Being a Better Writer: Rules – When, How, and Why You Break Them

Hello readers! Welcome back!

I’ve got news! A couple bits of news actually! First and foremost: I have just received my Covid-19 immunization shot. I got the Johnson & Johnson one, and yes, my arm is sore! Already! Which is par for the course as I understand it, and next comes fatigue, and maybe nausea and a headache.

Still, beats dying of Covid. And as a bonus, my cell-phone reception has improved! Now if I could just get rid of the flashing message in the corner of my vision …

I kid. Just in case you’re one of the few people that’s actually been believing that microchip thing. Though if you do believe it, be sure to post about it from your iPhone! No chance at all of anyone tracking you through that always connected device that reports your every move!

Stepping away from sarcasm, for those that haven’t looked, late late Saturday (I had a busy day) there was an update for Patreon supporters over on said site. It was, in fact, a supporter reward, a chunk of a story called A Trial for a Dragon!

This story, as some Alpha and Beta Readers already know, is set in the same setting as Axtara – Banking and Finance and A Game of Stakes. In fact, it follows a character already mentioned in one of those stories: Ryax, Axtara’s older brother!

This story is as of yet unpublished, so if you’re one of the Patreon Supporters that keeps the lights on, head on over to the Patreon Page and meet Axtara’s older sibling! Who has challenges of his own he’s about to tackle! And if you’re not a supporter yet, well then there’s always a time to start! Supporting helps keep Being a Better Writer coming free of charge and without ads for all to enjoy.

Plus you do get access to some bonus stuff, like early views of stories long before anyone else! You support the site, and get to see early stuff no one else has! It’s a win-win!

Now, before getting into the post, I’m sure there was something else … Oh yes! This weekend saw more reviews rolling in for Axtara, Colony, and Jungle! Worked out pretty well, but I do have this to add: If Axtara keeps sailing off of shelves the way she’s been doing, she’s going to eclipse Colony before long!

All right, that’s all the news. So, let’s dive into today’s topic, fresh off of the request list of Topic List #17 asking about writing rules and when, how, or why to break them. Which is a tricky topic, but also an important one and well worth covering. So hit that jump, and let’s get started.

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Being a Better Writer: The Non-Gender of “They”

Welcome back, readers! Were your weekends interesting for you? In a good way? I hope so. Mine went pretty well, myself. Got a little more done on Stranded, and then watched as a truly amazing amount of book sales (by my standard) rolled in for Axtara! I’m not sure if it was the acknowledgement that you can find it on store shelves in Germany or what, but this weekend Axtara shipped quite a few copies.

Which was good to go with the bad. For a minor life update, the place I’ve been renting for the last few years is being sold. This is … less than desirable. The state I live in has a reputation when it comes to realtors that’s even above and beyond that of a normal state for being unscrupulous and dirty. So for example, the last time a landlord tried to sell a place I was renting, their relator tried to get everyone in the house evicted because they wouldn’t show it for her. That’s right: She wanted those living there to do her job for her. She got extremely upset when they wouldn’t.

Side note: This tangent got a little long. I do recommend reading through it (as it concerns not just me), but if you’re here for Being a Better Writer, jump down to the next break, then come back and finish this.

This relator also didn’t care at all for things like state laws requiring 24-hour advance notice of showings. I woke up to people in my rented house … and not just in there, but going through my stuff. The agent actually encouraged the kids of the people she’d been showing the house to start playing with my Wii console.

So yes, I have a distrust of realtors already, and today our landlord called us out of the blue and said ‘Hey, someone’s coming over today, and I’ve been told that by contract they don’t have to honor the 24-hour state notice. My hands are tied. I’m trying to get them to postpone it, but I signed that contract.’

Yeah … My distrust grows. Worse, if they’re willing to violate that part of the contract, the chance of the common practice in this state of bullying residents out to sell the unit “clean” goes way up. Our contracts are year to year, and this year extend through July. But I have a worrying suspicion that like so many other happenings in this state, our realtor will attempt to bully us out ASAP regardless of contract, either by looking for any sort of loophole that can get us evicted, or just simply by claiming that the new owner isn’t bound by any pre-existing contracts (imagine how life would be if that worked).

