Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bakery

Sight

doughnuts, muffins, cookies, trays, stainless steel counters, coffee pots, mini coolers for pop, water and juices, flour on counters, bagels, buns, fresh bread, danishes, pies, cakes, eclairs, whipped cream, banana loaf, bread pans, cookie trays, napkins, napkin dispensers, dishwasher, bread baskets, microwave, bread warmers, icing sugar spills, plates with crumbs on them, crumpled napkins, used mugs with lipstick marks, dirty cutlery in dish bins, take out containers/bags, cakes & confections under a glass display, tile floors, posters of doughnuts/cookies/fresh crusty breads, specials written on a white board or chalk board, gooey icing, booths, chairs, garbage bins, cash registers, ovens, stools, dough mixers, sinks, cookie racks, powders, bags of flour, food ingredients, yeast, customers, brownies, tarts, pies, deep fryers

Sounds

Dough mixing in an industrial mixer, cash register, oven timers going off, customer conversations, the crackle of sanitary paper when gathering doughnut/muffin choices, coffee being poured into cups, clatter of cutlery and plates, the crunch of crusty bread, murmuring appreciation of the food, oven doors opening/closing, a bagel knife cutting through a bagel or bun, the slosh of dishes in the dishwasher, garage being dumped in the trash, a jingle of the store door being opened, announcing more customers, phone ringing, hands being washed in a sink, folding down the top of a take out bag, the rustle of coats being taken off, the clink of a coffee mug against the tabletop, laughter, the chatter of ice cubes in a glass

Smells

yeasty dough, sugar, melted butter, coffee, crusty bread, toasted bread, roasted nuts, maple or honey, tea, spices, browning cheeses

Tastes

fresh bread, spices, yeast, sugary glazes, nuts, grains, seeds, pudding centers, whipped cream, chocolate, coffee, water, jams, honey, butter, cream cheese, sweet drinks, fudge cakes, lemon, caramel, maple glazes, tea, salt, pie crust/fillings

Touch

crumbs on the fingertips, powdered sugar on the lips, sticky buns, licking fingers, swiping a napkin at the lips, a glass beaded with condensation, a hot coffee or tea mug, sticky tabletop, plates warm from the dishwasher, warm rolls, ripping crusty bread apart, light crispy layers of puff pastry, chewy bread, the crunch of toasted bagels as you bite down, butter oozing onto fingertips, pressing finger against the plate to gather the last few crumbs of a savored treat, shaking a sugar packet to get the sugar to fall to the bottom before ripping open, yanking a napkin from a dispenser, flipping through a newspaper as you eat, scraping butter across a bread roll, sucking glaze from the fingertips, picking nuts off a muffin top, peeling a paper cup from a muffin, sliding a fork into a slice of pie to take a mouthful, the weight of a morsel on the fork, sweeping crumbs off lips or clothes, pulling money from a wallet or purse, dumping change into a purse or pocket, carrying a heavy plate to the table or a bag to the car

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

Amanda stepped up to the counter, her gaze cascading over trays loaded with glistening sticky buns, chocolate-studded cookies and sugar-rolled donuts. Her stomach grumbled as her finger wandered over the infinite choices. "I'll have..." the words wavered at the sight of a low fat label adorning a basket of pale, uninteresting muffins. Her brain flashed back to her morning struggle with her waistband, then forward to the wedding she would be attending a week from now. "The low fat muffin please," she finished. "A small one."

Example 2:

Regina wiped her hand on her apron and then lowered several pale, doughy rings into the vat of oil. In mere seconds the doughnuts ballooned to twice their size, browned and glistening with hot oil. Her brain tallying calories, she lifted them out and tossed them into the bowl of powdered sugar. What was she thinking, applying for a job here? She'd never be able to enjoy a doughnut again.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

I pulled the oven door open and peeked inside. Three perfectly puffed golden tops rose like a trio of suns on the horizon. The bread was ready.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Before carrying the apple danish up front, I gave it a small dusting of icing sugar for a pretty white accent. Cora, late from her break, rushed passed the counter, bumping my arm. The lid popped off my shaker, drowning my creation in a snowbank of powder.

