How Revision Changed JAWS (1975)

Jaws is the property of Universal Pictures.

Well, I finally watched Jaws.

(It was never on TV or streaming when I could watch it!)

Like all the big films I’ve been watching this semester—two other finally-watched 70s classics were The Godfather and Chinatown—I was taking notes while watching it, which includes having the screenplay up on one half of my screen while I take notes on the other half.

I pretty quickly realized that the script I had up was not the final one. Scenes were different, dialogue was different.

Quint was very different.

If you’ve read my guest post on The Better Novel Project, you know that I really geek out over dialogue. And if you’ve read other posts on my blog before, you know that I am very passionate about voice.

So of course Quint’s language in the film struck a chord with me like a hammer on piano wire.

And I want to share his first monologue with you. But before I do, I want to share what the original script had him say, because comparing the two is such a great lesson in rewriting to strengthen voice.

I’m going to number the sentences for easier comparison.

Quint’s First Monologue in the Original Screenplay

  1. You all know me.
  2. You know what I do for a living.
  3. I’ll go out and get this bird for you.
  4. He’s a bad one and it’s not like goin’ down the pond chasing blue-gills and tommy-cods.
  5. This is a fish that can swallow a man whole.
  6. A little shakin’, a little tenderizing and down ya’ go.
  7. You gotta get this fellow and get him quick.
  8. If you do, it’ll bring a lot of tourist business just to see him and you’ve got your business back on a paying basis.
  9. A shark of that size is no pleasure and I value my neck at a hell of a lot more’n 3,000 bucks.
  10. I’ll find him for three.
  11. But I’ll kill him for ten.
  12. The bastard is costing you more’n that every day.
  13. Do you wanna stay alive and annee up the ten or play it cheap and be on welfare next winter.
  14. I’m gonna kill this thing… just a matter of whether I do it now — or at the end of summer.

Not bad, right? But not explosive, either. And Spielberg likes explosive.

Here’s the revised version:

Quint’s First Monologue in the Finished Film

  1. Y’all know me.
  2. Know how I earn a livin’.
  3. I’ll catch this bird for ya, but it ain’t gonna be easy…
  4. Bad fish.
  5. It’s not like going down to pond chasin’ blue gills or tommy cots.
  6. This shark—swallow ya hole.
  7. Li’l shakin’, li’l tenderizin’, down ya go.
  8. Now we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back the tourists, that’ll put all your businesses on a payin’ basis.
  9. But it’s not gonna be pleasant!
  10. I value my neck a lot more than 3000 bucks, chief!
  11. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him… and kill him… for ten!
  12. Now you gotta make up your minds.
  13. Gonna stay alive and ante up?
  14. Or ya wanna play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter?
  15. I don’t want no volunteers; I don’t want no mates.
  16. There’s too many captains on this island.
  17. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself.
  18. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Doesn’t this read differently? Same content for the most part, but edited and refined. THIS is explosive diction. THIS is what makes nerdy writers blog even when they should be writing essays for grad school … (oops.)

Go ahead and look between the two and compare sentences.

Then, since we are already getting our nerd on, making sentence graphs and everything, why don’t we count the breath units? (Those are the number of syllables between breaths or punctuation points.) It’s OK if you want to skip ahead to the next section. No judgment.

Intense Geekery: Breath Unit Comparison

Here they are in the original version: 4, 9, 9, 20, 11, 16, 11, 3, 37, 26, 5, 6, 13, 25, 6, 11, 7
(Average breath unit: 12.8 syllables)

And since I’m a visual person and numbers start to lose meaning after, like, four of them, here’s a visual:

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And in the final film: 3, 7, 6, 8, 2, 16, 2, 4, 4, 6, 4, 7, 7, 14, 8, 14, 5, 4, 3, 2, 8, 9, 7, 8, 8, 5, 10, 10, 6, 2, 4
(Average breath unit: 6.5 syllables)

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**
****
****
******
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*******
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*****
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*******
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While the first graph looks more like a roller coaster, which emotionally or intuitively might feel better for a writer to come up with, the second graph is tighter and shows a more natural and consistent flow in a character’s speech.

