Monday, December 20, 2010

Top Ten List Rules (Reprise)

The year is ending. Though most of the big guns have weighed in already, you can still dash off a top ten list that will have people tweeting their blue-feathered bottoms off! I thought that in this seemingly interminable time of yearly reflection I would reprise a post from last year.

Top Ten Tips for Creating a Kick-Ass Top Ten List:

1. No Apologies. Only wimps open with a paragraph about how these lists are really impossible to make with any fairness. But, of course, they then go on to demonstrate just how ruthlessly unfair they can be. Perhaps this type of apology is required if you have lots of writer friends who are slipping into irrelevance and depression. However, if you are a nobody, and you know nobody, be strong and remember that readers are looking for Christmas presents in crowded shopping malls and fairness is the last thing on their minds.

2. Title It Correctly. Don’t ever, ever use the title My Favorite ___________ of 200_. Please, leave "favorites" to the Facebook pages of 12 year olds and the blogs of unemployed English majors who are still wondering where the Dead Poet’s Society meets. Good Options: Most Important, Worst, Most Overrated, Most Underrated. But Best is still the ballsiest, and drives people bats**t crazy, especially if you rank the entries.

3. Don’t Worry If You Didn’t See, Read, or Attend That Much. If you only have only seen ten movies this year, make them your Top Ten Movies of the Year. It will be a far more interesting list than most of those out there.

4. Include Celebrities and Harry Potter. You can easily do this if you title the list Most Important, (see number 2.) Find a way to incorporate Sarah Palin, and then hope that she refudiates the mention through her Twitter Bunker. Harry Potter is not only a worldwide franchise, but is now taught in the literature departments of some colleges. So, in including Potter on your list, you get to appear middlebrow and highbrow, and the very best part is that you don't have to do it by attending those ridiculous colleges.

5. Stay away from Live Performances. Nobody goes out of their house anymore, except to the mall, but in this economy even that is curtailed. In fact, people may geographically be out, but they have actually secreted their house away with them. Their abode fits in the palm of their hand, enabling frat boys to text with the boys back at the house while a woman is naked in front of them at a strip bar, and loopy teenage girls to chat with BFF’s while the Jonas Brothers existentially contort themselves into peach-fuzzed Peter Pans, inches from their eyes.

6. Visual is Best. People love to comment on things that don’t take a lot of their time to grasp. The best lists rank images - The 20 Best Movie Posters of the Year. The 10 Best Book Covers is an excellent topic, especially during the Christmas season; everybody is at Border’s or Barnes and Noble, looking for crappy last minute gifts. This list has a two-fold effect: Your readers will experience the delightful freedom to finally judge a book by its cover AND they can feel like they know the first thing about graphic design. Avoid ranking viral videos until they start being taught at many colleges - probably next year.

7. Put a Surprise on the List. The best way to do this is to surprise yourself by including something you haven’t read, seen or heard! As a bonus, make it something nobody else has, or will, experience either. For a movie, you could scroll through the online programs of film festivals and just pick one.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Kiss Up. For instance, in 2008 no reviewers or editors actually took the time to read all of Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering, but many reviewers and editors do have children they believe should go to Harvard.

9. Collage It Sexy. For your header image, find a hip, visual way to arrange your selections. The New York Times Book review always finds ways to photograph their top ten books of the year so that their bibliophile readers will immediately want to go to the bathroom. If you don’t have enough flesh on your list as it is, you could, say, put the top ten book covers onto t-shirts and then photoshop those shirts onto ten of Tiger Woods’ mistresses.

10. You Are Not As Smart or As Dumb as You Think. Don’t try to engage in actual criticism – you just aren’t that brilliant. Accepting this will be a great advantage in getting your list seen. Even some paid critics flinch when making a Best list, (see number one); this disability is brought on by the distracting voice in their head that reminds them that their sister or brother, who is a genetic scientist on a grant in Oslo, has always had more perceptive and frequent critical insights. However, you are far smarter than most of the celebrities and writers typing away on Open Salon and The Huffington Post.

11. Don’t Add a Bonus Slot. No ties, and no add-ons to the list. They aren't clever and they aren't necessary. Lists that are too long are annoying. Avoid making a list that reads like a mind-numbing 5 year-old in the back seat on a family Holiday sojourn, listing all the things he or she likes in the world. And the title Honorable Mention should be used only for contests where money is involved; this is an old capitalist trick used to rip the scales from the eyes of artists and make them want the prize money rather than the “honor.”

Hope these tips will help you create a great top ten list! Happy Holidays!

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