Write A Riddle

A good riddle should provide enough clues that the reader can fill in the missing piece.

What gets wetter the more it dries? Why, a towel, of course! Riddles are an ancient form of poetry that make use of double meanings, word play and metaphor . Most riddles ask a question that contains an apparent contradiction or impossibility. Writing riddles is a bit different from guessing them. The key to writing a satisfying riddle is to work backwards, starting with the answer. A good riddle should be slightly tricky, but not impossible to figure out.


1. Decide what you want the answer to be. A simple answer is usually best — a household object, basic process or natural phenomenon. Examples might be a shoe (object), burning a candle (process), or a volcano (natural phenomenon).

2. Make a list of the characteristics that make the answer unique. Brainstorm as many characteristics as you can and write them down. For example, shoes, unlike socks or other foot coverings, have tongues and soles; volcanoes are hot and glowing inside.

3. Choose two items from the list that are not the first things that come to mind when you think of that answer. For example, everyone knows that volcanoes erupt. People do not often think about the fact that they are found in groups.

4. Look for items on the list that could be metaphorically applied to humans. For example, shoes have tongues and soles, which are also things people could have. If a volcano were a person, it would have serious indigestion in its belly.

5. Imagine that the answer to the riddle is a person telling you about itself. What are its talents? How does it feel? Write a description that is at least three sentences long. Incorporate the items you chose from your list.

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6. Write your riddle from the perspective the object, process or phenomenon you chose. Try to make your description clever and surprising. Include enough clues that a thoughtful person could guess the answer. For example, the riddle about a shoe might read, “You walk all over me but my tongue never complains.”

7. Try out your riddle on a friend. It should not be too easy or too hard to guess. Keep working on it until it is just right.