CAUTION: This entry is graphic in nature and may be offensive to some readers
Shadows, cells, stone walls, dirt or stone floors, filthy straw scattered across the floor, chains fixed to walls, rats, shadows, flickering torchlight from torches in iron sconces, iron bars, feces, spiders, beetles, roaches, oily smoke, moaning, bones, skulls, heaps of clothing scraps, screaming prisoners in ragged clothing, buckets/barrels of fetid water…
Screams, moans, cries, weeping, pleading, iron bars slamming shut, the creak of leather, chains clinking, the squeak and skitter of rats foraging, the hiss of steam, the slap and crack of a whip, the crunch of bone, rattling chains, the clink and click of gears on torture devices, torturers laughter, swearing, yelling questions, labored breathing, Iron doors swinging…
Feces, sweat, coppery blood, rot, mildew, oil, smoke, decay, infection (festering wounds, etc), urine, cold stone, iron, briny drinking water, rotten meat, dust, ash, dirt, leather…
Prisoners: blood, oily, brackish water, sweat, rotten or stale food (meat, bread, scraps, weevil-spotted gruel) Guards/visitors: Wine, ale, bread…
Tight leather straps or manacles on wrists and ankles, the drag of a chain, fingers wrapped around cold steel bars, scraping up food from the floor with fingers, fending off other prisoners, sweat and blood running down forehead or trickling down sides, probing a wound or bruise, eyes/face swollen after a beating, scuffing bare feet against the cold dirt..
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: I huddled in the corner, shivering and burning in turns, the fiery cuts on my back weeping steadily. Shaking, I closed my eyes and touched a dry spot on the wall, moving my finger in soft, slow strokes. In my mind I saw Mary, sweet Mary, and held onto her smiling face until I could no longer ignore the approaching heavy footsteps of Hudo, my captor, torturer and soon, executioner…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 2: (Metaphor) The giant man approached in heavy, deliberate steps, his smile a flash of black decay. A bloodied leather apron covered his sweaty girth and he carried a maul in one hand. I wept as the demon’s thick hand grabbed a handful of the rags I wore and pulled me out of my cell…
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.