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Because I’m writing historical fiction set in WWI, I need to be able to imagine the landscape of my characters’ world. Many of my favourite WWI websites offer photos of northern France and Belgium as they appeared in the midst of battle (and in black and white) but I also need to appreciate the shape and contours of the land surrounding the small towns and villages where battles occurred or where soldiers went for a few days of rest.

Google maps has been ideal. Where else can you see the sweep of land surrounding Thiepval or the ridge Canadian soldiers fought to capture at Vimy or the land around Honfleur and Le Havre where soldiers disembarked for the battlefields? By zooming in or out, I can identify intersections, bends in the river, nearby forests and the layout of farmland.

Even better, a researcher and writer like me can turn on the photos feature within Google maps to look at photos uploaded by individuals who have traveled to those very places. Such photos offer additional inspiration as I decide how to craft each scene, imagine the colours and sounds, and get inside the head of my characters.

Brilliant and absolutely free.