PORTRAIT OF LOVE AS AN ARSONIST
by Oluwatosin Babatunde-Olotu
by Oluwatosin Babatunde-Olotu
by Samuel Osho
To achieve homogeneity of creative voices, a theme is selected to drive the focus of an issue. It’s like a furnace of artistic embers cooking a meal spiced with all sorts of literary condiments. The overarching idea of a literary work is simply its theme. It is the author’s perspective on a subject and intentionally foisted on readers via the evolution of characters, the twisting of plots, realistic dialogue, and neatly woven literary devices.
Interestingly, readers are the judges. Readers are responsible for interpreting the theme of a literary work. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, a literary work’s theme is deciphered through objective lenses, an interpretation that is void of judgments, discrimination, and prejudice.
If you are submitting an entry for an issue, how do you align your content with the theme? And what are the editors looking for?
Compelling stories all share the same traits – they spark curiosity and evoke emotions in the readers. A writer that knows how to move his readers will never be out of business. Words void of emotions will never touch the hearts of readers. But more than harnessing the power of emotions, a writer must find a way to reveal the theme of his work through the feelings of the main character about the main subject. In other words, the writer’s opinion is unravelled subtly through the rumble of feelings and emotional drama of the story’s main character. That’s a way of unpacking and thrusting a theme on an audience.
Furthermore, readers who share similar views with the writer can relate to the emotional struggles or victories of the main character. It’s like inserting a key in the keyhole of a giant door, there is a connection and then an opening for further exploration. Another advantage of emotion is the broad spectrum of its capabilities – comedy to tragedy, rejection to approval, condemnation to praise, guilt to innocence. This shows that writers don’t always have to be the devil’s advocate but have the freedom to see the bright side of things. The way you do this is being deliberate about the evolution of your character’s emotion.
For poets, you tinker with emotions by choosing the appropriate literary devices to convey your opinion.
Dialogue is an exciting tool in the hands of a writer to repeatedly solidify an idea or communicate a stance that eventually morphs into the theme. Through realistic conversations, you can unravel riveting discussions about polarizing issues. It can be used to convey the opinion of the writer vividly.
Based on best practices, a theme should be in the driving seat and dictate the form and content of dialogue that ensues between characters. Conversation unveils the thoughts, beliefs, and ideologies of characters in a story. As the story evolves, the theme takes shape and becomes the significant fibre that binds everything together. The characters are free to pitch a tent anywhere – conservativism, liberalism, and centrist. But of course, the writer has the final say – they are the metaphorical potter with the freedom to mould clay into any shape or form. Check out Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (A Book on Writing) to improve your storytelling skills and most importantly learning how to construct engaging dialogues.
Clichés deserve the attention of no one. When creating content for submissions, pitch your tent far away from hackneyed phrases. You lose readers when you dwell on what they already know; the same is true for editors. Often, inspiring pieces are void of banality but are doorways into new ravines of insights. Can you offer a unique perspective on an age-long subject?
Creative writers know the aesthetic value of injecting novelty in their works and are aware of the mind-numbing vulnerability that comes with it. It takes courage to present literary pieces in an unusual form, but that might be all you need to get the attention of the editor. A creative writer is never afraid to swim in uncharted waters or seek refuge in controversial climes. The works of daring writers jump from pages of text into the editor’s mind, sit in their subconscious and never leave.
Offering Value to the Readers
Literary organizations are in the business of content creation and distribution; they have customers craving for value-adding products and services. What’s the value proposition of your piece? What value does this piece add to a reader that is interested in the theme of the issue? What will readers curious about this theme want at a time like this?
The editor’s lens probes an entry and painstakingly establishes the quality of value it will add to the issue. This value can come in various forms: inspirational, educational, entertaining, and provocative. Several factors come into play here – from the editor’s bias to the type of readership that the magazine caters to.
Samuel Osho is an award-winning writer, a public speaker, and a professional mechanical engineer. You can find some of his works on TheCable, Sahara Reporters, YNaija, ScoopNG, The Manitoban, WRRNG amongst many others. Asides writing, his creative side expresses itself via photography and website designs.
Osho has a personal blog where he frequently shares his thoughts on writing, life, creative work, and personal development. Find him on social media via @iamsamosho.
by Chantelle Makenwa Chiwetalu
She wonders how the conductor will look dead. Bruised, battered eyes the size of coconuts. No, eye. She has never seen anyone with two swollen eyes. As she gets on the bus, she wonders what will happen if the passengers gang up on him. Will he laugh stupidly? What words will he say? How many blows before his heart gives out? She has just read Copacabana. Petina Gappah is a genius, really.
