Maps Fiction

Notes for marking:

For marking purposes, please review the text on this page (where I talk about the idea, the tools/features, challenges and the outcome) as well as viewing the youtube video, and visit the full map Frequently Being Daniel Tomlinson. Please be aware that all videos have no audio.

Creating a Google Maps Story

Location based services are in abundance on-line and stories set in this world, at least, are all connected by their locations. Be that internal, external, urban or rural, land or sea. As writers, I know we have a chance to consider and explore how these location services could enhance a digital reading experience.

My idea is to show how an author could use Google Maps to tell a story. More specifically, how a story could be contained within Google Maps and Google Earth software.

Google Maps is a service which could be used much more, both by authors and publishers that want to enhance and ‘push’ the narrative and realism of a story (fiction or non-fiction).

The challenge I have set myself is to show how a story could be written using only Google Maps/Google Earth. The service/tool gives the writer a free account to create any real-world, location-based story, either on land, in the sea or in space. For the purposes of this example I have focused on the land.

By plotting location points on a map the author is given the opportunity to add text, either in Rich Text or HTML form, which can comprise of links, images, videos, or any other coded content.


In my example story, Frequently Being Daniel Tomlinson, I have explored a number of media features, however have discovered that whilst Google claim to offer the map creator many features, in reality many of them are difficult or near impossible to utilise. For example, adding an image to the map works fine until the author returns to edit the text: the image then disappears.

The author will also struggle writing in a small text input box. There is no ability to expand the field to make room for more comfortable working.

The best approach is to create the content outside of Google Maps and paste it into the  location points.

With in Google Earth, the reader has the ability to ‘load’ a new story into the software. This can function much the same as any media library. There appears to be no limit in the number of files you can load and store. Each map file created in Google Maps is easily downloaded as a .kml file. This makes distribution and sharing of the story very easy to Earth users.

Using the Street View, Satellite view and the Directions features, it is possible to plot a location based story directly on to the map surface. Again, careful planning is required to deliver the story to full effect and I propose the author make as few edits as possible to the narrative once it has been created. 

The Directions feature of the Google Maps has an additional, little known, feature allowing the view to ‘play’ the route. this guides the reader throughout the map and can be paused to allow ‘viewers’ to access different parts of the narrative.

Upon pausing the story, the viewer can choose to look around each location – along with the text. The panels can have further images, videos, audio files embedded into them, to aid the story telling experience.

This screen recording below shows some of the visual appeal of interacting with the story:

An example of how Google Maps can be used in fiction to show how a character may transfer between locations. Or how a travel aspect of the story could be dynamically presented.

(Here is the option to download the full map and open it in Google Earth. Grab the KML file here.)

In conclusion: 

This has been a good experiment to explore. However, the limitations of tool makes hard work for the author. However a technical user/savvy publisher could take advantage of the service for added marketability. The Map has full commenting and sharing features on Google+ which can be used to share with friends and discuss the story.

I do feel it is an original and interesting space which will encourage a reader to explore a new author and their writing.


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