Description 911: Over Expressed Emotions

Because this blog is all about flexing our descriptive skills, I wanted to touch on something I see from time to time when I critique: too much emotional showing.

Emotions can be the most difficult to convey (this is why Becca and I built the Emotion Thesaurus!) Not only do we need to express without telling, we have to show the emotion in a fresh way, make sure it feels genuine and have it match the character's expressive range. Add that to highlighting action and minimizing internal sensations and thoughts? It's a lot to juggle.

Common ways to show emotion:

Physical Action (beats): gestures, movement, ticks & tells that express emotion
Internal Sensations: bodily reaction known only to the POV character
Thoughts: reactive & emotionally charged thoughts caused by stimulus
Dialogue: revealing emotion verbally (and sometimes showing by what is not said!) 
POV Narrative: internal musings/reflection delivered by a POV character toward a situation or setting

A balance of these elements creates a satisfying window into the character's emotional state, but too much causes an overload of sensory information. It slows the pace, creates melodrama and disrupts the reader's belief in both the character and the events unfolding.

Over-expressing occurs when we try too hard to reinforce an emotional state to the reader. Here's an example of how this can happen. First, we need an emotion. Let's go with GUILT.

Mrs Henderson lifted her day planner and rifled through the papers on her desk. "I don't understand--the stapler was here right before lunch. Did someone use it and forget to put it back?"

  Amanda slid down in her seat, heat burning through her. Stupid! Why did I take it?


A very simple situation--not a lot is needed to get into Amanda's emotional state, right? Internal and external cues work together.

So what if I did this instead:

Amanda fumbled her library book open and shoved her nose deep into the pages so she wouldn't have to look at the teacher.

Okay, again, this works.

Or this:

Amanda shifted in her seat, grazing her knee on the bottom of her desk. What if the teacher knew? What if she asked everyone to pull out their desk trays?

Yep, still showing guilt, blending external cues and thoughts, which gives her guilt a paranoid edge.

Now...what if we put it all together?


Amanda fumbled her library book open and shoved her nose deep into the pages so she wouldn't have to look at the teacher. Shifting about, she slid down in her seat and her knee grazed the bottom of her desk where she'd hid the stapler. Heat burned through her. What if the teacher knew? What if she asked everyone to pull out their desk trays? Stupid! Why did I take it?

WAAAY too much showing for this simple scenario and a medium level emotion, isn't it? Can you imagine if I'd chosen a situation rife with stronger emotions, like a character running for their life or witnessing a murder?

The trick to finding a good balance of emotional showing is remembering that Readers are smart. They will pick up on the emotion without it being hammered into them. A few strong bits of showing is almost always better than a weighty clump of detail.

Like all areas of writing, this gets easier with PRACTICE. As you hone your Writer's Intuition, you become a better judge of just how many cues are needed to get the character's emotion across. Trust in your showing skills!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bonfire

Sight
Red/yellow/orange/white flames, flames reaching/flickering/snapping, sparks drifting upward, embers glowing, smoke, logs/branches/twigs in various stages of burning, scorched area where grass has been cleared, ring of stones/shells/bricks, nearby pile of wood, axes, machetes, leaves/twigs/acorns/wood chips scattered around, trails where branches/logs were dragged to the fire, glint of moon on ocean/lake/river nearby, log sections and upended tree stumps for sitting, folding chairs, beach chairs, drink cans, Styrofoam coffee cups, people sitting/standing/dancing/roasting food, dogs, parked cars, hay wagon, sharpened sticks/straightened coat hangers for roasting marshmallows or hot dogs, a guitar, the night sky, silhouettes and shadows

Sounds
Crackle and pop of the fire, soft crash of logs breaking and the fire settling, logs rubbing together when someone rearranges them, snap of twigs being broken in half, axes and machetes biting into wood, wood being dragged over grass/sand/forest detritus, wind blowing the flames or nearby treetops, ocean murmuring, river chuckling, crickets chirping, insects buzzing, owls hooting, people slapping mosquitoes, laughter, talking, singing, whispering, parents telling kids to stay back, strum of guitar, hissing as marshmallows burn fingers, yelling when sparks pop out of the fire into the crowd, plop of gooey marshmallow hitting the dirt, rustle of chocolate bar wrappers

Smells
Wood fire smoke, ashes, fresh-cut wood, hot air, coffee, beer, hot dogs, insect repellant, sweat

Tastes
Smores, Marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, hot dogs, roasted nuts, coffee, soda, water, beer, hot chocolate, cider, sweat, char, sand/dirt

