Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Google Maps Takes the Fun Out of Research

In my work in progress, Vengeance Is Mine, the protagonist travels a lot. To make it easier for me, I only let him go to places I've been. That way I can create better descriptions of the locations. But the other day I wished I was in Albuquerque again to get a bit a detail I needed for a scene. I wanted there to be a house close to the Petroglyph National Monument, but I didn't know if there was one or not. In the old days, such research might require a tax-deductible trip to look around first hand. But, no longer.

Here's all I had to do. I opened Google Maps in my browser and typed in Petroglyph National Monument. Then I clicked on the little orange Google man and moved him to the streets around the park. I found just what I needed. There was a whole neighborhood near the park's parking lot. Close enough to serve my needs.

From Albuquerque, my characters went to Rowe, a small town in Massachusetts I know quite well, but a place where most people don't vacation. My memory of the place was good, but I had not been to a private airport in nearby North Adams that I wanted to use in the story. With Google Maps I was able to start at the airport and follow the road to Rowe. I learned there are many turns along the way. I looked for photos as I made my virtual trip in hopes of finding a winter scene but there were none. Luckily, I went to Rowe this year and a friend there had some photos taken while there was snow on the ground.

So, no longer must we go to a villa in France or spend time on a barge in the Netherlands to absorb details enough for a realistic description. All we have to do is turn on the computer.


  1. My friend Peg sent this comment by email:

    Boy, I could have used Google Maps when I was writing!! How cool can that be? Peg

  2. Today (12/17/10) I updated Bing on my iPhone that allows me to see 360 degree photos of streets in many cities. This is the same as Google Maps, but it works better on the iPhone.