Apr. 27, 2016

Google me this

Writing is an interesting and complex business.  Many think a fiction writer sits down and simply creates.  To a degree, that’s true.  They do invent worlds or go to far off locations.  It is fiction after all and as fiction, it is a work of the imagination that describes events, people or places.

Fiction is not all fabrication though.  Regardless of what the copyright page in books might tell you, often writers base their characters or locations on of real people and places.  In the end, they are amalgamations, but at some time they were real. For fiction to work, it has to be believable.

To make it real, description is employed to set the stage.  Through description and dialogue, the writer is charged with taking the reader on a journey with all the associated scenery.

To achieve some level of authenticity and to give me a sense of where I am, I rely heavily on the internet to take me where I need to go.

Let’s say I want my character to drive from point A to point B.  Both points exist in the real world.  I can go so far as to select the type of car the character is driving.  The manufacturer’s website is replete with images of the interior and exterior of the car.

When the character arrives, let’s say it is a government building or a shopping mall, there is probably a website for that location.  The site will doubtless give me images that will show places I wouldn’t be allowed access to otherwise.

Let’s say you present yourself at the central government complex in Nuuk, Greenland and ask, “Hey, I’m a writer.  Would you mind if I take a quick peek at your cabinet chamber?”

I feel sure after the initial investigation, the police would let you go.  Probably.

Another tool I can use is Google Earth.  I can look at the exact route from A to B and go down to the street view to see what the character sees – or doesn’t notice.  I may have been there, driven the exact route, but do I remember the color of the awning over that deli on the corner of Queen Ann Street?  Probably not.

Does my character turn left or right at this or that intersection?  Cross any railroad tracks lately?  Is he on a newly paved road or one pockmarked with potholes?  Will she be passing through farm country or is it miles of subdivisions or is it all in an urban setting?

I can see it all as the character sees it.

Google Earth comes in several variations.  It can be accessed as an application downloaded to one’s computer.  It can be opened via the internet or seen on a smartphone.

But it can do more.  I’m not restricted to the roads and landscape.  I can view the ocean or sky or 3D images of specific buildings.  I can go to mars or the moon or lay on my back in a forest and look up at a dense canopy of trees against a night sky.  I can fly around cities or go back in time with historical images.

I can flesh out the scene.  I create it in the dictionary sense of that word, but the tiny details are what makes it real for my readers.

I’m sure there are those who would say I don’t have enough imagination.  Perhaps they’re right.  Let me assure those people I will cry myself to sleep tonight and turn in my writers’ union card tomorrow morning.