13 Great Conversation Starters For Those Awk Moments

13 Great Conversation Starters For Those Awk Moments

Simple solutions for awkward silences over dinner.

We’ve all had those meals. You know, those meals, where the people in your company are trying to eat as quietly as possible amidst the clanking of silverware, and the metaphorical chirping crickets become so deafening that they start to manifest on a nearby windowsill. Those meals.

Well, starting today, the era of word-starved suppers has come to an end. Next time you find yourself among laconic interlocutors, try out these guaranteed conversation starters. They’re sure to get your partner across the table talking — or at the very least, making excuses to sit somewhere else.

1. Have you ever had lice?

This could very well elicit a story. But if they feel weirded out, which some people are wont to feel after you ask them about the health history of their scalp, you can always just follow it up with a compliment on the baseball cap they’re wearing. That way, it’ll make much more sense to them when you steal it later.

2. What's your favorite obituary?

If they claim not to have one, just talk about your own, but judge them silently. Judge them hard.

3. Do you prefer eating books?

If you say it fast enough, your interlocutor likely won’t understand the question at first, and their response will probably be something like, “As opposed to…?” From here on out, it’s up to you. You can go the safe route (“Oh, you know — articles, magazines, and the like”) or you can stay true to your original question (“Well, you carry that chem book to the dining hall often enough, I figured you might prefer the printed pages over the Basmati rice"). Either way, you’ve got them talking now.

4. Who did you vote for?

I don’t think the 2017 edition of the Revised Manual for Cordial and Courteous Conversation is in print yet, but I’m pretty sure this particular question is a no-go. Still, feel free to ask at your own risk, although this may be the one that makes them leave the table.

5. Do you ever sing in the shower?

If their answer is “No, never,” then it’s your turn to find another seat.

6. Where's the first place you go when you can't find your phone?

Answers like “the Street,” “my school email,” and “into the realm of my roommate’s personal space” are all indicative of a determined, in-your-face, grade-A college student. (Well, probably more of a grade-C, if we’re being honest.) But hey, they’re talkers.

7. How old do you think Dumbledore is?

If they say “150? Give or take a few?” then you should probably marry them on the spot. If they gently remind you that Dumbledore was assassinated in the sixth book and is no longer living, and, in fact, as a fictional character, never was living in the first place, then you should still at least get their number so you can exchange conspiracy theories together.

8. What's in your ideal basement?

This question could go any number of ways. The ones who talk about flat-screens and pool tables and even meat hooks are okay, but I’d stay away from anyone who wants Hannibal’s corpse, because at that point they’re just trying too hard. I mean, really.

9. Cheetos: Crunchy or Puffed?

If their opinion doesn’t align with yours, you’ve got at least 20 minutes of heated conversation right then and there.

10. If you were alive right now, what would—?

You can take quite a bit of artistic license with this one, although I’m not sure your partner across the table will much appreciate it. They’ll probably cut you off after the first half of the question and ask what you meant by “if,” gradually escalating into a state of anger or confusion, or perhaps some combination of the two resembling an existential crisis. I would be mindful of any airborne utensils at this point, particularly butter knives.

11. Did you like Transformers: Age of Extinction?

The single correct response, for both of you, is laughter. After that, you’ll be bonding over bad puns and embarrassing childhood memories in no time.

12. Do you still wear your retainer at night?

This is how you can tell whether someone’s responsible. Either that, or they just really care about the alignment of their pearly whites, which is admirable regardless.

And finally…

13. Don’t you hate it when they do that thing in spy movies where the two people are sitting a little apart on a bench and staring straight ahead while they speak, as if no one watching them will be able to deduce that they’re talking to each other, but it’s actually super obvious that they’re communicating so it begs the question whether they should even be spies in the first place?

Ideally, your interlocutor joins in sometime in the middle and the two of you recite the rest of the question together. Realistically? They just say yes and reply with another thing they hate about spy movies.

And with that, you’ve got a friend for life — or at the very least, an interesting story to fill the silence with at next week’s dinner. Cheers.

Cover Image Credit: Business Insider

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The Key To Ending Your First Draft Blues

Or at least getting through the next chapter with your hair intact

Ah, the first draft. We’ve all been there as writers. The day we decide to turn a blank word document into a 70,000 word (or more) masterpiece. Or, at least, that’s always the aim. Often as first-time writers, we go into the experience blind, learning as we go, and never really knowing whether what we’re doing is right or wrong.

