Blogging Platform: Creating the Breakout Blog

Happy Monday Musers! I just wanted to mention I have a guest post up over at Editor Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog on Blogging Platforms, taking the principles of Donald Maass' Writing The Breakout Novel and applying them to blogging.

If you are looking at starting up a blog as part of your writing platform strategy or have a blog now and want to strengthen it, please do check it out. There is also a wealth of information at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog on all topics pertaining to writings and publishing, so make sure to poke around a bit while you visit!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: House Party

Sight

Crowded hallways, people sitting on the stairs, beer cans/bottles left on tables, blasting stereo, haze from cigarettes/pot, decorative lighting, cheesy decorations, line ups for the bathrooms, people crowding onto couches, chairs, dancing, groups standing around the pool table or Foosball table, bowls of chips, pretzels, popcorn strewn about, steady traffic to the fridge in the kitchen and/or beer fridge in the garage, ice chests, chips/popcorn mashed on the carpet, spilled drinks, people sitting on the kitchen counters, boxes of pizza on the counter, paper plates, girls whispering in corners to check guys out or snark over a rival, spilled beer/pop, empty bottles of liquor on cabinets, speakers, end tables, kitchen island, stairs, coats piling up in bedrooms or on a easy chair, red plastic beer cups, keg, punch bowl of booze mix, dishes piled up in sink, piles of paper plates, garbage overflowing, jello shooters, shot glasses, puke on the lawn, people smoking on the back deck/backyard, broken figurines/picture frames/etc from being knocked over, locked bedrooms, cigarette butts flicked on the lawn or snuffed out in a flower bed, people making out (in corners, on couches, on the lawn, laundry room), people passed out (and possibly dressed up or decorated with felt pen/make up), people stumbling, hugging and singing, cars parked up and down the street, people sitting on the front step, hanging out in doorways, beer tops scattered on the sidewalk, pizza being delivered, floor, counters, tables, fights in the front yard/back yard, flashing lights from police cars, people rushing to leave

Sounds

Loud music, laughing, yelling, shouting, crying, screaming, arguing, glass breaking, smoke alarm going off, doors opening closing, beer bottles on the fridge door clinking together every time it's opened/shut, glasses thumping onto the table, drunken whooping, the click of pool balls hitting each other and shuttering into pockets, cries of indignation of shoves, bumps and spilled drinks, people pounding on bathroom doors, the crunch of chips, slurping on beers and drinks, cel phones going off, people calling out for more beer, people running up and down steps, creaky spots in the floor, TV blasting a hockey game, bowls of chips over tuning, things being knocked over, smashed, horns honking outside, neighbors pounding on the door, police sirens, drunks singing, hooting, swearing etc

Smells

Spilled beer, hair products, perfume, aftershave, alcohol, spicy chips, fresh microwaved popcorn, pizza, pot, cigarette smoke, vomit, sweat, beer breath

Tastes

Alcohol, pop, water, cigarettes, pot, gum, mints, chips, popcorn, pretzels, pizza, beer, coolers

Touch

Sticky counters, crunchy chips under foot, the poke of stepping on a beer cap against the heel, bumping, pushing, shoving, shoulder sliding together as you pass someone on the stair or tight hallway, feeling an anonymous pinch or grope in a crowded room, hugging drunk people, brushing up against others as you dance in a crowded space, a cool beer cup against the palm, cold beer against the lips, the sudden jolting cold splash of having beer spilled down the front of your shirt or back, stepping in a spill, leaning against the wall, sitting on the edge of a chair, stool or armrest of a couch, finger digging in a chip bowl, rooting around in a fridge for a beer, clinking shot glasses with someone and tossing them back, playing with or straightening hair, tugging at shirt neckline, smoothing down clothing, the feel of chunky bracelets sliding up and down the arm as you dance, a pool cue sliding along fingers, fending off drunks, kissing, holding hands, cool grass on bare feet in the back yard, hot air against the skin, clothes sticking to skin, the rub of painful, stylish shoes, dragging on a cigarette, passing a joint, lighting a cig for someone, splashing hands and face with water in an effort to sober up, dripping visine in the eyes to clear redness before going home, spraying self in body spray to hide the smell of pot, yanking open the bathroom door, hard lino or tile floor jamming against knees as you drop before the toilet, rattling a doorknob, repeatedly sliding arms into a jacket while drunk, trying to find the armholes, falling on the ground outside, falling into other people in fits of the giggles, raiding the fridge/going through cupboards to satisfy the munchies, tipping back a beer bottle to the lips

