pragmatics

About to commit Thor Ragnarok meta so look away now

I can’t stop thinking about what a happy ending for Loki even looks like. “I was LIED TO MY WHOLE LIFE so I will RULE THIS UNIVERSE or else BURN AND SALT IT ALL” is a rut he’s been running in for so long that even he’s starting to realise he’s never going to go through with it. He’s also very bad at ruling once he’s actually in power! It turns out that a) ruling involves hard responsibilities and is Not Fun and b) the method of getting people to love you where you repeatedly outrage their principles until they yell about their unconditional love while trying to wrestle you into submission does not work on entire populations! Funny that.

But if ruling’s out then what’s he going to do, play the cunning vizier to Thor in Asgard? He’s never going to happily settle into Asgard’s hierarchy because he hates the idea that Thor has a natural superiority (while Thor doesn’t get this at all and carries on being effortlessly Blond and Princely, it’s one of the main things they’re intensely Weird About).

But then! Turns out Thor’s effortless Natural Crown Prince act is a SHAM and a LIE. And the first thing Thor does on finding this out is not gracefully give the throne up to the real firstborn but proceed to burn her to a crisp and take the throne by force, because it was the pragmatic thing to do in that situation! And everyone saw him do it. Everyone knows Thor took the crown because he beat the real heir into the ground, no matter how noble his motives. Loki’s not going to stick around being Thor’s adviser forever like he ends up by the credits, but it’s got to be a lot less grating for him right now than it ever was before.

Soooo. A happy ending for Loki is one where a) he’s around Thor, b) Thor is okay, probably still being Blond and Princely since that seems to make him happy, and crucially c) Thor doesn’t have the right to rule over him. No wonder Loki keeps trying to get a foot in alternate power bases; maybe he just needs to find one that isn’t murderous but doesn’t acknowledge Asgard’s supremacy. Then he and Thor can carry on being Weird About Each Other to their hearts’ content, and maybe not have messy, interstellar, city-destroying family squabbles as regularly as they do now. But I don’t want them to get there quite yet.

False implicatures and plausible deniability

In our episode on the linguistics of propaganda, we talked a lot about how false implicatures can bend the truth just enough to sneak misconceptions into people’s heads, without them even necessarily realizing it. These are sentences where we imply something that isn’t true, without coming out and saying it overtly. But while we’ve touched on the topic of indirect speech before, we haven’t spent much time talking about why we do it. That is, why don’t we always just say what we mean, instead of risking a garbled message?

To get at an answer, let’s consider a few different uses we’ve got for indirect speech, and then see if we can figure out what they’ve got in common. Imagine, first, that you were out on a date, and as the evening winds down, you want things to move in a more romantic direction. Would you come right out and say it? Well, some of us might. But chances are that many would take a much more gentle approach — say, by asking if the other party wanted to come over to their place for coffee, or maybe to Netflix and chill.

Or let’s say you were driving a bit too fast, got pulled over, and were pretty sure you were about to get a ticket for a few hundred dollars that you really can’t afford. But let’s say you happened to have $50 on hand, and you’re feeling just brave enough to give a bit of bribery a go (NB: The Ling Space does not condone bribery). Would you move right to “I’ll give you money if you let me go”? Probably not, if you have any intention of staying out of jail. You’d likely try to be at least a little sly about it — maybe wondering aloud if the problem can’t be “taken care of here.”

Or picture the old cliché of a mobster extorting protection money from some local business, under penalty of violence. Since explicit threats are often illegal, but the enforcer still needs to get their message across, euphemistic speech ends up a vital part of their criminal enterprise. Phrases like “It’d be a shame if something happened to this fine establishment” replace outright intimidation, though the message remains the same.

In each of these cases, the speaker is affording themselves plausible deniability. Trying to move a new relationship (or even an old one) in a different direction can be potentially awkward, especially if the other party isn’t as interested as you. But if you play your cards close enough to the chest, and things go awry, you can always deny you were talking about anything more than coffee, or a night spent binge-watching the latest season of House of Cards.

And since bribing an officer is against the law, but might get you out of paying a hefty fine if they happen not to be the most honest cop in the land, the indirect approach lets you test the waters without committing yourself one way or the other. If they catch your drift, everybody leaves happy; if they don’t, well, you can hardly be found guilty for someone else misunderstanding your otherwise unimpeachable character! (More generally, shifting from one relationship type to another, like from one rooted in dominance to one that’s more transactional, can lead to tension, which is why bribing the maitre d’ for a better table can seem just as nerve-wracking, even if it’s not a crime.)

As for that threat: it might be hard getting something so weaselly to stick in court. On the face of it, after all, it really would be a shame if something happened! And they can always claim they were just expressing genuine concern, as laughable as that might seem.

And, so, indirect speech — and by extension plausible deniability — has many uses, both amongst those in positions of power, and those with none. Though paradoxical on the face of it, it can provide avenues for authoritarians to obtain and maintain control,* while protecting the powerless when all other exits are blocked.**

It’s fair to ask, though, why bribes and threats and the like that are so thinly veiled should work at all. Doesn’t everybody know what ‘Netflix and chill’ means by now? And is the mob really fooling anyone with their supposed concern for the well-being of the community? The secret lies in a concept we’ve spent some time picking apart already: mutual knowledge, otherwise known as common ground.

