I have always been a stickler about authentic detail in my writing. This trait has forced me to find innovative ways to make that happen. Google Maps is one of those tools I use.
Novelists have to deal with many details while composing their books. One of the most challenging, if you are concerned about verisimilitude–an air of authenticity–is setting. Many times I have set my story in a place I’ve never been. Then, as the story evolves, I find that the logistics of moving characters around becomes problematic, because I’m not sure where one location is, in relation to another. Nor if that type of location, business, landscape even exists. With today’s constantly improving technology, you can now provide the credible details in your settings by using Google Maps. A personalized Google Map solves the writer’s problem.
Google Maps is often used by travelers to get driving directions, but it can also be used in the virtual reality of the novel you are writing. Google has a “my maps” feature, where you can save a certain map, and then add your own icons and flags. I use this to keep track of the places my characters go, live, work and interact in any way. If you type in a street address, it will place a marker on that spot. You can then save that marker to your own map, and then you can re-label it, and change the icon if you want.
For instance, I use the house icon to indicate where my characters live, the food icon for restaurants they go to, and so on. The satellite feature allows you to see real terrain. Recently this came in handy when I had a character parked by tennis courts and needed to know where the hedges and bushes were in relation to the story. The zooming feature, whether in satellite mode or map mode, is also handy in seeing detail and putting your setting together in your mind. With the added features of zooming and using the satellite feature, you have at your fingertips a window into the world in which you have placed your characters. It also seems to help create flow, in that writer’s block has a hard time getting a foothold when you have all this information that provides inspiration where it might not have appeared otherwise. And you also decrease the likelihood of losing credibility when you have your characters do things the reader knows is impossible.