My #WAWFM Experience: "Beware of warning signs" - Words Are Work
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My #WAWFM Experience: “Beware of warning signs”

October 3, 2016
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By Oyindamola Williams

 

The first thing I saw was the sign printed in bold fonts on the door –

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I chuckled and wondered fleetingly if I should take their warning seriously. I pushed the door open tentatively and that was when I saw it.

White.

She was smiling so much that I immediately felt my lips yield in a smile of my own. And all of a sudden, the phrase “she lights up the room with her smile”, didn’t sound so cliché anymore. I could feel my muscles relax and anticipation building in me.

“Hello! Welcome,” said smiling-lady-at-the-desk. She welcomed me, handing me some materials I would be needing for the Fiction masterclass. It consisted of a booklet, notepad, pen, bookmark and a name tag.

I later found her name was Febisola.

 

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I couldn’t catch her smile, but it was a lot whiter than these … 🙂

 

The room was organized in conference-style with a digital screen in front. Five minutes later and I had found the perfect spot after switching places twice because I didn’t want my hair blown around by the fan. Some of the participants were already seated. I nodded and muttered a greeting at those close by. While I waited, a man walked up to greet me.

“Hi, welcome. What’s your name?”

“Hello, I’m Oyindamola.”

“You’re welcome, Oyindamola. I’m Suyi Davies. Hope it wasn’t too difficult getting here?” I immediately recognized his name. He was The Suyi. I thought it was really thoughtful that he took out the time to know our names. Later, Chisom Ojukwu also came by to introduce himself. We hadn’t even begun and I was feeling the warmth in the air already.

And somehow, this came as a surprise. I didn’t expect them to be so friendly after the mail they sent me had said; “We are very strict about timing. Doors to the event will close at 10.30am”. For some reason I had imagined them stern looking, wagging their fingers at us as we banged the doors and pleaded to be allowed in.

I digress.

While we waited, mobiles provided the perfect distraction as all except two of the participants said nothing to each other. This is what you get when you put more than two introverts in the same room, I thought.

“Alright, welcome everyone,” Suyi said as we began. He proceeded to do an introduction, giving us a feel of what we should expect – teaching sessions, questions, discussions, booth sessions, games, breaks and the works.

“We are going to play a game called ‘Find your half’,“ he said (those weren’t his exact words. I wasn’t writing down all the conversations; that would’ve been weird…even for me), “and in this game, you are not allowed to say ‘no’. You’ll pick a name and try to find your other half. Your half will be with someone in this room who will be your partner throughout today and you are expected to find them without saying the word ‘no’. Whoever you get to say ‘no’ will have to give you their tag and at the end of the day, the person with the highest number of tags wins a gift from Roving heights,” he finished and paused for effect with a very pleased smile while excited murmurs rose in the room.

This should be fun, I thought.

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Find your half

A basket went round and we each picked a thin strip of folded paper. I unfolded mine, saw ‘Stephen’ printed on it and immediately knew I was looking for ‘King’. For the next fifteen-plus minutes, we walked around the room, talking to people as we tried to find our other pair without saying ‘no’. And it was during this period I got to meet some of the participants and found they weren’t as unfriendly as I thought.

The first session was about to start and Suyi had to stop the game saying, “You can continue with it – during the breaks.” Luckily, I had already found my pair; Sunday, who was a poet.

Suyi began by asking us, “Why do you write fiction?” I thought about this for a while but said nothing. We were all silent. He smiled, picked a paper from a container beside him and read;

“Zemaye.”

The slim lady with a pretty smile spoke up, “Well, I want to write fiction because I think stories are everywhere and…” I picked that and forgot every other thing she said.

Stories are everywhere.

Suyi started to talk about character, saying that; “Character is the life of a story. It is what drives the story.”

As the hours unfolded, I began to see fiction differently. It was fresh. It was liberating. I was not a truck pusher anymore – pushing my story to a ‘perfect’ ending with all the brawn I could muster. I was the little girl letting go of my kite and watching the wind toss it this way and that. I was the artist who merely created the character, the story for the reader and was not entirely responsible for the outcome or what the reader felt about it because hey, characters are real humans living real lives.

And humans are imperfect and real life is full of uncertainties.

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Suyi’s session: How to build an ‘iceberg’

 

So, I came to terms with my duty as a writer; and it was to make my characters as human as possible, people with flesh in flesh, breathing and jumping out of the pages with all the emotions and social dimensions as humans. People with unique traits, desires, flaws and motivations. People ‘larger than life’.

We read excerpts of books by different authors and tried to point out the ways the writers portrayed their characters based on what we had learned. We watched a clip of Inkheart and saw how a story could come to life, literally.

