The picture above is the progression of how the story went from what was planned as The Campfire. A story based on a picture (following this paragraph) that was the runner-up to Union Station in one of my Pick A Picture Get A Story Written contests. Intended to be a short story of about 3,000 to 4,000 words, Through a Lens of Dark & Light, became a 23,000+ word novella.
This photograph shows two teenage boys and a girl sitting in front of a campfire. I wondered who the girl was… and was she and the boy next to her a couple? Did the other boy have any feelings about what was going on? Thinking about that—the rush of emotions at that age—and knowing the important role music can play, in the story, I wove mention of 17 songs popular back in 1974/75 (half the story takes place then and half in the present). That helped a great deal in bringing back my own memories of what that young love felt like; the hope and dream of it… the anticipation.
As I spun off of that initial thought, the story became more about Robert Sterling (the name I gave the boy closest to the girl in the campfire picture, but who now, in the story, is approaching 60). How his life unfolded, what happened to him, and what he sees through an old camera, his deceased (institutionalized) mother had left him. The story takes him back to his hometown… to a place, events, people, and memories he had pushed from his mind 40 years ago. He faces things he didn’t want to remember what happened to him, to his friend… and to her, his first love.
I can’t speak for other writers, but when I’m writing and hooked into the story and know deep inside it’s good, I get tingles up my neck. I felt that when writing this story and now as I write this. I think many of my readers were touched the same way. Scan my readers’ feedback/comments page if you’re interested to see what others thought about the story. Here are a few of them:
SOME READER COMMENTS
From the excerpt shared when writing the story:
“You don’t play fair, Dennis Lowery!! Who was she?” –Rebecca Harden-Heick
“A very good read indeed, Now I am looking forward to reading it all.” –Michael Koontz
“Ooh, very nice!” –Kira H
“Aaaaaarrgghh!! Awesome! Dennis, you are gooood. 🙂 <Jumps up and down> Aaarrghh SOOOO GOOOOD!!! MORE MORE!!!” –Nina A.
Then from readers reading the complete story:
“I’m halfway through. It’s wonderful. Hard to put it down. Great read!”
Then when she finished:
“Best I’ve read in a long time. I finished it late last night and even dreamt about it. I woke this morning and it’s still with me…
“Believing is Seeing. Coincidentally, strike that, I don’t actually believe in coincidence, but I happened to read an article just yesterday morning that discussed why many never find their purpose. It mentioned this very concept…and reminded me of something I’ve always understood to be true, that we see exactly what we’re looking for, in most situations throughout our lives. We see what we are ready to see.
“I cannot tell you how deeply this story affected me. I was drawn in from the very first song lyrics. I found myself singing each familiar tune along in my head, and as it always does, allowing the music to work as a time machine.
“In so many ways, I related to this tale. I loved how you wove here and then together through wakening and dreaming happenings. I loved the premise of light and dark and the lens we all use to focus on what matters most to us….love, understanding, even forgiveness reaching back to heal the misunderstandings of the past.
“I adored the ghosts of the past, helping lead the main character out of his cloud of darkness back to himself, back into a hope-filled present and promising future. I loved that Rex was found… Evidenced by the photos of the 3-yr. old’s birthday…
“Just everything, the genre, the photography, the history, the family secrets, the decade, kept me glued to the pages. (I actually found myself attempting to Turn the Pages on my iPad as if it were a bound book.)
“Wonderful tale, Dennis Lowery. You outdid yourself.
“Devoted Reader, Bobbie”
“Just finished reading it. A great read. Loved the ending, was not expecting that. Will definitely recommend it to friends. Characters were interesting. I always read your stories wanting them to last a little longer. Thank you for sharing. 🙂 –Hazel Payne
“I enjoyed the story a lot. From the character portraits to the small “technical” details (and accurate) of how he operated his camera, and the story itself, a very enjoyable read from you.” –Michael Koontz
[This came in message installments from Dan S.] 1) “Dammit Dennis Lowery!! Take my money already! This is good! my lunch break is over, but I don’t want to stop reading. I think by far this is the best work of yours I’ve read yet. 2) I can tell a good story by the imagery it creates in my head. If it’s good, as I’m reading, I’m seeing the events unfold like a movie… and that’s exactly what’s happening here… down to background details. 3) Finished… that was excellent. I’m extremely impressed. I was actually laughing to myself and called you an SOB for the twist at the end… well done.” 😀
“This grabbed me right away. Compelling… is it a ghost story!? Loved how the writing perspective changes between present and past. You tied up the loose ends beautifully. A great read.” –Debra Drayton
“I have no negative comments to give. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and read it in one sitting, which is unusual for me. It kept me interested.” –Mark
“Fantastic! Oh, this made me cry happy tears and had me riveted the entire time. I knew SPOILER PART REMOVED I didn’t want to continue, but I was compelled to finish even though I knew there was sadness mixed with joy. It makes me think that I should look at moments in my life differently.” –Kira H.
