How to Write Fun Trivia Questions for Adults
Anyone can write a Trivia question. “Who was the first president of the United States of America?” Boom, done.
The real challenge is writing a great question. That’s where our team of expert writers comes in. Here is their checklist for writing the best Trivia questions for adults.
Accuracy is the most important element of any Trivia question. No amount of creativity and uniqueness can make up for an incorrect answer. And it’s tough to win back the crowd after an error in your show.
With that in mind, fact-checking is an essential part of creating great Trivia. Our writing team fact-checks each question against three legitimate sources. And no, Wikipedia does not count as a source.
But “accurate” means more than just factually correct. It also must be free of ambiguity. Make sure to include any words or phrases needed for clarity.
For example, “What hockey team now has the longest active consecutive NHL playoff streak?” The word active is essential to point the teams to the correct answer- the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Without the word “active,” teams could interpret it as asking for the longest playoff streak of all time, which belongs to the Boston Bruins.
When writing your show, focus on clarity. Give players all of the necessary information to come up with the right answer.
One of the things that makes Trivia fun is its randomness. Putting obscure facts and random knowledge to use adds to the excitement of the game.
But try to stick to relevant topics. If a question dives too deep into a niche category, teams will struggle to come up with the answer. And if it happens often, they might give up altogether.
We’ll use this example, “In the season 8 episode of The Office, “Get the Girl,” what museum does Nellie say is the most interesting thing in Scranton?” This would work for a The Office theme show, because super-fans would know the answer is “Harry Houdini.” But in a general knowledge Trivia show, this detail is too obscure to ask of your audience.
The best Trivia Nights create a social experience for the players. Sticking to relevant topics encourages teams to engage in discussion over their answers.
Our writers include small hints, or context clues, to point teams to the correct answer.
For example, “Years after achieving success with his siblings, who became the first entertainer to have officially ratified sales of more than 100 million albums outside the USA in 2006?” The sibling detail isn’t related to the main part of the question. But it helps lead teams toward the correct response- Michael Jackson.
Context clues are another way to encourage teams to discuss and engage. The above example prompts teams to brainstorm celebrities with famous siblings.
In addition to providing a hint, this also makes the Trivia Night experience more fun for the players.
Aim for questions that are around the length of the above example. Any longer and they can get confusing. Any shorter and they become less likely to trigger a discussion.
If your question is only a few words long, find a way to add more clues to make it more entertaining. If it’s several sentences long, determine which parts can be eliminated to create a more streamlined version.
For example, “Name the actor or actress who is in all of the following movies: Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and Armageddon.” Some members of the team might have only seen one or two of the movies. But the hope is that their combined knowledge will lead them to the answer- Steve Buscemi.
In other words, make sure your show encourages dialogue. The hope is that teams can make educated guesses on answers they don’t know. It’s always better to hear, “I should have known that!” rather than silence after reading an answer.
Writing new Trivia questions every week takes a lot of inspiration. Luckily, there are resources available online to spark creativity.
One such site is J! Archive. This is a fan-created page that tracks previous Jeopardy! questions. The Jeopardy! format doesn’t fit for most Trivia shows. But this is a good way to find subject ideas for your writing your own questions.
Another potential source of inspiration is Reddit. Specifically, the “Today I Learned” page. It’s especially important to fact check any information you find here, since it is user created content. In other words, this doesn’t count as a source and you should never directly copy from here into your show. But this is a good place for finding ideas for unique questions that set your Trivia Nights apart.
And finally, you can draw inspiration directly from the Last Call Trivia team! Be sure to follow us on Facebook. We post daily Trivia questions that cover a wide variety of categories. Plus, every Wednesday at noon EST, we live stream our Trivia Bites segment. This gives our audience the chance to chime in with their answers.
Examples of Great Questions
Now that we’ve covered the basics of writing a great question, let’s look at a few examples.
Q: Bumper stickers with the symbols “Au H20” were sold to raise support for what Arizona politician, the conservative opponent of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 election? A: Barry Goldwater
This takes what could be a basic question and makes it interesting. Teams that know Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 opponent can answer right away. But this gives other teams a chance to compete as well. The bumper sticker is a nod to the symbols of the chemical elements that make up “gold” and “water”. So, teams can use this information to work out the correct answer.
Q: Washington is the only U.S. state that has a flag that is primarily what color? A: Green
This question encourages discussion through process of elimination. Even if players don’t know the Washington state flag, they work together to make a guess. New Mexico’s flag is primarily yellow, so that color can be eliminated. The flag of Oregon (and many other states) is primarily blue, so that’s out as well. Teams can continue this process with any state flags they know to come up with an educated guess. This keeps teams engaged and active throughout the game.
Q: In the first season of Gilligan’s Island, the Professor successfully builds a battery charger out of what object? A: Coconut
Audiences love nostalgic questions. Gilligan’s Island has been enjoyed by multiple generations and is still being rerun to this day. Pulling from popular shows such as this increases the engagement of the audience. And again, even if a team has never seen the show, they can still guess. In comparison, if the question asked teams to name a specific character, it would be much more difficult for people who haven’t seen Gilligan’s Island.
Writing Trivia questions for adults is tough. There are a lot of elements that go into creating a great show. Be sure to consider the above tips when writing your own show. Or better yet, subscribe to Flex. Flex includes access to tens of thousands of expertly written and audience tested questions!