Mutual knowledge refers to the knowledge that exists between two or more speakers — not simply what both of them know, but what each of them knows the other one knows (and what each of them knows the other one knows the other knows, and so on). So while the intent of asking a partner over for coffee might seem obvious to both parties involved, because the invitation was indirect, there’s enough mutual doubt should either one decide to back out. If the answer is “no thanks,” embarrassment is saved, and everyone can go along pretending nothing ever happened. The possibility that either speaker doesn’t understand what just took place is small, but when we start asking whether each of them knows whether the other knows what happened, or knows that they know that they know, uncertainties multiply unbounded.

What indirect speech really does, then, is keep things off the record. While the information implicated by someone might be clear as day to anyone within earshot, that information manages not to work its way into the common ground. And, so, unlike base assertions, which fall square into the vessel of mutual knowledge we carry between us in any given conversation, implicatures float around just out of our reach — visible to everyone, but ephemeral enough for us to pretend they don’t even exist, if and when we need to.

Internet Pragmatics™ and Racial Stereotypes

White people in the English-speaking world have been given free license to break colonialist faux-Classical grammar rules 5eva (i can haz, lolspeak, l33tspeak, My Immortal, cattes, such soft so doge, u wot m8, sh*tgibbons, boaty mcboatface, lyking the bred, etc).

While white people are assumed to know the rules and consciously flout them for humorous effect, people of color doing the same things online often have to add footnotes proving they know what they did “wrong,” as the online audience will unfairly assume they are uneducated and “didn’t know any better.” This author probably got dozens of “corrections,” whether gentle or angry, for an obviously intentional nonstandard pattern, prompting their valid frustration at the sentient fedoras.

And it’s a safe bet that most of those pedants also follow gimmick accounts that twist language all the dang time, but they only complain about one person’s indefinite determiners.

when you realize that one of the very first things the series establishes about adam is that he’s a very pragmatic and careful and responsible person, but also that he and ronan dragged each other behind a moving car for fun

when you realize that despite their bickering, adam actually relaxes completely around ronan and sometimes even lets himself forget his responsibilities for a little while when they’re together

when you realize that ronan actually brings out adam’s carefree side more frequently than any of the other characters

when you realize that adam’s pov chapters tend to be calmer and more focused on the present when ronan is there with him

when you realize that ronan was making adam quiet all along

Something that I really like about Rose, she’s sort of always on a mission. She is a very practical person, she’s very pragmatic. The journey that she and Finn go seems pretty impossible, you can tell in this moment that she’s very much aware of the dangers that they are about to face, but she’s also logically in her mind problem-solving on the way. She knows exactly, probably, how many things can go wrong in a situation. That [ the crescent-shaped necklace she’s wearing ] is definitely something that is significant to Rose’s backstory. It is an object that she kind of has throughout the film and it is representative of more than the object itself to her. So, yeah, that’s all I can say. It has significance that is, to me, something that means more than just what the object itself is. - Kelly Marie Tran.

Your Sun/Moon Combination Keywords

~Aries~

Aries Sun, Aries Moon: Impulsive, Lively, Determined

Aries Sun, Taurus Moon: Tactful, Sensual, Gracious

Aries Sun, Gemini Moon: Popular, Open-Minded, Talkative

Aries Sun, Cancer Moon: Loyal, Secure, Emotional

Aries Sun, Leo Moon: Courageous, Affectionate, Ambitious

Aries Sun, Virgo Moon: Conversant, Sincere, Careful

Aries Sun, Libra Moon: Adventurous, Dynamic, Restless

Aries Sun, Scorpio Moon: Competitive, Intellectual, Magnetic

Aries Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Active, Inquisitive, Exciting

Aries Sun, Capricorn Moon: Practical, Responsible, Motivated

Aries Sun, Aquarius Moon: Idealistic, Amusing, Romantic

Aries Sun, Pisces Moon: Creative, Temperamental, Impressionable

~Taurus~

Taurus Sun, Aries Moon: Goal-Oriented, Disciplined, Vigorous

Taurus Sun, Taurus Moon: Truthful, Calm, Attentive

Taurus Sun, Gemini Moon: Bright, Pragmatic, Charming

Taurus Sun, Cancer Moon: Kind, Imaginative, Peaceful

Taurus Sun, Leo Moon: Opinionated, Strong, Innovative

Taurus Sun, Virgo Moon: Convincing, Dedicated, Logical

Taurus Sun, Libra Moon: Charismatic, Delicate, Relaxed

Taurus Sun, Scorpio Moon: Subtle, Empathetic, Clever

Taurus Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Passionate, Sociable, Direct

Taurus Sun, Capricorn Moon: Prestige, Dependable, Stable

Taurus Sun, Aquarius Moon: Faithful, Generous, Flexible

Taurus Sun, Pisces Moon: Susceptible, Gentle, Spiritual

~Gemini~

Gemini sun, Aries Moon: Quick, Excitable, Well-Spoken

Gemini sun, Taurus Moon: Outgoing, Youthful, Structural

Gemini sun, Gemini Moon: Favored, Unpredictable, Problem-Solver

Gemini sun, Cancer Moon: Playful, Witty, Skillful

Gemini sun, Leo Moon: Prideful, Enterprising, Amiable

Gemini sun, Virgo Moon: Versatile, Intelligent, Lighthearted

Gemini sun, Libra Moon: Harmonious, Idealistic, Resilient

Gemini sun, Scorpio Moon: Forceful, Intuitive, Brilliant

Gemini sun, Sagittarius Moon: Free, Educated, Vivid

Gemini sun, Capricorn Moon: Shrewd, Objective, Professional

Gemini sun, Aquarius Moon: Helpful, Optimistic, Agile

Gemini sun, Pisces Moon: Conscientious, Detailed, Speculating

~Cancer~

Cancer Sun, Aries Moon: Combustive, Principal, Aspiring

Cancer Sun, Taurus Moon: Compassionate, Protective, Loving

Cancer Sun, Gemini Moon: Yielding, Curious, Reflective

Cancer Sun, Cancer Moon: Touchy, Guarding, Genial

Cancer Sun, Leo Moon: Proud, Interesting, Neat

Cancer Sun, Virgo Moon: Solid, Traditional, Practical

Cancer Sun, Libra Moon: Gentle, Busy, Supportive

Cancer Sun, Scorpio Moon: Magnetic, Ardent, Private

Cancer Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Inspiring, Free-Spirited, Polite

