Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bookstore


Customers: browsing books, scanning shelves, standing in line to pay, tugging a book off the shelf, flipping a book over for back copy, fanning the pages, standing and reading, sitting in reading chairs, sharing a magazine with a friend, wandering the aisles, stalking the discount tables, sitting on the floor with back to a shelf, reading a book in the aisle, asking employees for help, looking books up on the computer, holding coffee cups. Shoulder-high bookshelves on the floor, tall bookshelves on the walls, round tables for books on display, corner/end displays, posters, banners, signs for reading sections, ads for store loyalty cards, author at a table doing a book signing, coffeehouse in-store, tables chairs, reading chairs and couches, windows, colorful book spines, books, novelty gifts (cards, mini-books, bookmarks, Cd's, DVDs, chocolates, pens, candy, seasonal gift items), bestseller wall, discount stickers, computers, registers, employees dressed in store shirts with name tags, colorful children's book section, staff picks section, gift cards, calendars, storefront displays, magazine racks, games selection, novelty books, puzzles


People talking, murmuring, asking employees questions, the ruffle of pages, the slide of magazine pages, the crisp turning of a single page, coffee barrista noises (blending, grinding, foaming, gurgling, tapping, steam, etc) barrista calling out an order, slurping coffee, people talking on phones, the low-level spillover from music on headphones, shoes clicking/clomping/shuffling/tapping/squeaking against the floor, the tapping of keys on a keyboard, scanner beep, till tape spitting out, the slide of a bank card, the slap of adding another book to the pile, the clunk of setting a book back on the shelf, the sigh of regret as you put a non-buyer back, the deep breath of excitement at finding exactly the right book, store music in the background, knees cracking at sitting/squatting too long, tapping a fingernail against a book cover, trying to decide whether to buy it


The woodsy/dry scent of paper and cardboard, coffee/teas/spices (Cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa) from an internal coffee bar, dust, hair products/cologne/perfume, magazine ink, air conditioning tang (if hot), dusty furnace smell (if cold), a waft of trees, grass, leaves and car exhaust when the door opens, pine (shelving), cleaning products (lemon, ammonia, pine)


Hot coffee or tea sipped from a cardboard container, fruit or coffee smoothies sucked thorough a straw, nibbling on a giant cookie, muffin, loaf slice, roll or biscotti as you page through a book, icing on fingers, water, gum, mints, licking some Cinnamon dusted foam off your lip from a cappuccino


Running a finger down a book spine, tugging the top of the book spine to pull it off the shelf, squatting to read titles on a low shelf, reclining back in a soft reading chair, paging through a book or magazine, flipping a book over to read the back copy, running fingers over a bumpy raised title on the cover, tilting the book cover to see a special effect, hologram or iridescent coloring on the cover, tapping a book against a free hand, deciding if it's a buyer or not, holding a book in both hands, comparing, juggling a stack of books, carry a basket heavy with books, shifting books to reach for the phone or wallet, tapping fingers on keyboard to look up a title, taking a slow meander through the aisles, sorting through bargain tables, visiting with an author doing a book signing, bumping into, squeezing past another customer to get to a shelf, waiting & shifting foot to foot for a turn to ask an employee a question as they help another customer, setting purchases down on a small coffee table, breaking off tidbits of a treat, then eating as you read, sipping at coffee, wiping lips with a napkin, crumpling cookie bag, reaching into purse or pocket for cash, stuffing a till receipt away in a pocket or purse, the weight of books pulling the handles on a plastic book bag, digging into palm

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

With the excitement of a six-year-old discovering one last parcel at the back of the Christmas tree, I scampered over to the last armchair in the reading nook and sunk into the soft, plush folds. Across from me, an elderly woman glanced over the cover of a steamy romance novel and took in my bulging bookstore bag. She nudged her own nestled at the foot of her chair and we shared a secret smile. After settling in, I pulled my newest purchase, Across the Universe by Beth Revis and inhaled the papery scent of a new story waiting to be discovered.  

(and yes this really will be me when I can get my hands on Beth's book!)

