benches along the wall, hostess stand, menus, silverware roll-ups, crayons and coloring paper for the kids, chandeliers, candle light, paintings, wine bottles, bar, stools, empty glasses, glasses sitting on bar napkins, liquor bottles, mirrored wall behind the bar…
people murmuring/talking/laughing, loud laughter/shouting from the bar, sports events/news anchors on TVs, silverware clinking, dishes breaking, doors swinging open, servers taking orders, children yelling/crying, sound of children’s’ feet as they run to and…
prepared food, themed to the restaurant’s genre menu (Pasta, ribs, sushi, Chinese food, steak, seafood), steam, spices, yeast, beer, robust wines, perfume, cologne, grease, starch/bleach smell on linens, air freshener, cleaning products, garlic, bad breath…
Food, crisp salad, dressings, spicy, desserts, coffee, tea, water, wines, beers & other alcoholic beverages, bubbly pop, ice, mints, gum, chocolate, lipstick or lip gloss, garlic, pats of butter, oil, grease, meat juices, gravies, sauces, salt, pepper, tobacco, smoke
crunching salad, plastic or fabric of seat covers sticking to legs, hard wood or tile floors, cold silverware and dishes, rough paper or soft cloth napkins, smooth tabletop, warmth from low-hung lamps and candles, shoulders/hips touching in a too-small booth…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: I chose a table in the corner but this was one scenario where location didn’t seem to matter. Kids’ shouting vied with the noise coming from the arcade in the back. The floor shook with the stomp of little feet, accompanying the percussion of balloons banging into my head. I scanned the menu, but the smell of sweaty kids killed whatever appetite I’d come in with. The waiter appeared, voicing what I think was a request for my drink order. I closed the menu and rubbed at the ache starting behind my eye. “Vodka?” I begged.
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) As the too-loud mariachi band approached my table, I cringed and hoisted my half-empty margarita glass into the air, waving at the server across the room like an air crash victim signalling help.
Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers
Setting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.
On the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.