Helpful hints:


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

Example 1:

I staggered down the hallway, bumping into people and mumbling apologies until I reached the bathroom. I squinted, but it didn't help my focus. No matter how hard I tried, there were three doorknobs on the bathroom door. "I'll take number two, Alex," I slurred, honing in on the middle one.

Example 2:

Greg's wide shoulders came in handy on the packed stairway, and Jenn followed closely in his wake before the gap around him closed. The air was tight and hot, flavored with the skunky odor of pot. Music throbbed in Jenn's ears and shook the walls and the second she entered the basement she began swaying to the beat. Thank God she blew off her study session with Allison. This was the party of the year!

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

Example 1: (Simile)

In the middle of the crowded kitchen, a beer keg sat on the island like a great stone idol surrounded by worshippers.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Out on the back deck, the joint passed from hand to hand, a single demonic eye moving through the shadows.

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Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Wealth

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:

Lakes
Rivers
Large herds of cattle
Lush crops
Ranches
Fossils
Gemstones/ores/precious minerals
Mines
Vineyard
Oil wells

*Not all of these are 'true nature', but they would be seen in a more rural setting vs a populated area so I included them here

In Society:

Banks
Mansions
Private groups and societies
Charity galas
Limousines
Yachts
Monarchy/royalty
Churches
Travel brochures to exotic locals
Airports
First class setting
Jewelry stores
Antique stores
Car dealerships
Golf Courses
Country clubs
Wine
Spas
Champagne
Trendy bars, oyster bars, martini cars
High end clubs
Sports stadiums
Professional sports teams/players
Music concerts
Exclusive restaurants
Lawyers/law offices
Safes
Universities
Malls
Armoured cars
Merchandise locked behind glass
Fireworks
Resorts, Club Med, etc
Lottery tickets
Sweepstakes
Business men and women in power suits
Brand names (Prada, Macy's, Armani, etc)
Modeling agencies
Magazine spreads
High rises
Downtown monuments, icon landmarks
Jewelry
Well-tended nails
Expensive shoes or watches
Corner office
Casinos
VLTs
Leather products
Sports cars
Helicopters
Private jet

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Wealth. Some are more powerful than others. A show room of fine sports cars at a Bentley dealership is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a gold watch or manicured nails may not foreshadow wealth on their own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
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Setting Description...Writing More Than Just What You See

A new Muser, Soy, asked a really excellent question in Give Me Your Feedback and I thought it would make a good post. Her question was:

What is the best way to describe a place in a really special way, without sounding too visual?

I like this question, because it's what the Setting Thesaurus is all about. As writers, our first reaction is to transcribe everything we see in our head onto the page for the reader. This can be problematic for two reasons--first, because sight is our most used sense, readers often become 'desensitized' to its power to describe. Second, readers tend to create their own 'mental image' after only a few key words. If the writer doesn't hook the reader with compelling details, they will likely start to skim, moving past the descriptive parts to get to the more interesting action.

So how do we create description special enough to grab the reader's attention and keep them from skimming? By using the lesser used senses to trigger memory and evoke emotion to make them CARE about the setting.

Bottom line, if the setting feels real, the reader will invest in the description. We experience life using all our senses, and writing must be the same. Using SOUND, TEXTURE, TASTE and SMELL enhances the visual experience of any setting.

Smells trigger memory more so than any other sense.

Hot dogs boiling in water. Fresh towels. Mowed grass. Leather. A barn full of manure. Each of these evoke a distinctive and recognizable smell that adds something special to your setting and will make the reader feel part of the scene.