Worst of all, even if we manage to hold that off, such activity does not tend to enthuse new owners for the current tenants, even if the tenants aren’t the ones violating all the laws.

Sands, that’s a lot of text. Sorry to dump that on you guys. Just … bleh. If things get “dicey” in the upcoming months, this would be your forewarning as to why.

But tenant protections in the United States are awful. Well, not awful, just … not enforced very well.

Oh, and before I get a million comments saying “document everything” I learned that the last time. You can bet that if this showing happens today, I will not only be on hand but with a phone to record everything.

Also, I understand that while my current situation might suck, I’ve got it a lot better than most people in the US right now. Evictions are a historical high, housing and rental corporations are consolidating at a terrifying rate, using their new monopoly powers over whole cities and even states to send rental rates through the roof or even just hold empty buildings for the property value. I read an interview near end-2020 with a real skag-licker of a housing CEO who was giddy with how many people he was kicking out around Christmas because it was making him several hundred million dollars. This same skag also bragged that he (his company) now owned over a third of all American rental units. Meanwhile, homelessness, already climbing every year since 2016 (prior to which it had been trending downward … huh) is set to pass already historic highs. As much as nearly nine percent of the entire United States is at high risk becoming homeless in the coming year thanks to the effects of Covid-19 and the actions (read: greed) of rental companies.

So yes, I know my situation, while not great, is far from the grimness shared by almost ten percent of the United States. My rent hasn’t doubled in the last year. I still have a unit to pay rent on. My utilities weren’t cut off as a “cost saving measure.” Or any of the other horrible questionably legal junk that plagued the lives of many people in the US last year who were merely trying to have the bare basics to survive.

My point being with all of this: My situation isn’t as grim as a lot of other people’s in this country, but that’s … really setting a low bar. Would that my situation was the worst of it, with a realtor ignoring state laws to try and push a sale. But unfortunately, for a lot of people in the US, especially some of those nine percent barely hanging on, their situation is far worse.

We as a nation really need to clean up our act. Because I’m certain that when the founding fathers (yeah, invoking that) set out to found a nation, objectives like “At least ten percent of them should be homeless” and “the majority of all housing should be controlled by one or two individuals,” if found at all in their goals, were only there as “never let this sort of tyranny happen again.”

Because, you know, numbers-wise it really does look a lot like serfdom, which they wanted to get away from.


Okay, we’re done talking about that for the moment (though please, do go back and read through it later if you didn’t now, as it’s something that needs to change for the better). Now it’s time to dive into Being a Better Writer and the first posted topic from list #17!

Which … actually isn’t one requested by a reader, because I populate these lists on my own too, and this one is one of those. It’ll also be a shorter one … but no less interesting. And it actually was inspired by a few personal encounters with it.

So to begin, I’ll start with a question: If a friend and I are discussing the sex of an unborn baby, and I use “they” to refer to said baby, and my friend uses “it,” is one of us using the wrong word?

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Being a Better Writer: Working with Trad-Pub

Hello readers! Welcome to another Monday, to Being a Better Writer, and one of the last reader-requested topics of Topic List #16!

Yeah, we’ve come that far once again. There are only a few topics left, and before long—definitely before the month is out—we’ll be putting out a call for new BaBW topic suggestions once again! So, you know, be thinking about what you’d like to hear about!

In the meantime, though, we’ve still got a few posts to go, so it isn’t quite that time yet. But keep it in mind!

So, before we dive into today’s topic, as usual, let’s talk some quick news! Work on Starforge continues, but things have moved into a mad dash now. Literally or on my end, I won’t say, but the story and work on it is moving at a good clip. Might have the draft finished in another few months.

How about Axtara? How’s it been performing? Well, it did have a bit of a boost this weekend when the cover and a little blurb ended up on a Facebook group. The power of word-of-mouth! Those of you that have read it and loved it and want to see more, be sure to tell people you know about it! Or sands, if you’re the kind of person that hangs out on Booktube or frequents some book review sites, let them know about it! That’s how they find out about stuff!

