Do you know anyone who is given a riddle to solve and there is a prize for solving and still the person doesn’t try? I don’t. Anyways I’m writing this for folks who love to create clues. Writing clues can be quite intricate and demanding for inexperienced. Here I present the structure to write treasure hunt or scavenger hunt clues for any physical object like refrigerator, closet.
We are to organize one scavenger hunt game in our nearby park for kids aged 9 to 13. We have selected ‘Grass’ as one of the objects to be collected in this clue based hunt. Now we need to write a clue on ‘Grass’.
Start from the End
The obvious start for writing a clue is to identify the answer (We selected ‘Grass’). Physical objects are easier than abstract ideas for making riddle hunts. Very specific answers like ‘grass of Mike’s backyard’ can be very challenging to solve even for Mike himself. Less specific answers like ‘backyard grass’ or ‘grass’ are generally not as difficult however hard clues can still be made for general answers.
Think, Think & Think! Some More!!
First create list of words, ideas, thoughts which are related to and have some association with ‘Grass’. Important part is to just note down whatever comes to your mind.
– Green, Lawn, Garden, Grassland, Lawnmower, plants, Crops, Weeds, Herb, Hay, Sod, Under your feet, Cricket pitch, Hockey artificial turf, Football field, lush, Collect dew, Grazing land, Pasture, Herd, Wimbledon, Golf putting, farm, food chain, chomp, grasshoppers
Also create list of words, ideas, thoughts which are opposite or have reverse correlation with ‘Grass’.
– At the top, Hungry cattle, muddy football in rain, Soiled, On your head
Use Thesaurus & Internet Resources
Leverage Internet’s vast resources to capture more information on ‘Grass’. Types, associated history, referenced in movies. One very useful aspect is to find idioms related to ‘Grass’.
– Grass is always greener on the other side, Don’t let the grass grow under one’s feet, Put out to grass, Snake in the grass, Grass root level
Put yourself in Object’s shoes
Imagine you are the object and describe the world from its point of view. What do you see, hear, feel and smell? What do you like & what you don’t.
– Everyone is taller than me, Don’t stomp, I need lots of water, Cut the shank and I’m smooth. I make your lawn lush green, My king in Africa is the tallest
Use Figure of Speech
Use figure of speech to write sentences describing the answer (‘Grass’), using whatever we’ve come up with so far.
– Mental Picturization: Collects dew to make your shoes wet
Personalization: I can move the ball, just don’t stomp on me, Cut the shank and I’m smooth Metaphor: Start of the food chain, Wimbledon court
– Substitute Word for main word(s): lush green
– Sounds associated with word: chomp, chomp, chomp for grazing
– Simile: So is Grass to lawn as hairs to head (You guessed it! I’m indeed baldy) or colours to painting
Did all the hard work…Now write a draft ‘Hunt Clue’
Both too easy or too hard clues will make players loose interest very quickly. Categorize all work done till now. (1) Reject too straight forward phrases (2) Choose some cryptic phrases (3) Choose some solvable part of the clue.
I like the ideas related to ‘cutting the shank’, idiom ‘let the grass grow under one’s feet’, ‘ moving the ball’ and ‘king in Africa is the tallest’ to build the cryptic parts. Let’s see if we could use ‘Golf putting’, ‘greener on the other side’ & ‘Hungry cattle’ to guide the players for actually solving the clue.
Lush green and anything related to grazing seem a bit obvious. May be I’ll pick these while writing clues for younger kids but not here. Start of the food chain can be confused with other plants, so ignore it..
– Cut the shank, I make the ball move, putt you believe I’m green other side.
In Africa I have the tallest king, Lazy you I grow under your feet.
Aaah! It seems very disjointed and not spicy at all. Let’s give another try and use some Parallelism and Opposites, Cut & Grow, Short & Tall.
– Cut the shank I move the ball, No action I grow in your feet,
Greedy bully makes me short, Only tall is my African king.
Used ‘greedy bully’ for ‘hungry cow’ to make it a bit obscure. I’m still not quite satisfied. It doesn’t sound good when I read it aloud. Let’s give it the finishing touch.
Make it Elegant & Poetic
Now we need to use thesaurus a lot. Modify the phrases to have almost equal number of characters and finish each phrase with rhyming words. We could use formal writing technicalities like rhetorical effect, alliteration to enhance literary quality of clues. Visual changes like punctuation placement, capitalization and bolding to further emphasise the clues. I used ‘switch’ to represent ‘other side’.
– No action I grow in your feet, greener if you are switching.
Greedy bully makes me short, biggest is one African king.
It looks and sounds better now. I’m sure kids are going to have lot of fun playing scavenger hunt game.