Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Importance of Using Trivia

Do you know the significance of January 11th this year? Did you answer, "Of course, the date had all ones: 1/11/11." 

Well, that's true, but did you know, for the first time in recorded history, 49 of the fifty states in the U.S.A. reported snow on the ground according to Wall Street Journal 1/28/11 p. A3. The state refusing to join the group:  Florida.

Who doesn't enjoy passing along trivia to friends and family? The snow trivia appeared in a Wall Street article last week. Does that make you want to glance at the Wall Street Journal?

Sprinkling trivia facts in our novels could draw attention to our work. Here's how it works: one of your avid readers notices a trivia fact in a chapter. He responds, "I didn't know that." He calls to some person nearby, "Did you know..." The listener asks, "Where did you read that?" and voila, your book is promoted.

Places to tuck trivia:
1. Parties your character attends or gives. When there is a loll in conversation or perhaps a transition in need, slip in a piece of trivia.
2. Mysteries: need a red herring or old newspaper sitting around with the clue? Slip in trivia to keep the momentum.
3. A humorous interjection
4. An ice breaker.
5. Random thought by a character who is lost in thought or location.

Benefits to inserting trivia:
1. The reader enjoy the fact-trivial becomes the unexpected treat.
2. The fact brings validity to the character- using the snow trivia, I can have a murderer caught due to a footprint found in the snow in Louisiana
3. The fact brings validity to the date-using the snow trivia above, I can justify an auto accident due to snow in Alabama
4. The fact brings validity to the setting- using the snow trivia above, my character can be standing in Georgia and have snow on their shoes. (see pic above, Georgia snow on boots)

Here are two websites (there are more) with sample trivia facts:

**The IRS employees tax manual has instructions for collecting taxes after a nuclear war.

**Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952, but he declined.

**An airplane mechanic invented Slinky while he was playing with engine parts and realized the possible secondary use for the springs.

**An earthquake on Dec. 16, 1811, caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards.

On this site you can choose a date to find historical trivia for a given day, who was born on a certain day, quick facts, and silly quotes on this site like:

**On this date in 1935 - the lie detector 1st used in court - Portage WI

**If Manhattan had the same population density as Alaska, there would only be 15 people living there

**Young children can entirely regrow lost fingertips above the top joint, including the bone, skin and nail!

**Coffee beans aren't beans - they're fruit pits.

Long after you book is closed, the trivia you included will pop into the mind of the reader. Have you included trivia in your WIP?  How else could you include trivia in your writing?


Anonymous said...

I just this post. Why haven't I thought about it? As I'm reading this post, my mind is already sweeping over my novel to find where I could interject your suggestions. Founds a couple of fitting places.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

I love trivia. I did this with nature facts in one of my books. It was a blast. I used to read those Trivia Pursuit boxes all the time (especially during long car trips) so I love this.
~ Wendy

Mary Vee Writer said...

Welcome Henya
So nice to see you here today. I love reading random facts in books. Amazing how they stay in my mind like the jingles from commercials.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good morning Wendy,
I think most people enjoy trivia..isn't fun when you can turn to someone and say...did you know? The other person, intrigued by your enthusiasm, dives into the trivia with you. What fun. And double the fun when that leads them to our books:)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I love trivia. What a neat idea, something I haven't done intentionally. But I would like to try it. Great post, Mary!

Krista Phillips said...

Wait does this mean Hawaii had snow???? I guess maybe mountain tops or something... but still...

Krista Phillips said...

And yes, I realize I'm probably the only stupid one who would debate trivia. *grin*

Casey said...

LOL Krista, that's why you've got to accurate, because you and by dad BOTH are like that. :P

Great post, and very interesting. I hadn't really thought about adding "trivia" perse to a WIP, but it would definately give whatever region you are in flare. :)

Jan Marie said...

Including trivia to reinforce and build the story is a wonderful and novel idea. I have to wonder though how much accuracy and proof is necessary to back up the trivia that is used. For example, I read numerous articles and even recall some radio broadcasts in the winter of 2010 that discussed the fact that 49 of the 50 states reported simultaneous snow on the ground, a full year ahead of the Wall Street Journal date. So no, Krista, you aren't the only one who would debate trivia but I wonder if unproven trivia would cause the story to falter. Would it matter to the reader or not?

Keli Gwyn said...

I love the idea of using trivia in my stories. I write historicals, so tucking in tidbits about a discovery, invention, or real-life figure from the past can be such fun.

The significance of 1/11/11 for me was that it was my hubby's birthday. =)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good point, Jan.
It would be difficult to verify "first time in history" claims.
I suppose if I were to use the info, I might put that it happened on this date and leave out other info that could be disproven.
Still, I think trivia adds a delightful flair to a work.
Thanks for joing us, Jan.

Mary Vee Writer said...

1/11/11 was extra special for your home:)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Only the wise would debate.
Yes, Hawaii had snow on that date:)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Fun post, and great idea. I could definitely use some interesting trivia for my current WIP. Thanks, Mary!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mary, that is so cool and so much fun! Did you know that this year is the only time that you can do this:

Take the last digit of the year you were born and add it to the last digit of your age you will turn this year and it equals 11?
ex: I was born in 1965
I will be 46.
5 + 6 = 11
If the digit is 0, then it is really a 10.

Try it! :)

Anonymous said...

This is so interesting! I'm bookmarking those trivia sites. I've included a bit of trivia in my writing, but never really thought about it. Thanks for the tip.