The 9 Ingredients of Character Development

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The 9 Ingredients of Character Development


by Tom Pawlik

I remember back when cameras had something inside them called film that you had to get developed. For those of you college-aged or younger, that’s where a technician would treat the film with some chemicals inside a mysterious darkened room, and an image would magically appear on the special paper. But if the process went awry, you could end up with an underdeveloped image that was dark or fuzzy, or one that was over-exposed and therefore too washed out to see clearly. The key to getting a crisp clear photograph largely depended on how the technician developed the film.


If we want readers to have a vibrant mental image of our characters, we have to spend some time in the dark room. And that is what’s called a metaphor.




I don’t write character-driven novels. Heck, I’m not even sure what the term means. I used to think it was when an author spent hundreds of pages muddling around inside a character’s head just to fill the gaps between a couple paragraphs of action.


I prefer to write plot-driven suspense thrillers. But how does the low-brow thriller writer create good characters? I’m still a novice on the subject so this is by no means a definitive exposition, just 9 ingredients I jotted down to make a clever acrostic: CHARACTER.


  1. Communication style: How does your character talk? Does she favor certain words or phrases that make her distinct and interesting? What about the sound of her voice? Much of our personality comes through our speech, so think about the way your character is going to talk. Her style of communication should be distinctive and unique.


  1. History: Where does your character come from? Think out his childhood and adolescence. What events shaped his personality? What did his father do for a living? How about his mother? How many siblings does he have? Was it a loving family or an abusive, dysfunctional one? What events led him to the career choices he made? You may not need to provide all this background to your reader, but it’s good to know as the writer. It helps give him substance in your mind as well.


  1. Appearance: What does she look like? This may be the least important ingredient to make your character a person to the reader, but you should still know it in your own mind. Not every character needs to be drop-dead gorgeous, by the way. Most people aren’t.


  1. Relationships: What kind of friends and family does he have? How does he relate to them? Is he very social or reclusive, or somewhere in between? People can be defined by the company they keep, so this can be a good way to define your character.


  1. Ambition: Just as this is the central letter of the acrostic, so too this concept is absolutely central to your character and plot. What is her passion in life? What goal is she trying to accomplish through your story? What is her unrecognized, internal need and how will she meet it?


  1. Character defect: Everyone has some personality trait that irritates his friends or family. Is he too self-centered? Too competitive? Too lazy? Too compliant? Too demanding of others? Don’t go overboard on this. After all, you want your reader to like the character. But he’ll feel more real if he has some flaw. This is usually connected to his unrecognized need (see Ambition) and often gets resolved through his character arch.


  1. Thoughts: What kind of internal dialogue does your character have? How does she think through her problems and dilemmas? Is her internal voice the same as her external? If not, does this create internal conflict for her? In real life we don’t have the benefit of knowing someone’s innermost thoughts, but a novel allows us to do just that, so use it to your advantage.


  1. Everyman-ness: How relatable is your character? While James Bond is fun to watch on screen, most of us aren’t uber-trained special agent-assassins so it’s a little hard to relate to him on a personal level. On the other hand, Kurt Russell’s character in the movie Breakdown was far more ordinary and relatable, creating a more visceral experience. Be careful not to make your character too elite or he may be too difficult to live vicariously through. And that, after all, is the key to suspense.


  1. Restrictions: More than a personality flaw, what physical or mental weakness must your character overcome through her arch? After all, even Superman had Kryptonite. This helps humanize your character, making her more sympathetic and relatable.


The goal is to make your readers feel something for your character. The more they care about them, the more emotion they’ll invest in your story. And maybe that’s the secret.


Maybe every novel is character-driven after all.


The 7 Deadly Dialogue Sins

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The 7 Deadly Dialogue Sins

By Dave Trottier

After decades in the biz, these are the dialogue errors I see over and over again:


  1. Obvious exposition.



Husband: “Darling, how long have we been married now?”


Wife: “Silly, it’s been 20 years.  Remember Hawaii—the North Shore?”


Husband: “Oh yeah, that little honeymoon cottage.”