Cancer Sun, Capricorn Moon: Eager, Reassuring, Self-Disciplined

Cancer Sun, Aquarius Moon: Wise, Aristocratic, Honored

Cancer Sun, Pisces Moon: Passive, Unique, Talented

~Leo~

Leo Sun, Aries Moon: Fierce, Outright, Driven

Leo Sun, Taurus Moon: Visionary, Durable, Efficient

Leo Sun, Gemini Moon: Delightful, Facile, Reasonable

Leo Sun, Cancer Moon: Ingenious, Easy-Going, Family-Oriented

Leo Sun, Leo Moon: Bold, Attractive, Dignified

Leo Sun, Virgo Moon: Selective, Thoughtful, Timid

Leo Sun, Libra Moon: Idealistic, Methodical, Alert

Leo Sun, Scorpio Moon: Passionate, Opportunistic, Fulfilling

Leo Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Intriguing, Warm, Straightforward

Leo Sun, Capricorn Moon: Keen, Good-Natured, Trustworthy

Leo Sun, Aquarius Moon: Vital, Inspiring, Concerned

Leo Sun, Pisces Moon: Kind-Hearted, Aware, Sentimental

~Virgo~

Virgo Sun, Aries Moon: Thoughtful, Demanding, High-Spirited

Virgo Sun, Taurus Moon: Reliable, Honest, Loyal

Virgo Sun, Gemini Moon: Deliberate, Active, Perceiving

Virgo Sun, Cancer Moon: Nurturing, Conservative, Secure

Virgo Sun, Leo Moon: Jovial, Earnest, Conscientious

Virgo Sun, Virgo Moon: Organized, Well-Mannered, Healthy

Virgo Sun, Libra Moon: Enciting, Selective, Intimate

Virgo Sun, Scorpio Moon: Sly, Prudent, Calculating

Virgo Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Traditional, Engaging, Humorous

Virgo Sun, Capricorn Moon: Hardworking, Mature, Realistic

Virgo Sun, Aquarius Moon: Down-To-Earth, Analytical, Exploring

Virgo Sun, Pisces Moon: Contemplative, Artistic, Adviceful

~Libra~

Libra Sun, Aries Moon: Striking, Erratic, Extroverted

Libra Sun, Taurus Moon: Likable, Balanced, Tactful

Libra Sun, Gemini Moon: Expressive, Social, Flirtatious

Libra Sun, Cancer Moon: Diplomatic, Serene, Gifted

Libra Sun, Leo Moon: Captivating, Honest, Lucky

Libra Sun, Virgo Moon: Rational, Organized, Insightful

Libra Sun, Libra Moon: Excitable, Charming, Trusting

Libra Sun, Scorpio Moon: Determined, Absorbing, Radical

Libra Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Outgoing, Eager, Positive

Libra Sun, Capricorn Moon: Warm, Strong, Purposeful

Libra Sun, Aquarius Moon: Humanitarian, Even-Tempered, Approachable

Libra Sun, Pisces Moon: Tender, Changeable, Artistic

~Scorpio~

Scorpio Sun, Aries Moon: Mysterious, Fearless, Tenacious

Scorpio Sun, Taurus Moon: Securing, Confident, Sensible

Scorpio Sun, Gemini Moon: Sensual, Businesslike, Sophisticated

Scorpio Sun, Cancer Moon: Independent, Bold, Curative

Scorpio Sun, Leo Moon: Alluring, Self-Assured, Decisive

Scorpio Sun, Virgo Moon: Observant, Reserved, Soft-Spoken

Scorpio Sun, Libra Moon: Elegant, Creative, High-Minded

Scorpio Sun, Scorpio Moon: Powerful, Deep, Diligent

Scorpio Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Ironic, Explosive, Affectionate

Scorpio Sun, Capricorn Moon: Persistent, Steadfast, Severe

Scorpio Sun, Aquarius Moon: Fascinating, Civil, Influential

Scorpio Sun, Pisces Moon: Psychic, Rightful, Kind

~Sagittarius~

Sagittarius sun, Aries moon: Good-Hearted, Cheerful, Wild

Sagittarius sun, Taurus Moon: Aspiring, Faithful, Romantic

Sagittarius sun, Gemini Moon: Entertaining, Talkative, Smart

Sagittarius sun, Cancer Moon: Spiritual, Foresightful, Dreamy

Sagittarius sun, Leo Moon: Daring, Open, Productive  

Sagittarius sun, Virgo Moon: Broad-Minded, Realistic, Analytical

Sagittarius sun, Libra Moon: Joyful, Sincere, Intellectual

Sagittarius sun, Scorpio Moon: Sarcastic, Go-Getter, Defensive

Sagittarius sun, Sagittarius Moon: Optimistic, Noticeable, Disquisitive

Sagittarius sun, Capricorn Moon: Self-Examining, Affirmative, Realistic

Sagittarius sun, Aquarius Moon: Philosophical, Trustworthy, Intuitive

Sagittarius sun, Pisces Moon: Understanding, Tolerant, Imaginative

~Capricorn~

Capricorn Sun, Aries moon: Willful, Invulnerable, Powerful

Capricorn Sun, Taurus Moon: Influential, Reliable, Conservative

Capricorn Sun, Gemini Moon: Innovative, Bright, Swift

Capricorn Sun, Cancer Moon: Domestic, Supportive, Sharp-Witted

Capricorn Sun, Leo Moon: Demonstrative, Committed, Friendly

Capricorn Sun, Virgo Moon: Ambitious, Reserved, Objective

Capricorn Sun, Libra Moon: Disciplined, Benevolent, Smooth

Capricorn Sun, Scorpio Moon: Insightful, Deep, Driven

Capricorn Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Carefree, Funny, Rational

