“Everything is process. Discover your voice when you discover process.”
It starts with an image. (Or an idea, casually discussed)
I see a single image or a short series of images that just won’t stop pestering me. It demands a narrative.
I saw two men in suits walking along a barbed wire fence line in a desert at dusk. So, my brain went to work connecting the dots into a reason why those men where there.
Who were they? What did they do for a living? Why were they there? Where was that place? When was it happening?
My first inclination was just ok. FBI Agents investigating a supernatural crime/event in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War Two.
It felt trite. Not original enough. I needed a better narrative. So, I put the image on hold.
Why not just let that image go? I have done it before. Sometimes a fleeting image just doesn’t take root. But this one felt like there was something more there that I needed to discover. I have always believed that when I write, I am like a sculptor. I don’t create the story, it already exists, and I am just uncovering it. Revealing the story like removing bits of clay or wood or stone that covers a face or body or scene.
I knew there was something more going on. I just needed the right tools to discover it. Then I did what all writers should do, I read. I dove into research regarding the Internment.
I scoured the internet and saw just what I was looking for. Images from desert camps. Barbed wire, dirt, gun turrets, guard towers, etc. I saw children and families packing up their lives and riding busses and trains while non-Japanese people cheered and feared them. I saw small, cramped, sparse living quarters and dining halls and gardens carved out of the desert; children in classrooms with no windows and barely any books or paper.
I needed to get to know these people. I read Farewell to Manzanar. A true story of a Japanese American woman and her white husband as she takes him on a tour of the ruins of the camp where she spent 3 years of her childhood.
But I still had no narrative that felt right. No real characters.
One day while I was binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix, something happened. I realized that it was the kids that were driving the narrative. One traumatized kid in particular opened my mind to a new possibility. What was it like for the kids in the camps?
Suddenly a lot more of the world of the Internment revealed itself. I needed to get to know the kids.