Why the breath units again?

If you can’t explain why something doesn’t sound right, check out the breath units.

Is counting syllables tedious? Sure. Eventually you’ll train your brain and your ear to hear a more natural rhythm.

Do all of your sentences have to be short? No. But if you look at the differences between the rhythm of the first graph and the second graph, you can see that the more natural-sounding speech doesn’t go from three syllables to 37, just like that. And if you try to say 37 syllables in a row without breathing, your lungs will feel how unnatural lengthy breath units are, simply because humans need to breathe. Twenty-five syllables or more might not look impossible on the page—and sometimes, when we are nervous or anxious, we can spit out a lot of syllables breathlessly—but readers and actors will pick up on dialogue that is unspeakable.

Rewriting Jaws

We know that Robert Shaw, the actor who played Quint, rewrote his major monologue near the climax of the film:

In addition to being an Oscar-nominated actor, Shaw was an award-winning writer of novels, plays and screenplays, and when he took a crack at polishing up the monologue, he made it into something unforgettable. Spielberg asserts that the monologue was a joint effort between two screenwriters and Shaw, while others say that Shaw did the heavy lifting to make the monologue so perfect.

—Linnea Crowther, “Robert Shaw as Jaws‘ Quint: 8 Facts

I assume that Shaw is responsible for this monologue’s rewrite as well.

Written out, the monologue might seem unrealistic, even silly: “Bad fish.” But in the hands of a master actor, it feels natural.

How did Shaw rewrite it? It wasn’t just that he was an award-winning writer. It’s because he spent so much time listening to a real local fisherman, Craig Kingsbury, a resident of Martha’s Vineyard. After listening so intently to a real-live person, Shaw was able to bring that authenticity to his work.

For more tips on writing realistic dialogue, read my guest post at The Better Novel Project.

Do you have a favorite voice in fiction or film? Share in the comments or tweet me @LaraEdits.

[Plot] The Tragic Subplot of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

With this two-part series, you get to choose your own adventure!

  • Below you can read the tragic subplot of The Dark Knight—Harvey Dent’s storyline. Then, to see how Batman’s arc is built around it, read the encompassing plot.
  • If you want to start with Batman’s story or read  through the full plot chronologically, here’s the heroic storyline.

You can jump from one post to the next at any time by using the teleport links.

The Tragedy of Harvey Dent

Villains are the heroes of their own stories. In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent goes through the 8 C’s just like protagonist Bruce Wayne, with just two alterations.

Instead of an Allies and Abilities section after the complication, Harvey gains enemies and displays his tragic flaws.

And since Harvey’s story ends tragically, his seventh C isn’t a curveball that sets him back; it’s a final burst of  confidence.

Teleport to: [Review of the 8 C’s] [Prologue] [Bruce Wayne’s Captivation & Opening]

Harvey Dent’s 8 C’s

Captivation, Opening

Before Harvey shows up on screen, he’s described by Lt. Gordon:

GORDON

When the new DA gets wind of this, he’ll want in.

BATMAN

Do you trust him?

GORDON

Be hard to keep him out. I hear he’s as stubborn as you.

For comic book fans, Harvey’s captivation comes when he pulls out the coin to flip for who will lead in the courtroom and Rachel calls him Harvey. DC fans know that Harvey is Two-Face’s real name, and coin-flipping is his trademark, so once he’s introduced, they automatically know who he is and whom he becomes.

For viewers who may not be as familiar with Batman villains, their captivation is just how likable this guy is, and how easy it is to root for him:

RACHEL

I’m serious, Harvey, you don’t leave things like this to chance.

HARVEY

I don’t.
(sincere)
I make my own luck.

And if that’s not enough to make you like Harvey, then watch his whole opening scene:

Clearly Harvey Dent is the heroic type, right?

