First Time Writer, Opening Chapter excerpt.

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Archus

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Hi all, I am new here and also new to writing. The story I am writing is one that has been in my head and on scraps of paper, music, and amateur art (as in stick men) for the past five years. I recently decided I wanted to get it down on paper, because that was ultimately what I was aiming for; a book.

Unfortunately, I cannot write.

I have had to revisit a lot of basic grammar, and generally learn everything I did at High School, because I had not done anything remotely literate for a good few years, and that includes my school papers.

So what I would like is to post the opening of the first chapter to see if I am on the right lines with sentence structure, atmosphere, pace, et cetera. Critique is obviously welcome, but be kind (well, sort of :D)

====
Chapter One - An Unwelcome Sight
The monster is loose, there is no doubt about that. The angel next to the monster's hunter was kneeling in prayer, and was silent. An assured reaction, for the angel was made of stone. The Hunter posed above the labyrinth of alleyways, slowly becoming as still and cold as the stone angel next to him, both of them becoming clothed in the shadow of the night.
... something else we have in common. The Hunter thought, as he looked upon the angel. The angel started to cry, and the Hunter followed a single tear, watching it trail down the angel's smooth, hand carved cheek and fall down to the alley below. It accompanied the countless other tears the heavens started to cry.
The hunter now gazed upon the maze, the plundering rain doing little to deter his sight. Through the streaking haze he caught sight of someone running. Running, along the outside the alleys. A safe bet for any man; the path was wide enough, and straight enough so he could see for a good distance in either direction. Unfortunately, so could anyone else.

Or, any thing else.

The monster is loose. It was the latter that was after the man. It was the latter that he was interested in. The man's name was James, and after catching sight of the man running, the Hunter instantly drew to investigate what James was running from. A little ways back along the path James ran on, the Hunter saw his monster. Actually, he saw two. He now has a target. So do they, he thought. After catching sight of his target he followed them with his keen eyes, careful not to give away his position next to the crying angel for fear of losing them (or worse, losing James to them).
James ran through the darkness confident of his escape. He raced into and through the alleys. And pressed on for his life, clinging onto the postulate that his speed would outmatch their determination. Yet determined they were.

But so was the Hunter.

Both parties had stopped; the monsters to regather their direction, and James to regather his mind, slumped with his back against a wall. Satisfied at their negligence the Hunter emerged from his shaded tomb and stared at the scene that was painted before him: a haunting vista of a skyline raped the horizon and tore at the union of sky and earth, emitting cold colours of red, orange, blue and white that only a city alive and yet dead could pull off.
The Hunter knew how the sky looked, and in response looked down to the streets below him. Glancing at both James and his target the Hunter noted that they had not moved, and among the desolate back-streets and unearthly silence of the street ahead, the target had no need to move. Silently the Hunter urged the man to move on. Somewhere... anywhere.

The target began to move...

The monsters honed in on James, and he knew nothing of this. He was blind and mute in his perception as well as his motions among the alleys. James did not know where he was, but the Hunter did.
The Hunter was also horrified at the mistake James made by stopping against a wall. You can always rely on their sort to make such errors. The Hunter thought. With his piercing eyes he made a visual memory of what lay before him. To him, the wall was at the bottom, leading to a dead street (cutting from left to right, or from right to left depending on the traffic). A second alley cut across the the first nearer to the wall than the street, forming the symbol of Saint Peter.

‘An inverted crucifix…’ He noted.
The Hunter made his move. The thunder and rain of the night sang in harmony with his movements, masking his sounds with nature’s own. Swiftly gliding among the slick rooftops, he came to the dank alley where they were. The clouds blotted out any moonlight that might have breathed out his position. And with his attire, his shape and colour matched the black clouds that disrupt the beauty of the night sky.

