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Thread: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

  1. #36
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bow View Post
    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    What a stupid remark! You write a story set in New Orleans and you think the characters speak the same English you see on the nightly news? Who would read it?
    "Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world." - Bono

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    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    What a stupid remark! You write a story set in New Orleans and you think the characters speak the same English you see on the nightly news? Who would read it?


    Leonard, and other authors, often utilize third person narration. The characters may not often speak, though the reader is privy to what they are thinking.

    Kevin


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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    Leonard, and other authors, often utilize third person narration. The characters may not often speak, though the reader is privy to what they are thinking.

    Kevin
    Another reason not to read him...

    There is a scene in one of the Jesse Stone movies (I want to read the book, but I haven't yet) where he pulls the phone from the wall after speaking to his ex-wife. Later he's sitting with his therapist and describes it as "I had a seminal moment." You can't do that in 3rd person, or you can't do it well. That bit of dialog told you everything that was going on in his head.
    "Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world." - Bono

    "Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip." - Will Rogers

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

  4. #39
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    What a stupid remark! You write a story set in New Orleans and you think the characters speak the same English you see on the nightly news? Who would read it?
    One of Leonard's books involved a hitman from New Orleans, who at one point kills a Black Judge from Detroit, and manages to offend an Albanian shopkeeper. The hitman then realizes that the Albanian is hunting him, while the hitman is in Canada. All the regionalisms are clarified when he is on the phone with his boss, and says. "There's a sign across the street that says: "Chinese and Canadian Food". What's Canadian food?" Try to spell out the dialects involved. Might do the same with Mark Twain.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    What a stupid remark! You write a story set in New Orleans and you think the characters speak the same English you see on the nightly news? Who would read it?
    Not stupid at all. The point Leonard is making with that rule is that a little goes a long way, and that it's easy to (WAY) over-do it when it comes to dialect. Just provide a tiny taste of it in writing, enough to plant the intended dialect in the reader's ear, and then use primarily standard English. The ear will hear it the way it's supposed to sound.

    Conversely, huge sections of Twain are very hard to read--he over-does the dialect. Tastes have changed; readers are much more sophisticated. Dialect doesn't fly anymore unless used very sparingly.

    Leonard is right about that.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Leonard, and other authors, often utilize third person narration. The characters may not often speak, though the reader is privy to what they are thinking.
    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    Another reason not to read him...

    There is a scene in one of the Jesse Stone movies (I want to read the book, but I haven't yet) where he pulls the phone from the wall after speaking to his ex-wife. Later he's sitting with his therapist and describes it as "I had a seminal moment." You can't do that in 3rd person, or you can't do it well. That bit of dialog told you everything that was going on in his head.
    Well, CW, I can see that you and I aren't going to agree on much about writing, eh?

    Are you seriously arguing that writers who use third-person narration are not worth reading?

    You might want to read up on "free indirect discourse" and how real experts use it--writers like Jane Austen, for example. Or Elmore Leonard. Dialogue is sure not the only way--or even the most interesting way--to reveal characters' attitudes and thoughts.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Hmmm- one of the novels I intend to write someday involve a guy who is a natural, subconscious mimic. Everyone he meets loves him, because he sounds just like them. The whole novel would be full of dialect.

    I've roughed out and started a number of novels, but I'm too lazy to flesh them out. I have competed a couple full-length plays, but haven't found any takers yet.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan McCosh View Post
    One of Leonard's books involved a hitman from New Orleans, ....
    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Not stupid at all. The point Leonard is making with that rule is that a little goes a long way, and that it's easy to (WAY) over-do it when it comes to dialect.
    I suppose I'll reconsider it if I ever read him, but so far I've heard nothing that interests me even remotely.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Well, CW, I can see that you and I aren't going to agree on much about writing, eh?

    Are you seriously arguing that writers who use third-person narration are not worth reading?
    What's new. We never see eye to eye in part because you like to misrepresent what I've said and then argue against that. Third-person narration has it's place, and I never said otherwise. First-person also has its place and is very often more compelling.

    It's like playing golf with just a driver and a putter. You can do it, but you don't play your best game when you do.
    "Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world." - Bono

    "Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip." - Will Rogers

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    What's new. We never see eye to eye in part because you like to misrepresent what I've said and then argue against that.
    Hmm... Did I misrepresent what you said? Here's the original exchange. First, Kevin:

    Leonard, and other authors, often utilize third person narration. The characters may not often speak, though the reader is privy to what they are thinking.

