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Google Maps – a tool for writers?

Has Google maps opened the world up for writers?


Is it a useful tool for writers?

[This is not an advertisement for Google, just a quick thought about writing.]

I use it quite a lot when I’ve got to visit a new place – not just for writing. Dragging the icon down to street level makes it easier to navigate without having to remember street name after street name. But can it be more than that?

Sure looking at pictures and maps of a place doesn’t give you the full feel of the place. It doesn’t include sounds or smells – at least not yet anyway – with the way technology is improving we may never have to leave our homes to visit a new place!

But to get a general sense of the layout of a place it can be a useful tool. For some scenes and for some writers location is very important and integral to the story. Especially if you’re writing about a real place. If the post office is next to the local pub, whether there’s a roundabout in the middle of the village. A cemetery? A church or a chapel? Even what high street stores there are there? Or how the river flows? Does it bubble gently over smooth rocks or does it foam down a series of mini waterfalls? Then Google Maps is a useful tool.

[I’ve used it to calculate distances from place to place and how long it’ll take to get from A to B.]

It shouldn’t replace actually visiting the place. You can’t get a true feel for the place by looking at a picture. And nothing can really beat visiting the place, wandering about its streets, smelling the sounds and seeing all the sights in real-time around you. Nor can you talk to the people who live there. But can it be used as a memory refreshment tool?

Should it be used at all? I think that’s it probably alright to use it – but not as a template for your imagination or physical research, but more as a guide or memory jogger. Or even to give you a brief sense of what a place looks like to spark your imagination forward, to make the creation of a fiction town, city or village all the more easier to create.

It is a tool for the creation of imagination. Not the be all and end all. But does this mean it shouldn’t be used?


One comment on “Google Maps – a tool for writers?

  1. I’ve used Google Maps a bit in the past. Never realized how it could be a good writer’s tool. Thanks for the advice, I plan to use this some time.

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