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, doors standing open, kids running in and out, scattered toys, light shining from the TV in the background, kids dancing, parents supervising/chatting/drinking/eating, crumpled wrapping paper and open boxes, bows stuck to someone's head or clothing, an overflowing garbage can, kitchen counters cluttered with paper goods/food and drink/serving utensils, spatters of water around the drink cooler, half-drunk juice boxes or water bottles, melting ice cream, sweaty handprints on glass doors

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, people talking with their mouths full, scrape of plastic forks on paper plates, exclamations as presents are opened, tearing paper, electronic toy noises, competing voices during a party game, balloons popping, kids crying/protesting at departure time

Cake and cookies baking, just-cleaned floors, scented candles or air freshener, other specific house smells (cigarette smoke, dog or cat, potpourri, etc.), sweaty children, coffee, a match being struck, extinguished candles

Sweet icing, moist or dry birthday cake, other desserts, salty chips, candy from gift bags, ice cream, waxy drink cups, juice, water, soda, coffee, plastic taste when you lick the icing from inedible cake toppers

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 around your neck, a party hat crookedly-balanced on your head, glossy feel of wrapping paper, wet melting ice around the drinks cooler, the contraction of a juice box as you drink through the straw, condensation on a water bottle, water droplets hitting your knees

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.

Example 2:

      "Happy birthday to you…" Enter Mom with the quintessential birthday confection. A single candle flame wavers in her excited exhalations.
      "Happy birthday to you…" Grandma fiddles with the camera, ready to eternally preserve a picture of Baby with his very first cake.
      "Happy birthday, dear Baby…" Mom sets the platter on the table in front of Baby and backs away, out of the shot.
      "Happy birthday to—"
      "Cake!" Sister grabs two enormous fistfuls of icing. The wounded cake teeters on the table's edge before falling to the floor with a memorable splat.

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

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

Example 2: (Metaphor)
Janice surveyed the damage and wondered if she'd just hosted a birthday party or a Mardi Gras parade.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

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.

Ann Best said...

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

Karen Lange said...

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

I will remember the "memorable splat". Great image!

Happy weekend,

Heather said...

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

Medeia Sharif said...

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).

Travelin'Oma said...

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

Laura Pauling said...

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

Becca Puglisi said...

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 :).

Talli Roland said...

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

Christina Farley said...

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

Stina Lindenblatt said...

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

Lisa Gail Green said...

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

Matthew MacNish said...

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.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hmmm . . . my MS opens with a birthday party. I'm off to check it out! :-)

Julie Musil said...

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!

Dawn Simon said...

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!

Sheila Deeth said...

This is great! Thanks.

Tamera Lynn Kraft said...

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

nutschell said...

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

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Angela & Becky -

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

Susan :)

Kellie said...

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 =)


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