====
This has already gone through I think about three revisions.
 

catseyekitty

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Well, I hope to be the answer to your prayers! Let's see what I can suggest to help you out...
______________________________________________________________________

Chapter One - An Unwelcome Sight
The monster is loose, there is no doubt about that. The angel next to the monster's hunter was kneeling in prayer, and was silent (Here you shouldn't confuse the reader so much with the ownage issue, but rather discribe the Angel, like the position of the wings, where the eyes were facing, and place importance in such things... like the eyes could see a piece of the setting that needs to be formed. Then, bam, this angel isn't alive! It's stone! It's usually a pleasing shock to the reader. Oh, and a bit more shock to reveal its' material... after all, the angel was mentioned for a reason that, as a writer, we often don't understand until an english teacher rips it into devices and symbolism... but it's still important) An assured reaction, for the angel was made of stone. The Hunter posed above the labyrinth of alleyways, slowly becoming as still and cold as the stone angel next to him, both of them becoming clothed in the shadow of the night.
... something else we have in common. (The line of thought here is a bit thrown off. The comparison should be more clear. At this point more description of the Hunter (which a synonim would be a breath of fresh air, by the way) should be woven in...)The Hunter thought, as he looked upon the angel. The angel started to cry, and the Hunter followed a single tear, watching it trail down the angel's smooth, hand carved cheek and fall down to the alley below. It accompanied the countless other tears the heavens started to cry.
The hunter now gazed upon the maze, the plundering rain doing little to deter his sight. Through the streaking haze he caught sight of someone running. Running, along the outside the alleys. A safe bet for any man; the path was wide enough, and straight enough so he could see for a good distance in either direction. Unfortunately, so could anyone else.


Or, any thing else.


The monster is loose, there is no doubt about that. (I assume this is a bit of James' voice, so it should segway back to the first words to make it more catching. It's like announcing 'This is important!'). It was the latter that was after the man (Bit too confusioning here... perhaps explain why the hunter believe it's thee monster, perhaps a vague description of a shadowy shape?... or perhaps describe the running man's features... and I would cut out what's in lilac). It was the latter that he was interested in. The man's name was James (not quite a good place to put a name, especially if it is a character who had been introduced yet.), and after catching sight of the man running, the Hunter instantly drew to investigate what James was running from. A little ways back along the path James ran on, the Hunter saw his monster. Actually, he saw two. He now has a target. So do they, he thought. (Too quick here... it needs to be more of a realisation that people make. Like he thinks it's one until he almost makes the mistake of attacking and notices the second... and has to draw back to replan) After catching sight of his target he followed them with his keen eyes, careful not to give away his position next to the crying angel for fear of losing them (or worse, losing James to them) (I'm a bit bit confused of how the Hunter and James are assositated...do they even know each other? If not, why does the hunter care? This is all important...).
James ran through the darkness confident of his escape (I'd be scared out of my wits... not confident....). He raced into and through the alleys. And pressed on for his life, clinging onto the postulate that his speed would outmatch their determination. Yet determined they were.
But so was the Hunter.


Both parties had stopped; the monsters to regather their direction, and James to regather his mind, slumped with his back against a wall. Satisfied at their negligence the Hunter emerged from his shaded tomb and stared at the scene that was painted before him: a haunting vista of a skyline raped the horizon and tore at the union of sky and earth, emitting cold colours of red, orange, blue and white that only a city alive and yet dead could pull off. (This should be at the beggining since it kills off the rise coming from the chase...it would be too much of a let down. Make the suspenseful mood high!)
The Hunter knew how the sky looked, and in response looked down to the streets below him. (A bit of a throwaway sentence...) Glancing at both James and his target the Hunter noted that they had not moved, and among the desolate back-streets and unearthly silence of the street ahead, the target had no need to move. Silently the Hunter urged the man to move on. Somewhere... anywhere.
The target began to move...


