Tag Archives: Burgos

Writing Inspiration from Google Maps

Google Maps Street View is one of my favorite tools as a writer.  When I set out to write Expecting Happiness, I first asked myself what kind of book I was in the mood to read.  My answer, something involving a travel adventure, so I set to work creating characters that wanted to leave behind their boring lives and hit the open road, (real stretch of the imagination, right?).  Of course, I ended up taking them places I had been before, because writing about places I had never actually seen felt daunting.

However, I quickly realized that my fuzzy memories left holes in the pictures of these destinations, and the characters’ personalities also started to take them places within these cities that I never visited.  My solution?  Google Maps Street View.  Now, I do not pretend to be the first writer with this clever idea, but it is one of my favorite tricks to help me understand the layout of a city and visualize its scenery.  If you haven’t checked it out before, you should give it a shot.  You never know what sort of inspiration you’ll find.

My male protagonist wanted to run in Paris, but what would he see?  What parks on the list of places to jog in Paris might he visit?

I needed a place for my female protagonist’s cousin to live in Nuremberg.  What do the suburbs a couple of stops past the Hitler rally grounds look like?

Hmm, I wonder if I could find my dorm room while studying abroad in Burgos, Spain… Okay, this trick also gets me sidetracked.

Alright, if my female protagonist wanted to walk to a school in the Sarrià-St. Gervasi neighborhood of Barcelona, what would she see along the way?

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Going Back to Spain

I’m finally back into a groove with my writing.  I know where I want to add scenes, I’m living in my story.  I see everything so differently than when I began.  If I could start over, my writing would be better.  I’m not patient enough to start over, so hopefully this will be good enough.

This afternoon I’m expanding a scene in Barcelona.  It’s evening, my female protagonist is exploring the city with a new friend.  In order to write, I first needed to crawl back into my own memories of Spain.  Part of the reason that I chose to send my characters on journeys was so that I could have their adventures with them.  I want this to feel authentic, so I need to remember.

To help me go back, I pulled out my old photo album from my summer spent studying abroad in Spain seven years ago.  A lot has changed since then.  My boyfriend is now my husband.  We both look older.  The photographs were taken with film, the color and clarity is disappointing, (especially after scanning).  Instead of blogging, I wrote my family weekly emails, which are stapled together in the back of my album:

“Alex and I have reached our last stop together and it is going to be very hard to say goodbye… Paris was beautiful and the people were much friendlier than we expected… Madrid really comes alive at night and Alex and I enjoyed a three hour goodbye dinner in La Plaza Mayor.”

“I made it safely to Burgos and have a nice little room with a bathroom all to myself… It is strange being entirely alone in a foreign country.”

“At home when I go out with friends we leave around 9:30, here things do not get going until 2:00 in the morning and people stay out until it is light out… Spaniards actually do dance moves as opposed to standing around kind of moving, and everyone sings along to songs in the bars.  ‘La Camisa Negra’ is still stuck in my head…  The city is so alive at night and all kinds of people are out, young and old.”

“I thought it was funny today when we were walking and I found a flyer for where to buy pimps and hoes garb, a theme that sadly the clubs must have decided sells well to American college students.”

“Last night we took an evening bus back to Burgos from Barcelona.  The Northern Spanish countryside at dusk was incredible.  As it got dark we even saw lightning storms.”

That summer changed my life.  Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Paris, Madrid, Burgos, Barcelona, Bilbao, Salamanca.  I learned to travel alone.  I made new friends and confirmed my love for travel, (until that point it was all in my head).  I have been back to Europe twice since then, but nothing will ever compare to that first long adventure.  Fortunately, I can always go back with words, pictures, and “La Camisa Negra.”

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