right to the end - and been the person capable of doing that.
The girl I mentioned earlier still believes she's capable of anything and everything - but has yet to prove it to herself.
Actually to anyone.
She's bitter and angry these days.
She blames the world for not complying with her wishes.
She rages against the unfairness of "the system" - whatever that is - and how everyone is out to get her and scupper her plans.
As a result, she's often nasty, defensive and cruel.
Her own insular, self-protective worldview has become the enemy within.
She's still poor - emotionally and financially.
She hates me, of course and, as she calls them, "people like me," because we don't fall into the category she's created for us.
She hates me for getting what I wanted.
She still believes that to be successful you have to be greedy, vindictive and manipulative - which in my experience is definitely not the case at all!
The successful, wealthy people I know are happy, generous and just, well, nice.
And they get things done.
They let inspiration guide them, intuition counsel them and they have the courage and self-fulfilling confidence to stand by their actions, attitudes and beliefs, to see their dreams, goals and plans through right to the very end.
Just like you should.
© Rob Parnell
Creative writing is considered to be one of the most perplexing forms of articulating thoughts and ideas on paper. It turns out to be a hard nut to crack because it requires the ability to think freely, giving thoughts a modicum of leeway, and express ideas and experienced feelings sincerely and openly. That’s why putting wind in the sails with creative writing is not within every writer’s grasp. It means that a person, who succeeded in process writing approach that is all about planning, revising, re-arranging, and deleting text, re-reading, and producing multiple drafts before producing finished documents, will have the same good results in creative writing.
Surely, it doesn’t imply that creative writing process doesn’t need proper planning and preparation, it means that creative writing permits the author to deviate from the specific writing styles and not to be consistent with all the standards of this style. In a word, creative writing gives the author leeway in terms of presentation and development of a piece of writing.
Since creative writing is not simply a matter of sitting down, putting pen to paper, following smart instructions of emeritus pundits, commence at the beginning and write through to the end. Creative approach treats all writing as a creative act that requires time, positive feedback, and inspiration to be done well. People who engage in creative writing do not merely think freely; they view the world from free-thinking perspective.
Without a doubt, creative writing is not only about inspiration and gift of the writer, and it is far from coming easy to the writer, it also needs a lot of elbow grease in order to produce a piece of writing worth the attention of the readers.
The key to success in creative writing lies in the author’s ability to be frank with his readers and honest with himself. Don’t be afraid to step aside from the established standards of the particular writing style, and open the door of your brain to the new ideas that cross the threshold of your imagination and knock around your mind.
Remember that process and explorations are the keystones in creative writing, rather than the finished product. Let yourself release your inner genius and vent on paper the most bizarre ideas that amassed in your mind. The source of ideas for your creative writing can be various kinds of resources of creativity such as oral tradition, dreams, childhood memories, sense perceptions and intuition.
Katrina Crosbie, a tutor of creative writing in Edinburgh University's Open Studies programme, asserts that getting in touch with subconscious mind is the key to original and creative writing. She also claims that every writer can harness three simple techniques to enhance his creative writing abilities, they are mental focusing techniques, harnessing the power of your dreams and journal writing. Harnessing these techniques takes hard work; so, if you are ready, roll up your sleeves and follow these simple strategies.
I. Mental focusing techniques
Mental focusing techniques involve focusing on the positive outcome. It implies that you should concentrate and regulate your mental activity in order to enter a quiet state of your mind. The key point in mental focusing is to get rid of all the stray thoughts and replace it with one thought; this process should gradually induce a calm sensation. The procedure is very simple, you make yourself comfortable in a cozy armchair, and in all possible ways try to awake creativity inside of you.
You should say something like “I’m getting in touch with my creativity source”, and imagine physically how the stream of creativity comes into your mind. Remember the sensation of clear, cool water on your face, or a stream of fresh breeze, which is blowing in your face. Then imagine yourself sitting at your word processor, typing fluently, and writing avidly. After several minutes open your eyes and commence writing.
II. Harness the power of your dreams
Dreams have tremendous power. The subconscious memory can be the direct cause of the certain dreams. “When the mind is centered on certain things, the sleeper goes over his life again and again in phantom fashion. He lives over the experiences of his daily life.”
Overall, your daydreams can be important, just write them down after waking up in the morning. Perhaps, later on, re-reading the notes of your dreams will prompt you some interesting ideas for your creative works. ”These can be triggers for an especially imaginative piece of work. American writer Joyce Carol Oates has said that her novel Bellefleur was inspired by a dream of a walled garden which haunted her for years 'till she felt she had to write about it.”
III. Keep the writing journal
This technique of enhancing your creativity is very simple and at the same time highly productive. Buy yourself a notebook, so that you can always have it at hand and write some brief narratives in it on a daily basis.
Don’t focus on the style, mistakes, and, in general, in the way you write. Just write down the first things that occur in your mind, even if you think that this is junk. The main idea is to keep your hand moving and to feel a growing sense of inspiration and confidence. In the course of time, you will become a practiced hand in writing. Surely, you’ll find your journal notes a rich source of inspiration and ideas.
If you really want to enhance you creative writing abilities, give a try to these simple techniques, and bring your craft as a writer into play!
© Linda Kate Correli
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This is a question every writer or new writer has asked themselves from time to time. How to write fiction that people will not only want to read, but enjoy and remember a long time after they have finished the book.
This article although aimed at novels can easily be applied to short stories.
The first thing to appreciate when constructing engaging fiction is to start with a strong main character or protagonist. You want your main character to stand out and be able to carry your story right through to the end. This is even more important for longer fiction as you obviously have to engage the attention of your readers for longer.
What makes a memorable character can be many things. Unusual physical appearance can help such as for example, a very tall man who has a lot of tattoos and a bald head. However, it is the personality of your main character that will stay in the minds of your readers more. Readers want to be able to identify with your main protagonist or at least sympathize and root for them when they are presented with obstacles or opposition.
Your main character does not have to be perfect by any means, but they have to be likable, appealing and believable. They need to seem almost real. Even if your main character has many flaws, their good points should still outweigh them.
Another aspect to bear in mind when writing engaging fiction is your plot. Good fiction should contain conflict, that is, a hurdle or obstacle that your main character needs to overcome in order to achieve what they want. It would be very difficult to write engaging fiction without a strong plot. Regardless of the genre you are writing in, the same rule applies.
A good plot should aim to grab the reader's attention from the beginning of the book and should contain sufficient tension and cliff-hangers. This is especially true when writing thrillers or crime fiction. When writing engaging fiction the plot should not be predictable but should keep your readers intrigued until the end. However, even if you are writing romance fiction for instance, the plot should not be obvious. It could even include a credible twist.
Your style of narration is another way to write engaging fiction. Third person narrative is popular for good reason. It allows you to follow the thoughts and view the world of all your characters both major and minor. Third person narrative also assists with plot as you can better understand the actions and motivations of the antagonist, for example.
By contrast first person narrative although restricted to your main character has the added advantage of you seeing the story unfold closely through the eyes of your main protagonist. This intimate view of storytelling can add excitement and tension, thus making writing more thrilling.
Finally, the time span of your book or short story can make your work more compelling. Obviously, the shorter the time span, then the more tense your story is going to be, again very useful for thriller writing. However, a longer time span will allow you to include more details thus creating vivid memorable fiction.
© S P Wilson
Sharon Wilson is an aspiring writer who is serious and passionate about the art and craft of creative writing. She has undertaken several courses in this field and has gained extensive knowledge of writing novels and short stories. Sharon has a keen interest in poetry and is an avid reader. Her blog is dedicated to all writers, especially the new writer: https://sharonswriterstidbits.wordpress.com/
Watched Me and Orson Welles last night - brilliant movie if you haven't see it - and they used this Yowzah word in it (the film is set in 1937): I didn't realize the word had such old roots!
Anyway, talking of literary trivia, I see there's a kerfuffle brewing over the "Oxford Comma".
