Setting Thesaurus Entry: Basement


Wooden steps, cement floor with small cracks in it, floor drain, cobwebs, bare bulb light with a string pull switch, washing machine, dryer, freezer, boxes, recycling bins, bins full of Christmas/Halloween/Thanksgiving decorations, old electronics stacked in a corner, run down or broken furniture, shelves with food cans, preserves, cases of light bulbs…


Footsteps walking overhead, the dryer slapping clothes around, a chugging washing machine, creaky steps, the raspy noise of a cardboard box sliding against the floor, the click and then whoomp of a furnace pilot light catching, clicking/ticking of metal when the furnace shuts off (metal contracting)…


Must, mold, mildew, scented dryer sheets, laundry soap, bleach, cleaners & cleaning supplies…


Bitter saliva (fear), a tang in the mouth from the damp cement walls and floor, dry mouth


Running a hand along the wall for balance on the stairs, stairs moving underfoot (slight give), a shaky banister, yanking on a pull cord to turn on the light, running up or down stairs on tiptoe for silence and speed, clenched fists, tension in body, bumping into boxes, knocking over stacked objects (paint cans, junk…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Martha flicked on the switch and raced down the creaky steps, her crayon pail swaying in one hand. Daddy had stacked all the empty moving boxes in a tower next to the washing machine and had told her she could do whatever she liked with them. She stared at the mountain of cardboard, imagining it as a grand castle. A flattened box could become her drawbridge and if she swirled the dirty blue towels sitting in the laundry hamper around the walls, she’d even have a moat…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) When I reached the top of the stairs, I hit the light switch. Below in the darkness the washing machine slurped and sloshed and burped, like a monster enjoying a tasty meal…

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.

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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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N A Sharpe
11 years ago

I love this thesaurus! How cool. Basements always come with so much imagery…usually kinda creepy. I love this entry.

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

11 years ago

Bish, I don’t know for sure, but i think it’s the idea were underground, like in a coffin. The dark walls, the cold, the dank smells…CREEPY.

Thanks Robyn (and I didn’t know it was called a utility room–neat!)

Thanks Kelly. Hah, I love the idea of sweet ol grannies having dark double lives, and so it comes out in my posts!

Mary, if there is one thing I love about living in Canada, it is the fact that we have no roaches. They can’t survive the winter. I like bugs, but roaches? *shudders*

Mary Witzl
11 years ago

This reminds me of what a chore it was to clean out our old basement. Nothing I did to it got rid of the smell of mold or mouse droppings. (But don’t forget the cockroaches! Wish I could…)

11 years ago

Great entry!
Hee, Granny the serial killer…

Robyn Campbell
11 years ago

Below in the darkness the washing machine slurped and sloshed and burped, like a monster enjoying a tasty meal.

Oh Angela, that is a TERRIFIC use of a sentence. As a kid, that is what I thought when going out to the utility room(that’s what they’re called in South Florida) in the dark and the washer was in use.

I love the setting Thesaurus. Thanks! 🙂

Bish Denham
11 years ago

Why is it so many basements are spooky? I’ve only known a few in my life, and all of them held an eerie aura.