research / Setting / writers resources

How to Virtually Visit a Location You Can’t Drop In On

I was chatting with my friends over at Crimespace, the Ning for Crime writers, and it came out some of them hadn’t discovered Google Street View. This Google Earth device has become one of my strongest tools for enriching scenes, adding fascinating detail about my novel’s setting and authenticating the areas to which my characters travel. I hate that someone will read my novel–where I’ve had my character stop at a Starbuck’s on the way to work–and grouse that there is no Starbuck’s there and where’s my fact-checking. Has that ever happened to you? So, I never add those details without checking Google Street View.

I put together this screen shot How-to on using Street View. Maybe it’ll help some of you, too:

street view

Open Google Earth. Check the sidebar to be sure Street View is selected.

street view

Type the address in to Fly-to for which you search. Push enter. Google Earth takes you there. The camera icons show where Street View is available.

street view

Double click the camera located by your needed location. It takes you to the street. Travel the street by double clicking the other cameras on the street.

Google Street View has more locations every month. They even cover hiking trails, now. Go find your house. What do you think?

Update: These directions have been updated. Visit my July 10th, 2012 posting.


10 thoughts on “How to Virtually Visit a Location You Can’t Drop In On

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  8. Good morning, Jacqui! We’ve talked about Google Street View before, but I don’t think you can overstress the importance of that tool. I used it to “travel” to a couple of spots where key scenes took place in Separation of Faith. I’d been to those areas of the country before in person, so there were general images in my head. But I wanted to see the specifics of the actual spots where the characters were going to be. Google Street View took me to the precise locations, and hopefully the resultant narratives and descriptions in the book now transport the reader there as well.

    Hope you’re having a great weekend! We had small “dusting” snowfalls on Friday and yesterday, on the heels of last week’s mega-storm. And now we’re being told that we’re going to get walloped again on Tuesday and Wednesday with another huge event. Even those of us who generally love the winter season are sort of “over it” this year. There’s literally no place left to put any new snow, and the temperatures aren’t getting above freezing to melt what’s already here. Really a crazy situation.

    Talk to you soon. –Cheri


    • Weather might be California’s only remaining top ten reason for moving here. Certainly not our administration or our fiscal responsibility. But that’s another topic. I’m here freezing in 60 degrees. I had to put a sweatshirt on.

      I think Street View has remade writing for us, hasn’t it? The ability to see where our setting is gives us no excuse to get it wrong. Since I love the research part of writing (and you seem to also), that’s fine with me!


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