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Author Topic: Editing - Everyone Needs It  (Read 3270 times)

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Online Orell

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #30 on: 05/22/18, 06:56:35 PM »
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Example: Nick would walk to the door and open it.

Better: Nick walked to the door and opened it.

There are good times to use the "would walk", though. Basically, for an action that might be contested by another RPer and you want to flag that you're open to it. With narrative writing, absolutely, drop the unneeded words, just that it is useful to do in an RP setting.
Character List:

Pub side: Lien Orell, Kyri Orell, Shaantil (possibly Dumas), Norland, Everen (bank alt ATM), Quarashaa (Pub version of the real Quarasha), Merrant

Imp Side: Quarasha, Effet Ornell, Arazel, Zedney, Zhel, Asori-Alnas

Offline Imazi

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #31 on: 05/22/18, 07:25:00 PM »
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The issue is a matter of keeping consistent tense and making conditional actions.

A lot of times would is used to describe a future action when the RP is happening in real time. While I personally prefer past tense to convey what my character has just done, present tense would work as well. However stating what your character would do when you are the RPer behind them kinda looks like you aren't sure what your own character is doing.

Now, like Orell says, there are times when would could be used to avoid godmodding. However, other words can be used like attempts/attempted, tries/tried and there is always either ICly or OOCly seeing if the other player will consent to the action.
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Offline Niarra

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #32 on: 05/22/18, 09:04:21 PM »
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@Niarra, this is another brilliant thread of yours.  One subject I'd like to see you address is the abusive use by RPers of the word would in their writing.  This drives me crazier than anything else I see in SWTOR fan fiction writing.

Example: Nick would walk to the door and open it.

Better: Nick walked to the door and opened it.

I see this in in-game RP and short story writing all the time and it makes me want to gauge my eyeballs out of my head.

This makes me want to cry as well. I have often given thought to why it is that people do this, and though I obviously can't speak for them I honestly think that maybe some of the time it comes down to inexperience or the kind of experience they have.

In tabletop RPG, you do often hear people say "Conan would go over here and try to shoot this guy." Though even in that setting it still shows a breaking of character, it's a little more understandable because when you're all sitting at a table eating Doritos and moving miniatures on a grid, especially during combat, there can be a sense that you are controlling something else and not embodying a character. In that scenario, saying what you feel the character, as a thing outside of yourself, would do, might lend itself to using that word. So maybe some of those people come from that background, and that's one kind of experience that might be at the root of it.

The inexperience angle may just be people not entirely accustomed to working in the written medium. Who knows?

But at the end of the day using "would" is ultimately just grammatically incorrect. By its very nature that word means that the action has not yet taken place. It doesn't even communicate whether or not it might take place. The only thing "would" communicates is a desire; it says nothing about actualization. Whether you are writing in present or past tense, "would" is not correct in trying to communicate something that one should assume is actually happening or has actually happened.

Now, that being said. As Imazi pointed out, there's a broader issue around tenses. Whether a RPer uses present or past tense is entirely up to the player; that's just a stylistic/preferential choice. I personally prefer present tense in RP because it is something that is unfolding in real time, observed in real time by others, and subject to change in real time based on what other people do. I feel that past tense conveys a sense of recounting something that has already happened as opposed to something that is unfolding right in front of you, which is why I avoid it in RP, but again as I said that's purely a personal preference, and I've noticed that it's a fairly even split between players who like to use present tense and those who like to use past tense. I think we're all used to that, and used to navigating a group scene where different tenses are being used. No harm no foul and variety is the spice of life.

Whatever tense you're going to be using, though, "would" is still not technically correct. I understand the point that it might be a means to indicate intention that is open to being contested by another player, and RP is not an exact science, so sometimes whatever gets the thing to work properly for all parties involved is a good thing whether or not it's technically correct. While refining the craft is also a good thing, actually having fun and workable RP is more important than anything else, and I'll be the first to get on board with that.

But "would" is always about desire, not about action. Tries/attempts/strives, words like those and others are still actions; they do not indicate the outcome, but they do indicate that action was taken to try to create an outcome. "Would" does not qualify.

"Would you come over here, please?"
"Would you please pass me the salt?"
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

The above are ways "would" is used in normal language (not RP descriptions I mean), and in all cases the word is used to describe an action one wishes to see, but which is fundamentally out of our control (usually because the action is in someone else's hands), the outcome not certain. That's the whole purpose of the word "would." It communicates that there's a wish or a hypothetical situation, but says nothing about whether or not the wish is fulfilled or the situation actually comes to pass.

