Setting Description Entry: Hospital


ambulances, doctors, nurses, ambulance attendants, paramedics, volunteers, porters, priests, visitors, firemen, police officers, pink/green/blue or patterned scrubs, gurney, clipboards, IV bags and stands, blood, cuts, bruises, pus, torn tissue, casts, arm slings…


doors sliding open and shut, furnace, air exchanger, screams, cries moans, gasps, grunts/hisses of pain, people talking in low voices, intercom calling out codes/directions, squeaky wheelchairs, the clack of the keyboard, a low-volumed radio or TV, heavy…


cleaners (pine, lemon, bleach etc), antiseptic, a metallic tang from stainless steel in the open air, bleach wafting from bedding, blood, vomit, sweat, perfume/cologne, the scent of get well flowers, questionable food smells from room trays, grease/meaty/soup smells…


Burnt coffee from machines, bland food from vending machines, Hospital food (jello, pudding, soups, oatmeal, bland chicken, mashed potatoes, dry buns or toast), snack foods from vending machines (granola bars, chips, candy bars, pop, juices, energy drinks…


Cold metal bed rails, soft pillows, crisp sheets, smooth plastic emergency remote/call remote, pain (hot, deep, burning, sharp, dull, achy, stabbing, probing), the prick of a needle, cool swipe of antiseptic being applied on skin, a sweaty forehead, sweat dripping…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: My gaze swivelled over the waiting room, looking for a place for Andrew and I to sit. A TV played quietly in one corner, a distraction that might help keep his mind off the stitches he would need in his arm. The seats closest to it stood empty, sandwiched between two sweating and shivering men. As one leaned forward and filled the space with harsh, hacking coughs, I understood why no one else had jumped at the prime location. I steered Andrew to the other side of the room, the bland walls and tableful of torn magazines suddenly much more appealing…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Metaphor) The orderly sped down the hall with his crash cart, straining to reach the ODed rock star. Doctors swarmed her bed, bees serving their queen, racing to bring her back from the dead…

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting 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.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoOn 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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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9 Responses to Setting Description Entry: Hospital

  1. Pingback: Setting Thesaurus Entry Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Kilian says:

    You might want to add Benzoin to the smell category. I love the smell of Benzoin in the morning!

  3. Sherry says:

    These are awesome! I wish you had a post on mental or Psychiatric Hospitals, too!

    Hmmm, maybe you can post one! 🙂

  4. Angela says:

    Thanks everyone! I had to rely on my TV show watching and imagination fo rthe most part as I haven’t (thankfully) spent much time in a hospital.

    *knocks on wood*

  5. Alexandra says:

    Wow. How do you manage to put these things together? So in-depth.

  6. Bish Denham says:

    I’ve spent enough time in hospitals to know…good job.

  7. PJ Hoover says:

    Nice! A place of pain where all our characters should be!

  8. JaxPop says:

    Med Gas stations.

    I build medical centers as part of what I do. My guys stored their lunches in the unoccupied morgue trays. Rough bunch. Nothing like the mixed smells of ham, cheese & ‘preservatives’ – I guess.

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