When your characters seem to be speaking more to the audience than to each other, you are being obvious.  When two characters tell each other things they both already know, that’s almost always “obvious exposition.”  Allow exposition to emerge naturally in the context of the story; don’t force anything.


  1. Exaggeration.


I recently read a script where every single character used the f-bomb in most of their speeches.  It gave me the impression that the screenwriter lacked imagination and/or did not understand his characters enough to know how they talked and/or was exaggerating the emotions of the characters to compensate for weak motivation or story context.


Oh, and by the way, just one exclamation point is plenty; and you may not need the one.  In Shawshank Redemption, the warden approaches Andy who is in solitary confinement.  He tells Andy that the man who could prove his innocence is dead.  Andy tells the warden to have H&R Block do his taxes; he’s done.  Then, in the screenplay, the warden yells at Andy; but in the movie, the warden’s speech is whispered with intensity.  The movie version is more effective.


Most writers have a tendency to exaggerate character emotions.  I remember recently explaining to a writer that five of her characters sobbed at various times in the script.  That’s overwriting. Sometimes, trying to control emotion has more impact than actually expressing emotion.


  1. Derivative dialogue.


Avoid clichés and lines we’ve heard in other movies.  An occasional allusion to another movie or literary work can be effective, but I’ve already heard “We’re not in Kansas anymore” at least a hundred times (or so it seems).


  1. Everyday pleasantries.


Sue: “Hi!”


Bill: “How are you?”


Sue: “Fine.”


Bill: “How’s the dog these days?”


Sue: “Getting along great.”


Boring.  Avoid chit-chat, unless it is original and interesting.  (See #7 below.)


On rare occasions, there can be a dramatic purpose for such talk.  Recall the scene in Fatal Attraction when the Michael Douglas character walks into his home and sees his wife talking to his lover.  At this point,his wife does not know about his affair.  Then, his wife makes formal introductions.


Dan (Michael Douglas): “I don’t believe we’ve met.”


Alex (Glenn Close):  “…Oh, we’ve definitely met.”


This is one of the rare instances where chit-chat is dramatic and suspenseful.


  1. Unnecessary repetition.


Repeating a particular phrase or line can be effective, as with “Here’s looking at you, Kid” in Casablanca.  One instance sets up the next.


The kind of repetition that seldom works dramatically is repeating information the audience already heard a couple of scenes ago.  It creates a sense of stasis, and the story feels like it’s dragging.


  1. No room for subtext.


This is obvious writing, but in a different sense than with #1 above.  Here we have characters saying precisely what they are thinking or feeling.  In other words, the subtext is stated rather than implied.


Generally, you’re best off having characters beat around the bush, imply their meaning, speak metaphorically, say one thing by saying something else, or use the double entendre.


No, you don’t need room for subtext in every single speech.


  1. Unoriginal speeches.


This is similar to #3, but it has a different dimension.  When a character’s speeches could be delivered by any character in the screenplay, you have a problem.  I am referring to typical, ordinary, expected lines that virtually anyone could have said and that have little originality.


In addition, when you characters speak far too often in complete sentences, they are likely saying your words rather than their words.  Giving your characters their own voices will strengthen your voice as a writer.

Ten Ways to Avoid Gender Bias

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Ten Ways to Avoid Gender Bias – DailyWritingTips






How do you write around the outmoded usage of the pronoun he or him when a male is not necessarily the subject of the reference? Here are ten strategies — none ideal in every circumstance — for achieving gender neutrality.

  1. Use He or She


Before: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation.”

After: “Ask the student whether he or she is prepared to give a presentation.”

This solution is stiffly formal and is awkward in repetition; use sparingly. Using he/she, s/he, or any such alternative (or an invented neutral pronoun like ze) is not advised.

  1. Alternate Between He and She


Before: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation. If he is ready, tell him that he may begin when he is ready.”

After: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation. If she is ready, tell her that she may begin when she is ready.”

This solution works only in the case of two or more references to a hypothetical subject of either gender. In the proximity of the references in the examples, this solution is awkward, but when the references are at some distance from each other, it can be effective in moderation.

  1. Omit the Pronoun


Before: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation.”

