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  1. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    Stuck in the middle-end of my plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Hazel B-S, Jan 10, 2014.

    Ok, so, I'm writing my novel and to sketch out the nature of my problem, here's my storyboard (you'll spot the issue for yourselves...)

    Daisy is having a bad time at home-- Daisy gets into an argument with her grandma and hits her-- Daisy spends a night in the cells but gets released-- Daisy runs away from home-- Daisy goes to stay with Cat and Karen (who she doesn't like)-- Daisy becomes close to Karen after realising they're more alike than she thought-- Daisy and Karen move in together, shunning Cat-- ...weird grey area where the general idea is that Daisy's mental health is severely deteriorating and she cannot cope alone, except I have no real idea about how to glue this area in to the rest of the story, oops :( -- Karen goes back to London, leaving Daisy alone -- Daisy's Grandmother dies, and her whole family rejects her at the funeral-- Daisy tries to commit suicide, but fails. She agrees to attend therapy and try to improve.

    So, as you can see, I DO have nearly all of my storyboard/plot planned out... except the horrible grey area where I have no clue what is going to happen. I had the idea of her going to loads of crazy parties and constantly drinking herself silly, but it seems a bit cliché and I just have NO idea how to convey her mental health... like I said. It's a grey area. I would really appreciate some suggestions!
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Right. What is the end result you want from this story? We need to care about this character, and feel that she's going to be making some sort of progress. By progress, I mean development, which may not necessarily end well, by the way. But what do you want Daisy to be doing at the end of your story?

    There has to be a reason for telling this story. So what is your reason? It's hard to come up with these plot ideas when we don't know what your goal is going to be. Plots are what you use to get you where you want to go in a story. Plot is only one of many elements of storytelling.

    Have you actually written any of this yet, in story form? If you're just plotting on a storyboard, perhaps that's where your problem lies, and why this is stalling. If I were you, I'd start writing. Start with whatever scene is most vivid to you at the moment, even if it's somewhere in the middle of the story. Once you get it down, then you can write what comes before as well as what comes afterwards. AS you write, ideas will come to you, and you'll be able to develop them better, and link them together.

    Just thinking up a plot is not the same thing.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think the key to solving your problem is to understand what, specifically, Daisy's mental health issues might be. Does she suffer from depression? Is she delusional? Does she hear voices? Is she bi-polar? Is she compulsive? Addictive? Mental illness is something about which we hear a lot on a glib, surface level but which is really a very deep and nuanced area. Acquiring a working understanding of the various forms of mental illness and what they entail will give you the real-life details you need to determine what actually happens in your story because each type of mental illness brings with it particular crises for Daisy, how she perceives herself, her social interactions and her ability (or lack thereof) to cope.
     
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  4. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    It would be nice to know their ages and relationships toward each other to get a grasp of what you want more. I think her general problem should be some sort of disorder(?) that includes depression, anxiety, and self sabotaging tendencies. Here's a general rundown of my take of how the story could go, hopefully it helps you out whether you use it or not.
    1.Daisy is a troubled 18 year old girl in her senior year of high school. There has been added stress and tension at home because she hasn’t been acting like herself lately and has informed them she won’t be going to college

    2.The stress cumulates into a family argument where Daisy hits her grandmother

    3.Unable to deal with what she just did, Daisy storms out and goes to a party she heard about where she gets intoxicated. Cops come and she gets taken down to the station.

    4. Not wanting her family to know she had been arrested especially after the way she just left the house earlier that night, Daisy calls her older friend Cat who graduated a few years ago to bail her out. She tells Cat about what’s been going on and asks if it’s ok for her to stay at Cat’s for a while and Cat agrees.

    5. Upon arriving at Cat’s place Daisy meets Cat’s girlfriend Karen whom Daisy initially dislikes greatly as she seems to be nothing like Cat or Daisy. However after Daisy seems to like Karen after spending some time with her and sparks between them begin to fly leading them to have an affair. Cat discovers what’s going on and kicks them out.