Change, Reaction

Dent calls Gordon into his office to partner with Gordon. He also acknowledges that Gordon works with Batman, but it’s all in subtext until Gordon clues the audience in:

HARVEY

Fancy stuff for a city cop. Have help?

GORDON

We liaise with various agencies—

HARVEY

Save it, Gordon. I want to meet him.

GORDON

Official policy is to arrest the vigilante known as Batman on sight.

As soon as Harvey partners with Gordon (and consequently Batman), Harvey’s story begins to change.

[Meanwhile, Bruce follows a lead and asks Fox for a new suit]

When his date with Rachel gets crashed by Bruce Wayne, Harvey unknowingly, reluctantly meets Bruce is Batman. Harvey wins over Bruce, who decides to throw him a fundraiser. This sequence has plenty of lines to dig into. For one, Harvey clearly respects Batman and considers what he does to be not an honor, but a public service. He says he might be up to taking up Batman’s mantle. This is also when Harvey says this thematic (and prophetic) line:

HARVEY

You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Teleport to: [Primary Change, Reaction]

Complication, Enemies & Flaws

Later, Harvey meets with Gordon and Batman. Gordon and Harvey both blame each other for a leak to the mob, and we’re reminded that Harvey came from Internal Affairs and had investigated all of Gordon’s cops. Gordon, Harvey, and Batman all agree that Lau (a Chinese businessman and basically the entire mob’s accountant) needs to be brought in if they want to take down Gotham’s crime ring. But Batman is the only one who can do it, because Gordon and Harvey don’t have jurisdiction in China, and Batman doesn’t need jurisdiction. Harvey is still bound by the law—he’s helpless here, but he does makes the call that Batman should go, and he accepts that there will be consequences:

GORDON

We’re going after the mob’s life savings. Things will get ugly.

HARVEY

I knew the risks when I took this job, Lieutenant. Same as you.

Teleport to: [Primary Complication, Bruce’s Problem #1: Hong Kong]

Enemies & Flaws: Going After the Mob

In the first Enemies & Flaws sequence, Harvey:

  • uses Lau to testify against the mob
  • repeats his distrust of Gordon’s cops when he questions keeping Lau in Central
  • arrests 549 connections to the mob
  • is warned by the mayor that politicians, journalists, and crooked cops will be after him, too, now that he’s targeting the mob

Teleport to: [Bruce’s Problem #2: The Fundraiser]

Enemies & Flaws: Threats from The Joker

In the second Enemies & Flaws sequence, Harvey:

  • is threatened by the Joker (police find his DNA on the dead “Batman”)
  • is saved by Bruce when the Joker turns up at his fundraiser
  • is threatened by the Joker again (A “Harvey” and “Dent” double murder)

Teleport to: [Bruce’s Problem #3: The Parade]

Enemies & Flaws: Going Rogue for Rachel

In the third Enemies & Flaws sequence, Harvey:

  • discovers that Joker is targeting Rachel next (a thug’s name tag)
  • steals a paramedic truck with the thug inside
  • plays Russian Roulette with the thug, then tosses his coin for the thug’s life—but in both of these cases, he’s bluffing.
  • is caught “torturing” the thug by Batman, who admonishes him
  • gets angry at Batman for considering turning himself in

We see a bit into Harvey’s fatal flaws in these sequences. First, we see that he admires the capacity for judgment:

MAYOR

549 criminals at once?! How did you get Surrillo to hear this farce?

HARVEY

She shares my enthusiasm for justice. After all, she is a judge.

Second, we see what he has to lose.

BATMAN

You’re the symbol of hope that I could never be. Your stand against organized crime is the first legitimate ray of light in Gotham for decades. If anyone saw this, everything would be undone—all the criminals you got off the streets would be released.

Note—Batman is talking about organized crime. But Harvey already knows he’s not dealing with organized crime with the Joker—he’s dealing with disorganized, unpredictable, chaotic crime. And that means his tactics need to shift. They will at the midpoint…

Confrontation, Elation

This next scene is definitely the midpoint. It happens dead center of the movie, and it’s a major turning point in the plot.