Capricorn Sun, Capricorn Moon: Successful, Giving, Inspiring

Capricorn Sun, Aquarius Moon: Serious, Wise, Accountable

Capricorn Sun, Pisces Moon: Forthright, Humane, Sympathetic

~Aquarius~

Aquarius Sun, Aries moon: Aggressive, Independent, Enthusiastic

Aquarius Sun, Taurus Moon: Curious, Appealing, Headstrong

Aquarius Sun, Gemini Moon: Elightened, Original, Beguiling

Aquarius Sun, Cancer Moon: Patient, Candid, Perceptive

Aquarius Sun, Leo Moon: Helpful, Friendly, Dignified

Aquarius Sun, Virgo Moon: Careful, Competent, Structural

Aquarius Sun, Libra Moon: Respectful, Optimistic, Peace-Loving

Aquarius Sun, Scorpio Moon: Compassionate, Charismatic, Enterprising

Aquarius Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Adventurous, Experienced, Admirable

Aquarius Sun, Capricorn Moon: Purposeful, Ethical, Prudent

Aquarius Sun, Aquarius Moon: Unique, Open-Minded, Wise

Aquarius Sun, Pisces Moon: Judicious, Big-Hearted, Mythical

~Pisces~

Pisces Sun, Aries Moon: Keen, Self-Reliant, Charitable

Pisces Sun, Taurus Moon: Easy-Going, Considerate, Vibrant

Pisces Sun, Gemini Moon: Adaptable, Conceptual, Creative

Pisces Sun, Cancer Moon: Humble, Talented, Controlled

Pisces Sun, Leo Moon: Humorous, Different, Trustworthy

Pisces Sun, Virgo Moon: Devoted, Astute, Determined,

Pisces Sun, Libra Moon: Accommodating, Enchanting, Peaceful

Pisces Sun, Scorpio Moon: Emotional, Mysterious, Secretive

Pisces Sun, Sagittarius Moon: Expansive, Protective, Sensible

Pisces Sun, Capricorn Moon: Kind, Introverted, Subtle

Pisces Sun, Aquarius Moon: Missionary, Humanitarian, Intellectual

Pisces Sun, Pisces Moon: Ethereal, Sympathetic, Dreamy

10

i don’t know if it’s just me here but listen, i just couldn’t help but put these two scenes together in my head. these parallels were really interesting to me visually because he is moving in the exact same way he piloted the red lion through the asteroid field in 01x06.  

even with these scenes, they both have the same end goal to reach a ship, which needs to be achieved despite obstacles hurtling around at fast speeds

Let me tell about Unrequited Love. Equatable to a death sentence, although that may be optimal. You will never experience a pain like Unrequited Love. It’s being invisible to the one person you want to see you. It’s dropping everything to convince that person you are worthy, they should love you, they should need you. You forget about the people who actually care about you, abandoning them to chase this wild half thought out dream of yours, because you are selfish. And in being selfish, you start to ignore the people who want to be with you, romantically, pragmatically, or platonically. And so you create more Unrequiteds, who chase you and not other people, and those other people become Unrequiteds, and then they have Unrequiteds. And this chain of Unrequited, it never stops. Never. And maybe someday, you stop and ask yourself if this person you’ve been chasing for years is really worth it. Maybe if they don’t love you now, they never will. And that hurts. More then it should. And you’re tired. So tired. So you leave. You disappear. And maybe that person you were chasing, they notice. They notice you’re gone, and they break a little, because they had depend to you without realizing it. But it’s too late. That’s the thing about Unrequited, when it’s finally requited, if it ever will be, it’s too late.
Why do we even HAVE that lever?

Back in the day, my old gaming group used to play a game called “why do we even have that lever?”. It works like this:

1. Person A describes a puzzle or trap - the sort of bizarre adventurer-shredding contraption you might encounter in the course of an old-school dungeon crawl that makes absolutely no sense if the dungeon in question was ever supposed to be a facility that people actually used.

2. Person B proposes an explanation for what the “trap” in question is really for - i.e., why it’s not a trap at all, but a totally practical feature of whatever sort of place the dungeon originally was.

3. Person B then describes their own trap to keep the game going.

The only hard rule is that the explanation offered in step 2 absolutely can’t be “it’s a puzzle” or “it’s a trap”; you have to propose some pragmatic function that actually makes sense in the context of the dungeon being the ruins of someplace where people lived and worked. The way it currently works can be justified as a consequence of it having malfunctioned or partially fallen apart, but there has to be some plausible purpose it could have originally served.

For example, I might ask:

“Why is there a room where the entire ceiling is a giant magnet?”

