Setting Thesaurus Entry: Bowling Alley

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

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

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

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

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.


Porky said...

As useful as ever, but a large part of this is relevant to many locations, and it seems a little harsh to single out bowling alleys for some of those subjective adjectives..!

Mary Witzl said...

You're not a bowling fan either, I'm guessing. ;) Just reading these descriptions reinforces my anti-bowling sentiments a hundred fold.

Boy, do I hate bowling. Squeezing on USED, smelly, ugly shoes for the dubious pleasure of making a fool of myself trying to knock over a bunch of pins -- AND spending money to do it! Give me the science museum any day.

tracikenworth said...

Thanks for giving us another possible setting for our stories. It really helps to be reminded of all the little details that can go into things. Especially when you get stuck on what to choose.

Jemi Fraser said...

Brings back some fond memories - I spent a lot of time at a bowling alley growing up!

Becca Puglisi said...

Hmmm. I actually love to bowl. And I didn't realize the ugly shoes were subjective, lol.

My apologies to any bowling enthusiasts I may have offended.

Kara said...

I loved this! Our bowling alley's were always smoky and dark. The newer ones are much better, thank goodness. But the shoes, they never seem to change:)

Charlie Pulsipher said...

Even those of us who enjoy a good bowl now and again, know that the facilities can be disgusting, the shoes are ugly, clownly, and uncomfortable (and try not to think of how many people's feet have gone where your pink toes now reside), and sometimes you have to wipe crud off the table, ball, seat, etc. Don't worry, Becca. I don't think you offended too many people. Ü
Funny Stuff I Write

Julie Musil said...

Oh, we all know these sounds and smells well, but you've helped us put them in words. Thank you!

Kay Theodoratus said...

Thought I'd mention I enjoy your useful reminders to bring all your character's senses into your description of settings and reactions, etc.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Becca -

Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

Hmm, I had my own bowling shoes and ball. I couldn't stand the battered footwear, and most of the bowling balls were too heavy for me.

Susan :)


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