Setting Description Entry: Urban Street


cars, trucks, SUVs, bicycles, delivery trucks, pedestrians, homeless people, stray dogs, pavement, reflectors, sidewalks, cigarette butts on the ground, litter, broken glass, concrete medians, street lights, small trees with fences around them, street signs…


honking, tires screeching, alarms going off, cars speeding by or slowing down, wheels bumping over reflectors, shoes clacking/slapping against pavement, whirr of bicycle tires, voices talking/shouting/laughing, cell phones ringing, car doors slamming, store doors…


exhaust, gas fumes, rubber, hot pavement, cigarette smoke, garbage, urine, food smells from restaurants and corner vendors, sweat, incense/potpourri/fragrance from nearby shops, sewage, old water in rain puddles


foods: hot dogs/pretzels/soda/hamburgers/french fries/bottled water, smoky exhaust, bitter cigarettes, paper butts, soda straws, sweat, rain


gritty pavement, heat coming off the concrete, slap of shoes against sidewalk, sweat trickling, breeze blowing your hair/clothes, metallic fence under your fingers, wind from passing cars, uneven sidewalk, brick/stucco/concrete buildings, cold doorknobs…

Helpful hints:–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Snow dusted the gutters and the trash they contained with a humpy white blanket. It drifted down from the street lights–I swear, it jingled as it fell. Gone were the gasoline and greasy food smells; the air tasted clean, as if it had just been loosed upon the world.

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) Music concussed from one vehicle after another like warring DJs in a night club.

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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Mary Witzl
11 years ago

I liked the clean air too — wish we had more of that here; it’s cold right now, but it is as clean and crisp as it could be.

I’ve been revising and my characters are indeed rolling their eyes and sighing far too much. I may be visiting here a lot more…

Happy New Year!

Natalie Hatch
11 years ago

Thanks girls you are awesome.

11 years ago

Thanks, Christy!

Yeah, it’s probably about an hour for me, too. the hardest ones are the places I haven’t been, or haven’t visited in a long time. Since I’m fairly sure Angela hasn’t been to the rainforest, either, that one should be a little sparse. 🙂

C.R. Evers
11 years ago

You never cease to amaze me! Another great list!


11 years ago

Becca’s probably faster than me…maybe an hour? I struggle on the similies and metaphors. Some days they come, bam, just like that, other times…I have to yank them out of the imaginative ooze.

11 years ago

Hi guys,

You really don’t waste time getting back to business. Thanks for amazing descriptions. How long does it take you to make these lists?

PJ Hoover
11 years ago

Nice! I can use this TODAY in my revisions!

11 years ago

Thanks, Marian! Clean air–sad to think that some day we may need a record of it to remind us what it was really like.

11 years ago

There are some lovely turns of phrase here. I especially like, “the air tasted clean, as if it had just been loosed upon the world.” That’s exactly what clean, crisp winter air feels like.