    6. Karen tells Daisy not to worry that one of her good friends from college “Paul” would be cool enough to let them crash with him for a while. Paul is a welcoming host who is highly charismatic but has a bit of a drug habit. Through their stay at Paul's, Paul takes Daisy and Karen to multiple parties with some sort of drug element, and gets Daisy and Karen more or less hooked on some mild drugs. Daisy and Karen also begin to get acquainted with Paul's friends.

    7. One of Paul’s friends who frequented the same parties Daisy and Karen went to was a girl from london named Sarah. She immediately hit it off with Karen, eventually causing Karen to leave Daisy for her and move back to London with her

    8. Karen’s leaving devastates Daisy, and she becomes depressed and her drug use begins to increase. Daisy's depression and drug use begin to spiral out of control and even Paul feels uncomfortable around her. When his lease on his current apartment expires he tells Daisy he is moving in with a friend across town and there is not room for her there, basically leaving her without a place to stay as she has no job to pay rent and she was never on the current apartments lease. Desperate she tries to ask Cat to take her in but Cat won’t even talk to her.

    9. She stays at the homes of different “friends” she met through Paul for a few days each, though no one wants her for that long. She is afraid she will become homeless

    10. While walking about town one day she runs into an old neighbor her about her grandmothers death and the details of the funeral.

    11. Daisy is afraid to go to the funeral but decides to finally go in hopes that she may patch things up with her family and will be able to go home, but when she gets there she sees that most of her family wants nothing to do with her and tell her to go back to wherever she has been for the past year

    12. Completely alone, and feeling depressed over the hurt she had caused her grandmother, family, Cat, and her own pain from Karen leaving her Daisy tries to kill herself by overdosing on drugs. She fails however because someone notices her and calls an ambulance, her family is informed and feels guilty about the way they had been treated her. Through therapy and her family attempting to get to know her again, Daisy slowly pieces her life back together
     
  5. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    Right, I thought I was clear in saying I have been writing it, actually for nearly a year now. I understand what you mean about a plot not being enough, but I have been writing it for a while. As for end result, I want the reader to feel sorry for daisy, and feel relieved when she does not die in the end. But I want the reader to almost love her and hate her at the same time, as she's a very flawed and mean character, yet she has many reasons for her flaws (she has had a bad past, her mother left her, her father couldn't cope with caring for daisy and her sister alone, so that's why her grandmother cares for her) and I want the reader to see her flaws, but understand that she's flawed because of a bad life, and overall generate sympathy! Does that make sense? I appreciate the advice :) would it be helpful if I posted a small portion of my writing so you could get an idea of her personality/backstory?
     
  6. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    Yes, I understand, I suffer from mental illness myself, sorry for not making clear what her problems are. It's depression and paranoia, due to her bad upbringing and excessive marijuana use. Thanks for the advice!
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi @Hazel B-S - your explanation makes things a lot clearer, and certainly that you have been writing this and not just doing a storyboard or something. It sounds as if you know your character quite well.

    I didn't mean exactly how readers were supposed to feel about her at the end (and I'm relieved she doesn't die) but how do you envision her life at that point? Is she still in recovery? Has something happened to change the course of her life? In other words, if you had to write your last chapter right now, what kinds of things would it contain?

    The angle I'm taking here is that you'll need to know where you're going in order to plot the course. You can't assume the same position as your character, who maybe feels her life is out of control, that she has no idea what to do next, and doesn't know what she wants. You have to take control of her and her story. It's okay for HER to feel like that, but you need to know what you're doing and where you are going with this.

    I don't think it's enough for the reader to just 'feel sorry for her' and be relieved that she doesn't die. That's not much of a story, really. It's more like what happens in real life. At some point, she needs to step away from the downward spiral, and make a decision to change things. We don't want to feel sorry for her, we want to be rooting for her. So I think you need to establish a specific goal for your character, and do what you can to take her there.