The monsters honed in on James, and he knew nothing of this (Specify who this is...). He was blind and mute in his perception as well as his motions among the alleys. James did not know where he was, but the Hunter did.
The Hunter was also horrified at the mistake James made by stopping against a wall. You can always rely on their sort to make such errors. The Hunter thought. With his piercing eyes he made a visual memory of what lay before him. To him, the wall was at the bottom, leading to a dead street (cutting from left to right, or from right to left depending on the traffic). A second alley cut across the the first nearer to the wall than the street, forming the symbol of Saint Peter.
‘An inverted crucifix…’ He noted. (Wouldn't a hunter of his caliber have already noted every detail of his surroundings as he waited as not to be caught unaware?)
The Hunter made his move. The thunder and rain of the night sang in harmony with his movements, masking his sounds with nature’s own. Swiftly gliding among the slick rooftops, he came to the dank alley where they were. The clouds blotted out any moonlight that might have breathed out his position. And with his attire, his shape and colour matched the black clouds that disrupt the beauty of the night sky. (Ack! More! I'd love to read more!)


So, I really like what you're heading towards. Having others edit your work is difficult (I know) and I'm sorry if I'm being tough...but I want to see this succeed.
 
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Archus

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ah thank you. Don't worry about being too harsh, I need to learn. Chances are I won't make the corrections immediately, I'll read some material on how to write better and then revisit it. I'm not under any pressure from any publisher or agent so I'll revisit it at my own leisure. Thank you so much for your input, it means a lot.
 

JDP

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The monster is loose, there is no doubt about that.

Tense - the rest is written in the past tense, whereas this is present; the monster was loose, there was no doubt about that.

The angel next to the monster's hunter was kneeling in prayer, and was silent. An assured reaction, for the angel was made of stone. The Hunter posed above the labyrinth of alleyways, slowly becoming as still and cold as the stone angel next to him, both of them becoming clothed in the shadow of the night. ... something else we have in common. The Hunter thought, as he looked upon the angel.

It would probably be clearer here if you just refer to the monster's hunter as 'the Hunter' to tighten this up. You could also tighten the rest of it up to, for example, something like 'Beside the Hunter, an angel knelt in silent prayer' might work better for that first phrase. Also, the angel isn't reacting to anything, so reaction is probably the wrong word.

The angel started to cry, and the Hunter followed a single tear, watching it trail down the angel's smooth, hand carved cheek and fall down to the alley below. It accompanied the countless other tears the heavens started to cry.

Repetition of the phrase 'started to cry'. You could probably afford to drop that first 'The angel started to cry' and lead straight into 'the Hunter followed a single tear...'. Also, that last sentence seems a little forced - perhaps you could just describe the sound or feel of the rain as the Hunter watches it start to fall?

The hunter now gazed upon the maze, the plundering rain doing little to deter his sight. Through the streaking haze he caught sight of someone running. Running, along the outside the alleys. A safe bet for any man; the path was wide enough, and straight enough so he could see for a good distance in either direction. Unfortunately, so could anyone else.

I'm not sure if some of the vocab here is quite right - I like the 'plundering rain', but to 'deter' his sight seemed the wrong word. Also 'streaking haze' didn't quite ring true to me.

I like the style of your writing, but overall, I think it could do with tightening up; by which I mean wherever possible, try to use the one perfect word instead of several less fitting ones to get your point across.

Also, keep an eye on tense (you stray from past to present a couple of times - I'm not sure if this is because you're going from the Hunter's thoughts to the action, but it's a little jarring) and point of view (for example, it seems to be written from the Hunter's point of view, yet you'll suddenly say that the chased man is called James - how does the Hunter know this? If he doesn't, then it's not James, it's just a guy running from the monster).

Hope some of this helps; please take my thoughts with a grain of salt - I'm certainly not a professional, just an aspiring writer like you!
 

Archus

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I've got a question on tense. When using the past tense, does it strictly mean that you are describing something that has already happened? I mean, such fiction is rarely a historic text. You can say something happened within the context of events that are unfolding, can't you?

An example would be: "The elf pulled his cloak over him, and looked to the setting horizon." The 'pulled his cloak' and 'looked' are in the past tense, but does it strictly mean such things are in the past? I get a little confused about tenses, so any help will be grateful.

Thanks for your input, I'm still learning the do's and don't's, vocabulary etc. so bear with me!
 

dreir

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Well, basically it's more a question of which tense you choose for the story rather than the actual timing of the events. If you choose past tense, then everything needs to be told in past tense except for dialogue :)

Even with thoughts, unless you put them in quotes (which sort of makes them similar to dialogue). For example:

The monster was loose, there was no doubt about that.
vs
'This is nuts,' he thought.