Oh, and the invitation is still open for pictures of Axtara copies spotted in the wild! I’ve started seeing listings for it pop up in various bookstores (a number of them in … Germany?), so I know she’s out there!

And that’s it for the news! There isn’t much to talk about during the slump between books, I know. So, without further ado, let’s talk about the subject of today’s Being a Better Writer post! Let’s talk about working with Traditional Publishing.

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Being a Better Writer: Editing on the In-progress

Hello readers! I hope you’re all having a good Monday so far, and are looking forward to another installment of Being a Better Writer!

However, I do have some news for you: Today’s post is going to be a little short. Why? Well, I’m still sick. Not 100% out from under the thumb of this cold yet. So today’s post, as a hedge against my likely somewhat compromised mental state (and fatigue) is going to be a bit shorter.

But that’s okay because I have the perfect request topic that I’ve held onto for a while because I wasn’t positive that the answer would be that long. Short, to the point answer, compromised brain … like I said, perfect. So let’s just dive right in!

So, what question prompted this? As I said above, it was a reader request, and in this case the reader was inquiring after whether or not it was a good idea to go back and do major rewrite edits while still in progress on a story. As in, before the story has reached its end. And well, this one’s short but kind of tricky. The best answer I can give is “Yes and no.” And for that to make sense, you’ll need to hit the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: The Importance of a Support Group

Hello readers, new and old! Welcome back to another (or perhaps your first) Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! For those of you that are new (and quite possibly discovered the site from your attendance of Life, The Universe, and Everything this weekend), BaBW is a regularly-occurring Monday article discussing all things writing, one topic at a time. Over the years, it has discussed hundreds of different topics, such Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic, The Five-Man Band, Subverting Tropes, and even The Art of Misdirection, to name a few. Such has been the series’ popularity that if you’ve just discovered Unusual Things for the first time, it’s highly likely that you’ve still seen a snippet of it somewhere, from Wikipedia to Google search summaries on various topics.

Basically, if you’ve just arrived and are looking for writing advice, rejoice. There’s hundreds upon hundreds of articles here, all searchable, categorized, and even tagged. If you want writing articles on everything from brainstorming to formatting, you’re in the right place.

So welcome! To those of you returning readers, I hope you had a chance to attend the aforementioned LTUE convention this weekend. As usual, my daily write-ups are up and on the site, so if you missed the con (sadness, especially as this year it was online due to Covid-19, and easier to attend than ever), you can still catch a summary of just some of the panels that occurred.

And with that, there’s no other news to discuss today. So let’s dive right into our topic. Which is going to be a bit less of a common one. In fact, I was actually planning on writing about another topic until more than a few of those LTUE panels mentioned this one, and I decided it deserved its own place on BaBW.

Which makes today’s topic a slightly rarer one. Usually for BaBW the topics are the nuts, bolts, and washers of fiction. How to sell emotion, or how to make sure that your conflict is gripping readers. The stuff people think about when they think about writing.

But every so often BaBW takes a step back and tackles another aspect of writing that sometimes isn’t given nearly enough credit in the writing process: The health of the writer. The importance of keeping the primary and secondary writing machine—your brain and your body, not your keyboard and your word processor—in good shape so that you can continue to produce those stories that you love so much.

So today, readers, we’re going to talk about the importance of a support group.

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Being a Better Writer: Clarke’s Three Laws

Hello readers! Yes, I know I must apologize for the lateness of this post in coming online. But I had a really good reason, one that I think many of you will sympathize with: I was up extremely late last night reading a book. Which I then finished this afternoon as soon as I could.

Relatable, yes, but there’s a catch to this one. It wasn’t just any old book. In fact, it was quite new. So new that what I was reading these past two days was the print proof.

That’s right, readers, I stayed up late last night reading the first official paperback copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance and loving every minute of it. It really is a fantastic story with some very lively characters, and I almost can’t wait to start work on a sequel.

