How do you tell a story?
I don’t think there are steps to accomplish this. If there are steps, they may not include waiting in a café with ice cream or yoghurt or with nothing bought; or listening to wind-rushing by a creek in urban Accra (West Legon precisely); or in thinking like a friend, more as a daughter of mine – who is more masculine than she hopes to be. It can’t be all those; I have done them already. But do I have a story? Not quite. How do you tell a story: in tears, after breakfast, at dawn-watching, while gossiping with boys about girls, in a heated discussion of poetry, in nostalgia? I guess we all have our muses, not all of which suit every moment. I do remember that I did tell a story once while imagining my dormitory friends fighting and the other while hoping the soliloquy of a young beggar child did occur. How do I tell a story…I can’t account for that; not as much as I wish I could.
How does a story touch a heart?
Does it? A bound fate at times, stories prick the heart but only because they have become alive. A story plays tricks, infects our hearts – our lives – without a remedy. And to think stories come in ways we can’t brag to own wholly: in letters, in sounds, in memories, in unmeasured wits, in thoughts; stories touch the heart in ways the heart is willing to understand. A story of sight and colours may not fit well with the blind or one of life may not be fitting to the dead. I may not even fancy a story of mixed feelings, sexually. But pardon me, that is just a buoyantly rude and crude thought of mine. Do I apologize for being myself… I regret that. No I don’t!
How does it become a heart of its own?
Stories live, beat like animals do; only not always ready to devour as would be appropriate with nature; but they are beings, sown in the fabrics of society. Some stories become society and wrap the mind of those who pay attention to them (let’s not just call them readers). A story could speak in ways even the story teller may not and isn’t the story from the storyteller, you ask? Does the story share the same fate as the story teller? Sometimes questions are the answers to other questions. This one is sure: a story could become a heart of its own, its own culture, its own future, a story could live…however to what import? One may never know because one cannot fully gamble on the uncertainties or the certainties of where stories take themselves to.
How is a story ready (willing) to be told?
This is simple: simply, by a coup of the heart. Non-violent maybe, but a coup is a coup. The story invades the soul of the fingers by the mind’s impulse urging to be written; waiting to the read. A story is willing when it is: when it shouts loud enough; when it is worthy of itself. Like the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa or the denial of the other parts of (let me not say). A story is filled with hope, like a star waiting to explode into becoming other stars. A story is birthed from filth a times; like when the tongue tastes the sting of a rotten tooth. So a story is made a story when it wishes to; but it wishes to when it pleases and it pleases the course of human continuity.
How can we be convicted of the stories we tell?
By believing in them. Some argue it must be done before it is in black; their ideal is based on the actual reality of a story, of it coming to life, of it speaking, of its connotation that live beyond the writer, that travel beyond its context. We can be convicted by stories only when they spell the right, the truth, the acceptable, and the useful. A story convicts only when it is not a lie, the lie. This is how a story convicts us as though we were inmates. Stories are actually wardens which remind that the present is not where we come from, we come from the future only that we call it the past. Is the past the future: only a story would answer that controversy.
How are we convicted to tell?
We are convicted by the story through the need of it. Sadly, the story provides its own need…err the need provides the story too. It’s a symbiosis here. Either way, we become convinced that our urge to fulfil the higher course is what gives us the conviction to tell whatever story is ours to tell or is of age to be told.
How does a story tell of its curator?
The story comes from the curator; sometimes the curator is the story but is the story its curator? Sometimes it may. There is hardly a void between them both – curator and story – but the story is self-serving to the curator, better placed, the curator derives the high pleasure the story gives upon its birth. If the story then posits a moral stand, the curator hopes to be moral or is moral, if the story is, the curator is also – we should not readily detach the story from the curator; humans don’t always have that pleasure of “not representing themselves.”
Who owns a story?
As difficult as this may seem, the mind owns the story. Surprisingly, the reader as well as the context of the story is a shareholder in this stock. In summary, the story owns itself and may sometimes not be a slave to any entity but itself and its essence.
How does a story become the story?
It becomes a thought first, or an external experience (one of these comes first, for now, I am not sure which) then it steals the attention of the curator until it has been recorded. The best stories are orally passed and the others, well, they are stories. It could be poetry; stories don’t have a particular limiting genre. I think this is what people make as an initial mistake. A story could be a word left to be filled by another. For instance:
But a story becomes because it has to be. A story can only be because there is a motif and one without a motif isn’t at all. Without pun: a story becomes a story as it must. This is a little confusing but my good friend, Victoria, describes it as “how the brain plays its game”
What is a story and what is the secret of writing one?
A story is so much and if it were defined, it would lose its meaning and for a secret, the secret of writing is a secret even the writer would unwilling not wield.
From West Legon, Accra, Ghana
Olatunde Obafemi is a writer from Ondo State, Nigeria living in West Legon. He is a student of English Studies at Babcock University and author of The Diary of a Dormitory War: The Gender Contrast (2012) and Silver Palm Frond (2014). When he is not writing, he is a stage performer.