It can be frustrating at times, as most first drafts are a test of sanity. As somebody who had written ten first draft books (nearing eleven) in six years, I have had my fair share of ups and downs when it comes to first drafts.

My first book ever took me four years just to write it, I started at the age of sixteen and finished by the time I was twenty. A year later I had written another. I then wrote one in thirty days, and nowadays I write about three to four books a year.

My point is, there is no science to writing. It is all about learning how to do it, and finding the methods that suit you best. I just wish I could have had someone to tell me all of that when I started.

With that in mind, here are my five pieces of advice on how to write your first draft:

#5 Embrace the Terribleness

The first draft is always the worst version of any story. The sooner you accept it, the easier it is to move forward with your work. So you misspell a few words so bad that even Word can't help you. That shouldn't stop you from going with the flow. Your dialogue will feel hammier than a "Star Wars" film, but you'll clean it up the second time around. You're not expected to create a masterpiece on the first go, so just enjoy the ride.

#4 Suffer for your Art

Writing can be hard. I've said it enough times already, but it's true. You have to be prepared to suffer for it. The reason my first book took four years to write was because I didn't commit to it. The reason I wrote 80,000 words in thirty days was because I committed myself to write at least 1,000 words a day. Now I average 3,000 daily. Is it painful to force 3,000 words to the page every day? Yes, but that's what you have to do to get the draft finished.

#3 Take your Time

Now I know this goes against what I just said, but it's important that you go at the pace you want to. I was happier writing 1,000 words a day, but I was eighteen then. At twenty-three, I'll never get everything done going at 1,000 words a day. Commit yourself to writing every day, even if its only 200 words. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. You'll get to the finishing line quicker if you jog a steady pace rather than adopting a sprint and rest mentality.

#2 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Yes, it's important to remember what colour your character's hair is, which one is taller, and what weapon they are carrying. Although with that said, it is important to keep going forward. In my editing, I go over everything with a fine comb, often with a character profile at my side. Don't get bogged down giving every little detail the first time around, you'll have time for that later. The hardest thing is getting it down the first time.

#1 Keep the Story Going at All Costs

This kind of goes without saying, but it is by far the most important step for me. You have to keep moving forward. It doesn't matter if you have to use the biggest Deus ex machina to get your plot going again, you can always edit it away in the re-draft. I use a technique called automatic writing, which means that I don't plan every detail of a chapter. I simply write it as I go. This allows me to give my characters natural reactions as events often come as a surprise to me too.

Obviously it is good to have a rough idea of what is meant to happen, but as long as you can get your characters from A to B, then you are half way there. The other half will be polishing it to the point you can see your reflection.

Good luck, and happy writing.

Cover Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Writer%27s_Block_I.jpg

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4 Steps To Writing a Haiku

It's Fun I Promise

You've probably had to write a haiku for English sometime in your school career. You most likely found it boring, or difficult, or just plain stupid. I am going to try and show you a more fun way to write a haiku.

1. The Basics: What You Should Know

In case you don't know, a haiku is a Japanese poem that is only three lines long. It is usually taught that the syllables in each line should go 5-7-5. But really, as long as there are 17 syllables or less in the three lines, it's a haiku.

2. Write to Get a Reaction

When you write a haiku, you are aiming to get one of three reactions: Aaaahhh, aha!, or ha ha! For example...

Aaahhh: Laying in bed/dog next to me under blanket/my furry heater

Aha!: Life is too short to love people/who do not deserve/your whole heart

Ha ha!: I'm on the toilet/and my stomach drops/the roll is empty

3. Create an Image

In your writing, you want to create a new image in your readers mind with each line. Take my first haiku for example. I first talk about laying in bed. Then, I say there is a dog next to me under the blanket, so you picture a lump under the covers. In my last line, I call him a furry heater so you imagine a heater covered in fur. The image you create is more important than the syllables.

4. Performing

Lastly, you need to think about performing your haiku. As always, when you're speaking in front of a room of people, you need to project so the whole room can hear you and you need to make eye contact. Another thing to remember is the tone of your voice while you are saying your poem. Dramatic pauses can keep people on the edge of their seat, waiting for what you're going to say next. You also have to remember to be confident! And if you're not confident, fake it till you make it!

Cover Image Credit: Imgur

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