Sounds can also add context and texture to a scene.


Sometimes the creak of a barn door, the flap of clean sheets hanging on a line in the backyard, or the tick of dead leaves as the wind pushes them across a sidewalk can paint a much more satisfying image than visuals alone. We are built to take notice of the sounds around us based on the fight or flight response. The reader will be naturally drawn to sounds highlighted in your description.



Touch is a way to make the scene intimate.

Describing the smoothness of a worn fence rail against the palm as our main character leans on it can make the reader almost feel the sun-bleached rail under their own hand. It allows characters to interact with the setting to create a mood or show emotions.


Taste is powerful, extremely recognizable and one of the most difficult senses to work in. It should only be used if it can be done so naturally.


A character grimacing at a mouthful of burnt coffee while another character sips unaffected tells us something about both characters. Similarly, if you're trying to show a child's anger as he eats ripe blackberries off a bush, the connection will fail. Sweet berries bursting on the tongue is something that will automatically evoke a positive emotion in your reader, not a negative one.

A sense of place is paramount in any scene. This doesn't mean that you needs pages of description, or that you need to weave in all the senses for the setting to come alive. Just use the reader's imagination and work with it by adding fingernail details to add layers to their basic knowledge. Choose the right descriptors and you will create a powerful image that is also word count friendly. Pacing must always be in the front of our minds as we write, and description is no exception.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Teacher's Lounge

Sight

Sturdy table and chairs, tray of goodies brought in by a parent or staff member, fake or real plant, coffee machine kitchenette area (stove, microwave fridge, dishwasher, sink, counter), cutlery, coffee fixings (cream, sugar, tea bags, etc), dish rag, tea towel, coffee mugs, water bottles, binders, tests laid out to mark, garbage can, teachers eating lunch, carpet, windows, curtains, couch, sign up/school event board, signs, inspirational posters, telephone, cupboards, boxes of stables ( granola bars, hot chocolate packets, ramen noodles, etc), newspapers piled up on a table

Sounds

Laughter, microwave beeping, popcorn popping, fridge opening and closing, rattle of cutlery in drawer, water being turned on and off, the perk of the coffee pot, chairs scraping the floor, low whispers, food lids being popped off, the crackle and crinkle of food wrappers and paper bags, sipping coffee/tea, the clink from a spoon stirring sugar or cream into a coffee, air hissing out a seat as someone sits, cabinets opening and closing, grumbling, gossipping, dishes clattering together, doors opening and closing

Smells

Coffee, food warmed for lunch, fast food brought in (hamburgers, pizza, subs, etc), popcorn, tea, baking, spices, hot dogs, cologne/perfume (if it isn't a scent-free environment), food gone bad in the fridge, burnt food

Tastes

An array of lunch food (soup, salads, sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, chili, subs,) snacks (chips, cookies, brownies, popcorn, etc), hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) cold drinks (water, pop, juice, milk), mints, gum, etc

Touch

Pulling on the handle of the fridge, lifting and pouring coffee from the carafe, the burn of spilling hot coffee on hand, sweeping a hand along the counter to collect crumbs, peeling back suran wrap of prying a lid off a container, stirring coffee mate into coffee, balling up wrappers and tossing them into the trash, pulling back a chair, scooting the chair in tight to a table, leaning toward the center of a table to select a treat from a tray, washing hands at the sink, pulling a door shut, rifling through a cupboard for something to eat or a clean cup, pulling open a steaming bag of popcorn, stirring lunch to distribute heat, taking a bite of a sandwich and then putting it down, dabbing face with a napkin, leaning away from an annoying coworker as you eat or socialize, sliding shoes off to give feet a brief rest as you sit for lunch, flipping through a newspaper or magazine, checking phone messages, texting, typing on a laptop, digging through a purse

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

I opened the door to the lounge and cringed at the spicy, paint-peeling aroma wafting in my face. Great, Fatima Boyd was subbing for someone again. That woman and her homemade casseroles. Not only would her breath reek as she made the lunch rounds, chatting everyone up, so would the microwave. Last time she heated a batch of leftover spaghetti surprise, it tainted our meals for a week!

