Editor's Note: We published Tristan Hui's story "Coconut Pudding" in the September issue of Stone Soup. In this post, Tristan gives us some background on the subjects she chose to write about.
In a seventh grade History unit, every student in my class made a model house of someone living in a certain place, and wrote a creative story based on the culture.
I chose to study floating houses on the Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia, because the first time I used an architecture book during the unit, it fell open to a picture spread of floating homes in East Asia. It immediately drew me in; I’ve always been more interested in coastal locations and towns near the water than dry, desert-like landscapes.
Interestingly, living in a floating home or houseboat doesn’t require citizenship papers. Because of this, many stateless residents live on the Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia, or in Vietnam’s picturesque Ha Long Bay.
But that was all just background research, to create a basis for my story and model. The plot of my creative writing was originally completely different from what Coconut Pudding turned out to be. I don’t remember it now, but I had come up with something—probably infinitely more complicated—before the unit began. When it was suggested to experiment with different possible plots, I erased the page and came up with something entirely new. That was what ended up being published as Coconut Pudding. I guess it just goes to show… always be flexible and open to new, completely random ideas!
The model of the floating house that I made—which would typically be built using lots of lightweight bamboo, wooden post or beam structures with woods like mangrove, and bamboo leaf thatching or corrugated sheet metal for the roof—was really helpful to use in visualizing the storyline once I started to write. Though it wasn’t part of the project to create figurines for the house, I imagined them there, leaning over the railing to wave to a friend or docking a boat filled with fruit after a long day of peddling.