After: “Ask whether the student is prepared to give a presentation.”

This revision does not clearly indicate whether the student or another person is being asked; writers must recognize and respond to such lack of clarity if it affects comprehension.

  1. Repeat the Noun in Place of the Pronoun


Before: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation.”

After: “Ask the student whether the student is prepared to give a presentation.”

When the noun is repeated in the proximity shown above, the sentence is awkward; in a more complex sentence, the repetition may not seem so obvious.

  1. Use a Plural Antecedent for the Pronoun


Before: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation.”

After: “Ask the students whether they are prepared to give their presentations.”

Employing a plural noun and a plural pronoun may change the meaning somewhat; writers must be alert as to which other nouns, if any, should be made plural as well.

  1. Replace the Pronoun with an Article


Before: “Ask the student to prepare his presentation.”

After: “Ask the student to prepare a presentation.”

  1. Revise the Sentence to Use the Pronoun One


Before: “A prepared student is more likely to succeed than if he has not done sufficient research.”

After: “A prepared student is more likely to succeed than an unprepared one.”

  1. Revise the Sentence to Use the Pronoun Who


Before: “A student is more likely to succeed if he does sufficient research.”

After: “A student who does sufficient research is more likely to succeed.”

  1. Revise the Sentence to the Imperative Mood


Before: “A student must be well prepared for his presentation.”

After: “Be well prepared for the presentation.”

  1. Use a Plural Pronoun


Before: “Ask the student whether he is prepared to give a presentation.”

After: “Ask the student whether they are prepared to give a presentation.”

Many writers reject this solution because traditional grammar rules frown on using a plural pronoun when the antecedent is a singular noun. However, the bewildering absence of a gender-neutral plural pronoun in English calls for a radical solution. This one is widely used in informal writing and in conversation, and it’s commonsensical to welcome it in formal writing. That welcome, however, has not yet been forthcoming, and, regrettably, writers should use the plural pronouns them and they in place of singular pronouns with caution.


Some writers reject the notion that one should avoid gender-specific pronouns in universal contexts at all. After all, why change long-standing usage that has only recently been challenged? But these writers, though sensible in the logic of their argument, are culturally insensitive and, ultimately, are on the wrong side of linguistic history. I hope, too, that integration of the singular they and them in any usage will eventually occur.

Rap VS Wrap

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Rap VS Wrap-DailyWriting Tips

rap – Verb: Strike (a hard surface) with a series of rapid audible blows, esp. in order to attract attention: “he stood up and rapped the table”; “she rapped angrily on the window”.

wrap – Verb: Cover or enclose (someone or something) in paper or soft material.
Noun: A loose outer garment or piece of material.


Bare VS Bear

Bare – Adjective: (of a person or part of the body) Not clothed or covered.
Verb: Uncover (a part of the body or other thing) and expose it to view: “he bared his chest”.

Bear – verb (used with object)
1. to hold up; support: to bear the weight of the roof.
2. to hold or remain firm under (a load): The roof will not bear the strain of his weight.
3. to bring forth (young); give birth to: to bear a child.


Breathe VS Breath

Breathe –
–verb (used without object)
1. to take air, oxygen, etc., into the lungs and expel it; inhale and exhale; respire.
2. (in speech) to control the outgoing breath in producing voice and speech sounds.
3. to pause, as for breath; take rest: How about giving me a chance to breathe?

Breath –
1. the air inhaled and exhaled in respiration.
2. respiration, especially as necessary to life.
3. life; vitality.


s (belonging to it) and it’s (it is)
their (belonging to them), there (farther away than here) and they’re (they are)

than (as in a comparison) and then (not now)

And some others that I notice sometimes:

wring, v. (esp. as in “wring out”)
1 : to squeeze or twist especially so as to make dry or to extract moisture or liquid <wring a towel dry>

ring, v.
1 : to sound resonantly or sonorously <the doorbell rang> <cheers rang out>
(of course also a ton of other senses)

and the ever-present nightmare…

effect, n.
2: something that inevitably follows an antecedent (as a cause or agent)

effect, v.
2: to cause to come into being <to effect change>

affect, v.
1: to produce an effect upon: as a : to produce a material influence upon or alteration in <paralysis affected his limbs> b : to act upon (as a person or a person’s mind or feelings) so as to produce a response : influence

So if you influence (change) something, you AFFECT it, but you have an EFFECT on it.