Touch
smooth log/rough stone that you're sitting on, sag of beach/lawn chair, knobby stick in your hands as you roast something in the flames, fire's warmth, sting of an ember that pops and hits you, dry eyes from the heat, scratchy feel of smoke in your throat, smoke burning your eyes, prickle of too-warm cheeks, gooey marshmallow, melty chocolate on your face, crumbling graham cracker, fingers sticking as you pull a marshmallow off a stick, fingers burning from a too-hot hot dog, wind whipping your hair into your face, cold/hot night air, opposing feel of being hot on one side and cold on the other, bodies huddled together, sting of mosquito, sweat dampening your hair

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:
The winter wind grabbed at my hair, trying to ensnare me, but the fire's warmth defeated it. An ember popped and peppered a group of girls with sparks. They screamed and grabbed the nearest guys. I smiled into my scarf, wishing I knew these people better and knowing I'd get the chance soon enough. It was enough to not be spending my first Friday night in this town alone.

Example 2:
Jorn's body was as rigid as a sentinel's, but the flames jumped and played, taunting him. He clutched the seventh and final branch, its rippled bark pressing into his skin. The wood quivered as he fought the desire to bash the fire's carefully-placed logs and beat out every last ember until all that remained was a cold pile of nothing. With trembling arms, he placed the branch on the fire. It was done. The ceremony was complete. Tears slipped down his face as he turned to face the waiting crowd.

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

Example 1: (Simile)
The fire gnawed at the massive log, consuming it like a disease until only a sickly pile of ash remained.


Example 2: (Metaphor)
The flames pulled higher, straining against the embers—a fiery rebellion yearning for freedom.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Suffering

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

Animals cries
Injured birds trying and failing to fly
Broken wings/bones
Limping animals, torn ears, blinded
Nests/eggs knocked from trees
Extreme weather that churns up water, rips trees out of the ground, scatters debris
Animals with visible sores/wounds
Extreme cold
Extreme heat
An erratic trail of animal tracks in sand, mud or snow
Droughts
Wildfires
Animals circling dry water holes
Polluted watering holes
Birds caught in oil spills
The remains of an animal kill
Blood
Animal illness (mouth frothing, uneven breathing, staggering in circles)
Fish caught in shallow pools
Beached dolphins/whales
Visibly skinny/weak animals
Insects with missing limbs or damaged wings
Deserts

In Society:

Hospitals
Mental wards
Prisons
Orphanages
Group homes/halfway houses
Women's shelters
Homeless shelters
Drug/alcohol rehab
Abusive homes
Phobia victims
Animal shelters
Rehabilitation centers
Prosthetics
Handicaps
Pain medication
Migraines
Hangovers
Wounds, sores, bruises
Back pain, rubbing at stiff limbs
Limping/uneven gait
Backs that won't straighten
Illness
Chronic pain
Night terrors
Post traumatic Stress
War zones
Refugees
Radiation
Poor coloring, unhealthy pallor
Shaking extremities
Addictions/addicts
Poisonings
Juvenile detention centers
Bullying
Victims (crime, abuse, etc)
Homeless sleeping on park benches
Street people with the thousand yard stare
Famine
Hunger
Foreclosures
Bankruptcy
Disease

**For BODILY CUES OF SUFFERING, try the Emotion Thesaurus Addendum Entry: PAIN

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Suffering. Some are more powerful than others. A homeless man lying prone on the ground with no shoes in winter is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a desert view may not foreshadow Suffering on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: MINDSCAPE

This post has been generously written by Marian Perera, author of Before the Storm, Book 1 in the fascinating Eden Trilogy. A compelling blend of romance, high fantasy and intrigue, Before the Storm is a thrill ride that also provides a unique setting experience for readers. Click HERE to read the first chapter (and do check out Marian's blog--it's one of the best out there for Fantasy writing technique!)

BEFORE THE STORM: In Dagran society Alex is a "mare", a woman used by the nobility, until her owner gifts her to his greatest enemy, Robert Demeresna. Robert wins her trust, but this mare is a Trojan horse, her owner's weapon in the battle to come. A battle fought with steam engines on the fields of Dagre, and psychic magic in the arena of her mind.

Setting notes from Marian: What is a MINDSCAPE?

Just as a landscape is physical, a mindscape is mental. It’s virtual reality in a fantasy setting. Since it is formed from thought or imagination or psychic magic, a mindscape has few boundaries other than its essential unreality, but that doesn’t make it safe. Just as characters can lose their way in the physical world, they can lose their sanity in this one.

