It’s a great pleasure to bring you another EXCLUSIVE interview with a TV quiz show question writer this week… the one and only Vin “Rastas” Hedger! After making his start as a stand-up comedian, Vin’s career spans comedy, light entertainment and of course quiz shows, across 20 years and all the Australian TV networks. I was really chuffed that he chatted to me for www.HowToWinGameShows.com. =============================
SH: Vin Hedger, thanks very much for chatting to me today for www.howtowingameshows.com. Quite apart from writing and presenting live trivia night events – with me! – for a number of years, in your TV writing career, you’ve written, verified and adjudicated questions for The Einstein Factor, All Star Squares, Deal Or No Deal and the Australia’s Brainiest series. How many quiz questions would you have written for TV?
VH: I don’t know, but it would easily be in the thousands.
SH: What’s the secret to writing a good quiz question?
VH: When people find out the answer they go, “That’s interesting!” rather than “Who cares?”
SH: Are there any topics or subject areas that you return to often, when you’re writing questions?
VH: Celebrities, because a greater percentage of population know about them, and videogames and pop culture, because they generally have fun and interesting back stories. And History… because there is a lot of it.
SH: What’s something you never do when you’re writing quiz questions?
VH: You never make the question like an exam question. It should always be fun. I never try to complicate the question with back detail. It must be straightforward.
SH: What’s an example of a question you’ve written that you’re really proud of?
VH: These are two that I’ve used when running trivia nights;
Q: Where in this room would we find the symbol of the Japanese company Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikigaisha” or “YKK”?
A: On zips. (*The YKK group is the world’s largest zipper manufacturer) I like that question, because it’s hard to say, but the answer is interesting. And…
Q: What originally appeared in an 8 inch version, then a 5 and a quarter inch version, then 3 and a half inches?
A: Floppy disks.
Because it gives divorced women a chance to insult their husbands, apparently.
SH: Right. Are there any specific rules that you follow when you’re writing quiz questions?
VH: Be concise, be clear, don’t be convoluted and be interesting.
SH: Have you ever written any questions that turned out to be controversial?
VH: Mildly. I wrote a question that stated The Eiffel Tower was built to celebrate the centenary of French independence, when it was actually built for the World’s Fair in 1889. But there were sources for both and it was confusing and made the contestant arc up a tad.
SH: Have producers ever rejected questions that you’ve written? If so, why?
VH: Yeah, constantly, because the show (Millionaire) had been going for years and so a lot of questions had already been written about a subject.
SH: What do you like about writing quiz questions?
VH: The satisfaction of turning a piece of information into entertainment.
SH: What do you not like about writing quiz questions?
VH: The fact that so many have been written already means it’s hard to find new info on long established subjects.
SH: From your perspective as a question writer, what common mistakes do you see contestants making when answering quiz questions on TV?
VH: Predicting the question before they hear it and answering their question rather than the actual one.
SH: Is it helpful for a contestant to try and think like a question writer? And if so, how do you teach yourself to think like a question writer?
VH: I don’t know, but usually in contests it’s helpful to understand your opponent’s strategies.
SH: And finally, from your perspective as a quiz show question writer, are there any other tips, hints or pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring quiz show contestants?
VH: Don’t think that because you are interested in subjects that the whole world is. Work on the areas you don’t like, because they will always be your weakest.
Oh, and ‘Don’t be a pompous Dick’ is always good advice.
SH: Excellent! Vin, thanks very much for speaking to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com!