Setting Thesaurus Entry: School Bus


smudged windows, black rubber runner down the aisle, torn leather seats, signs (emergency exits, rules, stay behind the yellow line, bus driver’s name), red handles on emergency doors and windows, bus driver’s seat, big stick shift for opening/closing door…


Laughter, talking, cel phones going off, backpacks thumping against the seat as kids walk down the rows, stomping, whistling, heckling, hooting, squealing, shouting, the bus driver yelling, paper crumpling, candy wrappers crinkling, slurping of pop, water…


Feet, sweat, fruity/minty gum, perfume/body spray, flavored lip balm, fresh air from open windows, mildew/mud (on cold, wet days)


leftover lunch items (granola bars, fruit, sandwiches, chips, cookies, carrots, celery), pop, water, juice boxes, dry mouth from thirst, gum, mints, candy, chocolate bars


Hard seats, cold metal bus walls, unzipping a backpack, the pull on a backpack on the shoulder, lifting a heavy backpack off the seat, shoes sticking to a spill on the floor, kicking the seats, the rush of cool air on forehead from the window, Someone tapping you from…

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

Example 1: I walked down the isle, holding my breath tight inside me like it could somehow make me look smaller, like it could make up for the fact that my hips almost brushed the seats to each side. The bus was silent, dozens of gazes on me. I found an empty seat halfway down and gently settled into it, and for the first time in a long time hope welled up me that this school would be different. A smile started to pull at my lips, and then I heard a voice loudly proclaim, “Wow, she needs a wide load sticker!”…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Metaphor) Miranda paused at the front of the bus, waiting to be noticed. The first shout of her name caused the others to look to the front, and soon hands poked the air, waving madly for her to come sit with them. Miranda shook her blond curls back and let her regal gaze drift over the crowd, a queen surveying her subjects, then chose a seat next to Brent, the most popular boy in school…

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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11 years ago

Yay, thanks, guys!!

C.R. Evers
11 years ago

you nailed it again! :0)

Scratchy Paw
11 years ago

Super examples. Thanks.

PJ Hoover
11 years ago

What about the guy pinching my butt on the late bus (which was so crowded I had no room to sit).
Ah, the memories 🙂

11 years ago

I love your details… you guys have created an awesome reference with this blog!