… Writers Must Learn To Manipulate Language For Effective Storytelling
While he has been peppered with inquiries of “how it feels to win a $100, 000” or “What he will do with the money,” writer and winner of the 2018 NLNG Prize for Literature, Soji Cole, has barely been asked about the journey prize, and the last moments of the award, which he has described as “a tedious journey filled with expectation, tension and anxiety.”
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Newspaper, Books & Art, Cole says while he felt he had made a strong submission, coupled with positive response from his intimates who have read the Embers, the inaccessibility and uncertainty of his competitors caused him some anxiety and fear on the award day.
“It was a tedious journey that heightened to tension, with the publication of the longlist, and to anxiety, when the shortlist was released, to fear on the day of the award.” This is in spite of his bolstering thought that with the shortlist, first prize or not, he is already a winner.
Expanding on his writing process, Cole attributes some part of Embers success to the authentication of varied source materials. While admitting to delegating research for Embers, he stresses the authentication of source materials is required before writing.
He, however, advised that to write universal stories, reality or fantastical based, writers must be connected to the realities of their societies, or existence, in addition to a firm grasp of their working language.
“No writer has the mandate to writing. You write the way you choose. Salman Rushdie writes fantasies, and most of his works are disconnected from reality; but he connects the reality to his fantasies.”
Cole’s style leans towards the satiric, a reflection, commentary on the society he lives in. This is seen in Embers – which reflects the corrupt realities of life within an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps with the reality of the general Nigerian society.
For writers unkeen in realistic writing, the focus, he says should be on the firm grasp and manipulation of language for effective storytelling.
“Writers should learn the crux and standard of manipulating language. It helps a lot if one has a grasp of the indigenous language and so it helps them translate clearly from indigenous to a second language. However, it doesn’t undermine communication process for those who don’t, because you often find writers without a grasp of their local language, living abroad, often reflect their diaspora nature successfully. It is neither here nor there if you understand your local language that’s good. If not, make extra effort to understand the language you write in,” he avers.
Cole finally addressed inquiries of life after the NLNG prize, and the need for artistes’ education on wealth management, particularly sudden wealth. He doesn’t picture himself making major changes in his lifestyle, with the exception of budding ideas in education and humanitarian actions.
“I am not planning on constructing a building or getting a car. I have always been one for modest living, once I have a house with enough room to sleep in. It is not that I lack taste, rather it is a matter of comfort and consistency,” the author clarifies.
Cole began writing during his junior secondary school days, continuing onto his senior secondary level. While he is not about to show those block building writings to the public, he affirms they were proof of his progress. Cole has several published short stories to his name, and two plays – Maybe Tomorrow, which won the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Award, and Embers, winner of the 2018 NLNG Prize for Literature.