Example 2:

Kathy Specks, the school librarian, had one of those high nasal voices that just set your teeth on edge. Worse, not only was she a talker, she was a hand waver too. Wherever she sat on the long, cafeteria style tables, people made sure to sit a seat or two down. If you didn't you got the Bull-in-a-china-shop treatment, those hands of hers smacking into your drink, soup or bowl of salad and depositing it in your lap.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

I stood behind Leonard as he rooted through the fridge, no doubt looking for someone's lunch to steal. His old man butt hung out past the door, wagging like a fat dog's hind end as he reached for the back shelf where I'd stashed my lunch. Every Monday I brought leftover pizza, and every Monday it mysteriously disappeared...but not today, not if I had anything to say about it.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

After two painful hours trying to teach algebra to the remedial math group, a hurricane-sized headache gnawed at my brain. I limped into the lounge and found a fresh pot of coffee on the burner and clean mugs on the counter. The aroma of premium dark roast was more soothing than a bottle of aspirin.

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Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: A Quest for Knowledge

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:

A forest pathway
Sunrises, sunsets
The moon
A starry sky
Constellations
Mountains
Old, established trees
Rivers
The level stare of an animal, unafraid
The owl
A wolf
An apple
Aboriginal/indigenous tribes

In Society:

A lab coat
A policeman's notebook
Maps
Computers
Libraries
Schools
Books
Universities
Exam rooms
Study groups
A light bulb
A question mark
Diplomas
Albert Einstein
Dictionary
Encyclopedia
Tour Groups
Museums
A Key
Puzzle pieces
Mayan Temples
The human eye
Flow charts, graphs, etc
Human brain
Medical chart
Laboratory
Teachers
Readers
GPS
A telescope
A microscope
Satellites
People taking notes
Lecture hall
A chess board

SEE ALSO: Knowledge (We love learning so much we did this one twice!)

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with A Quest for Knowledge. Some are more powerful than others. Walking past a silent exam room filled with students bent over their papers is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a key lying out on the desk may not foreshadow a quest for knowledge on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
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In Which Angela Spills Her Guts A Little

Danyelle Leafty, a familiar face to kidlit/YA writers in the blogosphere, is launching the Wicked(ly awesome!) Writer's Society today on her new website. Now if that in itself isn't coolness squared, she's also asked me to be her first inductee!

Danyelle's a real sweetheart, always ready to offer encouragement to other writers, and her outlook on both writing and life is something to draw strength from. I know her website will be as much of a hit as her original blog and it's an honor to be included as a Wickedly Awesome Writer.

I hope you'll swing by and say hello. In the interview I talk about my writing and how The Bookshelf Muse came to be. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments of Danyelle's post--writing, blogging, critiquing, agent relationships, etc...I'll be happy to answer anything within my experience. Or if you have a fun interview question that Danyelle didn't cover, please shout it out as well! :-)

Setting Description Template: Video Arcade

Sight

Rows of machines with colorful pictures on the sides, glowing screens, toggles, controls, buttons, coin slots, ticket slide, coin exchange machine, ticket counter, thin patterned carpet or polished flooring, wires, neon lights, claw games filled with stuffed toy prizes, washrooms, stools, racing games with seats, dance pads, basketball/hoop games, whack-a-mole, air hockey tables, shooting games, big game hunter game, motocross games, zombie or dinosaur killing games, dim lighting, glow in the dark lighting, front counter with cheap prizes behind it, small concession, display cases, kids with loops of tickets hanging out their pockets, teenage crowds watching a game where the high score is about to be broken, pale faces, money, tokens, signs on broken games, coin-operated toy/gum/stickers/candy machines, stains from spilled drinks on the carpet, posters & wall ads