    Kevin
    Then you:

    Another reason not to read him...
    Sure sounds like you are saying that an author who uses 3rd person narration is not worth reading, eh? But, rather than "misrepresent" what you said, I asked you for clarification, because I found it hard to believe anyone would make such a claim:

    Are you seriously arguing that writers who use third-person narration are not worth reading?
    And since the only other thing you could be objecting to, if not third person narration, was this part of Kevin's comment:

    The characters may not often speak, though the reader is privy to what they are thinking.
    I suggested you look into the concept of free indirect discourse, which is used by many great writers (including Leonard) to great effect.

    So I'm going to have to rate this comment from you:

    you like to misrepresent what I've said and then argue against that.
    as a full "Pants On Fire" complete falsehood.

    As far as the merits of first-person or third-person narration, each has its place. Each its strengths and limitations. Which one a writer chooses has very little to do with how effective the writing is. I don't think you can make any case beyond personal preference that one is "more compelling" than the other. But go ahead and try if you want. If you do, it would be nice if you could resist the old fake strawman accusation you like to aim my way.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    Leonard, and other authors, often utilize third person narration. The characters may not often speak, though the reader is privy to what they are thinking.

    Kevin


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Leonard is particularly famous for dialogue. His characters tend to say what you always thought you should have said, after the fact.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Hmm... Did I misrepresent what you said?
    Yes, Tom, you did, and I'm not going to continue to engage with you for one simple reason - you aren't as stupid as you pretend to be. You know what I said and you can understand the nuance, but you prefer the attention you get this way. I won't give you that attention.
    "Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world." - Bono

    "Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip." - Will Rogers

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Hmm... Did I misrepresent what you said?
    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    Yes, Tom, you did
    You're just flat wrong about that. You'll believe what you want to believe, apparently, but nothing I said misrepresented what you posted. Not intentionally, and not unintentionally.

    I can't react to what you meant to say. I can only see what you actually posted. And that's what I responded to--accurately. I'm sorry you can't see that. But it's true.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Seems reasonable. As an unpublished novelist I can say with all honesty that the best piece of advice I was ever given was to not give your work to anyone to read until it's finished or modify it in any way once you are satisfied with it. That is the difference between writing for yourself and writing for others, for money. I much prefer doing this for the fun of it.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Mahan View Post
    Do we have any members present who have authored a novel?
    After publishing five books (two poetry, three non-fiction) I spent a year in New Zealand and was so fascinated with the place I lived (Lyttelton Harbour /Banks Peninsula) and the history that I started a novel set there. Worked on it for many years, with encouragement from friends who read drafts. Given the presence of the Mšori language and culture, I wanted to publish it in New Zealand. Found a publisher there, which went bankrupt a year or so later. There are only about five presses that do novels and none wanted to chance a big book by a Yank. One press liked it heaps, but couldn't afford to do it without a large grant (much of NZ publishing is funded by government or tribal grants).

    My US agent liked it but found it too NZ-centric and asked for major revisions that didn't appeal to me. We bounced it back and forth for a couple years, until he died.

    I'm sorting the manuscripts of various drafts for the university archive that holds a collection of my work and papers. I might make another effort to get it into print, or format it for iBooks.

    Since I like writing but have never cared for the business aspects, I've been writing and posting work on a website under a pseudonym: three mysteries in a series, a short sci-fi novel, six short stories, and bunch of poems. Last time I checked there were several thousand readers. No money involved or commissions or PR flacks or book tours or self-promotion. It's been pure fun.

    About Leonard's rules, they apply well to his sort of writing: commercial hardboiled crime fiction. A major point is to avoid underlining or pushing your vision with florid word choices, excess modifiers, or punctuation. Timing, sentence rhythm, and unobtrusive tricks such as parallel structure are less obvious and annoying.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    I'm very impressed and pleased that you posted this. I've had a fantasy about writing something for publication, but alas, I just don't have the whatever it takes to put something worthy all together. I'm glad you have that virtual connection and the chops to post to some virtual acclaim. I'd give someone's leg to be able to say I have several thousand readers.


