Setting Description Entry: River


Eddies, dripping branches, current, glossy, darting shapes, water striders, leaf-dappled, twisting flow, drag, silt, reeds, bowed willows, shadows, sparkling, mirror, bent grasses, carve, clash, boulders, ripples, carry, twigs, debris, gliding birds, minnows, fish, smooth stones, slime, weeds, ducklings, drifting, lazy, tepid, mud, churning flow, winding, clover…


Frothing, crashing, clash, splashing, chuckling, burbling, tumbling, rush, trickle, gurgle, roar, simmer, murmur, rumble, clash, glug, warble, thundering, musical, gushing, din, bird calls, chattering squirrels, buzzing flies or bees, animals scampering through nearby undergrowth


Algae-scented, briny, wet earth, dank, musty, reek, fetid, rank, fresh, clean, pungent, wildflowers, grass, clover, rotting deadfall or leaves


Cold, quenching, thirsty, numbing, tang, sip, sweet, bitter, mineral-rich, impure, oily, gulp, coppery, swig, sharp, fishy, brackish, tart, brassy, stale, sharp, bite


Silken, smooth rocks, slippery, wet, chill, shock, soak, icy, warm, simmering, gritty, ticklish, sleek, cool, fluid, caressing, soothing, pulling, strength, powerful, brisk, jolt, stun, numbing, nip, freezing

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: As instructed in the stranger’s note, I waited at the end of Rogan’s Dock with only the moon above as company. Below me, the swollen spring waters churned against the pilings, fighting to escape into the flatland beyond the mountain. The boards beneath my feet groaned and I shifted uneasily. One misstep, and the darkness would swallow a man whole.

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: Long after the sun set, the frothing current swept past, dark as molasses. (Simile)

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoOn the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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5 Responses to Setting Description Entry: River

  1. Dan B says:

    Any chance to get a raging river added to this? Perhaps a cross between a wild river, and rapids?

    • Hi, Dan! Unfortunately, we’re not adding any more entries to the online version of this thesaurus because we’re in the process of drafting the print version, which should be out in the spring (yay!). Right now, we don’t have plans for a Rapids entry; we’re trying to include a lot of different settings, and since we already have a river, a creek, and a waterfall, we probably won’t have room to add another river-related entry. But a wild river is a strong setting ripe with opportunities for conflict, so we’ll make sure to incorporate some wild river description into the River entry. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

  2. Pingback: Setting Thesaurus Entry Collection | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS

  3. Angela says:

    Awesome! We’re trying to pick settings that should have a wide appeal–glad this one is useful to you.

  4. PJ Hoover says:

    OMG! I have five different rivers in my WIP. This is perfect for helping me think about distinguishing them!

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