Just as a film director scouts locations for his film, you can scout locations for your book. Whether you are an organic, planner, or hybrid writer, your scenes will be set somewhere.
When you are planning or writing your novel, it helps to have visual images to look at when describing your scenes. You may have chosen a gritty urban streetscape, a desert SciFi terrain, a remote manor house in the Scottish Highlands, or a sheep farm down under. If you are lucky enough to be able to travel to the place and truly absorb the sights, smells, and sounds, you are ahead of the game.
If not, the beautiful thing about the internet age is you don’t have to leave your house to research them. There are travel channels and brochures, DVDs, and movies set in specific locales for you to investigate. It won’t give you the smells, sounds, and tastes, but it is better than making it up entirely in your head.
Thanks to Google Maps and other satellite mapping programs, you can now zoom in and do a 360-degree pan of the area. While it doesn’t allow you to peek inside the windows, you can stroll through a neighborhood in Paris, London, or Peoria for free.
For interior scenes, you can find images through internet search engines. You can find examples of log cabins, Victorian parlors, industrial warehouses, and suburban homes. Tourist sites and real estate sites offer visual tours.
For my current project I needed a Victorian stage and the exterior and interior of a Victorian manor house. Some tours of stately homes offered floor plans. I will create a fictional manor house utilizing the rich details I discovered.
By zooming along England’s coast I found the town of Graves End. Perfect location name for a mystery and close enough to London that my investigators could easily go there by coach. A little more digging and I found it was on the coach line and had people arriving from London several times a day. Of course, Google maps shows a very modern Graves End, but I did find an early map of it as well as illustrations.
Sadly, I cannot afford to go to Graves End and I’d need the Tardis to return to Victorian times. I’ll have to settle for imagining the way it smells and sounds and the way it might have been. But if I hadn’t been scouting for locations, I would never have known it was there.