If you EFFECT something, you cause it to happen.

Not to mention the complication of…

affect, n.
2 : the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes; also : a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion <patients … showed perfectly normal reactions and affects>

So how you appear is your AFFECT. And you can consciously choose to appear a certain way by AFFECTING (affect, v.) a certain attitude or appearance:

3: to make a display of liking or using : cultivate <affect a worldly manner>
4 : to put on a pretense of : feign <affect indifference, though deeply hurt>


Lose vs. Loose.
Loose – not tight

Lose – opposite of win


Marshal vs Marshall

Marshal is a rank or title (ie: Territorial Marshal Sam Cain). Marshall is a proper name, common both as a first and a last name.


Lightning vs. Lightening

Lightning – the flash of light before thunder during a storm

Lightening – becoming lighter or less dark



Lay Vs Lie


By Brian A. Klems
Q: In the battle of lay vs. lie, when do you use each and can you provide examples? —Annemarie V.

Don’t forget about “lain,” my friend! All these verbs have two things in common: They begin with the letter “L” and confuse the bejeezus out of many people. But here’s a simple breakdown that will hopefully help you decipher when to use each one and when to use their past-tense equivalents (I’ve also included a handy chart at the end to help, but we’ll get to that later).

Lay and lie are both present-tense verbs, but they don’t mean quite the same thing. Lay means to put or set something down, so if the subject is acting on an object, it’s “lay.” For example, I lay down the book. You, the subject, set down the book, the object.

Lie, on the other hand, is defined as, “to be, to stay or to assume rest in a horizontal position,” so the subject is the one doing the lying—I lie down to sleep or When I pick up a copy of my favorite magazine, Writer’s Digest, I lie down to take in all its great information—and not acting on an object. In both these cases, you, the subject, are setting yourself down. Are you with me so far?
I Lie Down vs. Now I Lay Me Down (to Sleep)

To clarify things further, I’ll answer this question that you’re probably wondering: How can you be lying down in your examples while the classic nighttime prayer for kids clearly begins “Now I lay me down to sleep”? You must be out of your mind! It’s true, I’m totally out of my mind, but both the examples I used and the kids’ prayer are correct—and here’s why.

In I lie down to sleep, there is no object to the sentence, just subject (I). In Now I lay me down to sleep, there is a subject (I) and an object (me). Even though the subject and object are one and the same, the object is still present in the sentence, so you must use lay.
Laid vs. Lay vs. Lain

In the past tense, “lay” becomes “laid” (Last week I laid down the law and told her it was inappropriate for her to pick her nose) and “lie” becomes “lay” (Yesterday she lay down for a nap that afternoon and picked her nose anyway). Yes, “lay” is also the past tense of “lie.” And the confusion doesn’t end there.

To throw you for another loop, “laid” is also the past participle form of “lay.” So, when helping verbs are involved, “lay” becomes “laid” and “lie” becomes “lain.” Grandma had laid the chicken in the oven earlier this morning. The chicken had lain there all day until it was cooked all the way through and ready for us to eat.

Remember: Lay and laid both mean to set something down, while lie, lay and lain all mean the subject is setting itself down.

And now, I lay this question to rest. (Enjoy this totally awesome chart below to help you keep track of when to use lay, lie, laid, lain and more.)
Lay vs. Lie Chart

Infinitive    Definition         Present    Past    Past Participle    Present Participle

to lay      to put or place     lay(s)      laid     laid                  laying
something down

to lie     to rest or recline    lie(s)       lay      lain                  lying

How to Write Better Heroes and Villains: Archetypes

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How to Write Better Heroes and Villains: Archetypes

by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Archetypes are the core character models of storytelling, found in nearly all books. The famous psychologist Carl Jung is known for his work on archetypes, and he also developed a personality typology that sheds light on how humans approach life and do what they do. This information can be adapted and applied to the task of creating motivated, compelling characters.

