Rare Words



acosmist - One who believes that nothing exists
paralian - A person who lives near the sea
aureate - Pertaining to the fancy or flowery words used by poets 
dwale - To wander about deliriously
sabaism - The worship of stars
dysphoria - An unwell feeling
aubade - A love song which is sung at dawn
eumoirous - Happiness due to being honest and wholesome
mimp - To speak in a prissy manner, usually with pursed lips

I especially love eumoirous.


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lillyvalens asked: Oh gosh I just found your blog and I'm in love with your use of minimalism and typography! Your edits are brilliant. I was just wondering if you'd consider making a list of your favourite fonts?


thank you, you’re such a sweetheart! :D and yeah, no prob, here are some of my favourite fonts:

* I can’t remember where I got them, sorry (but baskerville is probably already on your computer, and Theinhardt is very similar to Helvetica, which might be easier to find)

I’m probably forgetting a lot of them, so maybe I’ll make a proper post, like a font rec/masterlist or something? If people are interested. Anyway, thank you again, I hope you’ll like them <3

Don’t be a Dickens. Use Detail Effectively.


kaughiephreke asked: I always second guess myself when I’m writing. I never know if I am getting too in-depth in my descriptions so I try to cut out the fat, but then my writing seems too short. I have heard people complaining about authors who describe too much and don’t move the story along fast enough, so I get very concerned with how much detail is a fair amount, but I just don’t know.

Well, second-guessing yourself and being a writer go together like Emily Dickinson and the em-dash. You’re in good company. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have an interesting question, so let’s get right to it.

First, let’s define detail.

Detail (n): Facts revealed by the speaker to support a piece of poetry or prose.

The question of how much detail to use, as you’ll find, is largely a matter of personal taste and style. Some people prefer their pages to be dripping with imagery and detail, and some people would prefer your story to read like a play, stark and simple. The question is not necessarily how much to use, but how to use it effectively. Detail is most often for one (or more) of five ends: pacing, characterization, setting development, foreshadowing, and symbolism. Let’s look at these one by one.

First on the docket is pacing.

Pacing (n): The act of controlling the speed at which an author tells the story; how quickly the story moves from one element to the next.

So, how do details relate to pacing?

  • The more details you have, the slower you move. This one is pretty straightforward. If you want your story to rocket ahead, you might breeze by the details or only use very few (we cover this in our article on writing action, Action with a Side of Zombies). If you want to slow things down for the sake of building tension or even creating a feeling of relaxation and safety, you might want to fill your scene with extra details. The more there is to read through, the more time your reader has to spend on a scene.
  • Use discretion. This is important in all aspects of detail, but it applies most to pacing. If you want to slow things down, go for it, but be aware of readers that might begin to feel bogged down by all of your delightful prose (unless you’re Charles Dickens and you’re being paid by installment). By the same token, if you want your piece to zip along and you end up using no detail, readers might have no image in which to mentally ground your action or dialogue, leaving them lost. Be aware of the reader’s needs.
  • More questions about pacing? Luckily, we have a towel for just this purpose. Don’t leave without it.

Now let’s move on to characterization.

Characterization (n): the process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character.

Use of detail is one of the most effective ways to characterize.

  • Show, don’t tell. This (in)famous piece of writing advice is especially applicable to this topic. Using detail can characterize much more strongly and vividly than simply listing information about your character. For example:
    Jimmy is careless.


    Unaware of the toothpaste on his chin, Jimmy dug under piles of dirty clothes in search of his missing lunch money.
    Here we have three details that give you a firm image of Jimmy’s carelessness without stating it outright. They were probably more fun to read than the first example, anyway.
  • Be faithful to your narrator. If you’re writing in the first person, how your character narrates characterizes her. What she mentions or doesn’t mention, or thinks about another character, or tells stories about will give your readers a vivid understanding of your narrator. These things are all details. Keep them consistent (or inconsistent, if your character calls for it), because they are part of your character’s voice, which is often a first-person narrator’s primary medium of characterization. Don’t believe me? I refer you to Holden Caulfield’s unmade phone calls in The Catcher in the Rye.

What’s next? How about setting?

Setting (n): The place and time at which a play, novel, or film is represented as happening.

Setting is what people tend to think of when they think of detail, sometimes for obvious reasons.

