Recently, I was struck by a new story idea which takes place in Southern California. I’m not exactly sure if this idea will go anywhere, but writing it has given me a thrill that only comes about when I have delved into something fresh and waiting to be explored.
The story takes place in a small town called Arleta, CA. I chose this place because it is in the San Fernando Valley, near the hills, and happened to be the only town in the Valley that had a name that seemed to fit. I was visiting California over Thanksgiving and decided to take a short road trip down to where the story takes place. What followed were hours of me driving in circles, creeping houses with my camera, being followed by unsavory-looking characters, losing said characters near some train tracks, discovering that Arleta has an airport (something I hadn’t known in my mental image of the place) and ignoring the endless scolding from my GPS system. It is a rare thing for a writer to visit the town where an idea is set, and then to find that it is almost exactly as I imagined it.
I took an endless folder of photos but these seem to tell the story of Arleta from the outside — quiet, unimposing, ready to hold some secrets behind its name. After visiting, I took a short trip down to Los Angeles and the beach in Santa Monica, as this is in the story also. Then, I ventured up a dangerously winding road to the top of the canyon so I could get a glimpse of what my character sees from there. It’s odd, but a part of me could almost feel the characters there, as I wandered this place amongst a story that as of now, only I know.