Emotion Thesaurus Addendum: Exhaustion

  • Drifting focus
  • Shuffling steps that scuff the floor
  • Fumbling, clumsiness
  • Bowed shoulders
  • Squeezing the eyes shut, then opening them wide in an effort to stay awake
  • Rolling the neck from side to side to loosen kinks
  • The gaze turning repeatedly to a bed or sofa
  • Stretching, shaking one's limbs
  • Numbness
  • Silence
  • Rereading the same page
  • Turning up a radio or TV for noise
  • Listening but not hearing
  • Haggard appearance (smeared make-up, matted hair, unshaven cheeks)
Good news! This sample has been expanded and streamlined into a free downloadable PDF! The full list of physical, internal, and mental cues for this and 14 other entries can be found in Emotion Amplifiers. Just click the Free Download button in the sidebar to receive your own copy of this companion to The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression

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Setting Thesaurus Entry: Subway Station

Sight

subway trains, subway platforms, posts, escalators, stairs, posters, security guards, business men and women, couples, groups of young people, tracks, litter, lights, graffiti'd walls, speakers, ticket turnstiles, patched seats, torn seats, grime, dirt, street people, crowds, bench seating, tiles, pop machines, trash cans, police call button booths, public washrooms, advertisements, signs to the street, maps of the subway route under glass, portable map pamphlets, flash of lights as trains pass through tunnels, blurry/smudged windows, newspapers or coffee containers abandoned on seats, ticket dispensers/wickets


Sounds

bells signalling the door is closing/train is arriving/leaving, station prompt on loudspeaker, people talking, coughing, laughing, music from ipods, static from security/police walkies, the whoosh of the train arriving or leaving, the whirr of the escalator motor, the buzz of electricity, doors clattering open & shut, the rattle of newspapers or magazines, cell phones going off, crazy people talking to themselves or ranting at the crowds, footsteps on tile, the creak of metal inside the train

Smells

dirt, musty fabric, urine, cologne, perfume, sweat, bad breath, the smell of newsprint, 'canned' air conditioned air, hair products, BO, breath mints, people who smell like cigarette smoke or pot, coffee, hot dogs


Tastes

Food or drinks from vending machines (pop, water, chips, chocolate bars, coffee, granola bars, etc), gum, breath mints, chewing tobacco

Touch

Cold metal handrails and turnstiles, too-hard plastic seats, worn plastic ceiling hand loops, dry newsprint, smooth paper ticket (people generally avoid touching/holding anything on the subway), holding a hot cup of coffee or cold drink, slathering on hand sanitizer, rubbing shoulders with strangers, brushing against people, bodies swaying as train moves, sticky floor, cold air seeping around windows and rushing through open doors

Helpful hints:


--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

The smeared plastic door shuddered open and the odor of urine washed over me. I took a peek inside and saw only one occupant--a man lying across the plastic bench, his layers of tattered clothing bulking up a sickly frame. An empty Jack Daniel's bottle clutched in his grimy fist, explaining how he could sleep through the too-loud station prompt on the speakers. Grimacing, I stepped back. I'd wait for the next train.

Example 2:

A pull on my hand and just like that, my daughter was gone. Frantic, I spun in a circle on the crowded platform, scanning the swarm of jostling bodies. "Betsy!" I screamed. "Betsy!"

A weak cry came from eight feet away, where a pale hand jabbed at the air behind a whale of a woman holding a large fist full of store bags. I dove through the surging crowd and pulled Betsy to me, not caring when I dislodged the woman's load.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

I followed Adam down the crowded stairs to the platform, flinching every time someone brushed against me. Why did he have to insist on using the subway like the locals did? My back stiff, I clutched my purse in both hands, staring down every stranger I passed. The place was probably packed with criminals trying to sniff out small town origins like it were some cheap perfume.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

I clutched the handrail and prayed for my stop to come. The electricity was erratic in my shuddering car, buzzing on and off, reducing my unsavory fellow riders to infrequent flickers. As the dark took hold yet again, I thought of a carnival fun house moving at lightning speed, one where the knife wielding psycho might be real.

Emotion Addendum: Doubt

  • Shuffling one's feet
  • Pulling or tugging at the clothes
  • Cold hands
  • A hesitating nod
  • Swallowing more than usual
  • Shrugging
  • Avoiding speaking or open agreement
  • Wincing as others agree or commend someone for their solution
  • Rubbing the back of the neck
  • Dry-washing one's hands
  • Shaking the head
  • Coughing as one agrees or supports a doubtful decision or stance
  • Sharing a look with an ally, raising eyebrows to convey feelings
  • Making alternative suggestions


Good news! This sample has been expanded and streamlined into book form! The full list of physical, internal, and mental cues for this and 74 other emotions can be found in The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, available for purchase at AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes, and Smashwords. The PDF is also downloadable via the Paypal button in the sidebar. 

