It is Santa Ana wind time here in Southern California. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means basically it means hot winds blow in and wreak havoc. Not only is there downed parts of trees (and buildings) but the hot, dry wind means we are at increased risk for fire. Not what we need after a terrible fire and mudslide season.
Before I moved to Los Angeles I had no idea what the Santa Ana winds were. My reference points were all snow and blizzard related—typical East Coast stuff. There were so many things I didn’t know about this area, but I learned.
I often wonder about that when I am setting a story in a place I’ve never been. There are so many intangibles that really make a story come to life. It’s the things only a native would know, the history those who grew up in the city or town that make it come alive. I could have set a million stories in Los Angeles before I moved here but if I didn’t touch on the Santa Anas in a hot, dry winter they might not have seemed real. So too is the reverse, if I had never grown up in Boston would I have ever been able to properly describe what it is like to have it snow, then partially freeze, then snow again (brr!).
I wish I could visit every where I describe. I suppose I could except for this pesky day job. It keeps me in Internet and cat food but also makes it impossible to go around the world. So I rely heavily on the Internet as well as willing sources to help me describe the place. It’s never going to be quite the same as someone who has grown up there, but I do my best.
Today the Santa Anas are ferocious. At 5 AM it was already hot and dry. Unlike past weeks I didn’t need my sweatshirt, even at such an early hour, to be comfortable. I know that if I were to put the experience in a story it would ring absolutely true. I strive for that in all my work. Hopefully I can achieve it.