Write a book. How to take it step-by-step
I decided to pull apart one of my books for you. Learn how to write books by reverse engineering them. We’re going to look at how to write a book, step-by-step.
Maybe you’ve always thought to yourself, I want to write a book. Where do I start? Have no fear… I’ve broken one of my novels down into chunks and we’re going to look at each step of the process, what was done, and why.
This story was written as a psychological suspense. With a few tweaks, it could have easily been a thriller. Or, if I focused more on the police details, a crime fiction or police procedural. What about a mystery? If I zoomed in and centered on the love story, I could have directed this toward a romantic suspense.
Kind of neat, right? It comes down to your characters, plot, and structure. If I wanted this to be a romantic suspense, I would have had to made the romance a central component.
There are already elements of danger. But a love story with danger, isn’t a romantic suspense, if you can take the romance out and the story could still stand. These are the fine details of genre. This is why it’s important to know what your idea is, how you want to form it, and make sure you hit key elements.
If I wanted to position this as a thriller, it would have needed more action. There’s some, but it’s not the major element. For a mystery, I’d need more clues, some red herrings, and other elements mystery readers are looking for. It’s got some of those but doesn’t hit all of the notes.
I built this for suspense. To be wondering what happens next. While it has elements of each of those other genres, it’s in getting specific that you find your audience.
- Story text will be regular.
- Helpful tips will be bolded for easier deciphering
- Annotations on certain images will point out other ideas.
A Deadly Secret: A Gripping Psychological Suspense
Detective Alex Ramsey has a dead body but no answers.
A savage murder has left a Pennsylvania community on edge. With little information and time running out, Alex is forced to confront evil.
A desperate criminal strikes out.
He didn’t mean to kill her. Backed into a corner, there was no other choice. Staring into the face of chaos, a once ordinary man sees his life unraveling. In too deep, he’s spiraling out of control.
Another victim is in the killer’s cross hairs.
Can Detective Ramsey track down the killer and bring him to justice? Or will a lethal secret be the cause of another woman’s life?
You can see in the image above, the blurb hits on certain points that speak to a suspense reader. We have a body with no answers. Time is running out. He’s forced to confront evil. An ordinary man’s life is unraveling. And the detective is trying to track down the killer before he kills again.
He pulled into the garage and closed the door. The last thing he needed was to be spotted at his lover’s house.
The story starts immediately with a small hint of mystery. Who is “he” and notice that he’s being elusive.
The sweet smell of banana bread filled his nostrils as he entered the kitchen. Dawn loved candles. There was always one burning, but she’d been on a pumpkin spice kick, so the change of pace was nice. (visceral details to draw the audience in)
“Hey, babe.” He greeted her with a smile. She was the only thing he could think about during his early work meeting. The promise of afternoon loving pushed him through the dull agenda that droned on forever.
Dawn’s face was twisted and tight — her arms crossed over her chest. (giving away her mood, without coming out and saying, she was angry or upset. Dawn was angry — boring!)
He leaned in for a kiss, but she drew her hand up to put space between them. “Wait.”
He cocked his head, annoyed with the attitude. “What’s going on?”
“We need to talk.” She firmed her presence and balled her fists. “I didn’t want to say this. It’s just…”
He waited impatiently.
“It’s the right thing to do. I have my integrity,” she continued.
“What’s the matter? Spit it out.” He tapped his foot. She was cutting into the little bit of time they had.
“I love you, and everything we’ve built together. I do. And, it’s painful for me to say this, but once the words are out, I can’t take them back.” She closed her eyes as if talking herself down from the proverbial cliff she dangled from. (note this last metaphor…draws reader in with a visual)
He groaned and glanced at his watch. Talking was overrated. Would it be the same conversation they always circled back to? The last piece of jewelry he gave her was supposed to stop the are you leaving your wife conversation, at least for a little while.
Dawn bit her lip, then cautiously looked into his eyes. She cleared her throat. “I overheard Tommy talking. He didn’t know I was there.”
“What does your brother have to do with anything?”
She drew a deep breath, then pushed out a sigh. “I know about the drugs.”
A storm brewed in his eyes. His face slid like melting putty. “Drugs? What are you talking about?” (these are better visuals than saying he’s angry. Again, it simply adds oomph. This is showing. Telling would be, he was angry)
“I know about the black-market stuff, the smuggling. I know about all of it,” she confessed.