Depending on the story, a mindscape could exist entirely within one person’s mind, or it could be a shared place that anyone can enter (though not necessarily leave). It can be a location characters visit involuntarily in their dreams and nightmares, or it can be a manifestation of magic used to give people an interesting setting in which to meet or battle with each other mentally, like the holodeck in Star Trek.

A mindscape would be shaped by the imagination of whoever uses or controls it, and would reflect their emotions, personality or needs. Personal symbolism is a good way to show this. If the protagonist routinely steps into an imaginary banquet-hall where tables creak beneath full platters, he’ll probably be quite different from someone who prefers a calm, empty seashore.

As a result, a mindscape can be very individual, not to mention designed for the time period and technological level of almost any type of speculative fiction. My novel takes place in a medieval world, but the mindscape can be adapted for a steampunk or futuristic setting as well (where it might feature Rube Goldberg devices, searchlights, computer screens, metallic mouths spitting out ticker-tape, small spheres rolling across floors to eat any debris, etc).

A mindscape can be bizarre and twisted, but it should be fascinating as well, to entice people to enter it in the first place and to stay longer, perhaps their whole lives long. It will be a mindfield – vivid, unique, and confined only by the writer’s creativity.

Sight (outdoors)

A maze
A well (possibly a wishing well)
Mirages and other optical illusions
Mosaics that may or may not form an image
Fountains with too-realistic statues of animals, water pouring from their open mouths
Trees – some dry and twisted, some heavy with fruit
Crows perched on blank signposts
A moon or moons of a different color or shape
Clouds or mists that drift slowly along the ground
Strangely shaped footprints or paw prints on the ground
Talking animals or parts of animals, e.g. skulls that speak

Sight (indoors)

A library or vault
Closed windows or doors with the words “Do not open” carved/painted on them
Mirrors
Paintings and sculptures, some covered with heavy drapes
Shadows, especially if they don’t quite resemble whatever cast them
Staircases that don’t obey the laws of physics (think M. C. Escher)
Passages and corridors that likewise don’t obey the laws of physics e.g. always turning in the same direction but never arriving at the same place they started
Rooms that look larger from the inside than the outside
Timepieces that skew time, measuring it either faster or slower than in the actual world
Offerings of fruit (symbolic – eating fruit in either Eden or the Underworld doesn’t end well)
Jewels, money and other temptations that lie either off the safe route or within open rooms
Words or symbols scrawled on the ground, written in letters of fire on the walls, laid out in patterns of bones, etc.
Signs or warnings with subtle details wrong e.g. words consistently spelled differently, north labeled as south

Sounds

Music in the distance – pipes, harps or drums, wind sighing softly or making a seashell-to-the-ear sound although nothing moves in the breeze, white noise : indistinct whispers that just might turn into words if you listen long enough, the rustle of sand falling, the distant rattle of dice or snakes, water dripping in a desert, a bell tolling, faint faraway laughter, echoes, the hum of insects’ wings

Smells

Delicious meals, fresh fruit, crushed flowers and perfume, pungent mushrooms trodden underfoot, rotting meat, animals’ musk, smoke, burned hair, scented candles, the sharp phosphorus smell of a struck match, wet spilled ink

Tastes

Sweat, brackish (slightly salty) water, bread, bitter limes, nectar, roast meat, honey

Touch

Rough stones, the edges of broken glass, gritty sand, cool moist clouds, soft petals, sharp thorns, smooth marble benches or velvet-padded couches on which to recline, the dry fragile texture of old paper, the coarseness of an animal’s pelt on the floor

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

Behind Alex, the footsteps started. They kept pace with hers so well that she wasn’t sure if it was an echo—an echo that grew louder—or if she was being followed.

If I step into the mist I might be safe, she thought, but as she began to veer off the road she saw the crossroads in the distance. She hurried closer, only to find that the straight white road met another straight white road and the signpost was blank. In the road ahead of her a tree grew, its roots pushing the stones apart. In the road that crossed her path, a snake coiled forward.

Example 2:

A bead of water trickled over Kelan’s face. He tried to ignore it, but when the next drop came, he lifted his head. That isn’t rain.