Sounds

Bleeps, bloops, recorded crowd cheering, game noises: car noises (revving engines, squealing tires, crashing noises), explosions, gunfire, booms, chiming bings from a pinball game, moaning, groaning zombies, growls, barking dogs, crashes, glass breaking, etc tickets being pushed out a slot, kids shouting, laughing, cheering, cursing, yelling, hands slapping together in a high five

Smells

Sweat, old carpet, dust, hot electronics, neon lighting (metallic), stale breath, hair spray/hair products, body sprays

Tastes

Saliva, snack food (chips, chocolate bars, licorice), pop, water, energy drinks, gum, mints

Touch

Slippery cold coins in a sweaty palm, slipping them into the slot, jabbing at buttons, slamming hand against the side if the machine in frustration, grabbing a drink for a quick slurp before the next level kicks in, holding a rifle controller, squeezing the trigger, pressing foot down on the gas controller of a racing game, jerking the steering wheel, pressing back against the seat when you brake, tilting side to side as you drive, jostling teens, leaning against a machine, waiting for your turn, leaning an arm across the top of a machine, shoving hands into pocket for more tokens, panning a gun away from the screen to reload, then swinging it back, smoothing out bill flat to insert into the coin exchange machine, shaking out arms to loosen tight muscles before returning to the game, rolling shoulders, leaning in or hunching over a game, slapping a buddy on the back when he rocks the game, fist pumps, jumping up and down when a high score is beat

Helpful hints:

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

Example 1:

Squinting in the low light, I searched the rows of gaming machines for Caleb. Where the hell was he? I called his name, raising my voice to be heard over the loud bomb blasts and gunfire belching out the nearby shoot-em-up games. A few teens looked up, and I was tempted to ask if they'd seen my nephew, but the flat-eyed stare they leveled at me was the kind reserved for pedophiles. Forget it--the manager had to be around her some place. I'd ask him.

Example 2:

Marcus was in the zone. He leaned in close to the screen, blue light bathing his face, clinging to his cheekbones and giving him an almost haunted look. I thought of all those horror movies where vampires hung out in seedy alleys to keep their true nature hidden. Man, the screenwriters had gotten it so wrong--if vampires really existed, they'd hang out in a place like this. Here, they'd blend right in.

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

Example 1: (Simile)

Annie might be a girl, but she still knew how to handle a shotgun. I was in awe watching her tackle the game, Blood Apocalypse--each zombie that stepped through the doorway barely made it a step before she blew it apart like an egg left in the microwave.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

The center isle of the arcade was a flashing neon gauntlet of noisy shooting stations, pinball machines and Indy 500 race car games.

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Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Teamwork

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:

Trees growing at the edge of a river
Animals grooming each other
Animals hunting in a pack
A flock of birds flying overhead
A school of fish
Anthills
Birds taking turns warming a nest
Geese patrolling and herding their young in parks
A sheepdog trotting alongside a man on a horse
Birds swooping together to drive off a predator
Mated birds bringing mud and sticks to a nest
Animals scavenging for food in pairs or groups
Beavers building a dam
squirrels scavenging
branches of trees twined together
animals fending off attacks to protect young

In Society:

A stack of boxes
children building a snowman
Taking turns
Construction Workers
Helping someone across the street
Pushing someone in a wheelchair
Sporting events
Coworkers eating lunch together
The scene of an accident
A fire truck or firemen
City Hall
People hanging a sign or banner
Intersections
Crosswalks
Crossing guard
Student patrols
Meetings in session
Support staff at a race or fundraiser
Garbage cans
Cashiers and bag boys
Employees restocking shelves
Pizza delivery guy
A board room
A help desk
Custodian staff
Research partners in a library
Police at a crime scene
A movie shoot
TV station/set
Radio shows
Compost heap or bin
Relay race
Moving company

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Teamwork . Some are more powerful than others. Fire, ambulance and police crews working together at the scene of the accident is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, beavers building a dam may not foreshadow teamwork on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
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Color Thesaurus Entry: Blue

Real World Comparisons:
Light:
Robin's egg
Caribbean ocean
Forget-me-not
Cornflower
Woad
Periwinkle
Pool water
Mouthwash

Medium:

Sky
Pacific Blue Tang Fish
Blue Jay
Blue Rose
Curacao
The blue screen of death
Blue' Clues
Peacock feather
Cookie Monster
Bluing
Blue beetle

Dark:

Denim
Blueberries
Stormy water
Sapphires
Concord Grapes
Ink
Huckleberry
Blue cheese
Frostbite
Bruises
Varicose veins
Lakes
Rivers

Shades of Blue:

Azure, periwinkle, turquoise, aqua, sky, robin's egg, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, navy, royal, sapphire, teal, ultramarine, powder blue

Make every detail count

Colors are powerful descriptors, not fillers. Make sure that if you use a comparison or contrast to highlight a color, you choose the right one. Look at the setting and atmosphere you are working to create, then draw from the viewpoint character or narrator's history, education and past experiences to find the right fit.

A poor example:

We reached Alber too late--his eyes stared ahead, glassy and unseeing, and his lips were blue, as if he had chugged a bottle of Scope only moments before expiring.

What's wrong with this example?

This lends a comical twist to the description which spoils the result of death. As well, while (most) mouthwash is blue, it doesn't lend a staining effect to the things it touches.

A strong example:

We reached Alber too late--his eyes stared ahead, glassy and unseeing, and his lips were blue, as if he had eaten a handful of ripe blueberries only moments before expiring.

Why is this example better?


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Setting Thesaurus Template: Garage

Sight

Concrete floor with cracks in it, tire tread tracks, dirt, gravel, mud, dust, pegboard with tools, roll of orange extension cord hanging from a nail, steps or a landing, shelves packed with ice skates, golf sports equipment, power tools (drill, circular saw, sander, etc), hockey pucks, gold balls, old broken light fixtures, boxes, a collection of oils, grease & lubricants for garage door/windows/lawnmower/etc, hose, bikes hanging from the roof or from racks attached to the wall, tubs for recycling, grass seed/fertilizer, weedkiller, ant traps, slug bait, wasp sprays, broom, shovel, axe, rakes, garbage bags, items to be taken to goodwill, Christmas decorations, potting soil, a mat for shoes, toolboxes, cans of nails & washers, stack of winter or spare tires, garage door, garage door button, light switch, railing on the landing, strands of Christmas lights, rubber boots, weed eater, cupboards, rickety metal shelving, garbage bin, dry/wet vac, saw horses, workbench, car, truck, heavy duty paper towel, hand print/smudges on the walls, dead bugs on the windowsill, spiderwebs in the corners, gaps where you can see insulation behind gyp rock, kids toys, air soft guns, remote control cars, collection of baseballs, basketballs, badminton equipment, water guns, sprinklers, hockey sticks, jugs of window washing fluid, extra gas can, old paint/stain cans, ladders leaning against the wall, bike pump etc

Sounds

grinding, sawing, buzzing torc noise from a drill, scuffed footsteps on the dirty floor, car doors opening and closing, vehicles starting up, the metal clink of someone sorting through a toolbox, running up or down stairs, creaky doors, the shudder and thump of a garage door closing, music from a radio, voices, noise from the street (cars, kids playing, lawns being mowed), the shush sound of a broom sweeping up, The roar of a lawn mover firing to life, a basketball being bounced against the cement, drawers opening and closing, a grunt as dad lifts down a bike secured to the ceiling by hooks, the papery rustle of cardboard flaps being pulled back, banging the dustpan against the trashcan to get the dust off, the clunk and bump of items being set down on a shelf or floor,

Smells

oil, gas, hot motors, sweat, dust, dirt, cold cement, fresh cut grass smell wafting in from outside, fertilizer, grease, WD40


Tastes

saliva, beer, coffee, pop, water, dust, bag of chips, grit in the teeth from the dirt in the garage