His heart slammed against his rib cage with the force of a sledgehammer. (strong visceral metaphor)
She continued. “I can’t do this anymore. It’s wrong. I…I’m sorry.”
He reached up and stroked her cheek. “I’m not sure what you’re insinuating, but you’re mistaken. I have no idea why your brother would mention my name. Whatever you thought you heard, it has nothing to do with me.”
“I can’t pretend. Don’t lie to me. I can’t erase what I heard. It’s too big. Too much. I wanted to give you a moment to collect your thoughts. I’m going to have to go to the police. I’m sorry it has to be this way.” Her hands trembled.
“You’re crazy! You know that? Seriously. You’ve known me for how long? Dawn, I adore you. Why would you say such a thing? This is so off base, I’m not even sure what to think about it all. Do you even realize what you’re saying? Do you realize what you’re accusing me of?”
Her lip quivered, but she didn’t speak.
Panic jammed through his veins. This was the last thing he needed. (his anxiety is increasing…we’re building the set-up, getting the story started)
“I wanted to give you time to talk to your family — your wife and kids. I can’t pretend I don’t know anymore. I tried.”
He hissed through clenched teeth. “This is a mistake.”
Dawn’s gaze hit the floor. “Don’t lie to me.”
“Dawn — ”
“Don’t,” she whispered.
He laced his fingers around her neck and squeezed. His massive hands held fast. (his anger has peaked, and we’re certain his is the antagonist now)
She thrashed under his strength and tried to free herself. “I…can’t…breathe.”
Rage tore through him, refusing to stop until he crushed her windpipe.
Dawn faded, then blacked out. Her body hung like a rag doll from his hands.
It took longer than he expected. Reality hit him like a thunderbolt.
He jerked away from her, realizing what he’d done, but she crashed to the floor like a sack of potatoes.
A wave of nausea washed through him as fear rocketed up his spine. “Dawn, no. I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry, baby.”
He quickly fell to his knees and lifted her head. He sat and placed her lifeless head in his lap. “Oh my God, what did I do?” (regret – this shows character…it’s important to show he’s human, and this pushes the idea that he snapped…rather than being a natural born killer)
All color drained from his face.
Everything moved in slow motion.
He slid his fingers over her neck and checked for a pulse. Nothing.
Rapid fire thoughts crashed over him like a tsunami.
His watch. The time. Shit. He stared at his dead lover and the rubbed the back of his neck. There was no valiant effort to save her. No CPR. No call to 9–1–1.
What was done was done. It was over. He had to do it. It’s not like she gave him a choice.
He lifted her head from his lap and shifted out from under her.
If anybody found out… He’d rot in jail. He’d never see his wife or kids again. His career would be finished. His life over. No. He’d manage this, just like he managed everything else in his life. (justifying the lack of helping her)
He refused to let this one little blemish destroy him. He’d figure it out. He was smarter than most. He just needed to… Yes. He’d dispose of her body, clean up behind him, and let it remain a mystery; a cold case never to be solved.
With new resolve, he glanced around. He couldn’t leave her there. No. That was too obvious. He’d need to drive her deep into the woods, into territory where nobody would find her. And if they did, there’d be too little to find.
His heart thumped loudly against his chest. The ideas came faster than he could keep up with. He knew what he’d have to do. It wouldn’t be easy, but the alternative would certainly be worse.
“I’m sorry, baby. There’s no other way,” he said to his dead lover.
He slipped into the garage in search of the blue tarp, the one he’d used when he helped her paint her living room. He’d need to gather her body and deal with the evidence. (shows why he knows where the tarp was)
He glanced at his watch once again. She’d have to wait in the trunk of his car until he could finish the deed.
It’s not like he could dispose of her in one piece. No, he’d need to make it difficult for her to be identified. If he could take care of it this evening, he’d be able to do it right.
He grabbed a hammer from the toolbox in the garage and dragged it back in with the tarp.
He needed to make sure the job was done.
With a wincing blow, he slammed the hammer against Dawn’s throat, making sure her windpipe was completely crushed.
His stomach twisted and rolled. Nausea almost forced him to stop, but there wasn’t time.
Wrapping her limp body in the tarp, he lifted, then carried her to his car. He placed her on the cool cement floor before digging into his pocket for his keys.
