chairs, couches, carpeted floor, little end tables, parenting/educational magazines, desks for receptionists with all the secretarial paraphernalia (phone, computer, desk calendar, files, stapler, pens, post-it notes, markers), smudged plate-glass window looking into the…
phones ringing, papers rustling, click of keyboards, door opening and closing, noise of busy hallways outside, kids outside talking/laughing, running feet in the halls, period bells ringing, fire alarm, secretaries talking on phone/chatting/laughing quietly, flip of…
warm smell of new copies, sweaty kids, perfume/cologne, markers, coffee, leftover breakfast/snack/lunch smells (oatmeal, bananas, bacon, pizza, hot dogs, etc), hot printer cartridges, musty carpet
rubbery erasers, wood pencils, bubblegum, hard candy, mints, fingernails, tears, breakfast foods from the community tray (doughnuts, bagels, muffins, pastry), coffee, water, tea
glass window pane, embroidered chair, leather couch, hard folding chair, scuff of carpet beneath the feet, anxious body movements (increased pulse, butterflies in stomach, racing heart, fidgety body parts), cold telephone receiver, metal door knobs…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: I glanced up to check on Billy, who kicked at the leg of his chair as he waited for his turn to see the principal. The ice pack I’d given him for his bruised knee had fallen onto the floor and his glare burned the carpet. The third fight he’d started this week, yet from the way his lip puffed out and his arms squeezed his chest, you’d think he’d been on the victim end of things…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) I squirmed on the bench as the Principal’s door snicked open. His shoes made quick scuffs against the thin carpet and then suddenly he was there, looming over me like an angry wave about to swallow me whole…
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.
A scene I know well is the hive of the office. It was always as crowded as an elevator at closing time. Lights that hum and blink. Bathrooms as nasty as dirty diapers.
That’s true, Nora. Thanks for the reminder!
Sorry about that, Suzanne ;).
Nora MacFarlane says
Secretaries often double as nurses (nurses travel in our district). Since the clinic is also part of our elementary school office, it’s not unusual to walk in to the smell of puke and/or bleach.
Love your blog!
Suzanne Casamento says
This is great! Just reading this made me feel like I was in the principal’s office. : )