“An awesome story!” –Jyoti Dahiya
“A wonderful rich story full of every detail I could imagine. I particularly enjoyed the music references and flow between past & present. Well Done!” –Fay Handstock
“Another great story!” –Jim Zumwalt
“I love how the whole time I kept falling from one surprise into the next and how from beginning to end, the story kept building and building. The entire time, when you think, ok – this is it, another surprise is presented. Absolutely amazing until the last paragraph. And I do have to mention this again… Dennis… The way you describe details… I can’t tell you how special that is. Details that I think no one else would ever notice. You paint a picture with your words like no one else. I just want to hug you! All this has been an amazing experience for me; thank you from the bottom of my heart.” –Nina Anthonijsz
“A story, once read, you will never forget…” –from an Amazon review
“As a reader, there is no better experience than to forget you are reading and just become immersed in the story. This book did that…” –from an Amazon review
“I was plowing through a really bad book and finally gave up. I loaded this book that I had downloaded a little while back, and thank you, Dennis Lowery, for saving me from the reading blues! Excellent job! Loved the work! It was a really great read. I’m still thinking about it. And the end with the SPOILER REMOVED really hit home with the perspective of what one’s feelings, experiences, and sometimes tragedies might be to others.” –Mike M. Jensen
“What a honor to have been included in the pre-unveiling of your work, thank you! So well written… the detailed descriptions taps into all the senses… nostalgia at its best. You know you’ve tapped into something great when each frame changes, moving you forward, yet gives new meaning to a previous scene or event. It’s a re-read with several stories, and even in that, there are the stories that each character could tell. I’m left wanting more. Again, Thank you!” –Lena Kindo-Kamara
“I liked the way you referenced songs. I will have to listen to them on YouTube. SPOILER REMOVED was a big surprise. I thought his SPOILER REMOVED. The story isn’t predictable. That’s great writing.” –Renee McDaniel
===Randa Wilson=== WARNING – CONTAINS SPOILERS!
“I have just finished reading your wonderful novel. I am left with the feeling of wonder at the research you must have put into the songs as well as other time Era imagery you put in. Your work is very descriptive and leaves nothing to wonder as to when, how, what, and why.
“I find it is a brilliant novel with friendship build years upon years in the making as well as, and I use this word in the truest form only; it also about true love. How it surpasses all time and into everlasting. You have shown this all inside your novel. A story about of the past and present so intertwined but yet so meticulously laid out it flows through every time period. You have a talent I see for time change.
“Below are a few notes I have taken as I read your novel by chapter. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me inside your novel before it is published. I truly enjoyed this great piece of your work. 😀
I like how it’s opened with reading a book. Very descriptive and detailed imagery of the cabin, her bathing, her scents, and the aromas in the last night at the cabin. So many descriptions in the memories.
The letter… brilliant. Great name, Rogues Hollow. Paul McCartney song and the relation to the weather. Great description of Rogues Hollow. Like the scene in Sam Purdy’s bar, very vivid.
Taking pictures of the girl that disappears builds suspense. Like that you brought knowledge of her father.
Like time change back to 1974. ABBA – 🙂
Suspense builds as he develops the film. Pictures of the two match.
1974 time change Nadia is in the story now. Very gripping with the rescue. Love Rex is there. Like what you added with coke tab, nice. Magic dust, perfect and very vivid. A lot of details in this chapter about Nadia.
I like Mr. Purdy is more in the story. I originally thought maybe he wouldn’t be. He seems very beneficial at this point. I really like how the song always fits the mood and weather.
1974 – Definitely see Steve’ dislike for Nia. Steve seems very spiteful. Suspense is building between the three.
I like him reminiscing about his home, mom. The fire, how someone else could or may have started it. Suspense with the envelope. Twins?
1974 – This chapter definitely took a turn. I never saw him being in love with Rob coming. Good change up
I really like this chapter, the scene when she kisses and holds his hand. Such great detail as you describe Nia now older and with wrinkles. Eyes. I love this camera 🙂
1974 – The two of them breaking up because of her father. Torn.
He leaves for New York, not knowing. Really like how this chapter ends with, She’s the One.
Can’t believe she’s in the airport. She took his hand; I really like that. Roberta. Rex is back. Sam wasn’t there, but really true to his word he was there the entire time as he had promised.
“Again, Dennis, this is just some notes I took as I read.