But I can. Because Starforge. Which … well, that’s for another news post. Back on topic, my having finished the print proof of Axtara is fantastic news because that means it’s readable. And as soon as this post is done? I’ll be making the final few tweaks to the master file … and the paperback will go live (EDIT: And it’s ticking. Amazon is reviewing it).

You read that correctly. Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available in paperback very soon. Look for a post tomorrow and be ready to start watching that shipping tracker!

All right! That’s it for news at the moment (I’ll save the other stuff for the now bi-weekly news post), so let’s get talking about today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Clarke’s Three Laws.

To be honest, I’m kind of shocked at myself that I didn’t get to this topic years ago. After all, my break-down of Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic has been one of the most perused posts on the site (and if I may toot my own horn a bit, is also the source of Wikipedia’s summary as well as Google’s), so discussing three laws that have been influencing Science-Fiction for decades should have been as straightforwardly obvious as “Science-Fiction has science.”

But for whatever reason, I didn’t make that connection. Not until a month or two ago when I was discussing one of the laws with someone on a writing chat and realized, to my shock and embarrassment, that I’d never actually written about them.

It went on the list right then and there. Because it’s just wrong to have talked about one author’s rules for Fantasy Magic system but completely passed on Arthur C. Clarke’s rules for writing about the future. So no more! Today, we talk about Clarke’s Laws! So hit that jump, and let’s get started!

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Being a Better Writer: Clothing and Fashion

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and that mean’s it’s time for another installment of Being a Better Writer!

Of course, it’s not just an ordinary Monday. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the US honoring the life and accomplishments of, well, Martin Luther King Jr (Surprise! This one is names correctly!).

If you don’t know who Martin Luther King Jr. is, then today is a good day to perhaps carry out a Google and learn a little bit about him! In the meantime, however, and before I get to this week’s news and then the post itself, I’ll share this quote from him, one that feels especially relevant after the last few weeks:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

If you’ve never read that quote before, nor anything else Martin Luther King Jr. said during his life, then I’d say today would be a good day to do a quick Google and some reading! Enjoy!

And now, the news! With the most relevant question on many readers’ minds being “What’s the status of Axtara – Banking and Finance?” Well, I’ve got good news, and I’ve got good news!

Good news #1 is that Axtara is doing pretty well. Even almost a month after release, it’s still sitting in the top 25 on the new release tracker for its category on Amazon. It’s also picked up a number of reviews and ratings, all of them in the positive. From what’s come in so far, the meaning is clear: You guys love Axtara! Let’s take a look at some excerpts from the reader reviews so far:

I just finished reading the the book a bit ago and I loved it. The story is enjoyable and wraps up well (it does leave it open for a sequel too, and I hope that there is one – or more – eventually). The characters are also likeable, and the story being from the perspective of a dragon – Axtera – is interesting … I enjoyed it quite a bit and if you think the description looks interesting then you should definitely give it a shot as I think it delivers well on the premise.

An enjoyable read! I’ll give a try on kindle unlimited to most any book with a dragon as the protagonist, but I quite liked this one enough to leave a good review. I was particularly interested in the entrepreneurial elements as Axtara works to establish her bank. Axtara’s focus on reaching break-even point shows the author did their research here, and the business side seems well grounded and interesting.

 I came away fully satisfied from having read a story so well-crafted, and I hope to see more!

A lovely and enjoyable story that I will be buying as a hard copy as soon as it’s available!

So yeah, the verdict is in: Axtara is a hit! I hope those of you that are still reading it are finding it every bit as enjoyable as you’d hoped, and that your reviews will find their way to the world soon!

Now, what about something that even the last review quote touches on: The hard copy. Is it still coming? I know I haven’t offered an update in a week or so (again, blame the computer failure I suffered). Well, I’ve got good news people!

It’s almost done. The manuscript has been uploaded, and the hard copy cover is almost done. All that’s left is for someone who knows more about GIMP than I to do some smoothing on the image, and for me to acquire and zip through a proof! And once that’s done … Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available in paperback!

