Sheer relief… it is over!
Like in everything else, when I end a story—whether free-read or for publishing—I am relieved it is over. I am not just relieved, but also glad.
I’ve put a “The End” to the final chapter of HOTH and I’ve been reading comments from everyone who cares to make one. And whilst reading comments, I have ‘inadequately’ come to feel something of what God must feel when we humans blame Him for what is meant to be. It is not exactly fun reading a whole lot of “TM, why now?” Lol.
Now, I got to confess that I am too thick-skinned and too headstrong to give a sh*t about such comments most of the time. But one of them got me on Friday… and it was the one from Jojodia. It actually broke my heart—like the episode finale of HOTH did hers.
But does it make me regret the end that must be? Heck no! I am a writer and I must remain true to my storyline. I can change it… but only if the story permits a change; not because readers wish it so.
Now, let’s talk Writing HOTH.
Why I’m doing this?
As I was writing House on the Hill, I thought it would be fun, or nice, to tell you folks how it came to be. And also to begin a telling of the writing process of many of the stories you guys read from me. I feel like a little tale on the process of it would give you guys hindsight into what it’s like writing a story… from TM’s perspective.
So here I am presenting to you—The Writing of HOTH.
Hey, acronyms… how come?
Let’s begin with “HOTH”. That acronym… how did we even come to be using acronyms here?
Anyone recall when we started using acronyms in place of full titles to address stories we’re reading?
That would be during our days on Nairaland and I do believe during the writing of Operation Stop The Wedding! Or maybe it was during the final chapters of Un-Break My Heart? Not quite certain anymore. But it was in those 2014 days when I still put my stories up on Nairaland. I found that stating the full title each time I wanted to make reference to them was just too much of a “handful”… as against “mouthful” when speaking. Lol.
Anyway, acronyms have come to stay with me… and with us.
The beginning of HOTH.
When I announced HOTH, we had just finished reading Sweet Forbidden and it was a moment I was totally disgusted with love stories. Yeah, I get disgusted with a certain genre sometimes. I think that is why I may never be able to stick to writing just one genre. Even at the young age of 13 when I started writing, I soon quickly missed things up. Variety is the spice of my life jor… lol.
Anyway, I was bored stiff with love and Romance, and maybe one day when I talk about writing SF, I would tell you why that was. But I wanted something different and so I thought up this Mystery storyline and I announced it. In my announcement delivered in my pidgin rendition before I travelled home, I made it clear that I was tired of “loff, loff, loff”… so imagine my surprise when we began the reading of HOTH and everyone started talking “Beauty and the Beast” love story.
The HOTH storyline.
Now HOTH came from a combination of two true-life events I’d read/heard about during my teen days. One of the events happened whilst my family and I were still resident in Benin City, Edo State, and it was during the period when “Prime People” a very popular magazine then was still functioning. My mother bought this weekly mag (I do think it was weekly) and they usually contained these types of mysterious stories, sometimes even outlandish. In one of the editions there was a story of a woman coming back from the farm with her husband and then meeting a strangely disfigured man who begged her for food and she wouldn’t give to him.
Now this woman was said to be very stingy and hard-hearted and despite the appearance of the man and the fact that when she walked a few distance, she met him again right ahead of her… and she’d left him behind oh. So this woman, pregnant with a child, wouldn’t show kindness to this disfigured man and so the man cursed her. But she ignored him of course.
A big mistake for months later, or maybe it was weeks later, she gave birth, and it turned out to be a replica of this very man she’d met on her way back from the farm—a hideously disfigured baby.
The second story was one of a friend of my mother’s who’d spent over 15 years with her husband without having a child. I’d like to state here that she wasn’t the one responsible for their condition of infertility, her husband was. I choose to state it because here in Africa, it’s always the woman at fault never the man—that’s the belief.
So they’d spent more than 15 years together without a child and this man was kind of blaming her. Ad unable to bear it any longer she took her problem to a new-found “church”, got prayed for, and got pregnant. Unfortunately once pregnant, her husband sent her away, claiming the child could not be his. He was right, as he was sterile. But this woman was “mysteriously” pregnant and she kept her baby… that is expected of course.
But what wasn’t expected was when she put to bed and the child turned out to be this “hideous” creature. Looking human and yet somewhat inhuman. Now, my mother never saw this baby, but another friend of hers saw and gave some outrageous description that scared the hell out of us all… including my mother.
So with these two stories coming to mind, I started my first storyline construction of HOTH. But upon arriving home, I, for the very first time in my life, discussed my storyline with my mother and my nieces were present during this discussion. And to my greatest shock, my dear mother (whom we all call Nnem) had the amazing talent of plotting stories. I shouldn’t have been too surprised since she wrote short stories (unpublished) as a child.