Icicles clustered above him, colorless cones that glistened wet. Another drop plopped down and he opened his mouth without thinking. The water tasted pure and cold, and it was almost enough to make him forget his injuries. If I could reach one of those…

He struggled to a sitting position and reached for a bronze rail that ran the length of the corridor. Wait… was that here before? He couldn’t remember seeing it until that moment, but it felt solid enough beneath his hand.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

Mist rolled around him. Here and there it rippled with pale color, like clouds over the horizon just before the sun rose.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Half of the flagstones before her crumbled away, revealing nothingness beneath. A dark gaping mouth swallowed the floor and now it yawned open for her.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Religion

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

Disclaimer: Once again, this is a subjective topic that people tend to feel strongly about. Please note that I've listed symbols that are commonly identified with religion. Not all religions have been represented here because in order for a symbol in writing to be effective, it needs to be one that the majority of people will understand.

In Nature:
Nature
Mother Earth
Blood
Water (viewed as life-giving)
Crystals
Stonehenge
Beauty in nature
Sacred places (mountains, groves, etc)
Sunlight

In Society:
Cross
Rosary
Star of David
Crescent and Star
Yin Yang
Pentacle
Altar
Chalice
Church/Synagogue
Steeple
Stained glass
Communion wine
Prayer
Candles
Priest's collar
Bible/Scrolls/Koran
Angels
Gods/Goddesses
Jesus Christ
Mary
Buddha
Allah
Confucius
The Pope
Heaven/Hell
The Number Three
Rules
Rituals
The Golden Rule
The Ten Commandments
Church bells ringing
Chanting, singing
Hymns
Dinner blessing
Hands steepled together in prayer
Fish symbol on cars
Religious sayings on bumper stickers
Crossing oneself
A cross hanging from a necklace
A picture of The Last Supper
Evangelism
Organ music
Halos
Angel wings

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with religion. Some are more powerful than others. A cross is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a grove of rowan trees could stand for a number of different things and not foreshadow religion on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

The Fine Art of Conquering Impatience

Recently my blogging chum Shannon O'donnell posted about how important certain virtues are for people on the writing path. We must have the courage to write and put ourselves out there, we must find the fortitude needed to persevere. The one virtue she mentioned struggling with is having enough patience to stave off discouragement, depression, frustration and doubt.

Patience. Boy, that is a tough one some days, isn't it? I bet you can all relate to Shannon. I know I can.

Writing is a long journey. Most of you are probably involved in writing sites, forums, critique groups and the like, connecting with others on the writing path. You read blogs, encourage others, keep tabs on those striving just as you are. This is what it means to be a community. But there can be a dark side to belonging to this community, something that can cause us to have a crisis of faith: staying patient and upbeat when other succeed where we have not (yet).

Don't get me wrong, we cheer for every sale and piece of good news that comes to our writer friends! But, sometimes a sliver inside us feels something else: Frustration. Envy. Worry. Doubt. These emotions lead to a plague of questions: Why haven't I succeeded? Why isn't it my turn for good news? Why can't this be me? Am I kidding myself for even trying?

It's very easy to let these negative questions send us on a downward spiral, sucking away our energy, our creativity and our strength to continue. Like Shannon mentioned in her post, it is impatience that leads us down this dark road.

So how do we fight it? How do we build up our resistance and stay upbeat?

I find for me, the best way to conquer impatience is to take it out of the equation. Once my book is in an editor's hands, is there anything I can do writing-wise to make them say yes? No, there isn't. Can I make them read faster, get back to me faster? No. So, why stress and get all impatient about it? These are things I have no control over.

Instead, I put my energy into what I CAN do:

--I can make myself attractive to an editor who may look me up online. So, I put time and energy into my online presence and platform.  

--I can continue to write & polish in case they want to see something else from me. I let go of the book that's on submission and turn to the next project.

--I can continue to learn, which will help me make sure a cleaner product reaches their desk. None of us know everything--we can always improve. Learning is growing.

These are the things within my control, so I do them. :)

Here's one solid fact, no matter where you're at on the publishing trail: if you keep moving forward, you'll get there. I believe this. I live it. So, the next time impatience & negativity clouds your head space, TAKE CONTROL. Fight by putting your energy into things that will lead to your success!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: City Transit (train)

Sight

Bench seats, smudged glass windows, folding or sliding doors, leather hand loops dangling from the ceiling, handrails, air vents, posters, ads, graffiti, slumped passengers carefully minding their own business by reading, texting, listing to music, playing games on a phone/iPod, torn cushions, litter on the floor, sliding doors between cars (on some), wet/dirty floor, lights, city streets flashing past the windows, security call boxes, buttons to open the door, signs to stay back from the door, speakers, people standing, sitting, hanging onto railings, newspapers left behind on the seat, groups of animated teens clustered together, train security, street people, gum stuck to the walls, burn or carve marks on the seat

