Friday, February 1, 2013

Universal Questions

My dad and I have a special game we play when we're on a road trip. I highly recommend it to liven up your next car ride, dinner party, or awkward family holiday. It's called "universal questions."

It works like this. One person comes up with a hypothetical question, preferably something juicy, and the other has to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

Here are some examples:

What's the best $100 you ever spent?
If you could instantly be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Who from your past would you like to resolve unfinished business with?
What's your favorite item of clothing?
Who from your past or present would you want to get revenge on, and how would you do it?
If you could live the life of a fictional character, whose life would you choose?

You can also use the cliches:

If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books/movies would you take with you? (I actually answered that one here: Desert Island Books)

What five people would you invite to a fantasy celebrity dinner party?

Or you could use the questionnaire that James Lipton uses on Inside the Actors Studio: 
  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What sound or noise do you love?
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  7. What is your favorite curse word?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

I love this game for two reasons. One, it creates some really interesting conversation, and usually exposes something unknown about the other person. And two, if you delve deep enough, it can ignite sparks of thought about how you're living your life. For example, answering a question about travel can get you thinking about how to be more adventurous. Answering a question about people from your past can help you resolve to make amends with someone or treat someone better in the future. And any question about your passions, hobbies or career can point you in a new direction.

It was during one of these games that the idea really solidified in my head that I want to be a writer. I don't remember the exact question that prompted it, but I think it had something to do with celebrities I'd most want to meet. When I realized that most of them were authors, it occurred to me that the people you idolize should give you a clue to who you want to be.

(In case you were wondering, besides J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Jane Austen, I also wanted to meet Jon Stewart and Jennifer Aniston.)

Try a few with a friend or even in your own head. It's fun and very enlightening!


  1. That is fun. My husband and I asked each other a few weeks ago, if we could only listen to one album for the rest of our lives, what would it be?

  2. What a great game! I am totally taking this idea and running with it. On a similar topic, there is a wonderful guided journal called 642 Things to Write About. It gives you 642 random topics to write about and space to do it. I started it and am skipping around, writing in whatever topic strikes my fancy, and dating each entry. It has been a blast so far. After reading this post, I think it might be up your alley. :)