How to write a brick

What is a brick?

By definition, a brick is a poem written using a fixed width font where each line has an equal number of characters. The number of characters wide a brick is, and the number of lines there are can vary from brick to brick, but one brick will have the same number of fixed width characters.

History of the brick

Back in my BBSing days in the late 80's I started to write these poems as the BBS software that existed at the time only operated using a fixed width font. I thought it would be a vocabulary challenge to compose a post where each line was of an identical length, and thus was the brick born. The BBS software also allowed for different coloured fonts, so I would apply a different colour to each line of the brick. When I started posting bricks to the alt.good.morning newsgroup colour was no longer available, so bricks became monochrome. More recently when I started blogging, I could go back to using different colours, though I have not always done so.

How to Write a Brick

With the advent of the internet brick writing became much simpler. When I first started writing them I had to rely only on my own vocabulary, but now you can easily search for lists of words by word length. In any case, any brick will start with a first line that can be of any length as it does not have to match a preceding line's length. Here is an example of a first line:

This is a brick that is not


So, for a first line that is pretty easy. The tricky part now is to write the second line that is equal in length to the first one, so my first attempt was this:

This is a brick that is not
made of oranges or lemons


Now you can see that there are only two remaining spaces to be filled here, and there is no word or punctuation mark that would make sense here, so we take the last word and replace it:

This is a brick that is not
made of oranges or limes, I


If removing only the last word was insufficient to find a replacement word that would fill the line, remove the last two or three words to rewrite the new line to have it fit. For example, instead of only replacing the lemons with limes I could have gone back three words and written

This is a brick that is not
made of floors or ceilings,


So all that remains is to repeat the instructions above until the brick is complete. How can we tell if a brick is complete? Normally I try to end a brick with the end of a complete sentence, sometimes including the appropriate punctuation mark and other times not. So here is how I finished mine:

This is a brick that is not
made of oranges or limes, I
should know.  I wrote these
lines to create this brick.

Brick contents

Early attempts at composing bricks can result in nonsense or simple ideas being presented. As brick writers obtain more experience through practice, multiple interpretations can be imbued into the brick to allow for various layers of understanding.

The example in the How to write a brick part of this post is a simple one. An example of a brick that is more involved is this:

feign wisdom and ignite
the decision into a red
herring. Ice makers are
sleds without wings, on
top of the world while,
ignoring the sky, flour
prices are skyrocketing


What is the intention of this brick? What does it mean? There is a message, or even more than one message, so clearly this is a more complicated brick.

Conclusion

Take a stab at writing one, post it somewhere that you know that you can set the font to be a fixed-width font. Here at hubpages the preformatted format is what allowed me to produce the fixed with. In pure HTML the <pre> tag will do it, and in MS Word or other software where you can pick a font the Courier font is a fixed width one.

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Comments 32 comments

kidcool4jesus profile image

kidcool4jesus 5 years ago from Johnson City, TN

Brick writing is a new concept for me. At some point, I might want to give it a try.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Brick writing is likely a new concept for most people, considering I started doing it and only those who were in the groups mentioned above were ever a witness to it.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Gosh, I had never even heard of a brick before! Very cool.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks Simone, I look forward to reading a brick of yours.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination, Phil.

This is the first I have ever heard of a brick poem.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks Flora, I had no idea this hub would be considered for a hubnugget.


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

That's very neat. I agree that it would be a good mental exercise in vocabulary and writing.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

A brick poem...really really cool!

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! To read and vote, this way: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Nuggets-for-El...


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Bliss, thanks - any occasion I find to help improve my vocabulary I tend to jump on.

RM, thanks, the nomination is giving me some attention I would not have otherwise received.


whoisbid profile image

whoisbid 5 years ago

Man, you come up with a lot of fresh ideas.. Hail Phil Plasma!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks, I only wish some of the ideas I had would translate into a hub that generates a lot of traffic for revenue. I think I'm too far from main stream to ever have that happen.


whoisbid profile image

whoisbid 5 years ago

I have not even turned on the revenue yet.. LOL!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Well, I started with revenue and I'm all the way up to a whopping 34 cents! Woo Hoo!


Kate Spenser profile image

Kate Spenser 5 years ago from Austin, TX

This looks like SO much fun! I am definitely going to try it...maybe if any of them turn out half way decent I will post one for you. :) I'm going to send this to my sister, too - she's really good at writing haikus and I bet she'd be great at this, too. Thanks for sharing this really neat form of poem!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Kate, thanks... I also really enjoy writing bricks.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

An awesome topic, offering a fascinating challenge, and beautifully described.

I'm always looking for exercises to rattle me out of a writer's block, and this one looks like a winner, in many dimensions. Writing by character count, writing to a physical form, and then delivering a message. If I had the power, I'd give this Hub a 100 score right now. Unfortunately, all I can do is give it an Up and Awesome. Done.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Hi, Phil. I wrote a brick poem called Inner Beauty as You Age. It was quite a challenge! I put a link to this hub so people can read it.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Sally, thank you for the very generous comment, it is very much appreciated. I agree that bricks can be a good writer's block solution; even you are staring at a blank page, any random first line should be not too difficult to put down as a start.

Flora, while the comments here are not fixed width, I'd like to see your brick - would you post it here as a comment? A reader would then just have to past it into notepad or some equivalent to see it take brick form.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Hi,Phil.

It seems I screwed up a bit there. I forgot about Courier new and used the wrong font -when it was pointed out it seems that it didn't work, so I wrote a quasi-brick instead. I must try again!

So, I'd like to amend my statement: :)

Phil-I have writen a quasi-brick in response to your hub. I will try again, this time using the proper font.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Cool, it is no problem. It isn't as straight forward as it used to be back when the internet was only text based before the WWW.


ceegee415 profile image

ceegee415 5 years ago from Lake Elsinore, California

Up and awesome. This is something that, as a poet, I'd like to try!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

If you do write one and are okay with posting here, I'd like to see it.


5 years ago

Grace is the ace we

can face or race in

our inner place and

lace to our base in

case of nays. Pace

With infinite gratitude to who introduced bricks and who evolved them.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks, a, that's an ace of a brick.


Alexander Props profile image

Alexander Props 5 years ago

This is great!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks Alex.


jami l. pereira 5 years ago

Cool Hub ,thanks for sharing


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks for stopping by, Jami!


ShonEjai profile image

ShonEjai 5 years ago from California

thanks for introducing me to a new form! can't wait to try it out. www.picture-speak.com


BusinessTime profile image

BusinessTime 4 years ago from Twin Cities

I've never heard of this before -- how fun! I'm going to experiment with this interesting form of poetry. Thanks!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

BT, thanks for stopping by, I hope your brick attempts work out to your satisfaction.


gepeTooRs 10 months ago

I’m now not certain where you’re getting your information, however good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or figuring out more. Thank you for wonderful info I used to be looking for this information for my mission.

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