Writitude (2): Matter and Manner of Characters

A character can be defined as a being in a story. But this is only for some of the time. Some other time a character may choose to be a non-being, as in the case of trees and mountains. A character can be anything: a person (living or dead), a dog, a flying boat, a fish or a wallflower. But one character should not be all these at any one time. In this opinion, it will be easier all around for us to direct our attentions to the general area of human characters.

Humans are far from perfect, and so a human character in a story should be sufficiently mortal with all the imperfections and limitations, except when said character belongs to the class of Spiderman and Superman and X-men.

Characters are creations existing in someone’s imagination and they have rights. As such, characters should be treated fairly and with respect and given adequate protection in a tale’s society.

It has been brought to notice that many times a Minor character, such as a side kick, begins a story and somehow around the middle of the story the character inexplicably goes missing and the reader cannot find or locate him anywhere. A character that begins life in a story should finish it. It is mean when writers forget their characters and let them drown or get stranded in a tale.

All characters must be accounted for in a story. If a character suffers demise, it should be recorded, at least in respect. If indeed a character dies, the dead should remain dead in the story except in the manner of ghosts and spirits. It won’t do for a character that died in chapter 6 to suddenly forget he was dead in chapter 9 and start talking and interfering and doing many things. As a rule, if a writer introduces a character, it is best to stalk and shadow the writer till his matter and place in the story comes to a reasonable end.

Importantly, all characters in a book should have sufficient excuse for being in the book. There is no random life. No character should be loitering and wandering anyhow in a book. If a character cannot defend his or her presence in a book, then by all means the character should be relieved from duty. Let him get drowned or knocked down or shot or hanged. It is not good to have a story over populated because the more characters in a book the most likely that one of them would be forgotten and fall out of the book.

Considering conversation among characters, many writers are unaware that characters tend to get talkative if not well trained. Characters should be introduced to the etiquette governing talk and when to shut up.
If conversations are done by human characters in a story, the talk should sound like human talk and use words such as humans would likely use in the given circumstances. If a girl talks in a story let the voice be alto and thin and not baritone. Females don’t sound like bass drums. If a man cries in a novel, let him cry like a man. It will embarrass the reader to read a story where a grown man wails and pulls out his hair and rolls on the floor screaming for mama. If a man is not gay, let him not speak like a woman. A dog should bark and not mew, no matter the temptation.

All the talk talked in a book should serve a purpose and be relevant to the story, and avoid astral travellings and illegal meanderings and should attempt to be interesting to the reader. All talk should end when the people cannot think of anything else to say.

A story should not be too noisy.

Some of these things are important if you want your story to be read without a smirk.

We will continue.

49 thoughts on “Writitude (2): Matter and Manner of Characters” by kaycee (@kaycee)

  1. Daireen (@daireenonline)

    ‘As a rule, if a writer introduces a character, “it is best to stalk and shadow the writer till his matter and place in the story comes to a reasonable end.’

    I’m confused by the foregoing, did you mean stalk and track the “character”? Why does the reader need to stalk the reader fa?

    That said, thanks for the tip.

    1. @daireenonline.
      The beauty of writing is that you can use any word you like to express an idea. So you can ‘shadow’ someone, instead of ‘track’ or ‘follow’ or ‘observe’ etc. It makes the writing different.
      The point is to make sure you don’t forget a character.

  2. Na wah oh oga Kaycee! After two centuries. I don even forget wetin I learn from the first one. However, this one has been assimilated by my humble self…


    1. @francis.
      So you guys still come in here? I thought all the good writers on NS died.

      1. @kaycee, Kaycee! how can you be so rude? so what are we? nothing to write home about? well you are kaycee, the guy thats always on the neck of the newbies, impossible to please, so I’m not surprised.

        1. @basseyperfecta.Me? Rude? Make i catch you!

          Perhaps i am the only one that cares about the newbees.
          If you see what some masters did to me when i first joined NS 2 or 3 years ago… go and read the comments on my first post. The newbies must improve like i did, or i will kill all of them.

          1. @kaycee, alright, now this is a bit of a relaxing and encouraging way to say ‘improve!’.

  3. The sage finally decides to speak again… Good words indeed

  4. adams (@coshincozor)

    Thank you for this @Kaycee. For some time now I had absconded from Naijastories because of the kind of badly written stories and the accompanying comments of “nice story”, “good read” and so on, I see here. I felt that the era of constructive criticism was past so I had to find my way since I was not ready to just have people consume my imperfect stories without contributing to their journey towards perfection and not adding to the weight of my pocket. But with this kind of article I think I should be coming around for some selected few.

