I remember the first time I told a lie… let me rephrase that, I remember the first time I told a lie when I had no reason to. It was back in elementary school. My seat partner at the time had a way of feeding the class with tales by noon light. He was exceptional at lying. He had a charm, very entertaining, great artist and a friend to all. I wonder where he is now… hmm.
That year when he told despicable tales of the vintage cars his dad owned and how huge his house was, I just froze, shook at how believing my classmates were. I saw the way their eyes widened in amazement and faces glowed with belief – that was how I learnt to read people, better still my audience. He had told the story so much he believed it… I believe it made him feel good. It started off with me trying to out-lie the liar. Like a stack of cards they fell to my ‘charm’. I never displaced him as the class chief story teller but we became our own competition. We knew who the better player was but he never admitted it.
Everyone in their own right can tell a story – all thanks to the consistent essays we took back in the days but creative writing is a total different ball game and this is what Sol identifies in his book Stein on writing. As the book starts you can tell he isn’t the conventional writer. He doesn’t just hit the mark by saying ...” I walked into the meeting soaking wet” rather, he’ll say “… and the rain came down like blades on my skin cutting through my suit. By the time I walked in to greet a room to full of writers I had left a trail of a river behind me and a pond where I stood, standing defeated by the weather like though I had just killed the last Samurai”. I might not really be on mark with his style of writing but it will be something close to this. For with Stein, writing is never about the ordinary.
As I grew older, I told stories my peers always wanted to hear – even though they knew how it ended. The teachers on the other hand felt traumatized. So much they asked me how my childhood was. Was I fine? They felt I wrote in a manner that was “disturbing”. So disturbing it might scare off my readers. They preferred I wrote in a more “conservative realistic” manner. At the time, when I wrote, I exaggerated my character because I felt my life was boring and uneventful - how ignorant I was.
Whether you write for fiction or otherwise, you have to bring soul to the piece. Non-fiction deals with facts only, so it’s really hard to make it as sugarcoated as fiction. Sol Stein stresses that if you fail to bring life to your writing you lose the attention of your audience, leading them to hop through your piece. Writing is always about luring in your audience and making them fall in love with your characters as much as possible. The X in this equation, has nothing to do with you. People remember the characters of a book more than they do the writer.
Look at examples like Game of Thrones which has the world on edge. People are going crazy about who becomes the king on the iron throne, like it is what we have been called to this earth to do. Game of Thrones the Simpsons of our time is written by George R.R Martin.
NB: If you know who will be the king on the Iron Throne, do not leave a comment.
The phenomenal fantasy series writer behind Harry Porter and Fantastic Beast J.K Rowling also brings writing to a new world of spasm for us all. People fall in love with the characters of these books. George makes each and every one of his characters independent both protagonist and antagonist, relevant and irrelevant. So much so that they are remembered and can hardly ever be forgotten – the villains of his book “Game of Thrones’ are the vilest, so mean we hate to love them.
When I create characters in my writing, I pause because for a moment I am scared of what I am creating. I want to create something memorable that my audience will like or be disgusted by but enough to read till the end. I wrote a piece for one of my mentors, Sue who is an exceptional writer and though she liked it, she wanted me to push the character more and not be guarded. That I should bring forth her pain first and not introduce her – and then I froze. I froze because the piece hurt me, hurt the character and even though I wanted peace for her, I wasn’t ready to face the hell she was going to pass through.
I believe writers face this trauma. For we are like wizards with a wand and sometimes we create these characters who decide to rebel because they feel they know it all and want to outdo their creators. Then it dawns on us that we have created a monster. This monster which must be tamed.
Sometimes, it’s the villain we fall in love with. He becomes so bad that he out shines the hero but then again, actor no dey die. Now, we have to revise to bring sanity to our work of art.
When writing, you have to make your characters unique not just ordinary. Ordinary as a word in writing should be totally eliminated. Believe in your character and trust your audience. Never hasten too quickly to an action because it would be obvious you as the author has interrupted the flow of joy thereby leading to a disconnect with your audience.
Writing should be seductive. You want to lure in your reader, tease him and make him fall in love with your words. Let your characters show forth personalities that marvel, psychological traits that are ridiculous, actions that speak for themselves and dialogue that are memorable. For with writing you are the lady in red.
Are you conversant with the social media phenomenon #saltbae? This is a man whose videos went viral because of the way he seasons his meat. By the way he seasons his meat; you can tell just how well he seasons his woman. It’s so bad that women would give anything to trade places with his beef – I mean this literally.
Fall in love with metaphors, similes, irony and sarcasm. Sprinkle all of this goodness in your writing the way #saltbae does it. Some might call it an exaggeration or a big fact lie. I call it creative writing. Sell your audience a character, sell them an experience, and sell them a desire. Sell your words to them and they will forever be like puddle in your hands.
I cannot sell ice to an Eskimo but I can definitely write an experience to an explorer. So good he will want to revisit it – but then, what is the difference?
I’ll love to read your story.