For example, we all know that James Bond likes martinis. But let’s go a step further: Deep down, who is Bond, really?

Bond’s identity as a spy is the most important thing in his life. He’s a real workaholic and is highly observant and analytical. He sets several traps, and in different rooms. He calmly checks all of them. He anticipates what the villain might do, drawing on his years of experience. His deep inner world is that of a man who is suspicious yet professional.

Bond is an archetype: the Businessman.

Knowing the archetypes and their traits is key to decoding what motivates your characters—and bringing them to life for readers. Here are some of the main archetypes.
Female Heroes and Villains

The Seductive Muse

• Loves to be the center of attention, is smart and creative, enjoys sex, loves her body and feels deeply. Think Cleopatra.
• As a villain, the Seductive Muse becomes the Femme Fatale who deliberately uses her charms to control men.
• Physically centered, extroverted, great at listening.
• Occupations: artistic type (poet, sculptor, actress).
• Belief: All acts of love and pleasure are sacred.
• Motivated by: self-actualization.

The Amazon

• Loves nature and animals, values womanhood, is unafraid, willing to fight to the death, wants to be self-sufficient. Think Xena.
• As a villain, the Amazon becomes the Gorgon, who rages against injustices and is merciless.
• Physically centered, extroverted, intuitive, evaluates situations via her emotional response.
• Occupations: realistic type (laborer, activist, gardener, soldier, store owner).
• Belief: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Face your fears head on.
• Motivated by: survival.

The Matriarch

• Loves to be with family, enjoys entertaining, committed to her marriage, dreams about her wedding day. If she isn’t married, she may run a business as if it were her family. Think Roseanne Conner in “Roseanne.”
• As a villain, the Matriarch becomes the Scorned Woman who is passive-aggressive and needs to be in control.
• Physically centered, extroverted, receives information by means of the senses, great at looking and listening, evaluates situations via her emotional response.
• Occupations: enterprising type (politician, lawyer, judge).
• Belief: Always make time for your mate.
• Motivated by: love, belonging and respect.

The Mystic

• Loves to be alone, tries to keep the peace, pays attention to details, spiritual, spacey. Think Phoebe Buffay on “Friends.”
• As a villain, the Mystic becomes the Betrayer who snaps and uses a fake persona to deceive others.
• Spiritually centered, introverted, evaluates situations via her emotional response, intuitive.
• Occupations: artistic type.
• Belief: Stop the chatter of your mind, listen to the silence and follow your own path.
• Motivated by: aesthetic need for balance.

The Female Messiah

• Cares more for others than herself, has strong beliefs, inner strength and conviction that never dies. Think Joan of Arc. (Messiah characters can also embody other archetypes.)
• As a villain, the Female Messiah becomes the Destroyer, who may hurt the few to save the many.
• Spiritually centered, introverted, intuitive.
• Occupations: enterprising type.
• Belief: One person alone can change the entire world.
• Motivated by: aesthetic need to be connected to something greater.

The Maiden

• Loves to play and go to parties, loves variety, sensitive, needs protection, may be close to her mother, adventurous. Think Lucy Ricardo in “I Love Lucy.”
• As a villain, the Maiden becomes the Troubled Teen who’s self-centered, irresponsible and out of control.
• Emotionally centered, introverted, receives information by means of the senses, great at looking and listening.
• Occupations: conventional type (cashier, flight attendant, bartender).
• Belief: Returning to my innocence feeds my soul.
• Motivated by: safety and security.
Male Heroes and Villains

The Businessman

• Has a strong will to get things done, thrives on order, loyal, trustworthy, loves work and being part of a team, very logical thinker. Think James Bond.
• As a villain, the Businessman becomes the Traitor who will do anything to bring order into his life.
• Mentally centered, extroverted, receives information rationally or logically, intuitive.
• Occupations: investigative type.
• Belief: I am as solid as a rock. I am very decisive.
• Motivated by: self-esteem.

