"I wanna be a paperback writer!"
November 7, 2021 1:18 PM   Subscribe

How to Play Paperback. "You will need some people and a stack of books. The more the merrier. 1. A player presents a paperback novel to the group. 2. The player reads the description on the back of the novel. 3. Everyone listens very carefully and then writes an invented first sentence of the novel on a slip of paper. 4. The player writes the actual first sentence on a slip of paper, shuffles all the sentences together, and reads them to the group. 5. The player asks each person what they think the real first sentence is and makes a note of their answer. 6. The player reveals the actual first sentence....

1 point for each person who guesses your sentence
2 points if you guess the right sentence
3 points if you are the book presenter and nobody guesses the real sentence"
posted by storybored (19 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
"1 point for each person who guesses your sentence" - meaning you get 1 point if someone chooses your made-up sentence as the correct one.
posted by storybored at 1:20 PM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

This could pretty easily be adapted to a Zoom meetup - the person who presents the book could privately message one of the other players (a different person for each round) to have them offer the correct sentence as their own.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:25 PM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

(Then I would always invariably offer "Call me Ishmael" for everyone else's books)
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:27 PM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Another fine game of Paperback coexists peaceably, FYI.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 1:35 PM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is a member of the Balderdash/Dictionary family, of which there are infinite variations. I once ran a club at my school whose sole mission was to invent and play games of this style (where you try to pick the real thing out of a set while fooling other players with your counterfeit). A few I remember:
  • Given a movie's title, write a fake synopsis and try to pick the real one
  • Same thing but reversed: given a movie's synopsis, come up with a title!
  • Write an unusual fact purported to be from a celebrity or historical figure's Wikipedia page
  • Given the punchline of a joke, write... the joke (this works best if the real joke is from a compendium of short innocuous bad jokes, like a bag of Laffy Taffy)
If I recall correctly, LearnedLeague originated as a game called BalderFace where players had photos of people and tried to pick their real name out of a bunch of fake names. (That actually sounds kind of boring to me and prone to stereotyping, but anyway)
posted by aws17576 at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

This variation shows up in the Low Definition podcast. Another variation from a recent episode, which proved WILDLY successful was: IMDB Goofs.
posted by wotsac at 2:11 PM on November 7, 2021

When you're done with this game, figure out how far into your chosen book the blurb writer and/or cover artist had to get to gather everything they needed for their own work. If it's less than 25% of the book's total length, you win!
posted by Paul Slade at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

A game my roommate invented: read out fic titles from AO3 and make people guess if they’re smut or angst
posted by jeather at 3:45 PM on November 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

The format dates back to at least 1965, when Call My Bluff began airing on the BBC (a fairly straight version of the Dictionary Game, it lasted off and on until 2004). A commercial version of Paperback was released by Oxford Games as 'Ex Libris' in 1991 and is still in print--their website boldly claims that they devised it, but I am skeptical. My personal favourite variant is Wise and Otherwise, which uses proverbs from around the world.
posted by Hogshead at 4:21 PM on November 7, 2021

Back in days of yore, we used to play a similar game with a poetry anthology. A few lines are read out, then everyone has to come up with a plausible next two lines.
posted by irrelephant at 6:26 PM on November 7, 2021

I have played this game before and it is SO FUN. I may have even first heard of it on MetaFilter!
posted by rogerroger at 7:46 PM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

So, we gonna play this? Mefi chat? The first few not-unfair books I tried all have have the title or the author in the first line of the blurb. But, I'm sure there are others.

My spouse and I are big fans of the '20s and '30s trivia books in the Ask Me Another series. Once or twice each quiz, there's a "give the next line after," question, usually about a poem that people at fancy boarding schools learned in the late 1800s.. The shit we make up is usually far more interesting than the actual line. But, nothing compares to the instances where you happen to actually know the line and then successfully pretend that you're making it up on the fly. (In my own trivia questions, I tend to go with "give the line preceding," which is somehow far harder and entirely unfair.)
posted by eotvos at 10:41 PM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

(Then I would always invariably offer "Call me Ishmael" for everyone else's books)

Some friends and I played a version of this game once with a set of cards that came in a box ("Ex Libris"), and one of the novels was Moby-Dick. It turned out that one person in the group wasn't familiar with the first line, but everyone else was, so the guesses went like:
Guess 1: "Call me Ishmael."
Guess 2: "Call me Ishmael."
Guess 3: "Call me Ishmael."
Guess 4: "Once there was a whale named Moby-Dick."
Guess 5: "Call me Ishmael."
posted by chaiyai at 1:45 AM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]

Used bookstores and thrift store would be fantastic for this. Just, you know, watch out for Wild Animus (previously).
posted by BiggerJ at 4:23 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Guess 4: "Once there was a whale named Moby-Dick."

There once was a whale off Nantucket...
posted by deludingmyself at 9:04 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is fantastic! We will definitely be playing this with friends. Thank you!
posted by Thorzdad at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2021

There once was a whale off Nantucket...

Which is such a hard rhyme I said, "ahh, fuck it."
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:03 AM on November 8, 2021

There once was a whale off Nantucket
which Ahab had last on his Bucket
List — so Ishmael (me)
made it back from the sea
but not Queequeg, Flask, Stubb, or Starbuck. Shit.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:46 AM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

The problem we had with this game (well, the Dictionary version) in highschool was, all the people in my circle were funny. For a comedian, it can be difficult to resist giving a funny answer, but funny answers stand out as Probably Not Real. And forcing yourself to be serious instead of funny is the opposite of entertainment!

I don't quite remember how we fixed this back in the day. An obvious simple suggestion off the top of my head would be, the round leader writes their own definition like the other players, and players vote for funniest answer, each vote scores the vote-ee a point. A slightly more advanced version would be, vote for the answer that has the best balance between being funny but also somewhat plausible, because that's a trickier writing task.

An advanced version could be, you score a point for everyone who chooses your entry & an additional point if you choose the round leader's entry; round leader scores a point for everyone who doesn't choose their entry. So the challenge is to imitate other players' writing styles.
posted by rifflesby at 12:14 PM on November 8, 2021

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