Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Pointless books?

There's a game show a friend introduced me to recently called Pointless. It's on at a time when I am usually in full writing flow, but in the name of research I took a break from my latest epic at tea time to check it out, and I'll admit to being hooked.

If you haven't seen the show, contestants have to guess which of a list of possible answers is the 'pointless' answer... i.e. the one fewest people (or nobody in the case of a truly pointless answer) gave to that question, when asked. So you might have a question like "Name a movie starring Sean Connery", and the general public are polled beforehand for answers. These are then displayed on a list for the contestants along with a few red herrings. Obviously the most popular answer on the list is also the safest, since it is likely to be correct. The danger of going for one of the more obscure answers is that it might be wrong, and there are big penalties for getting it wrong - an extra 100 points in the game as well as the shame of making an embarrassingly common mistake like this contestant who thought Jane Eyre wrote Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The winner is the contestant who scores the lowest, so those extra 100 points need to be avoided at all cost! Since only 100 people are polled, even going for the most popular answer on the board will net you less than that, and the sample is usually spread between several possible answers.

This is one game where being the obscure outlier is an advantage, so my unicorn felt perfectly at home, although the game is harder than you expect because not only do you need to know which answers are correct, you also need to guess what most other people might give as their answer and then do the opposite, which is a bit like guessing what readers might want to read before you write the words and then... er... doing the opposite? This made me think about books, and how many of them would be pointless answers in a children's literature version of the game.

Here's a sample book question for you:
Name a book with a young wizard hero.

1. Harry Potter and the... (you've at least seven to choose from) by JK Rowling.
2. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.

I'm struggling already.
Can you come up with some more?

And one I can provide at least one obscure answer for:
Name a book containing a unicorn.

1. The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
2. Spellfall by Katherine Roberts

Any more? I'm sending my unicorn off to take a look at those lists on Goodreads...

I am NOT pointless!

Meanwhile, if your book turns out to be a pointless answer and that is making you feel a bit pointless too, my unicorn suggested I leave you with this thought from Gandhi:

"Whatever you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it because nobody else will."


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