I knew it existed. I’d heard about the amusing things people have found and had checked it out before, but today I discovered Google Maps Street View’s potential. For writing.
It went a little something like this: Two characters were strolling along a street I was vaguely familiar with. I knew they were approaching a park, but wasn’t sure how much further they had yet to travel. I needed to know if it was feasible. The map told me it was. I kept clicking and suddenly I was looking at the exact location I wanted to write about. I had pictured a park bench in the vicinity and voila! Not only was there one, but several!
I’ve been well versed for some time on the use of google for fact checking missions, naming characters, and anything else I need to find on the fly, but this revelation was both thrilling and petrifying at the same time.
It was fabulous because in two seconds I had the information I needed and could continue my scene without having to jot a note to check it out later. I didn’t have to drive down for verification. It wasn’t like the entire novel took place there, just a short scene and on my screen was a panoramic view with rich detail to choose from. Not only was this fantastic, but I realized I don’t have to stalk a neighbourhood trying to take stealth pictures of houses I find interesting. I can note the address and have a peek when I get home or whenever I need it. I can only hope the house doesn’t get torn down before I need my description or that any additions or unique details weren’t added after the google photo was taken or I’ll have to start all over again or rely on my memory.
Maybe this won’t work after all, which could be a good thing because it’s petrifying to have this tool at my fingertips when I already sit and slog away at my desk for hours. I could have used a drive, a walk and maybe another coffee…well, maybe not the coffee, but I definitely need to get out of this chair more often. It frightens me because now that I realize the potential of this, I worry about overusing it. Google’s Street View could make my writing stronger, especially with descriptive details, but it also has the potential to make it weaker. Staying sedentary without getting out for some air and seeing real people, not just all my tweeps and facebook friends on my coffee breaks, could stifle my creativity. They say that you can’t write if you don’t live, if you don’t get out and experience life and if I’ve learned anything from my youthful soap opera attempts compared to what I’d write in that area now, I’m pretty sure that saying is accurate.
There’s also the problem that a picture doesn’t convey much about the atmosphere of a location, the people found there and it obviously doesn’t activate any other senses, but with a little imagination, a few smaller scenes could be crafted with its assistance. I probably won’t turn to it – I hope I won’t turn to it – if I need an overall assessment of an area I want to focus on. I can imagine using it as a starting point, to drum up ideas, find interesting locations or to research something quickly like I did today.
I’m probably the last person to discover this, but there it is. Writers need not leave their houses anymore. We can remain in our seats until our backsides expand to the size of them instead. Hmmm, maybe it’s time to look into the gym.