Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bonfire

Red/yellow/orange/white flames, flames reaching/flickering/snapping, sparks drifting upward, embers glowing, smoke, logs/branches/twigs in various stages of burning, scorched area where grass has been cleared, ring of stones/shells/bricks, nearby pile of…

Crackle and pop of the fire, soft crash of logs breaking and the fire settling, logs rubbing together when someone rearranges them, snap of twigs being broken in half, axes and machetes biting into wood, wood being dragged over grass/sand/forest detritus, wind…

Wood fire smoke, ashes, fresh-cut wood, hot air, coffee, beer, hot dogs, insect repellant, sweat

Smores, Marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, hot dogs, roasted nuts, coffee, soda, water, beer, hot chocolate, cider, sweat, char, sand/dirt

smooth log/rough stone that you’re sitting on, sag of beach/lawn chair, knobby stick in your hands as you roast something in the flames, fire’s warmth, sting of an ember that pops and hits you, dry eyes from the heat, scratchy feel of smoke in your throat, smoke…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:
The winter wind grabbed at my hair, trying to ensnare me, but the fire’s warmth defeated it. An ember popped and peppered a group of girls with sparks. They screamed and grabbed the nearest guys. I smiled into my scarf, wishing I knew these people better and knowing I’d get the chance soon enough. It was enough to not be spending my first Friday night in this town alone…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) The fire gnawed at the massive log, consuming it like a disease until only a sickly pile of ash remained…

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

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting 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.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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9 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bonfire

  1. Mmmmm, smores! I felt like I was at a bonfire–perfect! And wonderful. Thank you!

  2. Bonfires do seem to have universal appeal. I had kind of a hard time writing this entry because I’ve been to so many in different locales–at the beach, on my grandfather’s land on New Year’s Eve, at summer camp. It was hard to know what surrounding details to include. Good times, good times.

  3. Used to be a New Years tradition to gather up all the christmas trees we could find on the curbs and drag them off into the desert, piling them one on top another until we had to use ladders. Sixty foot flames that clawed at the sky, could see the bonfire miles away. Heat the pushes everyone back, scrambling for the safety of rocks and ledges well outside the blast zone. I miss them terribly each year.
    Funny Stuff I Write And Draw

  4. Needed this more than once lately. My characters are the outdoorsy type. Will keep for terrific reference. Thank you!!

  5. Beth says:

    Great post. You always do such informative posts. But I like this one b/c my book has a lot of fire!

  6. Jemi Fraser says:

    Bonfires bring so many strong memories! Love this list!

  7. Bish Denham says:

    I can smell it, see it, taste it, feel it and hear it. Love a good fire.

  8. Hmmm. I now have a strange desire to have a bonfire. Or at least put one in the book I’m writing. 😀

  9. Thanks Becca! I bet some of these are easier to do than others. Bonfires would be fun because I think we’ve all been to a bonfire and can draw on our own memories! Great job.

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