There are certain behaviors that are expected from good stories, and there are attitudes that good writers should exhibit. Aside from the good attitudes of arrogance, pride and superiority, a good writer should also exhibit some other lesser qualities. A story on its part should exhibit good home training qualities like disobedience, stubbornness and intolerance, alongside some other lesser courteous behaviours.
In these series, we will examine the attitudes and qualities a writer and his story should have if they must be noticed, and if they have any hopes and rights and claimancy to be termed a story or a writer.
These are my feelings, most of which I was born with and others I have garnered from writing and from reading others. Note that I said feelings; most times it is all in the feel. A story’s only fault, many times, is in the feel. It may look right and read right, but if it feels somehow and anyhow then it is not a good story. Good stories feel good.
If you spot any errors in these lectures of mine, please keep it to yourself and avoid interruption. I am only a critic, and a critic should not be criticized.
One of the attitudes a story and its writer should exhibit is:
This refers to the consistency of a story and consistency of a writer (to the craft).
A consistent story has no right to be deceitful. It is an offence for a story to exhibit duplicity and pretense. A story must be based on facts. These facts may not have any business with truth. A premise does not have to be true; it only needs to be logical and correct. If a story does not logically follow a premise the story commits a fallacy of something or the other. The facts might either agree with real life situations or fictional situations as constructed by the writer in the story; but something must agree.
So if your story begins with a certain Monsuru, a Vulcanizer, who never had the time or privilege to attend formal school, and hence subsists without the use of English, the same Monsuru should not start speaking flawless English in the third paragraph or even the third chapter. An illiterate Vulcanizer should remain illiterate throughout the book. But if Monsuru suddenly comes into learning it would be lawful for the writer to remind us and furnish us with all the particulars of the feat. Consistency makes a story believable. There is nothing as terrible as lying in fiction. Writers should never lie. They should be true to their fiction with explanation for any deviations.
For a story to be consistent, the writer should not get carried away with his imaginations and fly away with the story. A story should not run around and float aimlessly. Good stories start somewhere and travel and get to a particular destination, mostly on foot and never on wings. The whole journey should be retraceable. A story should never end in the sky, especially when the sky wasn’t the destination.
A consistent story requires that the reader can sufficiently guess and have ample warrant to expect what a particular character is likely to say in an emergency or when suddenly woken up. If you build a character well, the readers would know what he or she is capable of doing. People who are harmless docile characters should not be found in a story suddenly killing and raping and pillaging and destroying. Killers and villains should not suddenly become Christ and perform miracles of good deeds. Speaking of miracles, it would do a writer well to steer clear of miracles and focus directly on practicables and possibilities. If a story unfortunately behaves in a miraculous manner, the writer should endevour to render the miracle in as plausible a manner as possible. A suitable explanation for the miracle is important because miracles are believeable only by faith, and faith without proof is dead. But it is roughly safer not to perform miracles at all in a story.
If a writer’s character in a book cannot be recognized by anybody on the road when said character brushes past him in a hurry then that writer didn’t create a good character. A consistent story should have recognizable characters. Always, we meet characters from well written books on the road and instantly recognize them. When Mark Twain finished with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry, I didn’t see them myself but the two characters were recognized everywhere in trains and places near where they lived. I have seen plenty Mallam Illiya’s from Ekwensi’s “Pasport of Mallam Illiya”, I know Lakunle the teacher, I know Chike of the river, I have seen Eze going to school, I even dated one or two Bintas. I know Bingo, the dog and Ajasco. I have seen Voldermort too and plenty elves and Mammy water. If your character remains smoky and confined to your book, you are not yet a good writer.
A story should be so convincing that a character should be hated if he is hateful and loved if he deserves some loving. If a reader doesn’t cry at your sad scenes or laugh when a joke is made in the book then the story should be rewritten. A book is a small world; it should try to remain so. Readers should live in it and enjoy its government and people or hate it if it has bad economy and poverty etc, etc, etc.
You are not a good writer when readers hate you instead of the evil character in your book. This can happen when a writer keeps interfering and interrupting by overly inserting his views and personal opinions in a book. Let characters live their lives without you playing God and Judge and Preacher.
We will focus more on characters and characterization in our next session.
Now, referring to Consistency of a writer, please, be advised that if someone wants to be a writer he should simply start writing and keep at it. If a body does something over and over and over and again, he becomes good at it. If you consistently write, you will end up, perhaps, mistakenly putting out something that would pass the mark. If you write a thousand short stories, at least one out of them would be note worthy and get shared and comments and reviews. Consistency rewards a writer; you get better as you repeat your rubbish.
Consistency of hobby matters too, anyone who wants to be a writer should enjoy reading and writing and not have hobbies totally in opposition and always fighting. Being a good writer has a lot to do with the friends you keep. Overly friendly people do not make good writers. Writers are supposed to be reclusive, aloof and very annoying -except if the writer is female and wants to get married. A good writer should not be best friends with motor park touts, or physical science, or mathematics.
If you do not have any eccentricities attached to your person as yet, please inculcate one- the crazier the better. It is not good habit for a writer to be proper and normal.
We will continue.