    What would make her happy, do you think? Obviously she can't change what's already happened to her, but if she had a magic wand to change whatever happens to her in the future, what do you think she'd want to happen? Or ...if she feels there is something about herself that needs to change before she can be happy, what do you think it would be? Does she wish she could start over again with a new name and a new identity? Does she want to meet somebody who loves her, whom she can love back?

    I think it's these kinds of things you need to establish, before you paint yourself (and her) into a corner she can't get out of. Obviously if she's just going to continue being self-destructive, miserable and unable to cope, this is not going to be much of a story. At some point she's got to change. What are her strengths? Is there any particular characteristic (or characteristics) she has which are praiseworthy? Anything she could use to develop a coping strategy (besides draining her friends and family of finances and good will) and pull herself out of this rut?

    If the ending is just about her family suddenly deciding to be nice to her—even though she's done nothing to change herself or the situation— this is really not going to work. In a way, it's the old deus-ex-machina trick. Just when everything looks the blackest, some rescuer comes down out of the sky and all is tickety-boo from then on. It's not a satisfying conclusion ...unless the story is really about her family and not about her. (Then it's the family who change, and it's THAT change that makes the story, and THEY are the main characters.)

    You who need to make the decisions about where to take your character, and I do believe nobody else can do this for you. If it were me, I'd focus on getting her to change herself. Don't focus on changing circumstances around her (family forgives her) so that everything suddenly comes up roses. If SHE changes, then the people around her are more likely to change their attitudes towards her, OR she can make a new life for herself on a new footing entirely. Maybe you could let some new people into her life and this can provide the catalyst? A new lover? A new friend or two? A job? You've established how miserable she is; now is the time to focus on changes for the better.

    I hope this has been some help.
     
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  8. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    This is really helpful and interesting to see what someone else's take on the whole idea is! My idea is actually that she's a 16 year old in the UK not going to sixth-form college (different to college in the US) and Cat is an old friend, and Karen becomes a new friend, but Cat and Karen are not romantically involved, and Karen returns to London as it's her hometown.

    This was extremely helpful though to get an idea of some structure. I'll update you on how it goes!
     
  9. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    I do envision her in recovery, struggling but managing to muddle through life, but at times overly-relying on others for support. I did think about writing the final chapter in the present tense, a few years after the incident, with Daisy speaking about her recovery. I want her to be feeling better from her mental illness, but it's not a fairy-tale so I suppose she may struggle and slip up from time to time, perhaps relapsing with self- injury.

    Yes, I understand what you mean about how the reader cannot simply feel sorry for her. What I want the reader to feel is intrigue, as in wondering why is she so troubled? I have tried to convey half the story by illustrating how her nan berates her and mistreats her, but I also allow Daisy to express through narrative how she hates her mother, yet I don't want to TELL the reader what has happened to her mother, I want them to speculate. Perhaps at the end of the novel I can reveal why her mother is absent. I want the reader to be pulled in by her downward spiral, but that isn't quite enough to hook someone in, I understand.

    At the end it isn't a matter of everything being better. Karen continues to support her, but her sister and Cat are disgusted by her actions, especially her sister who cannot accept her homosexuality. Her ambitions are to be a fashion designer, she enjoys designing clothes and wearing makeup and things like that, but I've found said hobby hard to incorporate.

    This feedback has been really helpful- I'll try and build on the main issues that can draw in the reader and try and make her struggles less simplified. Thanks!
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Hazel B-S - Just a quick reply - I think your readers are DEFINITELY going to want to know why she hates her mother and what her mother did. Obviously if Daisy doesn't know herself, then I suppose you could get away with not telling us, and it would end up being one of life's unsolved mysteries.

    But consider other possibilities. How would the story change if we knew from the very start why her mother is absent?

