All posts by John Spurgeon

Hi everyone! I am an editor and writer living in West Africa. I specialize in screenwriting and provide research, editing, proofreading assistance to other writers, bloggers and general content developers. I have a first long novel (OF ALL THE GIRLS IN LAGOS) in the works, and hopes to educate and entertain his readers with interesting posts that matter to indie writers in Africa and elsewhere. Stay glued!!!

Nigerian Literature as Genre

Nigerian Literature

In another class I am taking, we are discussing the basic conventions and restrictions of genre. While reading the article “To Understand the Novel in Nigeria” by Wendi Griswold, I could not help but question “Nigerian Literature” as a genre. Typically, we would not so easily group the entire spectrum of a country or culture’s literature as a genre, however Griswold makes a case that suggests otherwise. There have been a number of different theories about how to define genre. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Economics says that genre is “used interchangeably with ‘type,’ ‘kind,’ and ‘form'” suggesting that there are also a number of misconceptions about genre.

Wendi Griswold describes a number of conventions of the Nigerian novel that certainly fit the bill for genre. The biggest supporting evidence Griswold explores are the reoccurring themes throughout many works. For example, anxiety about reproduction, conflict between tradition/modernity and growing…

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BOMBS by Haruna Adinoyi

At the filling station.
How could they not
Call us or send us
A text message to
Tell us to evacuate?
Children and women
Scattered under the
Evening sky.
“Is this a holocaust?”
I hear an old cat think.
Well, I don’t want Aaliyah
To wake up just yet.
The playground is Aleppo
And I promised her mother
I would only wake her up
When this madness is ended.
I count the stars at night
And remind myself that
Last night, a crowd of children
Tried to count the stars
But were cut down by
The enemy bullets.
I will not go outside
To count the stars.
I will paint a rose
Where bullet holes frown
In the picture I have of Ahmad.

©2016. Haruna Adinoyi

We Wish To Inform You – Haruna Adinoyi Yusuf

We Wish to Inform You

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our family.
This morning, they threatened to shoot us if we tried to run.
They took half of me when they decapitated my teen.
Alas, they choose people at random to slaughter.

I come from a land where we heard bullets.
Even today we still hear bullets.

Here it is blood for blood. Only blood will suffice blood.
You scream, scream and scream;
You can scream your lungs out but no one will hear you.
And when any person dies here no one seems to pay attention
Obama, Liz, Hollande and Putin are eating flowers at lunch on D-Day;
Some poor country must pay the cost tomorrow.
They build on top of us as though we do not exist.
Are we invisible to them?
How do you rebuild a town when you are not sure
Anyone even wants to go back?
If your family is getting droned, then you will probably know
If they are right and wrong.

Israel debates force feeding Palestinian prisoners protesting
Their incarceration without charge or trial.
Czar Putin claims part of Ukraine,
While CC and the khaki men of Thailand steal the show,
And Kabul continually shudders from PTSD.
If I wasn’t here, if the government doesn’t get changed
After five years, my daughter will be here
And they will break her head or shoot her down.

If people were to ever find out what we have done, we would be chased down the streets and lynched.



The foremost objective in the filmmaking business is to maximise profit. Yes, asides the passion and love for the art of creating movies, every decision we take as filmmakers is guided by the underlying motive of pocketing some extra cash at the end of the day. So from, pre-production – finding a marketable script with a reasonable budget – to the process of turning the script into its finished product, the movie, we are always conscious of the cost and the projected income at the end of the day.

Notwithstanding all this, the need for recognition is a blatant and permanent fixture hanging at a corner which goes hand in hand with the filmmaker’s passion for the art. Hand-in-hand in what sense, you might ask. Emotional responses are often regarded as the keystone to experiencing art, and the creation of an emotional experience has been argued as the purpose of artistic expression. As such, inasmuch as profit making is the major aim of filmmaking from the business perspective, the need to elicit responses in the form of feedback and recognition of creativity is quintessential to the art itself. Even the Christian Bible has it that after creating for the day, God assessed his work and gave himself an emotional response to it.. His creative self needed feedback and recognition. Recognition comes in the form of feedback from your audience and fans. ‘We watched that movie you produced/wrote/shot/directed/lighted/acted in, and we….’ An artist never wished for anything better than positive reviews and rave accolades… Okay maybe something better in the form of award recognition from the art industry itself.

Now, while some filmmakers are okay with ‘popular demand’ and racking up profit, some others are more ambitious, looking for that extra something that would easily set their art apart from the others. The difference between both kinds of filmmakers lies in their definition of the ideal – especially, the ideal ambition of a movie concept. I look at movies like The Refugees, Ayanda, Common Man, Fifty, Tell me sweet something, Timbuktu, 30 days in Atlanta, to mention a few, which are among a few recent award winning movies across Africa. I took my time to review these movies, you’d come to realize that while some of these movies’ concepts falls into the ‘popular demand’ category, they all had that extra edge that put them above their (also recognized and artfully produced) counter parts.