Popping the trunk open, he pushed things around and then wedged her tightly into the space that remained. With the trunk closed, he sat on it for a moment and rubbed his temples. This wasn’t in his plans. Why did life have to be so complicated?
He calmly walked back inside and dug out a bottle of bleach that sat under the kitchen sink. He’d mop the floor and make sure there was no trace of him being there. (showing the lack of emotion here shows you another side after his earlier regret)
It was going to be a long, ugly night. There was so much to do.
Below you’ll see what the purpose of this chapter was. Knowing where you’re heading and what notes you need to hit is critical in setting up your story.
It might seem like a lot, but when you want to learn how to write books, you tackle it one step at a time. You’ve got this. Read on to find out why chapter one starts the way it does.
Detective Alex Ramsey stood before the dead body. He’d seen plenty in his time, but this was unusual. (this simple sentence tells us he’s experienced, and not new on the job)
He took a few steps back and paced.
The woman was decapitated. Her hands and feet had been cut off, and she’d been torched. Missing body parts. Check. Somebody went to great measures to cover their tracks.
Her abdomen was extended, which told him she’d been dead for a couple days — probably no more than five, or she’d have taken on a wetter appearance and stronger odor. The areas of her skin that hadn’t charred were marbled. (visual, details draw the reader in, but I didn’t want to go too far)
They’d label her Jane Doe for now.
If a hiker hadn’t stumbled across the body on his trek through the woods, she might have decomposed. Alex had his work cut out for him.
This wasn’t a sexual crime. Her clothes were still intact.
Normally, victims were found naked if they’d been sexually assaulted, then killed. Why bother redressing them? Maybe they thought the clothes would help ignite the flames better. Either way, he didn’t see it as a rape case.
The suspect knew their victim, though. He was certain. (identify this will help narrow the list of suspects)
And the way they’d gone about trying to erase the victim’s identity — it was personal.
Alex stepped in closer, then leaned down to look at the jagged flesh that remained.
Maybe a hunting knife or a saw.
It wasn’t a smooth, clean cut.
He’d smeared a line of Vicks VapoRub under his nostrils before getting too close. He’d been privy to the foul odors of decaying bodies in the past and picked up a couple tricks to make the job easier. (shows his experience again, in subtle way)
He’d recoiled at his first murder scene with a rotting corpse. A lesson well learned. Since then, he kept the rub handy.
Bryce Mitchell snapped pictures of the dead woman’s body. He studied the sloppy cutting patterns, and the direction trails of grass had been pushed down. At some point, they’d been dragging her. The ground behind them showed wear.
He followed the trail until the flattened grass stood upright. Leaves had fallen, tainting the path. He brushed them to the side with his foot, hoping the trail continued.
The sun glimmered off a shiny object. “Alex, I think I’ve got something over here.”
With his partner beside him, Bryce pointed out his new find. He leaned in closer and snapped pictures.
Alex looped the object with a pen and pulled it from the ground. He shook open an evidence bag he’d snatched from his pocket. With a tilt of his pen, he dropped the jewelry into the bag. “Nice find. Looks to be a necklace or pendant.”
Bryce nodded. “Hopefully we can pull something off of it at the lab.”
“They must have butchered her out here. Otherwise, the necklace would have been long gone. What do you think?” (small detail, but important…trying to pinpoint where the crime occurred)
Bryce rubbed the back of his neck. “Yep. Got her out here and finished the job in the cover of darkness.”
The job never got easier. “She’d have been dead for a while. Not much blood.”
“Sick-o,” Bryce spat.
“Cam, you got this?” Alex called over his shoulder.
Cam documented the latest information. He jotted times, locations, and conditions of anything and everything found at the scene of the crime.
Alex sketched details into a notepad, then took measurements. He moved back to the body to examine it again.
Just waiting on the medical examiner…
Mason Ridge was suburbia, just outside the city. It was planted in Pennsylvania with plenty of parks and a family vibe for those commuting into Philadelphia for work.
The stretch of woods they were in was part of a large county park. He’d spent countless hours hiking through the trails and fishing there while growing up.