- Dreir -
 

Archus

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thanks. Is it just me though, or is like 99% of fiction written in the past tense?
 

chrispenycate

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There is a storytelling tradition that says you're explaining to people something that has already happened, yes. And it gives you an excuse to skim over the boring bits, while present tense writing must be either diary style (dear diary, today a large lupine creature took a bite out of the moon) which is effectively past, since you are learning about it after it has happened, or fall within the timescale of reading the piece. Obviously, if you want a "I'm waiting for the box to open, which should happen any time nooooo!" type ending, the present tense is essential, though you can past tense (even pluperfect the lead up) the earlier bits of the story and only catch up with the timeline in the last paragraphs. After all, nothing forces you to stay in the same timeline the entire story, only to be consistent with your changes. I can't think of a single story where an apreciable percentage is written in the future or conditional tenses; it's just too foreign to our standard thought patterns, while being told about something that has already happened is standard ("hey, gramps, what did you do during the collapse of the cities?)

I said I'd comment on your piece so: firstly, your grammar and punctuation (the things I generally pick up on) don't really need much work; a comma here, a semicolon there, not worth me getting my red pen out for (and someone's already pointed them out, anyway.)

A couple of words I felt non-optimal "monster's hunter suggests a proprietary relationship with the beast; as if the monster sent its servant out seekiing prey for it.

"and was silent. An assured reaction" I just don't like that "assured reaction"

"the plundering rain doing little to deter his sight" what is the rain taking as plunder? The adjective doesn't seem to give any information about the rain.

"The monster is loose. It was the latter that was after the man. It was the latter that he was interested in." The latter? But there isonly one thing mentioned. and in the second 'latter' the latter is "the man", and the "he" would normally refer to the man, too, rather than the hunter (not a man? Some other species? It can't be a female because of the "he") to whom I assume it should be attached.

"the Hunter emerged from his shaded tomb" A tomb high enough that he can look down into alleyways over a fair proportion of the city? Have you a particular example in mind? Generally when people put up those massively tall monuments to death they don't do it in the poorer quarters. Had the sculpture graced a place of worship I could have understood it easier.

" knew how the sky looked, and in response looked down to the streets below" that isnot a response to knowing something.

"The monsters honed in" I rather suspect that's "homed"

"You can always rely on their sort to make such errors. The Hunter thought." if the first part is the thought, and the end specifies the subject you don't need a full stop. as it is, "The hunter thought" is a statement in its own right, just a description of something he did.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I agree with much of what has been said already.

Your grammar and punctuation show that you've retained a lot more of your High School English than you think you have -- in fact, a lot more than a lot of people retain -- but you need to learn how to punctuate dialogue. This is something that trips up a lot of writers when they are first starting out, but you don't need to take a refresher course in English for that. Just open up any work of fiction on your bookshelf and pay close attention to how it's done.

But you slip from one tense to the other again and again, from present, to past, and once into the past perfect. If you are going to change from present to past, there needs to be some sort of transition or break. If you are doing alternating scenes or chapters with different viewpoints you can switch tenses. (There are other times when it's appropriate, but that would entail a long explanation, and I think you need to tame that particular problem before you consider letting it out of its cage occasionally.)

And you use some words that don't even work metaphorically, because they don't mean what you seem to think they mean. (Chris has already pointed out "plundering." It means taking something away by force. This doesn't seem to be what you are trying to say.) When using a word that you wouldn't ordinarily use, always consult a dictionary just to make absolutely certain that you know what it means.

It's an interesting scene and an interesting situation, but you need to learn about the passive voice and where it works and where it doesn't. You're using it too much here, and it's not working.
 

Archus

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coolios. Thanks all. Please, be harsh in critiquing. Granted, it is not the only way I'll learn, but it is a powerful method. I think all in all there is only so much someone can critique until the author says "that's enough" because even after publication, no book has a 100% following. Someone, somewhere is going to hate it.