It's one of those words that we use so commonly that it's a little easy to forget what its strict parameters are. But strictly speaking, "would" is about conjecture, possibility, wishing, etc etc. Not only does it not convey what the outcome is, it doesn't even convey whether or not a thing was actually attempted, and that's the reason it's not technically correct.

(Obviously an exception is when you're using "would" as a past tense to "will" but that's not what we're talking about here.)

Also, is this thread your way of subtly offering to edit writers' work before publishing?  I have a short story I'll be posting to Star Forge - RP later today. :)

 :evil:  :evil:

Actually, though, no wicked subterfuge involved. Putting the rest behind a spoiler tag though, as an aside, because it's really not relevant to the shop-talk about Adventures In Grammar.
Spoiler: show

I haven't offered editing services outside of a professional environment for a long time for one simple reason: As an editor, I work as an editor and not as a support reader, and that's often really not what people are looking for. I don't mean that in a negative way either, because support readers are crucial. You need some people who want to read your work just to be supportive, to give constructive feedback or even unconditional feedback, and basically be your support network. Very few things in life are truly solo endeavors, and though writing is one of the more solitary of crafts even it shouldn't be totally solitary. But in the past when I've worked freelance as an editor, more often than not it ended up not being a fun experience for either myself or the writer; they had been hoping for essentially a human spell-checker functioning primarily as a cheer-leader and were no happier about getting serious technical critique than I was about seeing the looks on faces when I was done talking. No one likes feeling like a villain, and no one likes feeling like the hobby that brings them happiness has just been turned into a trial.

I'll never forget the time I pointed out to a writer that they were switching back and forth between present and past tense throughout their story. I had marked every time it happened, and in conversation explained to them what the problem was. When they looked both emotionally crushed and also very confused I tried to soften the blow a bit by explaining that if they were deliberately writing something that was attempting to stylistically or artistically invoke a certain experience by strategically swapping tenses then that might be one thing, but if that had been their intention then it meant there were other things that needed to be re-worked to support it. And I watched them latch onto that idea like a lifeline, and they said, "Yeah, I think that's what I was trying to do." They literally I said "I think." And then they looked hugely relieved, because they felt that had obviously let them off the hook, and they began trying to bring the session to a close. And that was actually the moment I decided not to work as a freelance editor anymore, especially as it had been preceded by a guy who tried to tell me that he felt he didn't have to address the errors I'd pointed out because English was his second language and that meant they were fine.

Which is just a way of saying that as a beta reader, I'm not a good choice. If you genuinely want someone to go at your work with an uncompromising eye to technical review, however... well, provided it's not 100 pages long and isn't a serial commitment, I'd be willing to be that pair of eyes. But I would truly ask that I not be asked if you think it's going to make you hate my guts.  :umm: I genuinely enjoy talking shop (because I'm a nerd), which is why I started this thread, and shop-talk conversation built out of the contributions of many minds is always great. But at the end of the day I, like everyone else, am just here to have fun with friends and tell fun stories, and I can't do either if no one wants to tell them with me because things got taken to a level where the hobby didn't need them to be.  :cry: We're all here to have fun, and that's the most important thing.
« Last Edit: 05/22/18, 09:12:49 PM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

Offline Niarra

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #33 on: 05/22/18, 09:11:10 PM »
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At least he brought intensity to the role and played a rare, convincing Bruce Wayne—another part of the Telltale game I was not digging so much. Bruce just feels kinda whiney and... normal? Bruce Wayne should feel anything but normal, even if he's just being Bruce Wayne. I don't know, I hope this doesn't get taken the wrong way (and I mean no offense by it) but I was getting some real "this is Millenial Batman" vibes that were, as a Millenial myself, making me a bit ill. I think they were just trying too hard to make him feel "updated to the times" (a mistake DC will apparently never learn from) when, at least in my opinion, Batman is kind of a-temporal by nature. He's always going to be a Noir character, and is defined by the lens of that time. Updating is good, and by no means impossible, but I think they tried to hard.

That's a very interesting perspective. I admit I wasn't feeling that while playing, but now that I reconsider in light of your comment, I think I can see where you're coming from. At the end of the day it probably doesn't bother me because I enjoy Batman but I am not a Batman fan, so I don't feel that sense of ownership over or passion for the material that I do for something like, say, Star Wars. When it comes to comics, I have always been a Marvel girl.

