Setting Thesaurus Entry: Library

Books, paper, pencils, pens, pen jars, DVDs, CDs, librarian, stacks, shelves, bookcases, dust, colorful paperbacks, tomes, dictionaries, encyclopedias, students, senior citizens, stamps, ink, filing cabinets, staircases, computers, microfiche, newspapers, pamphlets, handouts, banners, signs, posters, reading groups, study groups, lamps, stained glass (old libraries), children's corner, upper floor, no talking signs, filing cabinets, bookmarks, card catalogues, binders, laminating machine, few windows/natural sunlight, plants on desk, library name placard, photocopier, scanners, printers, workstations with privacy barriers, crumpled paper, paper slips magazines, couches, easy chairs, large open desks or row desks, books on showcase, reusable book bags, coat hooks, tables and chairs, light coming in through windows, conference rooms

Quiet, cell phones quickly silenced, whirr of AC or heaters, fans, etc. Breathing, shushing, ping of a text message, muffled/hushed talking, librarian reading to children, excited children's voices, books dropping, turning pages, flapping pages, paper ripping, coughing, sneezing, chairs creaking, footsteps on a staircase, footsteps overhead on upper level, whispers, the scritch of pencils, clicking of pens, a frustrated sigh or groan, snap of gum, clearing throat, tapping a pencil on a table or book, muffled itunes music from headphones, the crackle of a newspaper page being straighted or folded, tapping of fingers on keyboards, soft click of laptops being plugged in/folded up/put away, zip of backpacks being opened, water bottles being swished

crisp paper, musty carpet, dust, air conditioning, minty breath, cigarette smell coming off a librarian or patron, leather, spicy cologne, perfume, old carpet, air freshener, cleaning products odors, pencil shavings (floor polish, pine sol, Windex)

gum, breath mints, chewing tobacco, biting on pencils (wood taste), ink transfer (from newspaper to hand to mouth), sipping water from a public fountain

slippery pages, rough leather, smooth desk surfaces, static from carpet, scratchy seat cushions, hard, uncomfortable plastic chairs, brushing away leftover eraser debris off a table or term paper, a cold plastic library card handed over, typing on keyboards, pressing on cool glass doors to enter or exit, running a finger through dust or over a bumpy raised book cover, smooth polished banisters, cold doorknobs, rough pages sticking together, gloss of DVD covers, dusty computer screen, solid-feeling columns, warmth of sun shining through windows, heat from computers, frigid a/c

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1: The librarian read aloud from a brightly-illustrated book, holding it aloft for the children to see. No one saw; instead, toddlers flipped over on the colorful carpet, sucked thumbs, and stuck their rear-ends in the air. The narration continued in a voice that hid a smile.

Example 2: The hush of the library amplified his heartbeat until he was sure everyone could hear it. Books jostled for space on the shelves. Scrolls covered the tables, unrolling to litter the floor with recipes and carpentry designs. The ancient smell of crumbling parchment filled the air. Rham meandered through the clutter and wondered how anyone found what they needed.

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

Example 1: (Simile)
Volumes crammed the shelves, all sizes and colors. The oldest ones sat on the highest shelf, out of reach of the children's sticky hands. Scripted gold lettering, faint as breath, could still be seen along the spines.

Example 2: (Metaphor)
My first time in the library at night, I hesitated at the bottom of the curved stairwell. Above on the upper level, the tall bookcases, always beckoning to me to explore on rain-filled days, were cloaked and secretive; wood sentinels guarding impenetrable darkness.


C.R. Evers said...

You guys continue to amaze me!

great list!

PJ Hoover said...

Nice! And great setting for kids. I especially love the taste section. How perfect is that. Pencil in mouth. nice!

Marcia said...

These are all so vivid. I have to second the pencil- and ink-in-mouth tastes. Putting anything in the mouth, food or otherwise, has the potential to evoke all five senses -- taste, smell, touch and sound (crunching, tonguing, teeth clicking on the object, etc.)and sight.

Lapillus said...

Love this! I have a rather long library scene in one of my older WIPs. This makes me want to pull that up and play with it!

GutsyWriter said...

Although the library setting might not be as helpful to my rewrite as the beach setting, I have to say that your "Emotional Thesaurus" has helped me, in so many ways. Thanks for helping me deal with the "Show vs. tell" part of my memoir about our life in Belize.

Mary Witzl said...

I love the 'scripted gold lettering faint as breath' -- and all the other descriptions here, too. But there is something about the description of a library that soothes and comforts me above all. And Marcia is right -- the taste and smell of a pencil, and the feel of the slick coolness of the paint against your lips as you click it against your teeth -- does evoke all five senses. Lovely work.

Angela said...

Glad these setting descriptions are helping everyone. And yes I agree--libraries soothe us on a level that few things can. As writers, we have an extrordinary bond with books and places that encourage reading. It just feels good to be in a library.

Anonymous said...

Well-kept old books sometimes have a wonderful spicy vanilla smell.


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