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Friday, August 13, 2021

How to Use Google Maps to Describe a Place or Setting in a Story

 The details of a story are crucial and describing the opening chapter of a book is one of the most important aspects of writing. An author needs to be on point in setting the tone in the beginning of a story and should never try to describe it in detail without having a clear-cut image to go on. Relying on one’s memory to paint a picture is fine, but how do you describe a place that you’ve never visited? The main character of a story might be from a small town in middle America who moved to the big city, but in order to give a complete background of this character, the author needs to know a little bit about the town that he or she is from.

This is where Google Maps can come into play because it will give you an exact visual of a place that you want to search. For example, a side character in one of my books is a Harvard Law School student who goes to Roxbury to get a haircut from a good friend of his. I’ve never visited Roxbury, Massachusetts, so I had no landmarks or streets to describe the setting and would’ve had to completely make something up. The reader would’ve seen right through this, and the scene would’ve fallen flat.

Grant Park in Chicago

I used Google to find a barbershop in Roxbury by typing in the phrase barbershops in Roxbury Ma in the search box. The next thing that I did was log into my Google account in the upper right-hand corner of the page because it’s very difficult to get a street view of a place without being signed in. The next step was to click on Maps so that I could see a list of barbershops in the Roxbury area. I then clicked on one of the barbershops on Washington and School Street and used it as a backdrop only without the name in my story. After that, I clicked on a small box on the lower left-hand corner of the map called Satellite, and to the right of that box was another box titled More. Once I clicked on that box, it gave me a list of map details. I then clicked Street View, and it gave me a row of images to choose from. I picked an image that showed me the street view of the barbershop, and Google allowed me to scan the entire area so that I could get a feel of the neighborhood.

Using Google Maps brings a particular scene or setting to life, especially if you’ve never visited a place or haven’t been there in a long time. It gives me a sense of being in the midst of a place while I’m describing it in great detail, and I’ll always use the maps feature in the future when writing my novels and short stories on Amazon and my blog.

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