Setting Thesaurus Entry: Deserted Island


water, whitecaps, surf retreating and encroaching, palm trees, coconuts, sea oats, driftwood, wreckage, seashells, sand, rocks, tide pools, fish, seaweed, washed-up jellyfish, seagulls, sandpipers, crabs, gnats, mosquitoes, forest with dense undergrowth, inland rivers and ponds, waterfalls, ivy, tropical fruits, coconuts hanging in trees/lying in the sand/washing up on the beach, plastic and litter washing up along the shoreline, sea onions, dried palm fronds, ferns, sand, shells, snakes, spiders/spiderwebs, pineapple bushes, bats, lizards, tropical flowers, bees, small animals, vines


surf washing in and out, crunch of sand beneath feet, waves crashing, wind whipping, birds chirping/calling/flapping wings, insects buzzing, drip of water from wet clothing, palm fronds blowing, coconuts hitting the ground, splash of jumping fish, rustle of creatures in the underbrush, gurgle of streams or rivers, labored breath, palm fronds rustling/shushing, the snap of a twig, the clatter & thump as a overripe coconut falls from a high perch


salty brine, rain, sweat, heat, cooking fire, fish cooking, kelp, rotting wood, fresh river water, coconut, tropical fruit, seaweed, body odor, dead fish washing up on shore, sweet tropical flowers


sweat, fresh water, salt, food roasted on sticks over a fire, fish, crab, oysters, clams, mussels, seaweed, rainwater, coconut, fruits, nuts, sand


chafe of wet clothing, water dripping into eyes, wet hair sticking to neck, gritty sand against the skin, burning heat from the sun, prickly sunburn, driving rain, feet sinking into the sand, surf beating against shins and washing over feet, shadows of clouds falling over you, cooling breeze, wind blowing sand into your eyes, hot gusts of wind, scaly fish, pinch of crab claws, hairy coconut husk, rough palm tree bark, slimy shellfish, heat from cooking fire, sharp rock underfoot, cuts, bruises, stiffness from sleeping rough, exhaustion, waves beating at you, fronds, ferns and branches slapping at your face, torso and legs, raw hands and feet pads from scaling trees, dirt under nails, grit in eyes

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

A flash of color caught my eye in a clump of seaweed stranded along the tide line. I nudged the rotting strands with my foot and gasped, homesickness squeezing my chest. A capped plastic bottle missing half its label was caught in the slime, an inch of brown liquid caught inside. Coke.

Example 2:

Under the lonely, diamond-bright stars, I shifted the palm fronds blanketing me, covering my legs from the relentless sand flies and mosquitoes. I had climbed mountains, survived the barren Artic ice fields and lived off the Canadian hinterland. My body is conditioned to hardship, I told myself. I would make it through this.

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

Seashells poked through my sandy bed like a nail-studded mattress. I shifted, grinding my teeth, determined to make a better refuge as soon as the sun rose tomorrow.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Sun glittered on the shifting waves as far as Eamon could see, an unsurpassable liquid field keeping him from home.


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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7 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: Deserted Island

  1. Windsong says:

    I can almost smell it…

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Angela says:

    I’m glad to hear these are helping. Have a great week, everyone!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This is a very helpful blog. I come her often just to get a fresh word.

  4. Marian says:

    I always learn something from reading your lists. Today it was “pineapple bushes”. I always thought pineapples grew on the ground, like large prickly strawberries.

    This bit just made me a little sad, though : “plastic and litter washing up along the shoreline”.

  5. Speaking of rustling in the bushes…

    During the walk around the reservoir this morning there were distinct rustling sounds. We began peering into the bushes looking for the wild creature…and out popped a guy who had been taking a potty break.

    Great job here as always! Your references usually make me want to write something using info from the Bookshelf Muse. Unfortunately, I’m not so creative so my topics are generally about what I know, think, did, etc. I’m not much of an imaginarian.

  6. Bish Denham says:

    Keep it up ladies!

    Oh and by the way, I’ve nominated you two for the Lemonade Stand Award. Drink it up!

  7. PJ Hoover says:

    I love this one! And I’ve been using your color entries a ton recently!

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