Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Google Maps and the Author's Dream

Imagine the west coast highway in the USA, driving north from California to Alaska, through Canada.

Maybe you don’t have to imagine the scenery, perhaps you’ve driven the road, clinging to the California and Oregon Coastline like a then winding serpent. Perhaps you’ve seen pictures in National Geographic or some such publication.

As an author, we have to have a certain image of the road we’re describing; it helps for the reader’s enjoyment. It may even be essential to the plot.

This is all very well for this famous roadway, so often featured in periodicals all over the world. But what happens if you’re a French writer, too poor to travel, and you want to write a scene on a lonely Arizona road that’s never had pictures published.

As writers we used to rely completely on our imaginations for such a scene, and this isn’t great if our reader has already travelled the actual road.

But now, thanks to Google Maps we have to imagine no longer. We can not only plan out route, not only see satellite imagery to a great detail, but we can actually ‘click’ on the road, and view the road from a Google viewcam vehicle at road level.

Now the pictures might be a couple of years old, but Googlemaps are constantly adding and upgrading the whole system.

From country roads in Romania, Thailand and Gibraltar to the town streets of Charlotte, USA, we can drive our virtual cars and see the roads and the scenery on both sides in real images.

Using www.goolemaps.com we can utilize the internet to see our old home town.

We can shop for hotels, and see the areas they’re situated in.

We can see the way to grandma’s house, and see what it’s like to drive there.

But, dear author, we can also take our readers to our places of interest and describe the surrounds much more accurately than our imaginations could.

The door is open, let’s take a car and do some driving.

(Ian Hall is the co-author of the Vampire High School series, available in paperback and eBook)
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