tall trees, well-tended bright green grass, park benches, water fountain, drink fountain, fields, joggers, dog-walkers, strollers, women with strollers, holding toddlers by the hand, a pond with ducks/swans/geese, garbage cans, dedication plaques, stone benches, picnic tables, paved pathways, cyclists, birds pecking at the grass, pigeons clustering at the feet…
Music (live buskers, radios, mashed hard rock notes leaking out a jogger’s iPod), birds tweeting, squawking, chirping, squirrels or gophers darting through dried leaves and undergrowth, dogs barking, kids crying, squealing, shouting, laughing, whining, people talking, heavy quick breaths of joggers, mothers calling out to their children, the splash of…
Food from vendor carts (hot dogs, pretzels, onions, etc), fresh mowed grass, blooming flowers, dead, dusty leaves, warmed earth, perfume/body spray/aftershave, sweat, algae if there’s a pond, dog fur, a pungent whiff of skunk…
A hot dog bought from the cart, a picnic sandwich, water, pop, slushes, ice cream, gum, mints, cough drops, crackers, sunflower seeds, hot nuts, cigarette (if smoking or passing a smoker)
The stiff boards of a park bench digging at your back, hard cement underfoot, the soft, spiky grass prickling at your butt and calves as you sit, water spray carried on the wind from a fountain, dipping feet or fingers in the fountain, wiping sweat from the brow with the back of the hand, kite cord digging into palms as you struggle to hold the kite, pulling a…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: Jenna’s gaze bounced between from her husband Mark, who side stepped across the grass, his hands waving in the air and their seven-year-old son Ben, who stood not far away with the football, his tongue dipping out to lick the corner of his mouth as his arm bent back to throw. As she leaned back on one elbow on their picnic blanket, the sun came out from behind a cloud and warmed her brow. She closed her eyes and smiled up at the sky, enjoying the perfect moment…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) The old man hunched at the end of the bench like a crooked branch, tossing seed down to the greedy pigeons at his feet.
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. The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus are 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.
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.