But I do feel you're right in that this Telltale version of Batman definitely feels less Noir. I found myself picking a lot of the nicer dialogue options because that just felt more right for the story I was seeing, but it's true that what the character ended up saying and emoting as a result of those choices really did not feel Noir.

Ultimately I'm still fairly on board with it, though, because I feel like Telltale was trying to do a re-imagining in some ways. Admittedly this may be my ignorance of Batman canon speaking, but I think the treatment they gave Bruce's parents is different from anything previously seen. Or at least different from anything I'd previously seen. And once I got a sense of where that aspect of the story seemed to be going I did definitely feel like I was getting a different take on Batman the character too, for good or ill.
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

Online Orell

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #34 on: 05/22/18, 09:50:39 PM »
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Two things:

First, the Telltale version of Batman isn't Batman... he's Bruce Wayne.

There's a reason you spend more time as Bruce Wayne in the games than you do as Batman, why you're given the option to solve problems at various points as Bruce instead of the Bat... because Telltale's trying to develop Bruce first and foremost, something that's... honestly kinda lacking in Batman material.

One of the more minor but interesting bits of the 90's Batman animated series was that Bruce Wayne wasn't just a cover for Batman. In Poison Ivy's first episode (I think), Bruce, as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, goes in hard against an underling/business-partner/someone who was carelessly polluting the environment, even though that's something that "billionaire playboy" wouldn't care about.

Telltale just took it further than that, by not making Bruce Wayne the mask, but letting Batman actually be the mask...

Second... look, about the English Language.

The English Language is awful. It is horrible. It is wretched. It is the literal worst. Rules are weird and inconsistent, words have bizarre alternate meanings (I'm looking at you, "literally"), not to mention the odd "optional" rules like the Oxford comma or the pluralization of nouns ending in "s".

And sometimes, that's what makes it great.

You should know the rules of grammar, you should keep them in mind when writing, you should edit with them in mind... and you should break them when breaking them makes the work more interesting. Knowing the rules so you know when to break them.

The first line of every (main) Star Wars film, after all, is a woefully incomplete sentence, lacking both subject and verb, because all it's trying to do is sell an aesthetic, like a parent settling their child down for storytime with a variant on the classic words "Long ago and far away..."

To me, the rhythm of a sentence is paramount. Run-on sentences, split infinitives, dropped pronouns and sentence fragments, they're all useful tools when crafting a sentence... and sometimes the effort to make something grammatically correct robs the words of their texture and flavor.

When I (...occasionally >_>) edit my own writing, something I like to do is say the words out loud. I don't write saying the words, so it's something new to my ears, to hear them said aloud. It lets me massage the clunkiness out of some sentences, helps me realize when an intentionally long sentence is just dragging on and on and on with little to gain from it, and it helps me practice my (shitty) English accent. It's not as good as fresh eyes, but it's a port in a loner of a storm :).
Character List:

Pub side: Lien Orell, Kyri Orell, Shaantil (possibly Dumas), Norland, Everen (bank alt ATM), Quarashaa (Pub version of the real Quarasha), Merrant

Imp Side: Quarasha, Effet Ornell, Arazel, Zedney, Zhel, Asori-Alnas

Offline Niarra

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #35 on: 05/22/18, 10:51:54 PM »
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Two things:

First, the Telltale version of Batman isn't Batman... he's Bruce Wayne.

There's a reason you spend more time as Bruce Wayne in the games than you do as Batman, why you're given the option to solve problems at various points as Bruce instead of the Bat... because Telltale's trying to develop Bruce first and foremost, something that's... honestly kinda lacking in Batman material.

One of the more minor but interesting bits of the 90's Batman animated series was that Bruce Wayne wasn't just a cover for Batman. In Poison Ivy's first episode (I think), Bruce, as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, goes in hard against an underling/business-partner/someone who was carelessly polluting the environment, even though that's something that "billionaire playboy" wouldn't care about.

Telltale just took it further than that, by not making Bruce Wayne the mask, but letting Batman actually be the mask...

That's a great way of putting it. I can see that. There's definitely a sense of Batman being the mask, at least in what I've seen so far of the series (which is the first two episodes and half of the third, so admittedly I've still got a ways to go).

Second... look, about the English Language.

The English Language is awful. It is horrible. It is wretched. It is the literal worst. Rules are weird and inconsistent, words have bizarre alternate meanings (I'm looking at you, "literally"), not to mention the odd "optional" rules like the Oxford comma or the pluralization of nouns ending in "s".