Okay, so what are we looking at, detail-wise? Well, the price is likely going to be, as of right now, $11.99, and weigh in at a little over three hundred pages. If that price seems high, well … that is literally as low as I can go before the print costs are such that I’d lose money on every copy sold, at which point the Print services just say “no, you can’t do that.” Not a great deal for me, either. So yeah, it’s very likely going to be $11.99 for the time being. But hey, at least there’s digital for those of you saving pennies.

However, I can say this: Axtara will almost certainly be available in print before the end of the month! I’ll be sure to let you all know!

Now, I do have one other bit of news before we hop to today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Price drops! That’s right, the promised price drops in the wake of a new release have finally come for Shadow of an Empire and Jungle! Shadow of an Empire has now reached its final tail-price of $3.99, while Jungle has seen its first price-drop to $5.99. So if you’re a tail reader, your day has come for Shadow of an Empire! Click that books tab at the top and go for it!

All right! That’s the news, said and done. So let’s talk about today’s writing topic, which is a bit of an odd one. Clothing and fashion, after all, is something a lot of young writers barely consider, save occasionally from the lens of “how cool can I make them look” (a process which for some reason for many seems to involve robbing an outlet store for a few hundred belts and zippers)? So why devote a BaBW post to the topic?

Well, it’s because as I’ve said before, a lot of bringing a world to life is in the fine details. And clothing, and what we wear, is definitely one of those details. Let’s take a look.

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Being a Better Writer: Handling Stress

Welcome back readers! To the first Being a Better Writer post of 2021! Which … almost didn’t happen today. And not just because of the computer (which I’ll update you all on in a moment). No, because of the other event that happened last Wednesday in the US. You know, the big one where a bunch of rioters stormed the US capital in an attempt to forcefully change the election results.

Yeah. That one. There will be a post about that. But just in case any of you were wondering, I’m firmly among the opposition to what those people did. It was outright rebellion. And I would have said something on it immediately, save that my computer was down, and incapable of making a post of the length this topic deserved. I almost wanted to push Being a Better Writer back a week and use today to talk about it, but … One way you beat individuals like that is by proving that they ended up having less of an impact than they wanted. So I’ll talk about them later this week (assuming my computer holds up), but for today? BaBW is still on!

Now, about that computer. Yes, I’m at my keyboard again. And while it’s not 100%, it’s functional enough for me to finish the print requirements for Axtara – Banking and Finance.

So what happened? Well, it was a two-fold strike. The first hit was that … Well, let me explain the parts first. For those of you not in the know, everything on a computer goes through a central processing unit, or CPU. It’s like the engine of a car, only more so. You can’t push a computer along if a CPU goes out. CPU’s generate a lot of heat in operation, so there is a cooling apparatus set on top of them, and a thermal paste between the two that helps conduct the heat into the cooling system.

Well, problem #1 was that my thermal paste had largely dried out over the last few years of living in a desert. And as a result, it wasn’t transmitting heat evenly or well. So when the computer went under a sudden load, such as with a hefty game … the CPU could trip the warning heat sensors and the computer would shut down out of safety (don’t want a valuable CPU melting, which will happen otherwise). Until the heat cooled, it wouldn’t restart.

So that was problem #1. Cleaning off the old concrete-like dried thermal paste and replacing it with new, fresh stuff fixed that problem. A complete diagnostic scan of the CPU showed that no damage had been done, thankfully (yay safeguards). But then there was issue #2, and the other problem: my secondary hard drive was failing.

Explanation: Computers can have a number of internal drives to store information and move it around. I have three. My primary, and boot drive, only for windows. A secondary that was cannibalized from older builds that held my music and various things, and a third that is much larger I acquired a few years ago.

That second drive? Around 15 years old. Most drives last 5-10. And Windows was using it as a page file (basically spare ram), meaning any time there was a lot of data being moved around, Windows would read and write on the drive. Plus, my listening to music … the drive was wearing out and going bad. And SATA (the tech used to access the drive) panics when it encounters bad sectors.

Basically? The moment a bad sector came along with the computer accessing that drive, down the system went down hard.