You may be wondering what all the fuss is about...
It's that little comma that goes before the 'and' in a list, as in:
The protagonist was cold, wet, and tired.
Purists like the Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White and even The Oxford University have argued that it's not strictly necessary - except where the sense demands it.
Oxford Uni has apparently changed its mind and advises students to use its eponymous comma liberally (at least in their internal correspondence.)
This - believe it or not - has caused a bit of a storm, at least in Twitterdom.
My experience has taught me that Americans favor its use whereas UK and Ozlanders tend to leave it out.
It seems such a little thing but...
Personally I prefer its omission if possible, if only to prevent a potential 'hiccup' in the flow of a sentence. But I understand, strictly speaking, it delineates a list more emphatically - and can remove potential confusion.
What to do in your MS submissions? Use common sense, I'd say, and know that leaving the Oxford comma in place probably isn't going to alarm an editor!
Paulo Coelho has a clause in his publishing contract with Harper Collins that allows him to give away some of his books free on the Internet.
After a fan published an online translation of one of his novels, sales of his books offline jumped from a mere 3000 copies to over one million in just three years. His penchant for offering his books free online has apparently made him the most Googled author in history.
Writers get funny about the idea of giving away their writing for free, especially if it's fiction. I guess they feel they should be compensated for all that hard work!
I'm not sure I agree. I mean, if you really want to be a successful fiction author, what do actually need in the long term?
Readers, clearly, fans, followers, a mailing list of potential customers.
What better way to acquire followers than by enabling the maximum amount of readers to actually see your work, enjoy it, send you their reviews and, hopefully, recommend it to others?
It's common knowledge - in the advertising milieu - that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool in the world.
Even Hollywood relies on it. Good WOM in an opening weekend for a movie can turn an obscure flick into a blockbuster - without a penny spent on advertising. It happens all the time.
Okay, so the film, or your book, has to be good. That's a given. But why focus on just the money? Selling books is hard - any publisher will tell you that. Printing books and selling them yourself is also hard - and an expensive option if you're going to just give them away.
But with the Internet you have the opportunity to get your work out there for next to no expense - especially if you already have a website or blog.
I mention all this because I plan to follow in Mr Coehlo's footsteps.
Next week I'll be giving away my latest novel: PSI-KIDS: Willow.
It's about a young foster girl on the trail of a murderer, in which she garners the support of a psychic friend and a ghost to help her.
The subject matter, as far as I can tell, is a little ahead of its time, because it assumes the story's characters have no real issue with psychic phenomena. Though there are some skeptics in the book, the lead characters 'know' that some kind of 'other', some might say 'spirit' world is part of their - and by implication, our - reality.
Publishers I've sent it to have remarked on this aspect and don't believe that modern audiences will yet buy into this scenario.
I disagree. And I intend to prove them wrong by allowing you, my dear subscriber, to download the book for free - so you can read it and, if you like, let me know what you think.
Of course the main criticism leveled at the idea of giving away things is that people tend to regard anything free as essentially without value.
I understand this argument but also know that 'free' also triggers a natural response in the majority of humans which says: must have!
It's a swings and roundabouts thing. And for the sake of getting my latest novel out there, and read, I'm willing to take the risk.
After all, I didn't become a writer for the money. Writing chose me - a long, long time ago!
Why would I want to restrict the number of readers I can reach by placing a barrier - the price tag - in their way?
Basically, whether you, as writer, want to follow this path is a personal issue.
Many writers don't feel validated without a price tag on their work.
But by sticking to the principle that your writing must have a monetary value, you run the risk of alienating the very people you want to reach.
How many of us won't try a new author unless we're given a second hand book - or perhaps by finding an unfamiliar writer at the library first - before we'll invest in paying full price for a novel?
It's human nature to be cautious with our money. Writers are not alone in this. The buying public is the same.
And if you believe in your book, wouldn't you want to get it out there?
I'm not saying this idea is for everyone. Just that you might consider it as a strategy - the old loss leader approach to self publicity.