I wouldn't say it's the literal worst. (And yes, that was meant to be cheeky following on Orell's own parenthetical aside.  :grin:)

In all seriousness, while English has its oddities, it also has a lot going for it. I speak two languages fluently, have a rough understanding of a third, and at least dipped my toe into two years of study in a fourth (which I've mostly forgotten at this point, but the grounding and the experience is there). While there are occasionally times that another language has the perfect, unique word or saying that I would like to use to convey something when English lacks that particular nuance, in general English has a degree of specificity and range to it that is very much in its favor. It has its oddities and stupid things, for sure, but it isn't solely because of geopolitical reasons that English has become the lingua franca (irony of that term aside) of international dealings.

There are a lot of books on English as a language out there that are very interesting for the linguistically and philologically inclined, but one I would highly recommend is The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I recommend it in part because Bill Bryson could make a description of paint drying somehow hilarious, and everything is better with humor. But Bill Bryson also happens to be a fantastic researcher, and taken in conjunction with humor that makes most of what he writes a joy to read. Among the many interesting things he points out in that book is included a general assessment of the places where English is strong (even as it pointed out where it's dumb), and though my memory is certainly not good enough to recall all his arguments off the top of my head, in speaking for myself I'll say that I do feel English is laudable in the way it provides essentially simple (even at times simplistic) building blocks that also have the virtue of being able to be slotted into something much more complex than the sum of its parts.

When I was getting my certification in interpreting (in this case between English and Spanish, my two native tongues), I was struck by how many more words it often took to convey something in Spanish than it took to say it in English, and that wasn't unique to Spanish either. It's certainly not because Spanish or the other languages are less sophisticated or less artful. I mean, I personally would argue that with very few exceptions there aren't really poets writing in English (for example) who can compare, in a lyrical sense, to what the great poets writing in Spanish have achieved, because the one language feels like the work horse or the handyman with infinite tools while the other feels like a stained glass window.

My point... from which I realize I have now definitely strayed... ahem... was to just to argue that I don't think English is any more silly or breakable than other languages. Sometimes I find it to be significantly less silly. (Even if I will never shake the funny horror story anecdote of the man learning English who was trying to literally interpret what someone was telling him when they told him to "Go ahead and back up" the car.)

You should know the rules of grammar, you should keep them in mind when writing, you should edit with them in mind... and you should break them when breaking them makes the work more interesting. Knowing the rules so you know when to break them.

Yes, indeed. That's essentially the argument I always make, and which I launched this thread with long ago. Sometimes there's call to break the rules, but you have to know them in order to break them.

More importantly, though, I think there's nuance even in that glib statement. Because for the most part when you are breaking rules you are only breaking certain kinds of rules. Some rules cannot be broken and still keep the language's integrity intact.

You might break a rule about tenses if you're switching them for (deliberate) artistic effect, or you might break a rule about sentence structure if you're going for (again deliberate) artistic effect. In a way, you can think of it like... riding a bicycle along a street, maybe. The rules say you're supposed to stay in the bike lane, but sometimes there might be an exception when you can cut across car lanes, and sometimes you might just straight up ride your bike on the sidewalk because it's the best way to get where you're trying to go even if it's against regulations in your area. So you can break rules about how to ride your bicycle, but you can't break rules about how the bicycle functions; if the gear spokes don't fit into the chain, or you have a flat, the bike doesn't work, and where or how you might want to ride it is therefore irrelevant.

Language is no different. You can bend some grammatical rules about sentence structure to make something work artistically, but you cannot arbitrarily discard word definition or proper conjugation or the function of a period (outside of maybe some wild interpretive poetry in the latter case). I'll go back to one of the Word versus Word examples I called out in an earlier post and talk about lightning versus lightening. It's not an artistic choice about which word to use, because those are actually two completely different words with two completely different meanings. And it's in that context that I was also talking about the world "would" in response to Nick's post. Some ways of using the word are correct, and others are technically incorrect. (Even if "would" is admittedly one of the fuzzier examples.) That's a totally different discussion from, for example, what styles we use in RP. The latter discussion about styles is all about art and feeling and interpretation and fun and rule-breaking, but the former discussion about word definition is about one of those rules that isn't exactly breakable.

To me, the rhythm of a sentence is paramount. Run-on sentences, split infinitives, dropped pronouns and sentence fragments, they're all useful tools when crafting a sentence... and sometimes the effort to make something grammatically correct robs the words of their texture and flavor.

