Recently, I came across one of those social media personal quizzes — you know the sort of thing, composed of a long list of items including ‘Have you ever ridden in a plane?’ or ‘Have you ever touched a snake?’ etc. Pointless questions, harmless and designed to get you lightly engaged and kill time. But it got me thinking about how to put such a thing together with slightly more purposeful intent, to do with writing. So I came up with the following, which you can copy and paste and share wherever you like in order to get some potentially fruitful thinking going which might not so much kill time and turn it to your advantage.
Think of these things as writing prompts or the seeds of stories you might write. Or don’t think at all and just answer for fun. To get you started, I’ll include my own answers:
1. When you were young, how many times did you think you’d be married? Zero.
2. How many times have you actually been married? Three.
3. How many children do you have? One.
4. Brothers? Sisters? One; none.
5. What kind of pet would you like to have? Hawk; dragon; magical lion.
6. What kind of pet do you have? Goldfish.
7. Ever had surgery? No.
8. Ever been knocked unconscious? Yes, for dentistry.
9. Ever wanted a tattoo? What of? No.
10. Ever been physically lost? Where? Briefly, yes. In the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. I was momentarily parted from the expedition I was with and blundered into a small ravine filled with water, into which I slipped. Stumbling out drenched from head to foot, I found, around the corner, the rest of the expedition who had rested and were ready to move on.
11. How many times in a plane? First plane journey? Over 20. The first time was to Adelaide from Whyalla in South Australia, to enrol at university.
12. Ever ridden in an ambulance? No, but nearly.
13. Ever sang karaoke? Yes, when I was asked to pull a name from a hat to be the next person up on stage. One of my students had tricked me and every slip of paper in the hat had my name on it. I did a unique version of the Spice Girls hit ‘Wannabe’. Luckily, this was in the days before mobile phones so the incident is unrecorded.
14. Ever ice skated? Where? Yes! Down the Ottawa river in Canada. I had to hold onto a skating chair, but I did it.
15. Ever wanted to go on a cruise? Where? Yes, around the Norwegian fjords. One day.
16. Ever ridden on a horse? Yes. I used to tell my students that I rode a black stallion called Thunderbolt, up on the moors during a storm. We even acted out a little scenario: ‘Saddle Thunderbolt!’ I would command a student pretending to be the groom. ‘No, maister, no! No living man may ride ‘im, he’s a wild ‘un, that ‘un!’ he would reply. In truth, the only horse I ever rode was a docile white mare called Dolores, through country lanes in Dorset.
17. Ever had a mysterious illness, requiring a stay in hospital? Yes, as a child I was suspected of having some kind of unknown infection and spent two weeks in the spooky sounding Thornbury Annex, on the outskirts of Sheffield.
18. Favourite fruit: Maybe strawberries.
19. Favourite day of the week and why: Saturday, because you always have Sunday as a cushion between you and the start of the work week. Though now my job is a joy, so it doesn’t make much difference: every day is a favourite.
20. Favourite colour: yellow
21. Cat or dog and why: I’ve had both, so it’s difficult to choose. I think dog, only because it’s easier to read emotions in a dog, though cats are relatively low maintenance. My cat was a gentle, marmalade variety cat called Chivers after the English brand of marmalade.
22. Favourite season and why: Winter. Because, as an introvert, I prefer my own company to that of others and winter is the season of inside cosiness and less visitors. Plus it has Christmas in the middle. Also I get to wear big coats with lots of pockets. It’s a season tailor-made for me, and I also love the Autumn build-up to it, with Bonfire Night and shorter days, frost in the air and the possibility of snow.
23. Ever met anyone famous? A couple of times. I’ve sort of met three Prime Ministers, been up close with the Arsenal football team, and spoken with actors Gary Oldman and Lesley Manville. There are a few others in there somewhere too.
24. Ever been on TV? Yes, but in a rather unexciting late night commercial for an inner city restaurant for which I was a consultant at the time. You see me looking up and pointing (the restaurant was at the top of a tall building) and then going up in one of those exterior lifts, all with a pseudo-family.
25. Ever dabbled in the occult? Yes.
26. Ever seen a ghost? Yes.
27. Ever read someone's mind? Yes.
28. Is there a place you have always felt you should be? Yes. Luckily, it's where I live right now. It only took me about 46 years to get back here.
29. Ever regretted doing a personal quiz? Yes. :)
Feel free to add to or modify the questions to your liking.