Balloons, streamers, party hats, confetti, brightly-wrapped presents, envelopes, gift bags, theme-based paper products and table cloths, banners, birthday cake, cookies and brownies, a bounce house, water/sprinkler toys (for an outdoor party), party games, doors standing open, kids running in and out, scattered toys, light shining from the TV in the background, kids dancing, parents supervising/chatting/drinking/eating, crumpled wrapping paper and open boxes, bows stuck to someone's head or clothing, an overflowing garbage can, kitchen counters cluttered with paper goods/food and drink/serving utensils, spatters of water around the drink cooler, half-drunk juice boxes or water bottles, melting ice cream, sweaty handprints on glass doors
Doorbell ringing, kids laughing/yelling, parents talking, doors slamming, pounding feet, shrill noisemakers and whistles, blaring music, TV noise, shrieks from outside, kids arguing over toys/games, voices singing Happy Birthday To You, candles being blown out, people talking with their mouths full, scrape of plastic forks on paper plates, exclamations as presents are opened, tearing paper, electronic toy noises, competing voices during a party game, balloons popping, kids crying/protesting at departure time
Cake and cookies baking, just-cleaned floors, scented candles or air freshener, other specific house smells (cigarette smoke, dog or cat, potpourri, etc.), sweaty children, coffee, a match being struck, extinguished candles
Sweet icing, moist or dry birthday cake, other desserts, salty chips, candy from gift bags, ice cream, waxy drink cups, juice, water, soda, coffee, plastic taste when you lick the icing from inedible cake toppers
Breeze from open door and windows, cold blast of the a/c or heat from heater, hard plastic dishware, a cake server sinking into an untouched cake, sticky icing, cool drinks, cake crumbs, soft melting ice cream, rubbery balloons, scattered paper feel of confetti, the too-tight elastic party hat band around your neck, a party hat crookedly-balanced on your head, glossy feel of wrapping paper, wet melting ice around the drinks cooler, the contraction of a juice box as you drink through the straw, condensation on a water bottle, water droplets hitting your knees
--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Lightning forked the sky, sending wet kids scrambling out of the pool and into the house. Thunder boomed and the girls screamed, throwing water every which way. The streamers sagged. Crumpled tissue paper turned to a sodden, toilet-papery mess. Water pooled in half-a-dozen places on my hard-wood floor. I racked my brain for a way to salvage Annie's party while she stared into the lowering sky, her palms pressed to the window. A single drop of water trickled from each hand and ran down the glass like tears.
"Happy birthday to you…" Enter Mom with the quintessential birthday confection. A single candle flame wavers in her excited exhalations.
"Happy birthday to you…" Grandma fiddles with the camera, ready to eternally preserve a picture of Baby with his very first cake.
"Happy birthday, dear Baby…" Mom sets the platter on the table in front of Baby and backs away, out of the shot.
"Happy birthday to—"
"Cake!" Sister grabs two enormous fistfuls of icing. The wounded cake teeters on the table's edge before falling to the floor with a memorable splat.
--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile)
The party had been perfect, like something from the Hallmark Channel.
Example 2: (Metaphor)
Janice surveyed the damage and wondered if she'd just hosted a birthday party or a Mardi Gras parade.