The section there were in was far from a regular trail. It was tucked way back, not somewhere most people hiked. The killer made an effort to find a quiet spot. Their suspect would be in good physical shape to have pulled this particular location off. The average hobbyist wouldn’t have made it this far. (giving us a little more detail about the killer’s physical abilities)
Alex grew up with one goal in mind. He’d find justice and make things right. Sure, going the vigilante route was tempting at times, but he wanted to be on the clean side of the law.
When his brother was killed, all he wanted was revenge. Knowing his brother’s killer would rot in jail didn’t feel like enough of a victory. (you start to understand why he wanted a job in this venue – tiny hints of backstory, not a massive info dump)
Sure, he was tried and convicted, but it didn’t bring his brother back. There was a hole the size of Jupiter in his heart that never fully healed. The day his brother died was the day he saw his future.
Most figured he’d never amount to much.
He ran around and never took school seriously. Found trouble most of the time. But not after his brother died.
It was the moment that changed everything.
He’d been on the force longer that he’d ever stuck to anything. His new life grabbed him with a ferocity like nothing he’d ever known.
His meticulous nature helped him land a position in the homicide division. (he’s detail oriented, which should help him in this type of job)
Early on, he’d worked the beat like most others, but he always went a step above. People took notice.
He made ranks and landed in the homicide division.
Bryce took him under his wing and taught him everything he knew. The two were solid and had a good track record of solving cases. Cam was the newest in the division and was doing the grunt work that Alex had started with. (show’s you the “team” and experience levels of each officer)
Another long day. Amanda scrubbed her arms up to her elbows. (a new character is introduced)
She’d brought a change of clothes. She desperately needed a run. After suiting up, she tucked her belongings back into her locker. The workout would push the stress of the day off her shoulders and clear her head.
Her normal shift ended later at night. The overtime was a welcome addition to her paycheck, and that the light was still shining meant a run in the park.
There were times it seemed like she lived at the hospital, one day running into the next. She was there more than at home. And with the staff shortage, she’d picked up more overtime than she wanted. (overworked nurse, and her career is her life)
Exhausted after a long day, it would be easier to go home and collapse, but if she didn’t get her run in, she’d regret it later. It soothed my mind as much as her body.
Amanda loved working in the emergency room, but there were days where even the best-skilled nurse wanted to pull her hair out. Today was one of those days.
She slipped out through a side door. The park was only a mile away.
Police cars dotted the entrance of the park — more than a handful. Amanda joined a group of people that’d gathered. “What’s going on?”
One of the group pointed toward another trail. “They found something. They’ve been up there for a while. Someone said they cordoned off a section farther back. I came for a walk, but they turned me away.”
“They stopped you from walking? That’s odd. Do you think they found a dead body? Why else would they stop you?”
The woman clenched her hands together and sighed. “Oh, I hope not. Mason Ridge is safe. I don’t want to have to watch over my shoulder.” (safe neighborhood, emphasized, murders don’t usually happen here)
Amanda parked herself amidst the crowd. So much for her run, but whatever was going on was bound to be more interesting.
When you’re learning how to write a book, it can be overwhelming when you think about how many words you’ll be creating. The easiest way to tackle this is by doing it a piece at a time. Think of each chapter as one slice of information. By doing this, you only have to look as far ahead as the end of the scene.
Let’s see what you’ve just read:
“Damn. Where is it?”
After disposing her body, he went back to her house and pulled into the garage. Closing the door behind him, he scoured the floor of the garage, then the kitchen. Nothing.
He’d already scrubbed the floor heavily with bleach but wanted to wipe down door knobs and anything else that might make it obvious he’d been there.
In fact, it probably wouldn’t hurt to scrub the floor one more time. No need to leave behind trace evidence. He’d been meticulous about cleaning earlier, but a second coat of bleach and hot, soapy water wouldn’t hurt anything.
If only he could find her pendant. She’d been wearing it earlier. (meticulously cleaning, and very aware that her pendant is missing…why is the pendant important?)
The day he gave it to her, she lit up with joy. They’d been together for a year. She’d been patient with him when he told her he’d leave his wife, though he never intended to.
He plied her along with baubles, jewels, and fancy dinners.
The pendant was a custom design he had made for her. He’d inscribed it with a symbol, one she’d know was from him, but didn’t identify who he was to others. (custom designed, uh-oh, could it lead back to him…probably not)
He’d only used the symbol on one other piece of jewelry in the past.