The edge begins in the storytelling. A great concept built into a garden-variety, humdrum script, places the finished work at a disadvantage already. So, what should an ambitious filmmaker look out for while filtering through the myriad screenplays available for shooting? Among the criteria should include;


I keep throwing the word around, right? However, it goes without saying that most award winning movies are backed by stories that takes us out of what what we know and expect into an unlikely circumstances that throws a viewer into a whirlpool of questions and edge-of-the-seat suspense, waiting for reconciliation. Let’s say for instance that the President of the U.S visits an African country and gets kidnapped! Blinks!!! How??? By Who??? To what end??? How would the writer clear the air after throwing up such dust? Such ambition could lead to a riotous feedback, which was its aim in the first place.


There are two worlds available to a good movie story – one that the audience knows and can relate to, and the other that is unknown to the audience but captivating enough. Award winning stories takes the audience into one of these two worlds, either to show us something about the world it knows that it doesn’t know/haven’t had a close up experience about (eg Common Man, The Refugees etc) on the one hand, or to show it something about the other world which it know nothing about but find captivating and giving it an entirely new lesson from this unknown world which can be of use to us in this world that we know about (eg, Dry, Timbuktu, Refugees etc).


In every good movie script, the protagonist(s) has/have a problem which must be resolved by the end of the story. In even better movie scripts, there is always the secondary problem usually personal which the protagonist must face and resolve – an inner problem aside from the obvious one, which the character might not even be aware of, or is battling privately. This is evident in Dr. Zara’s personal recriminations about her childhood in the movie Dry, and can be seen in every award winning storyline ever written.


This is also termed THE SUSPENSE OF DISBELIEF in screenwriting circles and refers to the the fact that the best movies show the audience a series of circumstances so appealing or extraordinary that the audience’s average life pales in comparison. A good example is Common Man, which although the award it won wasn’t based on its story line but on its lighting effects, and yet you would agree that the common man depicted in the movie is far less common than the man on the everyday street. He is more fascinating. Great movies successfully walk us through each stage of these increasingly fantastic constructions and make us believe that they are real, when in fact they are far from real.


Go ask a Stripper how to keep an audience glued to his seat with unwavering attention and buying drinks for the next hour or so. High concepts, great characters, scintillating dialogue and the best cameras are not guarantees of a great movie. A great movie PIQUES interest. Ever wonder why virtually every alien movie doesn’t show you the alien until halfway through the movie or later? They hook your interest by promising you something out of this world. The best example of this is the original Alien movie which teased the audience with slow yet horrific reveal. We saw the alien’s nest. We saw its eggs. We saw its embryo. We saw its explosive birth. We heard it growing. We saw its tail. We saw flashes of its shadowy form. Not until deep into the movie did we see the actual alien.

A great script undetstands the process of cultivating interest and there are so many ways to do it. The basics are always the same – insinuate what the audience is going to see, play it up as big as you can within the context—action, emotion, sex, horror—then give them one small bite at a time, each taste expanding the promise in the audience’s mind, teasing a bigger taste to come. Create and maintain growing interest in the audience combined with any of the above listed elements and this would result in a potential award winner after production.

Don’t forget, the edge you need begins with the quality of the script you choose to work with.


While this window stays open
He watches the curtain close
Arms folded like a weak hand
Not for lack of opportunity to enter action

Or the will to get his passions sanctioned
Too many similarities with the failed version
_ of the same play; played for keeps
But like red lights on a one way street

He’d rather pass than have a close call
One he misses badly
Blinking; voicemail on my hotline
For once bitten he’s thrice shy, sadly

Cupid mailed the script
He’d rather study the villain’s role
Antagonise what he feels
like this fear he can’t conquer

Despise his romantic bone for its weakness
History sure do repeats itself
He’d rather fail his audience than fail himself
He’s sworn to rather go up alone than fall!

‘Cause it might be lonely at the top
But at the bottom, grief is multitudinous
And misery’s companions don’t really love
It’s a tough call but he already touched that dial

Too distracted, switching channels
To remember to show up for rehearsals
When the motion lands heavy and the broken meter’s back to zero
Would you be at the square picking the bits and offering him refuge?


The gong sound late
To the unknown we blindly march
The unseen smells better
Experience weighed
And found wanting

Bearing cane marks we grope
For better footing on these dunes
Thirsty camels on lifetime’s journey
Mapping for an oasis
Before that final nap catches up

This can’t be the best we can be
Chastised in long suffering
Back bared to chastity’s belt
Pleasure denied in our collective pain
Justice, when shall we see you again

With specks in our eyes
We remain unblinded to the truth
For so long our faces have been held down
Beneath water filled sinks
At log-a-heads with log-eyed masters

No victors, no vanquished, they said
Yet punished for asking they stop the loot
Corruption stinks like empty man-caves
Laid waste by oil spilled crudes
Its indigenes on a blind exodus for better days

© 2015. John Spurgeon.
All Rights Reserved.

A Post for New Writers: What If You Never Finish a Story

Ruth Ann Nordin's Author Blog

A Post For New Writers A Post For New Writers

There are some people who never finish what they started writing. I, too, have some books that never got finished. If you have one or two such books, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it. But if you have started ten stories and haven’t finished one of them, you might be dealing with fear, boredom, or difficulty.

In the case of fear, you will need to do everything you can to eliminate the source of the fear.

1.  If it’s because you have a relative or friend (or someone else) who says you suck as a writer, you need to stay away from the person as much as possible.  If you can’t avoid the person, then don’t mention writing when you’re with him. If the person brings it up, change the topic or politely say, “I don’t wish to discuss it.” If the person has a sarcastic…

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