Friday, February 17, 2012

Horwood's Map of London--visual research

When writing about a bygone era, maps become important. I mean, yes, there is a certain amount of "making it up"--the village and estates where most of the action is taking place in this Shitty First Draft are made up completely--but I know that it's located between Bristol and Bath in the southwest of England, near the River Avon.

I stared at Google Maps quite a lot as I've never been to England, studying how the river winds around and what the general area looks like. Of course, anything named after Queen Victoria would not have been in my time period and the Floating Harbor in Bristol wasn't planned yet, so the diverting cut they made for the river was also not there yet. Those are the big things.

The nit picky things involve figuring out the roads from Bristol to Bath, what may or may not have existed at the time. I haven't really looked at too many maps of these cities from the time yet--I'm just trying to wrap up this story, spit out my characters and ideas and such. I've been reading some research books and bookmarking new, useful links and started reading a book called The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing...


Maybe it'll teach me how to, I don't know, actual craft the thing? Sometimes some general pointers and guidelines can be useful.

Other times, they can be annoying.



Anyhow--maps. I've known about Horwood's greatly detailed map of London for a while now, but I haven't had any reason to study it for story reasons. A recent blog over on Word Wenches was about Horwood's map and how detailed it is--down to gardens, house numbers, stables mews. You could figure out all the side streets and side alleys (like Boston, London seems to be littered with them) your characters could wander past. Which inn was closest. How far they are from Covent Garden. Where the workhouses were.

And then, of course, compare it to modern London via Google Maps.

I'd be so interested if there was such a map for, like, 1900s Queens County. I don't think there is--there wasn't much here in my home borough at the time--but I'd geek out to see how different things looked then versus now.

My favorite map, though, has to be the giant New York City Panorama housed in the Queens Museum of Art (yes, we do have one). From the museum's Flickr account:

Flushing Meadows Corona Park
It's a scale model of the buildings, landmarks, and roads of New York City, all five boroughs. I haven't seen it in several years, but I was always a bit peeved that I could never point out my house on it. I'm sure now, though, I probably can find it, along with all the other landmarks of my life.

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