I found a used book, “Dear Miss Breed; True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War Two and a Librarian who made a difference.” The librarian, Miss Breed, befriended dozens of Japanese American children and teens who were interred. They corresponded with each other through letters. Miss Breed even found a way to send books to the young readers. It was illuminating.
Now I saw several young protagonists in a fictional camp. A gang of remarkable kids who could move freely about the space. Wouldn’t they see and hear everything? What if a crime happened? Would the kids know the details? What if something bad happened to a teen couple? Would the feds come and investigate?
This led to further inquiry about the history of the internment. How camps were policed. How crimes were investigated. Now my original image, the two men in suits became real federal agents investigating the disappearance of a teenage couple. Beyond that image was the story of the gang of kids who also investigated the disappearance in parallel with the agents.
This was getting interesting.
So, what DID happen to the teenagers? Was a crime actually committed? If so, who committed the crime? What was the nature of the crime? What happened to them?
I let these questions simmer for a bit while I continued to research the Internment. I HAD to be certain that my facts were straight and that my fictional camp was at least plausible and accurate in depiction; details like how camps were structured physically, administratively. How they were staffed. How did they cook and eat, go to school, or see a doctor? What did they wear? Did they have organized sports, dances, festivals, or holidays? Where did the food come from? I must be sure to know all these things.
At this point, that original image I saw in a dream, was three years old. I still didn’t have a narrative. But I had a world and characters.
Then, without warning, I had a crime. (don’t worry, no spoilers here)