So you want to set a book in say... Norway (or any other exotic locale)? But don’t have the time or money to visit? Let’s take a trip…
Getting the details wrong on a location is one sure way to turn off a reader. But you really did want to set that book in (fill in the blank with the setting of your choice), and you know you’re not getting there anytime soon.
What is a writer to do….GOOGLE EARTH IT.
Yep, that is one fantastic tool. It’s free, amazing and in technicolor.
Get it here: http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/agree.html
So, say you want to set a book in Trondheim, Norway…easy peasy. Once you’ve opened Google Earth, in the search bar on the left-hand side, type in Trondheim Norway. The globe starts spinning and all of a sudden you’re flying above the city.
In the upper right corner is a slider for zooming in or out. (You can also use your mouse if it had a scroll wheel.) And one of the coolest things ever is zooming in and looking around. Oh, and you can grab the image and move it around if your “hand” is on it. Very handy.
I’ll wait while you play, but come back as there is so much more.
Let’s say you want to find a cathedral in Trondheim as I did for my story. Go back to the left side of your screen and see where it says LAYERS? Click on the triangle pointing down and you’ll reveal a menu. Check mark PLACES and you’ll see a bunch of icons on your view. The churches are triple steepled. I set a scene in the Nidaros Cemetery because I could see it, even from ground level…yep.
But I get ahead of myself.
See those push pins in the above picture? They mark important places I’ll need to go review over and over. So I used the YELLOW PUSH PIN ICON in the upper toolbar (that is horizontal to the screen). A pin shows up on your map, you can move it, and a dialogue box comes up so you can name it.
Now in that dialogue box is a cool feature that I used in researching my book, Stone of Heaven. It gives you the exact coordinates of where you place the pin. I needed that for my heroine to give to her pilot. I searched for the Yucatan near an airfield, found a spot that worked, near a road but not a town and voila! I had my imaginary village in the rainforest.
And I found another image that blew me away. This is of the Merida Airport. Does this give you a sense of place? Yep, those are airplanes at the end of the runway, nearly covered by rainforest. I was looking for the direction of a runway for my book and found this.
Okay another amazing view you can get with Google Earth is the street view.
Remember the upper right-hand corner of the screen? See the little orange person? (If it’s not showing, hover the hand there and it’ll come back on). Click and drag it to where you might want a street view. WOW, did you see that? Now you can turn 360 degrees and even follow its yellow path up and down a road by scrolling. You can see almost anything you need.
When you’re done walking the streets and stopping for coffee at that awesome café you found, here’s a trick: see where it says Exit Street View…don’t click that yet. First click on the building next to the blue man. Then click on Exit Street View. Somehow if you don’t you get a flattened image if you do those steps. Don’t know why, but this trick seems to work.
Google Earth helped me find things I never knew existed, like the Dora-1 sub base. I got amazing different angle images of it and it changed the plot of my latest book, Viking Gold.
I found the exact distance between points by using the ruler icon and knew my characters couldn’t walk that, so would need a taxi. I saw the Pirbrua Bridge and it took my breath away. I saw the poling houses on the Nidelva River. All of that plays a part in my book.
Then don't forget to save your places.
Here's ANOTHER TRICK I use to find facts and settings for a book.
Email. Sounds simple and it is.
I needed to know the diving conditions in the Trondheim fjord. I used the internet to find dive shops in Trondheim, found one I liked and emailed them asking for some advice. I made a great friend in Sven Gust, who has sent me images and even read over my dive scene.
I needed information on Nazi involvement in Norway, searched the internet and came across a site of Nazi ranks, equipment etc. I emailed the contact and now retired Colonel Michaël SES Svejgaard of the Royal Danish Air Force is a close friend. He plotted how far a crippled 1940’s BV138 would fly. He found the right Nazi form for my SOS and sent me a picture of it. Invaluable.
I found a woman in England getting her PhD in Viking Metallurgy and History, and she sent me her dissertation on detecting alloys. The chief Trondheim archivist sent me photo’s of the archives in Trondheim. I have 1940 images of Dora-1 sub base from another archivist…amazing. There are others who have helped and that’s only this book.
So my story changed and grew because I could see the city. Street view was invaluable. And I could alter how I saw the city by the filters I engaged on the left side menu bar. I got first-hand information by emailing. I found day and night charts, twilight charts and temperature/humidity charts on the internet. Favorite foods, wines and hotels.
I’ve still not been to Norway, and from what I’ve heard back from readers and my researcher, you’d never know I wasn’t there.
Questions? Ask them! I'd love to help you. What are your favorite methods for research? Share! We'd all love to learn.
I'm giving away a copy of my latest book Viking Gold to one lucky person who comments. I do apologize that there will be a delay in receiving it as it's not available until July 7th.
Meanwhile, here is the link to Amazon. It'll also be on B&N, iTunes and KOBO
Abigail Carswell is an adventure junkie, willing to take risks and thwart death to find the unfindable. But her need for the rush of the hunt is wearing thin on those who love her. Specifically her fiancé, Hermann Weiss, who loves the hunt as well, but as an engineer, does his best to not get into situations he can't engineer himself out of.
On this hunt for Viking Gold in the deep fjords and ancient city of Trondheim, Norway, Abby and Hermann have agreed to take precautions, but in reality those restrictions chafe Abby. Add in Sigurd Thorsen who may not be whom he appears to be and Magnus Jones who definitely isn't who he thinks he is, add in ancient gold, betrayal, with a touch of mythology and you have Viking Gold. Live The Adventure ~ Love The Romance
Leslie Ann Sartor (aka L.A.Sartor) began telling stories around the age of 4 when her mother, at Leslie’s insistence, wrote them down and Leslie illustrated them. As an adult she writes suspense and action adventure novels with a dash of romance, and screenplays—she's had a contracted adaptation! She lives in Colorado with her husband whom she met on a blind date. Leslie loves to travel and thinks life is an adventure and we should embrace the journey. She has a blog and a mailing list.