Sunday, December 28, 2014

Buzzreads: The Joy of Literary Quizzes

Like to read? Like to take quizzes? Katy McGill shows how Buzzfeed literary quizzes can help readers better relate to their favorite stories. ♦

Many readers know the feeling of losing themselves in a book, forgetting for a moment the existence of this world in favor of a fictional one. But is there a way to feel even closer to a story or character than just simply reading about it?
       An even mix of popular culture and social media has helped book fan communities around the world to find a way.
       If you’re on the Internet, it’s hard to ignore the quickly growing popularity of the social media website BuzzFeed Inc. The dynamic company allows anyone who signs up for the website to author articles on just about anything: politics, music, sports, food, etc. One of BuzzFeed’s largest forms of entertainment, however, is their wide collection of quizzes and polls that evaluate the quiz taker’s personality in a variety of ways. A couple examples are “Are You a Good Roommate?” or “How Much of a Hermit Are You?” One of the largest niches in this BuzzFeed quiz community is the book and writing community.
       How many times have you wondered what house you’d be in if you attended Hogwarts? Into which faction of Divergent would you be placed? In which Hunger Games district would you live? Buzzfeed’s quiz community, as well as many other quiz-related social media sites, such as Playbuzz and Quizilla, have given many readers the chance to find out.
       These quizzes, aside from being entertaining, bring the reader much closer to books and stories in a way that many other forms of fan involvement do not. The key is the extremely personal nature of the quizzes; they allow each quiz taker to directly relate to the story and its characters. This is different from fan fiction, a genre of writing that bases its content off of pre-existing fiction in wildly creative ways, where plot lines are often changed and the separation from the actual books is more external.
       There is also more of a genuine connection for the reader because the results of the quizzes are based on very individual personality traits. The questions used to evaluate these traits (and later associate them with a character or place) often have nothing to do with the book, such as “Pick a city” or “What flavor ice cream would you choose?” It’s satisfying to the involved fan to be able to associate simple personality traits such as their favorite type of weather with characters from their favorite book or book series; it makes the character and the story much more real in the mind of the reader and, thus, brings them much closer to the story on a personal level.
       The personal nature of these quizzes also brings together fan communities by allowing them not only to relate to the story and its characters, but to other fans as well. Because the quizzes so heavily consider personality and qualities of the individual, they allow fans—who have already connected over a mutual love for the book—to connect over other things unrelated to the story. These quizzes further create bonds between readers in addition to solidifying the perceived relationships between readers and characters. This provides a concrete foundation upon which fan communities can grow.
       The growth that stems from a fan’s close personal interest in a story and/or its characters can be extremely beneficial to the book itself, as well as to literature in general. Aside from expanding fan communities through common interests and entertainment, readers often post these quizzes and their results on Facebook and Twitter. These posts reach a large audience made up of readers’ peers, many of whom may not have originally been very interested in the story (or have even read it), but whose interest is piqued enough upon seeing their friend’s result to take the quiz themselves. Literary quizzes are not often thought of as a form of advertisement for books and other forms of literature, but when this generation’s draw to popular culture and the internet is considered, it can be a very effective way to generate interest outside of a book’s intended audience.
       Some books and their authors have already taken “official” advantage of these quizzes. For example, J.K. Rowling’s creation of Pottermore, an interactive website, allows fans to visually follow each chapter of the Harry Potter series. The site also engages fans through several quizzes that decide the participant’s “house” or what kind of wand they receive. The quiz, which is based upon the Sorting Ceremony in the book that decides the house of each Hogwarts student based on specific personality characteristics, was created by Rowling herself, showing that she too understands the value of this sort of connection with fans.
       These quizzes are also drawing in a crowd of younger, upcoming authors who write and participate in the quiz arena. Author Emma Lorde has been on both sides of the "pen," both writing and taking literary quizzes as well as writing multiple articles on books and the literary world.
         "I initially decided to write literary quizzes and articles because they’re such a huge part of my identity that it was easy and fun to write," Lorde says. "As a writer, I sometimes struggle to come up with topics I want to explore, but I’m so obsessed with these books and fandoms that writing about them is like breathing. And, logically, I knew that writing about such a niche topic would resonate with the very active and passionate audience for that kind of material."
       Literary quizzes are not the only way out there for young readers to become involved in their favorite books, but fan fiction has been an equally prevalent form of fan participation.
       "Literary quizzes are different primarily because people are a lot less embarrassed to share them!” Lorde notes. “Quizzes are more shareable [than fan fiction] and come with less pressure." This definitely seems to ring true with today's technology-savvy, self-conscious young generation. Sharing the results of these quizzes with friends on social media is not only a fun way to express one's interests, it also brings fans closer together. It's, as Lorde puts it, "a kind of badge of honor, and when you share it you end up often accidentally connecting to people who have similar obsessions."
       Overall, literary quizzes are a fun way to become involved in a book or story you love, but they also draw fans together to create stronger, welcoming fan communities. They represent a literary niche that allows fans to develop their own niche within their respective fan communities and have found a permanent place in the literary world.
       Is your favorite color green? You might be in Slytherin. Is your favorite era the 1920s? Then you might belong in The Great Gatsby. The answers to these questions have always fascinated many of us as readers, but one can be sure to find them in these quizzes.
  • About the Author
    Katy McGill is a senior double major in biochemistry and creative writing or, essentially, an aspiring writer who got stuck in a science nerd’s body. She likes to write sarcastic lead female characters and lots of weird, dark stuff. She is also a lover of the Oxford comma and all things grammatical, but she swears she has no (direct) affiliation with the Grammar Police.

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