Gleaming polished wood (paneled walls, the bench, witness stand, chairs, tables, doors, lectern), small desk for the court reporter next to the Judge’s bench (enclosed) & Court clerk, the bar (wooden railing or barrier separating the proceedings from the gallery…
Fans, whooshing air conditioning, gurgling pipes in the walls, traffic outside, sirens outside, shifting in seats, wooden chairs creaking, the rustle of papers, testimony being given, footsteps across the polished floor as the prosecutor/defence attorney addresses the…
Light scent of treated wood (lacquer, polishes, varnish, etc), pine or lemon cleaner, air conditioned air, sweat, perfume, hair products & cologne all mingling in the air, stale or coffee breath from the people you sit near, paper, warm electronics (acrid plastic, metallic tang from projectors, etc)
Water, tears, gum/mints/cough drops, dry mouth
Hard wooden seat, arms brushing against spectators next to you, gripping onto a crumpled Kleenex in one tight fist, fiddling with a key fob, zipper tab, watch, piece of jewelry, hands clenched tight, fingernails biting into pads of palms, rubbing at face, pinching the bridge of…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: The court clerk called my name and I stood, swaying a little as the humid air caused a moment oflightheadednesss. One deep breath and I steadied enough to head to the witness stand, my heels making loud tocks against the gleaming floor. Lord above, why hadn’t I chosen more sensible shoes? Were the jurors wincing as I was, praying I’d hurry up and cross this ocean of tile? Poor Tom must be cursing the moment he asked me to come in and testify as his character witness…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Metaphor) Damning evidence aside, the accused’s shoulders bowed under an anvil of guilt, and he refused to make eye contact with anyone. The jury had probably already convicted him on his body language alone…
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.
Angela, I have no idea if you will read this or not I just now saw that you are in Africa, but I had to comment. This is perfect. I am so sorry i was not around when you sent it to me to look at before you posted. Long story but I have been away from my computer for a couple of months. I just now got back on while my kids are at summer camp and found your message. I read the courtroom scene and it is brillant. You have decribed it perfectly and while using every sensory detail. i have been in a courtroom almost every day for the past 20 years and i could not have described it nearly as accurate as you have. You did Justice with this one!
You are amazing. Have a safe and fun trip.
Laura Pauling says
Perfect timing. I have a short courtroom scene I need to revise! Thanks for all your hard work!
These are great! I’m going to send my thriller writer friends over to check this out. I think they’d love it!
Mary Witzl says
Great post, again. I felt like I was there too — and I was so glad I wasn’t!
Sharon K. Mayhew says
Awesome post, Angela! We should all carry notebooks everywhere we go and write down descriptions using all of our senses. Great exercise!
Julie Musil says
Angela, your posts always make me feel like I’m ‘there.’ Great job!
Catherine A. Winn says
This entry is perfect timing for me! It dropped me right into the court room where one of my characters is about find herself! Thank you!!
Very cool. I’m wondering, do you spend any time on location with these ones to come up with synonyms? It all sounds very authentic.
Anne (aka "stormie") says
Excellent! And to think most of it is from your digging deep into your imagination. (Now spill about the jail cell…. 😀 )
Angela Ackerman says
Nope, all in my head. The Jail Cell entry, however…muahahahaa, well there’s an innocent story behind that, honest!
Stina Lindenblatt says
Hmmm. So is this from personal experience, Angela? 😉
Great job as usual. Can’t wait for the juvenile center one. Not that I need it. But you never know.
Angela Ackerman says
Glad this one helps! If anyone notices anything I got wrong though, be it terminology or process, please let me know!
Shannon, there is a jail cell one listed, but not a prison in general..yet. 🙂
Too, I have asked author PJ Hoover if she will write an entry for a Juvenile detention center as she’s been to one several times as a guest speaker, so look for that one down the road. 🙂
Susanne Drazic says
Always have such great posts! Thanks for sharing!
Oh bless you. I was going to need this in an upcoming part of story i’m working on and i dreaded it. Now that i see this…i feel much better. Wonderful!
Shannon O'Donnell says
Have I told you lately that you’re brilliant?! ha ha.
Have you ever done an entry on jails or wardens or anything like that?
Karen Lange says
Good stuff. Particularly like the simile and metaphor examples. Such good imagery, thanks!