I'm very much with you on this. In fact, one of the things I have to be mindful of in narrative writing is not straying into that realm too often (which I am wont to do), because breaking the rules as a matter of course can rob a work of the impact that it should make from breaking those rules on the occasions when it does break them.

But I will always draw a very stickler line between artistic structural fuzziness and the correct use of words. I mean... a "vehicle" may be a physical thing, or it may be a metaphorical thing to describe the conveyance of another thing, but a "vehicle" is never an adverb. You may "ride inside a vehicle" or you may "use the chip as a vehicle for delivering the dip to your mouth" and you may even go "offroad vehicling" but you never "travel down the street in a vehicly manner." 
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

Offline Cyone

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #36 on: 05/24/18, 05:16:26 AM »
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Holy essays, Batman. :write:

Firstly, Orell, I almost entirely agree with you from what I read there and none of that was really what I was getting at. It's not so much about correct usage of language as it is appropriate or fitting usage. A common theme among great works of literature is that if you took the strict modern editor's pen to them, they would be covered in red. Particularly the more artistic in nature said work is. That's not what I felt the problem I was trying to describe was in the Telltale games. The rules were being broken in ways that didn't make sense or didn't seem to fit the characters or situations, or just took me out of it. As has been said many times and several times here, you have to know the rules to break them and it felt at times like the writers just plain didn't know the rules. That and when a game prides itself on its writing and bills itself as a dialogue-heavy story-emphasizing game, I am more sensitized to the mistakes made in those categories. Also, as Niarra said, there are few things that are just... wrong, and really pulled me out of the narration as a result. I approach, and have always approached, language by feel. Whether that's correct or not, I honestly don't care. Does it feel right? If yes, then who cares about the rules. Does it feel wrong? Then it's wrong. At the end of the day, however, any language is complicated and those "feelings" are subjective, to a degree.

Secondly, on the language itself. Words having multiple meanings is by no means an indication of an inefficient or broken language, it's actually quite the opposite. Comparing languages is a little apple-to-orangey in the first place because they are built on wholly different basic structures and concepts, and one concept reigns supreme in the English language: context. If you ignore it and/or judge the language by the standards of another that does not operate that way, then yeah it won't make sense and it will seem silly. If you use it as your primary tool for interpretation, however, I'll bet you credits to navy beans it will make plenty of sense even when it's not used "correctly" and, in that way, self-edit, because the entire thing is structured around that singular principle. This in turn makes a lot of sense (at least to me) because language is just a vehicle (see what I did there? Ah? Ahh?) for communication, and communication is all about context. The golden rule really is "does it make sense." Even in frequently vaunted cases such as words that have two nearly opposite meanings, that holds true. If one meaning makes a lot of sense and the other doesn't, then you don't have to be a linguistic scholar to know which meaning is in use. The problem arises not in the pieces and rules, but rather in their use.

Don't blame the language, learn it!

Much is often made of English "breaking it's own rules" and being cannibalistic, etc. but I feel that's kind of a popular bandwagon philosophy and if you actually take a look at it independent of that bias, and with a more global perspective, it doesn't hold up. For one thing, I'm not convinced there are any languages that don't to similar stuff to a significant degree, but most of the people having these discussions don't know that because we're largely mono or bi-lingual (myself included). You don't have to look far for theorists who studied, stressed, and wrote upon the nature of people being limited in their thinking by their experience and I think merely taking that into account makes for clearer analysis of... really anything (though for some subjects it is more of a factor than others). For another, the aforementioned "rules" are not always as concrete as highschool English teachers and popular discussion make them out to be. Sometimes in the process of expediting education I think the importance of nuance can get sorely lost. Lastly and quite simply, it works. It works well enough to not only have survived but evolved and thrived for a long, long time and spread a long ways. Now you can obviously make the historical/geopolitical arguments for that and those certainly aren't irrelevant, but history has plenty of examples of similarly aided languages that did not survive even among dominant cultures because other, better languages overtook them even in their place of origin.

As for the rest, well, heck, if I wasn't so lazy I really ought to just start another thread instead of encouraging the further derailment of this one. Because if there's one thing I could talk all freaking day about, it's the subject and concept of heroes. So as much as it pains me when I've got things to say (as I always do) that go unsaid, I shall leave it there.
« Last Edit: 05/24/18, 05:30:36 AM by Cyone »