Friday, September 23, 2011

Google Earth and Coldfoot, Alaska

I've been making tons (for me, anyway) of progress on my Polar Night story this week, and a big reason for that is a tip I read on Jacqui Murray's great blog, WordDreams.

Jacqui wrote about using Google Earth to search out the locations she was writing about, allowing her to travel the same streets and towns as her characters. I'd never thought about using Google Earth for this purpose before, but because I am writing a story that takes place in an area I have never been, I couldn't wait to try it.

I have to admit, I've now become a little obsessed with Google Earth. ;) Polar Night is set in Alaska, and I feel like I have spent most of my week virtually visiting the state.

My main character is based in Fairbanks, and being able to travel around the streets of the city was just amazing to me. To "see" the stores and banks and gas stations my character will be passing as he drives around Fairbanks was more helpful than I ever could have guessed, and inspired me to want to write and write and write. And then to write some more. :)

A good part of Polar Night takes place in the Arctic region of Alaska, and I was totally fascinated to be able to view a town called Coldfoot. Coldfoot began as a mining town in the early 1900s, and is now a truck stop on the legendary Dalton Highway. I knew I wanted to base one of my characters in an Arctic region town, and when I discovered Coldfoot I couldn't believe how perfect it was for my story.

I loved looking up Coldfoot on Google Earth, and also found some great photos of the town on TripAdvisor. While I would not want to be in this snow myself, just looking at the photos makes me feel inspired again. I couldn't ask for a better setting for my story.

Pictures of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp, Coldfoot
This photo of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp is courtesy of TripAdvisor


Pictures of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp, Coldfoot
This photo of Slate Creek Inn Coldfoot Camp is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I know I still have a lot of research to do in order to be able to understand the culture and feel of Alaska, and I would give anything to actually be able to travel there and see it in person, but for now I am thrilled to be able to virtually explore this amazing state. I'm so grateful to Jacqui for this tip!

If you're not already familiar with WordDreams, I would highly recommend a visit, as I always think Jacqui offers valuable advice and tips, and also great writer's resources.

I'm hoping for a productive writing weekend to close out my productive week. Whatever you're planning for your weekend, I hope you have a great one ahead! :)

43 comments:

  1. What a perfect place to go for "travel". That is a wonderful idea, and I love the photos you posted!

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  2. PS I forgot to say, Congrats on your writing, and I plan on getting my final draft completed for my Chicken Soup for the Soul story. Did you see the Call Out for the "doggy" stories? That's the anthology I'm hoping to be accepted for.

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  3. @Becky, thank you! Oh, good luck with the Chicken Soup draft!!! I did see that about the doggies and I was thinking about trying it, I still might. I hope your story gets accepted, I know it will be great. :)

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  4. What a fantastic idea. I adore GoogleEarth, but I never thought about using it for writing research and inspiration. Thanks for the tip!

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  5. Jules!
    I used Google earth a lot when I was writing my MG fantasy. It was set in Salisbury, UK and I found Google Earth super useful when describing my setting and figuring out the path my characters took.
    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  6. What a brilliant idea. I have never thought of using Google Earth for that. Fun idea. I'm glad it has helped you make progress! So cool. I might have to try it. :)

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  7. I've spent weeks and weeks on google maps researching. Like you, I haven't been to the place where my story takes place (I think I'm going soon, though). But by using "streetview" and the video selections on Google maps I've been able to piece together a pretty good visual of the landscape. I hope. I'll probably still get something wrong, but every writer nudges things here and there.

    Also, great town you found, though I'm not ready to ponder that much snow yet. :)

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  8. I use Google maps a lot as well. I've visited the area where my novel is set quite a few times, but I don't live there, so it's a great tool.

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  9. I love Google Earth. :) I've done lots of research on there. I hope you have a great weekend!

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  10. @Jillian, you're welcome, so glad you found the post helpful. I am just the same, I don't know why I didn't think of using it before.

    @nutschell, oh, that fantasy story sounds really cool. I'm hoping using this will keep being useful for me too, fingers crossed!

    @Abby, I think you will like it if you end up using it!

    @LG, oh, I hope you do get to visit the place you're writing about. I was daydreaming thinking about taking a trip to Alaska, then I looked at the cost of airfare from Cincinnati to Fairbanks and put that out of my mind fairly quickly, for now at least! I just love the town, even though I wouldn't want to be anywhere near that much snow either LOL.

    @KC, I've always loved using Google maps for trips and things so I don't know why it never dawned on me to use it for this, it's fun to use and perfect for writing.

    @Ciara, thanks, I hope you have a great weekend as well!

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  11. I use Google's street view feature all the time! Great post!

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  12. Oh neat. I never thought to use it for that purpose either. I did use google to get some details of Portland right, since we moved and my memory goes fuzzy.

    Looks very, very cold.

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  13. That is so cool. I love the idea of using Google earth to get a sense of location for a novel.
    Glad to hear things are coming along with your story.

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  14. Great ideas. I know about Google Earth. I'm going to look into TripAdvisor.

    Happy Weekend!

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  15. Hi Julie .. well done on the writing - sounds like that is moving forward.

    Google earth certainly has its advantages - that you can have a jolly good look around .. and feel for the place ..