    However, I don’t agree with this part:

    “If a girl talks in a story let the voice be alto and thin and not baritone. Females don’t sound like bass drums. If a man cries in a novel, let him cry like a man. It will embarrass the reader to read a story where a grown man wails and pulls out his hair and rolls on the floor screaming for mama. If a man is not gay, let him not speak like a woman. A dog should bark and not mew, no matter the temptation.”

    I spoke with one of my customer over the phone yesterday. I was busy answering “yes ma, yes ma” to every thing he said until I saw him and was forced to apologise for mistaking him for “ma” though it was not my fault. there was nothing masculine about his voice but the customer remains the king.

    Hence, what I am trying to say here is that conventionally there are attributes that are generally assigned to some genders. However, in reality there are so many exceptions. as Cyprian Ekensi aptly puts it; the writer holds a mirror of the society and so should reflect it as it is (and not as it is conventionally agreed to be).

    One can create a masculine female character or feminine masculine character. What is important is consistence and some measure of realism. Sorry, i am not a formalist, I hate prescriptivism.

    1. “Consistency and realism”. Aptly put. The character must not necessarily conform to acceptable standards of what is and what should be. Still a great one by kaycee. Some writers here could really use the pointers in this write-up.

    2. coshincozor. I totally agree with you. All the good writers have gone.
      But the era of constructive criticism should not be gone. NS is like this because we allowed it.
      I remember the good times. I also remember that those good times were created by us. A lot of times i went out of my way just to spark things up and get readers engaging themselves here. These newbies missed a lot. You can still post your stories, all you need do is to mention the people you trust and are good critics.

      From your comment on my post, it is obvious you got the idea. But, a character should not be ridiculous. It will be crazy to write of a dog that mews, except you can convince the reader that the dog is an exception. If your character is female, readers would expect her to be female except you state that she is a f

    3. @coshincozor those writers with the badly written stories joined NS so that they could get better and when those who should give the criticism “abscond” how will that happen? You stay and help them prune their raw talents and get better and not just run cos no one is doing it u r as guilty as them too.

      Another point is, amidst those bad stories are still some very good ones and those writers needs to be acknowledged and mentored by those who are more experienced but where is that mentoring? I believe that was one of the purpose of NS. Many a time I feel sad for NS cos the old members (who were good writers) just left the scene and left the show for the newbies, they js pass by and refuse to comment, even if to rubbish a writing or offer tips on how to improve. Some only comment on writings posted by fellow old timers…

      That being said, NS thrives on, and the writers will keep getting better and another generation of “old timers” will arise. There really are some potential talents among the newbies

      1. @topazo, you have a point. But some of the good writers left because they outgrew NS. Yup, NS can be outgrown. We are allowed to move on, to grow. People have lives. We cant be on NS forever.Go the members list you will be suprised at the big shot writers that were once active but long gone. Not everyone cares about improving mediocres. They care about improving their own writings. If i post a story that i know wasnt very good and all the readers on NS tell me its nice, i will just stop posting. That is if i want to be sincere with myself.

        And then some newbies come in with attitudes, they all believe they are Shakespeare. If you criticize their nonsense they turn insultive. We were able to establish some rules of engagement back then, but now, no one cares.
        I used to comment on every single post on NS, but i got a little busier, so…let someone else be like me na, we did a lot to make the place interesting, the NS musketeers (@raymond, and @seunodukoya)And made wonderful enemies. Yeah, aside from the writings the place needs to be more interesting, people should be friendly. @seun-Odukoya, @shaifamily and some people even organised NS meets in Lagos, NS T-shirts were made by @babyada…let the newbies become creative. The old timers have grown and have moved on.

        One more thing, all these newbies write nonsense that doesnt inspire comments.

        1. @kaycee I get u. NS is a writer’s community, i don’t agree dt one should outgrow it. It would have been the perfect place for the stars and amateurs to mingle and provide an atmosphere of mentorship. If you post a story for instance, it dsnt necessarily be for criticism but a newbie could read it and learn from you. I can connect with you for help with problems pertaining to writing or for editing etc… It’s a virtual writers’ camp…

          Let those big shot writers remember when they were still newbies too and needed help and then try to lend help to upcoming youngsters too…

          As for the comments, I try to do that but like u said some writings r so bad that you don’t know where to start ur comments…

          Let the masters @kaycee, @raymond, @howyoudey, @myne, @sueddie, @seun-odukoya, @babyada and others come here more to assist the newbies… It’s their works that have served as a motivation

        2. @kaycee, we are here to write and learn. I personally have no qualms with being corrected, but you sound so like ‘hey! you newbies, pack up your bags of never-good-enough writing and disappear from this site!’ its heart breaking and sad, so really sad.

