Write what you know … or don’t

As we’ve been putting together a new database for the start of a new year, I’ve been looking back at some of the questions I’ve written over the years. There are some pretty good quiz questions in there. I can say that with some confidence because they’ve several times elicited a good response from the quiz participants – interest, amusement, even delight. However, what I noticed was that hardly any of those questions I’d written which I’m proud of are on anything resembling one of my “specialist” subjects.

In fact, I think the opposite is true. One should try to avoid writing questions about one’s interests. I speak from bitter experience, of weighing down early quizzes with fascinating facts about Bob Dylan, Scottish indie pop, Greek novels, Anglo-Saxon kings and West Indies cricket of the 1970s. None of these questions have passed the test of time.

Which is not to say that there can’t be good questions about esoteric subjects. It’s more that the expert on that subject will not be the one who finds the nugget of information that makes a good and accessible question. The elitist in us comes to the fore, I think, when we’re on our own turf.

When it comes to subjects we’re a little less sure of, that’s when we’re more likely to take delight in something simple which will transfer itself into a good quiz question. In my opinion, quizzes may be tests of knowledge which the best team should win, but they should be fair tests, with a wide range of subjects but a solid base in what is general knowledge.

However, if anyone should happen to want a quiz all about Belle and Sebastian EPs and Camera Obscura album tracks, I’d be happy to provide it …

Have you ever been to a quiz where you’ve heard the dreaded words (or similar): “Now, the next question is probably too difficult, but if you are a big supporter of Scunthorpe United, like I am, then you’ll love this.”





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