@chrispenycate: The 'latter' argument was referring to the 'someone, or something' part. The latter there was the 'something', implying that it wasn't a human that was chasing the man.

I gave the man a name because when I went through a previous draft of him just being 'a man', it didn't work and it got confusing as to what 'he' was referring to whom, and I put a name in there to simplify things. This does not mean the Hunter knows this person. In fact, to him, the man is just another guy, who happens to be in a bad situation. The idea is that the Hunter goes on nightly patrols around the city, and after scouting around for a bit, he got scent, so to speak, of those monsters. It was just an unfortunate coincedence that the man was being chased.

Again, thanks all for the critique and keep it up, this is all very interesting to learn, and while yes I would like to get this published eventually, it is still good to learn different things.
 

Archus

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well here is the redraft. Tell me if you think it works and as always, critique critique critique!

________________________________________________________________
Chapter One - An Unwelcome Sight

The monster was loose, there was no doubt about that. Beside the Hunter an angel knelt in silent prayer. The angel was still, its expression unchanging even in the harsh storm. The angel's robes did not dampen, its eyes did not even blink. They couldn't, for the angel was made of stone. The Hunter posed above the labyrinth of alleyways, slowly becoming as still and cold as the stone angel next to him, both of them becoming clothed in the shadow of the night.

I suppose we have something else in common after all, then, the Hunter thought, as he looked upon the angel. He followed a single tear, watching it trail down the angel's smooth, hand carved cheek and fall down to the alley below. His eyes drew up from the alley and stared at the scene that was painted before him: a haunting vista of a skyline raped the horizon and tore at the union of sky and earth, emitting cold colours of red, orange, blue and white that only a city alive and yet dead could pull off.

The hunter now gazed upon the maze, the fleeting rain doing little to obscure his sight. Through the storm he caught sight of someone running. Running, along the outside the alleys. A safe bet for any man; the path was wide enough, and straight enough so he could see for a good distance in either direction. Unfortunately, so could anyone else.

Or, any thing else.

The monster was loose. It was after the man. It was what the Hunter was interested in. The man ran from the monster and into the darkness of the alleys. A little ways back from the path the man had ran on, the Hunter saw his monster. A lean figure on all fours, and an unearthly shadow surrounded it even among the night lamps of the street. It was only small, and the Hunter began to rise, about to launch a pre-emptive strike when he saw not four legs, but six, and then eight. So now there are two, he thought. I will have to see how this develops.

The man pressed on for his life within the alleys, clinging onto the postulate that his speed would outmatch their determination. Yet determined they were.

But so was the Hunter.

Both parties had stopped; the monsters to regather their direction, and the man to regather his mind, slumped with his back against a wall. Satisfied at their negligence the Hunter emerged from his shaded makeshift encampment and looked down into the streets below him. The Hunter noted that they had not moved, and among the desolate back-streets and chilling silence of the street, the monsters had no need to move. Silently the Hunter urged the man to move on. Somewhere... anywhere.

The target began to move...

The monsters homed in on the man, but the man knew nothing of this. He was blind and mute in his perception as well as his motions. The man did not know where he was, but the Hunter did.

The Hunter was now horrified at the mistake James made by stopping against a wall. You can always rely on their sort to make such errors, the Hunter thought. With his piercing eyes he saw what lay before him. To him, the wall was at the bottom, leading to the silent street. A second alley cut across the first nearer to the wall than the street, forming the symbol of Saint Peter. An inverted crucifix.

The Hunter made his move. The thunder and rain of the night sang in harmony with his movements, masking his sounds with nature’s own. Swiftly gliding among the slick rooftops, he came to the dank alley where they were. The clouds blotted out any moonlight that might have breathed out his position. And with his attire, his shape and colour matched the black clouds that disrupt the beauty of the night sky.
 