          1. @basseyperfecta
            Eiyaa, are you crying? That would be fun for me.

            The writers who have issues with the newbies do so because the newbies are arrogantly mediocre. If you cant be corrected and refuse to improve then you will be ignored.

  5. @topazo,
    Hi man. Long time.

  6. @topazo, and coshincozor.
    Well, i agree that writers should not forsake the gathering of the brethren, still, the good writers will like to mingle with other writers equally good or even better. If @Ikhide, El Jo, Richard Ali, @jeff, Mazi and the other greats still stop by, a lot of us will still be here. I personally would love to improve my craft, but na who i wan learn something from with what i see here?

  7. ‘It won’t do for a character that died in
    chapter 6 to suddenly forget he was dead in
    chapter 9 and start talking and interfering and
    doing many things’… I cracked at that; don’t feel like assimilating anything too serious now so it comes off as a rather hilarious piece at this point… I find ‘these newbies’ condescending

    1. @wendeekay, glad you caught the humour as was intended.

  8. I laughed and learned and laughed and learned. this is really educative! love it!

    1. @basseyperfecta
      That was exactly the point. Laugh and learn. Learning is much easier when done in fun.

  9. @Kaycee‘s words is not far from the truth. And the newbies tend to be stiff and rude, that also contributes in pushing the oldies away. I’ve watched them rebuke their critics…

    @Topazo, yes the newbies have a lot of potentials if only they will be humble enough to learn. NS has a a good number of critics and writers they can learn from. To mention a few, @TolaO (structural and sentence construction critic), @kaycee (face value critic and hardly impressed), @chemokpi and @sueddie (punctuation critics), @seun-odukoya (general critic), @raymond, @myne, @howyoudey and @scopeman (their works are inspiring), @ostar, @sambright and @shai (wonderful poets), @Afronuts and @dwe (excellent story tellers, in fact it was after reading afronut’s stories in 2011 that I joined NS), @Ifewatson (professor of English language), @gooseberry and @bubillinna (nobody can motivate you more than those girls)… The list contines. The newbies should seek the help of these guys. I assure them that their writing will never remain the same if they do…

  10. Olan (@Olan)

    You make it seem like every single newbie is averse to criticism. I actually look forward to criticisms. I think its the best part of writing here. Although, I know sometimes, being humans, we can get defensive, please forgive us when we are. However I believe if there’s something is wrong, it should be spelt out. Some critics just write “this is not good,” or “something is wrong with this”. It confuses the writer, cos he’s been informed that something is wrong, but doesn’t know what it is, so how can he/she write better next time? I’m here to learn and I hope to get criticism from you oldbies (is this the right terminology?). Thanks to oldbies like @topazo, @seun-odukoya @jaywriter @ tolaO and the others who actually do this.

    1. i concur to Ola’s statement, i mean some newbies paste some poems to know wat is wrong exactly with the poem(i have done that once, the poem looked somehow but i could not find the loop-hole, hence the release), so it will be bad for critics to come and just say, its not good.
      all the same kaycee, you are right by saying that the critics have taken a time out. hope they come back soon as i have some write-ups to be criticize(lol)

  11. I’ll just say a big thank you to @topazo for his criticisms wnich have helped shape my writings. The ‘oldbies’ should learn from him instead of complaining.

  12. Actually in the real world critics dont give a damn about the writer. A critic catches a novel and proceeds to tell the writer that he has written nonsense. Some critics here do just that. If they like they tell you why and where you made the errors. No one is obligated.
    Writers here can inspire helpful comments by making friends and by soliciting for help. Arrogance does not help. Lasting friendship can be built here. I have made some great friends and may still do.

    But i forget how this talk started. Any one who wants to moan about criticisms and newbies and oldies should go to the group forums where we have overflogged the matter.

    1. Olan (@Olan)

      Lol, true sha… hope to see your comments on some of my works

      1. @Olan, havnt i commented on your work? I must have. Have u ever commented on mine? Why dont anybody even critic my mumu posts? Dont you want me to improve?
        Hope you read the post sha.

        1. Olan (@Olan)

          I most definitely read the post :) waiting for d next part O

  13. Nice article you have here @kaycee. You have given so much about that part of characterization, and you really got it. As you have said, good characters are a portrayal of the writer’s craft and artistic maturity, because of all creation, it is only writers who can create, give and take life like a god. Hell, writers are gods, and they transcend in their universe through their characters. Kudos, Kaycee.