Touch

brushing powdery dust from the hands, wiping hands on a grease rag, sorting through a toolbox for a socket size or wrench, feeling the cold steel in the palm, pain from blisters, cuts and scrapes, sweat gathering on forehead and clinging to neck, sneezing at the dust motes in the air, lugging a box out of the way, the vibration in the hand and arm when using power tools, sweat sealing safety goggles to the face, flicking sweaty hair out of the eyes, laying on a mat or runner on the floor to work underneath a vehicle, the weight of a tool in the hand, the rasp of sandpaper against the fingers, checking to find the right smoothness, hammering in a nail, drilling holes through boards or tin, rubbing dirt off cans or bottles to read the safety label, sweeping up sawdust and dirt, standing up on tip toe to reach something off a high shelf or on the roof, climbing up on a step stool, rolling a spare tire across the floor, untangling power cords and weed eater twine, sorting through cans or bins of nails and screws for a certain size, pumping up bike tires, tightening bike seats with wrench or pliers

Helpful hints:


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

Example 1:

After loading the empty paint cans in the back of the truck, I set my sights on the collection of broken hockey sticks lining the far wall like giant toothpicks. I didn't care what Mark said about collecting them to make a bench. They'd been sitting there forever and I was sick of looking at them.

Example 2:

I flicked on the light switch and scanned the mounds of tomato cages, Christmas decorations, old tires and rusted bike parts. A spot of color caught my eye near Dad's haphazard tower of old linoleum rolls, but no, it was just one of Ryan's old kites. Then I saw it, over on the far side of the garage tossed up against a rusted set of gold clubs: my super soaker 9000. Only how could I reach it? Crossing the garage floor would be like Indiana Jones trying to navigate the Temple of Doom!

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

Example 1: (Simile)

Dad fired up the truck. A rattly, smokey blast shot out the tailpipe like the cough of a dedicated chain smoker.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

I couldn't help but think of a monstrous mouth as the garage door groaned open, exposing an undigested mouthful of water stained boxes, old paint cans and strings of tangled Christmas lights.

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Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Alienation

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:

A tree separated by its fellows by a fence or path
The runt of the litter
An animal hanging back from the herd
A pile of pulled weeds
A straggling bird trying to keep up with the flock
An island
A sandbar cut off from the mainland by the tide
An orphaned tree in a farmer's field
A dead flower among fresh blooms
A tree in a planter pot in a mall or on a street among high rises
A lone bull in a field
A penned animal
Pack animals abandoning one of their own due to injury or sickness
Mountains
A lone animal when the others pair off (ducks, geese, bighorn sheep, etc)
A desert
Impassible canyon
A bird alone on a pond

In Society:

Sitting alone in a crowded cafeteria
A single car in the parking lot
A person sitting alone at the back of a bus
A sign that excludes ("Members only" or "You must be 18 years of age to enter")
Private clubs, societies, group memberships
A kid at a skateboard park with no skateboard
A tent pitched away from the others
A building set apart from the rest
Rules, regulations, permits
Being alone in a crowd
Capitalism
Alcoholism or drug abuse
Obvious poverty
Police tape
Construction barriers
A buoy
A free floating platform or dock
A broken bridge
A no thru road
A jail cell
Hedges, fences
Silence
Jeering, rumours, lies
Social cliques
A mother telling her child he's too young to do something
Overhearing a conversation showing racism/bias
Teenage group refusing to make eye contact or acknowledge another
Someone overlooking the street from a tiny apartment balcony
Street people
A homeless shelter
Being the last picked on a team
A child turning up the volume of a TV while a parent speaks
Putting in headphones during a conversation
Walking briskly past a homeless person or panhandler, eyes straight ahead
Refusing to respond when spoken to
Lying about plans to shun another
A stray dog being chased off
Detouring (into a class, store, washroom) to avoid someone
A teacher, parent or employer showing favoritism
Open ridicule of another (a class, at home, work)
A waiting room area
A dog tied up or on a leash while others roam free
Exclusion of an event (after-hours drinks, sleep over, party)
A toddler banished to a play pen or stuck behind a safety gate
A closed or locked door

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Alienation. Some are more powerful than others. A group of animated, laughing teenagers who suddenly go silent at your presence is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single car in a parking lot may not foreshadow alienation on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
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