Every two weeks, my husband and I join a group of friends to compete in trivia night at a local bar. We’re always among the top scorers going into the final round, and we always blow it at the end. We wager too much (points, not money) and, sometimes, overthink the “twist” behind the last question of the night and talk ourselves out of the right answer.
Trivia night at Johnny's Tavern and members
of our Up for Anything team.
It's a journey with friends, first and foremost. Our trivia group is an ever-changing cast of characters. Co-workers, friends of friends, acquaintances. We laugh and worry and argue our answers and eat and drink and try to spy on other teams. It’s comfortable and evokes the same kind of feelings as when a new novel featuring familiar characters releases. Sally Goldenbaum’s Seaside Knitters series comes to mind. I look forward to every new adventure with her four women protagonists and I envy their close friendships and weekly dinner gatherings.
Because my book club met the same night last week, I missed most of trivia. I arrived, head buzzing with ideas (and a topic for a future blog post), just as our team (Up for Anything) entered the final round. We led all other teams by a few points, and my teammates were bordering on giddy with the exhilaration of closing in on our long-cherished goal of beating Hops and Barflies. Their excitement charged the grease-laden, beer-tinged air around our table with a delightful tension of the sort I associate with reading a well-crafted thriller (think Meg Gardiner or Lee Child).
Suspense and a twist
Our trivia master of ceremonies is a, well, master of suspense. He knows how to draw out the big reveal. The final round category—movie villains—sounded easy enough, but the question (on the American Film Institute’s list of top 50 villains, only one villain never appears on screen—name this 1942 movie) was tricky. We had decided to risk most, but not all, of our points, and now we dithered over the answer. At the last possible moment, we scribbled the name of a movie on our entry and raced to turn it in under the deadline.
Then we waited, literally on the edge of our seats, for judgment.
The trivia host announced the results slowly. “Not a Tumor, you said The Shadow. You’re incorrect. You had fifty-three points. You bet fifty-three, bringing you to zero.”
He continued through each entry, about a dozen in all. Most teams guessed wrong and lost all of their points. Then Hops and Barflies named the right movie (our host didn’t say what it was) and doubled their score, putting them fifty-plus points ahead of us.
We could barely contain our anxiety.
Finally: “Up for Anything, you wrote “[redacted—put your guess in the comments!]. You’re correct…”
At this, we screamed and jumped and high-fived and completely missed the last of his announcement declaring us the winners.
Okay, it might be a stretch to compare one winning night at trivia with book structure, but it seems to me the elements that I most enjoy in a novel are also the elements that make nights out with friends so danged entertaining. And it’s given me much to think about as I continue revisions on my manuscript-in-progress.
Oh, and that $25 prize money split eight ways? Sweet!
Anyone care to guess the answer to our final trivia question? It’s a movie virtually everyone has seen. (No cheating!)