Sounds

The whoosh of air brakes, the scrape of a door sliding open, voice over the speakers announcing stops, creaks, snaps of electricity from outside, squeaks of rubbing metal during turns, voices, music from headphones, laughter, swearing, the rattle of a newspaper, zippers on purses/backpacks opening and closing, the rustle of plastic bags, the creak of fabric and leather as people shift position, coughing, throat clearing, street noise through open windows, a patterned thump, bells chiming a stop

Smells

Feet, body odor, perfume, body cologne, hair products, leather, greasy hair, dirt, cold metal, stagnant air, warm plastic

Tastes

Gum, mints, coffee, bottled water, food grabbed from a vendor (although most people avoid eating on a train because it's so unsanitary)

Touch

Hard seats, the shaking side to side motion of rolling movement, brushing up against other people, bumping, knocking into someone unintentionally, squeezing past someone to get to the door, a cold metal handrail against the skin, clamping tight to a purse, backpack or bags, keeping an arm around small children or holding their sweaty hand in your own, pushing on a door with a sleeve or shoulder so you don't have to touch it with your fingers, holding bags on the lap so you don't have to set them on the dirty floor

Helpful hints:


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

Example 1:

Anna slid closer to the window as a portly businessman sat down next to her, stealing all the space. He yammered non-stop into a cell phone, staining the air with onion breath so strong that most governments would classify it as a bio weapon. This is what I get for claiming the last empty bench on the train, instead of choosing a seat next to someone else.

Example 2:

The most peaceful ride into city center was always the Monday morning express train. No one jumped around, bopped to music or traded loud opinions about the big game the night before. Instead, glass-eyed travellers lined the seats in ordered rows, a carton of eggs ready for market.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

The train stopped at the platform, its overheated brakes whistling like fireworks about to blow.


Example 2: (Metaphor)

After the rock concert let out, a mosh pit of shrieking teens poured onto the train, high on the buzz of music and whatever else had passed hand-to-hand through the crowd.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Mystery



Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

Disclaimer: In researching things that are mysterious, I discovered that the idea is fairly subjective. What one person finds difficult to comprehend, others may believe in whole-heartedly without really having to try. So I've tried to limit this list to things that most people would agree are mysterious, and to things that are commonly associated with mystery. I've also omitted examples that people associate strongly with fear (ghosts, hauntings, exorcisms), since those things would be better classified as creepy or scary than as mysterious.


In Nature:

Clouds covering the moon
Smoke/fog
Shadows
Life and Death
Love
The Bermuda Triangle
Stonehenge
Crop circles
Will-o'-the-wisps
The Devil's Footprints
The Loch Ness monster
Bigfoot
The paranormal
Easter Island
The Great Pyramids
The human body
The Sixth Sense/ESP
Animal communication and behavior
Space travel, exploration, the universe
Rainbows
Mirages
Northern Lights
Comets/other phenomena
Unidentifiable noises
Dreaming

In Society:

A magnifying glass
Detectives
A red herring
A smoking gun
Agatha Christie
Dinner parties
Clue
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes' hat
Nancy Drew
The Hardy Boys
Atlantis
The question mark
A sealed envelope
A locked door, vault, locker, etc
CIA, FBI, government agencies
UFOs
Forensics
The pursuit of knowledge
A magician's hat
Psychics
Gypsies
Scrying/foretelling/reading tea leaves/tarot cards
Gypsy's crystal ball
The Past & the Future
Ideas like alternate universes and realities
Theories
A closed door



These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Mystery. Some are more powerful than others. A magnifying glass is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the Great Pyramids could stand for a number of different things and not foreshadow mystery on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Twitter, Us & Unique Writing Resources


Hi guys. I just wanted to pass on that I have started up another Twitter Account so that I can share unusual & valuable writing resources that I find. This is a LINK ONLY twitter feed, allowing me to keep links prominent and easy for writers to find, so if this interests you, please follow @WriterThesaurus! Here's a sample of the treasure trove of links that I have shared so far:

A Powerful Search Engine BUILT for Writers

WORDNIK: A dictionary that combines word definitions & social networking, listing live term usage (twitter, photos, etc)


A Downloadable Master SCENE CHECKLIST by Adam Renfro (like a character chart, but for your scenes)

How to Detect a Lie

So, if you think links like these may help you, follow @WriterThesaurus! And if you want to chat with Becca and I, we both have our normal accounts on Twitter. WE LOVE TO CONNECT WITH WRITERS AND EDUCATORS, so please friend us so we can friend you back!