Archus

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note: replace 'James' with 'the man'. With where the mistake is, I just think that poetic justice is too easy here *smacks head against wall/desk/startled cat*
 

daalex

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________________________________________________________________
Chapter One - An Unwelcome Sight

The monster was loose, there was no doubt about that. Beside the Hunter an angel knelt in silent prayer. The angel was still, its expression unchanging even in the harsh storm. The angel's robes did not dampen, its eyes did not even [I would drop "even" here] blink. They couldn't, for the angel was made of stone [couldn't = informal, for=formal -> mismatch in style]. The Hunter posed [it might be me, but to me posing is something you do for a photographer or a crowd; and the hunter is doing the opposite - he does not want to be noticed] above the labyrinth of alleyways, slowly becoming as still and cold as the stone angel next to him, both of them becoming [drop "becoming" here, you had it in the previous sentence and it's weird to "become clothed"] clothed in the shadow of the night.

I suppose we have something else in common after all, then, the Hunter thought, as he looked upon the angel. He followed a single tear, watching it trail down the angel's smooth, hand carved cheek and fall down to the alley below. His eyes drew up from the alley and stared at the scene that was painted before him [i like the scene you're setting up here, I can picture it quite clearly myself, so your description certainly works, but the personification of the eyes goes a step too far - eyes don't stare, a person does!]: a haunting vista of a skyline raped the horizon and tore at the union of sky and earth, emitting cold colours of red, orange, blue and white that only a city alive and yet dead could pull off.

The hunter now gazed upon the maze, the fleeting rain doing little to obscure his sight. Through the storm he caught sight of someone running. Running, along the outside the alleys. A safe bet for any man; the path was wide enough, and straight enough so he could see for a good distance in either direction. Unfortunately, so could anyone else.

Or, any thing else.

The monster was loose. It was after the man. It was what the Hunter was interested in. The man ran from the monster and into the darkness of the alleys. A little ways back from the path the man had ran on, the Hunter saw his monster. A lean figure on all fours, and an unearthly shadow surrounded it even among the night lamps of the street. It was only small [only small doesn't work for me... maybe "it was a smallish creature" or "it was not fully grown" or something similar to indicate that it's no match for the Hunter], and the Hunter began to rise, about to launch a pre-emptive strike [this breaks the atmosphere for me, when you use the word pre-emptive I immediately see NATO press briefings, and medieval fantasy is far off indeed] when he saw not four legs, but six, and then eight. So now there are two, he thought. I will have to see how this develops.

The man pressed on for his life within the alleys, clinging onto the postulate that his speed would outmatch their determination. Yet determined they were.

But so was the Hunter.

Both parties had stopped; the monsters to regather their direction, and the man to regather his mind, slumped with his back against a wall. Satisfied at their negligence the Hunter emerged from his shaded makeshift encampment and looked down into the streets below him. The Hunter noted that they had not moved, and among the desolate back-streets and chilling silence of the street, the monsters had no need to move. Silently the Hunter urged the man to move on. Somewhere... anywhere.

The target began to move...

The monsters homed in on the man, but the man knew nothing of this. He was blind and mute in his perception as well as his motions. The man did not know where he was, but the Hunter did.

The Hunter was now horrified at the mistake James made by stopping against a wall. You can always rely on their sort to make such errors, the Hunter thought. With his piercing eyes he saw what lay before him. To him, the wall was at the bottom, leading to the silent street. A second alley cut across the first nearer to the wall than the street, forming the symbol of Saint Peter. An inverted crucifix.

The Hunter made his move. The thunder and rain of the night sang in harmony with his movements, masking his sounds with nature’s own [this makes it sound as though he directly controls thunder and rain... I would turn this around and stress how he cleverly times his movements to coincide with the natural sounds]. Swiftly gliding among the slick rooftops, he came to the dank alley where they were. The clouds blotted out any moonlight that might have breathed out his position. And with his attire, his shape and colour matched the black clouds that disrupt the beauty of the night sky.


All in all, I liked this, particularly the scene you're setting. For me personally, some of the descriptions are a little wordy and sometimes feel artifical, contrived, but that's just me... It is very filmic, but you need to be careful with that too - just describing what you see as if you were watching a movie is a little superficial in writing. Literature offers so many more opportunities; you can use smells, feelings, thoughts, etc to achieve the same effects that film can only show.

Keep it up!
 
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