    Don't laugh. I had this sort of thing happen in my own novel. My first beta readers of my 'finished' MS (back around 2002) said - why is this guy so strange, what happened to him, what is he hiding, cut to the chase, bla-de-bla. Instead of the story being an exploration in how a character copes with disaster in his earlier life—as I originally intended—it turned into a Great Mystery as to what the disaster had been. The Big Reveal at the end didn't help at all; my readers were already annoyed at the wait.

    So ...I included a Prologue, making it clear what had happened (not by telling, but by a series of action scenes that recreated the situation). Now we know why my main character goes through the rest of the story (which takes place 6 years later) with such a monkey on his back. Problem solved. It turned the story focus completely on its head, and turned reader annoyance into understanding and sympathy. It was a real eye-opener to me, when I decided to do this. The basic plot didn't change at all, but the reader's focus certainly did.

    Would there be any mileage in doing this yourself? In letting us know right at the start what happened with her mother, and what caused Daisy to become such a problem to herself and to others? That way we would be watching the effects of what happened to her and how she's coping (or not)—instead of wondering why she's being such a pain to herself and everybody else, and possibly losing interest in her story.
     
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  11. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Okay, this is a chronicle of events, but where's the story? What's the problem that Daisy must solve, other then her anger issues? What does she need but can't get—and need so badly that it's the focus of her days?

    You say that Daisy's getting worse over time. Why should I, as a reader, care? I don't mean that in a bad way, but what will keep me reading? A chronicle of events won't. The social life and bickering of friends won't do that, either. What's daisy's goal? Without that it's just a camera following some people around as they do things not more interesting than what I would do were I not reading.

    Think about it. The story, as described, is: Daisy is a troubled person. She wanders a bit and her troubles worsen. Finally, she agrees to see someone about it. The end. What is it about that progression that's compelling?

    Dig into the structure of a scene and a novel. It will help you steer the progression of scenes in a way that will have the reader saying, "Well maybe I'll read just a few more pages," and do that over and over till 4:00 AM
     
  12. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    You see it as a chronicle of events because I have literally portrayed it that way. Obviously I cannot spell the whole story out.

    Daisy looks back in retrospect a lot of the time and feels guilty about not pursuing her fashion design, because that's her passion, but she's too lazy and demoralised to go to college, and she believes she isn't good enough. So as for asking about what her 'goal' is, I suppose that's one of them. She also just wants happiness, to have fun, but some negativity always creeps up on her and stifles it.

    Thank you for the advice. I understand what you are saying, so I'll try to follow it. But my story is much deeper than following her while her troubles worsen, it's just hard to convey that with a simple storyboard
     
  13. Beaker
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    Beaker New Member

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    May be before her grandmother dies Daisy has started to get help for presumably depression.
    Depression tends to make people withdraw from everyone else.
    May be her emerging cognitive reasoning (think cognitive behavioral therapy) goes to war with the weight of depression over the issue of turning up to her grandmothers funeral at all.
    When she is shunned by the family it all goes horribly wrong - "why did I bother"
     
  14. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, it sounds like a highly depressing story. Does she have a goal in life? Is there something she wants?
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    One possible theme could be a cycle of

    "This'll fix it."
    "Didn't work. I'll do the same thing more thoroughly."
    "Didn't work. I'll do the same thing more thoroughly."

    For example, buying more and more stuff. Or rescuing more and more cats. Or making bigger and bigger sacrifices to help the dysfunctional boyfriend or parent. Or quitting yet another job. Or going to Vegas and betting more and more and more and more because THIS TIME she'll hit the big time. She keeps investing more and more--financially, emotionally, every which way--into the same dysfunctional solution, and sliding deeper and deeper into her problems as a result.

    That could allow you to have a slightly more structured ending, as she finally chooses to do something different, rather than trying the same dysfunctional fix again. "Agrees to attend therapy" has a slightly fuzzy feel to me, because there isn't a guarantee that therapy will work. If we see her making a real, significant change in association with that therapy--finally refusing to give money to a dysfunctional boyfriend, getting a hot tip on a horse and not betting on it, something perhaps small but symbolic--that could be more satisfying.