The Protector

• Is very physical, will fight to save others, adventurous, enjoys travel, in touch with his body. Think Rocky Balboa in Rocky.
• As a villain, the Protector becomes the Gladiator who is out for the lust of battle and blood.
• Physically centered, extroverted, evaluates situations by his emotional response, receives information by means of the senses, great at looking and listening.
• Occupations: realistic type.
• Belief: I am independent and don’t care about approval.
• Motivated by: survival.

The Recluse

• Prefers to be left alone, sensitive, philosophical, reliable, discerning. Think Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe.
• As a villain, the Recluse becomes the Warlock who uses his knowledge to harm others.
• Spiritually centered, introverted, receives information by means of the senses, great at looking and listening.
• Occupations: artistic type.
• Belief: Listen to the still quiet voice.
• Motivated by: the need to know and understand.

The Artist

• Loves to create and change things, instinctual, full of passion, intense, street-smart. Think Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.
• As a villain, the Artist becomes the Abuser who’s only out for revenge. He’ll never let it go.
• Emotionally centered, typically extroverted (but can be introverted).
• Occupations: artistic and social type.
• Belief: My work reflects what I feel inside, good or bad, tragic or magic.
• Motivated by: survival.

The Male Messiah

• Questions authority, is disciplined, has inner strength, will sacrifice himself for the good of all, has strong beliefs. Think Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.
• As a villain, the Male Messiah becomes the Punisher who kills a man’s spirit in order to transform that man.
• Spiritually centered, introverted, intuitive.
• Occupations: enterprising type.
• Belief: Stay focused on your goals, persevere and you will be rewarded.
• Motivated by: the aesthetic need to be connected to something greater than himself.

The King

• Needs family or group to rule over, forms alliances easily, loyal, giving, decisive, strong. Think Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos.”
• As a villain, the King becomes the Dictator whose need to control others becomes an obsession.
• Mentally centered, extroverted, receives information rationally or logically or by means of the senses, great at looking and listening.
• Occupations: enterprising type.
• Belief: Speak your mind and hold steady when others are unstable.
• Motivated by: self-esteem and self-respect.

Capitalization Rules for Names of Historical Periods and Movements

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Capitalization Rules for Names of Historical Periods and Movements – DailyWritingTips



Capitalization Rules for Names of Historical Periods and Movements




When are designations for historically significant phenomena treated with initial capital letters, and when are the names rendered with lowercase letters? Exceptions, as always, are available to confound us, but the rules are fairly straightforward.


Names of political and cultural periods or events are often capitalized in their original connotations, but when such nomenclature is used by extension in a generic sense, the designations are (usually) lowercased. For example, one should write, for example, “The arts and sciences flourished during the Renaissance,” but “The downtown district is experiencing a renaissance.” (However, to describe someone as well rounded in skills or talents, write “He’s a Renaissance man” even when he is not a contemporary of Michelangelo.)


The same distinction applies for such terms as “golden age” (“The Golden Age was the first of Hesiod’s Ages of Man,” but “Jazz music has experienced several golden ages”) and “belle époque” (“The period of peace and optimism in France in the nearly half century before World War I came to be known retrospectively as the Belle Époque,” but “They look back on that prosperous period as a belle époque”).


Similarly, one would write “China’s infamous Cultural Revolution was a decade-long time of great turmoil,” but “American society has undergone a cultural revolution of late,” and while references to the mid-twentieth-century tension between Western nations and the Communist Bloc capitalize “Cold War,” any such conflict without open hostilities is a cold war.


The Enlightenment was a specific cultural movement in Europe and Britain’s American colonies during the 1600s and 1700s, or a similar era in any one of several countries. Generic usage is as follows: “In the Western world, the concept of enlightenment in a religious context acquired a romantic meaning.” However, in specific usage, enlightenment is capitalized: “The Russian Enlightenment is a period in the eighteenth century in which the government in Russia began to actively encourage the proliferation of arts and sciences.”


Adjectives preceding names of political entities are often erroneously capitalized. No civilization has ever gone by the official name of Ancient Greece or Imperial Rome, for example; the first word in such designations is generally a mere descriptor and is therefore lowercased: “The course is a general overview of the history of ancient Greece”; “This essay will discuss the economic structure of imperial Rome.”

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