  14. adams (@coshincozor)

    Well, points taken, but I still insist that if all I do here is correcting people and not being corrected it will be a waste of time for me. we are all works in progress. even the new people can read critically and not to say “well written!” when I know too well that I wrote trash. if I tell you how much I learnt from the old people here you will marvel.

    1. @xoshincozor, you are not alone with that opinion. But you can mention the peeps you trust whenever you submit a post.

      1. adams (@coshincozor)

        @topazo i must say it here: “you are the worst I have seen here!” i wonder if ever read any story before imprinting your “nice one!” comments. it has got me doubting your sense of judgement, criticism and literary appreciation

        1. @coshincozor lol@ur comment. 1. One man’s food is another’s poison.. We have different perspectives and we appreciate things differently. So the fact that you don’t like a story that I like doesn’t mean I have poor judgement. 2. Sometimes rather than just tear a writing down, I write “nice” to tell the writer that I read it and appreciate his/her effort and courage at putting up his/her work. 3. I’m sure u hvnt seen some of my comments where I would totally rewrite a poem correcting all the errors and modifying some words to make it better… Don’t be too hasty to judge when u dnt hv all the info 4. I am still a learner and if I fail to see “trash” where the pros see one, what can I say? I’m a work in progress, I do not apologise for that, at least I am bold enough to offer an opinion, and nt too haughty to think I am better than everyone nor selfish only wanting criticism and nt offering one.

          1. adams (@coshincozor)

            @topazo I am really humbled by your response. i was expecting a blazing row.

  15. Zikora (@Zikora)

    Found myself laughing with this one @kaycee. I agree mostly with you this time but there is one or two things I would argue about but will not go into it.

    I saw your NS update and it made me laugh too. I dread the day you will read my post and future posts!

    Good lecture though, I enjoyed it.

    1. @zikora, let’s have this arguement. Perhaps we can learn somethings from it.

  16. Can you imagine this people! @coshincozor and @topazo, you guys are so boring. What is wrong with a blazing row? I was licking my lips in expectation of the blazing row between you two only to start seeing “lol” and “humble”. What nonsense! You guys did not hear that violence is a cleansing force?
    Nice people are boring.
    Anyway, @topazo I agree that most of your comments encourage mediocrity even though you have the best intent. You don’t always have to be nice to a rubbish work. Say it as it is. Do not give people false confidence in their work. If you don’t tell them the truth now when they go out their and publish the world will tear them apart.
    But then again it is not always the best to be harsh on a learner, you might just scare them off.
    What I do sometimes is to weigh the other comments on the post, and play the good cop/ bad cop routine. If I find that some one is being hanged for a bad post then I will naturally encourage the person by noting sparks of brilliance in the post. If I find that a mediocre post is getting all nice comments then I will shock the writer back to reality.
    I don’t always follow this routins sha. Nobody is paying me to be their editor, sometimes I just want to read something well written. We owe ourselves the truth, bitter or sweet.

    1. @kaycee lol! @topazo and @coshincozor are perfect gentlemen and won’t give you the satisfaction of a blazing row…
      Thanks for your candid view about my comments. Iv learnt something new today, tnks to u. Where have u been all ds while?!
      I really wish there would be mentorship for new writers by the older ones… I personally need a writing mentor, and nt a dead one…

      1. @topazo, I have been really busy doing NGO kind of things. But I am back, maybe. Its sad that all my friends have gone silent, there is nobody to make trouble with anymore.

        1. @kaycee welcome back. Glad to have u back fully. I think there will be plenty of people for you to make trouble with… Just start… Lol

  17. Thank you Kaycee. This was very timely.

  18. Zikora (@Zikora)

    Wow! I marvel @ how men, real men resolve issues…..they fight without giving up easily, they fight with fire, vigor and strength yet in all the raucous…..they are able to acknowledge each others strengths and failures, and RESPECT it @topazo @coshincozor and @kaycee.

    No grammar can speak my admiration of how u handled your sides yet able to maintain your dignity without a blazing row like @coshincozor expected. I am trying to imagine same scenario with females or lesser men. @topazo….respect.

    I must mention how cool it is that you guys reference each other, especially the way @francis did his…..am so making use of that list!

    Personally, I like constructive criticism…..Not condemnation. So its up to a critic how he tailors his words….and up to to the writer how to accept and handle the criticism. But of course there are consequences for both about how they dispense their responses.

    1. Actually, I expected and anticipated a blazing row, not @coshincozor.
      The men, denied me that pleasure. But my time will come!

  19. You have a great sense of humour.It is a nice lesson on character development.

  20. where have I been all the while……….. this is a beautiful write

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