Setting Thesaurus Entry: Middle School/Junior High Dance (informal)


Teens/preteens clustered in groups at the edge of the dance floor, some kids dancing wildly in the middle showing off moves & goofing off, scattered loners or pairs leaning against the walls, wanting to be part of the fun but too shy or unsure to move away from..


Loud music, deep base thumping off the walls, people shouting to be heard, laughter, feedback from a mike, the DJ making announcements, a crinkly chip bag, the hiss of a pop can tab popping, girls gossiping, teachers handing out verbal warnings…


Hairspray, too much perfume/cologne, hair products, scented lip gloss, sweat, BO, taco chip breath, possibly a skunky pot smell, stale cigarette smells & booze breath.


Water/juice/pop/punch as provided by the school or canteen club, liquor snuck in, chips, chocolate bars, snacks or pizza as provided by the event coordinators…


Grabbing onto a friend’s arm, jostling/bumping/nudging while dancing, toes stepped on, slinging arm around another’s shoulders, holding hands, fingers nervously plucking at clothes, sweaty palms, fiddling with bracelets, pulling out a phone to text, hugging, arms…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: I peered out from behind a cluster of girls as Mark made his way over Clarissa and her friends. With the loud drum solo blasting out the speakers, he had to lean right up to her to deliver my message. He probably had to shout in her ear too, which I kind of felt bad about, but from the way she covered her face and bolted for the bathroom the minute he turned away, she obviously understood that I was breaking up with her…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) Kids bounced and bobbed in time with the music like fizz from a glass of pop…

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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13 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Middle School/Junior High Dance (informal)

  1. Hi Anon,

    The online Emotion Thesaurus is in no means complete, more a sample. We are creating a complete and enhanced printed version, however.



  2. Anonymous says:

    surprised not to find *humiliation* in the emotion thesaurus…

  3. Kellie says:

    Ahhh! This is so neat. I followed a link here from another blog you posted on and seriously… my mind is blown. Such a great idea!
    I’m tempted to go write a dance scene just to see what I can make of it.

  4. I was no dancer in middle school. My first dance was junior prom, so if I ever had to write about a junior high dance, I’d have no idea. That’s what I love about these entries. You don’t have to have been there to write like you know what you’re talking about :).

  5. Oh, my. This brings back some memories from long ago!

  6. Elle Strauss says:

    Sounds like you’ve been to a school dance or two 🙂 Thanks for this!

  7. Great timing. My daughter was just at a middle school dance/activity night – last night! They have the cafeteria for dancing and the activities over in they gym so the kids have option. My daughter noticed there is a definite difference b/t the 6th and 8th graders. 6th graders dance awk. not close at all. In groups, they just jump up and down with the occasional goofball boy spinning on his head! Great job! And so far this year, Stairway to Heaven has played every single time!

  8. EEV says:

    “raccoon-eyed girl who was spurned or dumped”

    This made me want to write something about teens right now! LOL

    Thanks! I love it here =)

  9. Carrie says:

    Great choice for setting today. There is a middle school dance in my current WIP.

  10. Good add Bish–I’ll put it in. 🙂 Glad this helps, everyone!

  11. I needed this!! Thanks!!

  12. great lists of inspiration 🙂

  13. Bish Denham says:

    Very good! I might add one sight…a girl or two (or boys) who are the wallflowers, the shy ones, standing off by them, hoping to be seen and not seen at the same time.

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