Setting Thesaurus Entry: Airplanes


Narrow aisle. stewards/stewardesses greeting you as you walk on, navy blue fabric seats, overhead compartments, armrests, seat belts, small porthole windows, some shutters open & others closed, people blocking the aisle putting carry on away or grabbing something out of the overhead compartments, emergency exit mid plane, fold down trays, in-flight magazine, safety instructions manual tucked in a slot in the seat back in front of you…


Plane engines, a squeaky beverage cart, music/TV in headphones, laughter, people talking, laughing, snoring, babies crying, the swish of fabric as people readjust for comfort or remove a coat or sweater, zippers unzipping, rustling bags and backpacks, the clunk of a tray locking into position, the rustle of newspapers and magazines, crisp book pages turning, people typing on keyboards…


A person sitting close by wearing too much cologne or perfume, food being eaten, coffee, canned air, minty gum, bad breath, beer, a whiff of hand sanitizer, sweat, BO, old fabric, hair products, smelly feet if someone takes their shoes off, diapers that need changing…


Water, coffee, pop, juice, tea, sugar, alcoholic drinks (wine, beer, spirits), plane food or food bought in airport (sandwiches, pizza, chocolate bars, chips, granola bars, bagels, muffins, wraps…


Hard, too-narrow armrests, bumping/nudging/brushing against the passenger next to you, cramped, hunched back trying to get from window seat to aisle, sliding a bag out from seat in front, kinks in the neck, twisting and lifting to stretch back, slouching in seat, trying to make self small to get past passengers to the aisle, kid behind you kicking the seat, a tight seat belt…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Donny had the worst luck on business trips. If the flight was a small, forty-five minute hop, he’d have the the row to himself and sometimes even be bumped to the front where he could take advantage of the ample leg room. But for the soul-crushing, eight hour flights to the UK, he’d always be stuck next to a shrieky toddler whose Mother hadn’t bothered to pack anything to entertain the kid with, or a grossly overweight guy creating seat spillover because he was too embarrassed or cheap to spring for a second seat…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) The bitter, snarky stewardess who complained about keeping my guitar case in her galley was even scarier at the helm of a metal serving cart. The gleam in her eye and the cart’s sudden jerk forward as I rose from my seat said she was locked and loaded to mow me down like an evasive weed if I came within range…

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-xsmallSetting 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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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[…] Airplane […]

Mary Witzl
10 years ago

The smell I always find intriguing is that combination of toilet disinfectant, the stewardesses’ cologne, and vacuum cleaner.

Once again, I found your examples inspiring!

Wendy Marcus
10 years ago

My favorites are claustrophobic, death trap, unstable, loss of control, bumpy, scary, need to escape…….
Do I have a fear of flying? Why yes. I do. But I will deal with it so I can make it to National. Hope to meet you there!

Julie Musil
10 years ago

Ahhhh! I feel like I was on this very plane! Excellent post, as always.

10 years ago

Not forgetting that awful smell down the back of the plane when they open all the sealed meals. When we came to Australia as kids, it was that smell every few hours that made us all add to that other smell you mentioned. I can still remember it vividly!

Good list!