Monday, January 3, 2011

Building Stories

William Ding was a construction worker specializing in skyscrapers, and an aspiring writer. He had 3 passions in life: constructing floors ('building' stories), writing tales (building 'stories'), and knowing about constructions with many floors ('building stories') - I think this phrase qualifies for a triple pun. Let's tackle his passions one by one:

'Building' Stories
Construction is boring and involves some 'boring' too for a strong foundation and possibly water supply. Not much else to talk about here, so moving on ....

'Building Stories'

There's an obsession with building the tallest building (somehow the largest and longest are not at front of the recall queue, but tallest is) and getting a place in the Guinness Book of Records, from the Empire State to Sears Tower to Petronas Towers and now the Burj Khalifa, an immobile monster with 160 floors. There have been attempts to fudge the numbers in order to break an existing record by adding antennas and then adding their height to the total building height, but I am sure it's all with good intent. The key question is, do any of these buildings scrape the sky, as the name suggests? A skyscraper should look like this:

Building 'Stories'
Building stories is tough. My expectation as a science fiction enthusiast is for a story to have the following: a strong visual narrative supplemented by identifiable and relatable context regardless of how futuristic the premise is, a controlled unfolding of events which keeps the unsuspecting reader involved but not privy to plot-points prematurely, and a growing sense of awe and wonder which culminates in surprise or fulfilled expectation but with closure nonetheless. The story is in the telling, and the tell has to be given away at the right moment. As a reader I don't want to be led to and pushed off a cliff without some warning or at least a parachute, nor do I want to be led to more flat ground when there is promise of a cliff. A tall order all of this, but 3 writers come very close in different ways: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, and Robert Silverberg. Details to be covered in a separate post.

As you can see, Bill Ding did not get to build much story-wise in this post (but he did write a book later, called 'Bill Ding Stories: Building stories, building stories, and building stories'. That's because writing posts is much easier than building stories. There are verse things too, which I have tried with meandering results and don't plan to return to in a while.

Note - The British word for floor is storey (with an 'e') and the plural is storeys (these show up as bad spellings in the American spell-check). 'Storey' was not going to work for my story, oops, post, and was therefore conveniently ignored.

No comments: