Wrap-up: The Making Of Riddled and Dismembered
This is not a solution to the puzzle, but provides notes from its poser. This type of answer has been approved by the community.
Caution: This post may contain spoilers.
First, thanks to @humn who pointed out that this did not have a wrap-up. I was sure I had written one, but it was just an example on meta when we were discussing whether or not wrap-ups were a good idea.
Well, the inspiration was simple. There was a post on meta asking for riddles whose solution was "flower". I did my standard thing but wasn't satisfied. I wanted to do something different and thought: "what if I did a riddle that wasn't a riddle?"
I borrowed thematically from a riddle by Alconja in the same thread ("Here I am, alive and well") for the courting/funeral thing. Unbeknownst to me, he posted another riddle in that thread the next day with a very similar structure to this one ("Listen closely to this prose"). I am doubly in his debt.
When there was a chess fortnightly challenge, I did a James Bond themed puzzle with the names of different chess pieces each hidden in a different way in a poem. That was fun, but this time I wanted to do a poem that sounded more like a poem. When you are cluing words cryptically, it's hard to maintain rhyme, meter, and coherence. I decided it would be a poem first, and hidden words second. And somehow a riddle that's not a riddle.
That seemed like plenty to get creative with: flowers, a poem, a riddle, and hidden words. I figured I would have to drop one of those at some point but I often like to start by shooting for the moon.
And, hey, who doesn't like a nice poem about flowers?
Having decided (more or less) on hidden words and a flower theme, I googled "parts of a flower". I was thinking of a sort of treasure hunt idea: I cut a flower into its component pieces, you find them and reassemble them. I found a page like this. There seemed to be about the right number of words for a short poem. I wanted a simple way of hiding the words so that I wouldn't have to clue the method. These looked like I could just break them up and put them in the text for the most part. Ovule and ovary looked impossible but the rest... probably doable.
For all kinds of word search and pattern things visca regex is a great resource. The dictionary is a bit limited, though. Some time after putting this puzzle together, I went with my own dictionary and regex. I don't believe I used any of the results in this riddle but it saved me a lot of time trying to find a better version of "fulfil a mental challenge" as a way of hiding "filament".
Pretty early on, I decided I could only make every second line rhyme. I had some tricky word sequences to fit in and I still wanted to keep the riddle part of it. In the end, "form" didn't quite rhyme with "mourn" and "adorn" but it was close enough and not being on the very next line made it sound almost right.
I went back and forth on the meter a few times. I worked starting with the phrases with the hidden words. I really liked "a trumpet, almost" which has an up-down-up-down beat (iambs, for those who like the proper terminology). On the other hand, I was looking at something like "and your grief I lament" which is up-up-down (anapaests). That would let me do something like "if you are gallant her heart you will win" for anther. I tried linking different bits in different meters until I settled on iambs.
I wavered a little on how hard to make the riddle part. I wanted to make it a more challenging riddle but every effort I made in that direction made the poem flow less well or made the hidden words more awkward. I settled on the compromise you see.
Your thoughts/mental process
Some people have said they liked the rhythm of this and some other pieces. I use a simple tapping method to iron out the kinks in my meter. Consider iambs: places where you have an up-down beat (like 4/4 time if you're a musician). As you say the line, lift your hand for unstressed syllables and tap down when you have a stressed syllable. So for the following words, lift your hand on normal text and tap down for the bold: "I thought I saw a pussy cat". That scans perfectly as four iambs. Now replace "a pussy" with "an American". If you find you are jamming more than one syllable into an up or down or you find that your hand simply won't cooperate, then you are doing it right. The line now changes meter in the middle. It is very hard to make mixed meter sound good. Try to smooth it out so that the tapping goes smoothly and naturally. You shouldn't have to force syllables. Tapping out triplets is slightly harder if you haven't had practice. I recommend tapping with just your index finger for unstressed syllables and your index and middle fingers for stressed syllables. If you have troubles with this, start tapping before you start reading so your hand has the rhythm established. Here is an example line in anapests: "an American cat is a wonder to see".
The last part of composing the puzzle was coming up with a title and frame. My first thought was to simply post the rhyme, say "solve the puzzle" and then mystify people by saying that the answer to the riddle was not the solution to the puzzle. That seemed kind of rude and misleading. I thought of calling it: "This Is Not a Riddle" (sort of a homage to Magritte's Ceci n'est pas une pipe). I kept pondering and fiddling until "Riddled and Dismembered" popped into my head. That seemed right. It was eye catching. It hinted at the nature of the puzzle but not too obviously. And it gave me my frame: explain the title.
I haven't learned as much as I should have, I guess, because I haven't done anything else quite as successful.
I think one thing that it shows is that people reward effort and originality. Going into it, I thought that the work polishing the poem part of it was just to make myself happy. This is a puzzle site, not a poetry corner. But it did pay off. Visual puzzles that are attractive and nicely put together get rewarded. It's worth putting in the effort.
I also think that it pays off to get as many things working for you as you can: it's a riddle, it's a poem, and it's a hidden word puzzle. The title is integral to the solution. As far as I could manage, every part of the puzzle is doing something. Everybody pulls their own weight.
If there's something else to be learned here, please let me know and I'll try to use it to make my next puzzle better.