Day one of the Professional Training workshop for Creative Writers gathered participants from various walks of life; from practising writers to a few that are just starting out. The one common strand between all of them was that they felt the call to write and to add quality or improve on their existing works-in-progress. Waldah Namugenyi, a student of Kyambogo University was excited to be in the same room as Prof Okey Ndibe, the workshop leader, telling a person seated next to her how eager she was to learn from him.
Prof.Ndibe is a consummate storyteller. The day started with him recounting what he called his “Okey story”. A story that is about mistaken identity and his name, Okey. How he became a writer/novelist is another story. He says he became a writer by telling a lie. John Edger Wideman, an American author of novels, memoirs, short stories, essays, and other works: and among the most critically acclaimed American writer of his generation, asked Prof.Ndibe if he was writing a novel and he said yes, without having written a single word. He had to start writing.
The key word of the day was Verisimilitude /ˌvɛrɪsɪˈmɪlɪtjuːd/noun which is the appearance of being true or real.
Good fiction gives a reader a sense of verisimilitude. It makes what isn’t real feel like it is right within reach. It makes the characters, the smells, the sights and the sounds as vivid as possible.
Why is Fiction Important?
The first session on why fiction is important pointed out the need for reading. To be a writer, one has to have a passion for reading. Writing is an art of seduction. The reader is seduced by the words of the writer.
Prof.Ndibe then shared his own journey with reading. He is a voracious reader and he mentioned how his life was changed when he first read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Chinua Achebe’s book is fictitious. The character of Okonkwo does not exist, however, the way that Achebe wrote it, it made it seem like he did. Verisimilitude. The story has facts of history, as history gives us data, but fiction humanises the story. Fiction gives an account of the human cost of a particular event.
Beyond the pleasure of reading, there is an awakening in the reader. A reader is seduced by the world, the sights and the sounds that are created by the author. Fiction actually illuminates certain truths about life.
Experience VS Imagination. Where does the Writer`s Material Come from?
The second session touched on where a writer gets his/her inspiration. In this session, Prof. Ndibe spoke about how his book, Arrows of Rain first published in 2000 by Heinemann under their African Writers Series, came together and where he drew his inspiration from.
One of the characters included in the book was a prostitute that was raped and murdered.As a journalist, Prof.Ndibe asked his editor if he,Okey,could do a story on prostitutes. Okey, had some preconceived notions about prostitutes. In his mind, they just appeared at night and went about their business. He, however, met and interviewed one that was as real as his sister. She had hopes and dreams. She humanised prostitutes, and that was how Okey ended up including a ‘lady of the night’ in Arrows of Rain.
Prof.Ndibe also spoke about how his novel is more than just about what the characters go through, it is about what silence can do to the person, and how silence affects a lot of people, having seen that in his life.
The human life is a store full of stories and we get our inspiration from all around us.