  • Describe where you are. Odds are, your reader has never been to Finland (this is assuming you are writing your story for a non-Finnish audience). What does it look like? Where are you? A city? The mountains? The plains? Does Finland even have plains? These are questions you need to answer. When you characters walk down the street, what sort of people do they run into? Do they know the townspeople well, or are they all strangers in a city? What are the sounds, the smells? What kind of food is for sale? Is the sidewalk dirty? These questions (plus a bazillion others) are what you need to ask yourself when writing about your setting.
  • Describe when you are. Time is just as important as location. Is your story taking place in the nineties? If so, your characters better not be listening to Mumford & Sons. Be aware of culture and the societal mentality in the time in which you’re writing. If you didn’t live through it, this means doing some research. If you did live through it, check your facts anyway. Small details (like a portable cassette player) can immediately signify a given time period, and placing something anachronistically is an easy mistake to avoid.
  • Don’t stop. Don’t think that just because you’ve done a little bit of setting description in the beginning that you’re done. You’re not done describing your setting until your story is over. Your character skins her knee on the street’s rough cobblestones, or feels the spray of the sea against his face, or can’t sleep because of the honking of taxis under her window. These details keep your setting alive.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! On to foreshadowing!

Foreshadowing (n): Indistinctly suggesting elements that will appear later in the story.
  • Subtlety is key. The thing about foreshadowing is that the reader usually doesn’t realize what’s going on. A detail that foreshadows should be enough to cock an eyebrow, but shouldn’t call too much attention to itself that it completely ruins the surprise of what’s going to happen. Foreshadowing is the kind of element that rewards a second reading. Let’s look at three ways to foreshadow one event. The main character in this story will, at a later point in time, take the gun from the wall and shoot its owner, Max.
    Martha looks around the room, considering the hunting lodge’s decorations. She examines the crisscrossed wooden snowshoes, the taxidermized bear’s head, the hunting rifle, and the brick fireplace.

    Here, the rifle completely blends in with the rest of the setting details and isn’t very noteworthy.

    Martha looks around the room, considering the hunting lodge’s decorations. She is immediately drawn to the hunting rifle, and, taking a quick look around, removes it from the wall. She hoists it into the crook of her shoulder, looking through the scope with one eye shut.

    Now the entire scene is about Martha using the gun, and it becomes really obvious that this is going to reappear in a significant way.

    Martha looks around the room, glad to have been left alone for just a minute. Bored, she inspects the walls, looking past some wooden snowshoes and an empty fireplace until her eyes fell on a rifle mounted on the wall. She begins to examine the gun when Max calls from the other room.

    Now the scene is about Martha’s apparent dislike for Max, but leaves the reader guessing about how the gun might appear in a more significant way.

    In these three examples, the placement of the detail is key to the success of the foreshadowing.

  • Want more? For more on foreshadowing, check out our article titled
    Foreshadowing and the Red Herring: Cluing Your Readers In.

Alright, the last one. We’re on to symbolism.

Symbolism (n): Something that represents something else, whether it be an idea, a person, or an event. This could be something inside or outside the world of the story.

You’re dying to know. How does symbolism relate to detail? Luckily, answers lie ahead.

  • Symbols are details with double meanings. Consider The Great Gatsby and the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg. These sleazy eyes just hang out on a sleazy billboard in a pretty sleazy part of town, basically contributing to the general sleaziness of the whole affair. This is a setting detail, right? Well, yes, but the eyes can also be read as God’s potential disdain for American society, as per George Wilson’s explanation at the end. This reading correlates with one of Fitzgerald’s main themes of the novel, which is the disillusionment of the grandeur of the twenties. See, it’s all coming together.
  • Your symbols can be as overt as you like. Remember, you’re running the show. If your reader never picks up on a symbol, that’s something of a shame, but don’t feel as if your genius was wasted. As John Green often says, “books belong to their readers.” You can carefully construct your symbols, but it’s not your readers responsibility to pick up on them
    If you want your symbol to be huge and glaring, make it huge and glaring. For example,
    And so there I was, waiting in the vehicular purgatory that is the traffic light at the end of my street, thinking about all other things I had to wait for.

    Well, now the traffic light (and every traffic light) can be considered symbolic of whatever for which the character is waiting.