    Really interesting resource to have at hand .. enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

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  16. I've spent many a happy hour playing with Google Earth but I've never thought about it as a tool for writing. What a great idea.

    I love the pictures you posted. Just gorgeous.

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  17. I had to un-install Google Earth, I got addicted. :) You might also try using travel sites, that is how I research a trip to a new place.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  18. Google Earth is addicting. Virtual traveling. The future, it is here. :)

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  19. What a great idea - I will remember this for my research!

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  20. @Lisa, thanks!

    @Mary, once I read the tip I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before LOL. I love the name Coldfoot for a town, definitely seems appropriate based on these pics.

    @Carrie, thank you, I'm excited about it. :)

    Carol, thanks, hope you are having a great weekend too.

    @Hilary, I feel like it is moving forward, thanks so much. It is definitely fun to feel like you are actually looking around somewhere, it's been fun to imagine my characters while I'm playing on Google.

    @Shirley, thank you! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who never thought to use it before LOL.

    @Jules, ha ha, I can see myself heading down that addiction path. I am using the travel sites too, thanks for the suggestion.

    @Liz, LOL, definitely, you can't beat it. :D

    JoAnna, so glad you found it helpful, thanks!

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  21. Ooh, I never heard of Google Earth. Sounds like a great resource. Thanks.

    Congratulations on making great progress on your book.

    Those pictures are gorgeous.
    xoRobyn

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  22. PS story not book, or maybe story for a book? Either way, congrats!

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  23. Using google earth is nothing short of brilliant! Though I don't need it for my current story, it's going to come in handy for my NaNo project. Great idea!!

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  24. Julie, that is so cool! What a great idea. I will have to check out WorldDreams too. So awesome to be able to put yourself there - we live in amazing times. Cheers to a productive writing weekend!

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  25. WOW! What great pictures. No wonder you're inspired.
    I'll check Word Dreams.

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  26. Congratulations on your writing at lovely research! Loved your photos, thanks for sharing!

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  27. Wow! Excellent!
    Thanks for sharing, Julie! I enjoyed the visit.

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  28. My daughter is OBSESSED with google earth. :-)
    I need to check out Worddreams. Thanks for that link!

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  29. @Robyn, thank you! I hope it will be a book, that's my plan anyway, although it still seems years away LOL. :)

    @Jennie, I hope this will help with your NaNo project, that sounds great. Thanks so much!

    @Tracy Jo, it really is so amazing, isn't it? WordDreams is a great site, I think you'll like it too. Thanks!

    @Giggles, aren't those pics cool? LOL like I said I sure wouldn't want to be there in that snow but I love writing about it. Thanks!

    @Nas Dean, thank you! So glad you liked the post, thanks so much.

    @Fresh Garden, thanks for visiting, great to meet you!

    @Jennifer, I've joined your daughter in obsessing LOL. Thanks!

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  30. Very neat:) Your Google Earth comment got me thinking. Sometimes it's good to look at older, inaccurate maps because it tells you how people "felt" about a place. Just an idea, but it helps me:)

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  31. @Mark, oh, that's a great idea! Thanks for the tip, I never thought about doing that. Thanks! :)

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  32. I sometimes wander on to Google Earth but weirdly I always end up looking at my own house... even though all I have to do is step outside the front door and look for real!! I need to get a life. That is a brilliant idea and I'm off to visit WordDreams now too. Thanks for the link.

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  33. @Rosalind, oh, I keep looking at my own place too! LOL LOL I can't help it, I think I need a life too LOL. Honestly I think it feels a little strange when I see my own house and car there, the technology is amazing but also a little creepy LOL.

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  34. I'm so excited that you're doing so well with your book! Google Earth sounds great, and I love the pictures! Julie

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  35. @Julie, I'm rally excited about it too, thanks so much. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I can keep up at this pace. :)

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  36. This is one of those why didn't I think of that moments. :)

    Hey, I'm going to "like" your fb page, but since Michelle is my pen name, I hope you recognize my face! It'll be a pic of me and my husband in front of our church temple.

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  37. That's such a clever idea! Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely use it when I have to write something set in a specific place.

    :-)

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  38. Yikes! It looks might cold in those images. Good luck with your writing!

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  39. You might enjoy this live web cam, from downtown Fairbanks:
    http://newsminer.com/pages/arcticcam

    It especially interesting during the winter!
    Happy Trails,
    ~K

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  40. @Michelle, that's exactly what I thought! Oh, thanks about FB, I will look now, thanks! :)

    @Misha, I hope the tip is helpful for you too, glad I could share it. :)

    @Stephen, thanks!! Yeah, the cold definitely looks unbearable to me but it's fun to write about. :)

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  41. @Mrs. K, oh, thank you for that link, that's really cool. Thanks!

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  42. I'm so glad you like the tip, Julie. Google Earth and its Street View feature also made a big difference in my novel's setting. I remember standing in front of my hero's house (in Street View), imagining just the right words to explain it to readers. So fun.

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  43. @worddreams, thanks so much again for the tip, it's made such a difference for me. I know just what you mean about standing in front of the house! It really makes the whole setting come to life in my mind.

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Thank you for your comments!