Well worn seats, stained or dirty floor mats, gum wrappers on the floor, semi-crushed Kleenex box above the backseat licence ID of driver displayed, smudged windows, digital display of meter, signs regarding passenger conduct/legalities, cell phone, radioing…
Music on the radio, matching the taste of the driver, discussions on a cell or radio between driver and dispatcher, squeaky springs in the seats down a bumpy road, traffic noise outside, humming, small talk, the click of a seat belt, blips on the meter, the driver hitting…
Old carpet and fabric seats, dirt, dust, the cabbie’s lunch breath, lingering odors of coffee and food eaten in the car, cologne or perfume, hair products, sweat
Popping a sweet mint or breath freshening gum in the mouth before arriving at destination, the cabbie taking a mouthful of take out food as he drives, water, coffee
The give of bouncy seats, strapping a seat belt over lap, pulling on the door handle, pointing a building out to the cabbie, straightening clothing, smoothing wrinkles, checking self in the mirror, tousling hair, fixing make up, digging in a pocket, wallet or purse for cab…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: As I settled into the spongy seat and pulled the door shut, I caught a strong whiff of Kung Pao chicken. Great–just my luck that I’d end up with a driver with a lust for Sichuan cuisine. I barked out the address and then sat back to wait, taking as few breaths as possible. A take out container sat between the seats, dripping vomit-yellow sauce. The driver popped one of those useless complementary thank you candies into his mouth like that would help. Places like his lunch stop should be forced to hand mouthwash or breath strips instead…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) The cabbie spun the wheel erratically like a DJ running turntables at an all ages club. Either he had no idea where he was going or he hoped that tossing his passengers from side to side might dislodge spare change from their pockets, padding his paycheck a little…
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.
Wow, this is totally awesome! It just instantly sent my mind whirring with thoughts! Thanks for this :’)
Really useful blog.Good work keeping this updated! Custom Elevator Interiors Thanks a lot!
Robyn Campbell says
Angela, YOU ARE THE QUEEN! Have I told you how many times I came by here while writing SEVENTY TWO HOURS? Too many to count.
And now that I started another novel, well, “I’m baaacck.” 🙂 Excellent!
Lynda Young says
Thanks for following my blog. I’ve been a follower of yours for some time now. This is a great sensory list that highlights the importance of atmosphere
Julie Musil says
I’ve never even been in a taxi cab, yet I feel like I’ve just ridden in one!
Karen Lange says
Great stuff! Thanks:)
Angela Ackerman says
Oh and Anon, I’ll add Flower shop to my growing list. 🙂
Matthew Rush says
Why is it that we all accept that writing about a nice clean, neat taxi would be too unbelievable? Probably because there is no such thing.
Angela Ackerman says
Oh I’m glad this post helps! I think can sensory description can be important, because cabs in a novel tend to be transitional places where the character is thinking on the course of action. Thise spots in a novel must always be short and sweet and there needs to be ties to the action of the cab ride, or it turns into a ‘coffee break’ moment–not a good thing.
Think about what items, scents, sounds, etc the person in the cab can experience as they ride, and how it can be a bridge to their thoughts/memories/etc. 🙂
Stina, I’ll take your word on that, LOL!
Wendy, I know what you mean–my kids watch that show, too! I think I’d do awful if I ever got into a cash cab–I’m terrible at trivia!
Have a great week all, and thanks for the comments!
Wendy Marcus says
I’m from upstate New York, don’t spend much time in taxis. But now, everytime I think of one I hear the music and envision the lights that come on when riders enter the cash cab. (A game show which takes place in a taxi, in case you haven’t heard of it.) Dumb, I know. But I can’t help it!
Jeff King says
Thx a lot, it helps to see it put this way.
Your post are great. They always help me when I need a little guidance. Could there possibly be a post for a flower shop in the future?
Ha! An agent I interviewed for my blog told an interesting story about a mysterious cabbie he ended up signing for this really out-there book.
I stopped by to let you know, just posted my most recent agent interview with literary agent Laurie McLean on my blog: http://www.kayemevans.com/blog (you can check out the cabbie story in the James Fitzgerald interview if scroll down just a little)
Laurie McLean provided awesome info, the most substantive answers I’ve received from a literary agent. Hope you can check it out!
Jan Markley says
That’s a great process to go through. BTW: I wish my car was a clean as that cabbies ;-j
Stina Lindenblatt says
The Calgary cabs are 1000 X better than the ones in LA. *scrunches nose*
C.R. Evers says
your thoroughness amazes me! Another awesome entry!
Sharon K. Mayhew says
You are the master! I bow down to your greatness. I really mean this. These posts are something special!