Setting Thesaurus Template: Taxi Cab


Well worn seats, stained or dirty floor mats, gum wrappers on the floor, semi-crushed Kleenex box above the backseat licence ID of driver displayed, smudged windows, digital display of meter, signs regarding passenger conduct/legalities, cell phone, radioing system, door locks, cup holder with Slurpee cup/coffee/water/etc by the driver, candy wrappers, pen hanging from the dashboard on a string, air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror, dust, cracked or pitted windshield, clipboard with paper on it sitting on dashboard, Visa machine and slips, sign stating tips are appreciated, steering wheel, gear shift, can display panel, magazine or newspaper on the front passenger seat, take out container yet to be disposed of, umbrella


Music on the radio, matching the taste of the driver, discussions on a cell or radio between driver and dispatcher, squeaky springs in the seats down a bumpy road, traffic noise outside, humming, small talk, the click of a seat belt, blips on the meter, the driver hitting the horn at someone in the way, the purr or rumble of the motor (depending on how well it's maintained), backfires, grinding gears, the driver tapping the steering wheel as he drives, breathing, coughing, throat clearing, animated conversation between passengers, questions fired off to the driver, the crinkle of bills, the creak of a door opening, the slam of the door shutting


Old carpet and fabric seats, dirt, dust, the cabbie's lunch breath, lingering odors of coffee and food eaten in the car, cologne or perfume, hair products, sweat


Popping a sweet mint or breath freshening gum in the mouth before arriving at destination, the cabbie taking a mouthful of take out food as he drives, water, coffee


The give of bouncy seats, strapping a seat belt over lap, pulling on the door handle, pointing a building out to the cabbie, straightening clothing, smoothing wrinkles, checking self in the mirror, tousling hair, fixing make up, digging in a pocket, wallet or purse for cab fare, unfolding a slip of paper with an address printed on it, handing cash to the cabble, setting purse on lap for the duration of the ride, cabbie's hand on steering wheel, fiddling with the radio, shoulder checking, pointing out sights to vacationers, taking a call on the cell or checking for texts, shifting impatiently

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

As I settled into the spongy seat and pulled the door shut, I caught a strong whiff of Kung Pao chicken. Great--just my luck that I'd end up with a driver with a lust for Sichuan cuisine. I barked out the address and then sat back to wait, taking as few breaths as possible. A take out container sat between the seats, dripping vomit-yellow sauce. The driver popped one of those useless complementary thank you candies into his mouth like that would help. Places like his lunch stop should be forced to hand mouthwash or breath strips instead.

Example 2:

Right in the middle of the sightseeing tour along the canal, Sharon's soft-spoken driver suddenly leaned out his window and launched a tsunami of angry foreign words at a tardy pedestrian crossing the road. Once the walker scurried to the sidewalk, the cab surged forward once more. The grandfatherly driver smiled at her in the rear view as if nothing had happened, and then continued to describe the historical significance of each building they passed.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

The cabbie spun the wheel erratically like a DJ running turntables at an all ages club. Either he had no idea where he was going or he hoped that tossing his passengers from side to side might dislodge spare change from their pockets, padding his paycheck a little.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Brett glanced around the cab interior as the car pulled out into traffic. This one appeared grungier than most with a bundle of clothing rags spilling out from underneath the back bench, granola bar wrappers littering the floor and a dirty old pillow laying against the far door. He narrowed his gaze, picking up other minute details, like the toothbrush poking out of a pouch slung behind one of the seats and a sleeping bag rolled up and tied in the front. Hold it, was this a backseat or a bedroom?


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

You are the master! I bow down to your greatness. I really mean this. These posts are something special!

C.R. Evers said...

your thoroughness amazes me! Another awesome entry!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The Calgary cabs are 1000 X better than the ones in LA. *scrunches nose*

Jan Markley said...

That's a great process to go through. BTW: I wish my car was a clean as that cabbies ;-j

Kay said...

Ha! An agent I interviewed for my blog told an interesting story about a mysterious cabbie he ended up signing for this really out-there book.

I stopped by to let you know, just posted my most recent agent interview with literary agent Laurie McLean on my blog: (you can check out the cabbie story in the James Fitzgerald interview if scroll down just a little)

Laurie McLean provided awesome info, the most substantive answers I've received from a literary agent. Hope you can check it out!

Anonymous said...

Your post are great. They always help me when I need a little guidance. Could there possibly be a post for a flower shop in the future?

Jeff King said...

Thx a lot, it helps to see it put this way.

Wendy Marcus said...

I'm from upstate New York, don't spend much time in taxis. But now, everytime I think of one I hear the music and envision the lights that come on when riders enter the cash cab. (A game show which takes place in a taxi, in case you haven't heard of it.) Dumb, I know. But I can't help it!

Angela Ackerman said...

Oh I'm glad this post helps! I think can sensory description can be important, because cabs in a novel tend to be transitional places where the character is thinking on the course of action. Thise spots in a novel must always be short and sweet and there needs to be ties to the action of the cab ride, or it turns into a 'coffee break' moment--not a good thing.

Think about what items, scents, sounds, etc the person in the cab can experience as they ride, and how it can be a bridge to their thoughts/memories/etc. :)

Stina, I'll take your word on that, LOL!

Wendy, I know what you mean--my kids watch that show, too! I think I'd do awful if I ever got into a cash cab--I'm terrible at trivia!

Have a great week all, and thanks for the comments!

Matthew Rush said...

Why is it that we all accept that writing about a nice clean, neat taxi would be too unbelievable? Probably because there is no such thing.

Angela Ackerman said...

Oh and Anon, I'll add Flower shop to my growing list. :)

Karen Lange said...

Great stuff! Thanks:)

Julie Musil said...

I've never even been in a taxi cab, yet I feel like I've just ridden in one!

Lynda Young said...

Thanks for following my blog. I've been a follower of yours for some time now. This is a great sensory list that highlights the importance of atmosphere

Robyn Campbell said...

Angela, YOU ARE THE QUEEN! Have I told you how many times I came by here while writing SEVENTY TWO HOURS? Too many to count.

And now that I started another novel, well, "I'm baaacck." :) Excellent!

alex said...

Really useful blog.Good work keeping this updated! Custom Elevator Interiors Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is totally awesome! It just instantly sent my mind whirring with thoughts! Thanks for this :')


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