Setting Description Entry: Barn

Hay, stalls, water trough or bucket, food trough, pens, seed, grain, blue salt lick, curry comb, tools (shovel, pitchfork, broom) feed buckets, flies, spiders, spider webs, dust, rusty nails, pen gates, horse hair pinched in cracked boards/stall rails…

The rustle of hay, creaking boards, stamping, thumps, whinnies, squeaks, grunts and other animal-specific vocals, huffing breath, snorting, rubbing noises as animals scratch against posts or rails, the clatter of grain spilling into a trough, the scrape of a shovel against the rough floorboards…


straw (clean and dirty), urine, manure, salt, animals, hay (dusty & slightly sweet-smelling), grain (dusty & earthy)


Dust & chaff in the air, spit


Prickly hay and straw, chaff sticking to the neck, getting into your shirt, rough boards, sweat trickling down your face, sides and back, a band of heat where your hat sits, swiping dust and chaff from clothes and hair, pulling on heavy work gloves, the dry & hairy tickle of horse lips nibbling up a treat of apple…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Dara woke from her nap, wide-awake with the vague remembrance of an unpleasant dream. Her skin itched from a dozen hay pricks; the strong smell of animal assaulted her nose. As her eyes grew accustomed to the dark, she made out rough wooden stalls with milk pails stacked against the wall. She pushed away a rusty pitchfork and decided to be more careful next time she fell asleep in the barn…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) I stepped into Uncle Amos’ barn and the unholy stench of manure and filthy straw almost knocked my boots off. It was like entering a free standing public toilet in the height of summer…one that had gone weeks without being emptied…

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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8 Responses to Setting Description Entry: Barn

  1. Anon, I’m betting just reading through our descriptors has evoke lots of memory for you to draw on! This is more a brainstorming tool more than anything, to get you thinking about what it feels like to you in the particular setting. 🙂

    Happy writing!


  2. Anonymous says:

    I was trying to recall the many-years-old memories of a summer working in a barn for a scene I’m working on and found this blog. I am so, so, so happy I did, though it feels like cheating ^^

  3. Angela says:

    Bish, I know–I have fond memories of barns.

    Spam warrior, ugh, I have! It’s terrible. But, I will say sometimes you can lean a bit heavy on the similes and get away with it (not often tho). An exaple would by the Middle Grade, Savvy. The simile usage is a big part of the style and voice, so it works.

    Thanks PJ & Danyelle

  4. Danyelle says:


    Sorry, all those deliciously allergic things. 😀

  5. PJ Hoover says:

    Yes! A Barn! My WIP needs a barn totally!
    Thanks as always.

  6. Shauna says:

    I have a book giveaway blog and would l♥ve to talk to you about your books! Please e-mail me at:

  7. spamwarrior says:

    Have you ever read something where the writer used similes and metaphors all the time?

  8. Bish Denham says:

    Barns…a great place to play, endless imaginary possibilities.

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