Sunday, 12 May 2013

Getting Lost with Google Earth

Oh yes, it's possible. If you're a born non-navigator like me, it's completely natural to get lost everywhere you go.

So there I was, yesterday morning, trying to compose a scene where my main character Lilli is sitting in the Laduree tea salon in Paris. Quite what she was going to do there other than eat a macaroon or two, I didn't quite know, but I did know that because it is a REAL place, I'd better make sure I had her looking out of the window at the right, real things...and not a circus tent and a lion tamer, for example. (Now that would make for an interesting story, right?! Anyhoo...)

I visited Paris a couple of years ago with my good friend Zoe and we went to Laduree...except we went to the one on the Champs Elysee and NOT the one on the rue Royale, which is the one I wanted to write about. Why? Well because it's the very first Laduree, and I want to have Lilli going there and her daughter Anna echoing her by going to the other one twenty-odd years later, though I'm going to invert the character motivations and reflections...but you don't need to worry about this!

So, I've got memories of the Champs Elysees branch and I looked up photos of the rue Royale branch, but neither was helping me with quite what Lilli would see if she looked out the window (cue shouts of "roll up, roll up," I hear you sarcastically cry!). And then I remembered. Didn't Google bring out this thing ages ago where you can zoom in on anywhere in the world and get a 'street view'? (As you can tell, I don't keep up with technological advances - they're a bit, too, well, advanced for me...)

I quite literally put all my worries about invasion of privacy and the application of such a tool out of the window, and Googled it. And that's where I began to get lost.

It turns out you have to download this gizmo with Google Chrome (who knew, right? Oh, the entire world...?), so I set about doing that...and it took some time, enough for me to tick off the first stage of Getting Lost, which is Irritation. Check. On to the next...

That would be reading the guide book - or, in this case, the instructions -  which I'm normally a stickler for but, because I'd already wasted enough writing time to brew and drink a cup of tea, I didn't bother. After all, I only wanted to look at one street, right?

After scouring the screen to find the 'Search box' (I know, it's painful. I promise after this post I'll go and lie in a darkened room and get a technological grip), I typed in '18 rue Royale' and got...22 rue Royale. A big ole map showed up with blue lines criss-crossing like varicose veins and nearly giving me as much of a headache. Then I realised I could zoom in...

So I did. I clicked along the screen...and promptly ended up on another street. I tried to reverse (and anyone who's seen my driving KNOWS this is a bad idea...) and crashed against the wall-of-going-nowhere. Nothing happened. I took a deep breath and told myself I could do this; it's only a computer. Thinking if I clicked the opposite side to where I wanted to be, the screen would simply flip around, I forgot I've always had issues with mirror images and lefts and right and all that bananas.

By this point, I was firmly on to the middle stage of Getting Lost, which is Desperation. I clicked back on the 'Search Box' to start again...and again...and again... During all of these wrong turns I did discover that I could 'take photos' and save an image, so this is what I did, click click click.

Eventually, I saw that my character would basically be looking out on a tree trunk and traffic (the tree looked tall, leafy and lovely from the other side of the road, but my scene is set in winter and this Google Earth nonsense is supposed to be 'real-time', so that wasn't helping much...), and that was it. I skipped over Destination Reached!, the final stage of Getting Lost, because now I didn't want to be there at all.

After turning the bloody thing off and breaking for lunch, I returned to my laptop to commence battle: I looked at the 'screen caps' (check me out with my terminology, eh?!), switched screens between them till I got to my writing document and...stalled. All that Google Earth fuss hadn't really helped. Whatever I was going to write depended completely upon what my character was going to DO there...and I still didn't know. I managed to tap out various paragraphs of description, had a little conflict-idea which I noted down the outline of (by this point I just wanted to forget all about the damn macaroons), and saved the file at an unsatisfying 625 words.

This morning, totally fresh and free from any Google Earth dalliance, I came back to the scene and pushed on. It was hard going to start with - I'd gone from thinking I'd find direction in the physical description, to not using any of it - but this helped me come up with what the scene was really about: Lilli's dissatisfaction and how to get over it. Ironic, eh? (I know, you couldn't make this stuff up...)

I've just finished the first proper draft of that scene, with all paragraphs in consecutive order and characters interacting, and it rounds out at 1380 words - so not too shabby, after all. What with that and this post, I think that's all my words for today. Time to relax, eat dinner and cat-nap...Except my Dad has got the map out and wants me to find him an auto-route...

It's truly time to get lost!

~ ttfn ~

1 comment:

  1. Oh my giddy aunt! I can so imagine you doing all this, and getting lost and getting frustrated, but I admit to a chuckle because I can 'see' your face. Google Earth is amazing once you know what and how to navigate it. I use it lots as you know so I would have happily helped but I feel you getting 'lost' may help with your characters because they are bound to get lost at some point too!! lol Take care lovely. Zo xx


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