So is it fixed? Well … mostly. As I have another drive, I can rip the old one out. However, Windows may have put some vital files on there, so doing so may cause me to need to repair my copy of Windows, which is always dicey. So before that happens, I’m going to get the print copy of Axtara proofed since right now I can do that. In the meantime (and how I’ve avoided the problem), I had Windows do a checkdisk on the bad drive, and it’s identified the currently bad sectors and won’t touch them. Won’t stop new ones from occurring, but I’ve also moved everything that was using that drive off of it and onto the other larger one. For now, this will have to do, and I won’t be letting this computer do any heavy lifting until I get that drive removed and things smoothed out (no gaming on this PC for a while, which is killer).

So, that’s where things stand right now. I’d like to replace the dead drive with an equal sized SSD, but that’s not explicitly needed and budget right now is tight, as one might guess. But the computer is up and running, and I checked to make sure that everything was backed up (and nothing book-related was on the old drive anyway, just so you know).

All right, so that’s the news. Today, once this is done, I’ll be sizing the cover for the print proof of Axtara. Exciting stuff!

Anyway, with that all said … let’s talk about today’s topic, shall we? Which I felt was extremely topical given the last week. I’ll start with a question: any of you want to guess how much sleep I lost last week trying to figure out the source of my computer problems so I could get back to work?

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Character Development and Character Growth

Hello readers! I’m still on break here, so here’s a classic Being a Better Writer post for all of you to sink your teeth into! And an old-school one too! But first, some news!

First of all, today is the last day for the Christmas Sale! That’s right, the savings on my lexicon of books expire at midnight tonight! So hop on over to my full bookshelf before then and grab what you can! You can get both Colony and Jungle right now for the combined total of $5. Yeah. Five bucks for over 3000 pages of Five-Star Science Fiction.

Speaking of Five-Star fiction, reviews and ratings are starting to roll in for my latest release, Axtara – Banking and Finance! Unsurprisingly, it’s sitting pretty with six Five-Star reviews. That’s one for every day it’s been out! If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of this cozy, heartwarming YA Fantasy adventure, then I recommend doing so at this link!

All right, you got all that? Links clicked? Sales taken advantage of? Excellent! Well then, let’s talk about characters and how they develop and grow. This post is an oldie (six years old, to be exact) but it’s a good one. So let’s dive right in!

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Being a Better Writer: “The Simpsons Did It”

Hello readers! Before we get rolling with today’s Being a Better Writer post, there’s two bits of news you should know about!

First, there’s a preview of Axtara – Banking and Finance here on the site! Those of you who don’t frequent the place during the weekends will have missed this, so here’s the quick recap: My next book, a YA Fantasy titled Axtara – Banking and Finance is now slated to release before Christmas. It’s been ready to go for a while, but the cover is at long last in development and on its way! And with the release so close, it’s time to let everyone get an early look at it so they know what they’re looking forward to.

Basically, here’s a link to this weekend’s post that’s an excerpt from the first chapter. Go meet Axtara!

Now, item two on the list: A reminder of my Books page and Christmas. It’s been a rough year for a lot of us, I know. And with Christmas approaching, a lot of you are likely thinking about gifts and looking at a terrifyingly tight budget. Why not give the gift of a book? Send your friends on a trip to Pisces or Indrim!

Basically, as you shop for Christmas this year, I’d like to point out that yes, you can gift my books, they’re an absolute bargain, and doing so is a Christmas gift to me as well. Sands, you can buy one or two for yourself while you’re at it. If you’re one of those folks that’s been reading Being a Better Writer for years but never gone any further, well, Christmas is the perfect season to give a little back. Plus, it isn’t as though you’re risking much: You’re talking about books below ten dollars that are, in most cases, almost or over a thousand pages long, with over a hundred reviews over the last couple of years leaving them at a 5-Star average.

So yeah, as you think about Christmas this year, I’m going to shamelessly plug my own work and point out that it’s ridiculously well-priced for what you get. Got a reader of Sci-Fi or Fantasy in your friend circle? Give them the gift of one of the best books they’re read this year. Or get yourself a new adventure you won’t forget.

The books page is here! So go take a look!

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