How could he be so careless? It was the only thing tying her to him. Nobody knew of their affair — at least not that he was aware of. She’d told him she’d keep it a secret and he assumed she did.
When Lee got the news that one of the ER nurses hadn’t shown up for work and nobody could reach her, he noted it on her chart. The head nurse would cover the first half of Dawn’s shift, and another nurse would cover the other.
Dawn Lewis was usually a responsible employee. She rarely called out, and if she did there was always time to cover her shift. This was the third day she’d been a no-show.
They’d need to file disciplinary action and decide if she’d still have her job if it happened again.
He hated to think like that, but a hospital relied on an operational staff at all times. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but he had a job to do, and that meant keeping his emergency room running at full capacity. He didn’t want to end up pushing patients to the neighboring hospital because they were understaffed.
Either way, Lee had more pressing things to worry about. A bus carrying a basketball team crashed head-first into oncoming traffic and a bunch of casualties were headed their way. (person in authoritative position, and Dawn has been absent enough it’s been noticed)
If that were their only issue, they’d be just fine, but after a fire broke out at a neighboring apartment complex, they’d brought in a handful of people with burns and injuries. The trauma center was hopping, and it only looked to be getting busier. (chaos at the emergency room)
He’d already jumped in to help, though he was usually tied to administration work. Short-handed, he was able to do what he could. Amanda ran by him with a crash cart. “I’ve got a stab wound in three, and a heart attack just got admitted. Can you do a clean-up of the wound, while I tend to the heart attack?” (we met Amanda last chapter, and know she’s a nurse — this easily keeps her involved in the story)
“Got it,” he said as he scrambled toward bed three. He’d done his time as a registered nurse before getting into the administration end of things.
Greg flew around the corner, flailing his arms. “What do you expect me to do?”
An irate woman chastised him. “You can’t just leave him waiting there.”
“Ma’am, you’ll need to wait by his bed, or we’ll escort you outside.” Greg grimaced at one of the other hospital staff as he rushed past. The woman continued to chase after him.
“Security,” he sang out. “We’ve got a live one for you.”
Security guard, Jack Tobin, made his way to the ruckus. “I’ve got it covered.” (a few more characters are introduced with a few sentences…use their names if they’re secondary, but like the woman chasing after him, her name isn’t necessary)
“Hey, how’s the wife feeling?” Greg asked quickly as he passed.
“Same as always,” Jack answered over his shoulder, before directing his attention to the woman. “Okay, ma’am, you’ll need to come with me.”
Alex walked down the long hallway that led to the medical examiner’s room. The old building had gotten a face lift, but some areas were further down the list than others when it came to the remodel. (we’re now folding Alex into the hospital scene, so the two worlds collide)
The basement, where they housed the morgue along with the autopsy room, would be last to be updated. The floors were tiled with drains and the walls cement. Slabs of metal doors housed bodies until they were transported to their next location. A massive cooler held cadavers waiting for forensic pathology exams…a cast of characters for autopsies. (slabs of metal doors…cement walls…details to add to setting, and draw you deeper into the moment)
He’d be speaking with the examiner to see what they’d been able to find. Unfortunately, without the woman’s missing hands, feet, or head, they’d be forced to look for identifying clues in other ways.
With no tattoos, no unusual markings, no prints, no scars from surgery, and no dental records to go by, it felt like a dead end. Jane Doe might forever be laid to rest as Jane Doe. (I’m making it obvious her identity will be difficult to solve, as it’s an important piece of the puzzle, even though we know what happened, the detective doesn’t…he’s still putting things together)
He hated not being able to name his victims. It left him hollow when he was unable to notify the deceased’s family. He’d check the list of missing people and see if anything matched up, but again, with only a mutilated body, there wasn’t a lot to go by other than skin color and maybe size.
She’d been badly burned, though not completely charred. They could still identify the victim’s gender. Alex hated not knowing more. After enough time on the job, he figured he’d get over that part, but he never did.
Dr. Kateri Toma was the hospital’s medical examiner and a board certified forensic pathologist. She’d been an asset to the community hospital for over ten years, having relocated from a bigger city and busier hospital. It allowed her more time to delve into each case, unlike the rapid turnover that was expected in more heavily populated areas. (showing her expertise, not simply saying she was the examiner, gives her more authority)
After discussing their victim with the examiner, they weren’t any closer to finding an identity. Sure, they’d run a DNA sample, but there were no time frames or guarantees.