Harvey tells the press that he is the Batman.

This doesn’t sound like a “confrontation.” It’s not a physical one, surely. Harvey is trying to take the fall for Batman so Batman can continue doing his job. This action is still a confrontation between Harvey and Batman. Harvey is making his own luck. (And how does he do that? By taking away Batman’s agency.)

Alfred offers Rachel (and the audience) some insight to why Harvey may have decided to claim the cowl, as well as why Bruce allowed him to:

ALFRED

Perhaps both Bruce and Mr. Dent believe that Batman stands for something more important than a terrorist’s whims, Miss Dawes, even if everyone hates him for it. That’s the sacrifice he’s making—to not be a hero. To be something more.

This harkens back to the conversation between Rachel, Harvey, and Bruce back at the restaurant, when they were talking about a Roman guardian of a city doing it not for honor, but as a public service.

The ensuing car chase with Dent in an armored car, acting as bait to catch the Joker, seems like it shouldn’t be any sort of Elation sequence, but Dent is actually enjoying it—in the script, as well as in the movie, Dent is smiling and calm amidst the gunfire and chaos. He is pleased.

And then Batman, Gordon, and Dent catch the Joker. Elation.

Collapse, Gloom

So of course the collapse comes next. Dent is captured and brought to a warehouse to die or be rescued. So is Rachel. They’re each given a 50/50 chance to live, because they know Batman will only be able to rescue one of them.

Harvey tries to move but falls, accidentally dousing the left side of his face with gasoline.

Batman, thinking he’s gone to where Rachel was, shows up to Harvey’s warehouse. Harvey is helpless as Rachel is blown up. On the way out of the building, as it, too, explodes, Harvey’s face catches fire.

Harvey wakes up in the hospital and finds his coin—the one he’d given to Rachel—at his bedside.

Half his face is destroyed. One of the faces of the coin is damaged, too.

Gordon visits Harvey and tells him he’s sorry.

HARVEY

No. No you’re not. Not yet.

Teleport to: [Bruce’s Collapse and Gloom] [Bruce’s Comprehension, Action]

Comprehension, Action

The Joker finds Harvey in the hospital and releases him from his restraints. The Joker says Gordon and the mob are all schemers, and that Harvey used to be a schemer, too, but he (the Joker) is an agent of chaos … because chaos is fair.

Harvey pulls out his coin. Now it’s not a lucky coin. He can’t make his own luck anymore. His agency was taken away by chance. Now chance will govern his decisions.

Dent looks down at the coin in his hands. Turns it over, feels its comforting weight. Shows the Joker the good side.

HARVEY

You live.

He turns the coin over. The flip side is deeply scarred.

HARVEY

You die.

First Action: Wuertz

After chance dictates the Joker’s fate at the hands of Harvey, Harvey—as Two-Face—goes on a murderous rampage, targeting everyone who was tied to Rachel’s death and flipping his coin to decide if he kills them or incapacitates them.

His first victim is Detective Wuertz, who had picked him up and brought him to the warehouse.

Teleport to: [Bruce’s Second Action]

Second Action: Maroni

Next he visits Maroni, the mob boss, who tells him the name of the cop who picked up Rachel and brought her to her death.

Teleport to: [Bruce’s Third Action]

Third Action: Ramirez and Gordon’s Family

Harvey forces Ramirez to betray Gordon’s family, tricking them into meeting where Rachel was killed.

Teleport to: [Bruce’s Fourth Action] [Curveball]

Curveball Confidence, Final Exam

Lt. Gordon shows up to the place where Rachel died to find his wife and children huddling together. Harvey disarms Gordon.

Chance might be the judge determining someone’s fate, but Harvey is still a prosecutor. More than that: now he decides who should be on trial.

He’s got Gordon exactly where he wants him, especially after he puts his gun up to the head of Gordon’s little boy. Harvey is confident that Gordon is going to get a “fair” trial.