… and you might respond:

  • “It’s a security checkpoint for the armoury of magical weapons that lies beyond. The presence of the magnet means that weapons can only be safely brought in and out of the armoury using special weighted cases, making it very difficult to steal or substitute items.”
  • “It’s a laboratory formerly used for experiments involving dangerous creatures from the Elemental Plane of Earth. The powerful magnetic field wholly paralyses all but the mightiest earth elementals, allowing them to be studied at one’s leisure.”
  • “It’s the old Queen’s gaming room. During her reign, a game of strategy involving man-sized stone pieces on a multi-level board had become fashionable. Though most such games required large work crews to move the pieces around, the Queen’s magnetic chamber - in conjunction with large metal bars driven into the core of each piece - allows the pieces to be manipulated by a single person. Many of the pieces still lay scattered about the room, in various states of disrepair.”

Then you’d describe your own trap.

I’ll start us off with a simple (and apropos) one:

Why is there a lever that drops a giant stone block on the person who pulled it?

The Dos and Don’ts of Beginning a Novel:  An Illustrated Guide

I’ve had a lot of asks lately for how to begin a book (or how not to), so here’s a post on my general rules of thumb for story openers and first chapters!  

Please note, these are incredibly broad generalizations;  if you think an opener is right for you, and your beta readers like it, there’s a good chance it’s A-OK.  When it comes to writing, one size does not fit all.  (Also note that this is for serious writers who are interested in improving their craft and/or professional publication, so kindly refrain from the obligatory handful of comments saying “umm, screw this, write however you want!!”)

So without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Don’t: 

1.  Open with a dream. 

“Just when Mary Sue was sure she’d disappear down the gullet of the monstrous, winged pig, she woke up bathed in sweat in her own bedroom.”

What?  So that entire winged pig confrontation took place in a dream and amounts to nothing?  I feel so cheated! 

Okay, not too many people open their novels with monstrous swine, but you get the idea:  false openings of any kind tend to make the reader feel as though you’ve wasted their time, and don’t usually jump into more meaty action of the story quickly enough.  It makes your opening feel lethargic and can leave your audience yawning.

Speaking of… 

2.  Open with a character waking up.  

This feels familiar to most of us, but unless your character is waking up to a zombie attack or an alien invasion, it’s generally a pretty easy recipe to get your story to drag.

No one picks a book to hear how your character brushes their teeth in the morning or what they’d like to have for dinner.  As a general rule of thumb, we read to explore things we wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.  And cussing out the alarm clock is not one of them.  

Granted, there are exceptions if your writing is exceptionally engaging, but in most cases it just sets a slow pace that will bore you and your reader to death and probably cause you to lose interest in your book within the first ten pages.  

3.  Bombard with exposition.  

Literary characters aren’t DeviantArt OCs.  And the best way to convey a character is not, in my experience, to devote the first ten pages to describing their physical appearance, personality, and backstory.  Develop your characters, and make sure their fully fleshed out – my tips on how to do so here – but you don’t need to dump all that on the reader before they have any reason to care about them.  Let the reader get to know the character gradually, learn about them, and fall in love with them as they would a person:  a little bit at a time.   

This is iffy when world building is involved, but even then it works best when the delivery feels organic and in tune with the book’s overall tone.  Think the opening of the Hobbit or Good Omens.

4.  Take yourself too seriously.

Your opener (and your novel in general) doesn’t need to be intellectually pretentious, nor is intellectual pretense the hallmark of good literature.  Good literature is, generally speaking, engaging, well-written, and enjoyable.  That’s it.  

So don’t concern yourself with creating a poetic masterpiece of an opening line/first chapter.  Just make one that’s – you guessed it – engaging, well-written, and enjoyable. 

5.  Be unintentionally hilarious.

Utilizing humor in your opening line is awesome, but check yourself to make sure your readers aren’t laughing for all the wrong reasons (this is another reason why betas are important.)  

These examples of the worst opening lines in published literature will show you what I mean – and possibly serve as a pleasant confidence booster as well: 

“As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand – who would take her away from all this – and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.”

– Ali Kawashima

“She sipped her latte gracefully, unaware of the milk foam droplets building on her mustache, which was not the peachy-fine baby fuzz that Nordic girls might have, but a really dense, dark, hirsute lip-lining row of fur common to southern Mediterranean ladies nearing menopause, and winked at the obviously charmed Spaniard at the next table.”

– Jeanne Villa

“As I gardened, gazing towards the autumnal sky, I longed to run my finger through the trail of mucus left by a single speckled slug – innocuously thrusting past my rhododendrons – and in feeling that warm slime, be swept back to planet Alderon, back into the tentacles of the alien who loved me.”

– Mary E. Patrick

“Before they met, his heart was a frozen block of ice, scarred by the skate blades of broken relationships, then she came along and like a beautiful Zamboni flooded his heart with warmth, scraped away the ugly slushy bits, and dumped them in the empty parking lot of his soul.”

– Howie McClennon

If these can get published, so can you.

Do:

1.  You know that one really interesting scene you’re itching to write?  Start with that.

Momentum is an important thing in storytelling.  If you set a fast, infectious beat, you and your reader will be itching to dance along with it.  

Similarly, slow, drowsy openers tend to lead to slow, drowsy stories that will put you both to sleep.

I see a lot of posts joking about “that awkward moment when you sit down to write but don’t know how to get to that one scene you actually wanted to write about.”  Write that scene!  If it’s at all possible, start off with it.  If not, there are still ways you can build your story around the scenes you actually want to write.

Keep in mind:  if you’re bored, your reader will almost certainly be bored as well.  So write what you want to write.  Write what makes you excited.  Don’t hold off until later, when it “really gets good.”  Odds are, the reader will not wait around that long, and you’re way more likely to become disillusioned with your story and quit.  If a scene is dragging, cut it out.  Burn bridges, find a way around.  Live, dammit. 

