Wilbur's never been outside, so this book was full of new information for him! Photo by Kate Ota 2021
Part of the same series of helpful thesauruses as The Emotion Thesaurus and The Occupation Thesaurus, The Rural Setting Thesaurus is by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I loved The Emotion Thesaurus so much, and felt the same about The Occupation Thesaurus so I knew this would also be worth the price.
Much like the other entries, The Rural Setting Thesaurus started with some information about why the contents of this book will matter to your book. Although it did go off into seemingly less related topics like similes, metaphors, and hyperboles, it circled back to setting. This book is incredibly helpful to those still suffering from white room syndrome and if you're writing about a place you've never been. I think this book is great because not everyone has the means to travel to the wide variety of included locales (ex. desert, mountains, and beach) and now have the opportunity to describe it as if they've been there.
Each entry covers the expected/typical/possible sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures and sensations found in the setting. It also lists possible sources of conflict the setting can cause in a scene, people commonly found there, related settings included in the book, notes and tips specific to that setting, and a setting description example.
Before you think that you don't have any rural settings in your novel, this thesaurus includes what I'd consider suburban settings as well, such as rooms in a house and a classic American school's various rooms. There are also rural sights and natural locations, as you'd expect. The Urban Thesaurus listings are included in the back, and while the content doesn't crossover too much, I think some of those locations can crossover into rural or suburban settings as well (such as bakery and parking lot). So if you're looking for one specific location, be sure to check which book may have it first. (Or get both, I bet the urban one is worth it, too!)
Like my Occupation Thesaurus post, I'll be creating my own entry. This seems to be encouraged, as there are more settings on One Stop for Writers (which I reviewed before.)
And now, I present my unofficial contribution to The Rural Setting Thesaurus
Location: Corn Maze
Tall stalks of corn, mice, birds, bugs, other groups of people, map or overhead photo, ladders or lookouts, weather, hay bales, signs or arrows, broken stalks where people have passed through, muddy or gravel covered paths, people getting angry, scared children, actors (if it’s themed), scarecrows or other spooky or themed props, employees or farm hands, parking lot, ticket booth, snack stand
Screaming (fear or happiness), laughter, arguing, wind shaking the corn stalks, bugs buzzing, mood music (if it’s themed), chainsaws (if it’s themed or a horror novel)
Various snacks available (most likely fall foods like apple cider, apple donuts, pumpkin spice, roasted corn, popcorn), wet earth, ripe corn (very subtle), smells from nearby farm fields (apple orchards especially are often nearby)
Various snacks available (most likely fall foods like apple cider, apple donuts, pumpkin spice, roasted corn, popcorn), NOT the ripe corn on the stalks (this is often against the rules)
Textures and Sensations
Wind whipping corn stalks against them, clinging to friends out of fear, fear, muddy ground sucking at shoes, rocks in the path, cold air, surprise from running into other people or actors, confusion, disorientation, defeat, excitement, corn silk running through their fingers
Possible Sources of Conflict
Arguing over the best path to take
Getting totally disoriented and lost
Arguing over whether to quit
Arguing over whether to climb the ladder/look out to find a way out easier
Getting surprised/scared by a rival group or actor
Racing with another group
Losing the group one started with and ending up alone
People Commonly Found Here
Teens and young adults, families, Halloween lovers, fall lovers, people from other communities, farm hands, maze employees, parents outside the maze waiting for their kids, actors in the maze
Related Settings that May Tie In
Farm, orchard, barn, county fair
Setting Notes and Tips
Corn mazes are usually only available in October, maybe in late September/early November depending on the area and weather. They can be themed, not just a scary Halloween maze, but can be themed around various charities, school mascots, or local lore. Some places with corn mazes offer more than one, of various difficulty levels. They’re most common east of the Rockies and west of the Appalachians in the US, but there are plenty close to the coasts, too. They usually have rules, such as don’t eat the corn, don’t cut through the corn, and don’t touch the actors. However, each one will vary. Almost all will have employees walk the maze before closing to ensure no one is stuck inside (however, this was not done when my friends and I got lost and we were almost locked inside.)
Setting Description Example
Jessica clung to Ashley as the girls’ steps squelched on the thick muddy path. Corn rose around them, higher than they could reach on their tip toes. Long strands of silk waved over their heads, as if alerting the chainsaw wielding actor to their location. The buzzing of the saw sent a chill down Jessica’s spine, but they’d been inside so long, she no longer trusted her sense of direction. They came to the end of a tunnel and had to choose. Left or right. Or perhaps backwards. The glint of a chainsaw turning a corner to the left made the decision for her.
There are lots of great settings in the thesaurus, but I'm sure many more that could be added. Got any ideas? Let's discuss below!