subway trains, subway platforms, posts, escalators, stairs, posters, security guards, business men and women, couples, groups of young people, tracks, litter, lights, graffiti’d walls, speakers, ticket turnstiles, patched seats, torn seats, grime, dirt, street people…
bells signalling the door is closing/train is arriving/leaving, station prompt on loudspeaker, people talking, coughing, laughing, music from ipods, static from security/police walkies, the whoosh of the train arriving or leaving, the whirr of the …
dirt, musty fabric, urine, cologne, perfume, sweat, bad breath, the smell of newsprint, ‘canned’ air conditioned air, hair products, BO, breath mints, people who smell like cigarette smoke or pot, coffee, hot dogs
Food or drinks from vending machines (pop, water, chips, chocolate bars, coffee, granola bars, etc), gum, breath mints, chewing tobacco
Cold metal handrails and turnstiles, too-hard plastic seats, worn plastic ceiling hand loops, dry newsprint, smooth paper ticket (people generally avoid touching/holding anything on the subway), holding a hot cup of coffee or cold drink, slathering on hand sanitizer…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: The smeared plastic door shuddered open and the odor of urine washed over me. I took a peek inside and saw only one occupant–a man lying across the plastic bench, his layers of tattered clothing bulking up a sickly frame. An empty Jack Daniel’s bottle clutched in his grimy fist, explaining how he could sleep through the too-loud station prompt on the speakers. Grimacing, I stepped back. I’d wait for the next train…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Metaphor) I clutched the handrail and prayed for my stop to come. The electricity was erratic in my shuddering car, buzzing on and off, reducing my unsavory fellow riders to infrequent flickers. As the dark took hold yet again, I thought of a carnival fun house moving at lightning speed, one where the knife wielding psycho might be real…
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.