How to write good clues for treasure hunts
Treasure Hunts are fun for all!
How do you write good clues for treasure hunts? Writing good clues takes practice. Good clues are difficult enough to cause people to think, but not so difficult that they can’t solve them. You have to remember that even though the clue makes total sense to you, it might not to the treasure hunters. You know the solution, they don’t. They may be thinking about the clue in a totally different way. Here are a couple of hints about how to write good clues.
Good clues are actually very complex. Now that doesn’t mean that the solution is complex, but that the organization of the words and the words themselves are chosen very carefully. Often times good clues will have clues within the clue that will aid in the solving of the clue.
Another strategy that I use is to make the clues internet friendly. This means that I try to make it so that if the treasure hunter put in the right key words into a search engine, the results would be helpful in solving the clue.
Here is a clue that I used in a treasure hunt that I did a while back. Let’s analyze it so that you can see some of the things I’m talking about.
Here faith was built, not on sand, but a Rocky foundation
Ben, George, and Betsy were in the congregation
Nearby bright green doors and windows to find
How many letters in the name do you see on the sign?
All the treasure hunters knew was that this described a location somewhere in the United States. A pretty big area, right? I used both strategies listed above in this clue: clue complexity and internet friendly. In the first line of this clue the word faith as well as the sand and rocky foundation is a religious reference so hopefully I’m telling my treasure hunters that they are looking for someplace religious. There is also a little more complexity in the first line though. Notice that the word “Rocky” is capitalized. Not only is it describing the foundation but because it is capitalized I am also referring to the name Rocky…as in Rocky Balboa. Philadelphia is where much of the Rocky movies were filmed as well as where the fictional Rocky character is from. There are also some famous stairs in Philadelphia that Rocky ran up. So my treasure hunters should now be looking for a religious place, and from the Rocky clue (a clue in a clue) , a religious place in Philadelphia.
In the next line the word congregation should help us think of a church. Finally, if you type the following words into Google “Ben George Betsy” the eighth result that comes up says “Christ Church” and indeed has all three names. This is indeed the place that the first two lines direct us to, Christ Church in Philadelphia, where Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Betsy Ross, were all members of the congregation. Even though many people may not know that they were all part of the same congregation that went to that church, the clue was internet friendly and a quick search reveals that.
The next part of the clue is pretty straight forward. Find a building near Christ Church with bright green doors and see how many letters are in the name on the sign. Remember, when writing clues, make them difficult, but not impossible. If you use some complexity in organization and word choice, as well as make your clue internet friendly, your treasure hunters will have just enough of a challenge to make it fun, but it won’t be so difficult that they give up.