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Riddles are like poems; everyone thinks there's nothing to them, but good ones are few and far between. Riddles are, in fact, an art. Nazonazo-jutsu, you might say.

Riddles are basically nothing more than playing around with literary and/or linguistic form. Of course, to those who don't understand the types of form commonly used in riddling, they are also damned annoying. With a little work, any of us can become a regular sphynx, much to the chagrin of our friends and coworkers. Practicing good Nazonazo-jutsu means crafting a riddle that, while difficult, is also obvious enough to cause a hollow coconut-bopping sound when the riddle's victim (for that is the most appropriate word) slams heel of hand to forehead in disgust at their own mental blindness, and, in the case of a koan, bring about reality-shattering enlightenment.

Now you too can grasp the techniques normally possessed only by Really Annoying Old Masters and dem bones. Read on, student.

  • Acrostic This riddle spells out the solution by using the first letter of each line. To be fair, this riddle should usually be presented written, and there should be some line in the poem indicating where to find the solution.
  • Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance: Not usually used to hint at the solution, these techniques cause the riddle to stick in the victim's mind. This can be used to especially cruel effect if you refuse to give an answer right away, but just let the unresolved riddle burrow into the victim's brain and prevent sleep. Turns a riddle into a meme.
  • Anagram: Pushing the letters of the solution around to create a new word. This only works with certain solutions, but can be a lot of fun to use. The cryptic line is most often encountered at the end of the riddle, and usually feels a little out of place, drawing attention to it. Example: "focus in on" for "confusion."
  • Ballanced sentences Essentially, the use of a pattern of verse. Giving a similar number of syllables, and a similar stress pattern to those syllables. Not used to hint at solutions so much as to make the riddle stick in a victim's mind.
  • Cliche Find several cliches involving the solution, and leave that word out. Example: "What is the sound of dawn?" for "crack." Cliches are often combined with personification by replacing the word with "I" or "me," to create lines like "I am the sound of dawn."
  • Collocation: Similar to a cliche, but usually involves only two words that just seem to fit together. Example: hush puppy, rain coat, compact disc, &c.
  • Literal Thinking: Stating the solution in the riddle itself. This works best with cliches, or other times when the structure of the riddle suggests that the statement may simply be an allusion to the real answer. Example: "I am quick as a wink" for "wink."
  • Metaphor and Simile: The use of imagery to allude to the solution.
  • Metonymy: Like a metaphor. The replacement of a word by something that it is part of, or that is a part of it. Example: "I am fire" for "heat."
  • Onomatopoeia: This uncommon technique involves using onomatopoetic references to the solution. Example: "clop," "snort," and "snicker" all refer to "horse." This is probably best used to supplement other techniques.
  • Opposites: This may change the form of the riddle entirely. Write the riddle about the opposite of the solution, and then include a line indicating that the answer is the opposite of what the riddle indicates. Best used only if a clear opposite exists, such as "light" vs. "darkness," "fire" vs. "ice," but not "freezer" vs. "oven"
  • Parallel Phrasing The use of the same phrasing over and over again. Not used so much to hint at solutions as to make the riddle stick annoyingly in the victim's brain. Example: "I am as ___ as ___, I am as ___ as ____."
  • Personification: A very popular riddle technique. "I'm at the fore of everything, the stern of time and space" to refer to the letter "e." Other examples might refer to human anatomy: the eye of destiny, curling fingers of darkness, marching feet of time, &c.
  • Rhyme: A staple of the form of many riddles, this makes them annoyingly easy to remember. Rhyme may be used to hint at the solution with lines like "I am similar to ____," where the similarity is based on the sound of the word.
  • Semantic Field: The use of words associated with the solution throughout the riddle to hint at an answer. Differs from synonym in that the words need not have similar meaning. Example: "pit," "coal," and "rifle" relate to "fire." Best when combined with at least one other form.
  • Synonym: The use of words with similar meaning to the solution. Check your thesaurus.

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