Customers: browsing books, scanning shelves, standing in line to pay, tugging a book off the shelf, flipping a book over for back copy, fanning the pages, standing and reading, sitting in reading chairs, sharing a magazine with a friend, wandering the aisles, stalking the discount tables, sitting on the floor with back to a shelf, reading a book in the aisle…
People talking, murmuring, asking employees questions, the ruffle of pages, the slide of magazine pages, the crisp turning of a single page, coffee barrista noises (blending, grinding, foaming, gurgling, tapping, steam, etc) barrista calling out an order, slurping…
The woodsy/dry scent of paper and cardboard, coffee/teas/spices (Cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa) from an internal coffee bar, dust, hair products/cologne/perfume, magazine ink, air conditioning tang (if hot), dusty furnace smell (if cold), a waft of trees, grass, leaves and…
Hot coffee or tea sipped from a cardboard container, fruit or coffee smoothies sucked thorough a straw, nibbling on a giant cookie, muffin, loaf slice, roll or biscotti as you page…
Running a finger down a book spine, tugging the top of the book spine to pull it off the shelf, squatting to read titles on a low shelf, reclining back in a soft reading chair, paging through a book or magazine, flipping a book over to read the back copy, running fingers…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: With the excitement of a six-year-old discovering one last parcel at the back of the Christmas tree, I scampered over to the last armchair in the reading nook and sunk into the soft, plush folds. Across from me, an elderly woman glanced over the cover of a steamy romance novel and took in my bulging bookstore bag. She nudged her own nestled at the foot of her chair and we shared a secret smile. After settling in, I pulled my newest purchase, Across the Universe by Beth Revis and inhaled the papery scent of a new story waiting to be discovered…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) Near the discount table a ruddy-cheeked man hugged books to his barrel chest like grandchildren he hadn’t seen in a long, long time…
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. The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus are 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.
I <3 you so hardcore.
Angela Ackerman says
I know how you feel Karen–I love words, too!
Holly, Laura, Cynthia and Christine–thanks! Book and bookstores are just #1 all the way. 🙂
Bish and Elana, nice to see you here. 🙂
Cat, thanks. I’m glad it brought up some good imagery. 🙂
Jeff, thanks so much. I’m so glad to hear this helps you.
Sharon, I’m not sure. I imagine tho it was the bigger stores first. Side note: I actually attended a talk by one of the Ci-founders of Second Cup, who started the trend of coffee houses. Most would think Starbucks might be the one who did it, but that isn’t the case. It was interesting to hear the process of how Coffee stores used to only sell coffee beans and grounds, but then after the popularity of offering free samples in store took off, they decided to start charging and doing take-away cups, and the concept of the coffee house was born. 🙂
Shannon, I agree. I love bookstores. I think as a writer, it’s a place to dream, that one day our books will be there on the shelf.
Shannon O'Donnell says
*big, loud sigh*
This is one of your best ever, probably because it hits the nostalgia buttons. 🙂
Sharon K. Mayhew says
Silly or strange question…Did bookstores always have coffee shops in them? Or is that a trend that big bookstores started that made independent bookstores follow suite (or vise versa)?
Wonderful post, Angela…a great read and a great lesson!
Jeff King says
I thought I left a comment already… time to rectify that mistake.
I love way you put things so it makes sense, so I can actually put this into action.
Thx, my work will be better.
Cynthia Chapman Willis says
This is wonderful. And inspiring since I’m about to go write in my favorite bookstore cafe!
Lovely voice, particularly the last passage. I had no problem visualizing every character.
Thanks for the great tutorial.
Elana Johnson says
I love this post, simply because it reminds me that I need to use more than one sense to describe a place. Thanks, Angela!
Bish Denham says
I am standing in a bookstore! In the sound department, there is often muzak playing. The book store where I live, also has a a music and movie department. Music is playing all the time, selected CDs of the day.
Christina Lee says
Fantastic–as usual. Oh and yes, Beth’s book-me me!
Off to check out your school hallway setting!
Laura Pauling says
Thanks Angela! I’d say this is a delightful one – what writer doesn’t love a bookstore?
Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw says
I love example two. It’s like seeing my beloved bookstore from the other side.
Lately I’ve been wanting to spend time with my beloved thesaurus, and to read the dictionary. This post made me want to do it even more. I think the next book I pick up to read will be either thesaurus or dictionary.
Angela Ackerman says
Ha, thanks for catching that, Kelly. I usually write the examples as they come to me and then cut and paste them under the right spot! Guess I forgot to do that this time, lol. All fixed now. 🙂
Susanne, I think this one is probably a special one to all writers! Is there anything better than a bookstore?
Karen, I’m glad you like this one!
Nicole, I thought about the smaller indie stores and how they don’t necessarily have reading nooks and coffee bars. Personally I think bookstores have really gotten wonderful with the inclusion of these things, even tho I firmly believe in supporting the smaller venues.
Thanks everyone–hope you’re having a great sunday!
Nicole MacDonald says
it’s funny Borders is a relatively new addition to NZ and before then no one dared to take coffee/drinks into Whitcoulls and if you stayed all day reading one of the staff would do the snarky ‘this is not a library’ comment ;p
Karen Lange says
This is one of my favorites so far, although they are all very good. Thanks for posting it.
Have a great week,
Susanne Drazic says
Lots of great examples. I started thinking about my favorite bookstore downtown. I like how the floors creak when you walk amongst the racks of books. The window displays are always fun to look at. I remember the author book signings that I went on as field trips with my son’s classes in elementary school. All great memories!
Kelly M. Olsen says
What a fantastic body of work you must have labored over for hours for the benefit of your readers. I appreciate the work. I look forward to reading some of your writing. One point, though…Your examples of simile and metaphor are backwards. A simile often used the words “like” or “as” to make a comparison, whereas a metaphor makes a comparison without those words.