While advances had been made, the tedious nature of the testing took longer than they preferred. He hoped to find answers when the report came back. Frustrated, Alex thanked the examiner for her time, then traveled down the long hallway back to the portion of the hospital dedicated to the living. (emphasizing the two ironic sides of the hospital, the living and the dead)
The familiar buzz of the fluorescent lights hummed over them while in the dungeon of the hospital, but as he neared the first floor the sounds of the lights gave way to varying noises that carried from the emergency room. (contrast is a great way to emphasize things)
Normally, he’d cut through and catch up with a couple of acquaintances, but he was in no mood. Besides, things were chaotic. He turned the bend, about to head out the doors when Amanda caught his arm.
“Hey, are you okay?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yeah. Just a crazy week. How are you doing?”
“Good,” she answered. “Things are busy here too, but it makes the time go faster. I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah. Hope the night smooths over for you soon,” he said, already lost in his world. The mysterious Jane Doe lingered in his mind. Who killed her and why?
As quickly as Amanda had grabbed his arm, she’d spun back into action and slid behind the curtain of one of her patients. She was a pistol in motion, always on the go. He’d seen her a few times when he’d have to make the journey to the emergency room, but other than some casual conversation, he didn’t know a lot about her. She was a pretty woman, and obviously capable as well as she handled the hospital floor, but tonight the only woman on Alex’s mind was Jane Doe. (they are aware of one another, but aren’t close…watch as the relationship changes over the course of the story)
Only one other person would recognize the symbol on the pendant. Only one. He’d spent two years with her hiding their affair, the same way that he’d currently been doing with Dawn. Would she be able to identify him if the necklace turned up? Would the engraved pendant tie him to the scene of the crime?
No. He was overthinking things. Nobody would be any wiser. She could have dropped or lost her necklace anywhere. If somebody picked it up, they might see the inscription, but it gave nothing away. It didn’t tell them what he did.
His stomach rolled. (he’s trying to convince himself, but it’s hard to lie to yourself)
Killing her turned out to be the easiest part. It was dismembering her body and setting her on fire that took the most guts.
He almost lost it, damn near vomited all over, but caught himself before he left the vile evidence of his own fluids behind. He swallowed down the bile that wanted to regurgitate in a desperate bid to stay in the clear.
Once he finished, he returned to her house. He needed to finish cleaning up. When it was all said and done, he jerked the garage door down and wiped the handle as he’d done with everything else.
He wouldn’t be back. He’d put the painful memory behind him and go forward. There was no other way.
He’d done his best to cover his trail.
There was some explaining he’d have to do about his late hours, but that would be easier than what he’d just dealt with.
He needed to consider the other potential threat. Honestly, she was the only one who could identify him via the symbol inscribed on the jewelry. If she couldn’t speak, he’d be in the clear. (another potential victim)
He closed his eyes. The idea of going through that again…
No. It was too much.
The longer he thought of it, though, the more sense it made. Amanda Gladstone would have to die. (and now Amanda’s life is in danger…this is an important element to increase the suspense)
It was a shame he’d have to drag her into this mess, though there was a sense of relief knowing that her demise would seal the deal. Nobody would understand the symbol if the necklace did turn up. He’d only ever used it twice. Dawn was dead. Amanda would be next. (aha, no wonder he’s worried, somebody else knows what the symbol means)
A rush pulsed through his veins, an unexpected jolt of electricity. Dawn’s death was different. He’d reacted quickly in a dreaded panic. He didn’t mean to kill her.
Amanda, well, that would be different. He could take his time and plan things more carefully, making sure to do the job in the cleanest manner.
A thrill coiled around him like a spring. She’d be his next victim. A bubbling sense of power washed over him, and bathed him in delight. (love this last paragraph…it’s got great metaphor and detail, and shows that maybe he has it in him to kill again after all is said and done)
When you write books, how you go about it may be different than the next person. At the end of the day, we all follow the same path–taking our characters from Point A to Point B.
How you get them there is something to think about before starting. It will help make the process of creating your story smoother.
Be sure to check out part 2 in the series about how to write a book. I hope that the explanations along the way help you understand why things are said, how to drop little details in, and ways to show character.
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