I realized the beauty of using Google Maps in research during the draft of my latest novel, A Final Reflection. My main character embarks on a 30-day, 6,000-mile road trip throughout the western U.S., visiting old friends, lovers and family members. Prior to the inception of Google Maps, I would have been forced either to invent settings for his visits, which might have lacked the specificity to feel real to the reader, or to pack my car with provisions and complete the trip myself in order to provide the reader with an authentic experience.

Mapping the character’s route, of course, was the simplest of tasks. Google’s street-view feature proved invaluable in acquainting me with the topographical features of a landscape, the architectural details of a neighborhood, and the types of businesses of differing locales.

I found myself at times staring at a photo of a street corner, a field adjacent to a highway, or the storefront of a main street shop, absorbing the scene before trying to render my character’s interpretation of his surroundings in the book. At times it might have become a crutch, but so often writing seems like a jerking hobble down a bumpy path…sometimes a crutch serves a purpose.

Photograph Copyright Robin S. Tryloff 2012. All rights reserved.