Sturdy table and chairs, tray of goodies brought in by a parent or staff member, fake or real plant, coffee machine kitchenette area (stove, microwave fridge, dishwasher, sink, counter), cutlery, coffee fixings (cream, sugar, tea bags, etc), dish rag, tea towel, coffee mugs, water bottles, binders, tests laid out to mark, garbage can, teachers eating lunch, carpet…
Laughter, microwave beeping, popcorn popping, fridge opening and closing, rattle of cutlery in drawer, water being turned on and off, the perk of the coffee pot, chairs scraping the floor, low whispers, food lids being popped off, the crackle and crinkle of food wrappers and paper bags, sipping coffee/tea, the clink from a spoon stirring sugar or cream…
Coffee, food warmed for lunch, fast food brought in (hamburgers, pizza, subs, etc), popcorn, tea, baking, spices, hot dogs, cologne/perfume (if it isn’t a scent-free environment), food gone bad in the fridge, burnt food
An array of lunch food (soup, salads, sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, chili, subs,) snacks (chips, cookies, brownies, popcorn, etc), hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) cold drinks (water, pop, juice, milk), mints, gum, etc
Pulling on the handle of the fridge, lifting and pouring coffee from the carafe, the burn of spilling hot coffee on hand, sweeping a hand along the counter to collect crumbs, peeling back suran wrap of prying a lid off a container, stirring coffee mate into coffee, balling up wrappers and tossing them into the trash, pulling back a chair, scooting the chair in…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: Kathy Specks, the school librarian, had one of those high nasal voices that just set your teeth on edge. Worse, not only was she a talker, she was a hand waver too. Wherever she sat on the long, cafeteria style tables, people made sure to sit a seat or two down. If you didn’t you got the Bull-in-a-china-shop treatment, those hands of hers smacking into your drink, soup or bowl of salad and depositing it in your lap…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile)
I stood behind Leonard as he rooted through the fridge, no doubt looking for someone’s lunch to steal. His old man butt hung out past the door, wagging like a fat dog’s hind end as he reached for the back shelf where I’d stashed my lunch. Every Monday I brought leftover pizza, and every Monday it mysteriously disappeared…but not today, not if I had anything to say about it…
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.