“The Whisper in the Bricks” (Story Dice Sundays)

Story Dice: A castle, tent, skyscraper, lightning bolt, bridge and speech bubble.

Listen closely. Can you hear it? The whisper in the bricks.

Look around you: the skyscrapers, the houses, our modern castles. How far we’ve come from caves and tents. The hands of man built these.

Every one of them has a story they want to tell you. In the living and going and working we can’t hear them. But they’re storytellers, these bricks. They’re waiting for you to listen. To tell you of the blood and sweat in them. Of the daily heartbreak and celebration that goes on inside them. Of where they came from—from humble dirt and dust, eventually moulded into their magnificent shapes. Of where they’re going.

Through ages and millennia, these bricks have been speaking to us. Some still stand today, their faces eroded with time, their hearts emptied, but still willing to testify to the lives of times long past. The great castles. The towering churches. The halls of flowing arches and marble built by the lightning strike of creative inspiration (or madness). Pyramids and gardens and coliseums. The Moorish and Tang and Gothic and Renaissance. A world of bricks. A world of whispers. Each one waiting for us to cross that bridge between us and the sublime mysteries of who we were—who we are.

Commentary

The most difficult of the dice to include was the lightning bolt. Though the thought of literal talking buildings crossed my mind, I quickly decided to make it more metaphorical.

This entry is a bit more poetic. Sometimes in your writing, it’s good to delve into poetic descriptions as long as it a) fits with the story you’re trying to tell, and b) doesn’t become so abstract and obtuse that it becomes pretentious. Ursula K. Le Guin managed to tread this fine line in her science fiction book The Left Hand of Darkness, but there was at least one occasion where she delved into abstract philosophical poetry at a moment that didn’t need it.

Now I’m sure you noticed a few incomplete sentences here. (“The great castles.”) I’ll shamelessly admit that I’m experimenting with this technique, having just read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (or 101 Ways to Describe Grey, Soul-crushing Despair). McCarthy uses a lot of incomplete sentences. But read in context with the rest of the lines around it, the reader is able to piece together the implied meaning easily. For example:

” The reptilian calculations in those cold and shifting eyes. The gray and rotting teeth. Claggy with human flesh.” (McCarthy)

It can be a tricky technique, and will no doubt irk some of grammatical puritans (to which I’ll simply say “Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.“) But it’s a good example of a writer breaking the grammatical rules to convey feeling and emotion, whether it’s dread or wonderment.

 

More quotes I collected from The Road.

 

 

 

 

 

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