@AngelaAckerman

@BeccaPuglisi

Some of the writing links are already listed on the blog, but I thought this would be a fun way to share what I find as I find it. So far I've discovered and shared some pretty neat glossaries/dictionaries/thesauri links on strange topics to inspire you in your writing! Too, I've listed some neat writing tool and collections in areas that will really help those needing to research. Some you may know about, but others might be new.

So, if you have something unusual you've found and want me to look at and possibly include, put it in the comments here! Or, if you are looking for something--a collection of information on a specific area (crime, a historical era, magic, a list of mental conditions, nautical terms, etc) do let me know so I can keep my eye out for it.

I usually add one or two links a day, Mon-to Fri, so stop by some time. As Twitter won't keep tweets forever, don't forget to 'favorite' tweets you want to keep track of, or bookmark pages to resources in the tweets, whichever you prefer. Hopefully this will help a few folks with writing and research. And if you know other writers who might find the resources helpful, please pass on the word, or RT the links!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bowling Alley

Sight
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, hand dryer, little arrows and lines on the floor, pins, concession stand, tables for eating, plastic drink cups, beer bottles, water bottles, bar, video games, bathrooms, water fountain, garbage cans, emergency exit doors, adults, teens, children, people bowling/eating/trying on shoes/picking balls, maintenance workers clearing pins, bowling teams in matching shirts, advertisements on the walls


Sounds
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, children running/crying/asking if it's their turn yet, people jumping up and down or slouching back to seats, squeak of shoes, electronic noises from the game room, phones ringing, doors opening, rattle of candy wrappers, crunch of chips, blaring music


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


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


Touch
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 back, hard plastic chairs, cold drinks, perspiring cups, smack of a high-five when you get a strike, cold air conditioning, bass from loud music, crumpled dollar bills, smooth tabletop, scratch of a new bowling shirt, sweat dampening your hair, smack of chewing gum, sticky candy, salty nachos, hot cheese from pizza burning the roof of your mouth, cold fountain water splashing your shirt, jerk as your thumb gets caught in the ball hole and pops loose


Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:
I used a sanitary wipe to clean dried nacho cheese product from the table. And it wasn't just the facilities that were disgusting. A couple of football Neanderthals at the concession counter took turns twisting ketchup packets to see who would get splatted first. In lane four, they were bowling with their eyes closed—stupid AND dangerous. One idiot was bent over the hand dryer so the air could blow his flapping lips like a dog with its head out the window. This was such a pointless field trip. Why couldn't we go somewhere interesting, like the science museum?

Example 2:
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.

Example 2: (Metaphor)
Some people call them bowling shoes. I call them smelly little germ factories.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Deception

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

Mirages
Snakes
Weather changes
Cloud cover
Sunlight (warms, creates growth but harmful UV)
Colorful yet Poisonous berries
Carnivorous plants (pleasing fragrance attracts prey)
Darkness
Fog & mist
Montana vortex
Bermuda triangle
Poisonous mushrooms
Castor Beans (Ricin)
Unripe Ackee fruit (toxic)
Fruit pits (cyanide)
Uncooked bamboo shoots
Toxic flowers (Monkshood, Oleander, Angel trumpet)
Seasonal changes
Thin ice
Black ice
Undercurrents
Foxes
Invisible spores, rays, toxins
Depth of snow (gullies, crevasses hidden)
Creatures/insects that mimic (stick bugs, ant mimic spider, mimic octopus, etc)
Camouflage (hares turning white in the winter, chameleons, cuttlefish, etc)
Predators blending into their environment (wolves, owls, etc)

In Society:

Lies
Con men
Criminals
Hoarders
Double lives/Aliases
Spies
Government
Area 51
Faked paranormal phenomenon
Miracle cures/diets
Scam artists
Email scams
Undercover agents
Detectives
Two-way mirrors
Crime
Make up
Cosmetic Surgery
Wealth = happiness
Facades
Virtual reality
Role playing games
Addicts
Power
Commercials, ads, promises
Exaggeration
Fiction & movies
Mysteries & foreshadowing
Brand names = quality
Magicians/Illusions
Gambling
Cheating on tests
Fraud
Pyramid schemes
Insider trading
Broken promises/trust
Gossip
Funhouse mirrors
Trap doors
Hidden passageways/rooms
Telling some one's secret
Codes & cyphers

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with DECEPTION. Some are more powerful than others. Telling a lie is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the presence of a white-coated hare may not foreshadow Deception on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

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