It all made sense.

Concluding, Suyi gave us an exercise to write a short piece using the dimensions of character we had learned. We would later have a ‘booth’ session for reading and critiquing selected pieces.

We then went on a break for brunch. Coffee/Tea was served with biscuits and conversations while we feasted our eyes on books by Roving Heights. I dumped heaps of ground coffee, milk and sugar in a cup, wincing when I tasted the bitter liquid. I learnt then that you don’t dump so much coffee in a small cup.

Because coffee is bitter. Obviously.

 

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Tea, biscuits and beautiful people


Chisom was up after the break. His session was laden with laughter and profundity. He talked about ‘showing and telling’ as methods of revealing character and how there were no rules set in stone for using any. I liked that about the whole teaching; enlightening without prescribing, seeing different sides of the same coin and appreciating both. I remembered I had listened to someone dish some writing advice some time ago saying, “show, don’t tell” and I realize now how that’s a bit ridiculous.

There are no hard-and-fast rules to writing.

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Chisom’s session: Show, don’t (just) tell

We watched a video, had a debate (typical Nigerian Secondary School style) with each group attempting to ‘convince and not to confuse’ the listeners. Eventually we all agreed both showing and telling were worthy in their own rights, even though showing evoked a more intimate reader connection. Then we examined different methods of revealing characters by showing: Action, Dialogue, Thought and Physical Mannerisms. We did exercises again and had ‘booth’ sessions of complementing and critiquing stories.

As time wore on, I could feel everyone unfurling very quickly, like a flower opening up to the sun. We laughed, we asked questions, we made daring, genius suggestions and the facilitators listened. That was something about them that got me.

They listened.

Sometimes, someone would say or write something and I would mentally roll my eyes or I myself would say or write something that sounded stupid even to my own ears, but they never discarded anyone’s idea or question as being absurd. They listened.

Everyone had a place. Everyone was seen.

So, when we drew the curtains that evening, I felt like I had found a tribe. Kin spirits. Weirdos like me who had the capacity to bring imagination to life. And beyond the chit-chat, banter and mandatory selfies that were to follow, I knew these humans had affected me in a way I would not forget. They were like intriguing characters – the zesty, the adventurous, the chemical, the sagacious – that had graced the pages of my life and for that I am grateful to God; that I was a part of history.

 

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the adventurous, the sagacious …

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the chemical …

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the zesty …

 

And so, when I asked; “When is the next Master class?” everyone laughed and I knew I had spoken their minds. We were all better for it and couldn’t wait for the next edition.

I should have taken their warning seriously.

 

 


WAW commentary

Hey maama, we made it! 🙂

By every standard that counts, it was a successful outing at the premier edition of the WAW Fiction Masterclass, held on Friday, September 23, 2016.

This is sending packets of gratitude, warmth and ‘panda dabs’ to Safurat and all the schöne Leute at Goethe-Institut; Tobi and the book angels at Roving Heights; the glittering management team at Sparkle Writers’ Hub; and the word-lovers at Medina Book Club, Lagos. Love and blessings to our families, friends and all you WAW souls who helped with retweets, Likes, Shares, profile photos, interviews and the works. You made #WAWFM.

Heartfelt thanks to all who attended the masterclass–Oyin, Caleb, Amaka, Zemaye, Deborah, Chinonye, Kayode, Sunday, Damilare, Solomon, David, Jesuseun, Sola, James, Torinmo, Tope, Abel, Obehi, Dorcas who zoomed in from Ife and Neo who even though she was in Botswana, would not be left out. You are now WAWFM alumni, and you make us so proud. 

Some of you would have loved to, but could not attend either because of location (our friends in Abuja, Calabar, Ghana and Zimbabwe) or because of the selection process for our required number of participants. Rest assured that we have you in mind and again, bigger things are coming.

This masterclass was just the first in the series for ‘Fiction’. By next year, the WAW team will be rolling out follow-up sessions, each better than the last and all with your good in mind.

So beware, ye who enter; you might just become a better writer.

 

P.S: By now, you KNOW to take our warnings seriously 😉

 

Signed,

waw-team

The WAW team

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply john_onah October 6, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Nice one, bitting my index finger for missing out on this one…. sure will love to participate in the next.
    Kudos!!!

    • Reply Chisom October 6, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      We shall love to have you. Just stay tuned, better is coming.

  • Reply Journey so far: October 2016 – Suyi Davies Okungbowa October 12, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    […] out to be a huge success, so huge that a couple of the participants felt compelled to gush about it here, here and […]

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