I can go here, type in my old address, click on the Street View option, and virtually roam the neighborhood I grew up in. I can actually see, with striking detail, the Crape Myrtle my grandmother planted in our front yard forty-some years ago.

Try it! You'll like it!

Isn't this a marvelous tool for writers? We no longer have to depend on memory for setting description. With a click here and a drag there, we're on location instantly.

Of course, I suppose this is also an excellent tool for burglars and other criminals. The real ones and the villains in our stories. They can case a neighborhood without ever leaving the comfort of their own lairs...

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If you like that, you'll love Google Earth.

You can actually see North Koren prison camps as well as North Korea's nuclear site.
That's really cool, John!
A few writers have used the maps to identify locations in their books. I've been involved in mapping the Detroit locations of Elmore Leonard novels here.
It's the Street View option that's especially impressive to me, John M., where you can go in and virtually roam around.
Google Maps and Google Earth are tailor-made for writers. And you ain't seen nothing yet. The resolution gets better with each upgrade. And writers of the future will be even luckier. 'Cause I am pretty sure they'll be able to receive live motion feeds, not the still photographs we get today. That way, you'll know the current condition of a structure, not how it was when its picture was taken. The possibilities are endless.
Well, it's not terribly helpful to me. I write historical novels. There are few resources where you can check old city maps for a specific year and zoom in closely enough to read street names.
have you tried Google's Time Warp option?
No. Will look for it. Thanks.
I was joking, I.J. Maybe someday. :)
Dang! I spent 15 minutes looking for it. Just in case it might be a little bit useful. Actually, this would require a search by date and city. My feeling is that the availability of city maps is not particularly good and gets worse, going back from the 16th century.
I had occasion to need 18th century maps of Mainz, Germany and Lindau, Germany recently. Such maps exist, but there was no way to zoom in sufficiently to read them.
This is kind of on subject and off subject at the same time, but I think technology is making it easier and easier to not have to write about places where you live. And that Google Streets is a good example. Live in Colorado and writing about New York City and need an idea of some description for a city street? Google it, come to the street view option and look around at the neighborhood a bit.

I've actually done this a few times myself. I was writing a thriller set in Buenos Aires last year. By using Google images and looking at pics people took of places in the city, along with some other research I conducted, I came up with what I believe was an accurate description of places throughout the city.

I'm doing the same thing a bit now. I live in Tennessee, but my newest work in progress is Tampa, Florida. I did live there for a few years, but can't remember and didn't visit everywhere I'm writing about. So, I've been able to use Google images to get some pics of the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, where one murder is set. Get some Google street view maps of East Tampa and some old Spanish cigar factories.

But then if it gets too tough, as a writer you can go to the old standby. Just make it up.
Of course, this only works for places that have more than two cows and a chicken. Try zooming in on Howell Michigan, and you'll still be about three zooms away from street level.

Still, it's great fun and an even better way to procrastinate... I mean, research. Yeah... that's it, research. ;-)

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