Wide open fields, corrals, wooden fences, gates, cattle runs, cattle, horses, chickens/roosters, dusty ground, dust puffing under horse’s hooves/cowboy’s boots pick up trucks, horse trailers, sprawling farmhouse, large barn, stacked hay bales, pitchfork…
The wind, whinnying, squeaking gates, calls of greeting, the clop of horses’ hooves, dinner bell, old radio, talking, laughter, calling/talking to the animals, the creak of harnesses and tack, the scratch of rope being coiled or knotted, horses pawing at the ground, a dog…
Manure, grass, dust and dirt, dry grass, horse hide, sweat, alfalfa & timothy hay, dirty straw, scents carried on the wind, food cooking, campfire smoke, cigarette smoke, domestic animals
Dust in the mouth, spit, water, the tang of chewing sweet grass ends, cigarette tobacco, chewing tobacco, coffee, tea, beer, home cooking type foods, fresh garden vegetables, sweet & tart berries picked wild of the bush, beef jerky…
The soft fuzz of a horse’s lips nuzzling your hand for attention or treats (apple carrot, sugar cubes), hard-packed earth beneath your feet, leaning your chest against a fence railing, sitting on the top of a fence, the heaviness of a cowboy hat on the brow, wiping sweat with…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: Mandy stifled a yawn and rested her chin against the smooth top rail of the corral. Sundancer stood in the middle of the dusty yard with Logan, who took careful steps toward the horse with a training bridle in his hand. Shadow cloaked most of the fenced area; the sun was only begining to crest the eastern field. She squinted in the pink-streaked darkness, determined to learn her brother’s techniques. Early morning was the best time to break a horse–even the orneriest beast was amicable after a night of rest.
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Metaphor) Only ten am, and the wind’s breath pushed the wilting timothy stalks in hot, relentless gusts, promising another day of searing heat.
Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers
Setting 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.
On 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.
these are always so amazing. thank you!!
Wonderful information here. Thanks for all your time and hard work!
Thank you Bish and and Mikki! You guys are great for adding to the sensory description–I appreciate it!
Jessica & PJ, I’m glad the locations help you. I live in Canada but I have inlaws in Texas. 🙂
Mary Witzl says
TI always like your examples and find them inspiring.
The one farm smell I will never forget is the smell of the milk room — the odd, almost cheesy combination of sweet and sour mingling with the smell of manure in the background. And don’t forget rotting compost!
And now suddenly I feel like writing about farms…
PJ Hoover says
Do you live in Texas?
Ranch is a great one. But then so are all the locations you come up with!
Mikki S. says
I’ve lived on a ranch most of my life. Other sights: foals running in the pasture, mares nuzzling the foals, horses’ heads hanging over the half-open doors in the barn, horses sweating as they cool out on the hot walker. Sounds: nickers of the horses greeting the cool morning, lowing of cattle in the distance,the clink of spurs meeting the ground in the barn breezeway, screams of hawks flying low as they hunt. Smells: piquant aroma of molasses and alfalfa feed, richness of newly oiled leather tack, pungent odor of a saddle pad soaked in horse sweat after a long ride, clean sweet smell of a freshly washed horse, sticky-sweet smell of newly-drawn cow’s milk. Tastes: morning dew on your lips as you feed at 5 am, the salt of your sweat as you muck out the stalls, the crispness of an apple as you ride, sweetness of cold water from a brook when you stop to water your horse. Touch: the prick of barbed wire, the sting of prickly cactus, the soft-as-a-feather inside of leather riding gloves, the cold heaviness of wire cutters when you first pick them up, muscle aches after slinging 125 # hay bales into the hay loft.
I am amazed at how you come up with all these details and examples!
Bish Denham says
Another wonderful post. Among other smells are all the animal smells, horse sweat, pig sty smells…