SETTING THESAURUS

GRAVEYARD



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HELPFUL TIP:

Settings should always be chosen with care. Consider the emotion you want your viewpoint character to feel and how setting choices, weather elements, and symbolism might build a specific mood in the scene, create tension and conflict, or even raise the stakes.
SIGHTS:
Wrought iron fences and gates
A paved driveway and parking area
A church or small chapel
Carved headstones (often made of marble, concrete, or granite in hues of white, black, and gray)
Crooked or leaning headstones
A family mausoleum
Demarcated family burial plots
Well-tended lawns
Decorative flower beds
Bright bursts of color from silk flowers left on graves
Dried flowers and wreaths
Resting benches
Black-clad mourners
Backhoe equipment (usually hidden from viewers and only brought out during non-visiting hours)
Religious stone carvings such as crosses, statues of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, and sun-blanched angels
Shady trees
A framed portrait or meaningful trinket left near a headstone
A memorial wall holding urns
Birds
Squirrels and chipmunks
Candles
Signs of an older or poorly-tended cemetery (crumbling or cracked headstones, stones discolored by mildew and mold, leaves or twigs on the graves, patchy or overgrown grass, dead trees and greenery, bushes and shrubbery growing wild, vandalized masonry, broken gates, cracked cement pathways with weeds poking through)
A funeral in process (cars lining the road, a black hearse, pallbearers carrying a casket, mourners seated in chairs or standing in a clump, a religious leader praying or reading passages of scripture, fresh flower arrangements)

SOUNDS:
Mourners crying or sniffling
People speaking in low voices
Whispered prayers
The rustle of dead flowers being removed and fresh ones being left in their stead
The quiet pruning or sweeping of a maintenance crew
The thrum of a distant lawnmower
A hearse pulling up to the curb and stopping
The soft motorized hum of a casket being mechanically lowered
The clatter of a fistful of dirt hitting the coffin
Extreme verbalized grief (wailing, moaning, inconsolable sobbing)
A priest conducting the funeral or offering words of comfort
The rustle of dead leaves being swept off of a grave marker
Gates that creak when opening or closing
The wind whistling through grass and trees
Birds and small animals that squeak and chirp
The slow click of shoes along a path
Church bells
Dead leaves tumbling along stone pathways on windy fall days
The clanking noise of a backhoe digging graves (after hours)

SMELLS:
Freshly cut grass
Hot stone
Newly turned earth
Fresh flowers left on graves
Perfume or aftershave mingling in the air around mourners
Smells associated with the season (crisp air in the winter, rain and rot in early spring or late fall, the smell of new growth in the spring and summer)
Wet stone and earth

TASTES:
Tears
The metallic tang of stone in the air
Precipitation

TEXTURES AND SENSATIONS:
A polished smooth headstone
The sharp edges of letters carved into a new headstone
Chalky dust on one's hand from a stone
Dead flowers crumbling in the hand as they're replaced with new ones
Wet tears
Heels sinking into thick grass as one crosses the lawn
Overwhelming grief causing one's knees to buckle
A cheek or forehead being pressed against cold stone
The warmth of a friend's hand in one's own
The prickle of cut grass under one's knees
Silky flower petals
A papery thin tissue crumpled in one's fist
A damp handkerchief
Moist dirt clinging to one's palm
The numbness of grief and shock

POSSIBLE SOURCES OF CONFLICT:
Graves being vandalized
Feuding family members visiting a grave at the same time
Theft of objects left near the graves (flowers, meaningful tokens and keepsakes, letters)
Aggressive paparazzi at a high-profile funeral
Grave robbers
Paranormal happenings

PEOPLE COMMONLY FOUND IN THIS SETTING:
Graveyard custodians, mourners, members of the clergy, visitors or tourists to the graveyard (if it's an historical site), vandals, teens participating in a prank or responding to a dare

SETTING NOTES AND TIPS:
Beliefs regarding death and the afterlife will often influence the appearance of a gravesite and what happens there. If it is important to the story, consider the ethnic background of the mourners and the departed, and decide if there are any special customs or beliefs surrounding death that might influence the look of the site or dictate the actions of those present.

RELATED SETTINGS THAT MAY TIE IN WITH THIS ONE:

SETTING DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE:

As the moon rose, the graveyard of my ancestors transformed. The translucent light breathed life into the worn, faceless statues of praying children and winged angels. It smoothed away fissures and softened broken edges. In the moonlight, the crooked headstones stood proud, keeping to their duty even as time wore away the messages they bore. I walked through the tangled weeds until I reached the back gate and an empty plot. This space, beneath the bower of an old oak, was my own. How odd to stand here in the dewy grass, knowing someday I would never leave it again.


TECHNIQUES AND DEVICES USED:
CONTRAST, LIGHT AND SHADOW, PERSONIFICATION

DESCRIPTIVE EFFECTS:
ESTABLISHING MOOD, REINFORCING EMOTION