2.  Engage the reader.

There are several ways to go about this.  You can use wit and levity, you can present a question, and you can immerse the reader into the world you’ve created.  Just remember to do so with subtlety, and don’t try too hard;  believe me, it shows.  

Here are some of my personal favorite examples of engaging opening lines: 

“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." 

– Douglas Adams, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

"It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

– Iain Banks, Crow Road.

“A white Pomeranian named Fluffy flew out of the a fifth-floor window in Panna, which was a grand-new building with the painter’s scaffolding still around it. Fluffy screamed.”

– Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games.

See what I’m saying?  They pull you in and do not let go.

3.  Introduce us to a main character (but do it right.)

“Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.”

– Neil Gaiman, American Gods.

This is one of my favorite literary openings of all time, because right off the bat we know almost everything we need to know about Shadow’s character (i.e. that he’s rugged, pragmatic, and loving.)   

Also note that it doesn’t tell us everything about Shadow:  it presents questions that make us want to read more.  How did Shadow get into prison?  When will he get out?  Will he reunite with his wife?  There’s also more details about Shadow slowly sprinkled in throughout the book, about his past, personality, and physical appearance.  This makes him feel more real and rounded as a character, and doesn’t pull the reader out of the story.

Obviously, I’m not saying you should rip off American Gods.  You don’t even need to include a hooker eating a guy with her cooch if you don’t want to.  

But this, and other successful openers, will give you just enough information about the main character to get the story started;  rarely any good comes from infodumping, and allowing your reader to get to know your character gradually will make them feel more real.   

4.  Learn from the greats.

My list of my favorite opening lines (and why I love them) is right here.

5.  Keep moving.  

The toughest part of being a writer is that it’s a rare and glorious occasion when you’re actually satisfied with something you write.  And to add another layer of complication, what you like best probably won’t be what your readers will like best. 

If you refuse to keep moving until you have the perfect first chapter, you will never write anything beyond your first chapter.  

Set a plan, and stick to it:  having a daily/weekly word or page goal can be extremely helpful, especially when you’re starting out.  Plotting is a lifesaver (some of my favorite posts on how to do so here, here, and here.)

Keep writing, keep moving, and rewrite later.  If you stay in one place for too long, you’ll never keep going. 

Best of luck, and happy writing.  <3

8

Despite our need to simplify and generalize absolutely everyone and everything in this life, humans are intrinsically impossible to simplify. We are never just good or just bad. We are mosaics of our worst selves and our best selves, our deepest secrets and our favorite stories to tell at a dinner party, existing somewhere between our well-lit profile photo and our drivers license shot. We are all a mixture of our selfishness and generosity, loyalty and self-preservation, pragmatism and impulsiveness. | (📸 credit)

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The words and emojis we choose in our text messages say a lot about our mental health

TW: discussion of depression and suicide

I came across this article, and technically it’s up my alley with the analysis of text vs. emoji to express a very specific reality, but… Ugh.

Full disclosure: I have had severe depression for 20 years now (I’m 33) and have used the Text Line a few times in crisis situations. Had I known they kept any sort of logs, I would not have done so - I wanted to text so I could remain anonymous. If they can track repeat users, that means the metadata is attached to some kind of identifier for the phone/IP/something. Especially now that metadata is now legally for sale in the US, I’m legitimately worried.

I was torn whether to even share this. From a scientific sense, this type of linguistic data mining could be useful in oversaturated social media environments to track patterns in expressions of suicidal planning. But any benefit of this type of short-sighted overreach is far far far faaaar outweighed by its downsides.

There’s the skeeze factor of data mining to begin with, plus the extra-skeeze of mining people in crisis, plus the vast chasm between suicidal ideation and action, plus the lack of capability to follow up on non-active-rescue cases, PLUS the fact that “active rescue” can be deadly for people of color and LGBTQ+ people in the US…

Just. Ugh. My skin crawls just thinking about it. I’m sharing this not as an endorsement of this, but more as a signal boost to draw attention to Crisis Text Line’s gross violation of trust.

An Analysis of Bakugou’s Superiority Complex

I think you’re at least kind of right. Bakugou knows Midoriya has something that he lacks, and that causes him to feel bitterness towards Midoriya. It’s also hard for Bakugou to deal with the idea that Midoriya is more like All Might than he is. Although, I don’t Bakugou ever admired Midoriya back when Midoriya was Quirkless. I think he hated Midoriya because Midoriya makes him feel weak.

I think Bakugou’s hatred of Midoriya comes from him having a textbook case of superiority complex.

A superiority complex is “a psychological defense mechanism in which feelings of superiority counter or conceal feelings of inferiority.” In other words, Bakugou’s narcissism and feelings of superiority are due to him trying to cover for his inferior feelings. When Bakugou is feeling weaker than Midoriya in some cases, he’ll lash out against Midoriya and treat him as inferior in order to protect his feelings of weakness. Whether Midoriya realizes it or not, he picks on Bakugou’s insecurities, and, in order to protect his ego, Bakugou bullies Midoriya and tries to make himself feel superior.

I don’t think Bakugou’s superiority complex has always existed. I think Midoriya simply triggered it.

From when he was a young child, Bakugou has always been praised.

As his mom points out, all that praise for his talents has made him narcissistic.

Bakugou’s feelings of superiority come from all the praises during his childhood. That much is self-explanatory. Because of those praises, he has high expectations for himself.

