Rows of machines with colorful pictures on the sides, glowing screens, toggles, controls, buttons, coin slots, ticket slide, coin exchange machine, ticket counter, thin patterned carpet or polished flooring, wires, neon lights, claw games filled with stuffed toy prizes, washrooms, stools, racing games with seats, dance pads, basketball/hoop games, whack-a-mole…
Bleeps, bloops, recorded crowd cheering, game noises: car noises (revving engines, squealing tires, crashing noises), explosions, gunfire, booms, chiming bings from a pinball game, moaning, groaning zombies, growls, barking dogs, crashes, glass breaking, etc tickets being pushed out a slot, kids shouting, laughing, cheering, cursing, yelling…
Sweat, old carpet, dust, hot electronics, neon lighting (metallic), stale breath, hair spray/hair products, body sprays
Saliva, snack food (chips, chocolate bars, licorice), pop, water, energy drinks, gum, mints
Slippery cold coins in a sweaty palm, slipping them into the slot, jabbing at buttons, slamming hand against the side if the machine in frustration, grabbing a drink for a quick slurp before the next level kicks in, holding a rifle controller, squeezing the trigger, pressing foot down on the gas controller of a racing game, jerking the steering wheel, pressing back…
Helpful hints:–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: Squinting in the low light, I searched the rows of gaming machines for Caleb. Where the hell was he? I called his name, raising my voice to be heard over the loud bomb blasts and gunfire belching out the nearby shoot-em-up games. A few teens looked up, and I was tempted to ask if they’d seen my nephew, but the flat-eyed stare they leveled at me was the kind reserved for pedophiles. Forget it–the manager had to be around her some place. I’d ask him…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) Annie might be a girl, but she still knew how to handle a shotgun. I was in awe watching her tackle the game, Blood Apocalypse–each zombie that stepped through the doorway barely made it a step before she blew it apart like an egg left in the microwave…
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, 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.
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.
Stina Lindenblatt says
Yay, thanks for this Angela. I’m now writing a scene which partly takes place in an video arcade (instead of the beach). 😉
Exploding eggs are awesome. But cleaning them up? Not so much.
Mary Witzl says
I like the exploding egg too. Especially because it isn’t in my kitchen.
Bish Denham says
I can close my eyes and still hear the bells and clanks of pinball machines!
Kirsten Lesko says
I love the bleeps, bloops and exploding egg!
Hey if I designed a zombie video game, that is TOTALLY what I would call it!
I guess no real games or game designers were harmed during the writing of this post.