Setting Thesaurus: Bathroom (home)

Sight

Mirror, sink, toilet, bidet, bathtub, shower, shower curtain, faucet, fluffy rugs/toilet cover, tissue box, toilet paper, TP holder, towel bar, ceiling fan, soap dish/soap pump, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, bubble bath, bath bombs/bath beads, razors, tweezers, eyelash curler, make up, hand towels, towels, face cloths, bath brush, sea sponge, candles, fake plants, soap baskets, cutesy bathroom signs, bath toys, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shavers shaving cream, perfume, aftershave, creams, astringent, dental floss, mouthwash, rinse glass, toothbrush holder, shaving bristles scattered around the sink, rogue hair, grime, mascara smudges or fingerprints on the mirror, bath pillow, dried on toothpaste globs, black mildew, tile, a scale, toilet plunger, curling iron, blow dryer, soap spots on the mirror, rust, radio, nail files and clippers, band aids

Sounds

blow dryer motor, running water, whirr of the overhead fan, spritz of hairspray or perfume, shower spray, globs of soap dropping to the shower floor, toilet flushing, singing, radio, electric shaver, the rasp of a nail file or clippers, the tearing of toilet paper, heat from a radiator or furnace vent, teeth brushing, gargling, someone blowing their nose, shower curtain being pulled back, shower door opening or closing, drawers being opened, a hand going through a toiletry bag looking for tweezers or a make up kit, unwrapping a new bar of soap, tapping a toothbrush against the sink, whistling or humming

Smells

Hairspray, astringent, perfume, cologne, creams, nail polish remover, shampoo/conditioner, smells from shower gel, bubble bath or salts, bad breath, sweat, mildew, wet towels, toilet-related odors

Tastes

Tooth paste, accidentally getting a spray of hairspray in the mouth, bubbles, water, mouthwash, damp air

Touch

The sluice of water down the back, rinsing shampoo from the hair, the drag of a razor, the hot rush of a blow dryer, swiping cold mist from a mirror, damp air on the skin, smooth creams on dry skin, pain at nicking during a shave, the cold metal of tweezers or nail clippers, spongy carpet/mats on bare feet, steam against the skin, splashing water on the face, scrubbing heels with a pumice stone, the rasp of a nail file, dragging a mascara brush against lashes, the pinch of eyebrow plucking, soft towels against the skin, wet hair on shoulders

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: I opened the door, then gagged and slapped the fan on. It rattled to life, stirring the hairballs that littered the floor but doing nothing for the putrid air. Mildew spotted the tiles and discolored the sink. Chunks of something clung to the wall. I held my breath and decided that I didn't have to go after all.

Example 2: I turned off the tap but stopped short of grabbing the towel. It was fluffy and perfectly-hung, a line of lace fluttering along its hem. I pivoted, looking for something else. The wall shelves held doilies and potpourri, dried flowers, seashell-shaped soaps. Candlelight flickered in a vanilla-scented draft. A dimpled cherub smiled down on me from the mirror. I shuddered. When had Karen gotten so...domestic?

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) The toilet choked and groaned before spewing its contents like a first-time contestant at a pie-eating contest.

Example 2: (Metaphor) Chrome shined and the mirrors sparkled--a thousand tiny smiles welcoming you in.

Emotion Thesaurus Addendum: Sarcasm/Verbal Disrespect


  • A bemused smile
  • Asking questions that imply you already know the answer
  • A too-sweet tone
  • Choosing words that cut, degrade, or diminish
  • A hand wave that dismisses someone as unimportant
  • Raising the voice to draw attention to one's words
  • Rapid, snappy responses
  • Narrowed eyes that glitter with a hard or unkind amusement
  • Shaking the head while another is speaking
  • A loud smacking of the lips or tsking in a condescending manner
  • Verbal agreement infused with impatience or rudeness: Okay, sure or Whatever you say
  • Belittling one's ideas, words, or viewpoint
  • Pursed lips
  • Asking questions geared to discomfort the other person
  • Tossing the head


Setting Description Entry: Hospital

Sight

ambulances, doctors, nurses, ambulance attendants, paramedics, volunteers, porters, priests, visitors, firemen, police officers, pink/green/blue or patterned scrubs, gurney, clipboards, IV bags and stands, blood, cuts, bruises, pus, torn tissue, casts, arm slings, wheelchairs, waiting rooms, pens attached to wires, needles, gauze, bandages, band aids, tongue depressors, white sheets/bedding, surgical tools, stainless steel desks, operating tables, carts, security cameras security guards, nurses' stations, computers, dialysis machines, heart monitors, blood pressure sleeves, rib spreader, saws, stainless steel dishes/containers, sinks, trash cans, cleaning staff, boxes of Kleenex, sinks, tiny bathrooms, antibacterial stations, stethoscopes, penlights, digital thermometers, green cloth-lined instrument trays, bedpans, life support machines, catheter bags, stitches, old magazines/papers in waiting areas, TVs, movable overhead light, gas canisters/masks, disposable gloves, worried & distraught patients and visitors, oxygen tanks, Xray machines, MRI, CT scanners, protective lead aprons, white boards, doctors' lounge, nurses' lounge, plastic tubing, bloody cloths, defibrillator, hospital curtains, movable beds, beds in the halls, pay phones, jugs of water, flowers, cards, gift shop, cafeteria, pop machines, snack machines, sliding glass doors, elevators, exit signs, ward signs, display boards with unit info/floor numbers, front desk, coffee shop, spotless floors, parkade (underground), morgue, maternity ward, , parking staff, donated art work, plaques on the wall, public washrooms, ER room, admitting desk, sick people, line ups, ID badges, ambulances, air medical helicopters, crazy people (mental conditions, druggies)

