Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today I Learned What a Cantilever Is.

I recently rewrote a scene in my story that details an enormous tower jutting up from the city. I have diagrams of this tower, its specs, and a clear image in my mind of what it looks like, but whilst writing I discovered that I have no idea what its varying parts were called.

Stall everything. What does one call this arm-thingy that juts out from the body? A buttress? What is a buttress,* anyway? And what are the chances of an architect reading this and seeing the flaws in my terminology?

Honestly, I don't think I've ever written a story, long or short, that didn't require me to look up some architectural term or another. But let the goose chase end. I discovered this site today. It took me in, comforted me, and said, "Charlie, dear, it's a cantilever. Everything is going to be okay."

Now, it's not the most extensive dictionary of architecture out there, but when I ctrl+found "beam," it gave me six options, and I found precisely what I was looking for.
A cantilever from AMC Industries.

Anything in particular you use for architectural terms in your writing?

*The word "buttress" makes me think of a certain scene from Lost in Austen, which is of the comical sort. That whole mini-series is amazing. If you haven't seen it, I demand you do so (though if you're unfamiliar with the workings of Pride and Prejudice, it won't be nearly as grand.)


  1. Who knew there were so many terms about architecture?

  2. One day I want to get a writing assistant. The kind of person I can send out to do research like that for me. One day.

  3. You can ask me! I haven't taken structural analysis yet myself, but at the very least I'm surrounded every day by people who plan to build structures.

    And to answer your question, it's hard for me to read fantasy and even watch movies these days, because the people who write them usually don't know what they're talking about. (Sci-Fi is usually better maintained.) I'm so glad you do research! <3

  4. NO WAY. I thought I was the only person in the world that had seen Lost in Austen. Congrats, your awesome.

  5. Lost in Austen is amazing. My sister just converted. And I'm glad you've seen it!

    Darcy: Yes, I know what a buttress is!

  6. I'm happy you solved one of your writing problems. I was so thrilled to find some interior shots of the Tokyo National Museum on Flickr so I won't have to sound like a complete moron describing a place I've never been (yet) or just saying they're going through a "massive remodel".

  7. But do you know what a flying buttress is?

    And I liked lost in Austin but it drove me crazy that Amanda never changed her hair.

  8. I know! I never understood why she didn't pin it up or something...

  9. Architecture is one of the more misunderstood professions. The hours are long. The pay is low (relative to other licensed professionals ). You have to simultaneously think like a socialist, engineer, and a salesman. And if that isn't enough, there's those words we use like cantilever and flying buttresses (just think of those support things that arch out to hold up stone cathedrals like Notre Dame).

    Like everybody else, I find myself doing research on the things I write. Thankfully all those years of architecture school means one little thing off the research list. If writing about architecture is hard, you should try writing about a believable architect as a character.

  10. Ah, great to hear from someone in the business. Writing an architect as a protagonist would kill research-wise, ha! But it would definitely help.