  • Care for more symbols? Enjoy.

TL;DR: Did you want the quick and dirty answer? This is where you should start reading.

  • Detail is all about style and taste. That was said at the very beginning of the post, and it remains true. You will never please every reader, but there is a pretty healthy window for how much detail you can use without being skimpy or overloading. Keep and develop your own style, but be aware that some people might be partial to more or less detail than you. If you think your story needs it, adjust accordingly.
  • Use your detail effectively. The problem you might be having with your detail is that you have so much of it, but not much of it is exceptionally substantive. One very powerful detail can often do more than a bunch of small ones. If you look at a detail and say, “what are you doing here?” and can’t give a quality answer, you might want to cut it. Being able to get the most out of your detail will make your scenes more vivid with fewer words. Of course, not every detail will be heart-stoppingly brilliant, but strong ones will get the job done.
  • Be specific. A concrete detail that immediately evokes a certain vision is going to be more effective than a vague detail. Are your characters sitting down to watch a movie? There’s a big difference between them watching Schindler’s List as opposed to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The more precise your details are, the more real your scene will be, and the more your reader will learn about the situation.
  • Have no fear. You do you. If you find yourself reading your work and saying, “Wow, my detail is really strong but I’m still not sure if I’m using too much or too little of it,” trust yourself. There is always room for an edit or changing some things around, but if you’re second-guessing and don’t know what a better working of the scene would entail, trust yourself that you’ve got it. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

Further reading:

Writing Believable Platonic Male Friendships


jewishpopcorn asked: Any ideas about writing a deep sense of camaraderie between characters without seeming gay? I’m hoping the bond to be similar to the bond between Holmes and Watson, Lennie and George, and other famous brothers in bond. Thank you for any advice you can give!

We’d like to begin by quoting John Green: “Books belong to their readers.”

If your readership sees a homoerotic connection between two male characters (famously the case in modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations between Sherlock and Watson), then there is very little than you can do about it. You can recognize that your audience may see homosexual attraction where none was initially intended and embrace it with humorous asides and a certain amount of ambiguity or you can ignore the subject altogether.

If you don’t write them to be attracted to each other, they won’t be. That is, until the fan fiction authors get ahold of your narrative. By that time, it’ll be out of your hands.

However, you can start by writing a believable male friendship. The examples below, of course, are not true of all male friendships, but they represent a good starting point.

Male friendships:

  • Have clear boundaries. There are entire websites dedicated to the rules men create for their friendships. Men like rules, and with those rules come boundaries that are unique to each friendship. Most men prefer not to show emotions like sadness around their friends; some men have little to no physical contact. Regardless, men tend to come to a wordless agreement on their boundaries and stick to them.
  • Have rituals. From secret handshakes to elaborate initiation processes, men spend time cultivating rituals together to strengthen their bond. Fraternities are famous for their rituals, but, on a much smaller scale, one-to-one male friendships tend to have norms and rituals (like inside jokes repeated ad nauseum) that are nuanced and extremely specific.
  • Have structured times to meet. Men hang out in structured settings, such as a Friday night poker game or D&D games every Sunday. Men meet to watch their favorite sports teams play. They may spend time together outside of these structured meetings as well, but these structured “play dates” are a staple in male friendships.
  • Have priority. A very strong friendship among men will take priority over nearly everything else. It is said that “a good friend will bail you out of jail; a great friend will be in that jail cell beside you”. Men will drop what they are doing to come to the aid of their friends, and they will endanger themselves to protect their friendships.
  • Have hierarchies. In a group of male friends, as with a pack of wolves, there is always an alpha, a leader. Among two males in a friendship, one will inevitably have more control than the other. This may be in a constant state of flux, or remain pretty stagnant over the course of the friendship.
  • Feign dislike. This is not as common, but a kind of feigned disdain from one man to another has been observed in many male friendships. In these sorts of relationships, it is usually obvious to both men that the dislike is not genuine, though to the outside world the relationship may seem hateful or even abusive. Most of the time, it is understood between the two men that the disdainful man is incapable or unwilling to show true affection, and so the disdain true meaning is the exactly opposite of what the outside world perceives.
  • Fulfill an emotional need. Men are not made of stone. A strong friendship between males is essential for their happiness. Men need someone to talk to, someone who listens, someone to call their girlfriend and explain that they’re too drunk to drive home. It is especially important for men to have strong male friendships when they are in relationships, as the male counterpart provides advice and comfort (and common sense) in a way that no significant other ever could.
  • Center around action over conversation. Men prefer activities over conversation. As previously mentioned, hanging out for males usually involves some sort of game or a goal to be reached. Men are much less likely than women to sit around talking about their private lives and their feelings. If they’re going to gossip, they can do it while actively engaged, like while throwing a baseball or rolling the dice, or swinging a sword, if at all.

Just to reiterate, these examples are not law. They are simply a starting place from which to build believable male friendships.

For more on male friendships, check out these articles:

Thank you for your question!

Breaking Bad… News, That Is.


Anonymous asked: Have a question, quite big one actually. Any tips on “breaking news” to someone? I can’t count how many times I have read the [“Can I tell you something?” “Yeah, what is it?” “I love you.”] dialogue and it really doesn’t do anything for me. How can a character tell someone that they are in love, or have a terminal illness, or something really big has happened without it sounding rushed and fake?

There are many different ways for characters to give emotional news to each other. But first, let’s take a look at the word dialogue, as character dialogue will be a large part of today’s answer.

Dialogue (n): Conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie.

For our purposes, dialogue, as explained above, is when two or more characters in a piece of creative writing speak to each other. What the definition fails to mention is that dialogue has purpose. It means something when characters speak to each other. Don’t throw your dialogue away, and try to immerse your readers in the story with dialogue instead of pulling them out of it.

Let’s get back to the question. Here’s some general advice on one character conveying shocking information to another, otherwise known as “breaking the news”:

  • Write it just like it would happen in real life. Write, as Devon explains in her article, Strictly Speaking: Character Dialogue, “like real people in the real world, characters who live together within the pages of a fictional world to speak to one another”. Just because it’s a fictional world does not mean the characters act any differently than they would if they existed outside the pages. They may duel dragons or pilot spaceships, but they think and feel as all humans do.
  • Breaking news isn’t convenient. We may wait expectantly for news to arrive or else dread it for days, but when this type of news happens, it’s always a surprise for someone. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be called “breaking the news”. Be sure that your news comes at the appropriate time in your story for your narrative to be successful, but retain the shock value of the news. Maybe it comes while a character is in the middle of something completely unrelated. Maybe the character has managed to forget that the news may be coming altogether. Maybe the character doesn’t realize that the sort of thing to which the news pertains is even possible. Convince the reader that the characters are believably floored by the news while working it seamlessly into your narrative and you’ve achieved true success.
  • Use what you know. Take reference from personal experiences, other novels, movies, other people’s experiences, etc. to show you how someone would break the news. Think of the feelings, words, even actions involved in doing so.
  • Do not forget who your character is. Always keep in mind who your character is. How would your character do it if both he/she and the situation were real? The personality of your character will be vital in his/her taking and/or receiving of big news. This ties into the first bullet, as illustrated through Melissa Donovan’s words:

    At the same time, characters should sound like people talking, not writers writing. The author must then create an illusion. The dialogue looks, sounds, and feels like something people would actually say even though it’s not. (x)

  • What are the circumstances? Remember the circumstances that brought the situation about. Is it good news or bad news? Should they be crying or cheering? And even more importantly…
  • Write to the result. Build your suspense before a character breaks the news in such a way that it adequately sets the tone for how the news will be received. Alternatively, to surprise or jar the reader, build the suspense in the opposite way that the news will be received. Remember, you’re the writer, so you (hopefully) know what’s going to happen. Building up your audience’s expectations will either have them celebrating with your characters or experiencing the shock of dashed expectations.
  • Actions, expressions, thoughts, and feelings building up to the big reveal are all vital. It is important to note actions and expressions as often as possible. If you’re writing from a point of view where it is possible, reveal the inner monologue of one or both characters. What does the one giving the news feel prior to “breaking the news”? What does the character getting the news feel about the strange behavior or sudden appearance of the character opposite them?

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Guest Article from Elizabeth: Creating Differences in the Speech Patterns of Your Characters


Anonymous asked: > I am having trouble with the way all my characters talk < I already have tips on accents, so that is not what I am looking for. But they basically all talk the same way in a not-so-constant manner and there is not deference in speech than voice.