Anyway, she came up some of the scenes used. Like the fact of Ebun being a wood carver—for that would perfectly explain the noises at night I wanted. And also the idea of him giving presents to Moyo and then the manner of his death.
Oh yes, his manner of death was as plotted by dear Nnem.
Now, he was always meant to die because these ‘un-human’ children from those two stories ended up dead. At least, I know for certain that my mother’s friend’s son did die during his childhood. So even from my initial plotting, Ebun was meant to die. But it was my mother who came up with the idea of him falling of a ladder or something and falling to his death.
Then my niece, Marie-Antoinette (also Chekwube or Cheks), came up with a few ideas herself. Like Moyo first knocking on his door and then him going down to knock on Moyo’s door too one night.
But the rest were basically my ideas. His inability to talk in a comprehensible manner. His inability to walk properly. His huge appetite. His deformities… these were my ideas taken from the description of the boy from the Prime People’s story and also from my mother’s friend’s son’s story.
Writing HOTH… initial Phase.
Upon my return, I began the writing of HOTH and I started with the initial aim to make it a combination of Mystery and Horror. That desire for horror inspired the description of the house and the tone used.
But whilst writing, I found I wanted something else for Ebunoluwa and something else for Maje. Initial plot had Maje as a very unfeeling and very distant man. Initial plot, and this part was also from my mother, had that hump on Ebun’s back being a result of Maje trying to kill him because he looked hideous at birth but was stopped by his dying wife who begged him to love him.
Now this trying to strangulate him and he ends up with a curved spine came from a story that was told to my mother by her mother of a relation of my grandmother’s who tried to kill one of his twin children and ended up giving her a hunchback.
So it was something of an original idea but I later chose not to use it.
This is because I decided I wanted you, the readers, to have a compassionate feeling towards Maje. And with this aim, I switched the plot, because it was permissible, and made Maje to be less frightful and to be quite kindly too. I also switched the initial plot of Ebun’s conception being mysterious to one of medical deformities, although in multiple form.
This was easy to do because as I investigated via Google I discovered persons with Hypertrichosis, Pfeiffer syndrome and also Kyphosis and then a bunch of other physically deforming diseases. So it became easier to say that his multiple deformities were some sort of medical conditions.
Writing HOTH… Easy?
Yes and No.
Yes, because it was way easier to write than writing Romance.
Don’t be. I know people believe Romance is easy to write, but it is my experience that selling a believable romantic tale to readers is not always easy. You have to make it believable… and therein lies the difficulty. You have to try to make it somewhat realistic too… another difficulty.
But Mystery is all about uncovering these “hidden facts” and that is much easier. You just keep giving hints until you begin unfolding everything, one after another. And from the moment Moyo, who was my instrument to uncover the mystery of the House on the Hill, started ‘nosing’ about, I began releasing hints. But many of you instead of questioning my hints were more focused on building a love story between Moyo and Maje… *talk about romance-lovers, lol*
Let me take a moment to state here that a Romance story must present the makings of its love story in its first five/six chapters. By the first five/six chapters the hero and heroine must at least be ‘knowingly’ attracted to each other. If you read a story where there is sudden attraction towards the end, either it wasn’t a Romance story, or there is a sequel or you just ran into a bad writer… QED!
So hints were thrown about. And then I realised I also preferred it to have a bit of humour instead of so much horror. So I went with what I might term “witty dialogue” between Moyo and Maje and Moyo and Solomon. Very subtle though, since I wanted the mystery not to be lost and the sense of “fear of the unknown” to remain.
How was it not easy to write?
It took me between five to seven hours to prepare each episode of HOTH.
Yes, that is God’s own truth.
Every Tuesday and Friday, or the day preceding these two days, I spent a minimum of five hours straight writing and editing a HOTH episode. It wasn’t a story I fully plotted each of its chapters before commencing writing. It was one I plotted several chapters as I go—two or three at a time.
And it was a story I allowed the events of the preceding chapter to have effects on the next chapter. That I allowed certain events to be changed or to happen earlier than they should have and that meant certain events had to be dropped and not used.
After my five to seven hours of writing and editing, I will spend another half-hour to full-hour proof-reading my already posted episode and then go back online to correct typographical errors. And so, I spent too many hours writing HOTH and those hours affected my writing of stories for publishing.
HOTH Time/Life Span.
HOTH was written and posted in a space of 9 weeks beginning from the 15th of March 2016 to the 13th of May 2016. And for these 9 weeks, HOTH was unfailingly posted twice weekly. I may have missed a Friday posting, but it always came on the Saturday following that Friday. I never took time off from writing HOTH to focus on my personal to-be-published works; instead I took time off my other writings to focus on HOTH.