    It could also be cloying and cliched. :) The balance between a satisfying ending and a too-neat ending can be difficult. But you see the general idea?
     
  16. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Obviously? How can you expect people to meaningfully advise you without any real data? Give a one page synopsis.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You may not have the time but I recommend Lisa Cron's "Writing for Story".

    Here's her blog:
    http://wiredforstory.com/8-random-writing-tips/

    What I found useful with this author were her insights into the question, what does the character want, how does she grow, what are her issues, not just the day to day plot issues but also the issues that matter to the story.

    I have a character who is seriously conflicted. And as my story progressed I needed her to gain something important to her coming of age, finding her place, coming to terms with that conflict. Cron's take on a character's inner and outer motives was invaluable.
     
  18. Liam Johnson
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    Liam Johnson Member

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    I've been where you are before. All these great ideas going off at tangents and whilst they might be great in themselves, sometimes they're not all that relevant to the story you're telling. When it gets really complicated, I draw it back to two things to help define structure:

    1. What is Daisy's ultimate obstacle? It should be something inside her, an aspect of her psyche that needs to change for her to be happy and achieve your ending. The rest of the story should be a means to reach this internal change, this ending; think Michael Corleone in The Godfather; reluctant, honourable, changed by the story to become the new Godfather and thus come to terms with his own internal inadequacies-- i.e. being the weak one of the family. So, what does Daisy need to change?

    and

    2. Who, or what is stopping her? This is usually your antagonist, whether a person, an act of God or fat, fucking Snorlax that you need to wake up so you can get to the next town! What's stopping her from making that change and how can we have her overcome that to achieve the strongest possible catharsis. An example might be someone who can sing but lacks self-confidence losing her kid sister to cancer whom then asks her to sing for her as she passes in the hospital bed. Her death, though tragic, drives her to overcome her shyness and do what she previously couldn't.

    Anyways, sorry, gone off on one there. Those two questions should always be the core of any story so when I get lost, those are always the two anchors I swim back to.
     
  19. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    Thank you, this looks good! I know what you mean, my character needs to grow etc throughout the story :) I'll look at this
     
  20. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    Thanks for this constructive advice! I often go off at tangents so this is invaluable to me. I suppose that (loosely) her wish is to feel genuinely happy without setbacks, and also to achieve something (she loves fashion and I'm trying to introduce that more into the story as an ambition) and whilst she has minor obstacles (her grandmother, sister, and her best friend, eventually) she is her own worst enemy. It's hard to illustrate that, though!
     
  21. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've seen many cases of girls resorting to self harm when in the grip of depression, particularly cutting themselves with razor blades. This would make her problem visually obvious to those around her as well as presenting both a physical and psychological challenge both to her and to those around her, with a tangible consequence for failing to deal with her emotional problems.
     
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  22. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Thanks for asking the question she actually asked.

    There's really no connection between clinical paranoia and marijuana use, aside from what wears off with sobriety. This might be the core of the audiences hate for Daisy as she is the cause of her own problems. Or it might provoke a feeling of frustration in the reader if you don't address it

    Clinical paranoia is usually a symptom of a bigger disease, not usually depression. It's most often bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. The problem is that both those conditions tend not to manifest until age 18 or later.

    And like Romer says, self harm is the most obvious outlet, though anorexia and bulimia are also very popular.
     
  23. Hazel B-S
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    Hazel B-S Member

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    Ah yeah, I take into account what you're saying, she does self-harm, too. She's a bit of a mess.

    I actually study psychology so I'm aware of this, but marijuana does create paranoia in those already suffering fromn depression (which is what Daisy suffers from). But thanks for the advice, both of you! I'll be posting the beginning of the story shortly
     

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