For some writers, dialogue comes naturally. It’s a gift often taken for granted, and when you don’t have it, dialogue can be the hardest part about writing. There are a few things you can do, however, to develop your skill and allow your characters to speak in their own unique voices.

  1. Eavesdrop. Listen to everyone. Go out in public and write down snippets of conversation you hear. (Coffee shops are particularly useful in this respect, since it’s not uncommon to see people with notebooks or laptops.) Note speech patterns does one person tend to speak in fragments? Is there a rhythm to their speech? Listen to two or more people having a conversation and note the differences in the way each person speaks. Listening to real people will allow you to better understand real dialogue.
  2. Know who your characters are. A nuclear physicist educated at MIT will probably speak differently than a high school cheerleader from Nebraska. What demographic do your characters fall into? How old are they? Where are they from? This isn’t just about accents — someone from Kentucky will use different language than a Bostonian. Are they educated? What are their occupations? Who are they speaking to? From the vocabulary to the tone to the actual content of the conversation, the way people speak to their parents is normally different than the way they speak to their friends which is different from the way they speak to their teachers or bosses or enemies or customers or strangers on the train and on and on. People, it turns out, are complicated, and their speech patterns should reflect that.
  3. Read it out loud. It always helps when you can hear your dialogue, rather than simply seeing it on a page. As you’re writing, say the dialogue out loud. If it doesn’t sound like your character, try something else. Contractions, slang, word omissions, and colloquialisms allow speech to sound more natural, and these distinctions separate diagonal from the surrounding prose.
  4. Note the style of your action. If your writing resembles Catcher in the Rye and your main character is a teenage boy, your dialogue is probably going to sound a lot like the action surrounding it. And that’s okay. If, however, your writing reminds you of James Joyce and you’re writing about a homeless man in Albuquerque, your character’s speech and your voice should be different.

Here are a couple exercises that you can do for practice:

  1. Write a short piece that is dialogue only without any indicators of who is speaking other than the dialogue itself. This will force you to look at the different ways your characters speak.
  2. Fanfiction. (Ignoring the stigma around it, it’s an invaluable tool to improving dialogue.) Take two characters that you’re familiar with and have them talk to each other. Can you hear their personality in their voices? It helps if the characters aren’t too similar, but still work well together. Think Spock and Kirk.
  3. Write down a real conversation you’ve had with someone. Once you have the dialogue established, add action and description. Pulling from reality can help you determine what sounds realistic.

And here are some more resources you might want to check out:

I hope this helps!


"Show, Don’t Tell!"


"Show, don’t tell" is a prime example of an idiom phrased so vaguely that it confuses more people than it actually helps. I promise you, though, it is helpful. You just have to be in on the underlying meaning.

So, here’s what “show, don’t tell” really means:

Write around the word you mean.

What? Okay, yeah that’s maybe a little cryptic. Let’s look at some examples!


He was angry at Julia.


He put down his paper and stared at Julia, his eyes glassy with blind incomprehension. Then, slowly at first, his face growing redder by the second, his muscles tightened in his jaw and neck and hands until the newspaper crumpled in his grip. He was on his feet, taller and more imposing than she’d ever seen him, and she could hear his teeth gnashing from across the room.

The point is to take a word like angry and describe the sorts of things the character would do or say while angry instead of coming right out and telling the reader that the character was angry. Details are important, and “showing” will always give the reader more information about the character than just “telling” would.

Another example? Don’t mind if I do!


It was early spring.


The winter frost was still melting into rain, and some days were cooler than others. The grass still crunched, but this time it was with crisp newness and not with ice, and the buds on the trees and hedgerows hinted at beautiful colors to come.

Here I’m writing around the word spring, describing the effects of spring without actually telling the reader it’s spring I’m taking about.

A little while ago I answered an ask where I talked about how “telling” might be a useful placeholder. What did I mean by that?

"Telling" as a placeholder:

They went to the store to get food for dinner.

Replaced with “showing”:

When Jan and Larry headed out on their quest for tortillas and taco seasoning, they didn’t initially think of the supermarket, but their normal grocery store, Joe’s Foods, was inexplicably closed on Tuesdays—one of its many quirks. 