It's worth a shot, surely.
If you're not convinced yet, I invite you to follow my journey as of next week. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.
In the mean time, look out for your own FREE copy of PSI-KIDS: Willow - the first in a series of hopefully bestselling books - coming to an in-box near you!
© Rob Parnell (2011)
Complete a character questionnaire for each of your main characters or even secondary characters that play a vital role in your story. This way you will know your character(s) well before you start writing about them.Fill in as much information about them as possible. Don’t only answer what you will need in your story. The objective here is to get to know your character till he becomes a ‘live’ person in your mind.
So let’s begin…
1. In a few sentences write down a summary of the plot
2. Character’s personal details
a) First name
3. In a few sentences write down the character’s back story (a bit about his background)
4. The role of the character in your story
a) What are character’s goals?
b) What are character’s motivations?
c) What is the character’s conflict?
d) How will the conflict stop the character from reaching his goal?
e) What is he going to do to overcome the conflict?
f) What problems will crop up during the story?
g) How will those problems get worse?
h) What will the character do to overcome those problems?
i) How will he resolve the conflict?
j) How will your character’s background influence how he behaves in your story?
k) What is the relationship with other characters, if any, in your story?
5. Physical Descriptions
b) Eye colour
c) Hair colour
e) Hair length
g) Shape of face
h) Body type
6. How does his expression change when…
a. He’s with a loved one
b. He’s with someone he dislikes
c. He’s with his boss
d. He’s with a colleague
a) Type? (shy, outgoing, insecure, dominant etc)
b) Distinguishable traits?
c) Mental scars? (Complexes etc)
e) Sense of humour?
i) Overall personality?
j) How does his personality change when he’s experiencing different emotions?
k) How does he act when he feels confident?
l) How does he act when he feels inadequate?
m) What gestures does he use when he talks and thinks?
n) How does he walk? With confidence? Does he slouch or stride?
o) What mannerisms does he have? (Does he fold his arms? Does he flick his hair?)
p) How does he speak? (Clearly, mumble, confidently, drawl etc.)
q) His voice? (Rich, loud, soft, etc)
r) His vocabulary? (Casual, formal, illiterate etc)
s) What does he think when he’s alone?
t) Does he have any secrets he hasn’t disclosed to anyone?
u) His prejudices?
v) Dominant motives?
w) Values most?
x) Desires most?
y) How does he treat those around him? (children, superiors, etc)
z) Any vices or virtues?
8. Likes and dislikes
a) Favourite colour, food, etc
b) Favourite music?
c) Taste in clothing?
d) Does character like something in particular?
e) Does character dislike something in particular?
a) Where does the character live (country, city)?
b) Does character live in a house, apartment etc
c) Does character like where he lives?
d) Does where he lives reflect what kind of person he is?
e) Does he have a favourite room? (Or a piece of furniture or other object etc)
f) Does he have a car? What type? Does the car reflect the person he is?
g) Any hobbies? Personal habits (neat, sloppy etc)
a) Parents names
b) Parents occupations
c) Describe relationship with parents
d) Any siblings?
e) Describe relationship with siblings
f) What kind of childhood did the character have?
g) What kind of adolescence did the character have?
h) What kind of schooling did character undergo? (Private or public? Has this shaped who he is?)
i) What was the highest-level achieved in school?
j) Citizenship/Ethnic Origin?
k) In which country does he currently live?
l) If the country he lives in is not where he was born, why does he live there?
11. Character’s current position
a) Any friends?
b) Any enemies?
d) Has character been married before?
e) Has the character been engaged before?
f) Any children?
g) Most meaningful experience?
h) Any disappointments?
i) What is the character’s goal in life?
j) Attitude towards the opposite sex?
k) Attitude towards life?
a) What kind of job does character currently have?
b) What kind of jobs has the character had previously?
c) Is character content in current employment?
d) If not, what would be their dream job?
13. What do you feel for this character?
Whatever you feel for this character, your emotions must be strong. If they are not, either build on this further or begin building another character altogether.
© Nick Vernon
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