Because Bakugou was praised for his Quirk and Midoriya had no Quirk, it was easy for Bakugou to come to the conclusion that Midoriya is inferior.

As a result, when Midoriya, someone who’s supposed to be beneath him, tries to help him, it’s a huge blow to Bakugou’s ego. Midoriya is supposed to be a Quirkless loser. Bakugou isn’t supposed to need his help.

Any time Midoriya tries to help Bakugou, it makes Bakugou feel weak. In order to feel less weak and to prove his superiority, he bullies Midoriya and brings him down. A superiority complex exists to cover for an inferiority complex. In Bakugou’s case, his inferiority complex comes from Midoriya making him feel weak and like he has lower self-worth. His superiority complex kicks in when he bullies and brings Midoriya down in order to feel stronger. If Bakugou can keep convincing himself that Midoriya is weak and that he’s superior, then Bakugou can feel strong. The weaker Midoriya is, the stronger Bakugou feels. It’s a vicious mindset that Bakugou develops over the years, and he can’t get over this mindset and acknowledge Midoriya’s strength easily.

Bakugou’s superiority complex is so bad that he even considers losing if it means not having to work with Midoriya. Working with Midoriya is just that big of a bruise to his ego, and it makes him feel stronger thinking Midoriya is not good enough to work with him.

He still has to mentally think Midoriya is a piece of shit even while working with him.

Bakugou has gotten into this mindset where he has to prove he’s better than Midoriya in order to make himself stronger. Midoriya makes him feel weak. In order to combat those feelings, Bakugou has to put Midoriya down.

Midoriya getting a Quirk from All Might and catching up to Bakugou in terms of ability makes Bakugou feel weak. That’s why he can’t accept Midoriya’s strength so easily. Midoriya is supposed to always be beneath Bakugou. When he catches up to Bakugou, that only pisses Bakugou off because that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a failure on Bakugou’s part to allow Midoriya to catch up to him.

Once Bakugou realizes Midoriya received All Might’s power, he thinks that means there must be something Midoriya has that Bakugou doesn’t. Midoriya did something right while Bakugou did something wrong. Since All Might chose Midoriya, a kid who was always weaker than Bakugou, it makes Bakugou feel weak. This aggravates his inferiority complex. Bakugou feels so weak that he blames himself for getting captured by the villains and leading to All Might’s downfall.

It doesn’t help Bakugou’s inferiority complex when he feels like Midoriya is always looking down on him. He hates it when people do that.

Just a reminder, if people feel weak or incompetent and they let that consume themselves, then they have an inferior complex.

An inferior complex isn’t always conscious. In Bakugou’s case, it was initially subconscious and then became more conscious after All Might lost his powers. His inferiority complex is aggravated by anyone who makes him feel weak. Midoriya especially makes it worse. However, other people have aggravated Bakugou’s inferiority complex as well.  

If someone stands against Bakugou, Bakugou wants that person to give it his or her all. If that person doesn’t, to Bakugou, that person is looking down on him and making him feel weak.

Todoroki does just that during the Sport’s Festival.

Bakugou’s superiority complex isn’t the only defense mechanism for his inferiority complex. Often he just gets REALLY PISSED OFF against the people who make him feel weak. For instance, this is what he’s like after his fight with Todoroki.

Bakugou also shuns anyone who makes him feel weak, like Todoroki for example.

There are other smaller examples of other students picking on Bakugou’s inferiority complex. Midoriya and Todoroki are just the big examples.

Not everyone with a superiority complex is as destructive as Bakugou. In fact, out of all the students with an inferiority complex, Bakugou seems to cope with it the worst since he hurts others in the process.

Aoyama is a milder example someone with of a superiority complex. Remember, a superiority complex is simply a defense mechanism for an inferiority complex.

People, like Aoyama, who feel insecure about themselves and let that insecurity consume them have an inferiority complex.

To cope with the inferiority complex, they act more superior. Although, in Aoyama’s case, instead of tearing people down like Bakugou, he simply boasts himself, tries to get attention, and acts like he’s amazing.

Aoyama acts like he loves himself, and he loves the attention. There could be an argument to be made that Aoyama doesn’t have a superiority complex since he doesn’t bring others down in order to make himself feel superior. However, he boasts how amazing he is, gets dramatic, and seeks attention as a way to cope with his feelings of inferiority.

Right now, Bakugou and Aoyama are the only students I can think of who have developed a superiority complex from their inferiority complex.

There are certainly other students who have an inferiority complex. It’s inevitable given the nature of being a hero. Being a hero is very competitive. In order to be successful, students need to stand out from their peers, and their peers in turn will will use their weaknesses against them. Villains also take advantage of any weakness students may have. It makes sense for students to feel like they’re inadequate compared to the amazing talent of their peers or to feel like they’re not as strong as they should be.

Interestingly enough, it doesn’t really look like Midoriya has an inferiority complex. An inferiority complex occurs when people become too focused on their deficiencies and start to feel intense lower self-worth. Midoriya doesn’t have that. Midoriya has usually been pretty pragmatic about his weaknesses and doesn’t let them make him think he’s inadequate or worth less.

Bakugou’s bullying never caused Midoriya to give up or feel worth less. Midoriya has always thought Bakugou is amazing. As a result, Bakugou became a role model for Midoriya instead of someone who pushes him down.

Hearing that Togata could have been the successor for One for All and that Nighteye thinks Togata would make a better successor doesn’t make Midoriya think he is unworthy of One for All. Midoriya still thinks he’s worthy of One for All and will push himself to prove it.