Example 2:

Emily gave her customer a harried smile and handed off the bag of books. Then, before another person could fill the empty spot at her register, she ducked behind the counter on the pretense of needing more till tape. Crouching next to shelves filled with fliers, gift card envelopes and designer bookmarks for display, she closed her eyes, tuned out the jingling Christmas music, the loud buzz of conversation and the rattling receipt printouts. For one brief moment in her mind there was no endless line of grumpy, exhausted customers and no store loyalty cards to hustle. Instead she imagined her easy chair, an after shift tea in one hand and the TV remote in the other.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

Near the discount table a ruddy-cheeked man hugged books to his barrel chest like grandchildren he hadn't seen in a long, long time.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

I scanned the shelves for a novel suitable for my three-year-old nephew's birthday. Every third book came with a puppet, stuffed animal or tiny tow truck. Christ on a cracker, was this a bookstore or the frigging toy department?


Kelly M. Olsen said...

What a fantastic body of work you must have labored over for hours for the benefit of your readers. I appreciate the work. I look forward to reading some of your writing. One point, though...Your examples of simile and metaphor are backwards. A simile often used the words "like" or "as" to make a comparison, whereas a metaphor makes a comparison without those words.

Susanne Drazic said...

Lots of great examples. I started thinking about my favorite bookstore downtown. I like how the floors creak when you walk amongst the racks of books. The window displays are always fun to look at. I remember the author book signings that I went on as field trips with my son's classes in elementary school. All great memories!

Karen Lange said...

This is one of my favorites so far, although they are all very good. Thanks for posting it.
Have a great week,

Nicole MacDonald said...

it's funny Borders is a relatively new addition to NZ and before then no one dared to take coffee/drinks into Whitcoulls and if you stayed all day reading one of the staff would do the snarky 'this is not a library' comment ;p

Angela Ackerman said...

Ha, thanks for catching that, Kelly. I usually write the examples as they come to me and then cut and paste them under the right spot! Guess I forgot to do that this time, lol. All fixed now. :)

Susanne, I think this one is probably a special one to all writers! Is there anything better than a bookstore?

Karen, I'm glad you like this one!

Nicole, I thought about the smaller indie stores and how they don't necessarily have reading nooks and coffee bars. Personally I think bookstores have really gotten wonderful with the inclusion of these things, even tho I firmly believe in supporting the smaller venues.

Thanks everyone--hope you're having a great sunday!

KarenG said...

Lately I've been wanting to spend time with my beloved thesaurus, and to read the dictionary. This post made me want to do it even more. I think the next book I pick up to read will be either thesaurus or dictionary.

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I love example two. It's like seeing my beloved bookstore from the other side.

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks Angela! I'd say this is a delightful one - what writer doesn't love a bookstore?

Christina Lee said...

Fantastic--as usual. Oh and yes, Beth's book-me me!

Off to check out your school hallway setting!

Bish Denham said...

I am standing in a bookstore! In the sound department, there is often muzak playing. The book store where I live, also has a a music and movie department. Music is playing all the time, selected CDs of the day.

Elana Johnson said...

I love this post, simply because it reminds me that I need to use more than one sense to describe a place. Thanks, Angela!

catwoods said...

Lovely voice, particularly the last passage. I had no problem visualizing every character.

Thanks for the great tutorial.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This is wonderful. And inspiring since I'm about to go write in my favorite bookstore cafe!

Jeff King said...

I thought I left a comment already... time to rectify that mistake.

I love way you put things so it makes sense, so I can actually put this into action.

Thx, my work will be better.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Silly or strange question...Did bookstores always have coffee shops in them? Or is that a trend that big bookstores started that made independent bookstores follow suite (or vise versa)?

Wonderful post, Angela...a great read and a great lesson!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

*big, loud sigh*

This is one of your best ever, probably because it hits the nostalgia buttons. :-)

Angela Ackerman said...

I know how you feel Karen--I love words, too!

Holly, Laura, Cynthia and Christine--thanks! Book and bookstores are just #1 all the way. :)

Bish and Elana, nice to see you here. :)

Cat, thanks. I'm glad it brought up some good imagery. :)

Jeff, thanks so much. I'm so glad to hear this helps you.

Sharon, I'm not sure. I imagine tho it was the bigger stores first. Side note: I actually attended a talk by one of the Ci-founders of Second Cup, who started the trend of coffee houses. Most would think Starbucks might be the one who did it, but that isn't the case. It was interesting to hear the process of how Coffee stores used to only sell coffee beans and grounds, but then after the popularity of offering free samples in store took off, they decided to start charging and doing take-away cups, and the concept of the coffee house was born. :)

Shannon, I agree. I love bookstores. I think as a writer, it's a place to dream, that one day our books will be there on the shelf.

beth said...

I <3 you so hardcore.


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