Contextualization of Fiction

I have made a grave error.

I ran out of insecticide in the midst of fleeting my apartment. So there’s not enough concentration of the insecticide to kill the mosquitoes, but enough to drive them all out of hiding. And they are mad, attacking me with vigour. I’ve tried every room in the house, but they have followed me everywhere I go like MTN. And I am a good neighbour, so cannot turn my gen on at this time (mental note to buy that  rechargeable fan I’ve been postponing.) Anyway, decided to post some thoughts while  I wait till 3 to turn my gen on. My friend Bolanle Jogz would actually roll her eyes when she sees this post and say “Tunde couldn’t but post on a Monday” lol. February is closer than it was last week and we’ll commence Broken Mirrors. Oh, and try to lay hands on The News magazine today. There’s a review of my work in it. Thanks


I have just concluded reading Robert Ludlum’s brilliant book, The Janson Directive. One of the plot devices used to resolve the book was where the title character, Paul Janson moves funds into the President of the United States’ personal account from the billionaire antagonist Peter Novak’s Swiss account. He then proceeds to use that as leverage to blackmail the president into doing the right thing by cancelling a U.S foreign policy initiative that Janson had just saved the U.S from imploding from. And the president succumbed to the blackmail. He genuinely feared the backlash from his party and the American public when they discovered that he had received almost Two Million Dollars from a foreigner who had business interests in the U.S

When I read that, I could not help but think about if Ludlum had been writing about a Nigerian president, would that plot device have worked? Would a Nigerian president be so fearful of the discovery of Two Million Dollars, the equivalent of about Three Hundred Million Naira that he would cancel a foreign policy initiative supported by his cabinet (even if it was a wrong one)? The answer I know is no.

This brings me to two things – first is what we should learn from this as fiction writers. We must contextualize our plot devices properly, so that they are believable and real within the cultures we are situating our stories. An American president revealed to be having an affair with a member of his household staff could be impeached; a Nigerian president impregnating his cousin would not suffer a political scratch. We must therefore as fiction writers take the pain to study the contexts within which we write and utilize the appropriate plot devices to make our work real and believable. And yes; it is part of contextualization  of my own writing experience that I’m posting this on a night where there is no power by PHCN, and my thoughts are driven by a plethora of mosquito induced hand slapping sounds. Doubt if any of my friends in other parts of the world would have such an “interesting” context within which to write 😀

The second issue which it brings me to (which I will not duel on, as this is about writing) is the lack of consequences within our politics. The reason the plot device Ludlum used successfully within his novel would not work if Tunde Leye used it in a story situated in Nigeria is because the reality of Nigeria is such that politicians can and actually do such things with impunity; and nothing would happen to them.

As a writer, and even more importantly as a Nigerian, I look forward to a time when I will be able to use such a plot device successfully in a Nigerian story. And when I won’t have depend on my rechargeable fan to sleep peacefully at night.


10 thoughts on “Contextualization of Fiction

  1. Like d lyrics of a song says…. I know one day, one day, one day e go better!!! An average American would not curse his/her country but would rather say “God bless America” but what do we have to say about Nigeria??? Folks, always remember that the tongue is a powerful tool. It can make alive and destroy. Let’s be positive minded towards Nigeria. Let’s keep the hope alive.!!!

  2. I doubt if such a day would ever exist in naija but na prayer sha. If u look at the younger generation u will be scared of this country’s future

  3. I rilly luv ur stories…I read ur finding hubby, tricias nightmare, and read de 1st episode of guidian of the seal and I am very interested in that story….Please 1 more episode won’t hurt….#Greatmind…

  4. I’m a big fan of Robert Ludlum myself, he writes the most intense, highly imaginative yet believeable plotlines. Sadly, i believe hell would freeze over before such a plot can apply to the Nigerian reality.

  5. i can actually relate to what you’ve written here..
    both mosquito wise and robert ludlum wise..lool..although i must confess, i have watched only the movie of his bks…which include the bourne identity(Jason Bourne)main xter and im yet to watch the others, most esp Bourne legacy..
    i dont know why i love watching the movies and when i see the book, i assume i know whats in it since ive seen the movie
    as fr that happening in nigeria, we all know the answer to that
    there are just somethings we shdnt compare this country to

  6. I will say all we ned in nigeria is chinese law, point and eliminate… the man that stole the money that belongs to his parents and went away with it and now they are making him walk a freeman…. do you know how many people had died…… that enough… i hope something will change in our generation. Do u believe TL?

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