Then Batman shows up, and it’s time for Harvey’s final exam.

BATMAN

You don’t want to hurt the boy, Dent.

HARVEY

It’s not what I want. It’s about what’s fair.
(To Gordon and Batman)
You thought we could be decent men in an indecent world. You thought we could lead by example. You thought the rules could be bent but not break … You were wrong. The world is cruel.
(Shows his coin)
And the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.

Harvey has lost his morality and his sense of goodness. He was the one who needed to hear Rachel’s advice to “Please keep your faith in people.”

Remember when Harvey was boasting about the judge being enthusiastic about justice? For Two-Face, justice means retribution. Justice is punishment. And if he was punished (losing Rachel, burned half to death) when he was doing good (trying to take down the mob), then his punishment must have been determined by chance.

The scariest villains are the ones we empathize with. The ones whose motivations kinda make some sense.

Culmination

Batman urges Harvey to punish the three people responsible for Rachel’s death—Batman, Harvey, and Gordon. So Harvey flips a coin for Batman…

…and shoots him.

For himself…

…and he lives.

For Gordon’s son…

…and Batman takes him out. Two-Face is dead.

Resolution

For Harvey’s resolution, we need to go to Bruce Wayne’s side of the story.

Teleport to: [Main Culmination, Resolution] [Thematic Question]

D&D alignments for the characters in The Dark Knight (2008)

I spent WAY too much time creating this graphic of my D&D alignments for the characters in The Dark Knight.


So, did you read chronologically? Did you choose the heroic or tragic tale first?

Writing brings people together, and so does Batman. Share this post on social media! ❤

Which Gothic Romantic Writer Are You?

Just over two hundred years ago, it was a stormy June on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Lord Byron and his personal physician, John Polidori, were renting out a mansion in the summer, the Villa Diodati. Rained in with them at the time were poet Percy Shelley and his mistress, Mary Godwin, who would later become his wife: Mary Shelley.

They read Shakespeare and Mary’s mother (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin) and a host of German ghost stories to beat the boredom. Then Byron issued a challenge: each of them should write a ghost story of their own, and then share it with the group.

Each of the four tackled the challenge in their own way. Mary Shelley wrote about their creative endeavor in her introduction to Frankenstein.

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Polidori, Byron, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley

Lord Byron

Byron wrote a story based on a fragment of a tale from the end of his poem “Mazeppa,” which itself was a narrative poem based on a legend of a historical Ukranian high commander. If that isn’t literary inception, I’m not sure what would be, especially if you consider the fate of this abandoned vampiric tale, which later inspired:

John Polidori

Polidori “had some terrible idea” of a skull-headed lady who saw something she shouldn’t—Mary couldn’t remember what. Polidori didn’t know how she should be punished for such a crime, so he put her in the tomb where Romeo and Juliet died.

After Byron abandoned his ghost story when the weather improved, John rewrote it into The Vampyre, a novella which basically became the grandfather of all paranormal romance.

Percy Shelley

Mary’s future husband, Percy, was a poet “more apt to embody ideas and sentiments in the radiance of brilliant imagery and in the most melodious verse that adorns our language than to invent the machinery of a story.” In other words, he was a literary pantser who cared little of plot.

Percy took something that scared him as a child and added some alternative facts to fashion his ghost story.

Mary Godwin (Shelley)

With her high literary pedigree, it’s no surprise that Mary Shelley would become a writer herself. But as a child, rather than the romances or adventure stories that were popular at that time, she preferred living in a world of her own making, inspired more by her dreams and imagination than reality. “I could people the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age than my own sensations,” she writes.

Mary struggled with the challenge. The men, she felt, failed at writing a true story, concerning themselves more with word choice or concepts than creating an experience.