Sounds

doors sliding open and shut, furnace, air exchanger, screams, cries moans, gasps, grunts/hisses of pain, people talking in low voices, intercom calling out codes/directions, squeaky wheelchairs, the clack of the keyboard, a low-volumed radio or TV, heavy breathing, the whoosh of life support machines, crying/sobbing, the rattle of papers on a clipboard, newspapers/magazines in a waiting room, the snap of a gurney being raised, bleeping machines, phones ringing, calls for assistance, rattly breath, wheezing, coughing, sneezing, the bing of an elevator reaching a floor, water running in a sink, pouring into a glass, the chatter of food trays on a cart, pills clicking together in a disposable medi cup, the rattle of garbage bags being changed out, cleaning staff spraying down surfaces, chairs scraping the floor, the squeak of rubber soles against the floor, throat clearing, air conditioners, the grinding of surgical saws or drills, directions from doctor to operating room support staff and nurses, crying babies, fire alarm, ambulance sires, air ambulance (helicopter)

Smells

cleaners (pine, lemon, bleach etc), antiseptic, a metallic tang from stainless steel in the open air, bleach wafting from bedding, blood, vomit, sweat, perfume/cologne, the scent of get well flowers, questionable food smells from room trays, grease/meaty/soup smells from the cafeteria, coffee, cigarette smoke wafting off people leaving designated smoking areas, decay/festering tissue

Tastes

Burnt coffee from machines, bland food from vending machines, Hospital food (jello, pudding, soups, oatmeal, bland chicken, mashed potatoes, dry buns or toast), snack foods from vending machines (granola bars, chips, candy bars, pop, juices, energy drinks, bottled water), gum, mints, cigarettes snuck outside or in a designated smoking area, bitter pills, too-sweet medicines, cafeteria food: salads, sandwiches, soups, fries, beef dips, burgers, meat loaf, chili), metallic taste of anesthesia gas, blood, sick taste in throat, phlegm, vomit,

Touch

Cold metal bed rails, soft pillows, crisp sheets, smooth plastic emergency remote/call remote, pain (hot, deep, burning, sharp, dull, achy, stabbing, probing), the prick of a needle, cool swipe of antiseptic being applied on skin, a sweaty forehead, sweat dripping down the neck, hair falling across the face, fingers probing an injury sight, bandages being applied to a wound or being removed (pulling, tearing, slicing, burning), aching bones, throbbing head, stomach sickness, a drink straw to the lips, dry, cracked lips, pulling stitches, a mask pressed over the mouth and nose, a shaver against the skin (pre-surgical), sponge baths, warm blood through surgical gloves, slippery organs, hard bones, sinuous tissue, a beating heart, cold metal instruments, pain at bright lights, numbness, fumbling for a loved one's hand, reaching to touch their face, tears running down cheeks, the stiff waiting room chair, paper against fingers (flipping through a magazine, newspaper), gripping knees or armrests at bad news, clenched hands, a cool cloth to the forehead, ice chips in the mouth and throat, a dusty/bitter/smooth pill or caplet on the tongue, washing hands or using hand sanitizer


Helpful hints:


--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

My gaze swivelled over the waiting room, looking for a place for Andrew and I to sit. A TV played quietly in one corner, a distraction that might help keep his mind off the stitches he would need in his arm. The seats closest to it stood empty, sandwiched between two sweating and shivering men. As one leaned forward and filled the space with harsh, hacking coughs, I understood why no one else had jumped at the prime location. I steered Andrew to the other side of the room, the bland walls and tableful of torn magazines suddenly much more appealing.


Example 2:

The ambulance doors swooshed open into chaos; beds lined the hall, each holding a moaning, writhing burn victim. Nurses in scrubs scurried from patient to patient, assessing the worst cases and screaming for the attention of the ER doctors. Bloody cloths and burnt clothing hastily cut away littered the floor and char hung in the air.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

I stroked Nana's hand where it lay on the white hospital linen, her age-spotted skin as thin as rice paper.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

The orderly sped down the hall with his crash cart, straining to reach the ODed rock star. Doctors swarmed her bed, bees serving their queen, racing to bring her back from the dead.

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