Larry had actually gotten out of the car to check the wrought iron gate in front of the double doors that Joe Parson, the owner and operator of Joe’s Foods, had installed to keep the neighborhood kids from, as he’d phrased it, “visiting during the closing hours.”

"Dammit, Joe!" Larry’d shouted through the gate into the darkened windows of the store. Joe wasn’t there, of course, but it must have made Larry feel better just to curse a while. After all, it was a drive out of the way to get to Joe’s Foods in the first place.

When Larry returned to the driver’s seat of their sedan, Jan suggested heading to the supermarket franchise that had asserted itself on Blighterly Road six months ago.

"We can’t go there," Larry said. “They don’t sell ‘real food’!" Well, Larry’s interpretation of “real food" was debatable, but there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter anyway, so off they went toward Blighterly Road with Larry in a sour way.

You get the idea. I just wrote in “They went to the store to get food for dinner” as a placeholder until I could write what actually happened during their excursion to the market. There are still some aspects of the “showing” example that are technically “telling.” For instance, I could have actually written dialogue for Jan when she’d suggested they go to the supermarket. Dialogue is, generally, part of “showing”, so choosing to omit dialogue and merely summarize what a character said is a choice of style. Let me repeat that in a broader sense: the choice to “show” or “tell” is one of style. Too much in either direction is poisonous for a narrative’s pacing and understandability.

A few more little things about “showing” and “telling”:

  • Sometimes “They went to the store to get food for dinner” is all you need; sometimes you’ll need a whole chapter to explain what happened. That will depend on how vital the trip to the store is to the plot. If it’s not important, “telling” is probably fine.
  • Make sure that when you “show”, you give the reader usable, interesting information. “Showing” something is unnecessary if it distracts from the narrative.
  • "Telling" quickens the pace of a narrative. In other words, the more you “tell", the faster things go in your story. Likewise, “showing" slows down the narrative. Describing in detail takes more time, and “showing" forces your reader to pay attention to one event for a longer period of time. Be mindful of “showing" too much during high tension scenes where specificity is key. During action scenes, for example, intersperse punchy, well-placed details ("showing") with instances of “telling" to keep the pace moving instead bogging down the reader with expansive description ("showing").

So, “show, don’t tell” is not always the case. It would be better to say “show and tell”, since the decision of how much description to use in your story is a very personal matter of style. Hopefully now, though, you understand how powerful “showing” and “telling” can be, and you will apply this new-found information to your work. I wouldn’t want your readers to suffer through purple prose because some writing help blog told you once that you’re only ever allowed to “show.”

Next time someone says “show, don’t tell” to you, ask them to be more specific. Ask them to “show” you where you need better description instead of just “telling” you how to write. Otherwise, there might be throat-punching.

More on “show, don’t tell”:

Thank you for your question! If you have any comments on this article or other questions about writing, you can message us here!


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“My brother killed himself
on the twenty-eighth Thursday of last year
and I missed four days of work
and my mom wanted to know ‘Why’.
My brother
he was always a fan of beauty
but what he did
was not beautiful at all.

And last week I got the news
that one of my good friends from high school
had overdosed
except this time
she’d gone too far
and now she was gone.
And I had a hard time falling asleep at night
and her mother
hugged me tight
and thanked me for coming to the service
but I did not
want to be there at all.
This is not

The girl down the street
would’ve turned 21 last year
and I can scarcely imagine
the wild times she would’ve
But she is buried six feet deep
after falling nearly 300
and she did not leave a note.
This is not

My freshman year of college
and my roommate was beautiful
and how I wanted to be just like her.
But she wore herself down
till she was
almost invisible
and if you blinked
you had to go and find her all over again.
So now her parents are no longer supporting her college tuition
but are paying her hospital bills
watching their daughter crumble.
This is not

So y’all can take your narcissistic
and glamorizing
of self harm and eating disorders and committing suicide
and shove them as far up your ass
as you possibly can.
Starvation is not beautiful.
Killing yourself is not beautiful.
is not beautiful.
This note I am writing
is not beautiful.

But you
you are beautiful
and it’s about damn time you start believing it.

- Unknown (via exoticwild)

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"If one's an incident and two a coincidence and three is a pattern, then what's four?"