I did this because I wanted to be dedicated to my blog story from then onwards and because I couldn’t afford to distance myself from HOTH as I might lose the feeling needed to write it.
And so I was faithful to my weekly schedule and mostly faithful to my storyline. Which was the story of a deformed boy who had to be hidden away by his father because of his multiple deformities and whose life would be touched by this extra-curious and quite fearless young housekeeper.
Now Moyo had to undergo some character tweaking too. I had to add to her the trait of utter wilfulness (stubbornness) because if she wasn’t wilful enough, she wouldn’t have persisted when Maje was trying to terrorize her into backing down from her nosiness. And if she wasn’t wilful enough, she wouldn’t have so quickly, and determinedly, overcome her fear of Ebun and faced him.
My state of mind when writing HOTH?
I was mostly having fun. For me to write each scene I needed to imbibe into me the mood of that scene. But it wasn’t fun writing the final episode. I too cried (not brawling cry oh… I’m not that emotional about my own story) but I was sniffing and I was in a melancholic mood after writing it that Friday.
Do I regret my ending?
No, I don’t. It was meant to happen. It was how it happened for the boys in the stories I’d read/heard. And no matter how sentimental we are, it was the best end for Ebunoluwa. For what kind of life would he have led with multiple deformities? What kind of future would he have had?
Was I ever tempted to change the ending?
Yes, multiple times. Lol. Reading comments almost swayed me towards the idea of re-developing the plot… re-shaping at the very least. But I am a stubborn writer… actually I’m naturally a wilful person. I sorely hate to be controlled. If I sense I’m being controlled or manipulated (even after what might seem initial submission) I will either fight back or I run. It’s always been my way.
And in my writing, I completely consider it MY OWN PLACE, and so do not welcome any form of “seeming” control whatsoever.
So, much as I was tempted, especially after the release of episodes 16 and 17, I dug in my heels and stuck it out. It is also my personal belief that a great writer must be faithful to his/her plot and not cave in to the sentiments of readers or would-be readers.
So no regrets. I brought home the story… as I was meant to. But I am sorry for anyone who got truly hurt by the way it ended. It was never my intention to hurt. Yes, I purposely intended to wrought a melancholic emotion from my readers but I wanted no one hurt.
It is fiction. And if you cried, or felt sad, then I must have done my job well. And for that I am proud of myself and I am, once again, thankful to my talent-giver, God Almighty.
So what next?
First a little break. I need it. I deserve it. My eyes are begging me to keep them away from screens. But I cannot yet grant them their wish. I must complete UP and one other novelette and then I must publish. Thereafter, I must switch my blog’s theme. This I will announce when I begin so one visits during this time. I do have the knack of making my site disappear when I’m working on it… lol.
And after publishing and theme-change plus theme-tweaking, I will then begin our next story—a Romance story titled Key To My Heart (KTMH). It’s a love story and I promise you all, no one will be crying. Lmao.
It is a novelette. Note that neither SF or HOTH have been novelettes despite the fact that they’re entered into a category called “Novelette” and despite the fact that they were initially meant to be novelettes. SF was a novella and HOTH a novel of about 53, 000+ words.
But KTMH will surely be a novelette. I know this because I have finally mastered the act of novelette writing. I have mastered the act of what scenes are important and what scenes to drop off. It will be interesting but by God, it won’t exceed 20,000 words… it probably wouldn’t exceed 18,000 words. Yes! Lol.
It will also not exceed 1,700 words per episode. HOTH was running at 3, 000+ words most days (hit 4,000+ some days)… too long and too tedious. This time I am sticking to 1,000 words to 1,500 words. And whatever extra words must not exceed 200 words. That is the style of novelette-writing. If it’s getting too long, we tweak or we transfer scene to next episode.
So that is it, dear folks, HOTH is done and a new future is about to unfold. I don’t as yet have the full plot for KTMH… title came to me first when I was hunting images for my covers which by the way I design myself. I’m a graphic designer in the incubator, lol.
So I saw the image with a heart-shaped gold padlock and a key in the lock, and then love-shaped petals surrounding it and it struck me: Key To My Heart. So I noted it on my notepad and went on with my search. Three weeks ago, I had a vision of the chapter one and two and also noted it. The rest will come as I let lose my imagination after my publishing. Lol.
Okay folks, long story short, HOTH done. TM did a great job… if you agree say “TM rocking as usual”… lmao. Now KTMH loading… Before then UP and gang loading for your reading pleasure *wink*.
I have been trying to get this bit of information up here for days on ends. Glo network is all messed up here in PH… don’t know about anywhere else. You just can’t browse… horrible!**