“I busied myself to think of a story, —a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name. I thought and pondered—vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”

The poets quickly abandoned the challenge, neither finishing because they were “annoyed by the platitude of prose.” Byron and Shelley instead spoke about a number of topics, including the principle of life, and if it could be discovered or created. They spoke of  Dr. Erasmus Darwin’s “Spontaneous Vitality” and of galvanism, a professor of medicine’s applications of electricity to dead frogs, making their legs move.

That night, Mary couldn’t sleep. “My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me,” she says. She saw vividly the scene of a “pale student of unhallowed arts” using a machine that brought a “hideous phantasm of a man” to life.

“The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around. I see them still; the very room, the dark parquet, the closed shutters, with the moonlight struggling through, and the sense I had that the glassy lake and white high Alps were beyond. I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; still it haunted me. I must try to think of something else. I recurred to my ghost story, my tiresome unlucky ghost story! O! if I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night!

“Swift as light and as cheering was the idea that broke in upon me. “I have found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.” On the morrow I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that day with the words, It was on a dreary night of November , making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.”

It was Percy Shelley who, seeing its potential, urged Mary to flesh it out (pardon the pun) and turn it into what became the grandmother of science fiction novels.

Which Geneva Gothic Romantic Writer Are You?

It depends on how you get your inspiration.

The Reteller

john-polidoriPolidori was inspired by the works of others, of Shakespeare and Lord Byron, creating his own stories from their initial ideas. Consider stories that inspire you. Write fan fiction, a retelling, or a twist on another tale, making it your own.

Example: Marissa Meyer wrote Sailor Moon fanfiction before she started writing her debut novel Cinder (a futuristic retelling of Cinderella), followed by retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White, and the Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 


The Historian

lord-byronByron was inspired by literary history, both his own and historical legends. Consider something you’ve written in the past or a legend or classic you find fascinating. Then write it in a different medium or genre. Turn a play into a poem, a myth into a novel, or a short story into a script.

Example: Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis is based on the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Rick Riordan writes bovel series based on mythology.

 

 


The Memoirist

percy-shelleyPercy wrote creative nonfiction, taking creative liberties with memories of true and personal events and feelings. What events in your past had the most significant emotional reactions, psychological consequences, or philosophical epiphanies? How can you fictionalize or elaborate on those moments?

Example: Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is his most autobiographical , most chilling, and most beautifully written novel.

 

 

 


The Inventor

mary-shelleyMary was inspired by science, dreams, and philosophy. To come up with fantastic ideas like hers, read widely and think wildly. Read about scientific discoveries, consume philosopher theories and poet anthologies. Absorb visual and performance art. Visit a museum and take notes. I just stumbled upon a special on PBS about how engineers and scientists are using the concepts of origami to build structures, automate robotics, and energize space stations. How could you incorporate origami into a fictional universe?

Example: Publisher’s Weekly calls Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World a literary pyrotechno-thriller.


A New Challenge

Ideas may be illusive, but they aren’t endangered. I’m probably more of a Byron or Polidori than a Shelley, but inspiration can come from anywhere.

Now I challenge you to write a story. It doesn’t have to be a ghost story, but it does have to come out of a deep emotion. Will it be dread? Anxiety? Betrayal? Regret? Obsession?

Write your story, and if you feel so lead, tell us about it in the comments. If you post the story on your blog or a website, link to it below. Maybe you’ll find a critique partner!

February Freebies

Hi all! Happy Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. After a Twitter convo brought up the need for introverts to hit on people they see reading without disturbing them, I decided we needed bookmarks that say “You are cute and  you read—email me.”

But bookmarks can be hard to carry on your person all the time, so I decided to make them the size of business cards instead. I hope you enjoy them! Click the images below to download either the black and white or the black and red version.

Only 4 of the crop marks showed up in the PDF, so know that the cards are each 2″x3.5″

On the back, write:

  • your first name
  • your email
  • subj: [a keyword that you’ll be able to identify them by, like “combat boots” or “Wuthering Heights”]

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I also made a dorky new desktop background that some cat-loving writers might enjoy. You can download that, too.

All of these are for personal use only!

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