Stories About Photographers: Is The ‘War Correspondent’ The Only Option?

Apply the word ‘photographer’ to any work of new fiction and many listeners conclude that the story will be about war. If you’re over sixty years of age, you’ll have more than a ninety per cent chance of thinking war correspondent. I know. My first few readers assumed this and were surprised (or disappointed) to find out my book went to another place entirely.

A writer’s group were the first to clap eyes on the early but evolving Seethings manuscript. Their ages ranged from 30 to 70 and each gave their critique on my book’s first chapter. Most older members expected a war story to emerge from the text but the chapter didn’t go that way at all. There is a war in the story but the conflict I put into it is found a little closer to home.

Making conclusions about what an entire story will become after reading its opening chapter is risky business as not every piece of information is deposited there by the author. Unfortunately, my peers thought different to my approach. According to them, contemporary writing demands quicker steps to be taken. If the protagonist isn’t apparent by paragraph three and the entire story isn’t laid out in chapter one, there isn’t a story worth reading beyond it. Adding to the list of literary no-nos I committed was the lack of war correspondent content. The older members were adamant about this. Lens people should have spent time on a battlefield. There is no other option for a story about a photographer. The younger ones didn’t care about war narratives. They expected something else from the chapter — like a protagonist (or one that was made way more apparent). The overall result for chapter one was a resounding downvote.

Boo hoo!

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But a big thumbs up went right where it needed to go — towards a character I’d written into the chapter. Readers despised her. They wanted karma to judge and sentence “the bitch”. On this matter, there was no debate. They weren’t aware of it but my evil plan was taking shape. I got my readers ready to murder someone without them knowing. Maxine Sewell would die and no one would feel regret. That’s the type of journey I programmed right throughout Seethings. In a way, the reader becomes a protagonist. Their journey into the darkness matters as much as my character’s. Fortunately, a proper protagonist is revealed in chapter one but theirs is a slow emergence through the noise and bustle of a social gathering. Eventually, they’ll rise to the top of the narrative but, for those younger readers, it’s way too slow and small to keep them interested. Yes, it’s true. I don’t smack readers in the face with my principal individual. They have to work with the text. There are no free rides here. In time, the pieces will fall into place… and then it’ll leave them shuddering before closing the book.

War In Another Form

And no, there are no bombs, camouflage uniforms, guns or trenches either. This photographer’s war is found inside the sub-tropical thunderstorm. Somewhere inside that raging Beast are the answers to some serious questions he asks of love and life. His wife Samantha thinks his storm obsession is dangerous and unnecessary. Why would he photograph lightning when it’s likely he’ll be struck by it and die? Nevertheless, she supports his foolish hobby because he was doing it before they married. She doesn’t want to be blamed for changing him. They came together for sickness and in health, for better or worse, until death does them part.

At the last minute, I added a prologue to the book. Again, contemporary writers have mixed feelings about the use of prologues inside fiction. The consensus appears to exclude them in favour of getting on with the all-important storytelling process. That’s fine with me but everywhere I go there’s a pro or con for each element of writing. For instance, if you’re an author who prefers to write a story in the first person context, a strong argument will be presented to you for shifting it to the third. It’s easier for readers to digest and bloody easier to write a show-not-tell style of story. The use of emdashes is welcomed but not too much. Don’t apply the word said when writing exchanges of dialogue. The list goes on and on. At some point, an author (a self-published one) has to decide what’s best for their story and go with it. I popped in a prologue to point readers in the right direction before they delved into the social gathering I mentioned earlier. I didn’t want them to get lost, wondering what or who was to come after chapter one ended. It’s a slow burn to get to what will become an inevitable explosion.

My story is targeted at older readers, those who have experienced troubled love, especially in long-term relationships and marriages. The struggle to keep the happy-ever-after on its tracks is real and, at times, difficult. The pressures of modern life, raising children, a changing world, shifting hormones and expectations, keep us on our toes all the time. Influences threaten to derail our plans from the outside too. I doubt young readers would get most of the themes I wrote into Seethings and, therefore, not entertaining enough for them, no matter what tempo I used in chapter one. So, I just have to go with my gut, publish the story I wrote, and then compose these posts to find new audiences so I can allow you to experience Seethings in all its diabolical glory.

Yes, it has a prologue, a slow entry, and probably a whole lot of other rule-breaking flaws working against it, but that’s not what I get from those who have read the book. By the time they get to the other side of it, the comments and reviews have been surprisingly positive. It seems I’ve hit the mark well and hard with Seethings. The creepiness factor is high and the ending is unsettling — both of which were intended. If those didn’t happen, I’d be disappointed and feel my job was incomplete.

Curious now?

Okay, here’s where you can get a copy of Seethings. It’s a digital book and downloadable right now — for any device and you can start reading it within seconds. The best part is it’s free (limited time). So go and get it now. Tell me what you think. Leave a review and then add your comment below this post.

You won’t be disappointed.

-Michael Forman (Dark Fiction Author)

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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