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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Mapping your Settings   Sun Nov 23, 2008 2:38 am

I have always been a stickler about authentic detail in my writing. This trait has forced me to find innovative ways to make that happen, since I don't always have the luxury of traveling to certain locales for in-person research. The degree to which you strive toward that authenticity is, of course, up to you, but accuracy can never harm your reputation, and can often serve to inspire other elements in your story.

Novelists have to deal with many details while composing their books. One of the most challenging, if you are concerned about verisimilitude--an air of authenticity--is setting. Many times I have set my stories in a place I've never been. Then, as the story evolves, I find that the logistics of moving characters around becomes problematic, because I'm not sure where one location is, in relation to another; nor if that type of location, business, or landscape even exists, or could possibly exist. Fortunately, with today's constantly improving technology, you can now provide the credible details in your settings by using Google Maps. A personalized Google Map solves the writer's setting logistics issues.

Though Google Maps is often used by travelers to get driving directions, it can also be used in the virtual reality of the novel you are writing. Google has a "My Maps" feature, where you can save a certain location, and then add your own icons and flags. I use this to keep track of the places my characters go, live, work and interact in any way.

If you don't have an account with Google, register for one. After logging in, click the "My Maps" link on the left-hand side.

Begin by selecting the location on the United States map that comes up. If you type in a street address, it will zoom in and automatically place a marker on that spot. Or you can zoom in on a location, and add the marker yourself. You can then save that marker--along with its map--to your own account, and are free to re-label it, and even change the icon if you wish. Right-clicking on one of these placemarker flags, gives you a box in which to fill in details to remind you of that marker's significance.

At the top of the zoom bar, is a human figure icon, which gives you a street-level view. This is valuable when you have your characters driving around, and need to know the lay of the land, or the names of streets.

In the left-hand column, the edit button places other tool icons at the top of your map. The hand icon lets you click and drag the map around to suit your needs. There are three other tools for further customization, such as a line tool, placemark, and shapes. These features are only available in edit mode. The line drawing feature can be used to map the route a traveling character might take. The shape tool allows you to make a triangle or square, or any other shape by clicking, moving and clicking again. The shape is closed and complete by clicking back on the first click location. The shape will then be highlighted for reference. This could be used to keep track of an area where something important is happening in your story.

Right-click anywhere on the map, and you have access to another menu of tools, such as direction to or from that location. This right-click menu is another shortcut to those line, shape and placemark tools, as well. If you hold the mouse pointer over a line or placemark on the map, and right-click, it gives you additional features for that item, such as properties--which brings up the editing box to describe the placemark, rename it, or add something to it. When editing the box, clicking on the icon in the top right corner displays a list of available icons.
For instance, I use the house icon to indicate where my characters live, the food icon for restaurants they go to, and so on. The satellite feature allows you to see real terrain. Recently this came in handy when I had a character parked by tennis courts and needed to know where the access road, hedges and bushes were in relation to the story. To make things even more personalized, you may also add you own icons by clicking that link.

The zooming feature, whether in Satellite, Terrain, or Map mode, is also handy in seeing detail and putting your setting together in your mind. With the added features of zooming and using the satellite feature, you have at your fingertips a window into the world in which you have placed your characters. Traffic, Terrain, and Satellite tools specifically, give you even more power. The Traffic feature allows you to find out about live traffic, or traffic at certain times of the day. The Satellite feature gives you an actual aerial view of the area transmitted from satellites. This is helpful if you need to know where certain organic and structural items are. The Terrain feature offers a visual of the topographical elements of an area in the manner of a geographical relief map. All of these tools give you a more well-rounded view of your setting that is as close to being there as you'll be without actually going there to see it for yourself.

Having this information only a mouse-click away, also seems to help create flow, in that writer's block has a hard time getting a foothold when you have all this information that provides inspiration where it might not have appeared otherwise. And you also decrease the likelihood of losing credibility when you have your characters do things the reader knows is impossible.

After getting all your placemarks and other details added to the map, save it with a title and any details in the provided box, and select "unlisted" for your privacy and sharing setting, unless you want everyone on the Internet to have access to your book's details. Sometimes this might be something you want to make public, if you are working in tandem with someone else on a project. Then they can access your map as well. This works well for authors who might collaborate largely by phone, because you can both pull up the same information and discuss it by moving around on a shared map. Now each time you log in to My Maps, you can select the map for whichever book you want to work on.

With all these tools in play, your setting can now have the air or authenticity, and the credibility of your writing will hold fast against any criticism in that regard.


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SOURCE: http://maps.google.com/
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