Years ago I had a concept of teaching teenagers how to write and what good could come out of writing. I do not necessarily mean the money. The African child of my time is used to the art of storytelling. As the years rolled by, I started learning another concept of writing loosely identified as writing for change. That was quite new for me and I guess it was also new for quite a number of my writing friends. I had evolved from writing romantic stories to crime thrillers, mysteries and even became a fan of Stephen King and Dennis Wheately.
Let me start this way, I will get to the subject but I want to give you a small background to what made me start writing at all. I was on duty one afternoon in the studio and became bored. A programme was on and I did not want to lose interest so I start scribbling some poems, got bored with that and started writing a play. I got suddenly immersed in the play that my studio manager had to come into the vocal booth to nudge me into signing off the programme. I started carrying the character of the play along with me and was impatient to get home. I liked our conversation and it took me out of my immediate misery. I have always being alone but rarely felt lonely for I always had a ‘situation’ going on in my head. So I eventually became a writer and went to university to learn the technics and technicalities of writing.
I assumed I had learned all there was to writing until I wrote a series and showed it to a friend and she invited me to send it to an international agency. I had forgotten all about it until one telephone call came. The agency UNFPA had read my story and would like to talk to me. I learned a new form of writing thereafter… Writing for Change. There are different names for this style of writing and I would like to use the name I became very familiar with, and that is, Enter-Educate drama. It is of course at different medium of entertainment.
Enter-educate drama writing is basically technical writing as you are required to follow a required theme, certain words are essential and a format is usually followed. Why is it necessary for us here in Nigeria? Simple, our culture makes it a very natural way for social propaganda by government, civil societies and agencies. It is a vehicle to pass ideas as the message is passed through popular artistes and actors. These artistes are believable and acceptable to the populace.
How do you write enter-educate drama particularly if you are used to sitting for the muse to give you inspiration. How do you work excitement to a story you are given to write and a theme you are to follow? These were questions that I had problems with when I started. So what happens if you are asked to write such ‘technical’ story. I use the word technical because you are expected to use these phrases.
Rationale: why are you writing such a story at all.
Outcome: what do you hope to achieve at the end of the story?
Minimum measurable indicator: what level of changes do you expect to see when you have finished the story?
Your story is also expected to be S.M.A.R.T.
First I heard that I wondered. It was my welcome to the world of social propangad writing. Not like in advert storyboards but in writing for enter-educate in such a way as to make your story SMART.
This simply means, your story should be Simple, Measurable as I have indicated above, the concepts and theme you propose must be Achievable. Relevant and Realistic and within a Time frame that is it is Time bound.
In my corner of the universe this style of writing has been used effectively to pass messages and enhance messages about behavior change. The series I NEED TO KNOW became wildly popular because we had used this style to pass on sexuality education that was considered sensitive. I became an advocate of this style of social drama on a lot of other issues and used it extensively in my work with International agencies and some notable agencies.
Benefits: Writing for change fulfills some hidden longing of the writer to be the voice that teaches and molds society. It is a form of writing that takes from the lessons life had taught to show in subtle ways correction that needs to be made in certain behavior that may militate against positive progress.
Social Drama helps to show through everyday activities the faults in some wrongly held concepts. It is the sugar coating on the pill for change as the human being is naturally resistant to change.