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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Made up the first paragraph of a western:

    Under a looming, blue-black cloud that threatened rain, the lone stranger rode into the desert valley. His horse, a buckskin dun with a pale gold coat and a black mane and tail, had a pronounced limp. He slumped in the saddle, leaning forward, his head sagging, his broad-brimmed hat casting deep blue shade upon his face. As the conjoined shadow of horse and rider advanced, the glare of the bright sun revealed a trail: hoofprints in the pale, dry dust, and also splashes of bright, red blood.


    Here's a bare-bones edit:

    Under a cloud that threatened rain, the stranger rode into the valley. His horse had a limp. He slumped in the saddle, head sagging, hat casting shade upon his face. As the conjoined shadow of horse and rider advanced, the sun revealed a trail: hoofprints, and splashes of blood.



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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Here’s the opening of my second book, “Judgment Tramp”.

    F0753732-D68F-47A2-B9FC-A76773A3F831.jpg
    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Last edited by leikec; 11-27-2022 at 10:37 PM.
    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Mahan View Post
    I'm very impressed and pleased that you posted this. I've had a fantasy about writing something for publication, but alas, I just don't have the whatever it takes to put something worthy all together. I'm glad you have that virtual connection and the chops to post to some virtual acclaim. I'd give someone's leg to be able to say I have several thousand readers.
    I think that writing is one of those things you do for yourself, like going to the gym or golf. You measure yourself against how well you did the last time, not the guy next to you.

    I write technical reports and decided a few years ago I wanted to write short stories. I can't say that I'm any good, but I am getting better and that gives me satisfaction. I had to learn to write dialog and that was a leap of faith.

    Take an idea that calls to you and do it. Think about what you wrote and then change it if you want. Then pick another topic and try again. Have fun. Who cares what other people think and before you know it you'll be telling stories that are uniquely your own and that will be a good thing.
    "Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world." - Bono

    "Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip." - Will Rogers

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    Made up the first paragraph of a western:

    Under a looming, blue-black cloud that threatened rain, the lone stranger rode into the desert valley. His horse, a buckskin dun with a pale gold coat and a black mane and tail, had a pronounced limp. He slumped in the saddle, leaning forward, his head sagging, his broad-brimmed hat casting deep blue shade upon his face. As the conjoined shadow of horse and rider advanced, the glare of the bright sun revealed a trail: hoofprints in the pale, dry dust, and also splashes of bright, red blood.


    Here's a bare-bones edit:

    Under a cloud that threatened rain, the stranger rode into the valley. His horse had a limp. He slumped in the saddle, head sagging, hat casting shade upon his face. As the conjoined shadow of horse and rider advanced, the sun revealed a trail: hoofprints, and splashes of blood.
    That ain't no bare-bones edit! Try this:

    The stranger rode into the valley.



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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    That ain't no bare-bones edit! Try this:

    The stranger rode into the valley.



    Tom
    You win the Elmore Leonard Prize.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    The stranger rode into the valley.

    Problem is, one might ask: so what? I like to give a reader a bit more detail for starters.

    Joey Ketchup aimed his red Vespa down the exit into a valley he'd never seen before.

    The valley yawned below as he spurred his mount, both tall yet gaunt. His armor showed hints of rust at the joints and his shield, bound to the cantle, was missing flecks of paint from the bold device: three lions, rampant, on a black field.

    Not far from the smoldering wreck of his ship, he shifted his battered weight forward, toward the dark valley, and his flowboard responded with a whir of acceleration.
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 11-28-2022 at 06:36 PM.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Here's the start of Leonard's best-selling book, also a film: Get Shorty.

    So— don't start with the weather?



    Chili. Tommy Carlo. Vesuvio's. Bay Ridge. Momo. Miami. Manzara. Bensonhurst. Sunset Park. Cropsey Ave. Debbie.

    What a friggin' mess. No way I wanna live in that guy's head.
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 11-29-2022 at 12:58 AM.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    The stranger rode into the valley.

    Problem is, one might ask: so what? I like to give a reader a bit more detail for starters.

    Joey Ketchup aimed his red Vespa down the exit into a valley he'd never seen before.

    The valley yawned below as he spurred his mount, both tall yet gaunt. His armor showed hints of rust at the joints and his shield, bound to the cantle, was missing flecks of paint from the bold device: three lions, rampant, on a black field.

