This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays kings, ruins town,
And beats high mountains down.
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
(Guess the answer in the comments section.)
Every time I read The Hobbit, I wish I could make up riddles like Tolkien I wonder, did he make them up, or were they popular riddles of the time?
A few months ago, I came up with an idea for a contest to promote my newest book, The New Recruit. Since it's a spy story, I thought it might be fun to ask the entrants to go on an investigation. But I didn't want to make the contest too complicated, so I thought that giving them riddles to solve might do the trick.
And then I sat, ans started at the computer for hours, trying to come up with some riddles. My husband walked into the room, I vented to him, told him one of the answers I was hoping to create a riddle for, and he blurts out an awesome riddle. What a punk.
Apparently, riddling comes naturally to some. And I confess, I begged my clever husband to help me come up with a few more. Alas, the man has his own job and could not stay in the house to do my job for me. The nerve, anyway...
So here are some tips I used to come up with a few riddles. You never know when your novel might require a good--or lame--one.
1. Come up with an answer. If you know your answer, you can brainstorm how to ask the right questions. Make sure that your answer is simple. If you pick something complicated or very specific, it will be much more difficult for a person to guess.
2. Describe your answer. Color, shape, smell, taste, sound, uses. Does it look similar to something else? What does it feel like? Jot down all your answers on a blank sheet of paper.
3. Write your riddle! It doesn't have to rhyme, but if you want it too, work hard to come up with questions that rhyme. Go online and use a rhyming dictionary if you need help. Here's a link to one: http://www.rhymezone.com/.
4. Rewrite! Take your time and work at it until it makes you happy. Test it on a few people. If they blurt out the answer immediately, your riddle might be too easy. Don't get discouraged. Look at your clues again to see how you might make them more complicated.
Here are the five riddles I used in my New Recruit Go Undercover Scavenger Hunt contest, which has now ended.
1. No, I'm not angry, that's just my shape.
Hint: Spencer’s grandmother gives him something with this on it. (Study the book cover for a clue.)
2. I'm good for two, but three pleases the crowd,
Sometimes I give one, but only when fouled.
Hint: This is Spencer’s favorite object. (There is a hint listed in Spencer’s bio on http://themissionleague.com/.)
3. From hard comes soft, from salt comes sweet,
Children love this sticky treat.
Hint: Spencer loves to eat this. (The answer is one of Spencer’s “Likes” on his Facebook page. If you visit it, please click “like.”)
4. It has keys but no locks, space but no room.
You can enter but not go inside.
Hint: Someone mysteriously gave Spencer one of these expensive items. (For a clue, such an object is necessary for one of Spencer’s “Likes” on his Facebook page.)
5. High it rides, hair it hides.
It may advertise, and catch pop flies.
Hint: Spencer wears this almost everywhere. (Again, study the book cover.)
Can you guess the answers to any of these or the one from The Hobbit at the top of the post? Put your answers in the comment section.
PRIZE: And the first one to post all SIX answers--in the same comment!--will win a copy of The New Recruit. If you already entered the contest on my website, sorry, you can't enter this contest, since you already know the answers. And don't tell, either.