Keep in mind, Midoriya not having an inferiority complex does not mean he isn’t sometimes humble or hard on himself. He’s not cocky. He will have moments where he doesn’t take credit for his achievements or is disappointed in himself. That’s part of human nature. 

Here, Midoriya is giving others credit for his achievements. 

When he says this, he’s not saying he doesn’t deserve to be where he is or that he’s not deserving of his Quirk. He’s simply giving people who have helped him throughout is life credit. He wants to be the number one hero for their sake as well as his own. That’s not an inferiority complex. 

During the moments Midoriya is hard on himself, it’s usually because it’s the rational conclusion, such as in the example shown below. 

All Might tells Midoriya that he can only use to five percent of his power. Midoriya reasonably thinks that doesn’t sound like a lot. Midoriya isn’t being unreasonably hard on himself or thinks he’s weak. He’s just coming to the rational conclusion based on what he knows. Midoriya knows he needs to work on controlling his Quirk without breaking his bones. Midoriya feeling like he has a lot to work on doesn’t mean he thinks he’s a lesser being or has low self-esteem. 

People having moments where they’re hard on themselves or think they can do better is normal. An inferiority complex is when those inferior feelings happen all the time whether subconsciously or not. Bakugou often feels weak, and this manifests into the angry and mean-spirited behavior we know. Bakugou always subconsciously or consciously thinks he’s weak. It’s a more general feeling rather than one that happens occasionally. Midoriya doesn’t always think he’s not good enough or not deserving. If he’s not good enough in a certain area, then he’ll come to the rational conclusion for that particular area. An inferiority complex is a general feeling of inferiority rather than the occasional moments of feeling inferior. It makes people feel like they’re worth less overall. It’s a neurotic condition, meaning people with an inferiority complex worry frequently about their inferiority, even when it’s irrational or not important. The negative attitudes at times are irrational. 

Take Momo’s inferiority complex for example. She is very sensitive to her shortcomings from the Sports Festival. She is very hard on herself for not living up to her high expectations. She even goes as far as saying she “hasn’t left behind any noteworthy results.” Even though Momo is a very rational thinker, this is a VERY harsh criticism on her part and has affected her attitude since then. 

Momo’s negative feelings about herself occur when she compares herself to Todoroki. She starts feeling not good enough and loses confidence in herself. An inferiority complex affects the general perception and behavior one has towards himself or herself. 

Her inferiority complex prevents her from speaking up about a plan because she thinks she’s not good enough to share her idea. 

She thinks so little of herself that she comes to the conclusion that if Todoroki’s plan didn’t work, then hers can’t work either. 

An inferiority complex affects the behavior of individuals. In Momo’s case, hers makes her more passive because she feels like she’s not good enough to voice her opinion. In Aoyama’s case, it makes him more self-centered in order to compensate for his inferior feelings. In Bakugou’s case, it makes him become a bully because bringing people down makes him feel more superior. 

Midoriya not having an inferior complex makes sense. Midoriya is supposed to be Bakugou’s foil. Bakugou’s weaknesses are supposed to be Midoriya’s strengths.

If both boys have an inferiority complex, then they don’t make that good of foils. While Bakugou has feelings of weakness that he lets consume him. Midoriya doesn’t let his flaws make him feel weak or insecure and tries to push himself to be number one anyway because he believes he’s worthy of being number one.

Keep in mind, not everyone with an inferiority complex lets it hold them back or has harmful ways to cope with the inferiority complex like Bakugou does. An inferiority complex is simply a constant feeling of being inadequate and not measuring up. Some people with an inferiority complex use it to improve the skills they think they lack. It can be a driving force to improve. Bakugou, in a way, has also used his inferiority complex to improve himself. Unfortunately, he also tries to handle his feelings of weakness by lashing out and bringing others down.

The worst way to cope with an inferiority complex is to develop a superiority complex from it. People with a superiority complex still have low self-esteem like others with an inferiority complex. However, they also bring down others in order to cope with their low self-esteem and end up being isolated from people as a result.

Why the SPN mixtape scene from 12x19 is screenwriting gold, and should be taught to the next generations of screenwriters everywhere - analysis

20 seconds. Two lines of dialogue, three gestures, a couple more camera angles. Episode 19, season 12 of a genre TV show “Supernatural”. A single strike of screenwriting and cinematic genius. The mixtape scene.

Robert Berens and Meredith Glynn, I bow before you.

This scene should be used as an example for future screenwriters how you can put maximum of meaning into minimal time and dialogue. Should be analyzed and taught at universities everywhere, how to achieve the most using the least. How to write for TV, where you only have less than an hour to built something spectacular.

WOW.

Let’s just peel off all the layers of these 20 seconds of footage and these 13 words. 13 WORDS.

(Cas knocks, Dean doesn’t say anything. Cas opens the door, apologizes for disturbing Dean in his room, and then takes a cassette tape out of his left inside coat pocket, and puts it on the desk, while tapping the label on it that says “Deans (sic!) top 13 Zepp traxx”.)

Cas: Um, I just wanted to return this.

Dean: It’s a gift. You keep those.

13 tracks. 13 words. The future. So number thirteen is important for the future. I mean, are you trying to tell us something here, writers?

(Dean takes the tape, oustreches his arm, and gives it back to Cas. We see Cas’ hand grabbing the tape, and taking it back.)

That tiny scene is ENORMOUS from the perspective of the narrative and the characterization. Let’s see what we can get out of it. (Prepare yourself: it’s gonna be long. Damn, how much meta can you write based on 20 seconds of television and two lines of dialogue?) (Hint: A lot.)

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