Ferris wheel, roller coaster, haunted house, log ride, tea cup ride, sizzler, swinging pirate ship, mazes, fun house mirrors, Psychic tent, spinning apple ride, airplane ride, pony ride, boat rides, water gun boats, mini golf, go carts, bumper cars, merry-go-round, slides, kiddie ball pit/climbing area, carnival games: ring toss, guessing games, floating duck fishing…
Too-loud music, screams, laughter, cheering, chanting, singing, bells, crying, clanking ride chains, whooshing of air brakes, chugging machinery, squealing brakes, feet running, people calling out to each other, corn popping, fries/donuts sizzling in vats of oil, pinging sound of game targets, pinball machines, balls rolling and thudding down game chutes or hitting the booth backdrop, balloons popping, the jingle of change…
Cigarettes, cotton candy, popcorn, french fries, mini donuts, grease, sugar, hot pavement, oiled machinery…
All manner of food & drink: popcorn, cotton candy, candy apples, burgers, corn dogs, doughnuts, ice cream, chocolate, fries, chips, pop, slushies, water, lemonade, rock candy…
Metal bars, seats with cracked padded cushions, handles with chipped paint, seat bets, plastic steering wheels & levers, worn balls, smooth plastic rings, greasy food, dripping ice cream, blotting blobs of ketchup off a shirt, crinkling up a hamburger wrapper, the icy cool of holding a fresh water bottle on the fingertips, thirst…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: At the top of the Ferris wheel, the musical roar of the carnival dimmed, letting in the sound of the Amy’s excited giggles and the crinkle of paper from the rolled-up bag of popcorn she held tight in one small fist. We shared a grin as she kicked her feet out at the open air. I loved this moment, I lived for it every year–when we reached the pinnacle of the rotation as the carriage opposite us stopped to exchange passengers. I pulled in a deep, clean breath. For one moment everything seemed so clear, so full of potential. So reachable. I could do anything I put my mind to.
The wheel shuddered to life, pulling forward, and then down. As we sank toward the ground my mind returned to the fight I’d had with Mary right before I left home, the constant buzzing of my work phone in my pocket. As we descended I grew heavier, the fog of music and noise enveloping me, dropping me back into reality….
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Metaphor) Joel shoved his broom against the dirty concrete, shuffling along the peanut shells, candy wrappers and bottle tops. After the rides were grounded and the music silenced, the fairground show its true colors. Not many saw it as he did, when the wind brushed hot dog wrappers up against greasy smeared tent flaps and the moonlight pointed out the faded signs and peeling paint. Once the last echos of laughter had disappeared along with the flashing lights and colorful balloons…well, peel back the carnival glitz and all you find is a corpse staring back at you….
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.
This is extremely useful! My teacher needed me to find phrases to help me in my composition. I surely picked up a lot of good phrases while using this website!!
Steena Holmes says
This perfect – thank you! I have a carnival scene that is the pivitol in my novel and this will come in handy!
It is very interesting for me to read this blog. Thank you for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.
Personally, I prefer seaside amusement parks. 🙂 Ironically enough, when this posted, I was at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk riding rides and eating food that I’d never eat at home. Coney Island and Santa Cruz have places in my heart. Even though Coney Island is slowly being dismantled. *grumble* But one of my favorite smells is that amalgam of fried food, sweets, cotton candy, salt water taffy and everything else that’s sold on the Boardwalk. That combined smell is sucha comfort.
Wow–high praise, Fairchild! I consider myself an upstart, too!
Oh, my goodness! I compeletely did not even see your setting thesaurus. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
You gals are wonderful. I hope you know you are helping a whole generation of upstarts to become better writers, and will probably have a hand in much of the richer literature to come.
Becca, only the finest cuts of meat go into hot dogs–everyone knows that the whole ‘gristle and butt meat’ is an Urban Myth.
Bish Denham says
Another wonderful post! Just reading all the descriptive words I was there, in the amusement park.
Wonderful, Angela. Would you like to tell us what they put in hot dogs and ruin that for us, too?
PJ Hoover says
Such a fun setting! I feel like I’m at Disney already!
Oh Marian. Marian, Marian, Marian. Have you never made doughnuts or seen them being made?
You know what…never mind. We’ll live the fantasy together!
YES Doughnuts are baked. Perfectly healthy, full of broccoli and spinach and other good things! Eat!
Until now I didn’t know donuts were fried in “vats of oil”. I thought they were baked.
And I can’t help thinking back on all the donuts I’ve ever eaten, for some reason…