Update: You’ll find more suggestions in our article, "How to Write for Overthinking It."
So you’ve decided to submit a guest article for Overthinking It. Congratulations! This is the first step down a long, confusing path toward marginal internet fame.
What Should I Write?
What does Overthinking It (OTI) mean by “overthinking it”?
OTI “subjects the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn’t deserve.” From that, you can derive a lot of what we’re looking for.
- Popular culture: Some recognized form of entertainment media. TV, movies, music, video games, celebrities, etc. “Pop culture” is a broad umbrella; it takes an effort to submit something that doesn’t fit.
- A level of scrutiny: So anyone can observe something odd about pop culture. You’re all smart people. And exceptionally good looking, for a bunch of nerds. But a good OTI piece digs deep into a work’s layers of meaning. If you think your observation is obvious, build out an argument to support it. If you think your observation isn’t that obvious, build out a lot of argument or evidence to support it.
- It probably doesn’t deserve: This is the key part. To overthink something, you need to apply a type or intensity of analysis that’s not automatic. If the thesis of your article provokes a “Well, yeah,” rather than a “… huh?”, it’s not OTI material. For instance, we wouldn’t accept a piece talking about homoerotic subtext in Top Gun. The homoerotic subtext in Top Gun is obvious. It’s been talked about for decades. That’s a deserved level of scrutiny. If you were to talk about the Marxist subtext in Top Gun, however, you’d have our attention.
That Kind Of Helps …
Okay, try this as a starting point.
First, consider some piece of pop culture that you know really well. A movie, a TV show, a song, a cartoon, a video game, what-have-you.
Next, consider some element of that artwork that’s really odd—that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the genre.
What you have at this point would be good enough for 99% of the blogs out there. “Hey, it sure takes that kid a long time to plummet from Niagara Falls in Superman II.” Ha ha, witty observation. Hit “Submit” and call it a day.
But the final step, the step that makes it OTI, is to treat that odd element as if it were deliberate. Consider that jarring note not as a mistake, but as a secret window into some hidden scene. “Hmm. Given how long it takes the kid to fall, I wonder how high the Niagara Falls in Superman II would have to be. This sounds like a job for high-school physics!”
Here are some more examples of great guest articles in that vein:
The Transdimensional Fraggle Threat (by guest author Ryan Sawyer): Starting with some oddness about the Gorgs and the Fraggle’s visits to the real world (Philadelphia), Sawyer goes on to infer that “Fraggles are 22″ telepathic creatures that can travel to any point in time and space.” He then goes on to ask “How does this affect us, the human species?”
The Eels Have Eyes (by then-guest author John Perich): Perich finds a few inconsistencies in how the Ceti Alpha V eels work in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He concludes that the eels are some form of telepathic parasite hive-mind.
Taylor Swift: Passive-Aggressive Stalker (by guest author Trevor Seigler): Taking a few lyrics from “You Belong To Me” literally, Seigler decides that Taylor Swift is clearly stalking her crush, not just fantasizing about him.
But My Article Doesn’t Fit That Niche
It doesn’t have to! We offer the above as simply a good place to start. Just keep in mind the three requirements we listed earlier (pop culture; level of scrutiny; doesn’t deserve) and you’re golden.
You need to have a point, a core argument that your article makes. You need to support that thesis with evidence, analysis, and reasoning. Finally, you need to draw inferences from that thesis: if your premise is true, what does that mean for the rest of the work, its creator, or media and the world at large?
What Shouldn’t I Do?
The most common trap to avoid, based on the submissions we’ve seen, is making the article about you. That’s not Overthinking; that’s just a rant. The article shouldn’t be about what you think. It’s about what you can prove.
- “I think Superman’s logo is lame.” No good.
- “Here are some possible alternatives for Superman’s logo.” Better, but you haven’t told us why Superman’s logo needs to change.
- “What does having a stylized initial for a logo say about Superman?” Now that’s overthinking it, but it doesn’t sound very interesting. However, we’d be willing to hear you out.
- “If you lay Superman’s logo atop a calendar of the Chinese Zodiac, the letter S connects Ox, Dog, Rabbit and Horse. What does this mean? Well, in Chinese astrology, the Ox signifies the following …” Bam! Now you’re cooking with Overthink!
We’re not saying you can’t use the first person pronouns (“I, me, my”) in your article. However, you’re better off avoiding them and limiting what you say to assertions that you can back up (“this, that, these”). We’re not publishing opinions here: we’re publishing outlandish theories supported by reasonable-sounding arguments.
Okay, I’ve Got An Idea. What Next?
Your best bet is probably to contact the editors and pitch the idea. If it sounds good, we’ll tell you. Then start writing!
Once you’re approved, you should submit something that’s:
- Between 1,000 and 2,000 words. We’ll take shorter pieces if they’re heavy on original media content (like videos or Photoshopped images).
- In .doc format. To include links, put the URL in parentheses next to the text that should be linked.
- With any images that you want to add to the article attached. We try to use one image for every 500 words in the article. If the images have captions, list those in the article. (Note: we might not use your images or captions at our discretion)
- Including one 1280 × 720 pixel image to act as the banner. Those dimensions are exact.
- Ending with a sentence or two at the end as an author blurb. If you have a website of your own that you’d like us to link back to, include that here.
Yup! At this point, OTI is a money-free enterprise. We’re lucky to cover our costs. We don’t make money, and we can’t pay you anything. But we’ll promote your piece through our usual channels—featured rotation on the carousel, our RSS feed and our Twitter page. And that’s not a bad offer. You found us, after all, and if you want your writing to reach other people like you, then this is a good place for it.
So get overthinking, Overthinkers!