At Mkpokiti, a yellow man in a green shirt and blue shorts gets in. His toes are pretty. She discreetly moves her right leg so she can see them better. There is perfection in every line, every curve. His nails are pink crescents topped with white. She stares at hers. Unremarkable. Dark. In need of a pedicure. She detects a curious smell about him, and realises it is his hair gel. It smells like a mixture of sulphur ointment and vanilla. They struggle against each other; sometimes, the sweet clarity of vanilla wins and sometimes the rotten-egg pungency of sulphur dominates with a vengeance. She imagines both in a Coldstone cup, the biggest size, cream and white with sprinkles of wavy brown hair. She imagines her annoying roommate eating it, smacking her lips.
The man gets down at Okpara Square. There is a small garden outside Enugu State House of Assembly. On a bench, bold and white is written, ‘don’t enter our flower.’ She wonders, as she has several times, who wrote this, and if no literate person who works at the House has seen it. It is probably the gardeners. She imagines them clustered approvingly as one of them, armed with purpose, dips a brush in white paint and begins to write a lopsided D.
They are at a red light. She stares outside. The driver of the car on the left looks imperilled by his seatbelt. It divides his overgrown taut-drum belly in half. The vest he’s wearing says Fitness for Days. He reaches under to scratch his crotch and then leans towards the glove box to retrieve a corn cob. She looks away.
They arrive New Market at 6:18pm. When she hands the conductor a 100 naira note, he sniffs and asks where she boarded the bus. ‘UNEC,’ she says. He makes to give her a 20 naira note but pauses and says, ‘UNEC? You don’t have change.’ She gives him one last look after she alights, imagines a tyre around his neck. She crosses to the other side of the road and takes a bus going back to UNEC. She does this all the time, takes the round-and-round-Enugu bus route to free her head and kill time. Her phone buzzes. A message from Nnamdi:
Babes, was looking at my table today and realised how we cud put it to gud use. I can almost hear you—
‘Just negodu this idiot!’ The driver exclaims. He is talking about a driver who has recklessly overtaken him. He hisses. The conductor lets out a stream of invectives. He is short and slight, this one. A tire would slip right down his shoulders to land at his feet.
Twenty minutes later, she is at UNEC gate. Near Chapel of Redemption, a car pulls up and the driver winds down. He asks where she is going and she says ‘don’t worry, have a nice evening sir.’ He mutters something about girls that are faster than their shadows. When she continues walking, he tells her that her behind is the size of a saucer. She bursts into laughter, quickening her footsteps.
The Prayer Secretary welcomes her with a smile when she gets to Freedom Square, asks her how her day went. She says fine. He says good, please lead us in the opening prayer. She stops, only for a moment, and then she smiles and says okay and smiles again. She picks her words carefully: appreciation and magnification, the plea for forgiveness, requests. Amen.
When the vice president raises the prayer point, ‘anything that is hindering my service to God this year, scatter by fire,’ she imagines Nnamdi splattering apart, his body parts plopping upon one another: kidney on lung, small intestines a ropey bed for his heart, ribs broken like tiny ivory tusks swimming in his stomach’s remains. She imagines his thumbs, his dirty, dirty thumbs that type dirty, dirty things, landing on the earth, their pads up in eerie approval.
by ‘Gbenga Adeoba
(After Kechi Nomu’s Your Old Bones are Seeking Wooden Crosses)
At the waterside in Boyo, the
rituals of movement intensify at dusk.
The pull of tides reinvents the shore
into a space for things intimate and lost.
You could find trinket boxes or a girl’s
plastic doll in that rubble. Baby shoes, too.
The tiny things are heavier—even songbirds.
I am thinking these tunes being telegraphed
into the dark, fretting the waters,
are a tribute to the lives of drowned men.
I sit by the water, knowing how
sounds could alter the shape of an expanse.
The boys who walk the boundaries now,
in search of collectibles, bear on their bodies
a history threaded to this river.
One wades inward: water around his body;
water, a different texture, in his eyes.
He pulls two of his friends along,
past the quay where the barges
and their fathers’ canoes used to lay.
Here is water, he says.
Here is memory shifting in its form,
bearing things heavy and lost. My father
and yours, here now and gone like the tides.
by Jide Badmus
On the surface you are weak &
Your smiles are a broken stream
But nightmares could not break your sleep.
You hang your fears
Like jackets in closets
& bury sullen memories
In unmarked graves.
You carry your flaws like a flag,
Showing off scars, like medals.
You wear the seasons—
Face of haze, beards of rain—
& bear tales of sprouting shoots, fallen leaves…
You are chronicles of wailing winds,
Diary of grieving waterfalls—
A chameleon of time.