    Not far from the smoldering wreck of his ship, he shifted his battered weight forward, toward the dark valley, and his flowboard responded with a whir of acceleration.
    Different aesthetics, not necessarily "better" or "worse" ones. I tend to like the terse, explain-as-little-as-possible, though I can't claim my own writing shows much influence in that direction.

    Raymond Carver. William Faulkner. Virginia Woolf. Hemingway.

    How much detail to share, when how quickly, and with what kind of sentence structures, and how much digression to suit what kind of narrative voice, is part of the fun of deciding how to put a story together. Here's a first sentence I wrote for a story:

    When fire began to fall from the sky and the stars started going out one by one, Burnhardt’s car was in the shop for new brake pads, or maybe the muffler—he’d been through a lot of cars and it was hard to keep track sometimes—so he was stuck at home.
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    You win the Elmore Leonard Prize.
    PM me and I'll give you the address so you can send the check ASAP!

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    That ain't no bare-bones edit! Try this:

    The stranger rode into the valley.



    Tom
    The blood on the ground caught the attention of the bounty hunter.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Some of these echo what I, and many others, think of as one of the greatest novel openers ever. Stephen King from, The Gunslinger.

    The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.


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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    It might be only a mental exercise, but it might be enlightening if it were possible, to read maybe a dozen other published and well-regarded literary type's ten rules for writing a novel.

    Off the top of my head: John Steinbeck, Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Jack London, Mark Helprin, Thomas Wolfe, Hermann Hesse, Charles Dickens. One stretch of one of my modest bookshelves.

    That's a dozen. I am positive the literate members present could name another dozen equally well known with equal facility. Maybe it's not a stretch to assert that a dozen lists of dozens could easily come from such a common effort. I doubt that any of these writers ever left an actual ten rule tablet of guidance for aspiring writers. I am equally sure that each of these men (apologies for not having an equal slate of women writers to mind) if they haven't published the story of their own coming of age literarally, would've had an afternoon's advice on the topic. I seem to remember Robert Heinlien and Jack London as well as James Joyce writing about how they manifested their urge to write and get published.

    A possible way to arrive at a useful facsimile of the author's lists would be to pull their works from the shelves and reread with the specific intent to shake out what their lists might have been. And what I take from this thought experiment is the essential advice I've heard from various creditable sources over the years that the important thing is to just do it. Sit at a desk or stand at the refrigerator and make words on paper or poke them up on-screen and hit save. I wish I could take that advice, lock myself in here, and grunt out verbiage until something coherent to a stranger not my therapist would have some appeal.

    ***

    I just remembered this from way way back when I was a kid in the air force in Taiwan. I got a temporary assignment, randomly because it was a chore someone had to do, to be an escort for uncleared people that needed for one reason or another to be allowed into the secure classified facility to do some work or other, and to be a general go-fer for the ancient zebra who took care of all such things as his daily duties. This old black master sargent named Rudy, who was known and loved by everyone, would wander seemingly at random during the work day, all over the little air station on top the hill across the strait from mainland China, doing various tasks, and every month or so a new junior enlisted guy like me would be tagged for the duty. So Rudy and I and another guy who was a more or less full-time Rudy assistant, would do these things until break time, when Rudy announced it, and we would head over to the Dragon Inn, our dining hall, and sit at a table with coffee for as long as Rudy thought it was prudent. And during one such moment, feeling at ease with these two guys, I made some comment that started to turn into a Jimmy story, and when I was done, and the coffee cups were empty, Rudy pushed back his chair and said he had to go burn some confidential documents (euphemism for dropping a deuce) while Bob went to somewhere for some other specific that needed done, and then he looked at me and said,

    "Loquacious, you wait for me outside, and when someone asks you what you're doing, you tell them nunya, and if they give you any guff, tell them to go fck themselves, and if they don't like that, you tell them to come see me and I'll tell them to go fck themself."

    He called me Loquacious. Reference to me doing the thing that my older brother Tom was referring to when he tagged my propensity for being wordy as 'another Jimmy story.'


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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Never had a set of rules for writing, but I do pay attention to my instincts.

    I try to be dependable without being predictable.

    Two books that I like: How Fiction Works by James Wood and On Moral Fiction by John Gardner.

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