Basis of writing: the four principles of Forster in half of a yellow sun


The 20th century classic of E. M. Forster titled Aspects of the Novel tells a four principled analysis to writing, and for the purpose of writing this elaboration, reading too. Aspects of the Novel borders on story, characters, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm.

Using the excerpts from the Aspects of the Novel, illustrated by Lee Benson in distinguishing between historical and chronology, which bears shrewd resemblance to story and plot:

“And then… And then…”
“What the story does is to narrate the life in time.” Beginning with primitive man, storytellers have held their audiences by making them want to know what happens next. Something happens.
“And then?” Something else happens. “And then?” So it goes until they end the story.

Furthermore, making a comparison between story and plot, Aspects of the Novel holds in its pages as Lee Benson points, that in a story, events are arranged in their time sequence. For a plot, its emphasis is stressed on the cause, technically causality.

Just like Forster, it is as saying that “the king died and then the queen died” which is typical of a story, and “the king died and then the queen dies of grief” signifying a plot. In both similar instances, their time sequences remain unmitigated, but as in the second, which is a plot, the purpose of what brings about the cause stays afloat the time prompting.

Preceeding as an introduction- providing the raw materials for the four principles of Forster: things you would always skip when you take up a book, and make it a point of duty to divulge the details in reading, save for editors, and hearted readers.


The first principle

The first occupies a pride of place, and leads in Lee’s assumed existence of general laws of causal dependence. Causal dependence help discover the building blocks that govern the explanation of human behavior. It’s the time-sequence. The two word phrase instills apparent command on the face value like a tip of an iceberg, whereas there’s an audacious command that is discovered in a piece of writing like the iceberg itself submerged in water.

The principle, like a logical statement that fills any void in the rationale and not merely seeing prose or poetry or the like as some bunch of only emotional pieces.

Therefore, for Forster, “the king died and then the queen died” is very well plausible. Maybe as a story, the explanation could be embedded somewhere down the read. Just as in Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun where Ugwu had to be brought to Master- Odenigbo either as a houseboy or any other thing before Master could to ask; “Kedu afa gi? What’s your name?” Therefore, there should be a prior event that comes after an event or action as the case turns out. With this principle, time-sequence looks too obvious to be stated over and over again, that we are compelled to dub it the silent principle.

Aspects of the Novel writing

The second principle

The second flows from the first like an organ outgrowth from the body. It’s awareness, when told in one word. Lee says; “…human beings must be aware- consciously or unconsciously- of prior events that allegedly produce certain effects upon them.”

Substituting Forster’s “the king died and then…” with Adichie’s implemented “Good afternoon, Sah! This is the child,’ Ugwu’s aunty said.'” Even when Master sat slanted on an armchair, having a book cover his face. He was consciously or unconsciously aware that Ugwu was before him to have asked; “Kedu afa gi? What’s your name?” Without showing when Master had requested for a houseboy, the story flowed credibly.

Writing with Half of a Yellow Sun

On another length, had Adichie made Master to ask; “what’s your name?” without creating an awareness or told he was perhaps locked up in a sudden trance to sleep-talk, and just showing that Master had been in active, enervating reading, then in a flash covered his face. Perhaps, not breaking the sentence into a new scene, then, Master’s asking; “Kedu afa gi? What’s your name?” would be thought or taken incredible despite Adichie’s infectious marauding writing authority.


The third principle

The third could be regarded as something of pervasive phenomena- predicated on human feelings. Therefore, Master in Half of a Yellow Sun could have asked any such question as: “how are you Ugwu? How old are you? What do your parents do for a living? What class are you?” They are all possible questions that could have ensued instead of “Kedu afa gi? What’s your name?”

Because it rings true, or that it was possible for the queen to die from grief, it satisfactorily passed into general laws of human behavior. A behavior that is not impossible to happen given the prior event; maybe at the awareness of the King’s death or the awareness that Ugwu was standing in Master’s presence.


The fourth principle

Lastly in the fourth, imagine what the life of a bachelor, a University Professor as Master (Odenigbo) would amount to: living in an apartment all by himself, had lectures to teach, books to read, handouts to update, tests to mark, food to cook or buy perhaps, everyday? apartment to maintain, clothes to tidy and as a single man, sometime to flirt if he was the kind. Anyone in such shoes would have easily thought of assistance given the Nigerian setting.

Therefore, the characters of Master, Ugwu, and Ugwu’s aunty seem necessary. A boy as Ugwu possibly had not been to the university environment of Nsukka and someone had to act the lead towards Master’s apartment, and aunty just fitted.

In the relationship, aunty had to know Ugwu and some level of acquaintance with Master that she had said to Ugwu on their way; “I told Master you will learn everything fast, osiso-osiso.”

The circumstances surrounding Master on why he needed the services of a houseboy as enumerated above, coupled with the first, second, and third principles fit uniquely credible to Forster and Lee as some rudiments to writing impeccably.