Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bowling Alley

Check-in counter, ugly shoes, racks of bowling balls, bowling bags, bowling merchandise for sale, dim lighting, neon lights (evening), waxed wooden lanes, gutters, inflatable bumpers for kiddy bowling, plastic chairs, electronic score boards, ball return machine…

Balls crashing/bouncing/rolling, pins scattering, the whirr of a ball returning through the machine, the blow of the hand dryer, distant clank of the bowling machine resetting pins, people laughing/talking/shouting/ordering food/complaining about the ugly shoes…

Floor polish, leather gloves and bags, disinfectant, stale cigarette smoke, perfume/cologne, hot dogs, pizza, nachos, fries, spilled beer, sweaty ugly shoes

chips, candy, nachos, hot dogs, French fries, water, soda, pizzas, beer, gum

Smooth ball, finger slipping into holes, blast of dryer on hands, leather gloves, ball’s weight in your hands, moist feel of ugly used shoes as you slip them on, frayed shoelaces, slippery soles on the wooden floor, vibration of ball return machine as your ball comes…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: The ball was heavy in my hands as I scanned the remaining two pins. A split. Tough shot, and with us down by five, I’d need to hit both. I tuned out the bass-heavy music, the kids screwing around in the next lane, the lights glaring off the alley’s high sheen until all I could see was my target: the inch-square spot on the 10 pin’s right side…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) Watching Emily struggle with her bowling ball was like watching a World’s Strongest Man competition…

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. 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.


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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Susan J. Reinhardt
9 years ago

Hi Becca –

Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

Hmm, I had my own bowling shoes and ball. I couldn’t stand the battered footwear, and most of the bowling balls were too heavy for me.

Susan 🙂

Kay Theodoratus
9 years ago

Thought I’d mention I enjoy your useful reminders to bring all your character’s senses into your description of settings and reactions, etc.

Julie Musil
9 years ago

Oh, we all know these sounds and smells well, but you’ve helped us put them in words. Thank you!

Charlie Pulsipher
9 years ago

Even those of us who enjoy a good bowl now and again, know that the facilities can be disgusting, the shoes are ugly, clownly, and uncomfortable (and try not to think of how many people’s feet have gone where your pink toes now reside), and sometimes you have to wipe crud off the table, ball, seat, etc. Don’t worry, Becca. I don’t think you offended too many people. Ü
Funny Stuff I Write

9 years ago

I loved this! Our bowling alley’s were always smoky and dark. The newer ones are much better, thank goodness. But the shoes, they never seem to change:)

Becca Puglisi
9 years ago

Hmmm. I actually love to bowl. And I didn’t realize the ugly shoes were subjective, lol.

My apologies to any bowling enthusiasts I may have offended.

Jemi Fraser
9 years ago

Brings back some fond memories – I spent a lot of time at a bowling alley growing up!

9 years ago

Thanks for giving us another possible setting for our stories. It really helps to be reminded of all the little details that can go into things. Especially when you get stuck on what to choose.

Mary Witzl
9 years ago

You’re not a bowling fan either, I’m guessing. 😉 Just reading these descriptions reinforces my anti-bowling sentiments a hundred fold.

Boy, do I hate bowling. Squeezing on USED, smelly, ugly shoes for the dubious pleasure of making a fool of myself trying to knock over a bunch of pins — AND spending money to do it! Give me the science museum any day.

9 years ago

As useful as ever, but a large part of this is relevant to many locations, and it seems a little harsh to single out bowling alleys for some of those subjective adjectives..!