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How Google Street View Revamps A Writer’s Settings

There’s never been a better tool for developing your setting than Google Street View. I use it all the time to check what

street view

Use Street View to see your character's neighborhood

my setting looks like in the real world. It shows streets and hiking trails, and includes buildings, traffic, people, parking lots, sports arenas–basically, whatever’s around whatever geographic location you’ve added to your novel.

My novel is set in New York. Here’s how I use Street View:

  • I checked out my main character’s apartment, the walking paths she took to stores, work, etc.; the track she runs on (I wanted to know if there were stands by CC of NY where people could see her sprinting off her anger)
  • My main character works at Columbia so I traced where she’d enter the campus, what view she’d have from her office window (yes, you see the buildings as constructed by ‘knowledgeable’ people)
  • One character lives in Englewood NJ so I tracked his jogging path out the back of his house on Summit into the Flatrock Nature Center, his driving path from his house to Columbia, bridges he’d cross, sites he’d see. Do you see how much detail is in the picture I’ve included here, right down to the ‘No Outlet’ sign?
  • I measured distances to see how far a trip would take and how long in traffic (great feature)
  • I got the exact names of locations (i.e., Flatrock Nature Center and the Dept of Parks Sheltering Arms Pool)
  • I also explored areas out of NY my characters visited to see what those towns were like (i.e., Lewiston, Perth Amboy, Wonsan DPRK), their people, their streets, so I can give my novel the bona fide’s that readers love.

What I’m saying is, if you haven’t discovered Street View and you’re a writer, get going! Its authenticity is why Google has been getting in trouble all over the world for the information it reveals about people, places, events. A user even found a hyper-modern Chinese sub (using Google Earth) and posted it for the world to see. That went viral. Nothing seems able to hide from Google Earth and Street View.

Is your setting the UK? Here’s an update on Street View there:

All mapped out: Virtually every road in the UK will now appear on Google’s Street View

By Sean Poulter and Claire Bates

Google is extending its Street View service to peer at 95 per cent of homes in the UK, despite criticism that it amounts to an invasion of privacy.

From today, 360-degree pictures will be available of virtually every street from Penzance to Shetland. An extra 210,000 miles of detailed mapping will be made public.

The service has previously been restricted to major cities.It means Britain will join Spain, France, Italy and the U.S, which already have nationwide coverage.

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6 thoughts on “How Google Street View Revamps A Writer’s Settings

  1. Pingback: Tech Tip for Writers #65: How to use Google Street View | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: Tech Tip for Writers #65: Google Street View « Jacqui Murray's WordDreams…

  3. So cool! Such a wonderful way of mapping out your book without actually needing to take trips to your location so you can investigate for authentic landmarks etc!


  4. Greetings Kali: I found this post because I just found out how useful Google street view is as well. I spent a happy hour roaming around the ‘streets’ of London looking for the right bookshop, one setting in my book.

    Loved your post. Street view for writers is an excellent resource.

    Nice list of other resources you have. I will add you to my blog list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @rahmama–I did the same with my character’s home town (New York). I got a real sense of her life as I trolled the streets. I can only imagine London is as amazing. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!


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