Setting Thesaurus Entry: Birthday Party

Balloons, streamers, party hats, confetti, brightly-wrapped presents, envelopes, gift bags, theme-based paper products and table cloths, banners, birthday cake, cookies and brownies, a bounce house, water/sprinkler toys (for an outdoor party), party games…

Doorbell ringing, kids laughing/yelling, parents talking, doors slamming, pounding feet, shrill noisemakers and whistles, blaring music, TV noise, shrieks from outside, kids arguing over toys/games, voices singing Happy Birthday To You, candles being blown out…

Cake and cookies baking, just-cleaned floors, scented candles or air freshener, other specific house smells (cigarette smoke, dog or cat, potpourri, etc.)…

Sweet icing, moist or dry birthday cake, other desserts, salty chips, candy from gift bags, ice cream, waxy drink cups, juice, water, soda…

Breeze from open door and windows, cold blast of the a/c or heat from heater, hard plastic dishware, a cake server sinking into an untouched cake, sticky icing, cool drinks, cake crumbs, soft melting ice cream, rubbery balloons, scattered paper feel of confetti, the too-tight elastic party hat band…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Lightning forked the sky, sending wet kids scrambling out of the pool and into the house. Thunder boomed and the girls screamed, throwing water every which way. The streamers sagged. Crumpled tissue paper turned to a sodden, toilet-papery mess. Water pooled in half-a-dozen places on my hard-wood floor. I racked my brain for a way to salvage Annie’s party while she stared into the lowering sky, her palms pressed to the window. A single drop of water trickled from each hand and ran down the glass like tears…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) The party had been perfect, like something from the Hallmark Channel…

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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22 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Birthday Party

  1. Pingback: Setting Thesaurus Entry Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Kellie says:

    Love this…
    Not technically a place in your usual sense but if you ever run out of places (yeah right!) I’m hoping you’ll consider something along the lines of transportation… inside a car etc.
    Something I’ve always had trouble with… only so many things can go whizzing by before you admit you need help =)

  3. Hi Angela & Becky –

    Off topic: You have an award at my blog (3/18 Friday Round-Up post).

    Susan 🙂

  4. nutschell says:

    ooh! I love this! I love the sounds and touch list most especially. 🙂

  5. I love your blog, so I’ve awarded you the Versitle blog award on my blog.

  6. Sheila Deeth says:

    This is great! Thanks.

  7. Dawn Simon says:

    Some of my favorites: the smell of just-cleaned floors, waxy drink cups, and the contraction of a juice box as you drink through the straw! Great ideas here!

  8. Julie Musil says:

    Oh, these are awesome. After reading this post I feel like I just hosted a party and need to whip out my mop. Great stuff!

  9. Hmmm . . . my MS opens with a birthday party. I’m off to check it out! 🙂

  10. I love how the setting entries always end up having the most detail. You just can’t beat the amount of sensory information that comes with setting.

  11. Ha ha! I just did a post about metaphors and how not to overdo it. I like your examples.:D

  12. That might be true, Becca, but a lot of what is here is still very real.

  13. This is a fun one! I love the unique taste of birthday cake with ice cream. And that vanilla flavored frosting!

  14. Talli Roland says:

    Very timely, because I’m about to write a birthday party scene! Thank you.

  15. This was a fun one, though I was torn because it seems, like Stina said, that less people have ‘standard’ parties for their kids anymore. Still, this one is for all the cheap moms like me out there :).

  16. Now I want to go write a birthday scene. Parties are so much fun. Thanks for this!

  17. Travelin'Oma says:

    Your thesaurus posts are a fabulous resource. I loved this birthday party list.

  18. Fantastic post. I recently edited a b-day party scene. It was a brief scene, but I loved the gaiety (of course there might be dismal parties, too).

  19. Heather says:

    This definitely caught the atmosphere of a birthday part for me. Excellent!

  20. Karen Lange says:

    This is great, thanks so much for all the work you do for us. 🙂

    I will remember the “memorable splat”. Great image!

    Happy weekend,

  21. Ann Best says:

    Dear Angela: I’m responding to this that you wrote on my recent post about my brother’s passing: “My deepest condolences. I know how you feel to some degree–my grandmother recently died and her memorial is this weekend. We were incredibly close and she was my last living grandparent. I will miss her so much!” My condolences to YOU, and I hope you feel closure and peace at the memorial!! Sincerely, Ann

  22. My daughter is having her birthday party tomorrow. One thing I’ve noticed is there’s a competition as to who can have their party at the coolest location, with the coolest activity. I don’t think it is consciously planned by the kids. Probably a parent thing.

    We have pets from the local petstore visiting us. Some parties have been held are art studios. Others at centers with organizated sports and physical activities. So even these things can add different dynamics to the story and take it out of the ordinary birthday party setting.

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