Four Small Boys.
He stirs the wok of his fiction so assiduously, it has the tang of truth

Writers at the height of their powers are no longer learners. They should aspire to write only real stories. A real story makes the writer a learner again, each well-written tale teaches him something, makes him wonder how he wrote it, where it came from. Writing a real story is like riding a tiger. Or a mad bull. Or something. No sane person mounts tigers or mad bulls. Writers do. When you mount one such you must stay on for the course, until it is completely mastered. Get off halfway and it mauls you, or gores you, or something. A half-written tale that does not haunt a writer is no real tale. If it does not consume every idle hour, if it does not go, write me! write me! it is make-work. If it is forgotten as soon as it is abandoned, it was pap all along, food for babies, practice for learners.

A Real Story sinks her talons into her writer and does not let him go. She throws a lariat around his neck and hauls him in. The writer loses weight, groans in his sleep… and stays the course. He stirs the wok of his fiction so assiduously, it has the tang of truth. He writes his blood into the pages, braids his spirit into the characters. He lends heart, sprinkles tears, strains guts… a Real Story is full of holes that can only be filled with broken pieces of the writer’s life. Or bleeding tracts of his imagination. Or purloined gems from the treasury of his life. A Real Story makes a hermit of a writer, offending his friends and sentencing him to the term of imprisonment that it takes to write her. She costs him money, free beers, nights out… But when the tale is done, she comes alive. She lies word-perfect on the desk, trembling with gratitude. Her beauty betrays no sign of the blood and sweat that went into her creation. She is pitch-perfect to the ear, and she sinks into the hearts of her readers with the ease of truth. The Real Story reads as miraculously as the physiognomy of aquarium fish that you can watch forever. Yet, to work that miracle, the exhausted writer at the height of his powers will have seen the gates of Heaven or of Hell and he will swear, never again.

Until the next real story comes along.


The Ghost of Sani Abacha, Kindle Version
Diaries of a Dead African, Kindle Version


7 Replies to “How to Write Real Stories.”

  1. Oghenero Ezaza says:

    Great write-up. Got to start to start my first real story. Sincerely

  2. Gab Agema says:

    How long will it take to reach such a level…I wonder.

  3. rastafather says:

    Hey my boro…good to talk again…
    You may very well have a point re “Writer at the height of their powers are no longer learners” but what are “real stories” who decides a what real story are? The write or the reader?

    I can only imagine what the writer have to undergo and forgo to bring light into an otherwise dark world (currently if nothing else)where cash take the pain out of any remorse the writer may feel – they are able to sit comfortably in oblivion while cash take the place of real stories and the hack lives on belly filled with pork pies and sin

    No matter my boro courage! stand hard its all in a life time – respect always Rastafather1

    1. Chuma Nwokolo says:

      Cash is good too, my brother. Even the writers of real stories need toner for their printers! 😉

      But you asked who decides what a ‘real story’ is. I guess the real story is a conspiracy between Writer and Tale, that is validated by the Reader, even though that Reader may come along after the writer is dead and buried!

  4. Rsatafather says:

    I agree my boro $$ necessary – but only in the short term – life being so v short!
    Self-satisfaction, validation [or not…]are all- in the end!

    The “conspiracy between Writer and Tale” has to meet the reader where they are in time and space…so to my mind tell it well…because as you suggests writings comes without a sell by date….Respect always my boro – Rastafather


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